the early stage of developing a circular way of working in which I studied the photographs I had already made, especially the most recent ones, for clues about what to photograph next and how to photograph it. During all those months at the Chief Seattle Club, I was still looking for the kinds of photographs that conformed to what I had learned was a good newspaper image. But now I gave myself permission to photograph anything that seemed interesting, despite the clutter or the light, just to see what it looked like as a photograph.

The photograph of the blessing of the tabernacle helped me articulate what I found so unsettling about the mission system. Looking back, there seem to have been two things going on in a kind of dialogue in my mind. What is the nature of the connection between the street people and the mission system? And how do you represent these ideas, make a visual connection between the street people and the power of the missions over their lives? It’s complicated. Some of the photos I had made earlier (e.g., of the pope and the television set in the Chief Seattle Club and of the man sleeping in the lobby of the Union Gospel Mission) now seemed heavy-handed. They hit the viewer over the head with a visual connection but they don’t unravel the complicated nature of the relationship. They functioned mainly as milestones for me in the evolution of the project, visually stating that a connection existed: This is. Now, what is it? I had to investigate my emerging ideas about the connection of the mission system, religion, and power and make visual sense of the relationships.


The world is a clutter. It’s disorganized, and every way of describing it requires conceptualization. Composing a picture, organizing elements in the frame, is a conceptual activity, a making sense of things, just as much as putting the world into words is. The consequences are significant: changing how you photograph something makes you change how you think about it, how you categorize it. I began

Organizing Information Visually