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With Purpose

The Light Through The ForestMost of my photography to this point has been a matter of making photos of scenes taken from the environment available, depending upon where I happen to be. The “where I happen to be” has usually been driven by events/needs in my life other then photography, such as vacations or visits to places with other purposes–except for local excursions.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this process and I suspect many, if not most, of my photographs will continue to be made this way.

I’m feeling the need for more structure or purpose–definitely more purpose.

I admire photographers who have the passion and discipline for longer term projects resulting in photo portfolios focusing around singular subjects. For example, I recently discovered and enjoyed the Drive-In Movie Theater galleries of Carl Weese–a bit of history preserved. Or this beautiful and touching tribute, “days with my father,” of Philippe Toledano to his 98 year old father–it brought all kinds of emotions about my own parents and the elderly in general.

This is using photography for preserving history and telling a story–both of which are keen interest of mine. I’ve always felt deeply about knowing, understanding and preserving the past and storytelling in the right hands is a true art form.

My recent series of train/transportation photos touched within me a connection and attraction of this type of project. So, where to go from here?

I’ve a couple of projects in mind–perhaps starting with wanting to build a portfolio of a singular subject (much as Carl has done with the Drive-In) but there are certainly ideas of stories also floating in my head.

Imagining a seed of possibility is the most exciting of activities. Afterwards, when nurturing the idea, it takes determination, discipline and hard work to deliver the “crop.”

But, Photographers are allowed to be dreamers! :-)

8 Comments on With Purpose

  1. First thing first. Your new design with a shiny new header looks terrific! Very good choice of typeface and colour, really nice.

    It is rather difficult having the discipline and deliver pictures for a specific purpose, but it is actually equally difficult to break with such habits and close the project when you start to repeat yourself. I guess you won’t end up in that alley. I wrote about it briefly today. My problem is that I shot a specific subject without knowing exactly why. I don’t know yet how to boil it down to something comprehensible. Projects are difficult, but I think you should give it a try. Your train series were very exciting to follow, for instance.

  2. @Ove: I did the new header last night but hadn’t made any mention of it. Thanks for noticing and the compliment!

    I think when you feel the need to shoot something you should take the shot without having to know why at the time. If a reason is determined later then all the better but it’s not a requirement. Not all inspirations grow to the full maturity of being a project but that doesn’t mean they weren’t inspired or a valid expression in the moment.

    I don’t expect all my photos to be “about something,” but I’d need some of them to be exactly that, about something–at least a greater number then now. :-)

  3. Earl, of late I’ve been feeling the same thing. I feel that there is something aching to come out, but I haven’t a clue as to what it is. I know better than to mine for it due to the paradoxical nature of things. The more that I look for it, the more difficult that it will be to find. I’ve got to let it come.

    I think that it is a pretty natural progression for a photographer to move from single images to projects and then back again. It’s just the way that we are built. :-)

  4. Your post resonates with me also. Even today, while driving the car, I came up with a new theme and added it to the list. My problem is taking the steps to accomplish them.

    I too like your new header! :-)

  5. @Paul: While primary focus may shift from one to the other I believe it’s possible to have both projects and single images running parallel. Sometimes one can refresh or redefine the other. There are photographers who have multiple projects in progress and still produce that wonderful one off image–but I personally don’t want to make photography like “work.” :-)

    @Monte: I also live the life of lists but would like to add a few more things to the completed or at least the “under way” columns. :-)

  6. I happen to like the project approach. I am sometimes amazed at the amount of interest it can bring to images versus viewing them as a single entity. I have certainly seen this a lot in Lenswork.

    I have a couple of projects in motion – but for each one it takes awhile to accumulate a lot of images for them. I wonder if there are any studies of how long it takes for a project to fizzle out. It seems time is passing faster than the images are accumulating for them!

  7. @Mark: I guess for long term projects it would be possible one to go into a dormant stage or stages if circumstances warranted it. I wouldn’t call that fizzling out. It could well be the natural developmental cycle for some projects.

    I guess projects are only fizzled out when the owner says they are, or when the owner fizzles out! ;-)

  8. It makes sense to me, as well, that some projects might be quite long term in nature and lie dormant for substantial amounts of time. I would suppose that innumerable projects have been started and “fizzled out” before going very far. On the other hand, I wonder how often those fizzled projects indirectly lead the photographer to another project with more longevity.

    I know that my photography tends very much to be of the “where I happen to be” variety.

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