Friday Video Focus – “Developing Your Photography Project” with Adam Marelli

This week’s video focus is “Developing Your Photography Project” with Adam Marelli, which was produced by B&H Event Space.  Marelli discusses photography projects in the context of the mistakes that he has made as a documentary photographer. He discusses topics that range from the philosophy behind photography projects to the financial outcome.  

Adam Marelli is a self-described cultural photographer who focuses on master craftsmen.  You can read his bio here.

In preparing for this post, I watched this video for the third time.  And, I took extensive notes for a third time.  I like Marelli for two reasons.  First, having seen three of his other lectures at B & H, I appreciate his direct and honest approach from his own experiences and his authenticity and transparency about the business and process of his photography. Second, I appreciate his focus. In the video above, he describes how he identifies primary influences in his life to narrow the focus of his photography.  In other words, his focus on cultural photography defines not only to what he says “Yes,” the unspoken corollary is that which he has decides to say, “No!”  He is not distracted by some other genre of photography.  He does what he does.  And it works.

Marelli identifies two influences that define his work: building and philosophy.  He provides a Venn diagram to explain his focus.  This was tremendously helpful for me as a newbie to photography projects. But, it got me thinking (which is what I typically do since I have a master’s degree and doctorate and teach college) – are these the only two influences upon a photographer?

I don’t think so.  He included in his Venn diagram only two internal and external influences – his experience in building and his experience in a Zen Buddhist temple.  I am completely intrigued by how he recognized these influences, but I am compelled to argue there are more influences to how we approach photography projects meaningful to each of us. Here a few socio-anthropological variables I am convinced affect our passion for a project: education level, socio/cultural-economic status, familial engagement, worldview, photography training and feedback, gender identity, personality, and trauma.

Am I over-thinking this?  I am an academic. Heck yeah, I am.  That’s what I do.  But, if we are going to go down the path that Marelli has taken, we have to be more transparent about who we are, our capacity to do what we do, and why we are doing what we are doing.  If you watch the video, Marelli asks the question, “So, what?  Why is this project important?”  If we don’t answer that for ourselves first in a more in a more reflective manner, I am convinced our photography projects will fall flat.

Clearly this is some deep stuff.  In fact, my heart gets pumping thinking about it from an academic perspective. But, my main take-aways are twofold – (1) what influences me? and (2) I have some great starting points to develop my photography projects.

I hope you watch Marelli’s video.  Each time I watched it, I walk away excited.


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