For any serious photographer nothing is like working on a personal long-term project. If you want to develop your photography, make your creativity bloom, increase your energy and boost your self-esteem and confidence as a photographer, a long-term photo project will do all that for you. Such a project doesn’t have to be exotic at all or take place in a far-away-country. In fact the closer to your home-base the easier it is to follow through and use spare time whenever there is a chance. A personal long-term project can be grand and it can be small. It can be limited to your own backyard, like the project I have described before in the post Out of Comfort Zone, or it can be a project about the world’s manual labourers as the famous photographer Sebastião Salgado has devoted a life time to.
The important thing is to devote yourself to a project you feel is important or speaks to you in some way or form and then stay devoted over a longer period of time. I mean keep going back, keep shooting, keep finding new ways to express the theme you have chosen, keep adding new images to the story. And keep doing it consistently even when at times it feels exhausting and nothing comes out of your attempt of shooting. Gradually you will merge into the project, it becomes you, and that’s when things start to take on a development of its own. By devoting yourself to a project over time you start to feel real ownership for the project, you will gradually relax with the subject – and the subject will relax with you, you lose all pretensions and any performance anxiety you may have. It all becomes about you and the subject and expressing that relationship.
«Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion… the subject must be something you truly love or hate.» This is according to another famous photographer, Dorothea Lange.
For a professional photographer as myself, long-term personal photography projects are the spice of life between the humdrum of every day life and shooting. It brings meaning and joy into my work. I can only recommend any photographer to devote time to a long-term project that feels important or inspiring to you – and it probably works the same way in any of the other art forms, too. The important thing is to start – now. Not keep planning it in your head and saying I’ll do it when I have time, or I just need to plan the project a little more. No, just start.
How long is a long-term project, then? There is no telling what is right when it comes to the time devoted to a long-term project. It can be months or it can be a life time. Only you know how long your project takes, and you probably don’t even know before it’s all done. One of my long term projects have been going on for more than 20 years – and still going on. In fact as you read this I should be on my way for the next encounter with the project. Yes, I am on my way to Cuba, and as such Cuba has been my longest personal photo project to date. Not many posts ago I mentioned the farm I keep visiting in Cuba, where the members have become My Second Family. The farm is but a part of my project. Over the 20 years I have been returning to Cuba, I have tried to portrait and captured the changes is this contradictory country.
Anyway, while under way, what is more appropriate than post some photos I have taken over time previously in Cuba? And with that I will probably be out of the loop a bit the next couple of weeks. Internet isn’t the best developed feature in this Caribbean island. But I’ll try to be back whenever I get a chance.