Just had an email from a friend discussing the hassle involved in generating projects for yourself when you already work as a photographer.
I thought I’d stick my reply to him here as it helped me to clarify things for myself as I wrote it:
“Personal work is hard to start. If you’re anything like me, the main problem is that the tool you use for work is the very same tool you intend to use for self-expression. It’s a job to tell them apart. I’d start by putting your camera down and making a list, no matter how small, of things that truly fascinate and intrigue you. Don’t think about it in relation to photographs only in terms of what you respond to about the subject. Anything, as long as it genuinely fires your enthusiasm. Having small kids and being knackered could mean that nothing fires your enthusiasm at the moment which is fine – it answers your question about only having vague ideas.
When you have a list, ask yourself which subjects are ‘visual’: existential philosophy would be a tough one to photograph. Then, which subjects do you have regular access to. A project on the Golden Gate Bridge would be quite tricky to photograph regularly over time.
Finally, decide on a subject, research it and photograph it. Write out a list of say 20 shots that might tell the story and tick them off the list as you do them. Then it’s done. Move onto the next one. The job of a documentary photographer is to photograph the world. Easy really.
All of this to be undertaken with not a thought to how much it will cost or what it will do for your career. It’s not your career”.
Most of these ideas are paraphrasing the photographer David Hurn – look him up. He’s an outstanding photographer.