How close do you hold your ideas?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Troy Hamon, Apr 22, 2006.

  1. Troy Hamon

    Troy Hamon Member

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    I tend to identify photographic projects frequently, write them down, and list the images that would be needed, at a minimum, to make it work. My list of potential projects is lots longer than my list of finished projects will be at the end of my life. But I tend to keep that list pretty private, I only ever discuss it with my wife. In general, I think it is because I want to preserve my option to do those projects without somebody else doing them first. This is probably a bit of a fallacy, as there isn't really anything new under the sun and many of my projects will probably resemble something done by another photographer that I've never heard of. But it maintains my expectation that at least within my span of control, I won't be yielding my ideas to somebody else.

    At the next level are the few projects from my list that I've actually started on. These range from projects where I have some negatives developed but likely many more to be exposed, to all negatives developed and prints identified but not made, to some where I have prints made, but likely many more to come. These projects are all things I share with my acquaintances, at least those that are interested. But the only ones that I put out on the internet are those where I have some prints made and available. Until that point, I just don't want to set myself up to be 'scooped' by somebody that works faster and latches on to an idea I'm working on.

    This thought process isn't just because I think somebody will intentionally take my ideas, though that obviously does happen to people at times. I'm also just careful because I expect that anybody that hears one of my ideas, while not duplicating it intentionally, will have it tumbling around in their subconscious and will develop ideas relating to it or as a result of it. If the images are done and out, then this is something where it can be referred back to the originals that I produced and my contribution to their process might be recognized. Otherwise, I may end up looking like the one that worked off of their concept to develop my own.

    So...that's my take on it...and I'm curious...what's yours? Is this just too much thought on something that isn't really important? I tend to work slowly and rather deliberately. Is this a factor for anyone else?
     
  2. Richard Boutwell

    Richard Boutwell Subscriber

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    I was at a workshop and someone had a few, maybe six pictures of a project they were working on. I said to myself, "I could do that so much better, maybe I will." But nothing has come from it since. Mostly because the idea didn't originate from within and so I didn't feel close to it. It has been in my mind but it is safe to say that nothing will come from it.

    I came to realize that the best photographs come from things that are close to you. It might be a place or an idea, but it is something that you are emotionally connected to.

    So, from that standpoint you shouldn't worry that other people will photograph your ideas, because no matter what, they will not make the same pictures that you would.

    BUT

    You are right, what if someone beats you to something specific and they have more time, energy, and money and they put a big show together and get a book published? You then come around to complete your project, but by that time you are influenced by what they did, and no matter how good your pictures might be the public will see them as emulative.

    I generally don't guard what I am working on or what I plan on photographing, but I don't announce the specifics to the world either. If I am excited about new pictures I am making, or something new I am working on then I talk about it with friends. Some of whom are photographers. They might just steal my ideas, but with that in mind I usually work harder to get it done first.
     
  3. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Hi Troy,

    Perhaps you hold your photographic future project cards close to your chest for the same reasons you became a biologist, because it's just the way you're made up. Maybe it's not so much having people scoop your ideas than you don't want anybody to see it until you've carefully researched, carefully completed, and come to a satisfying end to the project. Then again...

    As for me? I tend to not work on projects but will try to empty myself of any preconceptions before setting out, open myself to the essence of an area, and will try to photograph more as a conduit - a 'spirit of place' documentary photographer for lack of a better description.

    Later, if a project comes to mind, I'll go through my negatives and find the sequence of images that best fit the bill. I'm working on one right now...and NO I will NOT tell you what it is because you're just up the coast from me and it's such a kick-ass great idea I know you'll scoot down here, scoop me, and sail off into the sunset on the winds of fame and glory :wink:

    Murray
     
  4. mark

    mark Member

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    I mentioned an idea here once. Next thing I know my idea showed up in the gallery. I don't make my ideas too public anymore.
     
