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Wednesday
Jul072010

Starting Somewhere. Beginning a New Project.

I've started a new photography project. I'm setting up the images as an allegory for entering the unknown. A friend asked me about how projects begin, so I thought I'd talk through this one as an example.

The idea for this project was sparked by a comment during a critique of my work. The reviewer was looking at a landscape image with a layered composition. The middle layer, containing a tree, was in focus, but the foreground and background were blurred. He said that it made him feel inside the image. A week later, I wondered: If an image can place a viewer inside, then what's the journey like that gets you inside, and then beyond? How does one enter and become familiar with the unknown? In that moment, the question became intensely intriguing. I can't tell you why other than it seemed to bring together several threads that had been in my head and in my life. It was an "ah ha!" moment.

I find that new projects tend to start this way, as a tangential thought that grows into an obsession. The critic's comment wasn't really related to the new project, but it was enough of a little shove to have me notice a new path.

It took two or three weeks after that before I took a picture. I was hesitant to start, because taking a picture might kill the idea. Having a project idea doesn't mean I actually have a project. It's just a hunch that may or may not work out. I was really exited about this particular hunch and I didn't want to start taking pictures just to find out that I couldn't pull it off.

I took pictures over two months and edited them down to a printed portfolio. There's a really wonderful moment after the first few prints when you realize that the project could actually work. In the past month, I've been using this portfolio as a proof of concept. I have a feeling that I'll be shooting for this project for another year or two. But, I've got enough to illustrate the concept and I needed some feedback. This is the first time I've intently sought this much reaction early on and it's been very helpful. I've had some long, intense conversations over these images. I'm grateful for comments like, "this image really makes me feel...", and "I really don't get what you're trying to do with these two." I'm getting a better grasp of which methods better fit the concept. Some of it is about editing and sequencing. Some of it is about trying out a different approach.

I'm going to let these conversations ferment for a bit, maybe for another week or two. And then, I should go and take more pictures.

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