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Executing Your Project

Lesson 24 from: Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

David H Wells

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Lesson Info

24. Executing Your Project

Next Lesson: Gear

Lesson Info

Executing Your Project

We're going to talk today about executing your personal project in photo essay one of the things it was really interesting about our conversation and actually is after class then I saw the photo walk yesterday right sonny was warm makes me to see how they look like paradise so we had a great time and we were doing some stuff on tools like was talking about me to ring and cameras and stuff but it was also talking about your projects and kind of watching your eyes go and it's very clear from your elevator pitches which were great to the discussions we had that you're starting to understand that there's all these decisions you got to make there's a lot of hard work ahead of you there's no magic bullet I can't hand you a card and say this is the photo essay it's finished it's done you're famous it doesn't happen like that the interesting thing from last night and then this morning because you updating me cindy this morning about what you were able to dio in terms of keeping our project you...

know, keeping our moment and going forward is that you're discovered okay? So I've got to do this much and next week I'm going to do that much and one or both of you was talking about over there I think you're talking cindy about over the weekend going over the notes mentally processing probably watching part of it again you're going to discover something if you watch it again first time you kind of heard what I said to you the second time you're goingto be able to kind of mentally or literally skipped through and say no that's important I want to watch that a couple times that applies to my project and then you go on from there so it's nice that you all understand that this is actually a lot of hard work photo essays or not easy actually the class should be photo essays made hard, but that would scare everybody away so so I'm going to do today like I've done every day a mix of pictures and tax slides to get you thinking let me put my stool out here see if I can not do any great harm and I want to show you just to get your your humor muscles going early in the morning the work of the finnish photographer named julia and the project called holy melancholy you get it right away right and actually has a very nice project statement which will read at the end talking about taking it to the next level but he's using a kind of iconography that we immediately yet all right, I actually saw his work about five years ago I saw this exact project of matter fact and then met him about three years ago when I was teaching in finland and it's very funny continue meeting me has that sort of very typical finnish they don't give a lot away their facial expression but as soon as you start talking you say yeah that brain that guy sitting across the table from me could do this and obviously it's all controlled it's all photoshopped it all himself and there's a question I think jim was asking yesterday about the idea moving things around and photoshopping and to circle back to that this is such a great example of course this is controlled but he's creating a narrative out of our sort of mental image of the santa claus icon and the landscape and all those other things and so we know that to me the area where that gets funky is where people claim that they're not controlling the environment but in fact they're photoshopping though they are moving the environment cause then you start to get a little unclear my wife's work for example you looked it was very clear that's all control and I have no problem with that that's just not my particular thing juhasz work your clarity is all controlled and his next one apparently references of famous finish painting as well as the santa claus icon the fall harvest and all that so actually going to go now and we're actually gonna do some more reading so get your reading glasses on this is his statement it's written in the third person just touching on some important borrowing the past cultural layers to reconstruct a visual identity staging pastiche photographs which imitate the national stereotypical ideas and then they go back to referencing original paintings and says right here it's not plagiarism is borrowing its riffing he adds inconsistent inappropriate details makes interruptions or jokes um and add witticisms to the original one's in order to create a new route photographs of stereotypical finish this and I've taught in finland twice and if you've ever been there is his very strange thing that their initial face is very, very stone face I think part of the political terms of being in the former soviet union part of us the weather but you start talking to them and they just opened up in storytelling and there's as much fun or more than any other population but the weather, the environment so you saw kind of what he was riffing on that with the work so far all right um explaining santa claus the most celebrated commercial phenomenon the world as you perceived in alter ego of finland um and then using the post modern idea of the spectators re interpreter so it's sort of a paradox is what he's talking about is trying to make something new and outstanding which is where the word holy is how he's used it and then he kind of turns it on his head because of the idea of melancholy and this is in the stuff that you take and hope you're reading it now but you really do want to circle back to it and the big thing you really want to do besides looking at this you want to go back and look at the work because he's done a really nice job with some other projects as well but this one is my favorite of isn't just that a fairness too um sort of spread the wealth and so a lot of their from people's work I would encourage you to go look at his website as well so I was talking yesterday about creating a calendar in some planning strategies so we're now really run the third day I said this to you yesterday I'll say deal again today you got to start thinking about those last questions we're going to have because at four o'clock today that's the end of it so let's talk about some planning strategies alright I mentioned this earlier but I want to circle back to this you should always be looking for what I call ancillary benefits so if you're going somewhere on vacation you're going somewhere else you're gonna meet some new people what the ways without without sounding harsher, unpleasant you can exploit it to get something more classic example of the ancillary benefit I flew to seattle in december last year to speak it ari I down the road actually and um from when I was speaking at ari I at the behest of a former student mind and took a class of mine in california now he works at arianna and brought me into r e I to speak so I'm out here anyway during that same time, I explain my desire to photograph foreclosures and somebody in the audience and aria actually connected me with the realtor who actually helped me photograph of foreclosure in seattle, okay? So at some point in time, whenever you're doing stuff, you're actually going to be almost automatically doing little pieces of your elevator pitchy I'm david wells I'm dr do this nobody I'm photographing foreclosure what is it about? Okay and almost everybody everyone's project at some point in time when you're out there you're gonna have to be able to do that pretty easily and you want to be looking for what I call ancillary benefits. I also met the folks it creative live here to start the dialogue, which became this exact class so I'm out in seattle and actually getting three things that that's a good trip and actually the little stock photography was well, I saw a very old friend of mine who lives in northern part of seattle I must confess I took the boeing tour, I was an airplane junkies a kid, so that was a great trip was a very productive trip so let's talk about approaching people or strangers all right? This is a big thing that people have a lot of anxiety about and as you've seen from my projects I work a lot with people I'm generally pretty comfortable photographing people keep it