I was recently speaking with a small group of fellow photographers and was surprised to learn that the majority of them couldn’t remember the last time they had taken-on a personal project, or just gone out to shoot for themselves. All of them, however, agreed that they felt most nourished and re-charged when shooting for the sole purpose of creating art vs. working just for the sake of a commission.
Staying connected to one’s passion for the visual arts is an important topic, and Pictage photographer and community leader Will Jacks is somebody I‘ve long admired when it comes to this subject. Will spoke last year at our Pictage Partner Conference about leveraging personal projects to enhance your brand. Numerous attendees of his session said they were inspired by Will’s assertion that focusing on personal projects will help them find their voice and stay connected with their passion.
Will was kind enough to spend some time with me discussing this very topic — specifically as it relates to an important creative endeavor he’s spearheading. The project has tremendous Community value, which is why we’re especially excited to share with you this excerpt from our conversation:
Scott Anderson: You recently announced “Contrast” — a creative initiative of yours that we’re very excited about here at Pictage. Can you provide an overview for our readers?
Will Jacks: Absolutely. On August 20 of this year my studio and gallery will be sponsoring a group photography show in Cleveland, Mississippi. It will be a theme show, and we are inviting photographers from many different genres and from all over the world to participate. The theme for the show is “Contrast”. Photographers are encouraged to examine the theme in any way they like. Color. Black and white. Film. Digital. Mixed media. Explore the concept in subject matter, technique, or both. The main things are to push, explore, and TRY.
SA: What is your ultimate goal for this show?
WJ: My hope is that not only does this become an annual show, but that the week around it becomes a sort of “Burning man” for artists in general, photographers specifically.
SA: I’ve heard you speak on the topic of Art vs. Business. This is a subject that often creates quite a lot of conversation. Share with us you point-of-view.
WJ: As photographers we’re often either so busy producing images for our own clients or so focused on reaching that point that we risk neglecting our own vision and growth. We push to stand out. We attend seminars and workshops that more and more lean heavily towards marketing and branding. We hone our sales techniques. We focus on our clients’ wants and needs. And while I believe all those things are EXTREMELY important, I also believe it important to take time for ourselves, examine where we are and what we’re doing, and make sure we are on the path we intended for ourselves — or perhaps even the one that was intended for us.
So it is in that vein that we are developing this concept.
Photo by Sara Hodzic.
Photo by John and Kim Sanderson.
SA: I’m intrigued by your vision of a “Burning Man” for our industry (count me in)! Can you tell us a bit more about this?
WJ: When I speak of a Burning Man, what I mean is a purposeful “non-structure”. I believe this part of the country — the Mississippi Delta — has a wonderful creative energy. It is a land of extremes. It is often at the extremes that we find passion and creativity, which, of course, are two aspects that lead directly to art.
Part of my hopes are that this show will provide a much needed deadline for all of us. After all, how often do we complete something when we know there is a point after which we can longer complete it? And how often do we procrastinate if our deadline is open ended — thus not being a deadline at all! If we focus on meeting this deadline, and exploring our own work, the next step I envision is one of sharing and serendipitous growth. Not only do I hope to have lots of submissions to view, but I hope that lots of photographers will decide to come visit as well. If enough artists gather with a purpose of meeting, sharing, exploring, and BEING then I think some pretty amazing personal discovery and growth can happen. Every plan we make for this event is being done with that principle in mind.
Photo by Gerald Pope.
Photo by Chris Williams.
SA: How will you measure success?
WJ: This doesn’t work if people don’t want it to work. So I need for others to not only participate, but to encourage and to share with fellow photographers. It needs to be a grassroots effort so that it maintains a sense of wonderment and purity. In all honesty, the group show is not meant to be a standalone event. It is mean to be a part of the puzzle — a means to an end — with the end being a gathering designed to bring about serendipity. I hope I am not alone in my desire to meet new people, try new things, and pay attention to any and all doors me. I don’t think that I am, which is where this idea originates. I encourage as many creatives as possible to submit to this show and come down to visit. The more people that gather, the more doors will open.
SA: All of us here at Pictage are onboard and excited about the many ways we can come together as a community to support your vision.
WJ: That’s great. Pictage has done so much to grow and nurture a strong community of creative professionals. This is all about our art. About our journeys. About our exploration and our growth. It’s about taking time for ME. Just one week. Stop. Slow down. Reconnect. And reset. Spend time with no other intention than just spending time.
The real world will most assuredly still be there on Monday morning. We’ll be back soon enough to pleasing clients and creating images for others. Why not take a few days to create a couple of images for ourselves?
Photo by Shawn Reeder.
Photo by Amber Holritz.
You can view Will’s work at www.wiljax.com
Interview by Scott Anderson (Pictage blog team).