PERSONAL PROJECTS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF STAYING CREATIVE
Hi, Kersten here. You may not know me (yet), unless you’re one of the tens of people who listen to my podcast, the Camera Shake Podcast, in which case – well done! Nice to meet you!
Now, I mention this not to callously promote my ‘cast but because it’s strangely relevant to today’s topic: Personal Projects and the Importance of Staying Creative.
In this blog, I’ll be telling you about two of my own projects which have both changed my creative thinking, broadened my horizons as a photographer and helped me overcome one of the most challenging times of my life.
Ok, let me explain. I live in the UK and the past 18 months have been, shall we say, challenging. As if you didn’t know already, there’s been a global pandemic and our government decided to shut down the country completely.
But let’s roll back a few months. In late 2019, when life still seemed normal and the idea of a global virus pandemic was largely part of science fiction lore, I was in the process of updating my website and as such needed a new headshot for the ‘About’ page. I wanted to create a casual, yet stylish self portrait, that showed that I was serious but didn’t take myself too seriously. Thinking up a number of different scenarios I decided on a particular style of image and went to work.
What was needed was some kind of table top, beauty lighting and a neutral black backdrop. My table didn’t make the grade, looking dull and uninspiring. However, some time earlier I had come across a wooden oak board with an interesting grain and just the right amount of gritty ruggedness around the edges. I had previously used it as a backdrop for a range of different images, from flat lays to YouTube thumbnails and it had always delivered the goods. This, I gathered, was going to be perfect as a table top. Add a few props to illustrate what I’m all about (like a camera because no-one, absolutely no-one could guess that I’m a photographer, right?) and Bob’s your uncle.
So I set up the lights, installed the backdrop and got into position. Taking elaborate selfies using anything other than a cell phone turned out to be more complicated than it needed to be. Firstly, the shutter had to be controlled remotely with several seconds of delay so I could drop the thing and act natural. Next, some immediate feedback was required, which made tethering essential. But once the Gremlins had been eliminated, I was ready to get started. I tried out a range of different poses and all was going well. All I had to do was hit the remote, drop the thing like a hot bun, get into position and 2 seconds later – flash bang wallop. Shooting tethered and being able to see the images coming through on a laptop screen really helped dialling in the posing. It all seemed to go well until I pressed the remote, got distracted by something and the camera fired, catching me by surprise in mid move, hands flailing with a not-so-flattering deer in the headlights expression on my face.
This, I thought, wasn’t going to make it as my profile picture. But on closer inspection, the shot had something. Not the serious, Clint Eastwood-esque cool of the professional I wanted to convey of course, but rather the depiction of a bumbling idiot, too dense to take his own passport photo and utterly bewildered by his own reflection in the water.
My wife, always happy to critique my latest creations, agreed that this outtake represented my personality much better than any serious portrait ever could. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still managed to create an image for the ‘About’ page – but I kept thinking about this absurd and comical, yet slightly bemusing mishap of a photograph. It was engaging and immediately made me want to see more. How much fun would it be to photograph other people like this? And who would willingly subject themselves to complete and utter photographic ridicule? Well, all of you who have kids will know what happened next.
And thus, the idea for a personal project was born. Several beverages later I had come to the conclusion that what needed to be done was to create a triptych, or series, of three images in which the subject interacts with personal objects of their own choice. We all own things that are dear to us, maybe for some sentimental reason or another or just because it exemplifies our character, personality or career choice. Also, this would give me plenty of ammunition for conversation and a chance to get to know the subject a little better, essential when pushing the envelope toward the farcical, especially when you’re photographing people who are not used to having a massive lens stuck in their face.
I called it ‘Three Heads in a Row’ and seeing that Instagram’s grid allows for three posts in a single row, it made for the perfect platform to display the images. Something I loved and still love about this project was the connection you’re able to establish between photographer and model.
This was fast becoming my number one personal project for 2019/2020. Little did I know.
And then…Covid happened.(more…)