Personal Projects and A Bitter Melon

How many posts do you think I can possibly start with some variation of the phrase “It’s been a busy month and I haven’t had time to work on the blog”? Apparently a lot. The good news (for me anyway) is that the reason posting has been so light lately has been because of the a whole lotta work which I hope to be able to share shortly. The other thing that has been taking up a lot of time for me is several personal projects.

Personal projects are really important for me – particularly in the realm of learning new skills and techniques. Problem solving is a big part of what I enjoy about photography: how to a take any given situation, analyze the light, subject matter and overall intent of the photograph, and figure out how to accomplish the goal of creating a photograph that is thoughtful and beautiful. It is sometimes easy to fall into tried and true methods and solutions, particularly when shooting client work, so the best way to consistently provide new and exciting photography is to build your repertoire of skills. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shot a personal project as a way to learn new skills, only to turn around and use those new skills on a job a week later.

The point is, personal work is a big part of what I’m doing when I’m not getting paid to make photographs, and I am chasing down several avenues of photographic discovery at the moment. One of these involves learning how to make really beautiful ingredient shots. As a quick preview, earlier this week I went to Whole Paycheck and bought $20 worth of produce to photograph with no other agenda other than I wanted the photographs to be colorful and gorgeous, and hopefully nothing that I’d photographed before. One of the things I picked up was a bitter melon. I had no idea what this thing was (and the cashiers didn’t either). Despite being somewhat rare, and since this is America, there is an entire council for the promotion of these things: The National Bitter Melon Council, who’s slogan incidentally is “Better living through bitter melon.” Hysterical.

I picked up the bitter melon because it was interesting and I’d never photographed it before. I’d been wanting to try a back-lit lighting scheme, and decided that this was the perfect subject to give it a shot. The bitter melon was on the store shelf next to the cucumbers, so I assumed that the inside of it would be similar to that, but when I cracked it open…gorgeous and crazy looking red interior with huge seeds. So. cool.

The moral of the story? Because of this personal work I am now familiar with working with bitter melon, so if a shoot comes my way with a bitter melon as part of it, I’ll know that what to expect and have a better understanding about how to make it look good.

Bitter Melon, Photograph by Jonathan Gayman

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