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.
Editorial content here on the blog has been lacking as of late, which is why I'm thrilled to finally be able to share these images from my latest shoot with everyone. After a long time working with similar themes and concepts, I wanted to try out new ideas and create something a little different to my usual aesthetic. It's a subtle change, but baby steps, right? I tend to feel comfortable repeating similar styles or ideas when it comes to photography, and it's good too to have your own signature, but it's when you step out of your comfort zone that you really grow and learn more about yourself.
Over the last couple of months I've been proactively exploring new magazines, websites, photographers and artists, in order to expand my views not only on fashion (which can be very luxury-oriented and pretentious a lot of the time) but also on culture, society and our current generation as a whole. Now I'm not saying that I've done a complete 360° in my photographs to reflect all of this - far from that. I'm still at a stage of processing all the information and making connections. I'm still learning and how to incorporate and reflect them through fashion photography.
For this set of photos, I've reverted to my old practice of being a one-man-crew on set. I enjoy collaborating with other people, like stylists and make-up artists, but I felt like this shoot needed some form of intimacy. I wanted it to feel like a whisper. Although you can't see what it's like on set, the mood and vibes are still somewhat evident in the photos. The inspiration for this story comes from the idea of leaving a soirée in the early hours of the morning. Rather than feeling melancholic that the party is over, our muse continues to dance and be filled with life, choosing to begin a new day.
Sorry to break this to you, kids - contrary to popular belief, no matter how blessed you may be in the genetics department, modeling isn't just about good looks. Ok, maybe it is a little bit, and you may land a commercial or editorial job here and there, but is that all you want? If you plan to be in the game for the long run, if you really want to be remembered as a person and not just as a living mannequin, what you need is personality. Repeat after me, kids. It permeates through the lens and shines off the pages of a glossy magazine. Or a computer screen. Or most probably from a smartphone if you're living in 2016.
Personality is exactly what Layla here has - and not in a loud, boisterous, "look-at-me" sense. She's soft-spoken and she's quirky, but she isn't afraid to strike up a conversation and put her best foot forward. She's got that 90's laidback, IDGAF attitude, but without coming off as pretentious. In fact, she was eager to learn. Layla possesses a strangeness and charm that's both infectious and intoxicating. And guess what? This particularly humid morning was the first time Layla was on the set of a shoot. For someone to make such an impression on their maiden journey into the world of modelling, the future looks hella bright for her.
Between stressing out over shifting gears on uphill roads and getting lost from our over-dependence on technology, it's a miracle Melody and I made it to Sussex and back in one piece. The agenda for the day was to gawk at one of the most glorious natural landscapes in England - the Seven Sisters Cliffs. And to create some beautiful imagery. It was a success on both counts. Lots of oohs and aahs were involved.
This little road trip was a timely reminder to always follow your heart. When you do what you love, you will love what you do. Cheesy, eh? But it's so true. As with any kind of plan, even when things don't necessarily go wrong, we somehow end up face to face with some kind of obstacle. And there were many itty bitty hurdles we had to jump across that day. But when I finally got home late that night, exhausted in bed, I just smiled to myself. I was happy. I wasn't thinking about the difficulties we faced. I was thinking about our accomplishments, about the breathtaking sights we saw, about how much I enjoy taking photos.
When you're investing effort into something you're passionate about, something you love, it makes it all that much easier to focus on the positive, rather than the negative. In turn, you'll be welcoming more positivity into your life. Instead of complaining, you'll feel grateful and #blessed. I'm no expert, but I think that's how we should all live our lives - happy. Is that too much to ask for?