Managing photo projects

Discussion in 'Photographic Aesthetics and Composition' started by mooseontheloose, Mar 28, 2018.

  1. mooseontheloose

    mooseontheloose Subscriber

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    Originally, I was going to ask what kind of photo projects people are currently working on, and this thread popped up in the suggestion list, although it is focused on long-term projects, it made me wonder if people work on short-term projects, and if those, in turn, become long-term projects in the long run. Which got me thinking - at what point does a project "end" for you (if it does)? Do you just go with the flow for photographing whatever is needed for your project, or do you have some end point (a date, an exhibition, a book, etc) in mind?

    For myself, I came to the realisation a few years ago that while I have a variety of images, they don't really work cohesively as a portfolio of work. And with several people asking me to show them my images (or telling me I should have an exhibition of some sort) I realised I needed to put together a series of images that would work together. I came up with a few themes/subjects that constantly show up in my work and thought I would work on those, regardless if anyone was interested. The project that took me by surprise, and is kind of consuming most of my photography, especially when I travel, has been photographing cemeteries (particularly the sculptures - not original, I know, but it's something I enjoy). I can barely keep up with even making basic prints, but still think about all the other places I want to go to before I put something (final) together. But I have to find a place/time to stop, or to focus more on the print-making side of things, because even though I now have hundreds and hundreds of images to choose from, I still don't have a lot of final prints to show for it (the whole purpose of this exercise). I do have some ideas of what to do with them (create a book on a platform like Blurb, but also do smaller handmade books of lith prints from individual cemeteries, and possibly doing a hybrid project with my iPhone images; plus I keep a blog about all the places I've visited, kind of as a resource for others, but mostly for me to remember each of these places because after a while quite a few do blend together). And that's only the cemetery project! I kind of wish I could do this full-time, as there are so many things I want to do, but it's difficult with a very full-time job. I could never pick up a camera again and have more than enough to keep me busy in the darkroom for the next 5-10 years, but of course, that will never happen.

    Anyway...I'd like to know how the rest of you manage your photo projects, if you do.
     
  2. jtk

    jtk Subscriber

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    I don't think of projects in terms of "subjects" or techniques or appearances. I'm involved in a long-term project centered on one side of my family's photos...I have original negs and antique prints and slides etc going back to late 19th century. I've scanned hundreds, printed the best into 7 archival sets (distributed to family), have also saved to a dedicated hard drive and a thumb drive... prototypes/mockups for what I'll send to the same people who earlier got prints (all do have good computers to view and all will be able to print these TIFFs if they want). People will be identified along with a few remembered stories and a few documents). Motivation for this project is my desire to make sure that my family knows a lot about who they are.

    I have another set that has to do with another family's odyssey, very early European prints through exile (?) in Harbin, China (with research about Soviet murders) to ultimate survival of at least one woman till mid 20th in San Francisco. May eventually turn this evidence into a novelized history..

    My shared images are almost always accompanied by written commentaries or essays. I've never shot high production style, partially due to Minor White influence and partially due to general studio photo orientation (zero interest in "street" or anonymous subjects)
     
  3. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Subscriber

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    To have a successful project, you need to have a passionate interest in your subject and a desire to tell the story. That's the problem with most photographers; they concentrate on making a bunch of 'great' photographs, but what they end up with is a lot of pretty pictures that have no cultural significance.
     
  4. jawarden

    jawarden Subscriber

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    Rachelle your blog is outstanding, and very well organized. I just looked at it briefly but I'll return later as the images are excellent.

    As for projects and knowing when you're done, I'm reminded of "Elliott Erwitt's Dogs". I hope I'm remembering this properly, but I think the book was a result of reviewing a career's worth of work and discovering an awful lot of pictures of dogs. And I love that, just the idea of doing your own thing, the stuff that brings you joy, and a project coming of it, in its own time.

