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Student Proposals

Lesson 15 from: Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

David H Wells

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Lesson Info

15. Student Proposals

Lesson Info

Student Proposals

I have here your proposals and, um, I think what might be best would be briefly if each one of you just said kind of, but the title and, like a one minute synopsis of what you've written here is reading it out. I don't think it's actually gonna be the best thing, okay, part of it is also and we're gonna do an exercise later on how you pitch your proposals so eventually the other thing is you need to learn how to just describe it succinctly. Julie only cause yours ended up on top of the stack. I'm gonna pick on your first. You were so sure that you're okay. So you want the proposal? You just just just okay. Right now I have the titles visits with harry. Um, obviously we'll work on that, um, it's an intimate weekly portrayal of a family's visits to a nursing home to visit harry who's, a husband, father and grandfather who suffers from the advanced stages of parkinson's and dementia. Uh, it happens to be that the subject matter is my family. So that's my actually just quick version that's...

a quick first, the only other thing and this will become more part of this later pitch pretty early on, you want to do a couple things like it's, a narrative documentary for fairly obvious reasons because it's not likely somebody's not likely to think this is going to opposed to control but you want to get them away from that and at some point in time we haven't settled this you need to talk about black and white or color yes okay I have an advantage here because I have your proposal in front of me but there were a few things that jumped out at me right away one is you did what's called burying your lead which is about three quarters the way down you talked about the national park it's and foundation estimates one million americans have that's like the fourth paragraph okay that's it that's the number one probably should be number one ok here that's why care? Because how do you say this tactfully is going to rob? It might happen me thats why we care it's certainly happening to many, many families so you need to move that up most of your marriage needs, by the way it's a very classy thing in journalism where you take the best part you're supposed to put at the top and you put it the bottom ah suggested title every family's journey I'm not saying that's brilliant, but you're closer to universalize ing the whole thing about all of these projects almost any project as you want somebody to on the one hand personalize it and the other hand universalized okay and so nothing against harry but no, I'm glad you said because I didn't like the title anyway I talked in earlier about this idea of thinking about where you want to go with this in the long term and you did actually do a pretty good job in the proposal talking about this in the short term and then in the long term one of the things in your long term paragraph you have to explicitly say is that you now have a credential with other families going through this experience you actually have those words somebody's going look at this and say okay, maybe and then she wants to talk to other people know when she's going toe she has a credential she's been through this fortunately or unfortunately and so you have a credential subject matter expertise that other people don't have um and then the other thing that I think I would be more explicit about was since this is essentially about a journey that a lot of families they're going to go on, I would say out loud that journey goes up on the journey goes down and it's about love and it's about anger I mean, I would actually we would be more comfortable using those words would you put those at the beginning as faras like with the pitch and in the very beginning with the proposal or I would have them in the proposal, I'm not one hundred percent sure I'd go with him right away when you're starting point is the universality. May I have a note here? The whole object of this is to make the personal, which is yours universal, so I would probably work harder on making universal first, but you do want to say, like one of the pictures about what they're about love, they're about anger, and they're about sadness there about loss, and you could actually say those words and we are going to say, yeah, that's either that's what I'm going through if I had this challenge or maybe going through it in the future, okay, okay, but everybody had a really nice start. It was very happy to see that. So, cindy, you're up next, um, I kind of struggled with a title and everything I was going to do bridges of western washington, the bridge is in west western washington are in such bad condition that they really they are going to start affecting the people of communities that they're in andi if they don't get the help from the federal government state, county city community, period, they're gonna lose those bridges, and then they're going to either lose the town and have to move and go to other areas um, they the south part bridge was very dear to my dad and everything he lived there for almost twelve years before he passed away so he traveled on it every day back and forth so when they shut it down it it hurt because he had to go a different route add miles, add everything else time um so headed not you know these bridges and everything if they don't get the help, they're going to start losing a lot and who