Projects and Finishing
Kjell Harald has an interesting post on his blog:
In a project, the main focus is always to finish. Why should I care about finishing my photography…. I don’t want to do that. I want to keep on doing it. Oh, it doesn’t mean you have to stop photographing, you just finish a project and move on to the next. Well, maybe I don’t want to do that either. I love shooting some of the subjects I do, I don’t want to stop doing that either. I can fool myself into believing I have finished a project, but when I look through the files later, it is obvious that I just continued shooting the subject.
Go read the whole thing. There isn’t a bit there with which I’d disagree.
I photograph in projects. That is, I think of myself as working in definite projects. The thing is, I don’t view these projects as having a definite end. I view them as projects which spin off interesting side products from time to time. A portfolio, maybe. A show in a gallery – that’s a common one, because I have a once a year slot in a group gallery, so I need to cough up a show once a year, more or less. Now I’ve got books that get spun out.
But the prints, the shows, the books – I understand how there are people who make those things, and that’s the terminal point for the project, and once those things are done, the project is finished. But for me, they’re just more side effect – a side product that gets spun out as an inevitable part of the process. Those things don’t have to be the endpoint of the process.
I worked for years, photographing on the coast. I made a lot of bad photos, and I made what I think is a large handful of pretty good ones. I did several shows. At some point, I stopped making trips to the coast. The project stopped progressing. I suppose I could say that it’s done, but honestly, I still find the coast pretty interesting photographically. Maybe I’ll go to the coast, do some more photography, and the project will start moving again. It isn’t over ’til the fat lady sings, and I just never seem to get to that point.
The word “project” is, as Kjell and others have pointed out, a word with some significant baggage. It’s important to remember that we should feel free to pick different words to describe what we do, and not feel pressured to use words that define the process rather than describe it. And, of course, the process that I like will not be the process that you like. That’s not a problem, that’s a feature. We don’t all have the same goals. We don’t all have the same skills, or experience the same rewards. And that’s ok.
Sometimes I get email that asks why I spend so much time describing my own process when I acknowledge that other people are, by necessity, going to have different goals and different processes. It’s simple. I write about process because I believe that talking about this stuff is helpful, and I write about my process because it’s the only one I on which I can be an expert. Who’s the expert on your process? You are.
So go write about it.