Freedom can be overwhelming. When you’re free to photograph anything you want, whenever you want, it’s easy to end up not photographing much of anything at all. Psychologists use terms like choice overload to describe the paralysis that can accompany a world of unlimited options.
In this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, Ben Long offers one solution to the overload: Give yourself a year-long assignment. Choose a time interval: daily, weekly, monthly. Choose a scope: your city, your street, your chair. And choose a subject: an object, a color, an emotion, an event.
By homing in on each point of this triangle, you give yourself a specific set of parameters to explore with your camera. And after a year, you’ll have a body of work that could make a great photo book.
Your self-imposed assignment doesn’t have to span a full year. But as Ben points out, the advantage of a yearlong project is that you can capture all four seasons and the differences that each one brings—in light, in foliage, and more.
Another viewing assignment
The notion of a self-imposed assignment is one that comes up in another course, Chris Orwig’s Narrative Portraiture: On Location in Texas with Keith Carter. In Chapter 2, “A Conversation with Keith Carter,” fine art photographer Keith Carter recommends giving yourself a project that reflects your interests, your background, and where you live. Keith suggests a two-year interval and a goal of 45 photographs. Focus on something and dig deep.
So here’s your assignment. Watch this week’s The Practicing Photographer, then click over to the Chris Orwig course and watch the Chapter 2 tutorial Going deeper: Give yourself a project. For me, it’s one of the most inspiring videos in our library. And at the end of your assignment, as Keith Carter says, “You did what most people will never do, and you did it for the best of all reasons. How can that be time ill-spent?”
Interested in more?