knows that somebody could be driving across some of them and they collapse again or something like that they get killed, they get they lose family members that that last part is really the key thing I haven't quite got it clear in my head yet, but you need to reverse that order it's not the bridges is the potential for devastation and the somebody possibly driving a car off the broken bridge is horrific but it is not statistically what statistically relevant once you close these bridges thes whole communities are impact of thousands of people are impacted and so somehow and I'm not one hundred percent clear yet, but I'm hoping by wednesday when we finished we've got a clear idea of impact first people first, then it becomes the bridge the bridge is what does it but it's about these communities and then it would be something about moving back to the idea of infrastructure is a nationwide issue I talk about this yesterday and now having read this it kind of goes back to what julie was doing well with how many you know, the national parkinson foundation there is a trade group for communities for civic associations frankly for bridge engineers somewhere out there who can tell you how bad it is out there and from what I've read that's not you need to washington by any stretch right? This is a nationwide problem that's why it's so interesting and if you read far enough into economics and stuff and I'm pretty well versed in economics in india, one of the challenges india is going through is that they don't have this kind of infrastructure can't move goods around fast thie interstate system here works relatively well and all of those things if they start coming apart at the seams they affect families and they actually impact the whole country now you've got my attention to see what I'm saying that kind of really gets me interested. So it's maura about on my notes here were things like it's more about the impact on people vs the actual bridges um one of the things I would do very work on very hard has tried to remove the eye because a lot of it's about you and I don't think you would be very hard to find john george bridge engineer for the last seventy years for the county of sense the exact same thing right right, and that's just a function of going forward. I know today you're under deadline pressure, but you want to go out there and do your research, and I guarantee you confined people say exactly the same thing and they're more credible. Nothing you're not credible, but no, but you know, they're an engineer, they're rejects. Were there an infrastructure? Actually, the university of washington economist those people all get my attention, and then the scale of it gets my attention. And in the last part and this is something what we were just going over in some detail here is the structural issue of the photographs I'm not and it's your projects, I don't do my project and I'm not committed to it, but I do think there might be something about either pairing or alternating or something about the bridges vs two people because the bridges alone, they're beautiful things. The show was really compelling photographs, but you're almost making them so beautiful they're not about what year. But it's about people's lives is about economies, and so there has to be some way of structuring the image pairing sets that I have either the two things that were done is alternate maybe structure, human impact, structure, impact or possibly pair them. That black and white or color thing and that's something like jim was asking before about how do you make the decision? You're gonna have to make a stack of prince you have to put him on table you're gonna have to move them around you might make a stack of black and white a stack of color see if you can mix them up it's going to be a slow experimentation process and you have a struggle of peers at school. The first thing I would do it after you've done it a couple times say okay, I'm gonna kind of step back and have somebody else do it we'll do it julie do with lorenzo and that's going to get you to that last point of how is it going to start jelling together? Okay, yeah couple of folks leave rebecca in the chat room said interesting lose bridges, lose community, lose connections and step alan says very close how about stating that bridges proposals with the fact that these bridges have been connecting communities for years and that those bridges get broken whole communities will be affected you went down on me connections connections is exactly the word that that should be higher up in the name of the title that's exactly correct thank you to both of those contribute because that's that's why we that's that's that's what this thing is about that the whole there's the whole internet brain is we just work on your project proposal and you win because the whole internet brain the whole creative like brain just came with a better title. It's about next is fundamental, and that makes it human. Makes it visual. Makes it something that I'm gonna want to move forward with. Cool. All right, gwen. Okay. My projects, my corner of the sky and the whole idea's. Where do we belong? Our environments constantly evolving. And we need to capture images of the places that tell our stories before they erode away forever. Styles of dance continued change a swell. And by combining the imagery, the two, we could tell the story of on a multiple layer with multiple layers of impact of who we are and where we belong today, some photographing dancers that do different styles of dance that are popular today, that air changing in