Tell stories like the three bears

One of the things I make pictures of for the long haul is cyclocross. This photo is from yesterday. ©Mike Davis/2010Everyone should have a range of photographic bodies of work in the works at all times. That’s obvious. Or maybe not.

For many years, I’ve encouraged photographers to always have bodies of work in the works that engage them for different periods of time and that engage their eye, mind and heart in different ways.

What the hell does that mean?

A simple explanation is to, one, have photographs at your fingertips that you’ll make simply as a response to something in the moment. No thought, no weighty underpinnings, you just see something that catches your eye or your mind or your heart and you make a picture about the reason that thing engaged you.

So have a camera nearby as much of the time as you can to increase the chances of these types of photographs happening. I often make pictures at home like this, of how light is falling on a favorite object or the cat doing something silly. Over time, this set of pictures tells a story of that layer of my life, without having to think about it.

Beautiful. That’s one. It’s fun.

Then there are the bodies of work that you can accomplish in a day or a few days or periodically during a month. These tend to be about a person or an event or a place that need a little time to develop the thread that binds the images together. If these were films, they’d be shorts - and they should be developed with the same demands of narrative thread that successful films have.

These mid-level bodies of work take more time, more thought, a more purposeful commitment. 

You should also pursue bodies of work that have no foreseeable ending, in terms of how long you make pictures of your chosen subject. These are the granddaddies, the big mommas that challenge and thrill photographers the most. In some cases, they are the bodies of work that you love to have completed but the process of making them has been hell. As a writer said, “I love to have written.”

I’m going to present three examples of this last type of work in the coming days, rather than try to explain too much here - in part because few people would have the patience it takes to read an explanation of the whole of this type of body of work. Beside its sometimes better to see than be told.

That covers the time frame variations. If you combine varying lengths of commitment with varying types of stories that require different ways of seeing or different narrative approaches you’ll never run out of new ways of telling stories. (Staying fresh is going to be another blog post.)

Oh, and the three bears of this post are about always having stories of different sizes that are just right for the moment. (Making pictures that last beyond the moment will be yet another post.)

A certain courage

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