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Starting a Photographic Project is a way to invest in a personal exploration of a subject. As a landscape photographer I travel quite extensively to some far flung places around the United States. Chasing light and capturing the grandeur of the American landscape might, by some, be considered a project but in my way of thinking it is not really the same thing. Certainly these trips involve passionate, and personal explorations, but when I think of creating a project I want to go for something that has more protracted meaning. If at this point you think I am dancing around my words I would agree. Describing what a project is, or is not, is actually difficult and ultimately not really the point.
The internet is full of photography project ideas ranging from The 365 Day Project, The 52 Weeks Project, The Single Subject Project, and the list probably goes on. When you add a specific genre to the formula you can quickly see the limitless possibilities of exploration. No matter what you choose to explore, or even how, a project can be a method to take you on a different journey or path. It is a place to try new things or just watch how a place, or subject changes over time. It is a place of personal engagement that I believe translates its energy back into your other work. I probably should have said this in the first paragraph but it took me awhile to get here. The creation of energy, and the translation of energy, are at the heart of of my projects. As I write this post I am working on two different projects - The Red Barn Project (some of those images are the feature of this post), and The Muddy Creek Project. Though different, each came to fruition first as an idea, and ultimately became a Project in the same serendipitous way. And that was through an openness and willingness to receive a gift from the Muse. Oh no, you might be thinking, here we go into a journey down the rabbit hole. So before you run away let me try to explain.
The notion of creating a project is a good thing. It is a sound method that helps unstick the creative block. But just waking up one morning and deciding that you are going to jump headlong into a 365 Day Project, or an A to Z Project, or whatever, lacks a certain sense of purpose. I know, I tried it and through various stops and starts, I just lost interest. A Project, I believe, comes to you, when your eyes and heart are open and ready to receive it's gift. My other projects never worked because I had no passion behind them and I started them for all the wrong reasons. There is a karmic concept that says you will be presented with something when you are ready to receive it.
The Red Barn Project came to me in such a way. For nearly 12 years I have driven back and forth to work along the same road. For 12 years I passed The Red Barn and I never noticed it. I was certainly aware of the farm where it was located but my whole drive is through rural farmland full of rolling hills, barns and silos, and livestock. As a landscape photographer it is quite embarrassing on one level to not pay attention to what is before you. But my mind was always tuned towards the red rock country of the west and I never really stopped to consider my own backyard. That is until the day I saw the hillock covered in the white flowers of Queen's Anne Lace. I was stunned as to how I could have possibly missed this for all these years. And there beyond the hill of flowers was The Red Barn. The first image I made "A Pastoral Afternoon", was the beginning of the project. The Muses had presented me with a personal gift.
When I made the first image it was simply a landscape shot. The idea of the barn becoming a project was not yet fully developed. I loved the rolling pastures, the tree lines, the wildflowers, and of course the barn. That first composition actually came easily to me. And that was probably the hook because what came next was a revelation of how beautiful the light was as it fell across the landscape. My drives, to and from work, became ones of observation. Through the Summer and into the Fall I studied the light through foggy mornings, cloudless skies, cloud-filled skies, and into twilight. And I started to make images. Initially I made shots from various angles, working the scene as I typically do when I photograph landscapes. But gradually I started to shoot from one singular vantage point. And the project began to take hold. I became interested in how the light changed from this one point and in the short span from Summer into the early start of the cold days of Winter I have already witnessed the subtle changes on where the sun rises and sets, how the light is filtered on foggy mornings, the incredible explosions of color painted on to the clouds, and the beautiful glow of twilight. I have seen the seasonal changes in the land as the wildflowers come and go and the fescue grows, only to be cut and rolled into hay. The Red Barn is the anchor point for an ever changing tapestry of change ruled by the seasons, the weather, the winds, and the rising and setting of the sun.
The Red Barn Project is not finished. These few images I have posted are but a few of the many I have made. There are more to come and more seasons to explore in this personal journey. The Red Barn Project has opened my eyes to more of the landscapes around me. I live in a place with beautiful and subtle ranges of light and to awaken to this can only be attributed to this project "finding me". I would encourage you to not press so much for a project but to let one find you. If you are open to the gift it will come. RHC