Ask anyone who’s had to promote a project – a book, a gallery showing, a performance – and they’ll probably tell you how exhausting it can feel. Especially if the project is close to their heart, and especially if the person tends toward introversion.
It feels like you put your heart and effort into something, and then you have to put your heart and effort into making sure enough people (a) care and (b) hear about it to be interested. Yelling is tiring, even when it’s about yourself.
Some people are pretty good at this. But when I think about it, usually those folks are speaking to a big enough audience that cares. They hit (a) and (b) from above every time they promote something.
My projects started small: a portrait project here, a documentary there, each with a modest built-in audience. They cared. Over time, the number of people who knew about me grew.
Organic growth means taking the long view. Person by person, project by project, you’re increasing the number of people who know what you do. It takes patience, and planning, and a bit of humility. But I love the process.
Dampen your expectations on the first few projects, because it’s going to take time to reach people that care. Start making stuff that people might have an interest in (that’s the first part) so that, for the next project, they’ll hear about it (the second part). Each time might just get easier.
If you make stuff – write, photograph, film, dance – now’s your chance to feature those individuals. Tell their stories. Express their fears. Make their voice heard. Do more than take crowd shots. Take on City Hall.
It’s easy to ignore a “Photoshopped” crowd shot of protestors. But it’s harder to dismiss our neighbors (or refugees) face-to-face.
For me, tackling big, life-changing projects like this means a lot of other things take a backseat – photography included. I can only fit so many to-do lists in my head at any one time, especially during stressful situations.
If you’re like me, you probably have to resize photo files a lot. I’m constantly adjusting picture sizes to share with others, add to the blog, or post on Twitter.
There are apps that resize photos – tons of them – but I’ve found the easiest way is to do it with a right click right in the macOS Finder. I have this little Automator script set up where I can right-click on a photo file, go to Services, and resize a photo to either 1000 or 2000 pixels wide (above).
Often, I’ll duplicate the photo file and then resize the copy to preserve the original file’s dimensions.
Preview does this. Little apps here and there does this. But I like simply clicking and picking my size, and letting the operating system do the rest. You can do this easily within Automator (a great, time-saving little bundle of joy, by the way), but I’m making my two little Services available as a download.
One of the benefits of listening to On Taking Pictures is interacting with the talented community that’s built up in support of the podcast. That’s how I found out about Nick Bedford’s work. Nick is an example of my kind of photographer: he does a bit of everything, and does it well.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name’s Nick Bedford and I’m a semi-professional portrait photographer from Brisbane, Australia.
How did you get started in photography?
In the middle of 2010, I borrowed my friend’s Canon 450D and played around with it and had to get my own, much to the lament of my friends and family who were subjected to my (at the time) very bad photos.
What do you like about your photography?
This is an interesting question. I’ve come to prefer making photographs that tell a story of a time or about a person, so it’s somewhat that story-telling aspect as well as the lighting, which is one of the first things I think about.
I guess the other thing I like is that it doesn’t stick to one type of photography and showcases a (hopefully) consistent vision across many wildly differing genres.
Your work focuses on everything from musicians to one-on-one portraits, plus landscapes and street photography. Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?
These days I get a lot of inspiration from Instagram. It’s so easy to find masses of great and inspiring work there. I’ve never tried to shoe-horn myself into any specific genre. I like to think of myself as simply a photographer with a certain way of seeing the world and that manifests in the way I shoot street or portraits or landscapes. I’ve even shot some music videos and I found that I have a love for directing, so I think at the root of my photography is a desire to portray “story” in whatever way that is.
I love lighting and almost every genre I’ve tried requires lighting to add drama and interest to the other aspects of the photo. Street photography is a relatively new thing for me, only from the last few years, but I love doing it. It keeps you on your toes and makes you better at “seeing” quickly, especially when you’re using a manual focus rangefinder where there’s no depth of field preview.
My favourite tool is the Leica M with a 35mm lens and I’ve made a lot of photographs in that perspective, from street to landscapes.
In 2014, my housemate moved out and took a couch he had in the lounge room which opened up some free space, so I decided to set up a little studio there. I then thought of getting friends around to shoot and after the first session, I decided it would be a “a catch up and a single selected portrait” kind of affair.
We spend an hour or so catching up and having fun shooting some portraits then we import them and run through the images to find one that we both love the most. It’s a slow burn kind of project in that I don’t put any pressure on myself to shoot X portraits a month for it, just whenever someone is up for a portrait and chats, we shoot! As of 19th Jan ’17 I’m up to 19 faces.
Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?
In the end of 2016, I made the decision to go semi-professional (finally) in my portrait work, focusing on those specific genres of traditional and editorial portraits and head shots, so I’ve been working on building more of my new portfolio work as well as shooting a few clients in the first month of the new year. It’s been great and I’m really excited to see where it leads. I struggled to accept the idea of being a professional, with all the business stuff that comes with it, and it took me 6 and a half years to finally say, “I’ve gotta do it.”
Toward the end of last summer, I took to the streets of my hometown for a solo photo walk.
I make lots of pictures of Jackson, but I hadn’t headed downtown with the intent to make a series in a while. With summer ending, and the light changing, I figured the hour near sunset would be fun to capture.
While downtown Jackson is on the upswing – lots of new restaurants, the brewery is booming, the road project is mostly done – you still feel like (as my grandmother would say) you could shoot a canon ball down Michigan Ave. after 5 p.m. and not hit a soul. The hope is that’ll change in time.
Here’s the first in a series of city photos focusing on Jackson, Michigan’s few downtown blocks.
Over the holiday break, I used a (much appreciated) gift card to pick up Mark Marchesi’s photo book, Evangeline, based on his Acadia photo project.
This is my kind of photo project: about space, and history, featuring a tragic backstory. The photos of abandoned Victorian homes, and the tidewater landscapes – all with the background of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem.
It’s a beautiful book, with a soft fabric cover and lovely essay. And, because Marchesi’s project ran as a Kickstarter project, it has me thinking more and more about running my own crowdfunding campaign.
My portrait project, Artists In Jackson, helped me to achieve one of my life goals: to make a book.
It was self published. And it was a small-time deal. But I got to see my name on a hard-cover book where I wrote the text, designed the layout, and made the photographs.
Arts & Cultural Alliance of Jackson County is sponsoring a book publishing forum featuring local Jackson, Michigan, authors – including me! – on Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Ella Sharp Museum. We’ll talk about our publishing experience, answer questions, and give tips to get others to publish their material. You should come!
My little book is a self-publishing story, but I’m sharing the stage with authors who have completed much bigger and more well-known book projects. It should be fun.
With all the tools at our disposal, it’s never been easier to publish your passion project. I hope to encourage more artists and writers to make a physical thing and get their ideas out into the world.