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Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

Lesson 21 of 35

Mechanics of Developing Your Project Part 1

David H Wells

Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

David H Wells

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Lesson Info

21. Mechanics of Developing Your Project Part 1

Lesson Info

Mechanics of Developing Your Project Part 1

We're moving on now so I know I repeat myself but it's really important you understand we set up with the definitions where you want to go earlier today we were talking about the execution the photographing part now we talked about the potential for funding one of the things to circle back on that grant thing just to reiterate really important I was talking a lot about organizations and foundations but the whole thing in any case in the case of somebody who exhibits it somebody who shows the new publishes it is making it their interest it's all about making it their interest on dso that's going to be a big part of what I'm going to talk about now in today's in this next section which is on the mechanics of developing your personal project for a photo essay and I'm gonna alternate back and forth again between a whole bunch of text slides which I hope you'll stay awake for hope you don't get that late afternoon down on dh pictures because we all love pictures but some of the photo storie...

s I'm going to show you illustrate the ideas that I'm talking about all right? So one of the things you want to do is you want to create a calendar for your projects okay? Not a deep in depth you know twenty pager but you just want to have a calendar you want to break it down into small parts okay, you want to figure out what I want to do in six months, what I want to do in a year and you want to think of these things is mild posts, okay? You don't want to say I have to have photographed when, for example, ten people by december first it's not that rigid it's just something to say, this is what I'm working towards if you come up a little high grade, if your little little short it's not a big deal, don't beat yourself up, but it gives you things to look forward to in a way of breaking it down into small man parts. I can't tell you, and this is true and in any kind of great work, if you're a filmmaker and you look at the final film and you know and and you obsess about the end, you'll never do all the little steps and that's true for us as well. Um, it keeps you motivated, which is really, really important, it also keeps you moving forward and that's why I encouraged to do these calendars and the way that I do my counter a little bit different, which is I don't have a single calendar for my projects, but in my larger I count on my mac laptop. At different points on market, I've got marcus markers of what I should be doing now in terms of the project, who I should be sending it out by this certain time. And then the other thing is in grants and all these other things we've been talking about a lot of times are specific deadlines and so two months before, one month before two weeks before I have a note in my calendar that says apply for apply for, apply for and so I've chosen to build it right into my calendar because it just becomes part of my work calendar, my life calendar, but it's really helpful when I am looking saying away I should apply for this and hope shows off my calendar, I'm right on schedule, the other thing you want to do, a course the whole point of the kind of counters help you judge the success of what you're doing and not to either get too obsessed about I haven't done enough, but not to get too sort of self congratulatory either. Another thing everyone should know what you were doing, okay? Oh everybody, you know, why not what's the downside? Okay, what's, the downside in all of your projects? Why does not your entire network know what you're doing? It's? Not like you're keeping it from them. Okay your family, your friends, your peers, their network actually one of the guys that I'm working with to get into some foreclosures and I haven't set a date with me and because of my travel is a guy who's a friend of a friend of my father's and my my parents live in michigan but they winter in florida and somebody than ever and this guy says to somebody else joe has to a friend to a friend of and suddenly this guy e mails me back any bruce and says I hear your father tells me you're doing this thing and so everybody knows what I'm doing and they they can and should be sharing your accomplishments and I'm party to thinking about my father but my parents um but they're just sharing it out there okay um and that kind of organic sharing for motion by word of mouth is still the best way of promotion and you know that we have talked at length when I was showing him a foreclosure project about all the time I do promotion but the more valuable promotion is when friends of mine share it rather than so when you start getting to those points where these events happening all the social media stuff your whole friend should know your first x ambition your first publication you got a grant to do this you should be sharing it with everybody hey if it it may happen to the social media but still the most credible former from ocean is word of mouth and you know this already, but I'm just really trying to reinforce it and let's talk about that happened the way that happens you're introduced to somebody by somebody else ok? And so when you're introduced to somebody else who could potentially help you with the project get it out there something by somebody you know you're introduced as an accomplished photographer who the person who's getting the introduction the recipient should know about because that photographer you is so good at what you do that's right? You're smiling that's exactly right? I mean your project when you go forward when you're starting to do word of mouth is all going to be about people saying, oh, I just met this photographer or I was just photographed by or I saw this incredible thing and those kinds of introductions are so much better then the typical introduction, which is