For a long time I’ve been looking for what Brooks Jensen (the publisher of LensWork) calls a project. A project is a coherent body of work. It provides structure that helps answer the ever-difficult but essential question, “What should I be photographing?” For this to work, it must be something that you care about enough to keep working on. What unites the photos into a project is up to you; it can be anything. (Whether it feels like a unified body of work to your audience is another question.)
Brooks argues that successful projects are more likely to emerge from one’s existing work than to be planned in advance. But, of course, it’s been irresistible to me to react to every new idea or successful image with, “Could this be a project?” Now, at last, I may have found one, and, as Brooks predicted, I discovered it while going through my archives. I’m provisionally calling it “Wildness,” though I mean something complicated by that. I’ve long been attracted to unkempt vegetation, but it’s difficult to articulate why. The goal of the project is to pursue that in a more focused way than I have been doing.
So far, by wildness I think I mean the insistence of the non-human occupants of the world to do things their own way. I do not mean wilderness. This photo was taken in Seattle, of an untidy corner of the UW campus, near the site of an old sawmill. It was the bottom of Lake Washington until people lowered the lake 100 years ago. Those trees showed up on their own. We could cut them down, but ones like them would reappear there or somewhere else. I find this hopeful.
We’re well into one of Earth’s occasional mass extinctions, apparently the first caused by a single species (us), but we’ll never be able to wipe out all life. Something will survive and spread. We might not like it; it might even be outright hostile towards things like us (think epidemics, invasive species, even bedbugs), but there will be something.
I’ve found over a dozen photos that I think fit this theme (and that I like), some of which I’ve already posted (for example). I’ll be posting more.