I was going to talk about gear (no, not a Nikon v. Canon debate), but I’ll leave that for next week. In light of some recent personal events, this one takes precedence.
What hits you? I don’t mean in terms of activities. Photography’s fun, but it doesn’t hit you; not deep down. I’m talking losing a loved one to cancer, remembering the year and a half that you lived out on the streets, hearing about your nephew being afraid to go back to school, knowing he’d just be bullied again, or those five years you forgot about while you were shoving thousands of dollars worth of dust up your nose, and the hard years you’ve spent since, fighting the addiction. That’s what I mean when I ask what hits you. And there is something. Nobody has a textbook Norman Rockwell life, much as some may want to believe it.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an old hand professional who has been doing this since Moses wore short pants and dirt was new, or if you’re new at this photographer thing and only heard of this “film” stuff in history books ; there’s never a bad time to work on a project that is close to you.
If you’re new, this can be great for you. This can be a gallery showing! That’s a good thing on two points. First, it’ll get your name out as an up and comer. That in itself is huge. Now, don’t expect people to start uttering your name in the same breath as Robert Capa (really Endre Friedmann, but that’s another story) or Yousuf Karsh, but it can get you some buzz among the locals, and that’s a lot more than you had before, so take it!
Secondly, it will set you apart from the crowd of other photographers in the area who only picked up a camera in order to see plenty of naked women. Believe me, there are more than enough of those photographers out there, already. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trashing nudity in photography; far from it. Heck, two of my favourite portraits, Gaze of Beauty and Part Angel… were taken while the models were nude (both images ARE safe for work). What I am trashing is the people who think that, the minute they have a camera in their hands, the world becomes their strip club. Doing something that means something to you will elevate your game substantially.
Now, with all the rah-rah stuff said, don’t go running into it and booking the gallery just yet. Start planning what you want, and start working on it, absolutely! But this thing is going to take some time. It’s like anything else; if it means this much to you, do you really want to rush in and have it look like you rushed in? Or would you rather take your time and do it right?
- First, what message do you want to convey? Do you want to show survivors and how it can be overcome? Do you want to show its devastating effects?
- How can you make that message hit others as hard as it has hit you? Say, for example, you’re talking about the financial situation in Detroit. Which image of the following two is going to have more impact to the general viewer?
Both photographs were taken in Detroit and both exemplify the current situation, but one not only shows it in a truly unique manner, it also, quite literally, spells it out in letters ten feet high.
- How do you make your message unique? Did you notice that, in my examples, I didn’t include any homeless people? Why not? Because that was the expected answer. As sad as it is, homeless people are in cities everywhere, and wouldn’t have had the same impact as a giant “BANKRUPTCY” tag on a white brick wall. That is uniquely Detroit.
- Then, of course, there’s the creative, art aspect of being a photographer.
So take your time. It can take a year or more to do, and that’s fine! You don’t want to rush this one. Make it your 61*.