Polaroids portraits on a table

I took a weekend course in the fall called The Authorship of Photographs that got me thinking not just about  what I want to say with my photography but also about looking beyond individual shots to creating a body of work around a theme. I became a woman in search of a photography project.

Year-long photography projects are always a good option. They are also popular with my fellow Muses: Meghan and Justine are more than half-way through 365 projects, Jenny is on her third 365, Lindsey and Kirstin have launched 365s of iphoneography and dyptichs, respectively, Holly has her Morning Coffee series, as well as an iPhone 365, and Christy is doing another year of weekly self portraits. Wow! As someone with three failed 365 attempts under my belt, I’m a bit in awe of this.

Year-long projects are a great way to practice photography technique and push your creativity but there are other kinds of projects out there as well. Here are a few that inspire me:

There are projects based on a particular technique, like Silver and Light by Ian Ruhter. Ruhter calls himself an Alchemist, which I really love. If you haven’t yet been introduced to his work, start with this video. Ruhter has created the “world’s largest mobile camera” in a converted delivery truck and while that would be interesting on its own, it is made more fascinating by the fact that this camera is designed for wet-plate collodion photography, a process used in the 1900’s. It’s all very involved and fraught with complications, as the video shows. Having gotten a handle on his camera and his process, Ruhter is now driving around the country taking portraits of American life. I am completely fascinated by this project and the videos have some amazing messages around what it means to have a creative vision and the ups and downs of experimenting with different photographic media.

There are projects that focus on a particular subject matter, like Jodi Sternbach’s Surfland. Surfland is a series of portraits of surfers in the US and Australia. Coincidentally, Sternback also uses collodion wet-plate with a large format camera. Of course the technique helps to give the images an interesting and somewhat timeless look but I’m also drawn to the idea of returning again and again to the same subject matter in different locations over time.

Or maybe the thought of a particular location inspires a project, like this one by Jamie Scott. Inspired by the changing leaves on the trees in New York’s Central Park, Scott chose 15 locations in the park from which to shoot the trees and revisited them just after sunrise 2 days a week for six months. To ensure consistency in the images, she recorded all the camera positions and lens information. She then combined the images into this beautiful timelapse video. Now THAT is dedication to a project!

Carina Okula, who you might remember from this guest post, has recently embarked on a project she calls Rue View. She’s documenting the classically Parisian elements of her beloved Paris neighbourhoods, as many of them are transitioning to a more “modern” look. For the project she’ll be collecting these details in images, neighbourhood by neighbourhood or “rue by rue”. I love this project because while the situation may be uniquely Parisian, the idea of documenting favourite places over time can be adapted to any neighbourhood or location.

If you’re looking to stay even closer to home, maybe you’ll find inspiration in Larry Towell’s work. His series “The World from My Front Porch” series spans a number of years and focuses on is family and daily life on their farm in rural Ontario, Canada.

So what about you? Do you have a project idea brewing in your head that you want to bring to life in 2013? If you like the idea of a project but are still searching for a theme, perhaps a look through your photo archives will inspire you. Are there themes that emerge? Is there a place or a subject matter or other thread that you would like to pick up and focus on as a project? I think I’ve settled on my project. Now just to get out there and get it started. But first, I think I’ll watch Silver and Light just one more time!

Debra – Manifeisty