Monday, October 6, 2008

Your Body of Work or Life Long Project

How many of you are aware that you might be creating a Photo legacy, a Body of Work or Life Long Project(s) by documenting what may appear to be ordinary and commonplace today?

There are several reasons I ask this.

The first is what got the idea going when I was reading one of the photography book reviews on the blog The Online Photographer , I came across a sentence “

His elegiac black-and-white images of America's heartland railroads, bridges, small towns and farms quietly document a world that is passing out of sight.

These people were documenting the places and moments frozen in time, that they love and most likely did not envision at the time that the life they were depicting would disappear in the future.

I suppose maybe some were visionaries and did foresee the disappearance of certain qualities of our everyday life.

With the images of trains I took in Norway I came to the realization that I was collecting images that maybe in the future, many years form now, would form an extensive collection on a specific mode of transportation. The Train. Not that this was original, but for my own pleasure, I was collecting a body of work.

The 2 train engines above are the same model as the 2 that sank in the bottom of this deep lake. The ferry was blown up in WWII by commandos as the Germans were transporting their heavy water back to Germany for nuclear research. At each end of the lake were ferries and at this end there was also a collection of old train cars from the same time period.

It did not start out this way. My first goal was to create a sixptych (3 over 3 images) of trains. I haven’t yet exactly determined the final composition. It will mostly be whole cars and sections of trains. The final mix is not there yet as I still need more to choose from.

It occurred to me since I was compiling and collecting train images that if I were to continue for many more years that one day I might have a good assortment of images that would form a good gallery collection or a photo book on the subject.

There are many things around us today that in 20, 30 years from now, maybe even sooner will disappear or not be in the same mode that we presently enjoy.

I think the traditional gas station might be such an entity. If we continue with the development of alternative source of fuel and if one day we all plug in our electric cars at home, then why the need for gas stations.

What about the music record stores? Especially the old media formats with the LPs, tapes and now CDs?

Do you have any ideas for such candidates for life long photo projects?

Please share your ideas. It might help inspire you to discover a hidden interest.

Take the time to look at the images you have already been collecting and see if there are any subjects and trends that might be a possible theme.

If you’re just starting out compiling images and no project identified, I don’t think that trying to second-guess our technology landscape should be a primary driver in your choice of theme. It should be just plain old curiosity about the common nooks and crannies that we see around us. It should be the need to explore how you or others interface, communicate, ignore, or adapt to the ever-changing society we find ourselves in.

Niels Henriksen


Paul said...

Great post, Niels. I've thought about this from time to time, but on a much shorter time frame than my entire life, or photographic life. I love to photograph around developing properties. The reason is pragmatic; there are roads available and great scenes to be had before all of houses go up, ponds that I couldn't see before, etc, access to what was once private property.

Later, the thoughts occur about what has been lost in the transition from forestland to neighborhood, effectively trading several animal neighborhoods/habitats in favor of one human neighborhood.

Your post has given me thoughts about such things! :-)

nielsp said...

Good idea about documenting the transition from a more natural setting to urban development. I remember the city I grew up in and playing in wide-open fields that are now very deep into the heartland of the city.

Its always interesting to review the images that you have been collecting over the years.


Anita Jesse said...

There are so many reasons for regretting my late entry into the world of photography, but your post has greatly intensified that sense of loss. Of all your thoughtful posts, this will rank as a favorite for me. I will be revisiting this one.

nielsp said...


Never regret as it is never too late to start. My own journey with photography really only got started seriously, not professionally, back in 2002. I always loved an explored art but only on the sidelines.

Sometimes I also wish I had started earlier but then I wouldn’t be were I am today with the best riches I have, family and fiends.

I am retiring from the main work stream in a few months and taking a bit of a penalty since I am not quite at the golden age, but close. I figure that I have 20 good years of productivity with art and that should be enough to make a reasonable mark in my little corner of the world.


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