environments that are changing as well. A couple of a couple things came to mind when you were saying that, as I was reading that why are you living in dance styles of today? Some some logic to that no it's it's mainly it could be anything I mean, I'm doing ballet, classical, ballet, a hip hop go go dancing you know it doesn't have to be today it's it's when I find a dancer okay I find out what style it is I don't know ahead of time until I find that dancer right in the little pitch you just did there that were jumped out of me so I might take that word out the dance styles today okay I have a friend who's a pretty well known tap dancer out in california which on the one hand is historical style but it's also coming back so she might be somebody should probably connect with rusty because there might be a great portrait there um and the other question I had about this is that I know your passion and your interest in is in dance I am very interested this idea of people the environment how they connect off into the how they play off each other I'm not one hundred percent convinced it needs to be constricted only the dance though do you see what I'm saying? What like would you saying portrait said by people the environment how they're connected around how they disconnected environment it's important to them? I don't know but but I read through this and there were some parts of where I was saying, you know that's really specifically about dance and the other part is saying it's really about people the environment they love the environment they hate the environment they the environments that matter to them, they choose an urban environment, so I'm not hundred percent sure and again, this is not my project, so don't do my project. But that's, the first question that comes to mind, having said that, you had a great quote here, and so I don't want to lose this quote yet. The greek philosopher aristotle rank dance with poetry, and I was thinking, well, that that may be wise, now I'm doing the devil's advocate, I'm now moving back and saying, well, you know, you might have a point about dance, so and then I know what I made hears you talked about this idea of styles of dance evolving, and I was wondering, is it about the styles of dance that reflect the dancer? Contrast with the dancer? I don't know yet, it's something I'd be teasing out some more. Um, and your very last sentence. You bared your lead, twirl, twirl around and just for a moment, you are free. Why is that down at the bottom? I I would have moved that up because right now you gotta right away, it's that's something I probably would have moved up sooner you asked yesterday and also in some of the interactions to uh sleuth lead at this point that you were talking about your real issues you seem pretty comfortable in terms of what you want to do with photography that we just changed a little bit maybe but you're especially interested in the outlet and getting it out there issue and so one of my thoughts for you was almost think about this as uh uh my nosy I'm just reading my note to think of it as a business strategy issue which might be you're going to take some time and we'll talk in the next few segment and then later today and also tomorrow about the business strategy, the calendar, the planning strategy and you might actually think I'm going to spend a certain amount of time not necessarily looking for clients but just to build the work to sort of create your reputation to create the authorship cause this is all about authorship years is about a skill set that you want to create to show to people to say I could do this thing that somebody else can do and then do a lot of the promotion that I alluded to yesterday I'll talk more about the next couple days and not exactly like you arrive on the the market is there but you arrive in the market here rather than kind of trying to come to the market here and that's a better business strategy not unique by the way too photography or what you're trying to do but really any business if you come in with an established brand with the authorship with the expertise that you could do it you started started a higher price point you start more visible and so from our conversations I've got the impression you were thinking well, maybe I could get clients to do this, but I'm also wondering if maybe if you took the client equation out of it for a few months and said I'm gonna build this brand I'm gonna build all this other stuff and then when I come out there and people see it and promoting you could end up in the opposite situation which clients are gonna come to you because they're going to have seen it in other venues, which is that for self promotion thing I was talking about when I was showing my work and all the other venues that's what you're trying to get towards so I think I might circle back around that do you guys want to jump in on the dance versus people general thing ladies, I like the concept of it of what she's what she's wanting to do and I can see where she's wanted to go with it I don't know what the end would what the end results would actually be the pictures that she has so I can kind of get a better idea what that interaction is right, you one of the others thoughts, and this goes to something we were talking about with one of the online questions, and I think that both both fingers is, um, from what I've seen of the stuff that you show me and I made an advantage over you, is that right now, there's a balance between the dancers and the environment, and I'm not one hundred percent sure you want to be a fifty fifty I