If you want to work on your own (meaningful) photography project, this is the advice I would give to you:
Everything you need to master street photography for yourself:
- How to Master Your Own Psychology in Street Photography
- How to Master Color Street Photography
- How to Master Shooting Street Portraits
- How to Master Black and White Street Photography
Why work on a street photography project?
The first question is,
Why work on a street photography project?
For myself, it is a fun challenge to constrain yourself in the limits of a project. To have a certain theme, concept or idea and to carry it out from beginning to end is interesting, challenging, and fun!
Innovative processes for photography projects
So the problem is this: All the knowledge we have on photography projects comes from the antiquated concepts of working on a photography book. In the past, that was the only way to publish your own work, in a way which you were able to control the sequencing and edit of your photos (which photos you wanted to include). In the past, in the times of LIFE magazine, magazine editors would often crop the photos of the photographers, and had all editorial control over how the photos were presented. With the photography book, photographers were (finally) able to have more control over how their photos were presented and consumed.
But nowadays, times have changed. There are so many new ways to share your photos! You can publish your photos on your website in galleries, you can print “zines” (magazines of your work), you can make prints, you can make PDF ebooks of your work, you can make slideshows of your photos to music and upload it to YouTube, or you can share photos on Facebook and Instagram.
So nowadays realize that there are many options for you to present your photos and projects, and there are probably new ways of presenting your work that hasn’t yet been discovered yet either!
What is a “project” anyways?
To start off, I wouldn’t recommend starting a photography project to build your own legitimacy. I’ve done this in the past to try to be considered a “serious” photographer by my peers, and this has only led me down paths of frustration, self-doubt, and losing my passion and enthusiasm for photography.
My suggestion for working on a project:
Only work on photography projects you’re passionate about, and only work on them in a way which suits your personal style. Stop the project once you’re bored.
I actually think boredom is a good sign that we have exhausted the possibilities of a project. Boredom is our naturalistic instinct; we should channel it in a positive way. When we are bored working on something, it means that it is no longer challenging or interesting us.
To break it down, there are many different types of photography projects. Some concepts that I’ve found work well include:
1. Typology (what TYPE of photos are you shooting? What is your subject-matter?)
A simple type of project is the “typology” project. You just determine the subject-matter you want to photograph (like dogs, urban landscapes, portraits, old people) and you stick to it. For example, note all the photos in my SUITS project (men in suits).
That can mean you’re out in the streets, only photographing the subject-matter which pertains to your project. But my practical tip is this: Focus on your subject matter, but when you see other stuff you want to photograph, shoot that as well.
For example, let’s say your project is shooting street portraits (closeup portraits of strangers). But if you see an interesting candid street photography moment, JUST SHOOT IT!
The typology project is simple and fun. You can just photograph a single color for an entire day (like the color red), and only shoot red things for a day. This will help train your eyes.
The duration of your project can be however long or short as you desire. A day, a week, a month, a year, a decade, or maybe even your lifetime!
2. A place (location)
Stick to a certain place (whether a city, neighborhood, area, or social institution) and document it.
This type of photography project would be good for you if you’re the type of photographer who likes to document history, and if you’re particularly drawn to a certain neighborhood, or if you’re “stuck” in a certain area.
This space you document can be “liminal” (exists anywhere), such as the subway (“Subway” by Bruce Davidson), the mall, the airport, or fast food restaurants. Even Garry Winogrand did a photography book on the Zoo (called ‘The Animals’).
Or you can document a specific neighborhood, like the Mission district in In San Francisco, or the Suburbs of LA.
Or you can document a certain city, like Alex Webb‘s “Istanbul” book.
3. A certain subculture or community
For myself, I’ve documented photos inside a boxing gym (GALLO BOXING in Lansing, Michigan), powerlifting gym (TUFUNGA in Emeryville, Oakland):
And the “OLD COLONY” bar in Provincetown.
These projects are fun, because you have a chance to interact with your subjects, and get to know them on a deeper level. You can build real human relationships with them, and capture more of their soul in your photos.
How to print your work
To print your work, as a “zine” or book, I recommend blurb.com or just going to a local photo copy shop, and ask if you can send them a PDF to print your work in a booklet format.
For an ebook PDF book, I recommend iBooks Author for the Mac, or Adobe Indesign (complicated, learn how to use it with YouTube tutorials).
Share locally first
When you first print your work, start small. Share it with a few friends and family, and see if you can sell a few copies to your followers (advertise your new book, and include your email, and accept payments via PayPal).
The mistake I think a lot of us make is desiring to get a huge publishing or book deal, for “legitimacy”. If you do desire that, then contact the photography book publishing agents, send your work and your concept and see if they’re interested. Note you must contact MANY agents before you might even get a single deal. And even if you do get a deal, it won’t be as lucrative as you consider. I know a lot of photographers who actually have to front their own money to get their work published! Even if you are successful in getting published, you will probably be fortunate to break even, or at best you may make a few thousands of dollars (decent money, but not enough for you to make a living). Even big named Magnum photographers often say that if they can “break even” to offset their printing costs, they’re happy.
Work on a project for yourself.
The last advice is this: Work for a project for yourself, assuming that nobody else will appreciate or like your project. This is one of the best ways to judge your own sincerity towards working on a project, because working on a project shouldn’t be to impress other photographers; it should be for you to challenge yourself, for you to have fun, and for you to live more adventurously!
Empower yourself. #buybooksnotgear
- HOW TO SEE: Visual Guide to Composition, Color, & Editing in Photography
- Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Street Photography / Kindle Edition
- STREET HUNT / Kindle Edition
- STREET NOTES: Mobile Edition / Kindle Edition
- MODERN PHOTOGRAPHER
- STREET PHOTOGRAPHY 103
- Dynamic Composition Manual
- Photography Startup Manual
- PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS
- PHOTOGRAPHY ENTREPRENEURSHIP MANUAL by ERIC KIM
- STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MANUAL by ERIC KIM
- THE PHOTOGRAPHER by ERIC KIM
- The Art of Street Photography
- 100 Lessons From the Masters of Street Photography
- Zen Photography
- Personal Photography Manual
- Street Photography Contact Sheets Volume II
- Street Photography Contact Sheets Volume I
- Street Photography Composition Manual
- Street Portrait Manual
- Street Photography 101
- Street Photography 102
- Color Manual
- Monochrome Manual
- 31 Days to Overcome Your Fear in Street Photography
- Letters From a Street Photographer
- Street Photography Aphorisms, Heuristics, and Sayings
Below are my favorite photo books:
- Josef Koudelka: Exiles
- Josef Koudelka: Gypsies
- Dan Winters: Road to Seeing
- Alex Webb: The Suffering Of Light
- Robert Frank: The Americans
- Martin Parr: The Last Resort
- Trent Parke: Minutes to Midnight
- Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment
- Photographers’ Sketchbooks
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