Planning for Personal Projects...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by ChristopherCoy, Nov 20, 2011.

  1. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Subscriber

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    I love looking at collections, or series that other artists have created, but I have no idea how to go about creating one myself. When I made a trip to my hometown a few weeks ago, I decided to photograph some things that reminded me of home. As I developed the images, I noticed that it looked more like random shots of grandparents houses, street signs, and city hall, than it did the 'story' of where I'm from.

    For those of us without formal training, can some of you who do, give us a few tips or advice for planning out personal projects? How do you go about creating a collection of cohesive images? Do you create a story board, write down the ideas that you want to illustrate, or do you just walk around and happen upon images?
     
  2. ROL

    ROL Member

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    It can work any of the ways you've suggested, depending on your motivation, commercial or artistic. As a fine print artiste :smile:laugh:smile:, I only take photos of subjects that interest me. Because many of these subjects are ephemeral in nature (literally), I can never plan with certainty. So I generally edit images from "shoots" over a period of time, sometimes years, into logical, aesthetic, or emotional groups that tell a story – I give prints a personal spin or intimacy that defines them as unique (to me) work). Having a strong view (i.e., visualization) and love of subject is invaluable to the process.
     
  3. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    It's as simple as picking a single item, say a mushroom, and going around loking for different forms of mushrooms, or toadstools(any fungi for that matter) and taking photos of them. My personal projects include stairways, mostly outdoor ones, and old country bridges. What interests you, then photograph it. An old project was to pick one outdoor feature, then photograph it once a month, preferably the same day each month, for 12 months. How does the feature change throughout the term of the project, what of the surroundings, are you using the same position, or moving around it? The possibilities are endless.
     
  4. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Though I am a landscape photographer, I have recently been taking ordinary everyday pictures.

    I look at photographs that remind me of a home that I can't go back to, and try to capture what I have today so that when I look back upon them in the future, they will do justice to my memory. For example, your grandparent's house, I assume you had to photograph it from the outside. But if you had a picture of your grandfather, napping on the couch with afternoon sunlight streaming in. And if that were a high-quality photograph. That would be what you wanted that you can't take now. So my simple suggestion is to take photographs of what you love now that will certainly change.
     
  5. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Think about what interests you. You may be walking along one day and find a tree bark with interesting textures. Spend the next 6 months just photographing tree barks under different lighting conditions and in different ways, again and again and again. Don’t worry about an end product, it may never happen. As you keep going, new ideas will develop and so on infinitum. Picasso never finished anything. The Journey will provide the results you are looking for.
     
  6. garysamson

    garysamson Subscriber

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    If you want to create a cohesive body of work, start by looking at monographs by photographers such as Sally Mann, Paul Strand, Joel Peter Witkin, Richard Avedon, Ralph Gibson, John Sexton etc. Identify a theme you are interested in exploring and start thinking about establishing a personal point of view in your imagery. Write a one page treatment of your idea or theme to clarify your approach. Good luck!
     
  7. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Something that I believe in after many years of working with project based portfolios with different photographers is this..
    Photograph what you are interested in and know very well, after time and lots of film a story will emerge. this tidbit came from a very well known author on photography.

    My good friend started with 4x5 portraits of his patients, which led to a story , which lead to interviews and lectures, then to a 17 month Museum Show.
    Basically he is document something very close to him and through photography, changes peoples minds about his line of work... the project is called House Calls with my Camera.
     
  8. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    Just make a lot of pictures... and when you think you've made enough, make more!! The idea of photographing home is a compelling one, and because you have a deep emotional connection to you, you'll start to see that in your pictures. Such projects, though, generally succeed after several years of work. Going back exposing a lot of film, reviewing your pictures, editing, organizing, sequencing, going back, exposing more film, more editing... you'll start to see visual similarities within the work, and will start to see groupings of pictures. Those that look interesting, then you might start shooting more with those in mind, or maybe you'll see a new direction in the images that might spark ideas for other pictures. Good luck!
     
