Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ideas For Projects

Where do ideas for projects come from? How do we know if an idea is a good one, or is it us trying too hard or getting desperate or doing it because we think we should?

Here's some things to think about.

1) of all the great artists there have ever been, only a tiny fraction were revolutionary - most were evolutionary - that is, taking an idea and modifying it to make it their own. Why should we expect any more of ourselves? So, take a cool idea by someone else and modify it to make it your own.

Ryuijie photographed flowers in blocks of ice. So you come up with something besides flowers to photograph in ice, or a different way/veiewpoint to photograph the ice, or something besides ice (fine sand or flour?). What about photographing faces in water - you'd need either a fish tank or a waterproof camera and a pool. What if the water were coloured, unevenly? What if you used oil? How about using coloured lights shining through the ice to make interesting effects?

Get the idea?

2) Never underestimate the value of doing something for fun. Cleaning out my Dad's house the other day I came across his original leather encased folding SX-70 - and with film being made for it again, this is a great opportunity. Can't see the point of doing landscapes with it, but what about nudes, flowers, mechanical close ups?

3) I guarantee that no matter how clever you are at coming up with an original idea, someone else will point out that you weren't the first after all - so why all the angst over the struggle to find original ideas. How about instead finding a good idea by someone else ans asking yourself, "how can I use this idea around something that is important/interesting/exciting/puzzling to me?"

4) follow up on those fleeting observations. I have noticed that often large trucks have interesting patterns of mud or snow on their back doors. There's never time to photograph them on the highway, but what about going to a truck stop and spending a day photographing trucks - forecast is for snow this weekend, so might be my last chance this year.

The other day I was crossing a bridge and noted the interesting shapes of the light rail structure as I passed. I might just start a project on recording the city's rail system - think about it - you can photograph at sunrise or sunset, in the rain, at night, in a snow storm or after one. You can photograph the tracks, bridges, wiring, stations, and don't forget the travellers. You can go on the trains and photograph the people (good use for a small non threatening camera like a point and shoot). There's more chance that your efforts to record part of your city as it is now will have lasting impact than any project photographing delapidated buildings.

5) no point in pinning all your hopes on a project you are unlikely to pull off any time soon - sure it would be interesting to go to Namibia but I can't afford it, don't have the time, and it's a long way. Work instead with what you have available. Don't bemoan lack of mountains if what you have is prairie. Come up with a way to make what you have work for you.

Don't underrate the idea of a project as simple as "the people I know".

Good luck and great ideas.



ilachina said...

Or sometimes, as I've just done, decide to do something you *always* done, just not "for real" ;-) My family and I have visited a nearby cavern park for for over a decade, but I've never taken my "real" caemra with me (they don;t allow tripods and usher people in and out really quickly; or so I rationalized, though both assertions are true). So, *finally*, I got the nerve to call them up, tell them I'm "serious" about what I do with a camera (couldn't hurt, I thought;-)...cut to the chase: I had a blissful 8+ hours essentially all my own from which I hope to create a small portfolio. Something that was staring me in the face for over 10 years!

Sandy Wilson said...

In an article in the British AG photographic magazine, the art critic David Lee mentions the dreaded word 'Project'. In most establishments teaching photography in years past and even today the students studying photography have to be working on a Project, 'WHY'

Could it be that project work makes it easier for their teachers to assess their work. For if a student was to buck the system by submitting twenty or so completely unrelated subject prints, would their teachers be at odds in trying to assess this type of work by the absence of theory or connecting purpose of the images.

Photographic education in the UK requires this in the 'State Art' System, boxing in students and stifling their art.

Curators also like to see'Project Work' as it is makes life easier from them to assess it.

Magazine editors love photographic 'Projects,' you only have to thumb through past and present photography books and magazines.

Young photographers in the past and even today are just paying lip service to this 'State Art'photography game.

Anybody trying to do something outside of this 'State Art' clique is shut out unless they can find an independent sponsor, or have a lot of money to promote themselves out side the'State Art' clique.

Even then you would need to own your own gallery to display your work, to avoid the many narrow minded gallery owners and curators out there.

Strikes me as being a bit of a closed shop here in the UK and no doubt it could be the same in Canada and the USA.

Sorry George, but I reckon this situation is to in bedded in the art circles of the past and present ever to be changed. a sad situation for all photographers.

George Barr said...

Andy makes a good point, it's true that we often get turned down on permission to photograph - but it's almost impossible to predict who will or won't and it's always worth asking, especially if you do so with a portfolio showing you are serious.

One of the best door openers is to take some decent photographs within the rules and limitations, and give them prints - suddenly the doors are open, the limitations are off and they go out of their way to be helpful.