How to Start a Project: Richard Renaldi

© Richard Renaldi, Josette & Juan, from the series "Touching Strangers"

Two years ago, I asked a handful of friends in the photography world if they had advice about starting projects for my students. I continue to present their responses to students each semester.

Under the idea that their responses might be of interest to others, I will publish some of the responses I received then as well as soliciting new responses to post a total of a dozen replies from photographers to the basic question, "What advice do you have for starting a project?"

The series has featured replies from Judith Joy RossIrina RozovskyAlejandro CartagenaPhil ToledanoSteven AhlgrenSusan LipperAmani WillettLisa Kereszi, and Eirik Johnson.

Today we continue with a contribution from Richard Renaldi.

Renaldi was born in Chicago in 1968. He received his BFA in photography from New York University in 1990. Exhibitions of his photographs have been mounted in galleries and museums throughout the United States, Asia, and Europe. In 2006 Renaldi's first monograph, Figure and Ground, was published by the Aperture Foundation. His second monograph, Fall River Boys, was released in 2009. His third, Touching Strangers, will be published by Aperture.

I think it is important to have a strong concept or idea that you feel motivated about before starting a project. If you feel wishy-washy about it, it may not drive you forward especially if you are not immediately happy with your results. I think it is important to photograph a lot over a lengthy period of time. Ideas often need time to evolve and be subjected to the effects of time and perspective.

The best way to actually start a project besides thinking about it and researching it, is simply to actually go out and start photographing. Some people will be afraid of failure, some over-eager, and others too cautious. What I say to you is to be conscious of your faults and anxieties and push through them. Push yourself past and beyond your zones of comfort, that is often where the "magic" can start to happen. Don't worry too much at the onset if it is good or not, just work really hard and see what you get. Then over time, strengthen it. When you get to a point where you feel good, think about sharing with other colleagues and seeking their advise, thoughts, and encouragement.

© Richard Renaldi, Marcos, 2012, from the series "Manhattan Sunday"