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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

The Queen - Project Update

Several weeks back I had written a piece about working in photographic projects. I am pleased that I am meeting all my self-imposed deadlines. As per the suggestions in that post, I started with a plan for a dozen images and waited to see where that took me. I now have 14 images in the project, after which I felt that I had run out of both ideas and the desire to keep photographing the statuettes. So the project ended up ‘telling me’ when it was over.

I am now at the stage where I am ‘fine tuning’ the already processed images to give them a consistent look. Some of them had vintage type edges while others did not. Some were leaning towards a greener yellow tone and others towards a redder yellow. Of course, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with edges or no edges or greener vs redder yellows in any individual image, but that is one of the things about working in projects……I believe there should be some type of stylistic similarity that pulls it together. So in the ‘fine’tuning’, I am trying to give them that consistency. The tones need not be exactly the same nor does each and every image need to have the exact same edge effect, but, in my mind, some consistency helps hold them together as a group.

Once that is complete (the end of October was my deadline) I will be working on putting the project into a presentable folio and making a PDF type e-book.

And now, may I present…..The Queen:

 
The Queen

The Queen

 

Working In Projects

No question about it, it’s great to make a fantastic photograph…..that ‘greatest hit’ image that goes up on the wall. But working in ‘photographic projects’ carries a different sort of appeal. It allows you to take the time to interpret something in real depth. Once you make the obvious photos you have to really work to understand ‘how else’ you can see, portray, and transmit the feel of your subject. I certainly don’t intend to write a treatise on working in projects, but I thought I would write about why I enjoy projects and how I approach them in the hope that, perhaps, some part of that might resonate with readers.

You can build a project around almost anything. You most likely have a project already completely photographed in your Lightroom (or whatever other processing software you use) library, though you may not even know it. A project can focus on just about anything - places, inanimate objects, living things, people, ideas, colors, weather, feelings, and, well, almost any subject or idea that catches your fancy. The challenge is to have a very clear idea about what the project is about, so that you can draw associations between the images thereby allowing them to work together as a topic.

In order to transmit real emotion with your images, the project should be about something that you love or at least have a strong interest in. As they say, ‘shoot what you love’, because, if you don’t, you likely won’t come up with a cohesive body of work. It can most definitely be difficult to ‘keep going’ when the subject doesn’t move you.

 
From a project I’m working on entitled “A Mother’s Treasure”

From a project I’m working on entitled “A Mother’s Treasure”

 

But, personally, I do have some difficulty with projects. I love working in projects but, while I start many of them, I often either don’t finish them or they go on for…..well, quite a long time. That isn’t to say that I never finish them. In fact, I am quite happy with my Carrie Furnace, Cathy, and Empathy projects. But I have started many more that have not come to completion. So I have done some introspection about this and have put together several thoughts, ideas, and recommendations to help myself bring more projects to completion. These are ideas that pertain to me, but I thought they were nonetheless worth writing in a post in case others might find some of them useful, as I suspect that I’m not the only person to struggle with this issue.

I believe that one of the most important things that keep me from completing projects is fear! Fear that the work I’m doing isn’t ‘good enough’ or that ‘it’s been done already’ or that ‘people will think it’s dumb’. It’s easy to say ‘just ignore that feeling’ or that ‘nobody will do it just the way you’re doing it’ but that just doesn’t seem to work for me. Here are some things that I have started trying that I believe do help:

 
From a project I’m working on entitled “A Mother’s Treasure”

From a project I’m working on entitled “A Mother’s Treasure”

 

1) Define the project size from the start - how many images do I think I will need to complete the project? This gives me a goal to work towards. And it can certainly be revisited. If I start by planning for a project consisting of ten images and I get there rapidly and easily and find myself wanting to make more photographs for the project then the goal can be expanded. If I get to the initial goal and feel like I have said most of what I want to say then I have a complete project. If I get stuck after three images that I think are good and can’t make more, well, then maybe it isn’t a topic or idea that I have enough interest in. Move on. Nothing wrong with recognizing that the interest just isn’t there. Who knows, maybe I will come back to it one day.

2) Define how the project will be presented - wall display, magazine submission. PDF, folio, web display? All of these? By defining what the end result of the project will be I get a sense of purpose and I know what I am working towards. These endpoints can be re-examined and changed depending on how the project proceeds.

3) I don’t consider an image ‘done’ or work towards ‘completely finishing’ an image before moving on to the next one in the project. For a project to be cohesive there needs to be some consistency in style. Therefore, when I reach the goal number of images, I plan to review them, see which ones work together, and finish editing the images together as a group to ensure there is some type of consistency and visual flow among them.

4) When the images are completed, processed, and edited in terms of which ones I will include in the project, I plan to actually put them together into whatever the plan was for their final presentation. That takes work, be it printing, posting, learning to make a PDF etc, but if it is worth doing the project then it’s worth assembling the final presentation. I won’t consider the project complete until the planned presentation method is completed.

5) Deadlines - I plan to give myself a deadline to reach that initial number of images so that the project doesn’t drag on. Don’t get me wrong, if things are going well and revisiting the project size leads to a desire for a larger project, that’s a good thing. Then I can make a new deadline for the expansion. There are some projects that are short term projects and some that may take longer periods of time. All good, as long as there is actually work being done towards a goal and the expansion also has a deadline.

As an example, the images in this post are from a project that I had started but never finished. I have now resumed it with all the recommendations I made above. The project consists of photographing a pair of statuettes that were meaningful to my mother, who passed away recently. They were one of her prized possessions, and I decided to put together a project photographing them. My initial goal is for the project to have a dozen images and to have the photographing and processing completed by the end of October. I would like to have, as a finished presentation, a folio and a PDF which I can work on (I will determine a deadline for each) once the images are completed.

Do you have any ideas that motivate or push you to complete projects. If so, please share them in the comments. I would love to hear them.

Hogwarts Study Hall??

Yes, yes, it’s another image from the Cathedral of Learning. I had previously mentioned that shooting there has become ‘a thing…..a project’. I had never been to this side of the building before and was fully expecting more hallways similar to the last couple that I posted. But when I ran across this scene, complete with table and bench with mystical looking light coming in through the window and shaped by the curved ceiling, my first thought was ‘this looks like something out of Harry Potter’. So there you have it, a study hall at Hogwarts!

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

What To Do When The Project's Over?

Readers of my blog know that over the last year or so I have been working on my Empathy Project, which took up quite a bit of my time. It really was an all encompassing project for me, both time-wise and emotionally. I ended up with 32 portraits and interviews. Once I had completed those, it took me a couple of weeks to prepare the material for submission to a magazine (more on that in a future post, when I hear back). Once that was completed.....well, it's sort of a let down. What does one do next?? How do you decide on the next project? How do you know where you should redirect your efforts? Because I hadn't really done any longstanding projects like this before (well, maybe one, The Carrie Furnace Project) it's a problem I haven't really previously faced. And I know it may sound trivial, but I really am unsure as to where to find inspiration next.

So I am doing a few things to help me along. First, in the past, I have had an interest in and taken some courses on 'Photoshop Artistry', the idea of using photographs and Photoshop to create composited pieces of artwork. Though I had gone through the courses and used some of the techniques, it isn't something that I really delved into deeply. And, while I had tried to do some of the 'assignments', I am really not too good at following other peoples project suggestions (despite it being a good way to learn). It just isn't a way that I take to very well. So, I am taking another tact. I am reviewing some of the lessons and when I review a tutorial that shows work and technique that is in 'my style', that I can see myself using, I make up my own assignments to practice the technique. I think I can work and practice better that way.  It is something I am trying and we will see where it goes. Who knows, maybe I will even describe and show some of the self assignments and results here.

The second thing is that (and here is something that readers probably don't know about me) many years ago I used to raise orchids as a hobby. In fact, I had constructed a growing room in my basement using with high intensity lighting and various sorts of climate control. I finally gave it up because the time involved became too overwhelming. At one point I actually had an article published in 'Orchids', the journal of The American Orchid Society, about how to construct and maintain such a growing area.

Well, I am starting to do some growing again, but in a much more constrained way.....on a stand under  some fluorescent lights. And in addition to growing a few orchids that I kept, I have also taken to growing something new that has captured my fancy....carnivorous plants. The reason I mention any of this is that the plants are so bizarrely interesting that I would like to make photographs of them. Think I'm crazy? Well, check this out...... 

This is a beautiful book with wonderful fine art images of carnivorous plants.

And then there is Beth Moon's wonderful black and white portfolio entitled "The Savage Garden", named after the classic carnivorous plant growing manual by Peter D'Amato

Several years ago Beth's carnivorous plant portfolio was published in LensWork. These plants really are bizarrely photogenic in a very abstract way.

At this point, I am just trying to put ideas together. If anyone would like to share ideas about how they get inspired or get motivated to 'move on to the next thing', I would love to hear them! 

The Empathy Project XIX

This is the one that started it all!

About ten years ago, I took care of a patient who was the 'right blister gunner' (the person who sat with a machine gun in the encasement under the right wing of a bomber) in World War II. We quickly became friendly when he found out that I enjoyed fine art photography, as he was a painter. In fact, he had designed and painted the insignia on the side of the B-29 bomber that he flew in. His insignia denoted a wheel, with each spoke representing something about each person of the crew. One day he  brought  a gift to the office for me. He wanted to give me three old photos that he had, one of the design work he had done before painting the insignia onto the B-29, which he called  "The Big Wheel":

 
big wheel.jpg
 

the second was a picture of him and the crew in front of the plane:

george and crew.jpg

and in the third, you can see the insignia that he painted onto the actual B-29:

Big Wheel 2.jpg

He loved telling me stories of his days in World War II, and one day I asked if I could record him and take his picture, both of which he quickly agreed to. I arranged for him to have 45 minutes for his next appointment and we talked for most of that time and he gave me permission to use the material in any way I wanted. At the time, I thought that recording these types of stories would make for a really interesting project, but I ended up putting the idea away for ten years before I decided it was time to resume the project in earnest. So let me introduce you to George..... 

 
empathy 19.jpg
 

George passed away in 2013 at the age of 92.

The Empathy Project - XVIII

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind this 'humanism in medicine' project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'.  It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

I think after listening to this delightful man you will have a sense of what hard manual labor is! Also, if he whets your interest in what it was like to work in a steel mill have a look (and a listen) to my Carrie Furnace Project.

As I make these posts, the portraits and audio will be added to my Empathy Project Portfolio, where all the entries can be seen and listened to in a group.

If you receive my posts by email, the audio won't come along with the image.....so, if you would like to listen check it out on the blog itself at howardgrill.com/blog

 
Anthony Trongo
 

THe Empathy Project - XVII

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind this 'humanism in medicine' project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'.  It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

As I make these posts, the portraits and audio will be added to my Empathy Project Portfolio, where all the entries can be seen and listened to in a group.

If you receive my posts by email, the audio won't come along with the image.....so, if you would like to listen check it out on the blog itself at howardgrill.com/blog

 
Karl Morosco
 

The Empathy Project - XV

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind this 'humanism in medicine' project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'.  It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

As I make these posts, the portraits and audio will be added to my Empathy Project Portfolio, where all the entries can be seen and listened to in a group.

If you receive my posts by email, the audio won't come along with the image.....so, if you would like to listen check it out on the blog itself at howardgrill.com/blog

 
 

The Empathy Project - XIV

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind this 'humanism in medicine' project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'.  It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

This gentleman, who worked on the railroad years ago, used the term 'gandy dancing' in his interview. I had to look that one up! A gandy dancer is slang for the workers which performed the laborious task of maintaining the rails and ties of the tracks.

As I make these posts, the portraits and audio will be added to my Empathy Project Portfolio, where all the entries can be seen and listened to in a group.

If you receive my posts by email, the audio won't come along with the image.....so, if you would like to listen check it out on the blog itself at howardgrill.com/blog

 
Ralph Baker
 

The Empathy Project - XIII

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind this 'humanism in medicine' project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'.  It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

The defibrillator this gentleman refers to is an implanted device that shocks the heart back into a regular rhythm if a serious, life-threatening cardiac rhythm abnormality is detected.

If you receive my posts by email, the audio won't come along with the image.....so, if you would like to listen check it out on the blog itself at howardgrill.com/blog

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

The Empathy Project - XII

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind this 'humanism in medicine' project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'.  It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

This particular fellow, a man in his forties who has a long life yet to live, is the survivor of an out of hospital cardiac arrest. I found his thoughts regarding how that event has affected him to be quite interesting and profound.

As I make these posts, the portraits and audio will be added to my Empathy Project Portfolio, where all the entries can be seen and listened to in a group.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

The Empathy Project - XI

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind this 'humanism in medicine' project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'.  It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

As I make these posts, the portraits and audio will be added to my Empathy Project Portfolio, where all the entries can be seen and listened to in a group.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

A Mother's Treasure III

I continue to work on my series of compositions making up a mini-project I call 'A Mother's Treasure'.  Details can be found here.  

This particular composition comes from an ornate area on the back of the regal clothes that are worn by the 'king'. I liked the repetitive rainbow shapes placed within the more complex engraving.

© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

A Mother's Treasure

My parents recently had to move out of their home, my mother to a nursing home and my dad to assisted living. It wasn’t an easy move. My mother is not one for material things, but she loved art and treasured two decorative statues for many years. I was given the statues and decided to photograph them. As I did so, I started to see many interesting compositions....maybe this will become a series?

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

Empathy Project Opening

I have completed sharing the Empathy Project portraits and audio that I have processed thus far, and will return to posting them when I have then next group of five ready.

I am very pleased that the hospital I work for decided to make this project public. They recently renovated the lobby of one of the three hospitals in the system and chose to display the first five portraits in the project there and, to make it even better, mounted audio bars beneath each portrait so that visitors can listen to the stories. In a few months, they are opening another outpatient facility and the second group of five will be displayed there, also with the audio!

For the opening of the renovated lobby, we invited the patients whose portraits appeared and I had the opportunity to give them each an 8x10 of their photo. To conclude this second group of five portraits, I thought I would share a few snapshots from the opening.

1.jpg
5.jpg
6.jpg
2 copy.jpg
 
3.jpg
 

The Empathy Project - X

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind the project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'. It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

As I make these posts the portraits and audio will be added to my Empathy Project Portfolio, where all the entries can be seen and listened to in a group.

 
empathy 10.jpg
 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, the audio will not come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it, at www.howardgrill.com/blog)

The Empathy Project - IX

Back in September I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind the project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'. It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

This particular interview was perhaps the most difficult one I have had to edit. We spoke for about 15 minutes and, frankly, there was very little I felt compelled to edit out.....but I had to to get it down to a reasonable listening time to go with one photo.

This gentleman is 95 years old and speaks truly eloquently about the many events he has witnessed in his life, from living through the depression to watching history unfold as a guard at the Nuremberg War Crime Trials at the end of World War II. He has truly led a remarkable life!

As I make these posts, the portraits and audio will be added to my Empathy Project Portfolio, where all the entries can be seen and listened to as a group.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, the audio will not come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it, at www.howardgrill.com/blog)

The Empathy Project - VIII

Back in September I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind the project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'. It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

As I make these posts the portraits and audio will be added to my Empathy Project Portfolio, where all the entries can be seen and listened to as a group.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 
 
 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, the audio will not come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it at www.howardgrill.com/blog)

The Empathy Project V

In my last few posts, I had the opportunity to introduce my Empathy Project. The idea behind the project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'. It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

Today I am posting the fifth entry in the project.  I like the idea of doing five at a time and then going back to work on more. For this reason, after this post I will go back to my more usual blog posts of varied subjects and images, and, after I have five more patients in the Empathy Project completed, plan to post the next five in sequence. I suspect this will take several weeks at least. I do hope that those of you that may have subscribed specifically because of this project will find continued interest in my posts until the next group of five patients has been prepared.

Today's 'patient' really isn't a patient of mine at all (though she is a patient).....she is my mother :)  She was a very devoted teacher in an inner city school. For those who are old enough to remember the show "Welcome Back Kotter", she too was a teacher at the school she had attended as a child.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, I don't believe the audio will come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it.).

Click here to listen to view and listen to the entire Empathy Project to date.

The Empathy Project IV

In my last few posts, I had the opportunity to introduce my Empathy Project. The idea behind the project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'. It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

Today I offer the fourth installment of the project. I plan to post a series of five and then return to other, non-Empathy Project blog posts as I prepare the next five, which will likely take several weeks to complete.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, the audio will not come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it.).

Click here to listen to view and listen to the entire Empathy Project to date.