The Outtakes: Photographs You Didn't See in The Human Fragment

I had been shooting The Human Fragment project for over two years when I received the news from Brooklyn Arts Press that they would be publishing it as a book. I was excited. I was also naive about mainstream book publishing. It would not only be the long drawn out timetables (equivalent to the building of Rome) that would disappoint, but the editing process would also be a lot of "not fun".

I knew the more than 2000 photographs I had taken for the project would not appear in the book. This was a given. I even knew that the final count would likely be around 50-70 images. What I didn't know is how painful it would be to stand over a sea of prints and toss them, one by one, to the floor of my publishers office. Image and image being rejected by me or him or one of the others at the scene of the crime. Sure, some were just bad photographs, but many were not. Many of the "rejects" were not only good photographs, but they were also images to which I was emotionally attached - I wanted to keep them!

I didn't get my way, most of the time. Welcome to the publishing process. In defense of my publisher, Brooklyn Arts Press, these decisions are made in the best interest of the book. I had good editors and the resulting book is also a good compilation of my work - my style, story, and philosophy of street photography.

Despite all of this being in my best interest and in the best interest of the book, I still want to show some of those photographs. I can't call them part of the project - officially - but I can refer to them as the "outtakes", because that is what they are. Here I share twelve of these photographs and a brief explanation as to why the image was rejected from publication.

Private Eye
All Photographs are Copyright Michael Ernest Sweet

We rejected this image because it was shot in Montreal and we were only publishing work from New York and Coney Island. There was also the opinion that the crop was too close to the eyes. Although this kind of weird framing is part of my signature, it was 'unnerving' in this particular instance. I still love this image, a lot.

Public Napper

"Public Napper" is a great image, although it took me a long time to fall in love with it. It was a process. Although I usually only take one image of one thing, there was another shot of this guy from behind - his bare back and ponytail. That other image was the preferred one. I now think this is the better choice as I think the idea of him taking a nap in public like this is interesting. It was about 90 degrees that day.

Shadow Maker

There were many images like this from Coney Island. We had to cut and cut deep. There's nothing wrong with this photograph and all the editors liked it, it just had too much competition. I like my shadow on the right side of the frame. It has become part of my signature in my beach photography. Some of the people in the editing process felt that too much of my shadow was a bad thing. There was only one or two images which made the cut with my cameo appearance.


I really like "Sugar". It was felt, however, that the image was a bit too far from my usual style - that it stood out as being different from the others. In some ways this is true. The photo does have a different feeling. That being said, I like the photo. I've used it in other places and it continues to be popular. By the way, this guy just happened to spin around while waiting for the light to turn. He glanced right into my lens as I hit the shutter button. Thanks to the lightening speed of the Ricoh GR Digital IV I captured the moment.

The Board

"The Board" is one of only a few photographs that I sell as a print. This image was already under license to a gallery in Paris at the time of publication. My agreement with them would not permit its inclusion in the book, despite it being one of my very favorite images from the project. It does however still hang in a commercial gallery in Paris, which is in itself exciting.

Mass and Movement

"Mass and Movement" is one of my earlier photographs. It was not "officially" part of The Human Fragment project. It is a merely a street photograph that I also happened to take in New York City. As a matter of fact, this image was taken on the day I first met Bruce Gilden in the street. He inspired me to get in even closer and this was one of the first images taken after that chance meeting. We decided not to publish it as it was not really part of the project. No other reason.

Dog and His Walker

"Dog and His Walker" is a Montreal photograph. This, I suppose, was the reason for rejecting it. We were trying to restrict the photographs in the book to images made in New York. Also, this image is not very good from a technical standpoint. It is, however, a personal favorite. I just like the way the dog is looking into my camera - his slightly crossed eyes - and the blur doesn't bother me. I love imperfect photographs anyway.


"Cornered" is also a Montreal photograph. We likely rejected it based on this alone. I like the image a lot and it is a great homage to one of my mentors - Mark Cohen.

Between the Doors

"Between the Doors" was most likely kicked out because it is too abstract. I don't really remember the exact conversation we had around this image. However, I do remember that, generally, most really abstract photographs were not favored by the people doing the editing. I love it though. I think the highly abstract nature of the photo is exactly what makes it work. Look at that mustache!

AM Band

Within The Human Fragment project I did a series of photographs on 5th avenue of "characters". This image is a good photograph, but I guess we had others that were similar from that series which we felt were better. This one got chucked. It's still a keeper for me. I love how he's clutching that old school AM radio. Only in NYC!


Although I like this photo a lot, I think I was the one who pitched it. It has an aesthetic that just doesn't really fit with the project. I don't remember making the photograph, but perhaps I used another camera that day or some odd settings. I like it as a photograph, but I don't like it alongside this body of work so much. So we cut it from the official series. It's still a keeper though, look at them eyes.


There were so many Coney Island photographs that we simply had to cut and cut deep. Although I liked this photo, it was not among the top twenty or so from Coney Island. I still think it's a great image though. So here it is ... in the outtakes.

There you have it - the Outtakes from The Human Fragment. There are still hundreds of images from this series, but many will never be seen. Many are "okay" photos that didn't get ditched in-camera, but that aren't really ever going to be worth showing either. Perhaps one of these rainy days I will go through and do some deleting. I'm not one for keeping a lot of digital noise around. If the photographs aren't worth showing, they aren't work keeping.

The Human Fragment from Brooklyn Arts Press (2013) can be purchased through Amazon by using the link below or directly from the press by clicking here.

Follow Michael Ernest Sweet on Twitter @28mmphotos or through his website.