  5. Poco

    Poco Member

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    I think it depends on the importance one places on the conceptual underpinings of a project. Since I believe the images themselves are more important than the concept and those images are so individually seen and derived, I don't hold my ideas all that jelously. In fact, here's an idea that's gauranteed to be good for a NEA grant that I'll throw out for anyone to take: drive through any small US midwestern town and photograph the three highest points visible -- those will always be the water tower, grain elevator and church steeple ...representing the universal requirements for commerce, survival infrastructure and (apparently) spirituality in man. Write it up in fancy words and I'd be shocked if the NEA didn't give you a bucket of cash to go from town to town documenting those three landmarks. ...of course, I could be wrong :rolleyes:
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i have ongoing projects i have been working on for 20 years or so.
    i know people have photographed the same things, and to me it doesn't really matter, because i am not them, they are not me, and we don't see the world through the same lens .. but as the years go by, the project shifts a little bit, and while it is the same project, it is different in a certain way.

    strange thing - as i write this i am reminded of an assignment for a newspaper i was given. i went to a big fabric plant and photograph how they were doing things for the war-effort. i went there and shot a bunch of frames and the one that was published was of a guy looking at camouflage fabric after it was printed and coming down into the bin. the next day there was a story in the large daily paper on the same subject. it was shot by a different photographer, at a different plant &C, but it was the same image ( with a different person inspecting the fabric ) -- i guess sometimes different people see the same thing :smile:

    i do have some techniques that i use that i won't tell in full what they are, sometimes it is the technique, that gets you to the final image, not just the exposing the film.

    john
     
  7. Mark H

    Mark H Member

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    Nearly all the projects I've thought of ahead of time either didn't get started or didn't hold my attention once they did get started. My series have been the result of finding that I was drawn to a certain subject again and again; then looking through the images I realized "Oh yeah, that's what I wanted to do".
    I work for a hospice and I've often considered doing a project that focuses on terminally ill patients and their family and friends. Others have done this. I have not yet pursued this particular project. However, last week I was working with the family of a 2-1/2 yr. old child and, because of the strong bond that developed with the child and her family, I did take a number of pictures. Several of them were taken just hours before the child died. When I looked back through the photos, I realized how strongly they were influenced by the relationship I had with the child and her family, as well as my thoughts about what was taking place over the 10 days I was involved with them. No one else could have taken those pictures.
    I think that if I had a "goal" of taking those photos, it would have turned out very different.
     
  8. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Wow Mark...88 posts since 2003...are they all as strong as that one?

    Murray
     
  9. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Some years ago I was very protective of the concept of an image that I was producing and went on to protect. While I was super protective, a good friend...another photographer asked me if that was the only idea I thought that would ever have.

    Operating from a scarcity viewpoint establishes scarcity in our lives. I believe that and that is why I freely give away ideas that I discover.
     
  10. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    I don't even mention them. I just think of something and it shows up in the gallery. :surprised:
     
  11. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    In recent years, I've come to adopt a more relaxed attitude about image ideas, similar to what Donald describes, and often share my thoughts with those who are willing, or are forced, to listen. I'm not too fearful, however, because the number of people with minds as twisted as mine are few. Who else, for example, would construct a swimming pool, albeit a small one, just so a rubber mouse could fake his demise?

    [​IMG]

    The challenge was that he didn't float. :wink:
     
  12. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    Aw, geez, David... I'm sorry. :wink: hahaha!

    I think it's possible to go along thinking about an idea, and suddenly, you meet someone (or a couple someones) who are on the same wavelength as you... they have either taken the shots you've thought about, or are in the process. This can have an interesting effect... you can either decide not to pursue those ideas for fear of someone accusing you of copying, or you can go ahead and shoot away with your own vision.

    I think the bigger problem is in not shooting anything... you can become 'frozen' into inactivity if you take too much time to think about things. That's not to say you should go about shooting 'willy-nilly'...make a plan, make decisions, but in the end... make photos.
     
