Two years ago they were living over three thousand miles apart and wanted to find a way to collaborate. The pair formed the Instagram account Echosight and began combining their photos into double exposures by superimposing the images onto each other. For Zalcman, this process allowed them to achieve something they could not have done on their own: “There’s much more depth to the collaborative aspect. And I think there’s much more dialogue visually in what we produced.”
After six months they realized they did not have the bandwidth to continue posting daily and decided to do something that is rare in photography. They handed off their concept and platform, asking other photographers to pair up and take over the feed.
Each week-long collaboration yielded astoundingly different results, starting with Ed Kashi and Laura El Tantway.
We spoke with some of the photographers about working in pairs, and we also asked them to name the artists they would like to see collaborate on Echosight in the future.
Years ago Davidson and Litherland worked together at the Dallas Morning News. For them, Echosight was a perfect excuse to work in a pair again. Litherland posted from Florida while Davidson, a staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times, was visiting family at home in Ireland. For her, Echosight was a welcomed change of pace. “I think it’s a freeing experience in many ways because there are so many guidelines that I have to follow when I am photographing as a photojournalist,” she says. “Whereas when we’re creating for the sake of creating and it’s much more of a conceptual artful image, we’re free to produce it anyway we see fit. That’s very liberating, very freeing and the images can be more poetic.” The two had a difficult time managing the nine-hour time difference though, and in the end Chip had to stitch together the images rather than engaging in a back and forth.
The brother and sister team are close in age and live only a few miles apart, but their visual approaches to the world around them are surprisingly different. Their process began with Matt sending his favorite 35mm images to Nancy, including the image of the Empire State Building above. Nancy then shot images she felt would pair well with them. “I wanted the Echosight images to make sense and tell a little bit of a story,” says Nancy. “I wanted them to be very purposeful so the end result would be a more cohesive group of images.” She felt their images got stronger as the project progressed and she developed a better understanding of how Matt shoots. Nancy had always known her brother’s work but as a sibling, and after collaborating with him, she felt she understood it from a professional perspective as well.
Hernandez and Cristea teamed up after a chance encounter on Instagram. A mutual appreciation for one another’s work led to Skype conversations and eventually in-person meetings. For Echosight they took a purist approach, using an app that picked images at random from each photographer and combined them. For Hernandez, that element of chance was “frightening, freeing, and invigorating all at the same time,” he says. “Something new is born, something you can’t predict.” They felt Echosight should be more an act of happenstance than intentional creation.
De Give and Isbell became friends at the Brooks Institute’s School of Photography when they discovered their shared a similar interest for botany. For their collaboration, they photographed plants together, and combined them with de Give’s portraits, creating a series of solid and consistent multiple exposures. Minimizing the element of chance that is standard for Echosight, they “wanted it to be structured and a full thought rather than just hoping it would work,” Isbell tells TIME. Despite having a set direction, they welcomed the elements of chance inherent in combining the images. “Collaboration is two people working together, two minds working towards the same idea,” says de Give. “But at the same time, both have to let go to let the vision speak for itself. It’s hard to do that but it really pays off in the end.”
This best friend duo have been working side by side for years. Rather than combining their best images, they went out searching for images that would combine well together. “Sometimes people fall too in love with their images,” says Lowy. “We created the images knowing that we were going to mold them together. We had ideas in our minds about how we were going to approach it, like who was doing background that day and who was doing foreground. Who was working more with negative space.” The foreground images had to have plenty of negative space to allow for the busier background images to show through. Lowy and Holloway became one of the most successful Echosight teams by cross-posting the images on their own Instagram accounts, which have a combined 170,000 followers.
Given the feed’s recent success, Ghitis and Zalcman plan to keep Echosight as a takeover account for the foreseeable future. In addition to the commonly artful mashups, Zalcman would like to see it take a newsier approach. She is “trying to move more in that direction because 95% of the photographers who have taken over Echosight are pure photojournalists and not fine art photographers, so that really is their wheel house. and I would love to see that happen more. But I do also like that it’s a space for news photographers to do something that is completely different and completely creative.”