Most every photographer I know has done some sort of project, I’ve done a good three projects myself. Some over the course of a single year others have lasted several years to see completion. As with any project some will succeed, others will fail. Hopefully I can give some good suggestions to help your photography project succeed by drawing on my own successes and how I went about them.
1. Keep It Interesting
Just like anything, you’ll find you do your best work when you focus on something that you’re interested in. If you have no interest in photographing portraits, or doing street photography, there’s no point starting a project in those areas. It’s just asking for failure, because you’ll become disillusioned with it and give it up part way through. Remember, this is a personal project to help you grow, you’re not photographing for anyone but yourself.
So far, my favourite project for me has been my War of 1812 project: A Peace Forged in Blood & Fire, that saw my eyes opened to a rather unique and often misrepresented period of history here in North America, as with any multi-year project the focus, style, changed over the course of it, and has now ended up with a fantastic book in the process of being made. Of course like any project, I look back now and think how could I improve, and that answer would simply be consistency in film/chemistry/gear used.
2. Pushing Yourself
Now this doesn’t mean throwing yourself into some new format right off the bat or style, or to challenge yourself to shoot something you’re not interested in. What I mean is that you need to get something out of it for yourself. My fifty-two sheet project, I had been shooting 4×5 for just under a year when I dived into it (see, I learned the format and technique first, then dived into the project). I really set about learning really how powerful large format, how to apply a small part of the Zone system into my photography, and really…how much I love Tri-X! And to really settle on my choice of 4×5 cameras.
But the one thing it really taught me was to slow down, relax, take my time when composing the images, but being quick about setting up and tearing down the camera. Because you never know when you might encounter a bear, right Mat?
3. Get Support
Photography, as I’ve always maintained can be a very lonely hobby. So working with a bunch of other photographers on a project or a group of photographers working within a certain frame work of a theme will often make it easier because everyone is there to encourage and support everyone else. And you may just learn something from one another!
My second 52-Roll project I was joined by a whole group of photographers from around the world, the 52rolls.net website, spearheaded by the talented Urban Hafner became a joint home for both the 400TX:365 and 52:320TXP projects respectively where the photographers agreed to shoot 52 rolls (or 52 sheets) of film over the course of the year. And while I’m not participating this year, I still keep my account active there and still read through this year’s batch of photographer taking the 52 challenge!
4. Be Realistic
I really shouldn’t have to mention this one, but sometimes we miss the obvious. Don’t start something if at the very beginning you know you’re not going to be able to. It’s like the whole 365 project, shooting a photo a day, it’s a stupidly overwhelming project, I know for sure that I wouldn’t be able to do such a project which is why I settled for the easier roll/sheet a week, I mean that’s an easy day out on a weekend.
And finally, if you don’t complete your project, don’t beat yourself up about it, sure it sucks, but honestly, it’s just a silly personal project. Best thing to do is look back, learn from it, and keep on going, and try something different next year. So what’s my project this year? Well there are several small ones that’ll filter over the year. A few additions into the continuing War of 1812 project, doing a few print collections (darkroom printing), reviewing my camera gear in blog and podcast form (which will help me pick out the cameras that I use and like the most and clear the fluff from the collection), and maintaining a decent level of blogging here!
All the photos featured in this article were from my four (to date) photo projects
Until then folks…keep clicking
And long live film.