001 // Fits and Starts by Doug DuBois // page 88
Every so often, I start my graduate seminar with a celebration of false starts, dead ends, and wrong turns. The assignment calls for students to display a failed project. For inspiration, we all read Courtney Eldrige’s wonderful letter to the editors of McSweeney’s, which begins:
No, I’m afraid I don’t have anything to submit to your upcoming issue. So instead of sending a complete work, because I don’t see that happening anytime soon, I thought I might submit a working list of stories which I have recently or not so recently quit, abandoned, or forsaken, complete with short summaries of each failed effort, in order to give you some idea why they’ve been sent down. Besides, I like listing. It cheers me up.”
Maybe the strongest glue that binds artists together is failure. Celebrating this kinship, getting it out in the open, helps to avoid the delusion of self-pity and the scorn of schadenfreude. There is, of course, no critique of the work presented for this assignment, but the inevitable stories and laughter help us maintain the conceit, so critical to art and life, that things will get better.
I've always been one to scoff at the idea of "new year, new me" and other resolutions of that nature... But I have to admit, this year I really do feel like a new me. Not because there's a shiny, new calendar on the wall (metaphorically speaking), but because I actually have been rediscovering myself and my passions over the course of the last few months. I've really been pushing the boundaries of my own comfort zones, exploring, learning and growing through my experiences.
One of the things I've been focusing a lot on lately is my photography and how I can push myself to get better. When I saw that Rhea (an incredible creative, of whom I am a huge fan) had embarked on a personal project of taking on assignments from The Photographer's Playbook, it was something that immediately resonated with me. I believe in signs and this was definitely a huge one. My dear friend Trishna and I have decided that we need to push ourselves creatively and therefore we will also be taking part in these weekly assignments - no guarantee on that time frame though, considering how long it took for this first one to come about.
The first brief (posted above) talks about failed projects - initiatives that we've quit, abandoned or forsaken. This particular set of photos were not exactly a failure per se, however I never expected them to be published. Therefore they were pushed to the back of the shelf and forgotten about. These photos were shot spontaneously with a friend on a sun-drenched weekend almost two years ago. At that time it seemed like something we were just doing for fun - without any intended audience, without any pretence. The light coming through the windows was beautiful and I just knew that I wanted to capture something equally beautiful in it. My creative work two years ago was very different to what it is today, and I wouldn't have imagined that these would fit in my portfolio. Yet it's strange to see that it actually sits perfectly with my current body of work. Something for me to think about.
While I head off to brainstorm for next week's assignment, please feel free to join in on this journey of self-improvement. I'm incredibly curious to see how others interpret these briefs and assignments. Leave a link below and I'll definitely check it out.