You know what the best thing is about photography? It’s not capturing slices of the world for all eternity, freezing your fingers off trying to get that perfect landscape portrait for which you have to get up at 3am and walk two hours to the top of a mountain, or even the hours and hours of discussions you’ll have with fellow photographers over whether Canon or Nikon wears the crown of bestest camera of all time ever.
To me, one of the most fascinating things about photos is that there are absolutely no rules. There are two hard limits on photography: Your fantasy, and the laws of physics – beyond that, you’re free to do whatever you want to do. We can’t do much about the laws of physics (although, with the recent spate of ISO 100,000 cameras, both Canon and Nikon are giving it their best shot), but there are lots of interesting ways you can try to give your creativity a boost.
In 10 ways to break photographer’s block, I explored a few ways you can shake your creative rut – but to me personally, I think that introducing artificial constraints on my work (as discussed in my Dogma Photography article) is a great way to get creatively juiced up. Recently, I have been spending a lot of time on Flickr, and what strikes me, is that people do some truly in(s)ane stuff – which I, of course, am a complete sucker for.
So, without any further faff, I offer you… A series completely bonkers photo projects, and why they’re worth taking a closer look at…
Stick Figures in Peril
I have no idea where Peril is or why you would want to go there, but this quite active Flickr group has a collection of mad, funny, thought-provoking and downright bizarre warning sign involving, well, stick figures in some sort of danger.
What can you learn? This project is so great because it stands as a reminder that there are photographs and photographic projects all around us. Have you thought about how many times you see warning signs with stick figures around you? It’s like yellow cars or pregnant women – if you start looking for them, they’re suddenly absolutely everywhere. And it’s the same way with photography opportunities. Once you start looking…
Someone sent me a link to Nige’s Electric Wheelchairs moblog a while ago, and I’ve been scratching my head over it ever since. It’s street photography, but with a twist; the people in the photos are all on electric wheelchairs of some sort.
Of all the projects here, this is the one that makes me go why more emphatically than any of the others, and still… The photos are good, and I quite like the surrealism of it as well.
What can you learn? There’s a lot to be said for empowering and destigmatizing people, and photography is one way of doing that. As Nige says, “Electric wheelchairs are fanatstic, it’s a shame that only less mobile pensioners or those with disabilities get to have them, we want to zoom around too!”
Tea and Coffee making facilities
If you’ve got a job where you spend a lot of time on the road and in hotels, you know the feeling: You wander into your room, tired after a long day’s hard work (or waiting around for meetings to begin, which is not as tiring but the frustration alone will make you pine for the nearest pub), and you’re met with a crappy little television, a shower with rubbish water pressure, and the neighbours either having a loud party or making the beast with two backs, smacking the bed against your wall.
Take solace in the one thing which is consistently fabulous about hotel-rooms: the tea and coffee making facilities. This Flickr group is inspired by one of the extras on Bill Bailey’s DVD Part Troll, and does what it says on the tin: Photos of kettles and its accouterments, essentially.
What can you learn? That there is never any excuse for not taking photos – even if the weather is rubbish and you’ve spent every shred of your inspiration account, just look around you, and snap away.
Hotel Door Hangers
Michael Lebowitz, of Big Spaceship fame, posted a collection which is rather quite fascinating. “When my grandfather passed away last year, my family gathered to go through his belongings.”, Michael writes. “He had been in the foreign service and he had filled a whole wall of his study with hotel door hangers from all his travels throughout the world.” Of course, like a good netizen, Mike decided to photograph them all and post them for everybody to see – it’s glorious to see such a span in styles, languages, and time collected.
What can you learn? There are a lot of awesome things which can be collected and digitized – do you have friends or family members with odd collections? Do you? It’s an exercise in product photography, and you might get some additional ideas in the process!
Locks on Toilets
I’ve written about this one before… It’s an odd little project, which I came up with when I was hideously drunk one night – like all great ideas, in other words, and I just sort of continued doing it. Of course, it’s a lot more fun if it’s a collaborative project, and that bit seemed to work quite well – The Locks on Toilets pool on Flickr currently has nearly 300 photos in it – that’s 300 slices of rarely-photographed architecture from all over the world.
Daft? For sure. Funny? Well, I think so. Want to know more? Check out this post, then!
What can you learn? Obviously, if even I can come up with a naff photography project, then anyone can. Go on, give it a shot!
The Number 29
What happens when you one day take a photo which has the number 29 in it, and then decide to find out what would happen if you were to take a photo of that same number whenever you saw it? You get the awesome Number 29 project.
It has photos. Containing the number 29. In lots of different styles, places, and ways. Um, yeah, that’s really all there’s to it, but do go take a look, it’s pretty nifty.
What can you learn? Nothing, really, and I’m sort of regretting adding a ‘What can you learn’ bit to each of these, because what this post really should have been is a simple list of ‘Hey, look at these awesome projects’, and now, instead of working on my day job, I’m sitting here coming up with contrived ideas for things you can learn from silly projects. Feh.
The Squared Circle
It’s a very simple concept: Take a round object, place it inside a square photograph, and see what happens. If you think it sounds a bit too simple, then I have to admit that I agree with you, but 85,601 contributions to the Flickr Photo Pool can’t possibly be wrong: this is one of the longest-standing and most popular Flickr photography projects. It shows some incredible creativity, a lot of variety for such a constrained topic, and no small amount of humour, as well.
What can you learn? I guess round pegs do fit quite neatly into square holes – and I’m very fascinated by how people still seem to be able to come up with new takes on what now is a battered old photographic meme.
What are your favourites?
Scroll about 3 inches down this screen, past the advert which nobody actually sees or ever clicks on anyway, and you’ll find a comment field. If you know of a wicked project I’ve missed, go on, share it!
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