The Personal Project Project


I’m drawn to the notion of convergence.  Of combining interests in a unique manner to help spark creativity, to ease your way out of a slump, to solve problems in new ways.  It’s common advice in photographic circles that developing personal projects can help sharpen your skills and, if needed, reinvigorate your passion.  So, I’ve been giving this some thought.

The idea is simple for the photographer: take something (outside of photography that is) that interests you and then conduct a photo essay on that subject.  Hook up two disparate passions and see what happens when sparks fly.  Makes sense.

So, I’ve been reading about photographers’ personal projects and come up with quite the list.  On that list:

  • One image each day that tells “the story” of that day
  • The slow and painful rebuilding of a still earthquake and poverty fractured Haiti
  • The plight of albinos in Tanzania (where they are considered “zero zero”, i.e., worth less than animals) but whose body parts are valuable in various medicinal brews, making their lives a terrible challenge
  • Macro photographs of snowflakes
  • Architectural and cultural decay
  • Remnants of 1950s and 1960s America
  • Images that convey hope and optimism
  • Images that depict despair and suffering
  • Document everything within one set hour of a given day
  • The beauty that lies within your own backyard

I’m resolving to pursue a personal project or two in the coming year and so I thought I’d throw the question out to 2 Guys Photo visitors to see if you have tackled your own personal project.  Do tell by using the comments section below (under “Leave a reply”) to let us know what you’re up to.  And in the coming weeks, I’ll let you know about my own personal project.

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7 Responses to The Personal Project Project

  1. Hey Rey,

    One of my early projects (early, as in my photographic career) was to photograph the Port Authority Bridges here in NJ. I shot each of the following bridges in numerous settings:

    Bayonne Bridge – connects Bayonne, NJ to Staten Island
    Goethals Bridge – connects Elizabeth, NJ to Staten Island
    OuterBridge Crossing – connects Perth Amboy, NJ to Staten Island
    George Washington Bridge – connects Englewood Cliffs, NJ to Bronx, NY

    Only 4 bridges, but the last one proved to be a challenge (I dedicated a day to shoot the bridge during last summer). The first 3 are relatively close to me, so it wasn’t too difficult to shlep out there and just shoot. You can see a number of shots of each on my website. This came about while I was shooting the Hatem Bridge in Havre De Grace, MD on the Susquehanna river. I was captivated by the large structure and shooting from beneath this behemoth, giving it a different perspective. I became so intrigued that I decided to shoot all my bridges in this manner, assuming it was possible.

    In pursuing this project, a number of other projects grew out of this one (i.e. “spinoffs”, if you will): urban decay, abandoned warehouses/properties, cityscapes. The last grew into a major undertaking in New Brunswick (and lucrative, as I got a fair amount of work), which led to my first major show (“New Brunswick Thru Photographer’s Eyes”, on display from January 10-29 at the Alfa Art Gallery,

    Trains is another ongoing project of mine (see my web site). Engines, rail yards, trestles…all capture my imagination…so I shoot. Arizona, Maryland, New Jersey…wherever. If I see a great shot, I take it. I have frequented the yards from here to Flagstaff, AZ.

    What this has taught me is this: however trivial, pursue your passion. Pour your heart into your work and people WILL take notice. It may or may not make you money, but at least you will have accomplished a personal goal, and your images will forever capture that point in time – which is after all, the point.

    Happy New Year…

    Frank V.

    • Rey says:

      Frank – thank you for all these great thoughts. Urban decay is one that interests me greatly and I’d love to see some of that work. Thanks for your comments and happy new year!


  2. Rodney says:

    Not sure if this is considered a personal project, but two summers ago a friend and I did a 30 day photo challenge. He wanted to stimulate interest in his kids and wife, so they joined in. Each day was a different theme… clouds, the color red, what I wore today, etc… if you missed a day you weren’t ostracized, but few days were missed. Everyone tried to comment on the others photos to say what they liked and didn’t like. It was fun, and it certainly made you think outside the box and try to be creative. Good luck with your personal project Rey, look forward to reading about it.

  3. LaRee says:

    The photography group I belong to does a photo a day challenge every February. My favorites are from 2009 and 2011 featuring “Bob”. In 2010 I decided to get away from Bob but the month fell flat. Last year in 2012 I had some truly tragic things I was dealing with in January and Feburary but I held in there and completed the month of PAD. Looking back now it isn’t super obvious I was struggling with some intense grief. But that PAD was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Grief has a way of consuming and coloring everything. I already have an idea for this year. If you’d like to see the Bob project (which I did have printed into books) you can check the galleries out here: Click on a photo in the large view and you can view the captions which are just as important and arrow through the “book”. This is no grand undertaking compared to what others do. But for my personal situation it is satisfying.

    • Rey says:

      Hi – thanks for sharing this. When I read your comment, I wondered what you meant by “Bob”. Clicking through, now I understand. And the captions do paint a picture. I’m struck by how our work, our art reflects something of us. That while we’re pointing the lens at a subject, sometimes we’re the subject ourselves.

      Thanks for your comment. And may your 2013 PAD and otherwise be great!


  4. Rodney says:

    Hey Frank,
    Good luck with the art gallery in January. I looked at a few of your train photos, nice job. I especially like the one that has the rain streaming down!

    Hey Laree,
    I checked out some Bob photos, great idea. Very funny too. I glanced thru one of the Bob galleries without the captions and one with the captions. Both were equally enjoyable, but I particularly liked going thru without captions as it fed my imagination :0)… Well done.

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