Writer Henry James proposed the following checklist for tackling the very personal, equivocal and essential question "Is it art?"
1. What was the artist trying to achieve?
2. Did he/she succeed?
3. Was it worth doing?
I like these questions a lot because they help me figure out when a project is done, when I need to keep working, and when it's an irredeemable mess best abandoned. In fact, I like these questions so much I'm giving each one a separate POTW.
So, let's consider the first question -- what am I trying to achieve? Naively, I thought this was the easy part. I would respond with "Capture the beauty of the world" or "Record the everyday moments of life" or "I'm a street photographer" but all these answers seemed flimsy. Because their scope was so broad and covered such a huge spectrum of potential images, they didn't really answer the question. It took me over a year to come up with something a little more substantial and even then, someone else identified the theme and pointed me in the right direction.
"Hand-to-hand" is the first picture I ever took "on purpose." The breakthrough came at a portfolio review with the wonderful curator Katherine French who observed "You seem to like hands." In fact, I DO like hands and DID have a handful of hand pictures -- all of people doing things they cared about -- that I could now build on. At last, knowing what I was trying to achieve, I was able to kick off my first project with a purpose and theme.
Since "Larry the Watch Doctor" was three blocks from my house, I passed his tiny workshop several times a week and eventually worked up the courage to stop in and ask Larry if I could take some pictures of him working. He was less than enthusiastic but thankfully said yes and picked up this watch to repair. And so began the "Hands" project.
You can see the "Hands" artist statement and images here: