The Value of Assignments

It’s relatively easy to get into a photographic rut, especially when the justification for not having picked up the camera for days is that you haven’t gone anywhere impressive.

Unless you can afford to travel as much as you fantasize about it, it’s clear you’ll have to devise other ways in which to view the world as differently as you do when you’re somewhere foreign and keep yourself inspired as a photographer.

When someones is first starting off learning the craft, the one liberating thought in their mind is knowing they can choose to photograph anything they want yet somehow that very choice doesn’t always translate into an action once they’re given the freedom to. It all comes back to their mentality of believing they can’t find anything worthy to photograph.

In college, I recall the 2 photography classes I took as it’s generally the case with courses you immediately have a predetermined interest in, I managed to quickly absorb all the essential technical stuff needed to operate a dSLR yet I always regarded the assignments they gave us as incredibly banal.

Having to choose random subjects and documenting them in unassociated places as an assignment never appealed to me but I ultimately completed them and during leisure time, I chose to devote myself to assignments that held relevance to the type of work I would eventually want to do such as documenting people and culture.

My point is that if you’ve attended photography classes before, you’ve inevitably been given assignments that haven’t always resonated with you but once the days in the classroom have been over, you’re absolutely free to photography anything you want yet sometimes we still find the excuse in saying there’s nothing to photograph, hence the lack of work being shared.

Ska8er Dude in Astoria Park. Photograph taken by Jorge QuinterosI went over to Astoria Park to document the large community of skater boys.

Every photographer goes through moods. Nothing bothers me more than seeing my camera propped on the tripod next to my desk knowing it hasn’t been used in more than 2 days. This is where the value of self-assignments comes in. Choose a subject, choose a place and have fun exploring something you should have interest in since you selected it in the first place and it’s not based off some homework that was given to you.

Artists always say their second album is always their best because it’s comprised of the type of music they’ve always wanted to create.

Sharon Hunt best describes the benefits in giving yourself photographic projects -

One of the benefits of giving yourself photo assignments is developing more discipline as a photographer. Going out with your camera and a plan of what you want to photograph, and sticking with that plan, can often result in your returning home with a more interesting selection of photos than you would have if you just shot whatever photos you encountered.

Fearless Skater in Astoria Park. Photograph taken by Jorge QuinterosThis one particular skater was fearless in attempting high-jump stunts.

I genuinely dislike using myself as an example for anything but I would like to say that nobody paid or suggested that I spend up to 5hrs of my days off strolling through different neighborhoods in New York to put together these essays. This is the type of task I’ll continue to assigned myself because we share a trait that makes us photographers which is the curiosity of things around us and hopefully that keen observation translates into work that people identify with.

Sounds crazy but when I’m out photographing, I literally pretend I’m on assignment for a prestigious magazine who I have to deliver quality work not just because they believe I can execute but because they’ve already given me an advance to do it.