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Seeding the Project

Lesson 7 from: Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

David H Wells

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Lesson Info

7. Seeding the Project

Next Lesson: Mirrors and Windows

Lesson Info

Seeding the Project

I've had two fulbright fellowship so I think I mentioned that brief I'll talk more about the fulbright fellowships when we go forward they were on your tax dollars squandered your tax dollars I'm being sarcastic but I taught photojournalism to indian graduate students first in india that I later talking bug additions for lanka and one of the great things about the culture there is because teachers air so revered isn't a when I walk in the classroom they don't jump up and say good afternoon or good morning dr wells so I'm expecting you from now on to jump up and the other thing which was really really nice it's a part of the culture there is that they asked did you have your breakfast? Did you have your lunch because I should never go around hungry in india bangladesh so everybody's well fed if nobody's going to fall asleep all right lorenzo we were talking earlier the break about what you're writing down and I thought it was such a great thing I want to ask you to share it again both f...

or everybody else and for the online ah a lot of times because sometimes thing kind of flow so fast is that I can sit here and take notes called it so to speak if I take notes on that label tio quite pay attention but then at the same time I still have questions so instead of me taken note I write down my questions so that, you know, I can ask you the questions then or maybe in a couple of minutes or even, you know, doing break or something like that because I mean, I have you right here was what better time to ask a question when you're standing right in front of me as opposed to, you know, you're giving me your home phone and I call you up that goes into what we ended with last time, which is that idea of keeping something handy, writing and notes down writing your questions down, and maybe just so we can keep this going smoothly, keeping some of the questions for later another day, depending when we get to but it's a really great point, I mean, you can go back and get this information later, but the question you have how do you make it specific to your project is something that we're going to do actually, in a little while because be prepared one of the ways that we keep you awake after lunch is I'm gonna put you on the spot in about ten or fifteen minutes, maybe a little less, okay, so here we go, so in this section, we're gonna be talking about what I call seeding, as in growing as in starting, as in thinking about what's gonna be your actual photo essay all right, and so I said this before, but I want to turn this around a slightly different way. Your best project should blur blur the line between the commercial and the personal, okay? And I'm gonna keep picking on you because I guess it was actually during the break, and so the people on the internet didn't hear, but I actually asked lorenzo question, and he said something which was really honest, he said, but why you do the kind of photography do you do? I'm conceited, you conceded, and I thought that was incredibly honest and so that's a great thing to be both honest about, and it comes to this idea that different personal professional conceded, as in being an athlete in your previous life, so that that's an important thing. Um, one of the things I think you're, I hope you're all taken away from the projects aren't aren't easy for years and years, that camera manufacturers and this will probably get me in trouble with them. Is they also cameras? Oh, we'll make it easy, actually, they should just really be exactly right. They should be honest and say, no, we'll make it a little less hard that he used to be. But you still have the hard work to do and in the case of this class and going forward I'm really going to put me on the spot a little wild terms the hard work so projects are really hard work they're not easy um what I love about projects and you saw that in some of my best personal projects um they feed my soul the israeli palestinian thing, the foreclosure thing I'm gonna show you this afternoon though they're sort of emotionally challenging to do an intellectually provocative they're also really good for me they make me feel like I'm doing something of value and of course they'll be differentiate myself so that's going to be something I'm gonna come back to you on a little while and ask you about that um one of the things to do and we were talking a little bit about this over lunch and people on the internet don't you quite getting all the conversation but the idea of utilizing your other job your life experience where you've been for who you've known and so all of you right now have multiple jobs we all have multiple job really so what is the other job you have what's your personal, familial, cultural, military? You also said you sing over lunch, right? So you have that expense? What are those things that you have their unique to your life experience um and what is your backstory? Okay? And one of the things we'll talk about a little bit later and you want to make it known about this? You want to start thinking about writing down and teasing out and putting on your website eventually what is your backstory? How did you actually get from there to here? What of the unique things that you have and if you go on the web and you look at a lot of other people sites you'll see their back story some of them are pretty straightforward they used to do this ansel adams well heard am in his previous life he was a musician there's much discussion about the connection between photographers and musicians um I have a friend who actually most of her work now is fine art photography using infrared but her background was actually for years she was an x ray technician so she spent her professional life not looking at the world in a representational manner. So kathleen's backstories air really easy when you read it you say oh that's why she doesn't so what is your back story is a question you should be thinking about. All right the big question is the question I asked on my side right