Final Project Production Journal
What I really wanted out of this project was a chance to recapture a little bit of the magic of the holiday I used to love as a kid. I was a huge Christmas fanatic as a child, but as adulthood set in I’ve lost a bit of that in the quest for the perfect gifts for others, and the subsequent affect that this quest has both on my psyche and on my bank account. As now is the season of stress and finals, I thought this would be a good time to remind people (and myself) to relax, breathe, and remember what the innocence and magic of the holiday season meant to us as children. As a sophomore in college, I often feel as though I’m being pulled back and forth between child and adulthood—I am technically an adult, I suppose, but I in no way feel like one. I came up with this concept on reminiscing about what I loved about Christmas when I was little, and wishing I could rediscover that for a moment.
I can’t really say any one style or photograph really influenced me for this project, because I don’t know a lot of styles particularly well. However, one aspect that I really am going to try to create is a kind of candid, comfortable quality. My idea for this project is for it to resemble a photo album of sorts; one that captures the happiness and comfort that I remember about the holiday season. In my head, it comes across as more of a collection of images that remind me why the holidays were of such importance to me. The most important part is for the photos to have a celebratory, happy feel to them, which I think would be exceptionally difficult to produce if I were to choose a photographic style that focuses on dramatic flare, such as the Herb Ritts photography I studied earlier in the semester.
Prior to shooting, my main concern is finding moments that will fit into the vision I have for this project. At this point, I have an idea of what I want the photo essay to look like, but I am mostly planning on going with gut instinct, and to photograph images that inspire the emotion I’m looking for. This is a bit of a double edged sword; one hand, this sense of candidness and a slightly haphazard, happily chaotic feel is what I’m hoping to create; however, the lack of specificity is also a bit nerve racking for a final project.
Once I started the photo essay, I ran into a few problems—namely, I had some trouble deciding and sticking with one approach for conveying the joy of the holidays. In trying to decide exactly what I was going to photograph, I decided that I wanted to focus on the progression of the holidays from childhood into adulthood. This was jarring, because it was a bit of a shift from my original idea. However, I decided that if I were to stay with the idea of Christmas from a childhood perspective, my essay wouldn’t have any real variety to it, which bothered me. So, I shifted the focus of the essay to how we experience the holidays as we grow up—from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. I thought this would make the essay a lot more visually interesting, as well as a bit more resonant.
Once I’d gotten the main idea down, I worked out the shooting a bit more. The whole process of shooting took a fairly long time—I shot over the course of two weeks. I collected some of the photos on my walks to and from school—some of which I thought were particularly visually interesting, others simply reminded me of the happiness I felt when I was little around this time of year. Over the two weeks, I made trips to Union Station, The Holiday Festival in Chinatown, and the National Christmas Tree. For some of these trips I was accompanied by friends who posed for me, because I wanted to get a sense of holiday spirit in action—to give the photo essay a little kinetic energy, if that makes sense. Also, the idea of going to the Holiday festival by myself around the holidays was enough to make me feel like Scrooge.
One way I came up with to express the passage of time was to alter the way I staged each shot, in conjunction in the “stage” I was in. When taking the photos for the childhood section, I wanted very tight shots, very close up. This, to me, represents the narrow worldview that a child has. As I moved on to the adolescent stage of holiday celebrating, I pulled back a bit, to represent an increased sense of awareness that goes with growing up. In the adult section, I really wanted to give the shots a much larger scope, and to incorporate a sense of vastness, in order to illustrate intense the evolution from childhood to adulthood is. This was especially important to me, because it’s a transition I am still in the process of experiencing, and it is simultaneously beautiful and jarring. In terms of editing, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. My first instinct was to enhance the color in each photo, because color is what I really associate with an innocent, childhood aesthetic. However, I decided that it would be a better idea to give the essay a vintage faded look for the “childhood” segment, and as I move up in time to the “adult” segment, reduce the fade until the photos were clear and modern, to help further illustrate the passage of time aesthetic I was trying to create. I also changed the size of the pictures, so that the smallest pictures were of the presents and cookies and smaller world view, and as that world view grew, the size of the photographs reflected that.
This photo essay really taught me the importance of revision and flexibility. While the subject matter essentially remained the same, the way I wanted to shoot and stage the pictures really dramatically changed. It was a process letting the essay transition and adapt after I’d already developed an idea that I really liked at the beginning. I really like the way the essay came together, and I think the evolution of mentality that I wanted to convey was really captured through the photos. My favorite photo was of the wreaths at Union Station, because they were the first things I saw when I cam back from the Thanksgiving holiday, and really marked the beginning of the season for me. The other photo I found important for the adolescent section was the Starbucks photo. It may seem trivial, but all through high school it never truly seemed like the holidays to my friends and I until Starbucks pulled out those particular red cups. I shot the cup so that it seemed a bit looming, to try and convey how important this seemingly unimportant cup could be.
If I had to do this project over again, I would probably not have let the period where I took the photos run so long. Two weeks was a bit too much time, and left me with too much time to second guess the pictures I took. By the end, I had around thirty or forty pictures—choice is a good thing, but it made it a lot harder to decide on which pictures were good enough to include. Overall, though, I think the project was a lot more fun than I’d been expecting, although participating in holiday cheer is hardly a taxing activity. I’m really proud of the way it all came together, and that the pictures are really able to convey what I wanted about growing up and the way we interpret things as children, adolescents, and adults. I would definitively do this project again