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Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

Lesson 22 of 35

Mechanics of Developing Your Project Part 2

David H Wells

Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

David H Wells

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Lesson Info

22. Mechanics of Developing Your Project Part 2

Lesson Info

Mechanics of Developing Your Project Part 2

This is still on the indian middle class story kids in school uniforms also at another private school. The next story I did for the alicia patterson was on the changing roles of women the big winners in globalization this is not unique to india are the middle class and women middle class because the economy has improved and women because they're typically exposed to alternative uh role models and opportunities outside the more you know, confined cultural norms uh, this is a single sex staff at a bakery just one way around the sexual harassment problem a woman in a construction site, a female entrepreneur running an office with a bunch of young men who were at our command this's my wifes and and she really is a businesswoman. She runs his water filter delivery system one of the first eight uh female boxers in southern india and so I'm approaching some of these is small journalistic stories, but they're becoming part of this larger body of work, which was initially funded by the alicia p...

atterson in a little while is gonna morph into something else single sex staff in a police station on all women's police station staff and then the last piece I did for them was how globalization moves back and forth this's the last nike employees who was the last supervisor of nike india who was a westerner and his successor was an indian interracial couples and a lot of these are very sort of journalistic photos, but they're becoming part of this larger body of work that I'm creating australian fashion photographer mary's and union fashion model is my daughter when she was eight with her indian cousins, she'll tell you with a straight face because she's been there so much that she's half indian, very bizarre media imagery a woman who actually came to india to study yoga. The idea that globalization is not just this one way street bollywood, indian food technology, etcetera, it's, much more of a two way street that I think people give credit for, and the last one was on the losers in globalization this's one of our fire cultural exports, they actually have fridays restaurants in india, right? Precisely there's no good food there. So why would you write that wearing, obviously western shirt contrasting with the indian dress? The guys on the right used to paint these signs by hand, and they're probably now completely unemployed because they've, of course, all been replaced by digitally painted signs on the left. This is not a composite. This is that process of having this idea and seeing there's a sign, painters or something else and photographing over and over till they get it right. There is in india, like much of the developing world a skin color hierarchy this's not my value judgment, but there's a perception that lighter model in the medium between the back is somehow better than the darker in the foreground is not my particular perception, but trying to highlight that trying to highlight the did you call the digital divide? People have access to, um, internet cafes in the train station versus a guy sleeping on the floor in the same train station. And then, uh, one of the worst parts of the impact of civilisation is the demand for bigger houses, consumer goods, etcetera among the middle class and the upper middle class. And so that was partly funded by the fulbright's and then a lot by the alicia patterson foundation grant, and it started with my introduction, obviously threw my wife, and it grew based on my interest. And then what became my developing expertise in south asia initially worked very beginning the project. I worked on assignments for different magazines. I actually did a lot of rep atash, some of which you've seen. I actually did some foods assignments, not a great food now, same thing there are people who are much better at it, so I did a fair amount of travel photography, which I think I am pretty good at, and people pay me I do and I do a lot for a magazine called saudi aramco world because the editor is a great guy and he's a former photographer so we I kind of understand each other and he values my subject matter expertise um I did have those grants from the alicia patterson foundation as they mentioned first one first fulbright was because I was at the time I got in the university teacher and the second one was because I had this expertise in south asia and because I pulled off the first one successfully without doing anything dumb so and these are some of the outlets for the work over the years magazines these aren't things to write down per se but their things just to be thinking about, um it was used in publications, books, websites and was re sold a lot through the sock photo agencies that I work with and that's not the moment doesn't seem to be part of your business plan, but I'm just telling you that's how you get out there and that ends up helping to pay for it um gary's and museums focused mostly on the topic this is really important virtually ninety five percent of my shows arm or about the topic globalization, south asia, india things like that when they are on my artistic merit and my wife ironically can have a show to simmer venue and it is in fact because her artistic interpretation her experiences an immigrant having gone through some of the exact same issues but to a very different perspective um and that increasingly I'm producing a lot of multimedia pieces since for better for worse the future of all photography and I welcome medications and I know it's not my prediction somebody smarter than I says it's all on the internet so what I did was and you see now in the last forty five minutes or so my more political documentary narrative stuff from india and then you also stuffed saw the stuff that was in the the stone voices portfolio about sort of light in the atmosphere and so my fears ago I took those two and I put them together and I made an exhibition and the images are actually a little bigger than that their trip takes like that