mean, if you look at a great photograph, and I like to think that I've been showing your great focus and those other people, so they are great. A lot of times the photograph, I think, of photographs almost in percentages like it has ninety percent is one thing, and then trails away to a second sub story. If you make everything equal, it tends to tell the viewer that everything is equal, and our job is actually not to say the viewers equal our job is to have you stay to the viewer. This man is going through this experience, and the people and he's large and the people were supporting our these smaller players and that's, how you structure your photographs, and I often think what I'm looking at photographs, literally in terms of percentages, and so my other question for you was about maybe thinking of not only controlling the the pose and the sort of act of the dancer but also may be thinking more about controlling either terms a light wise lend technological stuff so you say to the viewer dancer first environment second, I think when you have them fifty fifty it can risk losing the viewer's attention I'm now contradicting yourself myself because I know you're saying to yourself but didn't he just say and with cindy's I was actually I remember I was talking about you might actually think about balancing because that's the experience there's the thing that makes the connections and the people's connections are being broken how they're interconnected so doing fifty fifty probably is gonna work I'm not sure about that and I missing lorenzo for many reasons and one of his reason I'm missing lorenzo because you look at a lot of great sports photography portrait which you should be looking at by the way ah lot of that stuff is it is that person first and the environment, the stadium, the sport, all that stuff second and that priority secondary done to lighting done to color palette done two angles I think I think but I want to see more work before I like commit I think is going to get you closer to that narrative of the dancer first in the environment second well they to meet the dancers more important than the environment if what I've seen to me they're a little too close I might be thinking about either controlling it with I mean I haven't seen additional for example lighting or controlling I don't how much that you want to do that's a whole nother level of technical challenges but there's also the lens compositional angle thing to say dancer first environment second because to me they have been a little too close that's good hopefully lorenzo is doing all right well here at some point in time I hope jim we got any questions from the web verse out there you know we do david s o uh miss nikki says love this critique of the person of the project proposals but it sounds like it'll take more than a one page to do so when the length of the proposal really depend on the topic it's, like some proposals would need more detail in the explanation. The short answer is a long answer and I stand one more slide so let me get to that before I lose my chance but my chance here um ninety five percent of the time and we're going to talk later in the week class about some resource is where you can put your stuff out there who do you approach how do you find these things? Ninety nine percent of those people are looking for one page they clearly are willing if you get it later on the process toe look atmore, and I'll actually talk later today about one where you go with the first one page and then it's larger, but you need to be able to distill it down to that one thing first, and then eventually you'll tease at all the other stuff, and yours is a good example you're saying to me over breakfast, you've got all this other notes, which you need in this time goes on that's gonna be really important for your project cause all that information's part of the infrastructure of the narrative, the larger but no nine times out of ten, you have to do it on one page, and that forces you to decide what's really important and focus no pun intended and also really distilled down to just a couple things. Great. All right, so you go one more slide. Yes, sir. One more slide. All right. So this is your homework. All right? For the three of you for the online universe, this is your homework. And this is not homework. You have to send to me, it's. Not like I'm looking and sent it to me. All this homework, though, is to do one thing. You all want to make a great photo essay slash personal projects, right? You want to get people to hire you based on your expertise, you want to do all that stuff, and so I'm giving you all this homework, and this is one example of the homework you should be doing just to make yourself a better photographer. Write down five presentation formats of personal projects or photo asses you seen break those presentation formats down into smaller pieces like the color the black and white where they a square with a whole go where they panorama, did they work or did they not work if they didn't work for you? Be honest, they don't work for you that's great right out why they did not work for you or why they did for you. This is all a thinking process to be critical looking at other people's work, and since it'll be neither mine where you don't want to offend me nor yours, where you have a lover attachment to it, there won't be a problem and so that's a homework to be doing from now on. Really, every time you see new project, you should look at it analytically and look at it that way.

Class Materials

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