CONTACT/S: The Art of Photojournalism

This dossier presents a selection of thirty contact sheets made since 1976 by the photographers of Contact Press Images. As the world has now fully entered the digital age, it is doubtful that a collection of this type will exist thirty years onward. Contact sheets—and indeed the very film that has been a staple of the photographic profession since the advent of 35mm cameras in the late 1920s—are fast disappearing, destined to become artifacts of photographic history along with tin plates and glass negatives.

Structural forerunner to both the photo essay and the television news segment which succeeded it, contact sheets, like the ones shown here, encourage a meditation on what will be lost without them. More than an editor’s tool, a presentation of sequential frames, they are in fact a cinema, a behind-the-scenes glimpse of unfolding events and a record of the photographer’s mental process. Some record a wandering eye; others an eye “zeroing in.” Some are fluid in narrative, others — owing to the photographer’s alternating use of several cameras—disjointed. Most are black and white, some color. But whether shot in 35mm, medium, or panoramic format, all offer an increasingly rare commodity: unvarnished, unmanipulated, and unrepeatable truth.

Meant to inform viewers about the history of the last three decades, this exhibit of contacts (which can be completely scrolled over) also showcases one image per sheet, edited by Robert Pledge and marked with a color grease pencil.

-- Jacques Menasche