New Year; New Project: Out of my comfort zone!

Happy New Year everyone!

Over the next few blog entries, I plan to document the creation of a new project/series. This may become my most ambitious, out of my comfort zone, project to date.

First, a little background. The idea for this project began in 2008. A friend of mine is president and part owner of a local, small tool and die shop. This shop started in a garage and has been around since the 1940’s. My friend started there in 1975 in shipping and worked his way up to president. Being a friend of mine, I wanted to give him a small photo book to commemorate his years of service. During that year, I took a few proof of concept images. Although I liked the concept, I felt it was too out of my comfort zone and expertise to attempt. I have matured a lot more, as a photographer and as a person, since then. About a year ago, this idea quickly grew into another, more ambitious idea.

What is it like for a product to state that it is “Made in the USA”? What does this really mean, especially in today’s economy? Is this just a cliche? Considering the state of the manufacturing industry today, is it even worth discussing, since so many manufacturing jobs have disappeared to foreign shores? Answering these questions will become the essence of my project.

Everything I have created to this point has seldom involved people. There are several reasons for this. There has been so many issues discussed on so many photography forums regarding photographing people. Personal privacy has become a major challenge these days. I felt I wasn’t ready for this nor had any interest in taking on my own experience with this. Also, I tend to be shy at times and struggle to engage in lengthy conversations.

Taking pictures of strangers at work, trying to make a living, seemed to be such an imposition. Would you really like to have someone clicking away at you while you tried just get through another day on the job? Talk about a fish-bowl experience! I feel really self-conscious about being in the way. Indeed this project would take me out of my comfort zone.

But being out of my comfort zone is a great way to learn and challenge myself. What if my project fails? There is always a possibility of this. And even if this does occur, there is still a lot to be gained. Perspective is important: no one is going to die as a result of this project, including me! Remember, I am doing this for fun, too! Also, the anxiety that this experience creates will keep me on my toes and increase my concentration.

Unfortunately, due to a recent health issue, I was forced to postpone my work until these last few weeks.

So, what were my first steps? I had to at least come up with some sort of plan before I started. I did not want to waste anyone’s time and I wanted to look like I knew what I was doing. To do this, I sat down with my friend, (it is always easier when this is done with a friend!), and interviewed him about the company history, the people who worked for him, the type of products they make, who their biggest customers are, etc. As I gathered more background about the company, more questions came into mind. This is a good thing since it will force me to be more specific and less superficial in my approach.

I started putting together a working document on my computer with this preliminary information. The process of rewriting my interview notes always helps me to clarify and solidify what I thought I had heard during the interview. I started listing other questions I needed to have answered as I proceeded with the project. I find that if my notes are not clear and concise, then my project will also not be clear and concise to the viewer.

I then accompanied my friend during his visit to the shop during holiday shutdown while he got the company mail. I used this brief time to take more test shots to determine lighting conditions, the best focal lengths and shutter speeds and ISO settings.

Once I processed these images, I felt I was finally ready to visit the shop during working hours and meet the guys and begin my work. It was time to really have some fun and create something potentially meaningful!

Below are a couple of these project candidates.

national die 1

national die 2

Stop by my blog again during the upcoming weeks as I continue to report on the progress of my new project!