we don't want to be seen as one more photographer who thinks too much of themselves and only wants the money for the recipients of the introduction we don't want to be thought of ourselves is that way and we do want something from them we want to get it out there but that first introduction where the mouse social media that's the one that matters so your entire network of friends universe piers, college, alumni association, by the way, high school where you want icicles all those groups should know what you're doing, what's the downside, you're not doing anything wrong, ari and I missed anything. And so all right, um, this is not a class on social media. Like I said, this is not a class on kick starters, creative life has a bunch of great classes, some of which I sat through on social media and on kick starters, and they're worth investing the time, but I'm not going to go into that, but just to say it's, another one of those things, you wanna pile onto your plate, so I'm gonna talk and show you some recent projects and talk a little bit more about this idea of outlets this's a magazine called sewn voices, which is actually published out of maine, and I came across their publication maybe a year, year and a half ago, and they were looking for submissions, and so I wrote them, and I did a submission, and you'll notice in the featured artist page, the last one down that's me, and so this is from the website profile that they did on me, and then they did a portfolio with a bio and then explanation, they did a portfolio of my work. On light and color in india with light and shadow pictures which ironically I've never actually had disseminated justice that has been parts of many other things but they said no, we just want that stuff alone and so they did this really lovely printed physical port magazine and they actually paid me some money wasn't a lot but they did pay me but it's done a number of things for me number one new people seeing my work number two it's one more thing to talk about it's that third party validation stone voices they decided that I know what I'm doing they did a really nice job with the ladder is very happy with the layout as well. These are just some pages from this it was like an eight page spread in the magazine and unlike the more political work in india it's not about india as ah economic experience or the political thing that I've been doing so much but to me it's really just about india's this beautiful place with this magical experience that I go through and then the best part of this whole thing is we get to the end. And just recently she wrote me an email and she said, I'm looking for another photographer doing something else, so I've now moved up in the food chain number one I got published got paid a little bit got a beautiful thing haven't opportunity to promote myself and now I'm actually sending her to other photographers I sent her to a specific photographer and she was very happy it's all of that and you know this anywhere from any other business but he becomes a huge huge part of our business is well, um I mentioned before, but I just want to go back to this. This is a magazine called witness it's published by the black mountain institute by the university of nevada at las vegas it's a literary journal or poetry journal and I have to be the first one to confess this was back in spring of two thousand twelve they approach me in two thousand eleven they saw the new york times opinionated piece and they said we're poetry journal we want to do a portfolio of your foreclosure work and my first response was that's nice do you pay anything? And they actually said, yeah, we pay a lot and they do pay a lot and I mentioned it because I had never, ever thought about poetry journals and literary journals and college journals as necessarily an outlet I have now been into this was the first one roger williams university in rhode island where I live I was just we just finished editing it actually hasn't been printed yet, but they're doing a piece on my india work as well and again, I'm not bragging when I'm trying to say literary journals is a brand new market for me it's something that only occurred to me in the last three years completely as a result of this and in that bonus material there's actually a list of some of the literary journals that I've been in contact with and also some uh you are else to find other literary journals in all of your projects if you start reaching out there, you've already done the thing of like creating some of the work may be finished, but you created some of the work you've gotten your pitch down you've got a little bit of of third party validation exhibition something else you send it out to these people and I can tell you what happens with literary journal because I've learned this from the process is they file it away and then when the project comes up related to what it is that they want to do which relates to your various topics they'll call you up and say let's talk and then you get not always but sometimes money always a publication promotional opportunities there promoting it you're promoting it. So this is the portfolio of the foreclosure work as it appeared in um witness magazine and to go back to that irony that I was talking right the pages or vertical in all the photos or horizontal but they did a really, really beautiful job of reproducing it in terms of that kind of intimacy that you're forced into when you see a small photograph and also just the color equality in the reproduction quality, and so now I've gotten in the habit, I have this list of literary journals, and one of the things that discovered to go back to this calendar is that because they're run by act by students and academic institutions, they almost all have a very narrow window of when they take submissions don't hold me to this, but like september to november and february may is the only time they take submissions. And so in those times spots I have remember to submit to this this this and this, and then six months later submits that so that's, one of the many things that go on my counter part of the calendar is sort of large and high level goals. What? What? I'm