About The Photo Trust Project - 08.17.00

A couple months back, I had the idea that I really needed to add a new section to my site. Although I'd just started up my photography section, I wanted something that other people could participate in. I wanted something more interactive, no matter what that entailed, and I spent a lot of time kicking around different ideas.

The first idea that I came up with (that really stuck in my head) was to do a different take on the old "Exquisite Corpse" game that the Dadaist's sort of invented. In this 'game,' several people would take one piece of paper and fold it so that there would be the number of sections that there were people participating. One person would start the drawing, without the others being able to see what he or she was doing, then would fold the sheet so that only the very bottom part (the one near the fold in the paper) of their drawing was showing. The next person would continue the drawing from those few lines and so on until the sheet was filled.

At that time, it would be unfolded and the picture created would be one that everyone had a part in (and was connected by lines), but nobody had planned beforehand. Because nobody could see that drawing that had come before them, things would usually end up as sort of a glorious mess, but it was nonetheless a very interesting experiment in art and concept.

My first idea was to do a section that was similar to the "exquisite corpse" idea, but involved writing. I figured that I'd take submissions and then tag on one paragraph after another until a defined point at which the story would be finished (and would probably end up being rather surreal and crazy). After I thought about that idea, though, the less and less it became appealing to me. Logistically, there were a couple different things that were just keeping it from working the way that I wanted it to.

A couple weeks passed and I sort of scrapped the idea for a new section until one day an idea just popped into my head. I was taking some pictures with my camera, then a couple friends asked me whether they could take a picture with it as well. I agreed and the rudimentary idea of The Photo Trust Project was born.

As I mention in the new section (go over and read about it if you haven't already), the basic premise is that I'm going to send out a camera each month to someone in a different city. Each camera will have a theme and one person will take a picture of their interpretation of theme, then pass it on to someone they trust. Eventually, the roll will end and hopefully the camera will come back to me and I'll post everything on my site.

Now, although I also roughly stated my intentions for doing it, as I was thinking about the new idea, I just kept thinking about it and figuring out exactly what I wanted to do with it. In the beginning, I was going to make the 'themes' for each camera very literal (an example might have been, "take a picture of someone you love"). After some thought, I decided that I wanted to do something more narrative, so I came up with a batch of strange little snippets of conversation that are not only less direct, but should allow a lot more freedom for those taking part in the project.

One of the first responses that I've inevitably gotten from different people when I tell them about it is that they think there's a very good chance that I won't get any cameras back. Admittingly, this was a concern of mine when I first started the idea for it, but the more that I thought about it, the more of a positive outlook I got about it. Every person that chooses to take on the project will not only want to see the picture that they've taken, but they also become part of a larger group of people who also want the very same thing. I know that sometimes I slack off on things that I'm trying to get done for myself, but one thing that motivates me is when I know that other people have time and ideas invested as well. I'm hoping that very thought is something that sort of helps move the camera along on its journey.

Not only that, but one of the things that I'm most curious about (and again, hopefully other people involved will be as well), is how everyone involved interprets the 'theme.' Because it's a loose theme of a more narrative nature, I think that people will be more creative and not only will individual photographs be very interesting, but it will provide just the slightest bit of cohesion to the group of work as a whole.

Finally, one more thing about the project that I really enjoy is that it's a web-based project, but it's also a very tactile one for those involved. For each camera I send out, I've built a little cardboard box that holds it, as well as a pen and some paper for comments by each individual person involved. Not only will everyone get to see the pictures that they've taken, but they'll be able to track the course of it and maybe even learn a little bit more about the people involved (depending on whether they choose to include their e-mail, website address, etc).

If you haven't guessed by now, I'm very excited about the whole thing and interested to see whether the crazy idea will even work or not. Sure, it involves a level of trust with everyone involved, but I really do think that it can work, and when it does, it's going to be an interesting and beautiful thing. So, with all that in mind, stop over to the section and check it out, and stop back periodically to see if there's been any progress. I hope you get even one quarter as excited as I am by the prospects.