Photographic Series


Untitled, JiaShan, China, 2008 copyright of Douglas Stockdale

Words can have an emtional impact and I am guilt of sometimes not paying close enough attention. Such that when I am working on a body of work, this case the photographs from China, I sometimes interchange the two words project and series. For most, probably not a big deal.

But I was reminded in a recent post by Kjell Andersen, for those whose day job is in the technical project management world, a “project” cares a lot of overtones and hidden baggage. Yes, a project does imply being somewhat organized and understanding that there is a sequence of tasks to accomplish. But in a technical project management day-job, there is a very strong emphasis on time schedule. Very strong pressures by a bunch of usually senior folks.

In my case, folks are not interested in paying for a consulting firm if they do not have too. So when the project is really fouled up, now the completion date is late and going to be later, then we are asked to come in and work  some wonders. We usually can, but it is very stressful. Thus, I was reminded that when I now use that same project word with my photographs, I have some emotional triggers and carrying some unneeded baggage.

Not a good idea when you are attempting to be creative. There is no deadlines for being creative and probably just the opposite, as creative also means things getting messy.

So for here on out, projectmanagement is my day job, while with my photographic endeavors, I will work on a series of photographs. The word series does not have that same emotional baggage for me. It is a looser or softer word to define what it is coming together. It allows me more latitude and releases me from some of the get ‘er done self imposed time restraints.

Ahhhh, that does feel much better. And I find that I am now looking at some of these images a little differently, pulling some of the photographs out of obscurity, that are a bit vague, but now equally meaningful. nice.

Like the one with this post, trees which were planted to hide the traces of a recent Hutong demolition and now a pending redevelopment.

Best regards, Doug

4 thoughts on “Photographic Series

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  1. I think the problem is not in the word projet but the way it has taken on connotations of time-pressure in the engieneering world. As far as I’m concerned, a project is a means to achieve a specific aim. Part of that aim may be time-based, but it’s not a given. Maybe this why why me and Project Engineering don’t get on.
    Personally, the notion of a series connotes continuity and thematic development which are more constraining.

  2. I agree that part of the issue is the meaning that one associates with a word, and I just realize that project does have some negative connotations that I had not previously considered.

    Likewise, a notion that implies continuity and thematic development may be constraining to one person, but perhaps liberating for another. But if I had to use either word, right now I feel more comfortable exploring a “series”.

  3. I suspect from also reading Kjell’s comments that it is like you mention – it isn’t the concept of a project that causes the problems, it is what projects have become for you in your worklife that makes you want to avoid them.

    Projects themselves don’t have negative connotations in general, but they certainly seem to for some people.

    For me, I think if I were to consider working in series, rather than projects, that that sounds far too open ended and never likely to produce any outcome. While I could happily work on a series until I die, I doubt I’d ever get to any sort of completed body of work (even if it turned out to just be part of a series) without trying to think about some sort of outcome from the picture taking.

  4. Gordon, I do agree, that the word “project” has neither a negative or positive connotation, but what association you bring with it or assign to it.

    I still have goals for a series, probably not unlike what I might assign for a project, e.g. milestones, or things to accomplish. Part of the reason is to help me understand if what I have defined as a series is/is not working for me, for what the reason.

    I just found that the word “project” seemed too confining, and freely realize that this is entirely my own hangup and may have nothing to do with the word itself.

    I find myself constanting fighting my self imposed limitations, which limit the potential of my creativity.

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