  9. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    Most if not all the series or projects I've had in the past decade have simply come from doing what interests me. The actual idea comes after noticing a pattern over time, and then you can refine it further. I am unconvinced you can just conjure one up from scratch.

    There's something to be said for curiosity, or for learning for learning's sake. Don't think of a result, just 'follow your joy'. Look back once in a while and see what you find out.

    My images of China, my street photography of my city's downtown area, the landscapes or scenic shots of the park nearby...all have come from simply saying "that looks interesting" and then going for it.

    Small children never make drawings thinking "it's got to be this or that" or criticizing themselves for it being 'good enough' or not...they just do it. There's something in that spirit for all of us.
     
  10. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    The first thing I would do is decide on one camera, one lens and one film type, and thus define the technical parameters of what you are going to do.

    Sound restrictive? Too many constraints? Think of Keith Carter, Richard Avedon, Sally Mann and any number of other great photographers whose life's work was created by one or two cameras. In the case of Avedon, it was a square Rolleiflex and an 8x10, both with normal lenses. Sally Mann worked for years with one camera and one lens. Keith Carter created 25 years of work with a Hassy and an 80mm lens.

    While some photogs may choose different cameras throughout their careers, they usually use only one camera per project.

    I am completely against the giant sack of lenses mentality. Very few people can work that way and get anything done.
     
  11. Paul VanAudenhove

    Paul VanAudenhove Member

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    I generally agree with what Parker Smith has to say - but it may be a little more complicated if you haven't decided or settled on your style.

    As a story, you must impose some structure to it, even if it is at a much later time. Keep shooting, and as you review and edit, try to figure out what is working for you. Often, if you shoot enough, your vision will show through even if it wasn't apparent to you at the time you took the pictures. As your vision becomes clear to you, choices become easier.

    What is harder, is trying to photograph the past.
     
  12. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I am not so sure I agree with the same camera same lens approach, I thing the project in itself defines the photography.
    Very long term projects demand flexibility , with equipment and process, it really all boils down to telling a story with photographs.
     
  13. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Subscriber

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    As an artist I am interested in how other artists work. I watch videos of them, interviews, and read what they say about their work. Alec Soth, for example, says he created his work "Sleeping by the Mississippi" over two years of just shooting, then editing down to a cohesive body of images. Abelardo Morell gets inspired by something he sees and explores it through his camera in as many ways as possible. Sally Mann made a series about death because of an incident on her property where an escaped convict took his own life during a police standoff. My current series grew out of a previous body of work and what I realized I was talking about when discussing it. It was a transition and exploration, not a pre-determined, fully formed idea from the start.
     
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  15. semi-ambivalent

    semi-ambivalent Subscriber

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    I don't think I've ever seen those two names in the same sentence. :laugh:

    s-a
     
  16. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Subscriber

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    I hate when people mention 'style'. It sends me into a downward spiral of distraction and confusion, mostly because I find 'style' to have too many aspects of the definition. Camera brands, prime or zoom lenses, strobes or OCF, 4.3/DX/FX sensors, 35mm/MF/LF and all the sizes in between, vintage/modern/fine art/fashion/portrait/PJ and all the other genres, over-saturated, under-saturated, that awful trendy 'faded' treatments... How do you define a 'style' when there are so many options? What if you tend to enjoy more than one, or heaven forbid two or more? And those questions are rhetorical, I definitely DO NOT want to start the age old argument about the definition of style... those threads never die.

    My shooting experience has mainly consisted of 35mm and DX digital. I used a Mamiya TLR during my loosely titled 'apprenticeship' after high school, and most recently the Mamiya C33 that I purchased from an APUG member. I do have plans to upgrade to FX digital for work purposes, but as for the film experience... I haven't settled on anything, and haven't shot enough to know. I definitely enjoy my 35mm for daily 'walk around' type shooting, and for the limited shooting I have with the Mamiya, I definitely enjoy the square format. I haven't used it in the studio yet, but I do have plans to do so in the near future.

