When I started making photography a serious hobby – back when buying a simple DSLR camera and lens from a retail chain provided so much excitement and newness – I would scour photography how-to books and try to make pictures out of anything and everything.
That went on for years.
Flowers, insects, beaches, fruit on a table, waterfalls, and most certainly my children were subjected to more camera attention than maybe they wanted.
As I shifted into portrait work, the less enthused I was about other genres of photography.
I say “enthused” because while I remained interested, the motivation dropped. Photography, good photography worth shooting, is (let’s face it) a lot of work.
Shoot RAW. Upload. Cull. Edit. Keyword. Title and caption. Send to a photography website or social media. Backup your work.
Passengers flow through Grand Central Station in New York City.
And frankly, as I grew older, the less likely I was to rouse myself out of bed for that sunrise shot. I wasn’t a professional, I wasn’t on assignment, and more and more, such effort seemed to be without meaning for me.
Plus, as a parent, my responsibility and desire to be around my children eclipsed my desire to leave the house to make an image. Every morning or evening I spent hours creating a photo meant my wife had the burden of watching the kids.
Certainly not one I wouldn’t get paid for or provide some kind of, I dunno, meaning beyond just making the image.
Parent guilt. It’s powerful.
By the time the coronavirus pandemic slammed us in March 2020, I’d returned to full-time work and lost motivation for photography as a hobby.
Lockdown confinement, homeschooling, and the stress of working a full-time job from home didn’t help.
Circumstances during the second half of 2021, however, brought me to a crossroads. Am I gonna commit to being a photographer with all the joyful work it brings or am I gonna finally let it go?
Thus the 12 for ’22 project.
Choosing a yearlong personal photography project
It’s common for photographers across the spectrum, from newbies to seasoned professionals, to consider personal photography projects when the calendar changes.
There are so many. There’s the 365, where you make a photo every day for a year, and it’s less-demanding cousin, the 52 project, which is weekly instead of daily.
You could look at the ABC project, where you try to find something to photograph that begins sequentially with the appropriate alphabet letter.
A view of downtown Pittsburgh from between the Andy Warhol and Roberto Clemente bridges.
As I approached 2022, knowing I wanted to embrace photography as both a vocation and identity, I brainstormed photo projects. But none appealed to me.
And yet, as I brainstormed, I began to notice how my list included all these micro projects I’d been putting off for years.
These were subjects I’d thought about in a fleeting manner over the years but never committed to doing.
And the vast majority of them were practically outside my front door, less than an hour’s drive away.
I thought – what if I committed to making no excuses and follow through on these projects I’d been pondering? What if I picked one a month?
Thus I came up with the 12 for ’22 project.
How the 12 for ’22 Photography Project will work
It’s really not that complicated. And I’m pretty damn excited about it.
I’ve made a list of more than a dozen projects in and around my home here in Lancaster, Pa.
Long exposure shots of Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve. Actors at the Renaissance Faire near Manheim. Autumn splendor in Muddy Run Recreational Park. A Saturday night at the Buck Tractor Pulls. And so on.
A eueides Isabella butterfly enjoys a lunch of nectar (ISO 1250 | f/4.5 | 1/500 sec).
I listed more than a dozen so that if one does not work out or I find it to be less-than successful, I have more to choose from. And believe me, I’ve put off doing plenty of micro photo projects so having a few back ups is no problem.
If anything is worthy, I plan to share them on stock websites, another aspect of being a professional photographer I’ve put off for too long.
What might be the most invigorating part of this project, though, is the end goal — to have a personal tabletop book.
Just a nice, large, quality print book to keep in my home office to commemorate the 12 for ’22 project and my bear hug embrace of photography as a vocation, as the kind of content creation I’m ready, willing, and able to do.
Do you have a photography project for the new year? What is it and, just as important, how did you decide on it?
Dave Pidgeon is a writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa., and he owns Creative Sports Photography. He and his wife have three boys.