9.14.2015

How to Develop a Project: Chris Steele-Perkins

Great Britain 1982. England. Blackpool. © Chris Steele-Perkins / Magnum Photos

In 2012 and 2013 fototazo published thirteen short essays from photographers to the basic question, "What advice do you have for starting a project?"

The series featured replies from Judith Joy RossIrina RozovskyAlejandro CartagenaPhil ToledanoSteven AhlgrenSusan LipperAmani WillettLisa KeresziEirik JohnsonRichard RenaldiBrian UlrichMark SteinmetzTim Davis and Nicholas Nixon.

We continue with a follow-up series 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.

Responses in this new series have come from Elinor CarucciMichael ItkoffJackie NickersonAlessandra SanguinettiChris VereneLaura El-TantawyRory Mulligan, and Vanessa Winship.

Today we follow with Chris Steele-Perkins.

Born in Burma, Chris Steele-Perkins moved to England with his father at the age of two. In 1970 he started working as a freelance photographer, moving to London in 1971. Apart from a trip to Bangladesh in 1973, he worked mainly in Britain in areas concerned with urban poverty and also sub-cultures. Steele-Perkins joined Magnum Photos in 1979 and soon began working extensively in the developing world, in particular Africa, Central America and Lebanon, as well as continuing to document Britain.

His books include, The Pleasure Principle, a work exploring Britain in the 80's; Afghanistan, the result of four trips over four years; a long term photographic exploration of Japan, Fuji; a highly personal diary of 2001, Echoes; the second of his Japanese books, Tokyo Love Hello; a black and white study of English rural life, Northern Exposures; a 40-year perspective on England, England, My England; and Fading Light, a book of photographs and interviews with centenarians.
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El Salvador. 1981. Village confessional. © Chris Steele-Perkins / Magnum Photos

Go into a project determined but not in a rigid way. Reality is never as you imagined it so respond to the reality you actually find, not the one you hoped to find, or the one someone told you to find. Make lists, change lists. Shoot stuff that interests you but may not seem to be related to the project, it may be important, you never know.

Discuss your work with people as it goes on, get their feedback, it can be really helpful and surprise you.

Spend time on the work, it is almost an equation, the more time you spend working, the better the work, so when you think you have done enough, that is the time to do more, go the extra mile, then the mile after that too.

Be hard on yourself, strip away the poor work. Editing your work is the final development of the project.