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.
About a year and a half ago, I had a crazy idea for a portrait project: Gather up some of the talented artists in my hometown of Jackson, Michigan, take their portrait, and share their story.
It took time, and thinking, and a bit of bravery, but last June I started to reach out to local artists and introduce myself. For many of them, it must have been weird to get an email from a random guy saying he wanted to take their picture.
Remarkably, I received very few “no thanks” replies. There were a few artists who couldn’t make the time, or life circumstances got in the way, but overwhelmingly everyone I talked to was up for it – if a little confused about what the project was about.
So one by one, person by person, I built a subject list. I started with people I knew (thanks Cassandra!), introduced myself at local art festivals, and got in touch with art collectives in the area. I discovered artists and their art.
It was a long game. I knew it was going to take months, and it ended up taking me well into the fall to photograph everyone. Then I had to transcribe the interviews, edit the photos, write the profiles, and design the book. It was a lot of work. And this was after having a brand new baby!
But here I am, one year after the launch, and everything fell into place. My first show at Sandhill Crane Vineyards was a big success (above), and we had another group show at Art 634. Two shows, two months – two opportunities to show off my project and the talented artists. Maybe even help out the artistic economy in town.
I’m super grateful for all the support I’ve received from my community. I feel like the hard work I put in has been worth it, that I’m getting these artists out in front of people, and that big, ambitious projects like this are important.
Artists In Jackson has helped me think differently about my photography. I’ve learned that photography can be a great way to meet new people, and to give back to the community.
And as a “maker” of stuff, it’s been so rewarding to make the photos, write the stories, and produce the book. It all tickles that “joy” part of my brain: I made something that people purchase and read and hang on their walls.
It’s super satisfying.
Last March I had an idea: what if the artistic community in Jackson got together and threw a big social media party – an advocacy and awareness campaign to promote arts and culture around the county. That idea came to fruition, and today is the day, thanks to my colleagues at the Arts and Cultural Alliance.
I’m just going to leave this here, as a kind of in-public to-do list.
Musicians In Jackson: This is my ongoing, maybe-soon next project, featuring musicians in my community. Still stewing on this one, but getting closer to getting started.
Artists In Jackson – part two!
Some smaller, more personal portrait shoots with friends and family. Go somewhere interesting, and just make photographs. I have a few offers out there.
Something here on the University of Michigan campus. I thought about setting up a tripod and asking people on the Diag to stop and get their photo, and see what I can get. There’s so many people here – there has to be something fun I could do.
A documentary project highlighting something going on in Jackson. Maybe longer form, maybe one-off, but the idea would be to follow a story from beginning to end.
A zombie/horror movie conceptual photo shoot, with costumes and locations and makeup and all that. I’ve had this one in mind, totally for fun, for a long time. I bet I have some friends who would totally be up for it.
My dear artistic friend Colleen here (one of the artists featured!) is helping me with event and art details. It’s a great location, and I can’t wait to throw a big party for all my new artistic comrades.