Monday, June 4, 2007

Photography projects

A few years ago I picked up a copy of the new (at that time) National Geographic Photography Field Guide by Peter Burian and Robert Caputo. In the book there are chapters focused on some of their photographers and on the different aspects of photography field work. One of the chapter was about Sam Abell, who wrote an essay about his life with National Geographic and his tips to photographers.

While he focused his advice on photojournalists in this article and in other articles, he has advised part-time photographers to not only learn the aspects of the photography they have a passion for, but focus their work on a few, meaning 3 or less, lifetime projects. Projects that consume your photography interests to learn the subject and express it with your photography. It doesn't have to be something near or frequent, but it helps; it can be elsewhere from near home, but you have the passion to be there over the years to see and photograph it in all its aspects.

Well, since I started in 1969, I've had tons of opportunities to create and work on some personal photography projects, but until about ten years ago I haven't done much in that effort. But all of that was before I really thought about it, and reading Sam's article, it made me rethink my photography work to have some projects. My first I decided was Mt. Rainier National Park. And while I won't be on par with some of the best, like Pat O'Hara and others, I will enjoy the effort and results.

My other projects don't necessarily fit the model of a project, but I enjoy them. One is learning large format photography, and simply going out to locations on the list of places to photography, to learn the work and capture the image. I don't know where this will go, but it's fun just seeing and doing. And I'm producing some good photographs.

My second new one is working on street, people and event photography. I mostly use my new Canon EOS-5D digital system with 5 lenses and a recently added Canon EOS-1N film camera for the same lenses. I've been doing street and event photography for a few years now, but working in digital changes the workflow.

My last isn't so much a project. It's simply getting my computer system for my photography work and work toward starting my photography as a small personal business. This will take a few years, partly because it does take time, but mostly because I'm slower at it than most people and take my time. I don't have a business plan yet, and barely producing some marketable images.

Part of reason I'm slower than most is because I suffer from lifelong Dysthymia. There's a long story behind this (genetic lifelong) of Dysthymia and my life with it, but over the years it overwhelms me to stop my photography work and sometimes much of my life.

It's my reality, and I've discovered, exercising, writing and photography are far better than any drug or therapy could ever do to help me survive and sometimes prosper with it.


  1. Right on. The thought of doing projects seems alien to me, personally. Photography is much too chaotic to concentrate on a single subject. Or maybe I'm just too lazy and disorganized. It's hard to imagine having the wherewithal to focus on a project. Sometimes, after some years of collecting images, I can see the making of unintended, after-the-fact 'projects,' but never consciously. Recently, though, I did have the opportunity to do a project with the school I work for. I was assigned to visit three different preschools, spending a few hours as each, everyday for three weeks. After a while I found myself kind of burnt out and not terribly interested in preschool photos. I wonder if I'll ever be the same again. In the meantime, I prefer to stick with the unintended and unexpected.

  2. Thanks, excellent point. It's the degree of our patience, perserverance and focus on and about something, meaning the degree of our adult ADD. I can't take working on something consistently let alone continuously. I too get burnt out trying to deal with all the work, ideas and changes. I've found I can focus for short periods of a few days at a time, so I manage things where I do that over the longer term of months or years, and I can take time to review and adjust. You have to find the best way to optimize our mind, learning and work while keeping it enjoyable and worthwhile.