Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The problems with projects

There's a saying that a painting is never finished, only abandoned. That's a problem with projects, too. Deciding when to call it a day. The time has come to abandon my then-and-now project and live with the second edit of the Blurb book I put together. Looking through the copy that arrived today there are things that could be improved. Some of the pictures could be reprocessed, some retaken. I could tinker with it for as long as I liked and it would never be 'finished'. As it's not a commercial venture and I don't have a reputation to live up to I'm happy to leave it alone and move on.

At least this was a fairly straightforward project in as much as there was a finite number of old photographs that had been taken. No matter what happened there was always a known goal in sight even if there was no timescale involved. The lack of a deadline took any pressure off. While there was a way of working defined in as much as I knew what focal length was going to be required for all (bar one, as it turned out) of the shots this was not really a restriction.

Setting yourself a specific way of working can bring an element of discipline to a project. The problem here is that discipline means a high degree of motivation and commitment is required. If you have the right kind of personality this can work. Earlier this year I started following a blog documenting someone's project making portraits of strangers in northern towns using one camera and flash. Not only was the equipment limiting, there was to be at least one portrait every week. After a few weeks the updates got less frequent then fizzled out completely. Today I had a look and the blog was gone.

That's another problem with projects - stating at the outset what you intend to do, and it not happening for whatever reason. I know I'm not disciplined enough to make a plan and stick to it, which is why I do open ended things like the Lost Ball series. It's opportunistic and with no demands being made. originally I set myself limits of only taking one photograph and using whatever lens I had on when I saw the ball. Those constraints soon went by the board.

Working on the then-and-now project did have the advantage of bringing a focus to what I was doing. However I still carried on taking what seem like random photographs. The thing is that they are only random as in them not relating to each other on a particular day. Almost always they relate to previously taken pictures. There are themes I recognise that, if I was to trawl through my files, I could collect together in groups. A new theme that has begun making its presence felt concerns hedges, fences and gates and what they keep hidden from view.

I think it's got something to do with exploring how people are trying to hide from society and notions of privacy. If I was that way inclined I could go out seeking subjects which fit the concept and make a series of photograph of them, then bring them all together in a collection accompanied by some pretentious statement about them being a comment on, or investigation into, the paranoid state of society today. Instead I'll snap away when I see something like the gates above, and eventually there may be a collection of related images.

One more problem with projects is knowing what to do when one comes to a conclusion. I have a number of themes which I could explore in a more concerted way than I currently do. My worry is that concentrating on one might blinker me. I much prefer to have an ongoing loosely defined project like Sandgrounding, which is only limited in the scope of the photographs by geography. It's a sort of project incorporating sub-projects. None of which are clearly definable.

No comments: