Series or Project.

Discussion in 'Talk About Anything Photography Related' started by Bill Martindale, Jun 27, 2017.

  1. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    While looking at KenS's Portals this morning it got me thinking. Ken has called his shots a Series and various comments have used that terminology. So what, if anything, is the difference between a Series and a Project?
    I am always amazed at the things people do and how creative they are in what the see and photograph. Ken's Portals are a good example.
    So how do people decide on what to photograph and what influences that decision. Ian for example has sets of images on Lincoln Cathedral, Magpie Mine and pinhole on his web site. Are these Series or Projects?
     
  2. mono

    mono Member

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    For me a Project is the Plan and Decision to make a Series of a certain Theme ;-)
     
  3. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    Good idea Folker. I never thought of Theme.
     
  4. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Administrator Staff Member

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    Good Question Bill

    I call mine projects mainly not for any other reason than... to me it is either an ongoing project or in the case of Magpie Mine a project which I feel I will not return to
     
  5. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Administrator Staff Member

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    This got me thinking....

    I follow Brooks Jensen quite a bit with his online Lenswork series. He always seems to be talking about projects/series/body of works.

    Do you think a body of work gains more merit than say random single images from different genre subjects
     
  6. mono

    mono Member

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    No, I don´t think so.
     
  7. mpirie

    mpirie Member

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    I think that "project" is the methodology or mindset used to generate results.

    In respect of photography, the project refers to the activities and planning involved.

    The result of the project may be anything related to the output. Any commonality in that output would constitute a series.....film type, paper type, subject matter, camera used etc, etc.

    Mike
     
  8. David M

    David M Member

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    This seems to bother some photographers.
    Is there an important distinction between "random single images" and a group of images that relate to each other? August Sander's work, "Faces of our Time", is clearly not made up from some random snaps taken in Germany. It was powerful enough to attract the hostile attention of the Third Reich.
    There seem to be two approaches to observing images. The first, popular in Camera Clubs and for magazine covers, is to favour high impact. Many of us will have sat through an evening of unconnected images while someone tries to assign a numerical value to each one. (If you've tried it, you'll know how very difficult it can be.)
    Verbally, we might think that this is the equivalent of listening to "Bam!" "Bash!" "Whack!" "Pow!" "Zap!" "Ker-pow!".
    I'm being unfair; that's a collection of very similar expressions. Let's imagine a series of extraordinary and interesting words: "Palimpsest" "Zeitgeist" "Paradichlorobenzene" or "Ipecacuanha".
    We might eventually think that we'd prefer to hear "It is a truth universally..." or "I have a dream..." or even "There was a young lady from...".
    We can see that none of these words is extraordinary and yet we can also see a clear difference between the two sets. To return to Sander, none of his portraits has the impact of (e.g.) Moonrise. Now we've mentioned AA, we can recall that he issued his work in sets, too. It's a choice that we can make. Clearly that choice will influence what kind of images we produce.
    What then should we call a number of photographs that are intended to be seen
    together?
    Paul Hill popularised the idea of the sequence, but there are other words like series, project and so on. The RPS seems to use the word panel.
    All of them may suffer from photographers' collective attitude to art. Despite widespread acceptance in galleries, the "Is it Art?" debate flickers on. On the other hand, many photographers would like to avoid the pretentiousness of some kinds of art-y jargon. They may be right. But the problem remains.

    As I was re-reading this, it occurred to me how extraordinary it would be if supermarkets arranged themselves according to impact. At the door would be curry powder, Marmite, bleach and firelighters. At the back we'd find sliced bread and dishcloths.
    There's almost certainly more to be said on this, but not now.
     
  9. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    Ian, I think a project or a body of work probably takes more planning and execution. We all take different types of images at different times and to put together an unconnected number of them may constitute a "body of your work" but unless it is cohesive than I don't believe it is a project or series. Whether it gains more merit is up to the viewer but there should be an acknowledgement of a definite commitment if the whole package works together.
     
  10. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    Mike, is it your opinion then that if a photographer takes 20 images of 20 different subjects but prints them all on say Ilford Multigrade FB Warm Tone paper that would be a series? Similarly if I took all 20 images with Schneider lenses would that be a series? It is an interesting thought and one that a lot of people would not see as a connecting series.
     
  11. David M

    David M Member

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    Bill,
    I suppose it might be called a series if it were commissioned by Ilford, as they did for their packaging, but this would be a very literal interpretation indeed. On that basis we might consider it was a series if all the prints were 10x8, or all from the same box of film, but I can't imagine anyone seriously making this claim. Surely we expect the link to be stronger and we expect the link to be contained in the images, not the substrate.
    I think the use of the word series (or its alternatives) implies an intention by the photographer that each image relates to the others in some way that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts (my apologies for the cliché). It may be that some images in a series are relatively unremarkable if considered individually, but essential in constructing the whole work. Something like prepositions and articles in language, I suppose.
    There is merit, of course, in both approaches.
    If I remember correctly, Ralph Gibson did make a series in which the lens was always focused at the same distance, but I can't remember any more detail. This sounds almost as mechanistic as the all-on-multigrade suggestion, but Ralph is a master.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
  12. Stephen Batey

    Stephen Batey Well-Known Member

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    I'd see a series as a set of related images, perhaps with some sequential arrangement/theme. A project I'd characterise in the same way as a work project - a definite aim in view from the outset, with careful planning and execution to achieve that aim.

