Challenge #16: Solitude

Challenge #16: Solitude

I don’t know why I picked the topic of solitude.

I was struggling this week trying to figure out a new idea for a challenge. After three years, I want to repeat challenge ideas with subtle twists as you all improve, so we can keep working on the important stuff. But at the same time, add in new and surprising challenges.

The word solitude first popped into my brain and I used it as a placeholder while thinking up other, better ideas. But the more I tried, nothing felt better. Sometimes your subconscious creates ideas and instead of overthinking, you just have to run with them.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more it makes sense. The middle of the summer (for most of us), bright, cheery, we’re doing or supposed to be doing all these fun things. We’re supposed to be photographing fun, with energy.

So when everyone’s looking one way, let’s look the other way. Throughout the energy of summer, a lot of solitude is felt. And it can be harder in the summer. At least in the winter, everyone else is feeling solitude as well.

The only criteria is to use the word solitude to guide you. Create the feeling of solitude.

And keep in mind, that while I’m assuming many or most of you will create photographs without people, there are also many ways to capture people if you choose to go this direction.

You can even do portraits. Look for the right subjects, exploring but not judging them. Tell people you have a photography class and challenge based on the word solitude, and ask if they might be feeling some. It’s an interesting conversation starter!

Anyway, you all take it from here.


5 Photographs, Due August 1st.

Link: Will be added closer to submission date.

File Naming: James-Maher-1.jpg, etc.

File Size: 1200 pixels (or similar) wide at 72DPI

Challenge #15: Spring Awakening

Challenge #15: Spring Awakening

Photographs © Gregory Halpern.

I’m sorry to start this challenge off morbidly, but it’s an important thought. I recall a statistic that most people kill themselves in Spring, not Winter. They spend Winter depressed, hibernating, and thinking that things will suddenly get better when Spring comes. But when the weather gets nice and the birds start chirping and they’re not feeling any different, that’s when things feel exponentially worse.

(*side note when sharing something like this, if anyone is struggling please feel free to reach out, that’s what we’re here for and you’re not alone).

But you can’t expect things to suddenly change. Any change comes from taking those first small steps.

As photographers, we expect the weather to get nice and to hit the ground running. But then we’re rusty, we’re not used to talking to people. Social engagements or personal issues hit as they always do. And the next thing we know it’s already the middle of the summer and we feel overwhelmed that we didn’t live up to what we were planning.

Depression is obviously not all in our heads. But stressing about whether we’re photographing or not, doing a good job or not, or whether it’s easy or not, is in our head.

Frankly, you string together three long solid walks and you’ll feel like a million bucks as a photographer after the third. Stop and engage three strangers and by the fourth, you’ll feel like Kevin Hart. Or maybe not quite, but you get my point.

Knock those three times out quickly this Spring.

Now for the challenge. Like every Spring, it’s people-related. It’s a time to dust off our people skills. I’m adding three parts and you can do whichever appeals to you most.

1. Portrait and a tidbit.

Photograph someone and learn one interesting thing about them.

2. Photograph a cultural or neighborhood event.

And talk to people at the events.

3. If you don’t like photographing people.

Figure out what the heck it is you like photographing and how to make it interesting. Share that.

*Finally, in light of the Survey zine. Many of you have been building these amazing projects for years. Whether you have 40 decent photographs by now or 15, I want you to start thinking about creating a webpage for this project this year.

I suggest Squarespace for the more technically inclined or Smugmug for the less technically inclined. Get your work up, make it TIGHT, and sequence it. Then we can finally look at it all together and talk about the most fun stuff. And to see what you’re missing and figure out how to fill in the blanks.

Many of you are ready to start thinking about the bigger picture.


5 Photographs, Due May 26th.

Link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/pvUu7EpBlc3LEWgqY0De

Challenge #14: Three Traits

Challenge #14: Three Traits

(All photographs © Alec Soth)


For the majority of us in the Salon dealing with winter, it’s the toughest time of the year to shoot. We might feel like we’re lacking inspiration, but really, it just sucks outside and nothing is happening.


I’m not trying to discourage you from shooting in February of course, but if you’re not into it, there’s no need to stress.


Let yourself take a break from photographing when you don’t feel like it. Be easy on yourself. I don’t think that will be a problem for many of you.


But what I do think we could improve at, is that many of us completely disconnect from photography when we’re not photographing.


There are two parts of photography, creating and consuming, and both are equally important. And when you’re not photographing, that gives even more importance to the art that you consume, the photography, the writing, the daydreaming. What’s more relaxing in winter than reading a photobook or regular book at night and daydreaming?


