Surface - My Failure Project
"I prefer the risk of failure in experimentation to the alternative of safe repetition and boredom. I do not change for the sake of change, but for experimentation that may lead to new visual ideas." (Arnold Newman)
In early 2015, I embarked upon a year-long photo project centered on my hometown titled 'Surface'. Having being inspired by this quote - I remember innocently posting it to my Facebook page in mid-2015 - relating it to the work I was doing, as well as sharing with people my ambitions for the project. At that time I was very excited and confident about it but that soon changed. I certainly did take a risk in terms of how much work I put into the project, but unfortunately, the risk didn't pay off!
It's always been a dream of mine to publish a credible artistic body of work. In my early teens, I pursued the goal with music. I spent years like a zombie; up late hours producing sounds and making tracks in my bedroom. I never quite got there though, so I quit. Then I found photography and the same passion drove me to start 'Surface'. Over two years have passed now and I've never expressed how I felt about it.
The aim of the project was to self-publish a book in order to fulfill my dream. See for me, having images on a website isn't a fulfillment. It's kind of like chewing bubblegum when you share a picture online. You get an instant sugar rush but with no lasting effect! The greatest way to experience photographs is in a tangible object, ie, a well-executed photobook. There are many fine examples to be seen that accomplish this, and I've become a bit of a collector in recent years. But once you see the high caliber of photography works that exist, you kind of feel that you'd like to at least come close to those kinds of standards. That's still my goal but I can't see that being achieved any time soon.
With my project, I took over 1500 portraits and God only knows how many hours I spent editing. But in the end, like the music, I wasn't happy with the work. It's a painful place to arrive; when you know it's just not good enough. You don't believe in it; you doubt yourself, your ability and question whether you can ever create something that will stand up. And I'm still questioning that! Furthermore, 2015-2016 was honestly the toughest and most painful time in my life but we won't go there now.
All that being said, the project has served me well. It's good to know your limitations and be realistic about where you're at, in terms of your development. I'm thankful for the growth that comes with failure because those lessons are invaluable. I can now perceive subtle things that I was blind to before I commenced the project. You can't learn that in books or universities. That education can only be gained by relentless repetition and practical experience. I can now take that to what I do next.
So what is next? Well, I don't have the answer to that question but I don't think I can ever shake the desire to create a body of work in photo-book format. But, right now, I don't feel inspired to start anything. That's a problem. Unless I'm motivated to do something, something I genuinely believe in, then there's nothing to work with. So for now, I'm going to keep studying the masters of photography and maybe something in the future will inspire me to commence another project. Let's see.