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Friday, October 7, 2011

Contact Sheets from the BAM Hamm Archives

Isabella Rossellini, circa 1978

There is something beautiful about holding a contact sheet.

As a practice, the printing of contact or proof sheets began in the 1930s, and they were used as a way for professional photographers to quickly edit a large number of shots, and for amateur and student photographers to study their own work. Many of the photographers working with digital cameras these days (which is to say, most photographers) will instead use Photoshop or Lightroom to make digital contact sheets. But the processes of editing and study have changed in step with technology, and contact sheets as we know them have become a thing of the past.

Which is what makes vintage contact sheets all the more charming. In looking at a contact sheet one can see not only a record of the photographer’s eye thinking through compositional problems, and a rough time-lapse chronicle of a performance, but a record of a discarded photographic practice with an aura and a grace one will not see in Photoshop.

Here are some of the many contact sheets in the BAM Hamm Archives.

Isabella Rosellini as Honorary Ringmaster in the Big Apple Circus, March 1978

Big Apple Circus, March 1978

Michael Moschen in the Big Apple Circus, March 1978

DanceAfrica, circa 1980s

DanceAfrica, circa 1980s

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