|©Tim Davis, Searchlights, from the series "Illilluminations"|
During the last year, we published a dozen short essays from photographers to the basic question, "What advice do you have for starting a project?"
The series featured replies from Judith Joy Ross, Irina Rozovsky, Alejandro Cartagena, Phil Toledano, Steven Ahlgren, Susan Lipper, Amani Willett, Lisa Kereszi, Eirik Johnson, Richard Renaldi, Brian Ulrich and Mark Steinmetz.
Originally the idea was to finish with a dozen, but today we publish a 13th and final response from Tim Davis.
We will soon begin a follow-up series of posts of advice from photographers on how to develop a project asking them how they approach the middle ground of their projects, after giving basic definition and before taking steps to finish.
Here's a seeming contradiction. I think of myself as a conceptual artist. I almost never think of an idea before I begin making it. CONCEPTUAL must mean thought of in advance, musn't it? Well I am interested in what I call THINKING IN THE FIELD. This a descriptor of the process of seeing first and then conceiving. Almost all of my projects have begun with things I saw, noted or photographed, and then put aside. But they began with a visual experience. Later (minutes or months) I'll make something else that aligns gravitationally with the first image—like electrons peeling off the outer valences of an atom—and I'll know I have an idea.
This idea often then has a few main components:
1. It is possible. I prefer projects that are possible to do, to get to, to get access to.
2. I can imagine spending most of my time in pursuit of said idea.
3. The project is somehow both critical and celebratory of the culture it comes from.
4. I can visualize what the work will look like.
And when I know it's right, it's as if a door opens in a wall where there wasn't one before. I can go to the door and open it and look through at an expansive plain of possibilities.
Now, I am also a compulsive project-attempter. I have dozens of nearly or entirely complete projects that will never show until I'm dead. I just truffle hound my way through multi-year-long projects that just don't end up working.
If you're timid about starting a project and don't like to fail at something you've spent time, money, energy, social (or marital) capital on, I recommend auto mechanics.
- Tim Davis
|© Tim Davis, Foot, from the series "The New Antiquity"|