trying to get to the part of the counter's, just evolution? Where do you submit who you submit to win, also from the foreclosure project in witness magazine? And so those next few slides are actually, um, though literary journal pages, and these are my notes, and they're really, really, incredibly un interesting, but I actually wrote, when did I send it to them? Okay, uh, who did I send to, what with what's their payment, if anything, and I could track all this stuff and you really do want to track all the stuff you may or may not be as organized as I am as humanity is more you may not now you may not be as organised as I am but you want to finish this class realizing I got to get organized you just have to have all records of all the stuff because last thing you want is one of these people coming back to you and saying yeah, we'll do the portfolio but most of them will say that's fine but if you wanted the portfolio you can't come out anywhere else for sixteen, ninety six months or something like that so you need to know where all your stuff is that kind of stuff and if you'll notice the type changes and it changes on purpose the green ones I sent too in september twenty twenty four, two thousand twelve and then this is what the guy answered me I just I track everything okay it's simply a function have no brain space left whatsoever being white same thing sent it and then this is what they answered and I get sent in what they answered these air different literary journals is by no means an exclusive list I went through a couple of websites which are on the document that you get and I went through and I was looking for a certain minimum circulation size people who paid something on dh people whose web sites worked that was sort of the first things to go the website, the website doesn't work, they're probably not going to answer. Uh, and I did that send it to them. This is my pitch letter. I know you know this, but you make one pitch letter, and then you save and you send it over and over. You don't want to spend time retyping cutting and pasting, and then this is the actual project proposal that I send for them, and I had this document document called literary journals on my desktop, and I go in there every three months, and I updated what I've heard back, who I haven't sent to. Did I find anybody knew? Did their deadline come up? So that's really, about it's a mechanical thing? But it's, another whole new set of resource is that you want to be looking at, so I'm going to show you another project that I did two thousand five, two thousand six, and it speaks to this idea where we're talking about now. The mechanics of the photo essay this is on asian indians or indians, people from south asia, mostly indians, but pakistanis, bangladeshis, nepalis for long guns from south asia, living in the u s and I did this in that's not correct. I did this in early two thousand two thousand one. Actually, um it's a function of the fact that I was involved with and subsequently married my wife, who's from south asia and seeing indians who were going through this process that virtually every immigrant community does in this country. They come here, there's this tug of war between the old culture. They were in the new culture that they were becoming part of because of american immigration law. For many years, there were very, very few south asians in this country, and they change the laws. I believe in the seventies. And so the number of south asian started growing up in up enough. And now everybody's got neighbor friend who's from somewhere in south asia or married to one of my case. And so I started going to different kinds of community events. This is ah ah harvest festival called laboratory, where they dams in a large communal tent, actually in new jersey. And I photographed this guy basically all night. And you're getting it all right because he was wearing the dress that referenced him here, where everybody else is dressed, referencing him there, and the mechanics of the photo essay is this exact problem? How do you tell the story with visuals? With minimal explanation and so what that means is of all the people in the room I could photograph all the women but you don't know that they're here he's the one guy who by his dress says the duality between here and there similarly I'm always going out things like in this case pay phones a kid learning to play the tabla at kind of a sunday school for south asians loved his shirt I mean all this stuff trying to go it it's about being between two cultures these kids and their parents are living between two cultures that's what I'm trying to highlight another dance festival you can photograph all the schools getting ready anywhere in this room but these girls were kind enough to get right in front of the american flag it's uh I'm aware that it's sort of almost simplistic magazine style of photography where you show the the other culture and the the flag but that's what they work for this particular um project my light and shadow pictures always have to have a least one of those this was using a uh boom box for dedicating a hindu temple in new jersey. This was a college student of a fashion show for college students uh south asian college students are wreckers university back state and I'm going to stop on this next one because this one was another one of those really important lessons for me another thing that goes into your category of starting to researcher would've called artist residencies, and this was an artist residency I had at a place called vermont studio center outside of burlington, vermont, and some of the more competitive artist residencies, which you might have heard of me, otto being probably one of the most famous ones, they are very competitive. There is actually a skill achievement m f track record requirements for the higher end ones, but some of the smaller, simple, more regional ones don't have such a component in terms of the competition. And you want to be looking at artist residencies is, well, it's another thing that goes on your list and the reason want look at artist residencies, it's another one of those signals to potential