Thanks to everyone who submitted their work – and who pushed themselves out of their comfort zone to do this.
Some of you just took off with this assignment and created wonderful portrait after wonderful portrait. But I was just as impressed with those who were able to incrementally push themselves despite feeling a lot of discomfort.
It’s not easy.
This is a lifelong photography skill to develop. You never know when the perfect person will walk by you, so always keep this challenge in the back of your head and keep pushing yourself.
Think about this as only the beginning.
Here are some of my favorites from the entries. I tried to order them so they’d all fit together in a cohesive way.
Engagement and All About Soth
(The portrait challenge recap will be next week – there were a lot of entries to cover)!
Don’t forget that the 1-hour Alec Soth Q&A is on Saturday, May 1st at 2pm Eastern time.
https://zoom.us/j/95233759381 – I’ll re-share the info on the site, on the events page, and through email as we get closer to the date.
To keep things organized and efficient so we can get the most out of our time, if you would like to ask a question for Alec, please email it to me in the next week to [email protected].
I doubt we’ll be able to get to every question, so I’m going to choose and order the questions, get rid of duplicates, let you know the order, and will let you know when your turn is up to ask during the meeting.
Below I’m adding some info to familiarize yourself with Soth’s work, but before that I want to talk about something that’s incredibly important for this site – engagement.
Challenge #4: Finding Emotion in the Inanimate
The Snapshot Aesthetic
We had an interesting conversation this week about the term snapshot and the snapshot aesthetic. It started off with the question of whether or not you think a snapshot is a good thing. You can read the thread and interesting comments here.
The term can be felt as belittling and a way to dismiss the effort that goes into photography, but I think that point of view can stop us from embracing the beneficial elements of the snapshot.
The idea of the snapshot and snapshot aesthetic is to embrace imperfections and chance and to go more with your gut and instinct. This can add a lot of feeling to your photography when it works out.
This aesthetic is not something you have to embrace – compare Daido’s work to the measured photography of Joel Sternfeld for instance – but I think it’s something to consider exploring as you learn and experiment.
And it could particularly be useful in the next challenge.
Bringing it Together
I continue to be amazed by all the fascinating work coming in on a regular basis, and the weather is just turning for most of us.
I thought it would be a good experiment to go through the work of some members who have been around for a few months or more and pull some of their photos together in a somewhat cohesive way. An experiment with their permission (and in no particular order).
Generally these can be thought of as ‘Close to Home’ type projects although a few seem looser based that that.
I have no favoritism for color here, it just happened to be mostly in color.
Thank you for all who attended the Meet and Greet on Thursday. It was a lot of fun!
If you missed it, you can watch the recording here and you’ll get a lot of good information – particularly check out the beginning 12 minutes as I give a little talk about the site.
To give you a sense of where we are, we now have enough members to make sure this place will work in the long term and to hire some speakers (like Alec Soth!)
Alright, they may not all be like Alec.
I’m filling some last few spots in the site and closing it down for new signups for the indefinite future (except to replace members who drop off).
The next step is to focus on strengthening the groups and site, to get engagement up as much as we can going into the warm weather, to create some kick-ass work, and just to make this place as fun and rewarding as we can.
And I’ve said this a hundred times already, but please keep in mind that engaging with the work of others is the most important aspect of this site. Even if you don’t have the time to shoot, checking in occasionally and commenting is so important, and it’s easy.
Bookmark the site and check-in for 10 minute stretches occasionally, and it will make a world of difference for everyone.
Portrait Challenge Update
Photos for the portrait challenge are due in about 2 to 2.5 weeks for those who want to join in. I’ll give another prompt closer to the deadline, but please email 1-5 portraits to [email protected] with the subject title ‘Portrait Challenge.’
I know this has been a tough challenge for many of you, but I think this is an important process to go through. And next challenge (I think) won’t have anything to do with people.
For those of you living in areas with less people, you’re still going to come across interesting subjects for portraits, just less frequently. And I don’t want you missing out on those opportunities.