every what gets you up at four o'clock in the morning what do you care about most? What do you have the most passionate and it's not literally because maybe you're not a morning person, but what do you what do you care about enough that you'll do to some degree whether or not you get paid that's the question because the best projects are really for yourself first in the market second remember I talked about this idea of matching them them up, but if you do something you care about a lot and then you go through that process and you put them together the end user looks and says, wow, that person really cares about it they have unique skills all the stuff we've been talking about all right, so what do you care about and right now it's a rhetorical question but not for very long. All right, so I'm actually going to ask you this exact question what unique skills access to subject life experiences, connections do you have? And the question and I think we'll start with gwen because I feel like I've been picking on you. Um tell me about your project tell me each one of the ideas tell me a little bit about your project, your goals and here's the one that I'm especially interested. What are the project related challenges that you've had to date? Okay, if they've been technical, they've been marking related so just a man or two this is a project I'm trying to do in telling me about it you should I know you know this but you should tell me what the project is but also the point of you remember we talked a lot about the point of view and then you might elaborate on what do you have that's unique to it and then my question what do your challenges today because I'm hoping by wednesday when we finish we can get you either past the challenges or at least understanding what you have to do to get past it okay the project that I started just over a year ago uh I've been wanting to do for it about ten years and it's I call it my corner of the sky project my corner of the sky yes that's from a song than like and basically it's where you where you belong and it's a photographing dancers in the environment but they bill I'm not looking to do it on a stage I'm looking to do where do they belong and so am I interview I do a portrait study of each dancer that I find and find out about them and I photographed him in the studio and I have a list of questions and then I decide where they belong and then I photograph in the environment someplace doing what type of dance that they d'oh and that's that's my project and what sort of the challenges have not have hindered its a date uh scheduled ng you know, getting um scheduled permissions of locations, I guess the from what we can do here, what I'm trying to figure out is how to take that and put it together with the show I want, you know, howto how to get it out to the world, how to how teo show it. I'm ahead a few pieces so far hang, but and shows, but not the whole story, the whole story. I want to show you one of the things to go back to the list of notes up here, and I kind of saw your head shaking at the same time is the already thought here's, although the backstory, she was a dancer herself. That's the thing okay, now we're getting to the point when you start describing this to other people, you can actually say, this is something I know goes back to your background as an athlete. So those are things that right off the top, I'm at a severe disadvantage. We'll just leave that. That the downside of the projects you described is how much of the work of other dance photographers have you looked at, you know, the work of those green field, I don't recall. I mean, I've looked at the number, I can give you specific names, but the reason I say that and I'm gonna pick on everybody. Don't don't take it personally, is that that thing about what's already out there what's the work that other people have done? What's the language they've used successfully, unsuccessfully that's a huge component in terms of this decision making process that I'm about to walk you through? Um, and then one of the questions will go into mohr I think tomorrow is the black and white versus color question, which I'm not expecting an answer from now, but it's a huge one in terms of style izing the work. Okay, um, I actually just started I took a photo journalism class and our final project with a photo essay, and, um, I'd basically my dad went in a nursing home the last year, and so for twelve weeks every week that I went up to visit him, I took pictures, and so that was just kind of a good, bad, everyday moments what I was there, so that was my project, um, and I want explore it more, I want to do more on it. Uh, I didn't realize how much of the nerve it would hit with other people because so many people have families that have alzheimer's or dementia so cool challenge, so have there been what challenges, if you had to date? Well accessibility is a little tough I can't photograph anyone else in the surroundings lighting kind of technical stuff um and then figuring out what to do with it next again kind of the same question have you looked and other people's work on the subject there's one photographer that actually I looked at um I think it's philip solando he did a days with my father like a photo essay type thing and it was beautiful beautiful um might also look at the work of ed kashi ko such a k s h I he did a huge project well to your project on aging in america and I mentioned that because my job here besides to be teachers I sort of do the stand in for the person who you're going to try to get to anoint you to give you the exhibition all the other stuff and those people generally they make their living understanding larger market so soon as you mentioned something about aging most people I work with it and so yeah so how is she gonna be different than it cost ok where I was going to be different than say for example just wanted the lowest queen field but there are many other people doing it so you want to be looking at that um at some point time later in the week I'd like you know you have princess so well actually look at the work and talk about it and to me, there's two things when you look at a photo says one, what can you do with what you have but my bigger things you said your father is still alive still life he's obviously