Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How to Hit a Nerve

Write (photograph) what you know about is good advice but you may know more about something than you first realize. When it comes to subject matter, I like to ask photographers what they feel gives them “authority” to publish on their proposed topic. I’m interested to know about your significant credentials, time spent on the body of work and influential people attached to the project. Equally important to me is your curiosity, passion and intimate connection to the subject. I want to make sure we can convince publishers that you are the very best person to take up this topic.

Case in point: A photographer who is also a parent is certainly qualified to do a photo project about children. Regardless of your parental role, you have a basic physiological component which automatically connects you to your offspring. This causes you to become an authority on children on some level. The key is to take that authority and kick it into a project idea that is so strong it can carry your project beyond just your amazing shooting style with young people.

To create a successful photo book, all of the proposal elements (message, text, design, photographs, visual style, production values, marketing hook, endorsements, etc.) must be perceived as having the potential to touch a common nerve with the intended audience. Defining your audience completes the strength of your proposal.

What if you aren't a parent but have built your career around taking pictures of children? One of my earlier posts with an anecdote about my grandfather I titled, “Chase your DNA.” That is a narrative theme any photographer with an interest in family photography could run the distance with. Equally, a publisher can see the potential to expand the concept into many directions for a comprehensive book: history of the family portrait, ancestry mixes, family trees with a few broken limbs, skeletons in the closet, then and now comparisons of family properties, similarities in the facial features between old generations and newer ones, and so on.

Coming soon: The proposal as a communication tool.

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