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Thread: Putting it all together

  1. #1

    Join Date
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    Putting it all together

    OK so I've been shooting film for a few years (mostly MF but gradually getting there with LF t00) I have the technicalities OK, and I have a few good shots that wouldn't look terrible if framed, etc .

    So, putting aside the technicalities, how do you turn your photos into some sort of comprehensive "body of work"? - some common thread or theme that is at least somewhat exclusive or characteristic to YOUR particular photography?

  2. #2

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    Re: Putting it all together

    I just keep shooting and editing. The best work is still the best work years later.

    Taking on a project with boundaries and rules usually helps focus an artist so that some work gets done. Limiting geography, materials, choices, etc.

    Another thing that I like to do is to say "OK, one afternoon, one shot" and just try to get one really nice image in a limited amount of time (same goes for the Photoshop editing afterwards -- set a time limit.) Back in the day I used to use boxes of Polaroids working on studio shots -- and boxes of paper in the darkroom -- and could easily build a single image out into days of work. But it is much more realistic to say "this is worth 3-4 hours of my life" and stick to it.

    Finally, sell off your extra equipment to fend off indecision. One camera/one lens. That will quickly help you develop a "body of work" with a consistent point of view. Maybe it is harsh, but think of all the great photographers who used just one camera/one (normal) lens.

    If you can do one good picture in an afternoon, then you can do nine more in nine more afternoons. So in the course of a season (or whatever) you can be very productive.

    I also like travel. I just shot for 36 hours in Nashville, some of the work is on my website. It was a good constraint.

  3. #3

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    Re: Putting it all together

    Set boundaries for yourself by defining a series of projects.

    Work to complete a project (including printing/mounting/distribution) in as short a time as possible. Start by selecting a subject/project that piques your interest the most. Work it. Set a goal of 12 to 20 finished images. Go onto the next well defined/bounded project.

  4. #4

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    Re: Putting it all together

    Many projects didn't start out that way. Instead the photographer made a lot of photographs of various subjects over a period of time, sometimes years, and when going back through them found a common thread that could be used to create a project. That's probably not the ideal way to do it but it's how many projects have been put together. I don't know how many photographs you have but you might try spreading them out, putting them in stacks grouped in some manner or fashion (e.g. subject, lighting, colors, whatever) and see if you perhaps have at least the beginning of a project on which you can build.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  5. #5

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    Re: Putting it all together

    Agreed to all - but there's more to a body of work than just a common theme, isn't there? Atget's Paris was not just a bunch of photos of Paris, there was a particular style that makes his photos identifiable as an Atget, and I suppose historical-cultural significance to his work that sets it apart from everyone else who took a bunch of photos of Paris, right?

    Course, perhaps it is true that he started out just photographing Paris, and it so happened that his photos turned into a body of work after many years and some promotion by Abbott... that would suggest that bodies of work are sometimes created spontaneously rather than deliberately, over a course of time as Brian says...in which case the best thing to do is take lots of photos and then let someone else put it all together after I've kicked the bucket!

    On the other hand, O Winston Link's body of work was deliberately developed with a common theme of steam trains, and more specifically, the steam train as the symbol of the passing away of "old" view of the US which was dominated by small towns with drive-in theaters and main streets etc...
    Last edited by cyrus; 17-Oct-2006 at 09:52.

  6. #6

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    Re: Putting it all together

    Great advice from Frank P.

  7. #7

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    Re: Putting it all together

    Brooks Jensen talks a lot about projects, common themes, presentation, etc in LensWork and has been discussing these issues for a long time. I highly recommend a subscription as well as the back-issue CD they offer. Probably the most inspiring photography magazine out there...even if you never looked at the portfolios, and that's saying a lot!

    Paul

  8. #8

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    Re: Putting it all together

    Quote Originally Posted by PViapiano View Post
    Brooks Jensen talks a lot about projects, common themes, presentation, etc in LensWork and has been discussing these issues for a long time. I highly recommend a subscription as well as the back-issue CD they offer. Probably the most inspiring photography magazine out there...even if you never looked at the portfolios, and that's saying a lot!

    Paul
    I second the LW subscription. It has helped me to focus somewhat on what I want to accomplish with my photography.

    Paul, how is the quality of the images and production of the backissue CD?

  9. #9
    Eric Biggerstaff
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    Re: Putting it all together

    Photograph what you love to photograph and then you will create a solid body of work.

    But it takes time! Lots and lots of time in fact, if you want to create a body of work that speaks to your vision. Also, vision reveals itself slowly and we have to take a lot of photographs to find the few gems so be willing to go through a lot of film and invest the time needed.

    A good example is the work Ray McSavaney is doing with the Anasazi ruins, he has been working on the project for about 25 years now and is still going.

    Many photographers never work on a specific theme while others really enjoy the process of working on a defined project. I think it depends on your personality. Success can be found in either method as the end is the same, a body of work that defines a particular vision on the world.

    So, my advice is to not hurry, pick a subject or subjects that are important to you, set aside some creative time each week if possible ( I try for one evening a week to photograph and one evening for darkroom work that is done after the kids are asleep), show your images to people who can provide constructive and informed feedback, and most importantly - stick with it!

    Good luck and I know you will be successful.
    Eric Biggerstaff

    www.ericbiggerstaff.com

  10. #10

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    Re: Putting it all together

    Without noodling this thing to death...

    I propose that if you do one project on a theme that really attracts you (lighting, subject, form, whatever)... produce to completed finished material 12 to 20 prints... sit back and really look at those images... being brutally honest about what you are looking at... solicit feedback from people you trust (if your ego can handle it)... that "your" view of the world may be identifiable... and that you will then be able to decide how next to proceed.

    Repeat this process. Sometime later, look back and view your work as a "body".

    The process cycle time may be as short as your time/energy/enthusiasm can drive.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyrus View Post
    ...there's more to a body of work than just a common theme, isn't there?...

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