Not one to do things halfway, when Alec Soth decided to do a Flickr photo project with the public in conjunction with his survey show here, he actually expanded the idea into multiple “assignments.” Earlier this week, 732 participants finished up Assignment #1 (“The Treasure Hunt”), uploading 1,275 images and generating some great discussions on photography in the process.
Here’s Soth’s take on The Treasure Hunt:
“I’ve just looked at the 1000+ entries to the 1st Flickr assignment and I’m blown away by the results. The assignment was to photograph from a number of categories. Here were some favorite individual images:
All of this is, of course, just personal taste. I doubt everyone loves that suitcase picture (by Erik Neufurth), for example. But I’m a sucker for this kind of dumb immediacy. It reminds me a bit of one of my favorite photographers, Lars Tunbjork. And I’m a big fan of Erik’s entire approach to the project. He decided to take just a single picture of each item without going further than 10 kilometers from his bed. I love these kinds of limitations. In the end, Erik produced a number of my favorite pictures. See the whole set here.
I would like Erik’s pictures without knowing about his strategy, but sometimes the story behind the series does add a lot. A great example of this is Hannah (gofeetgo). Hannah produced a number of excellent images, but I was equally inspired by her writing. Through the course of her From Here To There project, we follow Hannah from Taiwan to a road trip around America. Along the way she wrote poignantly about this project:
Before we moved to Taiwan, my husband photographed his job for ten years. He was a paramedic in a rural North Florida county. His everyday process has always been very lyric, using his cell phone and pocket camera more like a notebook, uploading to flickr frequently, and just charging ahead through ideas. The initial transition to Taiwan, and now back to the states had him a little lost for a way to a “real” story, it had left him something unsatisfied about his pictures.
I showed him your blog post about your business card and Frank’s quote. Then I told him last night to write a list. And he did. This morning he read it to me. It’s beautiful. Here’s just a few of my favorites: drug company giveaways, re-purposed chain store, “someday this car will rise again”, sensible haircuts…
Anyway, it hit us that we’ve been listing all along, but in our heads. There’s a mental list of collected observations that come to shape what and how we see a place, but damned if we always get a picture of them. The list makes you do it. Perhaps, photography-wise this process can make having no bearings more bearable.
So what is the list in your head?
The list I provided was my own, but it was also over ten years old. My list of current interests are quite a bit different. Nonetheless, I loved the different approaches people took. It was almost impossible coming up with favorite set. Check out these excellent submissions by Lost in St. Leonards, Jen Trail, Tony Huang. My runner up was Andie Wilkinson. As shown above, her ‘pilot’ and ‘sleeping child’ pictures were two of my favorites. And all of Andie’s images have a kind of dark lyricism.
But I have to give the prize to Etienne Courtois. Not all of the pictures are related to the list, but all were made during the journey to complete the project. And his images manage to both have a story but also remain mysterious:
It is true that Etienne broke a lot of rules. His sleeping child is wide awake. But art isn’t math. There is always room to play.
So congrats to Etienne and everyone else who participated in the 1st assignment. Stay tuned for assignment #2.”
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