    In your case I wouldn't know when to stop since you're clearly enjoying your subject matter and may not want to stop, even after publishing something. So, you know, beat's me. :smile:

    I have a small team based project ongoing, but there is a hard deadline whether I'm ready or not so it'll be easy to know when to stop. I'm also making yearly portraits of the neighborhood kids and that'll be over when they tell me it is. (I did myself a big favor of showing kids and parents my copy of Nicholas Nixon's "Brown Sisters" this year and now the parents want me to continue until we're all old, which makes me very happy.)
     
  5. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

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    I think you are at the point where you need to understand "why" you are photographing what you photograph. Most people never get there.
     
  6. slackercrurster

    slackercrurster Member

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    I have many, many blogs / websites and produce lots of artist's books of my own photography and an archival collection I manage. I also manage a small gauge film archive that has about 300+ films in the collection, but have no place to put the films. YouTube banned me after 6 uploads. Also have some films on Vimeo, but taking an easy on them for now, so not many uploads.

    Here is one that is pretty generic you may like and should not offend anyone...early Eastman archival material.



    Here is one from 'The Beatniks' artist's book.(part of the archival collection)

    Again, one that wont offend...'The Birth of the Beatniks.'

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2018
  7. slackercrurster

    slackercrurster Member

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    Yes, OP, projects can crystalize your thinking and direction to build on a theme. In my early days, before doing books, I just wanted 'one photo' for my portfolio. Now I look at a photo for the possibility of expanding it to an in-depth book project.

    I'm kinda like you OP, I have way too much to ever deal with. I am very choosy what I shoot now. Still have photo going back to 2013 that need cleaning out.
     
  8. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    A project needs a "mission statement" to be truly successful. Going through that process will accomplish many things, one of which is probably the most important, what in your mind denotes "success" at the end.

    As far as your cemetery photos you could divide them up into regions. I am sure each region has it's own flavour. The end of that "project" could be when you have enough great images from each region.
     
  9. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    "Managing" a project probably needs some definitions - of both manage and project. For many, a project is just an ongoing series of like or similar subject matter. There may be no end. To me, a project has an end, because a "project" has a purpose. I've been on two.

    The first was a group of photographers photographing a specific set of buildings for historic preservation, history, etc. I was asked to join and did the same type of work, obviously. Oddly, the project ended not with a book, an exhibition (we had exhibitions, though), a set body of work, or another fixed goal. The "project" was pretty much ongoing until everyone else got tired and dropped out. I had no desire to continue by myself.

    The second was not so much a "project" as an "assignment". I had an idea for a documentary project to add photographs to an archive, and the archive supported me. It ended with not only the photographs, but two exhibitions and a book. The project ended when the book was published.

    May not help, but this is my perspective.
     
  10. jtk

    jtk Subscriber

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    This is a welcome and excellent thread.
     
  11. OP
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    mooseontheloose

    mooseontheloose Subscriber

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    Those both sound really interesting. I'm not suggesting projects can only be subjects or techniques or appearances (although in my case many of them are) - it's really useful to hear what others are working on and what the end result will be.

    Thanks! The blog photos are made with my iPhone - originally when I started it I had planned to use it as a place to upload photos of final prints, but it became clear to me pretty quickly that it would be good to have visual evidence that I could immediately put on there. Plus, I can take photos of smaller things I don't necessarily want to commit to film or to print, but are useful to discuss and show. Which is why my early posts have very few photos, but the latest ones have a lot. The photos have saved me as well - a couple years ago I was in Russia and my camera failed me (one of the aperture blades fell out of alignment in the lens) - I didn't notice until I came home and developed the film - anything shot with an f/stop larger than 5.6 was ruined (a pattern that was very hard to figure out initially since it didn't look like normal light leaks). So many of the only images from that trip are really just quick snaps I shot for the blog, but at least I have them.

    I didn't know that about Erwitt, but that's similar to how I came up with my ideas for some of the projects I would focus on - I started to notice a theme in my photographs (flowers, doors, etc. - many things I would not have thought of) beyond what I thought I was really interested in. In a way it's helped me focus what I want to do, but in others I wish I was more open to other subjects at times.