Think about it, if you’re able to get just 3 fantastic portraits every year for 5 years, that’s enough portraits to fill out that aspect of a well-rounded project on your area. That’s all you need.
I love Paul’s photo here – a great example of how a simple environmental shot of a muddy road can have so much feeling to it.
The details and textures make this shot, from the textures in the muddy road to the snow embankment then mimicked by the stream of clouds. And then you have the trees, fence, and small mountains in the back – everything comes together here.
Talking About Photographs, Part 2
Happy first day of Spring! A great day for photographers.
So I plan to continue this series periodically with photos that catch my attention in the Salon (see Part 1 where I talk about my own work).
Just because I missed posting your work here, doesn’t mean it’s not as good as the photos here. There’s a ton I will inevitably miss along the way or be unable to post in these just to keep it from being overwhelming.
And keep in mind I usually write these posts a week or two early.
For some of the photos, I’ll be more detailed about and others I just want you to see.
When done best, street portraits will often feel like candid moments, where you can feel a connection to what a person might be feeling or thinking.
Before we get to the post and challenge, please watch this 6 minute video about posting in the Salon as it has new guidelines. If you have any further suggestions to this, I’d love it if you could comment below as well.
The Salon is of course a work in progress and I’m working to figure out the best ways to both keep it focused and from getting overwhelming and to connect the entire community together as best as possible (next week’s post is going to do some commentary about photos from the community).
And if you haven’t watched it yet, here’s the link to From Cities to Suburbs: How to Do Street Photography No Matter Where You Are.
Street Portraits (and Challenge #3)
Here’s the new group challenge for anyone who wants to join.
Now that it’s starting to warm up for most of us, I think it’s a good time to work on some street portraits (for those who want to). This challenge will go on for 4 weeks and the goal is to submit up to 5 portraits, although I may only show 2-3 per person depending on how many submit.
These portraits can be of strangers, neighbors, family or friends. The idea however is to make them feel natural and real. I don’t want full, posed portrait sessions if you know what I mean. And it should be new work.
If you have trouble with this due to lockdowns, please feel free to submit old work, and this is a challenge that will also be done again in the future.
But for those able to, I think this pandemic has opened people up even more to these random connections and it’s a perfect time to explore impromptu portraits.
Here is a guide for creating street portraits.
(Above photo: Larry Felton)
I want to welcome the new members! This welcome post is a good one to read as well if you’re getting setup with the site.
With Thursday’s class finished, that’s the end of the site’s launch process. The goal has been to get membership to a critical mass to make sure this place is viable and it seems like we’ve got to a good place with that.
I’m excited to now have more time for figuring more ways to make this place as fun and energetic as possible.
We’re going to have a challenge starting next week and I’m going to do a survey soon as well to learn your ideas for improving the site.
The goal of each group is to improve and strengthen them over time, and it can be a months-long process. First is to get members up to speed with how to use the site, then to focus on their photography as well as getting comfortable with the group, and most importantly, engaged with some consistent commenting.
Challenge #2 - Projects and Early Focus
So I was a little wary about this challenge. For the newer members who haven’t heard about it, challenge #2 was based upon putting together a small cohesive series of 7 images together.
It was meant mostly for the early groups who have been working here for a few months although anyone could join in. We’ll have another challenge in two weeks once everyone gets settled here.
As I’m sure neither of you all did, I didn’t expect works of brilliance and cohesiveness here. It’s too early and that wasn’t the point.
And that’s why this is a challenge that we’re going to revisit constantly over time.
The goal here was just to get everyone thinking in this manner for the year ahead, and to organize your thoughts as it warms up (for most of us) and we start shooting more and more.
What do you want to create this year? How is your work going to fit together?
But this is also a slow, organic process to figure out over time. And I was wary of this challenge causing you to think too specifically too early on.
I don’t want you to take what you did here and pigeonhole yourself. Use the brainstorming you did to help yourself think in this manner but still go out with an open mind and let the photographs you take guide you. I can guarantee the next iteration of this challenge will have you with much different work.
Now you’ve seen my work too much the last few weeks but here are two examples of how I could submit photos from my Quiet Brooklyn project.