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.
Since early autumn, my family has been house shopping.
Part of house shopping is seeing many, many kinds of houses, in all shapes, and in all kinds of conditions. Strolling through some of these houses, you see some very interesting things – in fact, there may be no deeper view into American culture and eccentricities than someone’s home.
I’m also paying attention to light. In our current home, the light is great – very airy and open. In our next house, I want to make sure it’ll photograph well. As I see neat lighting situations in these houses, I’m capturing those.
Last year I did a series of photographer interviews as a fun winter project. It was a great way to chat with photographers whose work I enjoy, and to learn about some photographers who I’ve followed on social media, or connected with through On Taking Pictures.
Let’s do it again!
I have a list of people I’m going to reach out to, but if you follow the work I do, and you’re a photographer with good work to share, I’d love to feature your stuff.
In fairness, this idea stems from the success I had with an email newsletter to announce and promote my Artists In Jackson project. I simply took that list and said to everyone “You’re either with me, or unsubscribe now!”
Turns out, most of them stuck around.
What will my email newsletter contain? Various bits of material from this blog, interesting photography I find, arts and culture going on in my community, and updates on my latest projects – specifically, the big portrait projects. It will be an experiment, but as I think about using things like Facebook less and less, an email newsletter could be my way to keep my friends, family, and followers in the know. Bi-weekly to monthly, depending on what I have going on.
Ben Brooks has some valid skepticism over original content on email newsletters. I’m going to think a lot about what he wrote. Part of me feels like you can have a different kind of fun on an email newsletter, to keep it special.
I spent a good time of the holiday break absorbing Rebecca Lily’s 365 project, from start to finish. I’ve mentioned Lily’s project here before, but I keep coming back to it because I love her journal-style posts, her photos, and her voice. And I admire the project.
It has me thinking about 365 projects in general. Many photographers attempt them, and many never finish. Some say don’t bother.
Reading Lily’s project blog got me thinking: could I do my own 365 project?
In a way, keeping a daily blog is a sort of 365 day project. Except for weekends, I post a photo (or two) per day on my Flickr.
The difference is, a 365 project is daily – make a photo every day, post a photo every day, even on weekends. It’s the combination of discipline and routine, along with any lessons learned along the way, that make a 365 project worthwhile.
Or not. Toward the end of Lily’s project, you feel her struggling to see the thing through. Is a mundane photograph worth the daily post? How do you handle the ebb and flow of the project, from the highs to the lows? What’s to stop you from giving up partway through?
Thinking about this kind of project, I voice these questions as I look at my own fears. I don’t think the daily photo making would be the tough part, although it would still be a challenge. It’s more like, what would be my goal in establishing a 365 project? Would I post every day? How?
This is the kind of planning and goal setting I feel would make for a successful project.
A 365 project is by far the best recommendation I could ever give a photographer who is struggling with finding their own style or voice. It’s like taking an intensive college course that’s normally a semester long, in 6 weeks. It’s perhaps five years’ worth (or more) of photography condensed into 1 year.
Maybe I should’ve started a project two years ago.
As I plan for my next portrait project, the idea of renting a studio space keeps popping up. Wouldn’t it be nice to have my own dedicated creative space, instead of relying on environmental portraits at other people’s studios or homes?
So I started shopping around, and asking friends and colleagues about potential studios.
The kicker is the set of conditions I’ve set on myself: strong window light, with an east or west-facing window, semi-centrally located in Jackson (for easy access), plenty of wiggle room for materials, and convenient availability to fit my work and family schedule. I’ve seen a few places around town that fit the bill, but another complication is that I’ll only need the space for a month or two. If I rent, I’m not sure how many landlords would be up for a 60 day lease.
But we’ll see. I’m starting to make phone calls and get my bearings. It’s a whole new world.