    It must just be me; but some of August Sander's portraits have more impact than "Moonrise" for me - I immediately think of the three young farmers for visual appeal, and the scarred face of the young dueller for more obvious impact.
     
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  13. David M

    David M Member

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    Stephen,
    You may be right about Moonrise. I mentioned it as an example a of high impact image that everyone would know. In a different context, I might have said the Hallelujah Chorus.* For some reason, I like AS's Pastry Cook and I imagine everyone has their own favourite.
    The idea of a series is imposed on us when we are organising an exhibition or producing a book. It seems natural that pictures on a wall interact with each other and some conjunctions look better than others. A book enforces thinking about arrangement. (That is, a book of pictures; a Haynes manual would place the images according to the text.)
    Fay Godwin would make small prints of all her candidate images and then arrange and re-arrange them on the floor, adding and rejecting, until she was satisfied that the selection and arrangement best expressed what she wanted to show.
    Another aspect of making bodies of work is that it may suggest what to do next and what to look for when hunting for images. Looking back over the work done so far can suggest new directions; it can help the work and the photographer to evolve.

    (* Even though I myself prefer For Unto Us a Child Is Born. Incidentally, Messiah is a collection of related but different tunes – another kind of series in fact.)
     
  14. mpirie

    mpirie Member

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    Bill,
    If we use the word "series" literally, then anything that connects a number of items could be construed as a series.
    Using the word "series" in relation to photography, (IMHO) implies a number of related lens/films/cameras/images/developers or any other connecting aspect.

    As a professional project manager, i have to spend a lot of time explaining to people exactly what the formal definition of a project is, instead of allowing them to assume what is involved.

    Although the "series" may not be the best verb to use, it's up to the individual photographer to decide whether or not the collection forms a "series" and, if pushed, to define what the link is between the collection forming that series.

    Mike
     
  15. David M

    David M Member

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    I would be interested ton know what the formal definition of "project" is. I've been making assumptions, too.
    pmi.org says
    "A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal."
    Is this correct? I'd like to know how it applies to photography, particularly to the kind of photography we might call creative.
     
  16. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    I was probably being bit obtuse in my last post in response to Mike's suggestion "Any commonality in that output would constitute a series.....film type, paper type, subject matter, camera used etc, etc.". I would agree, as another ex-Project Manager, that a series is a set of related images which may be come across randomly while a project is a more planned and structured approach. As an example Trevor Crone's images of found white plastic chairs is a series but not a project as he didn't set out to look for them he just chanced upon them.
     
  17. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    To me it is setting out to photograph a particular theme or subject over a period of time you set yourself. For example "A Year in the Life of...." Could be a village, a person, a profession or similar. You have a goal in mind, say an exhibition, and that would set your end date. The creative aspect is how you choose to photograph that project.
    I am sure there are many definitions of a project and how people see them. On another forum, for example, somebody has said that he has an ongoing project that has now being going on for over 30 years and another that has run for over 10 years. Neither are yet complete.
     
  18. mpirie

    mpirie Member

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    Hmmm.....not sure i fully agree there Bill.....but of course, i could be misunderstanding you.

    To me, a project defines the approach methodology, the outputs and the timeline with a set start, deliverables and end date.

    A series is the output or deliverable of the project in the form of images.....regardless of how they are connected.

    Conceptually, everything a photographer produces is part of a series.....the photographer being the common link between the images.

    Man, this is getting way too deep for a Friday afternoon :D
     
  19. Stephen Batey

    Stephen Batey Well-Known Member

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    I think a series may require more than just a common link. To me, "series" suggests a mathematical series, where each term (item) bears a relationship to the preceding and the next. Of course, television disagrees with me, as "Perry Mason" was a series where the only common link was Perry Mason and the outcome (he always won); the same characters but in a series where the plot develops as the series goes on is termed a serial. Flash Gordon was a serial, the Lone Ranger wasn't.

    At the risk (and with the slight intent) of being controversal, a series would be a set of related images and a project a set of images produced while wearing creative blinkers to ensure that you didn't step outside the self imposed creative boundaries.

    I have a lot of prints of trees; I might call them an ongoing series, but as I never go out with the idea that "I must photograph trees as it is my project and ignore everything else" I don't regard them as a project, ongoing or otherwise.

    I suppose I'm seeing "project" as something that has a definite goal, and, like a football match, a final whistle. Not that I've ever seen a football match...
     
  20. David M

    David M Member

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    So, it seems that a project involves some sort of planning, more or less strictly defined. As a corollary, a project exists from the moment the plan is formulated but a series must have some actual images to exist. And there seems to be a halfway house where a project is, as it were, discovered within existing images. I seem to recall that Trevor Crone, having noticed that he liked the white chairs, resolved henceforth to keep an eye out for them as he went about his other business.
    Or there are trees. Stephen B might discover that he has a number of images of the same tree and decide that he'd like to produce a complete story of that tree throughout the year. The random images become a project.
     

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