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Daily Picture Show

The Art Of The Contact Sheet

Those beautiful magazine portraits of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are usually accepted at face value. But the perfect cover photo is usually the product of much trial and error; it's one of dozens of frames (or hundreds, if we're talking digital) — and just might even be an accident.

To see the entire contact sheet from a photo shoot is a rare and strangely intimate experience, almost like reading a photographer's diary. It's fascinating to see how the artist's eye wanders, how the mind works, how a scene evolves. This is the idea behind a new book, The Contact Sheet, published by Ammo Books, which explores the process behind some of the most iconic photographs.

It's also disconcerting to think that, because of the photographer's own editorial process, the majority of photographs go unseen. There's no telling how many works of art remain buried in dusty binders and old shoe boxes. Fortunately, this book provides a rare glimpse at a few of those contact sheets.

And there's more. An exhibition just opened at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art. "A Few Frames: Photography and the Contact Sheet" explores the use of the contact sheet in art, with works by such artists as Andy Warhol and Robert Frank.

Untitled, by David Wojnarowicz, 1988, from the exhibition "A Few Frames: Photography and the Contact Sheet" Courtesy of Whitney Museum of American Art hide caption

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Courtesy of Whitney Museum of American Art

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