Experiment on the Comic Book Grid

Apr 20, 2015 / Photography

Recently, I agreed to participate in a print exchange with thirty fellow artists. I wanted to do something different: combine the comic book grid and the fine art photograph. In comic books, the grid may be a 3x3 matrix of images that moves the narrative along. Easy enough I thought, I’ve done it before. So I set out to create a simple grid for this idea that I had.

I worked on this piece for a while. I kept asking myself whether it was complete. Can it stand by itself? This question is one of the tests that I use when looking at a fine art photograph: Is it complete? In my mind, it was. It told a complete, although open-ended, story. As the deadline approached for the print exchange, I printed each sub-image so I could then collage them by hand later.

Try as I might though, I couldn’t bring myself to mount the images (to a backing board). Something was holding me back. “Treat a comic page as a poem,” Professor William Kuskin used to say during his coursera MOOC course on Comic Book and Graphic Novels (a course that I took last fall). I kept hearing this advice in my head. Did this image feel like a poem? Eventually I decided it did not. It’s as if the images were put in front of each other in a sequence. Yes, it created a narrative, but that wasn’t enough. I then had to admit that the work did not feel unified.

I tried different variations, even rearranging the panels, changing the aspect ratios. I was searching for something in the way the grid came together that would speak to the discovery narrative of the pictures. In the end, I couldn’t find it. And the deadline was upon me. I therefore chose to go back to one image. When all else fails, simplify, I always say. I failed this time around, but I will try again in the future.

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