Anyway, here is the (non-shooting) challenge:


Think about what you would like to accomplish this year, in an ideal world. Most likely, this will be furthering an idea or project, for many of you it will be building out your survey project.


I want you to find one photographer you admire who has done a project in a similar place as you will be shooting (and if your project or idea is not centered by a place, find a photographer who captures similar ideas). It could be finding a suburban photographer, or more specific like finding a midwestern suburban photographer.


Next, I want you to thing of three traits from different photographers, that you think would make your project amazing. For instance, maybe it’s Alec Soth’s planning and outreach, Gregory Halpern’s portraits, Rebecca Norris Webb’s landscapes. Or Daido Moriyama’s grit and emotion or Eggleston’s mundanity. Choose three.


Final note: I just finished the behind the scenes stuff on the website (and my business) for going into this next year. I ordered a sample copy of the survey zine as well, so expect an update on that in the next two weeks. And we’ll try to energize the group hangouts, and hopefully the work in this challenge will more opportunities for hangout conversations and sharing of photographers.


Submission Details

Title: Three Traits

Deadline: March 10th (Five Weeks)

Submission: Add your info to this spreadsheet


Challenge #13: Emotion

Challenge #13: Emotion

The idea of this challenge is simple, I want you all to pick an emotion and capture it or try to explain it in 5 images. Don’t tell us the emotion with words, and it can certainly be a grouping of multiple emotions together, but the images should relate together.

Similar to the last challenge, you can use up to five images together in a series to push the idea through. And I highly suggest picking emotions that you are currently feeling, and trying to figure out how to put those feelings into photographs. That is a key to this, for those who feel comfortable going that route. I’m guessing this challenge will help us learn a big more about each other.

These could be photos in the home, photos on the street, self portraits, photos of family, anything you want. And think both conceptually and technically. Bright or dark, tack sharp and orderly or the feeling of a messy snapshot. We want to build on the idea of creating an experience for the viewer in a similar way that we did in the last challenge.

We have 2 months to do this, but there will be a sub-challenge next month, which will just be meant for posting on the site and not submitting. I will share that in a few weeks.

Submission Details

Title: Emotion Challenge

Deadline: January 7th

Upload Link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/IQC01gL1c2umrXmU4clt

File Naming: firstname-lastname-#.jpg. So it would be james-maher-1.jpg.

Color Space: sRGB

Size (Hi-Res): 1,000 pixels for the long edge.

Uploading details: Up to 5 photos.

And here is a list of 100 emotions to get the wheels turning!

  1. Joy
  2. Sadness
  3. Anger
  4. Fear
  5. Surprise
  6. Disgust
  7. Contempt
  8. Embarrassment
  9. Frustration
  10. Anxiety
  11. Nostalgia
  12. Longing
  13. Hope
  14. Despair
  15. Confidence
  16. Doubt
  17. Pride
  18. Shame
  19. Guilt
  20. Love
  21. Heartbreak
  22. Jealousy
  23. Envy
  24. Admiration
  25. Gratitude
  26. Serenity
  27. Awe
  28. Wonder
  29. Curiosity
  30. Boredom
  31. Disappointment
  32. Relief
  33. Contentment
  34. Bliss
  35. Euphoria
  36. Ecstasy
  37. Indifference
  38. Melancholy
  39. Pensive
  40. Sympathy
  41. Empathy
  42. Compassion
  43. Forgiveness
  44. Resentment
  45. Anguish
  46. Suffering
  47. Grief
  48. Solitude
  49. Loneliness
  50. Isolation
  51. Overwhelmed
  52. Stress
  53. Burnout
  54. Exhaustion
  55. Restlessness
  56. Calmness
  57. Tranquility
  58. Peace
  59. Harmony
  60. Agitation
  61. Aggression
  62. Hostility
  63. Tension
  64. Anxiety
  65. Panic
  66. Horror
  67. Terror
  68. Vulnerability
  69. Insecurity
  70. Helplessness
  71. Powerlessness
  72. Humiliation
  73. Rejection
  74. Abandonment
  75. Disapproval
  76. Acceptance
  77. Belonging
  78. Connection
  79. Affection
  80. Attraction
  81. Passion
  82. Lust
  83. Flirtation
  84. Infatuation
  85. Obsession
  86. Anticipation
  87. Excitement
  88. Thrill
  89. Adventure
  90. Surprise (pleasant)
  91. Amazement
  92. Wonderment
  93. Enchantment
  94. Delight
  95. Elation
  96. Jubilation
  97. Triumph
  98. Exhilaration
  99. Optimism
  100. Pessimism