    Yeah - it's going beyond the "why" to the "what's next."

    Interesting stuff!

    Actually, that's what I need to do I think. Have a review of what I've done, figure out what I have and what I need to have, which I think will help me move forward.

    I've thought of that - by cemetery, by region, by country, by statue styles (angels, mourning women, men, etc). My idea for the short handmade books was do them for each cemetery (not all of them, just the major ones) - it would help me cull the photos to the ones that really stand out I think. Since I probably will never go back to most of them, this is actually something I could start working on now, since the images are taken and ready to be printed and assembled. I just need to do it! (The other issue is wanting to do this with lith, but knowing that I have a limited supply of the paper that I want to use (now discontinued) - another problem I have to solve before moving forward).

    Actually David, I remember your first project and wanting to do something similar. Which I guess I have, as I was part of a street photography project here in Kyoto (which is finishing up because the guy who started it has terminal cancer). But that project's limitations meant it never really connected with me the way I hope it would have. Still, it's given me other ideas of what I could do in this city.

    Thanks! My purpose in starting it was not to talk about my project specifically, but to see what others were doing. Hopefully it's helpful to all.
     
  12. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    making books now..check out photobook/kassel
    no sense just making photos in random forever
     
  13. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i couldn't agree more with peter !
    i'd revisit the bookmaking project rachelle !
    the hardest part of any project ( large or small ) isn't the actual doing it
    or having a massive wide scope and realizing the borders are kind of fuzzy,
    its the editing down to the best 20 or 30 images. having specifics for your project is helpful
    some projects start with one idea and morph into into something bigger, that's ok .. just be brutal when you edit.
    not sure if you have made many hand bound books, there are a handful of online tutorials and books that simplify
    ( like zeier's books, boxes and portfolios ) and then there is the keith smith series which is fantastic . and able to
    arrive at your doorstep via drone in a matter of days.
    good luck with your project !
    john
     
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  15. tedr1

    tedr1 Member

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    Some of my picture projects have existed for decades and evolve, not because I plan them that way but because I keep an archive of all the images and have a good memory. Right now I am preparing a small booklet to be published by a small photo-group and the images are transparencies from the early 1990s being used in a new way I never thought of twenty five years ago when the pictures were made. Photography for me evolves gradually, and the pace is usually pretty slow :happy:
     
  16. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    At what point do you decide the mission staement ?

    I guess I put the Chicken before the egg because I'l start shooting somewhere (or somethings) that spark my interest and then realise that will make a project, that might be after just a few hours or a few sessions out shooting, after a while I'll draw up the visual boundaries of a project once I've assessed the direction it's going in. By physical boundaries I mean what II'll include and exclude. I know it's that point where I've rawn up my mental mission statement and decided what I want that body of work to say

    For over 30 yeras all my work has been project based with a view to Exhibitions etc and I'll tend to shoot more than one project at a time, although with more focus on one key project at.

    In the case of one major project (In Searh of Agenoria) I knew the instance I first visited an area in the Black Country (Industrial are near Birmingham, UK) with a friend in 1989 that I would make a large body of work there. After shooting for a couple of hours we stood on a grassy slag heap (old coal tip) and I told my friend I'd spend 5 years shooting in the area with a view to a large exhibition, which is exactly what happened in 1994. But I had exhibitions of other work before then, as I finshed off other projects.

    Mental long term planning and goals as as important as the mission statement. Although my projects have initially been shown individually there's a lot of cross-over between many of them, so I was asked to put an exhibtion together for a Canal (narrow) boat Festival and took images from two previousexhibitions that were relevant to the area and canals in general. Another gallery has asked for images I've made in Cornwall around the tin mines to be juxtaposed with images made in ancient greek cities.

    I think it's also about developing a personal style and way of working, of course this evoves over time, this becomes important when talking to Galleries, Curators etc, as does being able to articulate your work in writing or vocally, I find giving occasional lecturs extremely valuable here.

