Creating photographic series
The whole working in series idea can be elusive and difficult to do, especially when you’re somewhat new to photography, or even not-at-all new, which was the case for me. The whole idea of creating series eluded me for years but it was something I felt was an important step in my photographic process. Something about being more intentional in creating images felt like a necessary evolution to taking this photography thing more seriously. However, I had no idea how to come up with an idea to create a series.
Oddly, the first series or project I created came about in, what I know for me now, a most uncommon way. I came up with the idea first and then shot the images to fulfill this idea. I’ve found I’m far more inclined to piece together my series over time.
I think most photographers fall into one of these two categories. For me, the idea-first approach is rare but at least it got me started and it works for many. Below is an example of my first real cohesive project and an example of idea first/shoot to fulfill. It’s titled “From the ‘L’.” The intention was to ride every mile of Chicago’s ‘L’ and share each lines unique perspective on the city, so that’s exactly what I did.
This project broke the ice for me and in some weird way allowed me to realize this isn’t the only way to approach creating a series of images. What I discovered was that a series can sometimes creep up on you or be revealed by shooting over a longer period of time. Common themes begin to show up throughout your work from one day of shooting to the next.
This is exactly what happened in my on-going series, “Structure + Soul.” While architecture is my typical subject and most commonly devoid of people, I began noticing from time to time I’d include one or two individuals in an architectural scene. The three images below were all shot in Los Angeles in various locations that fit within this theme. Now that I’ve noticed I tend to like this type of scene I’m more aware of this and am on the lookout for these types of opportunities to continue to add to this series.
Perhaps another way to ease into the whole series or project idea is to choose one subject, on one day and create a cohesive, yet varied view of that subject. I do this often, especially when I’m photographing a new building or one that has so many opportunities. An example is this series of Walt Disney Concert Hall images below.
On this occasion, I was struggling a bit because it was the second time I’d photographed this building and seemed to be making the same shots I had on my previous visit. To push myself out of that comfort zone I needed to take a step back and look for a new way to see things. The way the early morning light was interacting with the structure and the perspective from where I was standing, the curves and bends of the architecture reminded me of Antelope Canyon. That was my inspiration for this series of images, all shot within a relatively short amount of time.
I believe by creating series, through whatever method works for you, you begin to see your subjects in more depth and allow for more unique and meaningful results. Do you work in series? Do you find it helpful to seeing more creatively?
February 4-5, 2017, Michael Muraz, a Toronto-based architecture photographer, and I will be leading a workshop in Los Angles where we’ll discuss series, inspiration, process, subject and composition. We’ll then head out to photograph LA’s unique architecture, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Broad and Alexander Calder’s Four Arches you see in this post along with so many more compelling locations around downtown. For all the details and to register, follow this link. The early-bird rate is available until December 15.