human smile be respectful it's such a cliche there was no smile but you're sitting there you're actually smiling right? You want to look like so smile be respectful connect first and do your work second that's what I was doing with the elevator pitch it's so important if you come up to somebody and you want something right away it's you can get that vibe immediately so the very first thing I do is I'm making eye contact I grew up in southern california which you know everybody in southern california kind of happy and easy going so I'm walking around the east coast and I'm smiling saying how you how you doing everybody in new york and especially in new england and they all have that that face but they kind of weekly smile back at me but I have a good disposition for that connect first and do your work second alright ninety five percent of it is how you project yourself and when you connect with strangers if you're hunched over and you're nervous and you're worried and you feel like a stalker if you just comfortable there you're comfortable there comfortable it goes forward assis simple is that by the end of this process I know you three already because we've been working closely that are going to be complete believers in your project right? You know you're gonna be so it won't be very hard to walk up to somebody and talk about it because you believe then you want to carry that belief forward for the rest of your life obviously but in each of your cases there's gonna be a moment where you're poaching strangers too in your case get into is maybe the houses or the businesses that are impacted positively or negatively by the infrastructure issues you could be photographing so you want to protect yourself I'm comfortable I live here I'm not a stalker and I'm nothing I'm being sarcastic about the stalker but people the default is just concerned as soon as you come across comfortable you're ready to go um ninety five percent of the anxiety and this took me years to learn gwen's there smiling right? Ninety five percent of the anxiety is yours there's five percent you need to be worried about most of this yours if you're comfortable if you believe in what you're doing, you're not hunched over you don't mumble like I used to do are just the mumble on my wife hates you want to put my hand in my mouth because I start to mumble so I'm gonna put my hand out you don't mumble you just it's mostly you we all were social creatures by definition we like to connect right that's our default we'd rather connect them be learned the local greetings introductions, rituals and five or ten simple phrases out of courtesy if you're gonna be working in some other cultures did you all know the history? The handshake apparently I read recently history that handshake is your hand comes out to show the other person you don't have a weapon by comparison in india, japan and most of the places they do this it's just that's incredibly respectful like okay, I understand it also solves the gender of culture problem all that I was actually in morocco last year and I've worked a lot in the middle east and one rock again and I was reminded in a lot of the islamic world the greeting actually is to touch your heart and say thank you from my heart what a what a great gesture this is great this is great I'm not totally convinced but I don't have a gun it's not about guns it's just it suggests a different kind of interaction so anywhere you're gonna be going um and that by the way is not intending to some of our conversations because you've lived into from parts of the country within this country there are different ways of greeting linguistically social gesture, etcetera the new england sort of stone face the southern charm and openness the west coast stuff like that so you really wanted to do try to be aware of that when you're out there interacting with people because if you get past that you're human you're respectful you connect first you do the work second you protect yourself comfortably not boastfully but just comfortably you get past your anxiety is kind of like that project proposal thing you're at the point where they'll say ok, I will continue this interaction um make eye contact smile the first couple times I did my elevator pitch for somebody else what this person notices I was doing a really good job and I was looking all over the place and I don't you notice me yesterday when I was doing was trying really hard to make eye contact with your apology gwen okay shifty eyes you don't want to be shifty eyes he actually wantto make eye contact smile ask permission with your gestures and talked about this before especially and developing world on stuff you don't want to be putting your hand out automatically I started they said from here and then I wait and let the other person drive the interaction especially cross gender lines um now one of the things about photographing people julie, can you call up your second? Can you stand about here okay can you stand about there and just keep talking to me and you keep talking to me and you're talking to the right thank you very much. Okay, if you can sit back down thanks for doing that so fast. Like I probably should have called that I apologized so I do that again slower or not. Okay. Do you notice what you did? Your mother raised you, right? You followed me the whole time. Everywhere you go, I could have gone. I could have gone off the carpet. I could have gone over to the next town over we all do that. That idea that our parents raised us right to just normally respectfully follow people. It's rule number one when you're photographing people, you control the interaction by how you move and as I turned and made you turn with me, I was changed my background hopes you had a bad light behind your head. Okay. Oh, that's better. Well, that tonight and I could be shooting right? You control the interaction by how you move. Okay, you also control the action you can go up or down. We've already talked about this in terms of the background and stuff, but just there by following me, okay? And and you should send your note, sent a note to your parents and say you really did a good job because they did a good job all right, um, if they follow your movements then you control the interaction if you choose to do that that's what we just basically demonstrated again, you and I, we're keeping eye contact on purpose. I was babbling a little bit. This works across languages and cultures ninety nine point nine percent of the people in the rest of world or just polite, they like to interact. They like to see what you're doing, so they're going to follow you. Rule number one, when I'm doing street photography, if I want to change the background and I am interacting with the person because there are many pictures in mind, you see where I'm not. But if I am interacting, I move, and nine times out of ten they moved with me, um, working more with people, as I mentioned before, and this is more on the logistical side, the for the last part was more about the physical presence interaction, but now we're going to talk also about the the logistics of working people special in your project. I do as little as I can over the phone I do, most of it by email, I do so that I can over the phone, two little can over the phone or by e mail, other introductions and scheduling, I try really hard to get myself there in front of the people when you say I'm the media, I'm a photographer. I represent the new york times magazine. They think they're six people behind you and it's a big monsters threat. They realized immediately, I'm a normal person done exceptionally well, and most importantly, I'm unthreatening, and then I go through a lot of the stuff. We just talked about basic introductions projecting myself comfortably, trying out to be threatening and nine times out of ten. The next thing is sure, let's talk, let's, do whatever it is you need to do. Um, I carry samples on the work on my business cards and increasingly on my cell phone, which is over there and turned off. But I can pull out my cellphone to show my foreclosure project so my commercial work, I can show somebody right away in thirty seconds with that elevator pitch. This is what I'm doing if I get to that point, so I would have that stuff handy.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