funders to partner organizations that you could get through something without doing something stupid. And I know I'm joking, but it's really a big issue that all these things are opportunities for potential outlets to sort of wino down those people who can't do it and find those people who can't. So I had this artist residency in burlington, vermont, and basically what I proposed was to photograph the community which that time was very small of south asians in burlington, and the next sort of lesson for me was this thing we were discussing before about credential I can literally walk into the only indian restaurant in burlington, vermont, right here say, hi, my name is david wells, but, oh yeah, my wife is from india or where she's from and in five minutes, I've moved from some crazy guy to somebody who they literally say sure you can take pictures in our restaurant, we nap into booze in between lunch and dinner, which is literally what they do. These guys were seek their hair was uncut since childhood, and the guy says, sure, come visit me tomorrow morning once we get dressed up putting his hair and his turban dropped it in just a moment when the flash went off. So little bit of luck, a little bit of talent, sure, come around, we don't have a formal hindu temple in our community because we're so small, so we set up hindu temples in different people's houses on different days of the week, and so I've got the credential cause I'm in, I'm interested in it anyway, and so I'm putting together this body of work, and at this point time we're in the early phase of what it is I'm trying to say how my good get it out there, and I've pretty much settled on this kind of visual language of the old and the new. Here versus there and so that's this process that we talk about, how do you figure out what is you going to say? And then eventually I've said a lot this so I'm only going to situations where I can photograph the old and the new there's a lot of things I'm not photographing this's, another temple in new jersey, another temple actually in pennsylvania, and this was that another one of these dance festivals, and this ended up becoming the poster and the exhibition catalog for two different exhibitions. And so in this question of the journey and the mechanics of the photo essay, so it started with this idea my wife's from south asia, she has this immigrant experience which actually is echoing my grandparent's immigrant exam. My mother was first generation, but her parents went through largely the same thing. Though beginning of the twentieth century I have this decision color black and white color black wine which one? I mean, I know you chose color, but the question is why it's a very colorful I think so and I also thought that I was trying to place them to be here and now, which I think color does better. I know it sounded sarcastic but it's not sarcastic at all it's a decision to make had it done in black and white would into being quite different so then I've done that I developed a sort of visual language of always playing off the old and new, and then in terms of we've always been talking about I'm doing some experiments with slow shutter speeds, and the irony of this project is that I went through everything that I've talked about before applying for grants, trying to find on profit organizations, all of this stuff, and I was too early, you could be early in a project, you can be late on a project, and I was actually too early on her project, and by that I mean, if you think about when I did this, which should be two thousand to about two thousand three, the population of asian immigrants in this country was certainly growing, but it wasn't as large as it was now, and also immigration wasn't the kind of discussion topic that we're having now, so we're getting along till about two thousand three, two thousand for and I'm just about given up completely because I've done this work. I've had very good luck because it's done very well a stock photography and magazines and stuff, but I never got an exhibition or anything, and then my wife was actually in a museum in philadelphia in an exhibition called the balls institute of ethnic studies. Okay, the name of the museum along ethnic studies you can tell already its subject matter based it's not photography based but they had exhibited some of her work for an exhibition that they were having on south asian immigrants to the u s as an artist talking about her own experience and so she was in that show and then she connected me to the curator the curator said to me we're doing the next show is going to be a documentary show do you have any photographs of south asians in philadelphia because the museums in philadelphia said no, but if you pay me, I'll go and make them so they paid me to go out and make them so the first show was actually at the ball tins to ethnic studies right inside in philadelphia couple years later somebody saw the catalog which had this exact covered the symbol on the cover at something called the brush gallery in lowell, massachusetts, and they came back to me the exact same question we're doing the same so like they did in philadelphia on the experience of south asian immigrants in the boston area do you have any pictures? No, but if you pay me I'm being a little sarcastic but not very much again its unique set of skills, unique access the work already exists, I can show them that I'm successful and visualizing it and of course I've got a pitch I've got a project proposal, all that stuff so it's relatively easy hurdle to get passed, okay, so that's another example and both of these organizations that are more interested in the topic then in photography and that's a really, really important part of something, and I'm handling it a lot, but keep that in mind. So that was the south asians project, more or less at the same time as I was going to philadelphia and then in massachusetts doing the work on the immigrants in the u s from india, I was also going back and forth, um on the full rights and then on the alicia patterson, creating the exhibition that I'm about to show you. So these air different pictures highlighting the impact