Projects

Discussion in 'Talk About Anything Photography Related' started by Alan Clark, Jul 5, 2017.

  1. Alan Clark

    Alan Clark New Member

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    Bill Martindale recently asked about the difference between a project and a series. This set me thinking abut photographic projects. If you work on projects, perhaps you would like to comment on some of the following questions.
    How do projects start? Where does the inspiration and the motivation come from? What is their purpose? Are they carefully planned and "formal" ? Or are they more casual affairs? And what do you do with the photographs? Etc etc.....

    Alan
     
  2. martin henson

    martin henson Administrator Staff Member

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    I take lots of landscape photographs, seen together they are a series taken in different locations, if I was to do a project lets say of limestone walls in the Dales then this would be a project as they depict the same subject with the intent to do so.

    I suppose a project starts with an idea of what subject you want to study and not deviate from that.

    Motivation comes from wanting to do the above :), or it could be to show something that concerns you enough to show through photos why it is of concern, (environmentally)

    Recording pictorially IE Historical relics, lime stone walls, waterfalls, churches, anything that has value to you, photographically speaking etc. To have a series of subjects / scenes that gel together and give a broader idea or aim of your intention when seen together.

    Having a certain knowledge of were to find the same subject at the best times of day would help, so better planed then casual.

    Easy to get books printed on line, PDFs, Folios, exhibitions

    Regards
    Martin
     
  3. David M

    David M Member

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    Photography allows so many different outcomes, that we struggle a bit to define or understand them. At best, we can only give loose definitions; we are not building Crossrail. It seems that the word project encompasses the intention to make a group of images, linked in some way.
    The link may be either strict or tenuous. The conventional family album (if it still exists) has a rather rigid structure: pictures of members of the family, on notable occasions, arranged in chronological order and often including factual notations ("John, Little Johnny, Gran and Mum at Whitley Bay for Gran's 70th"). There are (or were) fairly strict conventions of posing too – all facing the camera and smiling, with Dad behind the camera and mostly unrecorded. Dear dead days, I fear.
    On the other hand, if we believe we are making something creative we may begin with only the loosest sort of plan. Consider Two Blue Buckets, or The Somnambulist. It's difficult to imagine that these began with a fully structured plan, but rather that they grew as they progressed. (Or, progressed as they grew, of course. Words are unruly servants, don't you find?)
    A photographer setting out to record dry stone walls might meet a dry stone waller and fall into conversation. The waller may have an interesting tale to tell. He may introduce our photographer to other people of related callings, hurdle-makers perhaps. Our photographer would be made of stone to resist this chance to record remarkable people, their crafts and their lives. The Wall project may metamorphose into Working Hands or a study (– see, another word for a project) of tenant farming.
    Even if these are not forthcoming, the information gathered might well feed back into the original project, so that instead of recording the undoubted beauty of these ancient divisions, the work concentrates on different methods of construction. For all I know, experienced wallers may be able to distinguish the work of individual builders by their personal style. The walls may become a background for portraits of their builders. And then the work may even expand to include quotations.
    And so on. It's hard to make general rules about creative work
    I recently saw some picture of a house for sale near me. Hall, with back-lit stained glass in the door, dining room, lounge, kitchen, breakfast room, bedroom one, all the other bedrooms, the bathroom(s), the garden, the patio and various pictures of the exterior. Far too expensive for me.
    All the pictures were decently done, with vertical verticals, accurate-looking colour and carefully-chosen viewpoints. This seems to me to be a kind of pictorial engineering. The objective was easily defined, and a time limit would have been imposed. Presumably a certain level of craft skill would have been expected and delivered.
    So, here we have several kinds of project. The family album, open-ended but governed by unspoken rules, the tightly defined and closed-ended house pictures and the open ended creative study of walls. Naturally, I think that the last one is the most demanding and worthwhile.
    Perhaps I have banged on for long enough, but a further consideration is what is to happen to the images afterwards.
    The family record is a physical album, kept in a safe place and notoriously brought out to embarrass the children when they bring home their first boy- or girlfriend. The estate agent's pictures are currently on the web and may vanish when the house is sold, but the Walls images have multiple possibilities.
    They may be shown individually at a camera club, as marking-fodder and be forgotten, which is a pity.
    They might be sold to different publications, which is good for the photographer.
    They may be exhibited, which raises all sorts of new things to decide – selection, size, framing, matting, captions, arrangement on the available wall space (seldom optimal) and price. An artist's statement may be needed.
    Or they may become a book, which imposes the task of precisely sequencing the images and making decisions about bleed and suchlike. A book may demand extended text.
    Motivation is another matter and as far as I can see, is entirely personal. The pictures of the house will have been done for money, but where did the motivation to develop those skills come from?
     
  4. Alan Clark

    Alan Clark New Member

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    David's comprehensive and fascinating post illustrates that the area of "projects" is complex and not easy to pin down. Because of the creative nature of the work, it seems that there are no rules to follow when pursuing a project, and therefore no typical or standard approach to act as a guide as to what to do. This leaves the photographer very much dependent on his or her own judgement.

    I have pursued quite a few projects over the years, and each one has needed or even demanded a different approach. If there has been any common ground it has been that all my most satisfying projects have crept up on me so that I have simply found myself pursuing something that, initially, I didn't even realise was a project. I'm not sure how you can consciously plan for this to happen. But when it does it seems to me to be far preferable than sitting down with a notebook and pencil and trying to come up with a list of possible projects. Projects hatched like this, from conscious and rational thought, are quite likely to be rather artificial or contrived compared to those which we arrive at unconsciously.

    Alan
     
  5. David M

    David M Member

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    I remember being on Photographers' Place workshops where participants would show a typical amateur collection of work. (Guilty myself, too.) Often they were technically excellent but contained very mixed subject matter. Paul seemed able to sort these out into piles and uncover themes that the photographer had not perceived in their own work. Then the work might be "sequenced". Another word, again. Sequencing involves more that arranging in 1-2-3.. order, although that's a part. The idea is to make a collection of images into a whole work, rather as a poem makes an assembly of words into a recognisable entity. It may even reveal gaps and unsuspected opportunities for making more images.
    It might mean omitting some Greatest Hits images, but even the RPS gives the advice that in a panel (their word for a connected group), no single image should predominate.
    [A crude example: Would Daffodils be improved if Wordsworth had written: "I wandered lonely as a cumulonimbus" even thought the word cumulonimbus is very much more impressive and informative than cloud?]
     

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