    As for subject matter, the only thing that I consistently enjoy photographing is dogs. It doesn't matter how many dogs I photograph, I never get tired of setting up the shots, making the shots, and viewing the shots. And a lot of my dog photos always look the same, or at the very least resemble the one before it - but I still enjoy them just as much as the one before it. I can sometimes enjoy looking at them, but I have absolutely zero interest in shooting things like macro, nature, landscapes, wildlife, "beauty", and architecture.

    Although, as I'm typing this response... I've come up with a year long personal project idea. Hmmmm, it seems I may have a stirring of the mental juices.
     
  17. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    Whenever I plan a project it always comes out contrived and too clinical....as if I was trying too hard to do a project! Some people can pull it off, more power to them. For me I just shoot what I like and over time it develops into something of my style and my personality. Just the way it works for me.
     
  18. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Good point, at the end of the day you need to enjoy the project.
     
  19. Paul VanAudenhove

    Paul VanAudenhove Member

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    Bob, that's the truth!
     
  20. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Subscriber

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    And just for the sake of the thread... my response above regarding the mentioning of 'style' was in no way intended to be snippy or harsh. And now that I'm reading it, I can understand how it may have been interpreted as such.

    I truly meant to say that when it comes to style, I can't exactly determine mine because at this point in my photography experience I enjoy a multitude of things at the same time.
     
  21. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Style is a definition others impose on your work.

    Love of subject – tell a story, man! (Your love of dogs tells me you're already there).
     
  22. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    IMHO one's "Style" is best determined inductively, rather than deductively.

    Think about it :wink:
     
  23. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    it is very hard to do a series of photographs of subjects that are very close to you.
    the best suggestion i can give is to just photograph as much as possible the subjects that you enjoy.
    don't put any boundaries on anything - use whatever equipment you want, and let yourself get carried away.
    don't edit yourself until time has passed ... then look at everything you have shot
    and decide what you like and don't like ... and then make more photographs ...
    eventually you will find a vein or a stream to follow and everything will fall into place.

    don't for get to have fun
    john
     
  24. Pasto

    Pasto Subscriber

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    What has helped me:

    1. using one camera, one lens, one film for a long time (this was a Mamiya 6 with a 50mm lens and TMY-2, now a 4x5 with a 90mm and Portra 400), I find that the process is very important for me.
    2. no longer making photographs of anything that moves, being very selective instead
    3. thinking really hard about why I'm choosing the subjects that I do
    4. leaving my comfort zone to work on a project, meaning calling up people I don't know (or visiting them) and asking permission to enter their place of business for my project, this increases my commitment to the project
    5. I like to look at others' work, but not obsesively. I put my energy into making photographs, and I'm not worried about shooting the same subject as someone else because I know I'll do it differently. Art and photography have become fashionable in the last 2 decades. I don't follow fashion or fads, I do what I like.
    6. finally, I take making pictures very seriously, but I always have fun doing it :smile:

    Good luck!
     
  25. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I've been shooting off and on since the early 80s and serious about it since the 90s and I don't really know what my style is. Others say they can pick my photo out amongst a crowd, but I don't know what it is. Other than that the photo is usually of rocks, trees, or streams.
     
  26. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    Christopher,

    Thanks for putting this thread up. You have asked the questions that I have wanted to ask but was too afraid to.

    After 'playing' with film for the last 3 years, I feel that I have now served my apprenticeship so to speak and I am now ready to focus my efforts. I think I am much like Christopher, in that I have tried a multitude of different things (but I have been restrictive with Film choice!!! The change in process scares me at times). I think this is what you do to determine what you want to go back to.

    What I would also like to ask, is when you start a project, do most have an idea of what the body of work will comprise - I.E., do you sit down and think 'I want to have 15 16x20 prints for an exhibition' or is it a case of 'crap, I have all these shots that I really like.....what should I do with them'?