Blog #61 On Assignment
All creatives in various fields face similar challenges. As photographers, to continue to create or to be motivated to continuously create can be quite a challenge. What project shall I work on next? How do I know if my current project(s) is done? These are typical questions that most of us will face and to varying degrees, struggle with, over time.
Avoid the trap of buying another camera or lens since this is not likely to lead to improvement in any measurable way. Sure, you can eBay any new camera or lens, unpack the box, smack a roll of whatever film and head out to the wild blue yonder but that’s a false approach to creativity. It’s bogus and unlikely to result in any real personal growth let alone artistic progress.
National Geographic has assignments that anyone can submit to for free. There is a plethora of sources for contests and assignments online through many sources. Ted Forbes (YouTube) holds photo assignments every other Monday that are worthwhile and free. Friends are great for this sort of thing as well. During those “in between” times between personal or commercial projects, it is critical to continue to hone one’s skills with the camera as well as with their eyes and creative mojo.
For example, a friend and avid photographer, Mike Epstein and I went on a self-imposed assignment this month. There were some pretty strict rules: we would shoot different brands of colour film (and later develop it at home ourselves), and use a 35mm focal length lens on one roll and a 50mm focal length lens on another roll. Mike suggested that we shoot images using the theme of transportation, and I obliged. So after our obligatory coffee we went out with our bags filled with colour 35mm film and camera loaded, and we got to work. Mike was kind enough to give me a roll of Cinestill 50 as well so of course we burned that one as well. The target rolls were Kodak Ektar 100 (shot mid-day with the 50mm lens) and Kodak Portra 400 (shot afternoon with the 35mm) lens.
The fairly strict rules forced us to work within these parameters. Actually, there are still quite a range of subjects that one can shoot on the streets of Hong Kong within this set of rules. There are tons of bright red taxis, road signs, trams, busses, bikes, and road signs. Having limits is actually helpful because we immediately eliminated more than half of what was going on. Without buildings, people, nature, rubbish, or things in general, our choices of subject were narrowed considerably.
The images herein were the result of that one-day color film two-lens self-imposed challenge. It’s a good experience and I would encourage any photographer to use the “On Assignment” mantra in between their other assignments or just for the hell of it.
The light is always right.