Developing a Discipline of Personal Work | Patrick Collins
Patrick Michael Collins is a talented multi-discipline photographer in Fairfield County, Connecticut, fellow alumni of the Hallmark Institute of Photography, and all-around insightful, down-to-earth guy. His work is a delightful surprise of simple beauty. He always seems to find something new and interesting by focusing on what’s most important in every image. His care and attention is evident to both the viewers of his images and the clients he serves. But what’s most striking to me about Collins, is his commitment to routinely create a growing body of personal work.
Discover What It Means to You
Why shoot personal work? What’s the benefit or advantage? Collins says creating images just for personal enjoyment allows you to get to know yourself as an image maker. Sure you know your skills. But how well do you what moves you? What themes emerge from your work? It’s not just about the visuals, it’s about meaning, the passion, the drive motiving you to create them.
There are different schools of thought on the subject. Some people like the great Gregory Hieisler, say they don’t go out to shoot personal work because everything they do is personal work. Others, like Barbara Bordnick, find their hobbies in other pursuits outside the realm of photography. But for Collins, unless he is paid to shoot whatever he wants, whenever he wants, he’ll be doing his own personal work — even if there’s some sweat involved.
It Might Make You Sweat
When I tell him how impressed I am with Collin’s prolific images, he assures me for every good image worth showing on his blog, there’s several more frames that only the trashcan sees. “Personal work for me,” Collins says, “is frustrating about 90% of the time, but that other 10%… it makes it all worth it — I call it digging for a dinosaur.” When you first start out doing “photographic calisthenics” as Collins calls it, it’s easy because everything is new. It’s just going out that’s enough to exercise those creative muscles. But after awhile, you’ll need something else to keep you going. “It’s as much a mechanical process as it is an inspirational one,” says Collins and both need to be stretched. “I find myself repeating past Hallmark assignments, like warm on cool color or subject breaks up pattern. Or maybe I limit my ISO, use only one lens, or shoot something I don’t normally shoot like architecture.” He points out a lot of self-assignments can come from obstacles that come up in your professional shoots. For Collins, these self-assignments are seen as challenges rather than imposing unchangeable rules. It’s a way to redeem those real-world obstacles in a safer environment. It changes the question from “what’s the right way to do this” to “what’s possible with just one lens?”
Finding the Flow
The point of these self-imposed parameters aren’t to do it the right way or to solve a specific problem, it’s to explore the possibilities within the given limits. It’s to get in tune with creativity, much like how “world class athletes describe the state of their being during their best performances as ‘being in the flow’. Although they are aware of everything, they aren’t really directing anything — they feel this balance of mind, body, spirit.” Collins says, “It’s just how the process works. If you come up against a barrier, it just kind of guides your way around it; it doesn’t become the wall in front of you.”
The simple goal of these exercises are to get to this state, more easily, more quickly, and more readily access. It’s to learn to see from new perspectives.
Check out more of Patrick’s work by visiting Patrick Collins Photography.