    Just my way of working

    Ian
     
  17. Luckless

    Luckless Member

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    I make fairly heavy use of Lightroom and Google docs. And in theory all my negatives are carefully sorted and filed and clearly labelled, but honestly most are sitting in a box in little 'temporary' folder things waiting for me to set up a more suitable storage system for them. (Eventually I'll build a little custom chest and transfer things over into a proper file system.)

    Negatives get scanned and a copy loaded into Lightroom for tracking/reference.

    A Top Level Google spreadsheet holds links and quick reference notes to different projects that I feel are important enough to warrant the bother, where I keep the detailed formal notes in Google Docs on individual projects.
    Most of these projects have a few documents with them, a main project with core notes and ideas, and then individual outings documents that are kind of a journal (Which may or may not be covering multiple projects, depending on the outing.) Here I'll track edited notes on what I want to do with the project, how I feel it is progressing, and what the current failings of it are. - What have I been doing poorly, where I need to go, what do I need to learn or to pick up to do the project better, etc.
    Individual photos that I feel hold promise eventually get their own document with more details on their history, and how I want to edit them. (Or how I want to take them in the case of some 'pending' photos, or photos that I want to redo.)

    Most projects also get a physical notebook. I found a bunch of cheap hard cover 100~150 page half-letter notebooks that were lined very lightly. The barely visible dotted line make it easy to keep neat written notes, but also aren't distracting for technical sketches. - Every now and then I'll skim through these and pick out anything I find overly important to the project, and transcribe/scan into the digital master system.


    Of course, lots of photography I do isn't really 'project' focused. These general photos get put through lightroom like anything else, and I try to stay on top of keywording as much as possible. This is mostly family/travel/wandering around the city/parks photography, but every now and then I'll end up finding enough similar photos that I pull them into a new collection for a mini-project. - Silly faces of my nephews or something.


    I have a bunch of long term "I want to..." projects, which are more notes and sketches detailing future photos to take and explore, but my active projects include things like urban wildlife (digital and film), faces of nature (mostly film), new greens (digital, started as a project after moving to the west coast and finding the shades in nature to be 'just a little different' from back east.), and a few other lesser ones I pick away at as I spot something that might work for them. Plus the usual family photo kind of stuff.
     
  18. jtk

    jtk Subscriber

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    Perhaps, by definition, a "project" can be defined in words, begun at a certain point in time.

    Photographs organized by ill-defined gut feelings are probably not "projects." Ongoing photography without borders is probably something other than "project."

    So, if one is a street photographer or wedding photographer, that body of work is probably not a "project" without some parameters that can be stated. A lifelong career in wildlife photography is probably not a "project," but a specific exploration of a particular phenomenon, such as migration, would probably be a "project."

    My own ongoing and past photography (other than with the collections I mentioned near the top, isn't a "project." If my work became an exploration of personal emotions, perhaps that would be a "project."

    Just some thoughts.
     
  19. jtk

    jtk Subscriber

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  20. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Well Wiktionary gives one definition of a Project: A planned endeavor, usually with a specific goal and accomplished in several steps or stages.

    That sums up how I see my own projects, it's when you step from that "Random collection of images" or as you put it "organized by ill-defined gut feelings" to a planned coherent with a specific goal, which is the "Mission Statement" that Eric Rose mentions. It's helpful to set your self a time-line along with the goals/iams of the project.

    It's actually about another way of working where the randomness is replace by by a more planned approached, but that mustn't be at the expense of creativity. Also important is to occasionally stand back and take stock of how a project's progressing, collate the images see how cohesive the work is, ask your self what's missing, and be your harshest critic of the work.

    With a large projects I've used a spreadsheet for planning the logistics, that includes printing, final print selection, sequencing, matting and framing, getting sponsorship/raising funding, press releases (not necessarily in that order). In some cases galleries book exhibitions 2 or even 3 years in advance that gives time for careful planning.

