The Photo Bust Project - 05.28.01

I want to preface this piece by saying that although I may sound a little upset within this little rambling, I'm not upset at anyone. Instead, it's sort of an overall sad feeling that I have with things and sort of a dashing of hopes that has happened in almost a slow motion way over the course of the past 6 months or so.

Just about 10 months ago now, I came up with an idea that I thought was super interesting (without knowing that there was something similar going on elsewhere one the web). I'd been wanting to start a new section on my site for some time, and although I'd been kicking around several ideas for weeks, I hit upon an idea that would combine almost all of my interests into a project that I hoped would work amazingly. It combined my love of photography, the web, and storytelling (the reason for the themes) and instead of being something that was rather detached, it even incorporated the human element with a physical camera. To me, it seemed like a nice union of things, and after putting together a section for it, I named the Photo Trust Project. Even the name was something that caused me a bit of problems, as I wanted to sort of convey all the ideas of the project without making it too lengthy.

At any rate, I launched the project in the middle of last August, and sent out cameras for 4 months straight without nary a glitch in the system. I'd build a small cardboard box to house the camera and notepad each month, then pick someone whom I admired to start the camera with. It was sort of like wrapping a present each month, knowing that I was sending it off into the world to be passed around, and it made me smile when the first of the month would roll around and it was time for me to come up with a new theme.

It was somewhere around that first four-month period, though, that I had my first bit of frustration with the project. I'd sent out something like 4 cameras, and instead of having them buzz around and through different hands within days or even weeks, nearly each camera had been stalled out for about a months time and some even more than that. Instead of realizing that it was just the beginning of things and looking to the future, I sat down one night and wrote out a semi-rant and posted it on the main page of the section. Basically, it said that if all the cameras stalled for more than one months time period, I would just end the project and close up shop.

It was at that time that I got some good support from people. It seemed like others were genuinely interested, and it gave me hope to find that other people were really excited to see results as well, no matter how off in the future that they happened. After a couple days or so, I took down the rant and replaced it with a message of goodwill. I was again excited with the project and went about my ways of sending out the cameras at the beginning of each month.

Over the course of the past 5 months, though, I've felt myself slipping back again, and no amount of support is going to get me to a place where I'm excited about the project again. I've talked with quite a few people about it, and although there are a lot of people that are already involved and have put time into the project, I'm finding it harder and harder to justify spending my time each month devoted to a project that although interesting, doesn't really look like its going anywhere. At the current paces (which, at the fastest camera, the soonest a camera will return to me is in approximately 3 years), I can't devote anymore time to something that's not really capturing the interest of anyone, including myself (the site gets about 10 page views a week).

Instead of just giving up, though, I'm going to continue things for a bit and then just let things see how they go. Right now, the project is sitting at 9 cameras sent out, so I'm going to continue it through until there are 10 episodes. One more camera will be sent out, and then things will be done on my end except for updating the individual camera pages (which happens very, very sporadically).

As I mentioned way back at the very beginning, I'm not mad at anyone. I realize that everyone has their own lives and interests and projects, and it's hard to contribute to yet another little goofball idea that someone has. I've been on the web for quite some time and although I've had some partial success with Lesion Legion, I've tried not to rely on other people as much for content for my site. Again, that's not a rule, just a personal preference.

I could give many reasons for why I think that the project hasn't taken hold, and I've discussed this very question with lots of different people. One of the main problems is that I think that people simply take my "themes" too seriously and try to capture a picture that is totally perfect instead of snapping something off quickly (I've always found spontaneous pictures to be just as good, sometimes better than fully-developed ideas). In this time that the person is thinking of the "perfect" photo, the camera then gets set aside and buried and/or forgotten. I know that I do the same thing with bills sometimes, putting them off until they get buried and I'm scrambling to pay them on time (except of course with the project, there's really no "on time").

Something I could have done was to emphasize to people to not spend so much time on it, just so the cameras wouldn't fall into ruts of months where they haven't moved. On occassion in the past couple of months, I've sent gentle email reminders to people who have the cameras just to sort of get things going again, even though I thought that it would be sort of a self-regulating thing (I know that if I got a camera and knew that other people had spent their time on it, I wouldn't want to hold up the process and their work). As it stands now, I realize that it's a much longer-term project than I had originally planned for, and instead of being really hopeful that a camera will return soon, I've resigned myself to the fact that I will most likely not get a camera back within the next couple years.

Again, I didn't write this piece to make anyone feel bad. This section and this site in general has always been a place that I share my feelings and thoughts, and this is what I've been thinking about lately. I'm not going to kill the section, but I am going to put an end to my time and monetary involement with it (besides the sporadic updates) after I send out the final camera (number 10) and hopefully come up with an idea that will work better in the future. If you've participated in the project already, I thank you. Hopefully, there will truly be something to see in the future.