Lets talk about personal projects. Not many people actually have them anymore. Photographers are becoming a rogue collection of people taking photos without any purpose other than to make a pretty picture. Its kind of a shame too, because I think a lot of people could benefit from having some level of direction in their work. That being said, peoples attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and a lot of us probably don’t have the dedication or resources to commit to a long term series. On top of that, we live in a world where photographers already struggle to make a living, and personal projects carry very little commercial value unless you have a substantial following. But despite this, I am a firm believer that projects make me a better photographer, so I will continue to create new ones.
I recently had an Idea for a new project, and in my mind it’s a great one. But, it is very different from anything I have seen other photographers doing, and it is certainly unlike anything in the mainstream. As much as I like the idea, it would be a HUGE commitment. Over the last few days the sheer scale ant the amount of time and money it would take have been giving me second thoughts about it. My main concerns are whether the idea is actually good, and whether the commitment is worth it.
Is It A Good Idea?
So how do you know when your ideas are any good? Honestly, I don’t think you really can, and relying on other peoples opinions wont get you anywhere. I mean, half the “great” artists that you learn about in college weren’t respected for their work until long after they were put in the ground. Ultimately, I think if YOU think your idea is good, then go with it. Just be real with yourself, and try to think critically about your work.
In fact I think most of the ideas that artists have carry the potential to make good projects. Looking at projects from other artists, some are clearly better than others, but if you take the projects that didn’t pan out so well, a lot of them actually started out with descent concepts. This makes me think that a lot of what makes certain projects unsuccessful can be narrowed down to bad planning, or poor execution(in the context of photography, this would mean bad photographs).
Is It Worth It?
Right now, the project I have in mind would probably be finished in around 2 years, which is obviously a long ass time. But even small projects can be a big investment of time or money, especially if it involves a lot of traveling, special equipment, or models are involved.
I like to ask myself this question. Would you still take on the project if you could never release it? In other words, what will you gain from the process of making it? Will the people you meet, places you go, and memories you make be worth the commitment regardless of how your photographs turn out?
They say that the journey is more important than the destination, and I think that really holds true with personal projects. I try to think about what I will gain from a project besides just the images themselves. Obviously this wont always be something tangible, but rather some form of experience, personal growth, or spiritual enlightenment.
Besides, for any project you will probably end up with at least a few quality images. So at least it wont be a total loss.