The Art of the Self Assigned Project
If you aren’t doing a self-assigned project, you are making a mistake.
And by project, I mean anything from a single image to a series of images to a story. In fact, you may have several projects going on at the same time. A long-term project (photograph one person a day for a month) while assigning yourself a wine shot on a particular week that month.
And the cool thing is this is YOUR art direction and a chance for you to make something special. Really special.
I had the opportunity to speak at CapturePhotoCon in Phoenix, AZ. One of the speakers there was Joel Grimes and he gave a resounding keynote opening.
During that talk, he noted that even though he was on the road 300 days last year, he managed to do one self-assigned image per week. Every week but vacation weeks.
That’s 50 self-assigned images a year. While working, traveling, pre-production, post-production, casting calls, and the myriad of other things that chip and whittle our hours away.
It reminded me of this Will Smith video.
And it reminded me of the grind and hustle we all had back in the 80s and 90s when all my buds were working hard to become successful at making images. The extreme early morning calls, the 48-hour gigs with no sleep, the constant hum of the studio all hours of the day and night.
And it reminded me of how much joy those self-assigned images brought me. For the most part, it was how we built our book, spent time off, and simply played. We made images.
Even on vacation.
(BTW, it also reminded me of a little thing I have been doing for about 7 years now: Project 52 where we do one assignment per week. Yeah, we do that.)
With so many more older people entering this arena, it really is important to pass on that sense of energy around the self-assigned work. Make it your focus, a priority of magnificent proportions.
A Photo Editor has an entire collection of self-assigned work. It is considered essential in the editorial part of the business.
If you need a little stimulation, pick up a magazine and find an ad you could shoot. Then shoot it… and shoot it YOUR way. Make it YOUR image and own the style.
Maybe that takes you an hour or a day. It will be far more rewarding to have done it than to have just thought about it.
Think of long-term projects that could be fun, informative, and maybe get you a little PR.
What is cool in your area? Lawnmower Racing? Rodeo? Motocross Bikes, hiking, flower arranging?
What if you did a long-term project of shooting all the flower arranging gurus in your town. Environmental portraits with a strong contextual element.
Maybe you shoot one per week for two months. Sounds like possibly you have a photo essay on your hands and you can shop that bad boy around to local and national magazines.
Whatever you do with your projects, you can be sure you will be excited to work on them. The true essence of the art of photography blending with the commerce of photography.
I am off to document the extremely dry conditions of Northern AZ and Southern Colorado this week.
What are your plans?