Photographic Projects – Part II

Yesterday, in writing about photography projects, I develed more into why do a photographic project. I think a lot of folks know a good reason to do a project, but then comes WHICH project? I think that this is the part that gets a little messy in as there is no easy or correct answer. And to complete a project if it is not well thought out, may become more of a distraction than you had anticipated.

Okay, my own project experience to illustrate my point;

When my great mental AHa! came regarding the understanding behind the purpose of a project, I already had some various collections of photographs, but none that I thought of in terms of a on-going project. None with a purpose, other than interesting singular images.

But as I looked at my current collections, two stood out as a collections that had stirred my interest as to why I was doing them in the first place, one of which became the project In Passing. But this is where the self development aspect came to full bloom. I had started taking the photographs of the road side memorials as the documention of a form of folk art. A very distant and stand off position, no internal connection. No real purpose per se.

When I started to reflect on my own past experiences with road side memorials, I then recalled an earlier experience that I had and the resulting saddness I had felt about what had happened here. Someone had died here. Thus the start of these photographs as a real project for me, the internal connection and how I felt about them, and what it was that I wanted to convey. As this series progressed, how I felt about it evolved as well, with my desire to place these memorials in a larger context of where they were and where they happend to occur. The project evolved, and I evolved.

Subsquently, how I tried to finalize the project’s apearance changed. My first attempt was to add another visual element (a diffusion layer to soften and create a low key ‘glow’) which in the end did not work for me. So I took a step back to redesign and re-tweak almost every image. A step back but a learning and discovery step that took me two steps forward. To provide more consistency, I also chose a particular tonal look that I believe further unified this project with regard to its appearance and what the purpose of this project was for me.

While all this was going on, a ton of project possiblities opened up to me. I was thinking in terms of projects with almost everything I was photographing. My alternative project to In Passing was not a full blown project, Insomnia: Hotel Noir. So while I was trying to finalize one project, I was in the progress of photographing another. And so the overlaping of my projects continue today.

To define a project, I go back to program management training; do you have a vison of what the project is about, do you have objectives that you are trying to accomplish, what is the underlying meaning (purpose) to you about this project?  I think it helps to write these things down and you might just end up with the first draft of your artistic statement;- )

Lessons learned: Project durations can take longer than you might suspect.

You have to be open to listen to what the project is telling you (feedback loop).

You should give your self some wiggle room (flexiblity) to interput a project.

The projects (goals, meanings, purpose, etc) may change during the project. Projects are alot of discover about yourself.

You may start photographing something and still not know what the reason is, but you are driven to work on a particular theme, and that’s okay (only on my third trip to China, what my intended projects were finally clicked for me, now I have three I am working on).

Projects can be messy things, like trying to herd cats. They don’t always go where you thought they should;- )

So I hope that my sharing some of my thoughts about my projects help you discover your projects.

Best regards, Doug

BTW, it seems that this whole thing about doing projects might be something for me to develop into a workshop topic.  I know that Brooks Jensen has now announced a ‘Photography Project Workshop’ through LensWork, but I don’t think you are going to need four days to figure this out. I would expect that you would have a great running start on your project ideas and implementation after one day. So let me know if there are any photographic festivals, etc that could use my one-day workshop on Photography Projects…

6 thoughts on “Photographic Projects – Part II

Add yours

  1. “You may start photographing something and still not know what the reason is, but you are driven to work on a particular theme, and that’s okay”

    That’s music to my ears just now Doug. I find myself compelled to shoot certain things, and have to just go on with it intuitively, hoping that the meaning will become clear over time. I’m just glad to hear that it happens to others – and especially with your China projects, that I thought were so meticulously planned!

  2. Jools, you may not remember, but it was you that gave me the inspiration to patiently ‘listen for your muse’ to help lead the way. Such that even after two trips to China, to have the confidence that I would eventually realize what my purpose would be for my projects.

  3. Thank you for your comments on projects. This is one of those posts, I want to copy and post some place where I will see it at least once a week. Every word of this rings true for me.

  4. I wish I could take my own advice… I see that Colin over on Photostream has the same thing though, having to re-learn things over again months down the line. One day, maybe it’ll sink in for good!

  5. Paul, I think that you can come into a project from a number of venues. Some may want to illustrate a feeling or concept and then go make the photographs, and others, myself included, may find that a specific area or a bunch of photographs make an internal connection, and the series grows from there. And I like the ‘following your nose’ mental picture (especially if like me, I have a big one to follow);- )

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