    Ian
     
  21. WilmarcoImaging

    WilmarcoImaging Member

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    I did my first "project" or "personal reportage" assignment in January of this year. Film is still waiting to be developed. It is a series of photos of my dad, showing me photos of himself throughout his life from a boy until recent times. It is an assignment from an Annie Leibovitz MasterClass that I did in December. I hope to do more projects of this nature.

    It is important for me, because reportage is not my usual genre. I prefer architecture and portraits, and while the reportage assignment was a series of portraits, it got me out of my usual routine. A good thing.
     
  22. adelorenzo

    adelorenzo Subscriber

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    This is a great thread, thanks for posting Richelle.

    I have found projects emerge in different ways, either just through reviewing my work and seeing some images that go together or by coming up with an idea and starting to work on it. I'd say I have a half dozen potential projects swirling around at any given time but I'd say I've only got one that I have actually carried out to completion.

    The Builders Project was a collaboration with a friend and we worked on it for three years, with me as a photographer. I think where it all really came together for me was when we were preparing to hang an exhibition of the work. I had to really sit down and edit the work to figure out which photos were going into the show. Instead of going into the darkoom and making a "good" print or two, all the sudden I had to make 16 good prints that worked well together as a set. Once I had a set of prints done I spend a couple of hours reviewing them with a friend who gave me great feedback and I printed most of them again.

    All this is to say is that I found the focus needed to complete a full set of exhibition prints in the darkroom took my printing to a new level. What I have learned from this is, for me, projects need to have an "end product" like a portfolio, handmade book or exhibition for me to really carry them out. Otherwise I'm likely to just flitter around to different things (which is also fun!)
     
  23. OP
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    mooseontheloose

    mooseontheloose Subscriber

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    Nice work @adelorenzo! I think, as you said, having the final project in mind is key.

    This thread certainly has sparked a fire under me as I have been making headway in terms of planning what I want to achieve and what I need to do to get there. I have hundreds of rolls of images to choose from, more than enough to create a portfolio of 50 great images to work together, which was my initial goal, and I think one still worth working towards. The problem is figuring out which ones those will be. As mentioned earlier, I want to do this as a series of lith prints, but I have limited paper to do this with. So I definitely want to narrow down the images before I start committing them to lith. So I've decided to create a large series of smaller 5x7 prints of everything worth considering, and from there, work out which images will work together, and for which particular final output (book, exhibition, handmade book, etc). I don't know if it's the best way to do this, but it feels right, so I'm going to go for it.
     
  24. Theo Sulphate

    Theo Sulphate Subscriber

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    For many decades I've been photographing older buildings, houses, and neighborhoods that I know will change drastically as urban boundaries grow. I also photographed art-deco buildings - or basically any interesting building or structure built prior to 1960.

    Along with that, I photographed open spaces, fields, trees, season after season, year after year. Rivers, mountains, bridges, and railroads.

    Last year I had a project, "Everyday Things" - basically I made photos of what I saw day after day. Already that project proved valuable. For example, almost every day I would feed a nice orange neighborhood cat that would sit by my door every morning. He was owned by no one, but everyone in the neighborhood took care of him. Although I had numerous photos of him, I wanted one where he was looking up at me at the doorway. That was a tough photo to get, as the camera spooked him - all I got were blurry images. Finally I got one perfect photo with an FE2. A few weeks later, the cat passed away (he was a hardy outdoor cat that lived a long life).

    Recently, my project is "Too Common" - it's similar to the previous one, but goes even furthers in that I'm having to force myself into making a photo of subjects I see that I've considered too uninteresting and too common to make an image of.

    My justification for these two projects is that I've seen, from snapshot "nothing photos" I made as a kid in the early 1960's, that often such photos become interesting.
     
  25. jtk

    jtk Subscriber

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    For me, projects have to do with undone new work. Personal assignments more than anything else.

    The old stuff that I need to edit and organize into coherence is far less important than work (new photographs) that I have not yet determined to produce.

    In other words, the old stuff that "I need to edit and organize into coherence" , while it's important, doesn't seem to be as worthy as something in the future, for which I need new courage (or whatever).
     
  26. jtk

    jtk Subscriber

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