of globalization in south asia, primarily india people ask me if I said that pictures I'm not smart enough to put a good nation uh, right uh, western food, local food in srilanka this is actually a guy who recycles electronic parts. This is in carola and southern india, and I was actually on a houseboat. I hear these ladies rolling up and you'll see very quickly the language that I'm using is this duality of the old and the new, and that becomes a huge part of decision making process that we're talking about, but now in the three days worth a little past the halfway point so now you should be starting to think all right, I have to make some decisions in your case you don't have to commit yet because you have some work to do after the class but in in the evolution of a project you do at some point time have to say okay I'm stopping it's about this older new older new and that's that's what you have to commit to and then the other questions of color versus black and white um to me I think the colors are pretty obvious cell in terms of doing stuff in india and one of the pieces that I did along the way. And if you remember when I showed you the uh police have patterson foundation fellowship earlier that I applied for the one that had four stories that you had to do you got paid per story that so they manage the money was one of the projects was on photographing the sub stories was photographing the indian middle class and depending on whose numbers you use their between four and five hundred million middle class indians which is hiding population in this country. So this is a middle class guy interacting with poor guy in a market in india as you work your way up the middle class in india first you get out of the buses and you go on scooters on toning private cars which is good and bad terms of pollution in space the other thing you do that as you move up the indian middle class is you get your kids out of the overcrowded private schools and you put them in public schools. So this is a little boy in a school uniform for a private school that he attends in india this's another indian family pushing education onto their kid this guy's the electrician's for a mother in law remember I said everybody knows what I'm doing I'm always I'm relentless you have to be relentless okay, please at what point do you share your project when it's great question that's sort of the short answers when there's something of value to be given by sharing it and by that I mean injures is a perfect example I might hold back for a while until you've really gotten this thing established, you've either found partner organizations that you're starting to get with partner organizations and you're realizing that this I think I think you're going to come to a point so when you say he really is not just about my experience it's a larger thing okay, now I've got to start finding other people that's the sharepoint before that's not going to do in uni good plus in theory you merriment tip your hand though I'm not that is not an issue I worry about because I had a unique access skill set experienced etcetera but you do want to share when you're to the point where there's something you can get a value and by the way give back of value too a tte the same at the same time you have to know when to share how many are you just out there doing all of these photos first then compiling them and then share him at at some point? Well, it could just be clear what we're talking about sharing cause there's different kinds of sharing here julian they're talking about the ideas I think you're going to say that okay? I'm gonna let other people in my network no, I'm doing this project and not always about me but I'm looking for other people that's one kind of share in terms of subject matter sharing in terms of the shooting sharing that's more about when you're ready to put it to the promotional thing we've been talking about sending it out there to get exhibited to stuff like that they may or may not correlate okay if anything is to go back to julius in theory when she started picking up she may start sending it out then she's going to reach a point where there's enough interest he needs to find more people you're going to run into probably the same thing at some point time once you figure out the sort of language the structure, the pairings, the numbers, that's. What really important thing. You didn't have it. We need in the next iteration, your proposal, the numbers, and then you start sending it out there. At some point in time, either you, your network or people may come to you and seo. Do you realize the exact same thing is happening on the eastern side of washington, oregon, or wherever else? And then it starts becoming this bigger thing.

Class Description

The most powerful way to establish your voice and distinguish yourself as a photographer is to conceptualize and shoot a photo essay. Photo essays are compelling, dynamic, vivid mission statements of your work — every photographer should have a working knowledge of this narrative art form. Join David Wells to learn how to create a captivating photo essay from start to finish.

This course shatters the myth that photo essays are only for photojournalists; you’ll learn how all photographers can use photo essays to tell the story of any subject, in any style. You’ll learn how to present your unique point of view and communicate a coherent aesthetic through a compelling photographic essay. You’ll build strategies for tackling the complex task of assembling, editing and presenting a large photo project that speaks to its viewers. You’ll also learn about the techniques that are essential for keeping yourself inspired and organized while maintaining an effective workflow.

By the end of this course, you’ll have the skills it takes to stand out in a crowded marketplace and create a compelling project that showcases your skills, communicates your style, and helps others understand your personality, passion, and talents.

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

Student Work

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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.