David H Wells - Business
David H Wells - Literary Journals List.pdf
David H Wells -
David H Wells -
David H Wells - Sample
David Wells - Keynote Day 1.pdf
David Wells - Keynote Day 2.pdf
David Wells - Keynote Day 3.pdf

bonus material with enrollment

David H Wells -

Ratings and Reviews


First off, I was a photo assistant for a few years to a photographer who did numerous multi-day workshops. This was my first time as a student sitting in on a webinar that actually kept me interested. Sometimes I'm turned off by the pace of the teacher, his or her voice, or the manner in which they disseminate the information. But this was truly fantastic. David showed lots of his work in a way that was NOT egotistical in any sense (something that does happen quite often). I was utterly impressed by the quality of his work, the wealth of knowledge he has on the world, culture and politics, and how he shoots "on the go". All of those qualities are essential parts to creating a great photo essay/story. I came into this seminar needing inspiration and in the end I have more ideas than I know what to do with. David's work is truly magnificent; his photo stories pertain to people and their struggles, which really could be something any one of us could go through at any point, but he shows it in a way that is beautiful - either beautifully desperate or beautifully destructive - instead of in an exploitative way. On a side note, he also offered up a lot of great information having to do with funding, exposure, workflow, time efficiency, income streams, releases... you won't find this a lot with other photographers. You will find the "go find the info yourself" attitude. This has been my problem as of late with photography - we don't work together as artists, we work against each other competing for what, I'm not sure. David's seminar seemed to embrace photography as the art form it is, and shared with us the tools that we as artists need to really understand and utilize in order to get our story out there. A story it seems he really wants to see/hear. Just an amazing "Thank You"!!!!

a Creativelive Student

I have purchased a number of classes on Creative Live. This class taught by David Wells is one of the best. David is a thorough teacher, personal and connects with his students. Along with his superb and inspiring imagery David talked about his experiences in getting funding, his workflow, developing his stories and distributing his work. David is talented, generous and an excellent teacher. Highly recommended class.

Anjani Millet

Just completed the course. Fantastic, practical information on everything from grant writing, finding foundations, proposal development, even how to shake hands overseas. I am not sure where else I would have found this information for photographers. So appreciate it. One friend asked if this would be worth watching for anyone outside the US and the answer is a definitive yes. Very happy I purchased, and already starting to implement.

Student Work