The work of British photographer, Martin Parr, is a perfect example of why photography projects and photo series are so important. A lot of pressure is placed on individual images to tell a whole story but sometimes the best way is through a series. Some question the iconic status of Martin Parr’s photography by saying that individually his images aren’t anything special. But go over his photo series and a lively tale manifests.
Photography is subjective so while some might feel his images individually uninteresting his genius comes from his ability to capture the essence of an idea or subject through a series of images or a project. He is very well known for having captured the ‘essence of Britishness’ which you can see in his photo series The Last Resort and he could only have achieved this through a series of images. This is what professional photographers do to create bodies of work. Steve McCurry is another example of a photographer with sets of images which tell the stories of people and places. These photography projects are a photographer’s legacy.
When we begin photography we focus on making beautiful images one at a time but with social media we’ve seen a lot of people progressing to projects to improve their photography. This is a brilliant idea. Photographer Andrew S Gibson says in his article Why the Greatest Photographers Pursue Projects that:
“Projects are a powerful way of motivating you to take photos and put together a body of work worthy of a legacy.”
Andrew S Gibson
If you’re looking to improve your photography, a project might be just what you need to move your focus away from camera settings for a bit and guide you to explore the storytelling of photography. If you’re in a creativity dust bowl, a project might be just what keeps you motivated and searching for longer and ultimately you’ll have captured so much more than a moment, you’ll have captured an essence.
“I strongly believe that projects are essential for photographers to follow as their work evolves. A project gives you direction and motivation. It helps you see possibilities and gives you something to aim for. Projects can cover a set length of time, or be returned to again and again over the years and decades.”
Andrew S Gibson
Gibson also talks about how you can start a project of your own and provides 9 suggestions for project ideas. The easiest way to start out is to do the 365 project and photograph your life everyday for a year. You might not have an idea for a project yet so a 365 project is a good way to get your feet wet. Another reason it might be a good place to start is this quote:
“The two most engaging powers of a photograph are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”
Your neighbourhood, city, country, the world is your oyster. Choose whatever subject you like for your project. Others have photographed one building everyday of the year to record life and how it changes around that building. Others still have chosen groups of people in society who live differently or other sociological phenomena to capture in a photo series. You can choose to photograph yourself everyday for 20 years. Truly, your options are endless.
Have you done a photography project? How was your experience?