  13. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    OMG, Ralph! :D hahahaha
     
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  15. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    g'day Troy
    i've had feelings like your at times, and have been annoyed that others may use 'my' idea and get credit that should have been mine
    but ultimately i've come to realise that everything has been done or is being done and these concerns can become an excuse for not getting on with the work
    i always strive to do my work my way, then if it comes under scrutiny and comparison with other work it stands or falls on it's merits
    i just checked out your website, nice images but why your name so large
    maybe you need to not hold on so close and so tight
     
  16. Richard Boutwell

    Richard Boutwell Subscriber

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    Since I need the money I would do just that, but the NEA stopped giving grants to individual artists after that Piss Christ thing.

    I think one of those three you mentioned would be replaced by a cell-phone tower.

    Which is funny because I drove past one of the radio towers that are horrible disguised as a very tall tree and I said right then that I should make pictures of a bunch of these things. I am sure they have been photographed before but that isn't going to keep me from doing it the next time I see it, and seeking them out in the future--
     
  17. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Ralph, I love it....LOL
     
  18. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    I could see withholding project or concept information in a competitive situation. But I have never withheld any information photographique when it would benefit another's mastering of the craft.
     
  19. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    these days you mean neh grant, not nea ...
     
  20. bob01721

    bob01721 Member

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    DARN! I was gonna do that! You took my idea, Ralph!
     
  21. Troy Hamon

    Troy Hamon Member

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    Throw a little match on some kindling in the morning...take the kids to the year-end tournament for their peewee basketball league...come back and find a nice blaze going...

    I was in the middle of trying to reply to this when I left-clicked my mouse and lost 20 minutes of typing...so I'll try again...

    Many folks directed comments at me, so I'll try to respond to each in reverse order with individual replies with quotes. That will keep me from losing the whole shooting match at once again...
     
  22. Troy Hamon

    Troy Hamon Member

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    I agree entirely. I'm not very concerned about process myself. I used to be, when I was first doing my own developing and printing, but I settled into a set of materials and processes that work for me and have just stuck with them. I understand in theory the value of knowing the effects of every possible control to the nth degree. But my life is already too scientific (as Murray says, I'm a biologist), and I'm much more interested in the feeling or atmosphere of an image than the details of its process or presentation. I probably just settled on a process that doesn't obstruct my own ability to convey the feeling I want. And I would never hide how I do my work technically...if anybody cares it's divided D-23 (or sometimes Microdol as Bath A), prints developed in Dektol. If Kodak abandons Dektol (or have they already?) I'll find another print developer. Don't much care...which will probably offend some folks. Sorry.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2006
  23. Troy Hamon

    Troy Hamon Member

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    Hi Ray,
    I don't really think it is about the 'credit' though that certainly comes into play. I've been thinking about this for a long time, and for some reason this morning I just felt like sharing my little conundrum with everyone...

    More than credit, I think it might be just caution that the market for my work can be impacted by the volume of similar work. If similar work were produced that limited the marketability of my own, and it was my own idea that germinated into another project that was the problem, it would be unfortunate. I don't want credit for the idea or for their work. But if work is produced that is similar to my own, I don't want to wonder whether I should have kept my mouth shut. As is, I know that it was produced independently.

    Some of my images have been used without attribution in the past. That irritated me and so when I prepared my web site some time ago, I took to watermarking my images with a large version of my name. However, the psychological impact of that event has worn off, and I've been thinking that I will go back and remove the watermark, because I just don't like it. When I look at them, I have the same thought you did, why the name so large? I'll fix that soon.
     
  24. Troy Hamon

    Troy Hamon Member

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    BWGirl,
    I agree with everything you have written here. As for being 'frozen'...I've been there accidentally. When our second child was born there were a couple years where I didn't see my cameras and they didn't see me...that's it though. More recently, I've been building a darkroom and that's made me antsy, but I've had two huge projects going in the meantime that I've been taking photos for. I've finally gotten the wet side ready and have developed all the negatives from the past year. Hopefully I'll be printing soon. One project will take the next 20 years, the other should be complete by Christmas...

    I think in part I'm trying not to have conversations about my projects because I don't want somebody to influence me...
     
  25. Troy Hamon

    Troy Hamon Member

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    Ralph...I love the image. How did you prop him up so he was level?
     
  26. Troy Hamon

    Troy Hamon Member

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    David,
    Does this mean you are clairvoyant or unlucky?