Create: How to do Long Term Projects, Part Two

Yes, yes, I am number one. Or, I’m testing wind direction.

Good grief. If you watch this entire thing I’m nominating you for a humanitarian award. Part Two in all its glory. There are more specifics here but there is still a lot to cover in regard to doing long-term work. Each of us navigates photography in our own way but I’ve learned a thing or two that might be of benefit. Take my opinion for what it is, my opinion nothing more.

The work highlighted here covers a project I worked on for four years. I didn’t spend all four years working on this ONE piece, but what you see here is the result of four trips to Sicily. I chose this project simply because it was the first project that popped up when I opened my drive system. I could have chosen a half dozen other projects created during the same time but all the same rules and ideas apply to all.

This project IS interesting as it did some bit of acceptance. This project was published several times, was represented by a Los Angeles gallery, and was also why I was approached by two different publishers who wanted to make this work into a book. I declined both publishing deals as they were, frankly, terrible financial deals. This project is what led me to start self-publishing my work.

Remember, storytelling comes with responsibility. This isn’t about YOU it’s about THEM. The people you photograph are sacred and should be treated with respect, always, regardless of who they are and what they are doing. If they let you inside their lives you have to accept the responsibility that comes with this. Start small, have fun.

18 Comments on “Create: How to do Long Term Projects, Part Two”

  1. Phenomenal Dan!
    Your advice make me think about project(s) just to apply them. Seriously!
    Can’t wait for parts 3 and 4…

    Unrelated question: doesn’t the Fuji have manual focus, too? LOL
    (oh, and I hope your window isn’t all that high above terra firma – just in case…)

    1. Wolf,
      It does, my wife asked the same thing but man do you have to sit REALLY still for it work.

  2. Loved it, Dan. Really useful.
    I try to keep a journal but always end up neglecting it – but treating it as a field journal may be the key for me to persevere.

    Never been to Sicily but have been to Italy a few times, so I’m interested as to how you used Tmax 3200 in such intense light, especially, as you say, you didn’t have control of what time of day (or night) events would take place. Did you use neutral density filters or alter processing times etc.? I’m guessing the latter. I’d love book of your Sicily work.

    As for shooting for your audience, as opposed to other photographers, I agree that other photographers should be furthest from our thoughts.

    When you photograph, do you shoot for the page, or do you just photograph first and edit later; e.g. do you remember to photograph both landscape and vertical (so you have both a double-page and a cover) or perhaps move a portrait slightly from the centre of the frame, so that they won’t disappear into the gutter of a book or zine?

    I remember one instance of attempting interaction with a subject: I was photographing the driver of a small-gauge steam engine in the English Lake District. The conversation (me attempting enthusiasm, he (polishing the steam engine) deadpan) went thus…

    “You certainly keep the engine looking good”
    “We tries us best”.
    “It must be great to drive them through such wonderful scenery!”.
    “Nostalgia’s not what it’s cracked up to be”

    End of conversation.

    1. Mike,
      Be prepared for A LOT of painful conversations. It’s common now, sadly. I just shoot and then begin to edit for the book later. And I do shoot a healthy mix of horizontal vs vertical pics, as certain scenes just lend themselves to one or the other.

    1. Mike,
      Journalism has more of a news element and a time aspect, meaning a deadline. You can do long-form photojournalism but often there are many deadlines along the way.

  3. I’ve enjoyed both the videos on long term projects. It’s funny how the topic of Sicily keeps coming up for me. My wife and I were there as part of a tour several years ago and I fell in love with everywhere we went on the island. I was struck then by what a great subject it would be for a photo project, and have been looking at my pictures from that trip quite a bit recently as I’ve been working on a Blurb zine of them per another of your suggestions. That lead me to read to the history of Sicily by John Julius Norwich, which is wonderful. I’m currently trying to wrap it up while reading the much longer Hero that you recommended. And I read somewhere just yesterday that Sicily has some cheap travel options going on. Although it’s hard to know when travel, particularly internationally, will apeal to me again at this point. Still, your videos have been daydreaming.

    Oh, and you need to share one or two of your bird pics. 🙂 Are they in color?

    1. Jeff,
      Sicily is a goldmine. No idea when I’ll be getting on a plane again, or traveling overseas but it would be high on my list. My bird pics are all captured in color. And I have new work. There is a Cooper’s Hawk nesting just off property with two small hawks in the nest, but MAN are they hard to get.

  4. Both films were great. I liked your description of being neither a landscape photographer or a street photographer but somewhere in the middle. That’s exactly where I feel I’m happiest too. Photographing place. The experience of it, not necessarily the beauty.

    And Instagrammers. I’d watch a 2 hour film (in black and white) of you ranting about them.

    1. Sean,
      Spacing is HUGE. It’s right up there with light. I could rant about “street photographers” and IG idiots endlessly and never get tired of it. I’ve never found groups more in need of a reality check.

  5. This is unbelievable. How long have I been following your work now – a year? Longer? I’ve obviously liked it well enough to follow it that long instead of watching The Price is Right. To borrow a gaming phrase (think old school pen and paper D&D) – this character just jumped 3 levels. I paused at the 2/3 mark. Brain needs to think for a while. I feel like I owe you a tuition payment. And like Big Trouble’s Jack Burton said, “The check is in the mail.” One Jack Burton reference is never enough. “Besides, I never drive faster than I can see.”

    1. Scott,
      I used to work for the Fighting Tong. I was there IT guy. Didn’t end well. More on the way.

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