more about projects
When I try to plan a project, I find myself visualising the result as finished photographs. Unfortunately, I can only visualise photogaphs that look like photographs already taken. This means that I’m trying to plan a project to make a set of photographs that are essentially trying to be like someone else’s. I’m pretty sure that within my limited scope of subject matter, there isn’t much that hasn’t already been covered, and to a higher quality than I might achieve. In itself this isn’t a problem because I’m not trying to do it better than everyone else. It is a problem, though, because it puts in mind a preconceived notion of how the finished product should look. It’s a frustrating business, and makes planning a project an awful chore compared to my favourite activity – exploring with the camera. That’s when I make my own pictures. That’s when I see something, how it looks to me, get lost in the process of discovering it and I develop the images with only that in mind. I’m really struggling to put that sort of experience into the process of working on a project – the two concepts just seem to clash at the most fundamental level.
Is there a way that i can bring them together? Is there a way to bring coherence to my visual ramblings? Is there a way to work on a project that isn’t born of someone else’s vision?
A stem of the problem seems to be that people develop projects based on a particular subject, and go on to make a series of images about that. The subject could be a physical item, like stained glass windows from a particular architectural period. It could be a person or group of people, a reflection on their culture. Less tangible but equally interesting could be an issue such as the changing of a landscape or area of a city. It gives you a solid foundation to work from, a subject to react to, and to create images of, with feeling. But what if your main source of photographic inspiration is aesthetics, and not a deeply emotional subject?
In trying to think through this, I’ve been thinking about inspiration, a lot. What do I get excited about photographing? I don’t have to think twice: nature. From the thousands of daisies that tell you it’s summer, to the rich coppery oranges and browns of winter leaves on the forest floor, and all the millions of little magic things in between, I can’t help but forget myself amongst them. To go a little deeper though – why is that exciting to shoot? It’s transitory and fleeting – you can’t pick a flower for it not to wilt, or take a leaf home and it not curl up and dry out. It’s so delicate that it only exists temporarily and in its own micro environment, and yet it’s part of a much bigger picture, the seasons, the processes of growing and dying, it all goes back to that big cycle of life. It’s almost impossible to talk about it without sounding at least a bit cheesy and like I’ve come over all Pagan but I’m going to ignore my inclination to censor that for now.
So, is there actually a deeper emotional response to these elements of nature than just “Oooh, pretty!”, that can be examined in/through/as a project? I’m pretty sure I respond to something more than physical attractiveness there. But can that be communicated through the images themselves? I think, maybe, that’s my aim. I know there’s been mass controversy over whether photography is communicative and the general conclusion was ‘not’, but there’s space to explore the subject, surely. Isn’t that what projects are about – exploring – developing your understanding of something through photography?