india for me is this very bizarre thing where it's half that intellectual experience of oh that's a satellite dish on a stick on a staircase okay that's an intellectual thing and the middle it's more of an aesthetic emotional smell moment light play so it's intellectual anaesthetic and so I put those two together on purpose mixing up those two in these images that are a little bigger than this and the title of the show is called concurrences the globalization globalization is the impact in india concurrences meaning things that come together and this shows is travel quite a bit gone to both academic institutions interest in the subject matter as well as to, um institutions that interested in photography is hard and to me frankly ones not better than the other as long as I'm getting the work out there creating a dialogue, creating a discussion and so in everyone you'll see something that's more informational something that's a little more atmospheric for that tug of war between the two, which is exactly how I've experienced india it's not just intellectual it's not just aesthetic it's both and this is another one of those things it's completely a byproduct of prints on the table because remember we've seen these two pictures at different points in time this is from the more documentary side that's the more atmospheric stuff and I don't know about you but I'm not good enough with light room to put those two together I got to make prince I put him on the table, I looked at him but it put two together free together I put him aside another stack and then I'll get a stack of like thirty or forty pairings and then I'll come back to the next day and I'll do that three or four times and then I'll start showing people at a certain point in time it coalesces into this and so that became an exhibition that's traveled around quite a bit it was at a place called the the chase and gallery actually in providence, rhode island, it was also in the frontier gallery and brunswick, maine, and it was in gallery santoni in missoula, montana, and salve regina university in newport, rhode island, and all these places in claremont college, which happens to be a hero into college. So there's a little bit of a hook there, but all these places saw that work as something that would be a valuable for their audiences, some student audiences, some more fine art audiences, and they went to the trouble of shipping the work out there, some cases framing it, putting it up, promoting it and having these shows and so that's. Another one of those things for me because remember, I took two disparate bodies of work, the political work, and he said it work and I merged them together into those dip ticks and trip takes, and I'm not saying you're gonna do that yet, but don't be surprised. As I said, each project kind of has a longer life. All right? Three questions about that project, please it's kind of an over you, but when you look at actually the whole process of getting this photo essay from start to finish, what would you say the percentage would be of all this prep work versus actual shooting time? It's a great question I can't give you a hard number but I will tell you the more prep work you do the more you understand what you're trying to say who could help you the facts find it in your in your case the numbers binding the scope of the issue and then the other question of how other people already visualized this more of that you do the more efficient that small amount of time shooting is the short answer is I would do something that might be as high as eighty twenty but if you use that eighty percent efficiently that twenty khun b very productive and I'm pretty good at that I mean, you see this whole thing I go through, I do the small experiment a lot of tests but once I figure out what that twenty years I'm pretty effective and so to me that eighty is worth it and your question is very well put in the answer is it'll take you a while but once you start to understand the value of the eighty the eighties actually valuable because it makes the twenty that much better you're not spinning your wheels as much no it's it's exactly okay um I understand that you enjoy learning the culture and everything over in india your wife gave you that even maurin everything tto learn and everything where did you actually start doing the photography over there did you just go out on the streets and just start shooting? Or was it were you more intent on getting like people inside or, you know, stuff like that? Sure, it's a really great question, a little bit specific to india, but I'll try to walk in through that means the first time I went there is ninety five, we've been involved about a year, and it was partly that go meet the family trip, and it was little the first time they've been in india, I had worked a lot in the middle east and in mexico and central america, so I was relatively comfortable in the third world, but not never been there before and the first trip or so I was just going in, it really was just doing street photography, everything, the markets and all of that. Obviously, I liked it, we stay together, we ended up getting married, so in southern going trips, I'm a trying to do more defined work. He is a stock photographer, which is a little bit outside of our realm, but as a stock photographer, I know what the photo agencies want and see, I'm starting to tell clients who have worked with before I'm going there, would you pay me to do this job, and so then it becomes a cycle of a job a personal project of job of personal project and then I start discovering I'm developing this expertise and people will give me grants to continue to go there so they kind of feed on each other but it literally the first ninety five ninety six it was literally c'mon show me bangle or what what is it about this place and then we go and we do a lot of it is you saw it's just street photography that's sort of what the corps what I do best is just kind of walk around and have adventures okay all right, so for the online audience just reminder and jimmy put in big letters were getting near where two thirds of the way through here so they better get on the ball in terms of questions do they have any right now? Weii we did have a question so so it says as david already gotten the funding from a foundation for his flock for closure project