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CONTACT - The Art of the Contact Sheet - PDN

Contact sheets have become a bit of an anachronism in the age of Lightroom and Photo Mechanic, but all that grease pencil has a lasting appeal. “Contact,” a new show opening today at Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles and on view until January 28, allows a look into the working methods of photographers ranging from Herb Ritts to Harry Benson. The show presents a selection of marked-up contact sheets and the iconic final images they contain, revealing nearby frames. In Ritts’s contact sheet for “Versace Dress, Back View,” a 1990 image of Christy Turlington surrounded by billowing black fabric, each frame varies only slightly, as Ritts works out minor variations in cropping and tone. In contrast, in Stephen Somerstein’s contact sheet of a 1965 civil rights march in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech takes only a few frames. Elsewhere on the roll, Joan Baez plays in front of State Troopers at the Alabama State House, and marchers sleep on the bus. As the gallery writes in a statement, “Although contact sheets serve a very practical purpose—a tool for editing and archiving a photographer’s negatives—they also provide insights into the working methods of photographers. The relatively straightforward dark room process reveals a great deal about the photographer, his or her approach, and the context in which they were shooting.”