Growing your Photography with Personal Projects
Any time I pick up my camera to do a personal project, I usually have a mission driving the force. Often, I am trying to learn something new. Sometimes, I want to experiment a little. Other times, I am trying to change the way things have been done for centuries (like school photos – yuck).
There is always some little motivation behind me, nagging at me like a frustrated mother. The past few years though, the urge to change has been more persistent and deep. It’s like a force that is pushing me down a path I have always wanted to go, but maybe just been too afraid to try.
My personal projects always have a specific purpose in mind – to bring me a little closer to the vision I have for myself as a photographer. In order to follow my dreams, I take on these projects every month. I do this by designating “shoot days” for myself – little retreats where I set off, camera in hand and some form of a vision cobbled together. As you know, precious time can be challenging to find in everyday life. So if I am home, I schedule them on my calendar like a job or a client coming in for a shoot. If I am on vacation though, it’s really part of what I do on the trip (feel sorry for my tiny family. They are very patient subjects). After I finish the project, I collect these stories into a book (often printed at Pinhole Press!) and send them out to prospective clients and even as thank you gifts to those who suffered through my horrible art direction during their precious vacation time. This not only keeps me fresh and current as photographer, but constantly feeding clients new material keeps me in the forefront of the minds of anyone who wants to hire me.
This summer, I chose to focus in on an annual trip we take to Vermont to escape the blazing South Carolina August heat. We make the trek each summer, retreating to a family cabin next door to the most amazing garden any human has ever created. This place is the stuff of storybooks – a small converted barn nestled along the banks of a babbling brook filled with trout, no neighbors (except the garden owners) and clean mountain air for miles around. There is little there in ways of modern amenities. We do have electricity which allows us to cook and have hot water and cold food. Aside from that, it’s rustic charm beckons me to come and unplug every year. There are no smart phones or laptops. Just fireflies, bonfires, birds and brook trout for us for days.
It’s hard not to be inspired in this tranquil and pastoral scene. There is so much to see. Nature. Silence. And a pace that slows us down every year. I treasure it so much.
I have been here before. So it becomes a challenge to photograph the same thing every year. If I am not careful, my photos can look the same year in and year out. But I am a storyteller at heart…and a food lover in every other part of me. So this personal project focused on food and the story behind even the simplest meals we make. I wanted to show where it all comes from, how it’s made and most importantly, how it’s enjoyed!
Do you have your own personal projects? I’d love to hear about them and share inspiration! Visit Libby Williams photography.