if so how does it affect the budget when he meets people through the world the word of mouth that can help him? Well, ironically, I have not actually got a grant to do the foreclosure work I have done almost all of the things that I've been describing to you including the artist residencies and all these other things around it and I'm still unclear um a long answer but bear with me remember I said about the asian indians that I was too early there's a touring in too late and I am never quite figured out the foreclosure thing but I'll discover in the next couple years if I was to order or too late never got any convention grant a lot of success with the literary journals other kind of publication online all of the people who paid for it so it's more than been something I've been able to make money off of and I think I mentioned I was actually in seattle in december doing a presentation in ari I and I mentioned to my ari I audience I was looking for houses someone in the ar e I I just literally put his hand up we spoke afterwards in the next day I was in a house actually in seattle last year photographing here and that same trip I actually came here to meet to start the process of doing this I mentioned all of that because it's all about what I call ancillary benefits I'm pretty good at saying okay, I'm going to be out in seattle what are all the things that I could do? It goes really to all of your everybody's project here because at the moment your work in florida the long term goals to work somewhere else I can point out all of you eventually this is going to be beyond your own family infrastructure is it's an enormous issue so eventually you're going to start thinking our time going some world maybe I'll start looking at some other place trying to find people on social media all of that stuff will happen, so I'm pretty good at what I call ancillary benefits doing multiple things on one trip though actually have not yet ironically got in a formal grant on the foreclosures thing fantastic and speaking of which claire, one of our regulars would like to know how many projects are you usually working on that one time the foreclosure thing is this big thing and I think I talked about how it feels like it may be ebbing because of the perception of the economy out there tomorrow I'm going to show you my most current project was just kind of in this phase, so I've got a really live one I've got one that's going that I've got a couple of other that air just in this the eighty percent I have done almost no shooting the one project which I am going to keep because it's it's such if the seed phase right now but one of things I won't want to work on the next years looking and see who else has done what else? So I know where I'm going to position myself, so when that one, I'm actually not comfortable yet but there's sort of a big one there's a next one and then there's a number that are in the pipeline knowing full well by the way that most of those in the pipeline will not succeed my rule and maybe this is a question that goes back to when do you stop a project? My rule is that if I don't get on exhibition um a finalist is a grant or re alike brandt a course or something like a publication or something within two years of when I feel like a project he's got life not when it started but when it's going I'll give it about a two year cycle if I don't get anything I start to think this thing might be over and the project I want to show you tomorrow which is another project in india actually just a day before I came here got an exhibition and I'll talk a little more about the bar but I'm really excited but I'm about a year and a half and do it and I was thinking, you know, another six months I got to kill this thing which will be a heartbreak but then I just found out before I came here that is going to be exhibited to brown university action rhode island so it gave it life again like that so I can't give you ah hard and fast answer but I usually have a big one, some small ones and a lot of ideas baking awesome. So how are you feeling? We have a few more questions, but they're kind of general questions. You want to keep rolling with content like one or two more questions. I have one more exercise that I have to put these fine ladies through. Okay, great. You a couple questions? I just love this question from future photos. What are grant providers looking for you to define your project as successful? Oh, how do you define it as successful when whatever it is you're trying to create starts to create some kind of dialogue, discussion, whatever it is their mission they're trying to do, and I'm going to go back to the macarthur because I got a very nice letter from them. About four years after I did it was that in a reminder, I did the work ninety, ninety one, ninety two, ninety three. The oslo peace, of course, came along ninety four, ninety five, ninety six. There was this moment where it looks like things may change for the better, which, sadly, they have not. But at the end of that process they said to me, you know, I think your work became part of this larger discussion that we're having is a country in a culture and that's all you can ask for, and so I think, a foundation they're not necessarily gonna pick on you because yours has a fairly narrow focus. They're not started looking for you to get on oprah, though they'd be thrilled if you did. But if you create a small dialogue within the community of people who were affected by this issue, I think most funders were going to be very happy because that's what they want to do, they want they want people to be talking about it, ideally improving their lives in the case, the project you're talking about. And so if you can get any kind of fun, I think is going to feel like they're getting their money's worth when it does what they're larger mission does, and the thing that's so important for us is photographers were a huge advantage over those word people. People like photos, they actually want to look, they don't want to read again, please, I want to see photos and that's to our advantage that's the thing that you complain it into strength, and I think most funders would basically say we considered a value when you get to that point.

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.



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.