progressing, but we go every week visit him, my mother and my brother are there, so what I do is I kind of step back and take those pictures I'm not really in them because I didn't really want to be in the photos. I just want to kind of capture their interaction, so the I'm asking because a that gives us the option of talking about what you might do going forward and b you said something it was really important, which is a lot of people connect to this. Yes, a lot of we're all either of that in that position or aging towards being on the other end of this I mean, not good, but it's good to hear. Okay, um actually, I never thought of it is being a project. But three years ago I started taking pictures of the south park bridge whose self south park bridget's down by the duwamish river south of us. They had to shut it down to that due to the dl applewhite dilapidation of it, it was seventy eight years old, gone through three earthquakes and everything else so I just started it shut down right after right before I moved up here so I started taking photos of it because it was right there around my dad's place and then I got into photojournalism so I went ahead and did my final project on yesterday they opened it so I was able to go yesterday and spend all day and do the opening of it even though they're not finished with it they opened it to the traffic and everything now but they still have to get the final park that goes underneath it finished um and because the old bridges on the national registry they had to put all of the gear's all of the stuff like that in the railing they did in the park they've got the old lighting uh cut out segments of the bridge and did that um they won't be done with it totally for another year okay, that gives you not that last part wasn't where I was going which gives us an opportunity to discuss what if you got what do you what's just happened and where do you go forward? Ok, right. Um the one big question about something like that is that, um just for example where julie was talked about this thing with her father which almost by definition interest all of us my initial thought as I'd be concerned about the idea that being primarily sort of a regional only story in terms of interest around here having said that to go back to this idea of kind of twisting and infrastructure right not a regional only story and that's sort of a way of saying it's not really just about here it's about this whole national discussion how we're not paying for these things so that's kind of that idea of what you want to do and what's here and if you twist them a little bit you could make it into something that reaches a larger audience well last year they had another bridge collapse up on I five and so then they started doing the county started doing research on all these other bridges so there is definitely something there that if I can get to some of the other bridges and everything and start taking pictures of what they look like now and then when the state county government whatever it's the funding it might be working on okay, good, good all right? And again you've done that last part is a way to move it into sort of this larger exactly a project that I was working on last quarter was about sport of crossfit uh myself personally, I have not been a real big crossfit fan, but I've I've seen that it's something that's kind of pretty much taken over you know, a lot of training a lot of people love doing crossfit as far as you know, they pushing themselves to the extreme and the in the realm of fitness but at the same time coming from an olympic lifting or powerlifting background you don't do multiple reps of anything until exhaustion but you know crossfit, they do that and they take it to a whole nother level so um with that particular, you know what I'm documented as far as like, you know, how on athlete kind of prepares himself for what exercises they're doing, how strange it was that it is that doing so it was pretty much taking a whole entire community in a sense and just kind of opening people's eyes to it who have maybe have a heard of before yeah, the one thing that worries me about that this is sort of a balancing act between the this is sort of a sport or something which which there's a commercial component too, so we don't want the photographs to look too much like an add on on the other side, my question for you is ok, I hear what you're saying but what's your kind of point of view, right? And I don't expect it like literally an answer now, but that becomes an important question you're gonna be showing it somebody they're going to say let's cross cross it okay, so what? But I know you want them to say no there's what's the next you said I was the next was the next thing after that I don't know what's what's above and beyond simply this is this sport what is it about the sport? You know what? Your point of view on again the only dance for me now but that's going to be a question that somebody's gonna look and I'm going to say ok, these are athletes I see a lot of pictures of athletes but lorenzo did one more thing by I don't know humanizing it are objectifying you are making me look at it in a new way or something that makes it different um, you know, gwen's got an advantage in the sense that dance is something that's been photographed before, so we have kind of an idea about it wherein stuff of athletes there's sort of this sort of what you doing beyond essential? What doing beyond sort of sports illustrated portrayal of what it is to that next level? Okay? And and I asked the question is more rhetorically than like, you have to answer me right now, okay, but by the by wednesday, I actually think you might want to start processing towards an answer. We're going all right, so the whole point behind all of that wass now I have a little better sense of what you're trying to do some of your homework as we talked about before we met was to actually make some prince later in the week. At some point in time, we'll sit down and actually look at those and try to kind of do that massaging gesture that I was talking about so much.

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David Wells - Keynote Day 1.pdf
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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