Photographers and non-photographers alike can relate to the pains of finding time to work on something for yourself. Creativity for creativity’s sake? To many, this sounds like an unattainable dream. If you carry similar doubts, let my colleague Julieanne Kost prove you wrong – I promise it’ll be worth it.
Longtime Photoshop and Lightroom evangelist, Julieanne knows a thing or two about balancing work and personal projects. Her newest personal project Passenger Seat – her latest book, chock full of stunning photographs taken from (you guessed it) the passenger seat of a car– can be purchased online starting today (great gift for the holidays? I’d say so). I caught up with Julieanne to learn more about her book and get her perspective on the importance of personal projects.
Tell us more about how you got started with the Passenger Seat series. Where did the inspiration come from?
Passenger Seat, the project, started as a purely personal one as I traveled through the northeastern United States to view the leaves in fall. We drove all day looking for iconic New England landscapes, and between the small towns, I started taking images out the window of the car. At the end of the day, the images that I had made “in between” were the images that resonated with me. I found myself capturing a distinct yet ephemeral moment that was not entirely apparent or observable when the image was made, yet these photographs conveyed the mood, colors, and transient notion of fall better than anything that I had mindfully composed.
With photography so often about the obsession of capturing perfect moments and frames in crystal clear focus, can you explain what it was like to create images that seemed to deliberately go against the grain of all technical and aesthetic conventions?
It was fun! I believe we need to constantly explore different techniques and subjects in order to stay healthy and not atrophy. This project helped me continue to look at things with a new perspective, photograph what I could not see, learn how to make technology work for me, and “let go” and lose myself in the process of making images.
A central theme to the book is prioritizing personal projects. In your opinion, why is this important for a photographer’s work?
As photographers and artists, we can’t undervalue the need for personal time and creative time. Whether photography is your primary source of income or an essential passion through which you share how and what you see in the world, please do not underestimate the value and importance of embarking on purely personal projects.
Time and time again, I have found that it’s my personal projects that continue to keep me in love with and passionate about photography. They are the primary way for me to ensure that my photography continues to evolve, and they advance my ability to tell a story. Because personal projects are self-assignments, I am able to take risks, experiment without any pressure, try new technologies, and pursue new ideas.
It’s the personal projects that get me out of bed filled with excitement before the sun rises and keep me photographing after the sun goes down. They give me the opportunity to explore new places, see new things, and feed my soul.
The book is full of how to make time for personal projects. What advice do you think is the easiest to implement?
Making sure that you choose at least one project that you can do on a daily basis. One that is aligned with what you like to do and how you like to spend your time. We all have access to different subjects, locations, and resources. Things that seem common to you may be completely unique and fascinating to someone else.
The Passenger Seat project was ideal because we don’t always have a lot of free time to make photographs. By taking advantage of “idle” time in the car, I was able to create an entire body of work while getting from point A to point B.
In your book, you discuss the “serendipity of art and science coming together as one” and the “contrast between chaos and order”. How does this play into your photography?
I grew up in a household that was both creative and technical: my mother was a painter and printmaker; my father was an engineer whose hobby was photography. It was a fantastic combination of left- and right-brain pursuits. I think the most valuable lesson I learned from my parents was that while their approaches and the techniques they used to express to themselves visually were different, they each had to master their respective tools from a creative as well as a technical standpoint in order to produce the images they wanted.
This project was just that —the perfect combination between mastering the techniques to capture the images as well as being able to “let go” and allow “luck” or “the happy accident” to happen. If you’ve ever stared out the window of a moving car, you know the chaos that speeds by, the camera allowed me to capture images of what I could not see, bringing order to the chaos I was experiencing both physically as well as metaphorically
If readers remember one thing from this book, what do you hope that is?
There is so much more to see in this world, and an infinite number of ways to see what is there. As a photographer, it’s your willingness to experiment—to try something new without the fear of failure—that will set you apart. “It hasn’t all been done before,” because you have yet to make your image through your eye, with your voice, telling your story.