The Gift of Culling

By Virginia Parker Staat

The time has come. David and I have begun culling through 45 years of slides and photos. We began with our thirty carousels of slides. Each carousel holds 100, making 3,000 slides total. And that’s just the slides in the carousels. I admit that the process feels overwhelming.

The first cold and rainy day of winter, we set up our old projector and began advancing through the carousel dated 1975. We soon discovered an amazing truth: RMOWP has changed us. What we have learned over our years of membership has made the culling process much easier than expected.       As we clicked through each slide, we would often laugh and say, “Tom would hate this one.” Long time photo judge Tom Ulrich had a fetish for level water lines. Some of our early photos had water that defied gravity.

“This one would make Jack tense.” During his photo critiques, Jack Olson often told us he felt tense when an object was too close to the photo’s border.

pile of discarded 35mm slides
Round one… © V.P. Staat

Blurry subjects, photos too bright or dark, too much sky, crooked buildings, crooked horizons… we have them all. In one carousel, we found eleven photos of a single mountain, and we have no idea even where that mountain exists except that it’s somewhere between the Sierra Madres and Sandia Crest. We are embarrassed to even count the number of photos with blurry bottoms from snapping the picture out the window of a moving vehicle. 

We were most definitely photo neophytes back in 1975. Now because of what we have learned attending RMOWP conferences, we think before we click by checking backgrounds and empty space and composition. We pay attention to lighting and horizons and shadows… and so much more.

After reviewing our first carousel, we kept only seven slides out of the hundred. Now, fifteen carousels into the process, we have culled down to less than six carousels full. That’s better than a fifty percent reduction on the initial culling round.

Thank you, RMOWP!