I wrote about the impulsive kickoff to a yearslong creative idea in a recent blog post: “Basketball Hoops: A Photography Project.” These are more of my forming thoughts on the work as it continues to unfold.
(See #showyourwork and the creative ethic behind a post like this.)
This project can and probably will be something I give attention to as long as I breathe. Some things are like that for each of us, I suspect. Things we care about and pay attention to, and recognize as such an inherent part of us that we don’t think it unusual to pay attention to it. Like, being a tree lover or bird watcher. We see, we feel, we connect in our own special way. Like our heartbeats, those connections are just there.
These basketball hoops photographs will be passively gathered over time as much as, or probably more than, actively, intensely engaged. As a matter of natural process with the subject matter. Basketball goals are everywhere. I can’t be everywhere. It will take time to be anywhere, and to come onto being in the right places at the right times to see the right things.
In the meantime, I can’t help myself from photographing what’s within reach, the goals around the little town where I live in rural Colorado. Even if I’m forcing it a little to make photographs that I know won’t make the cut in the end, whenever that comes and whatever that means, after I’ve accumulated dozens and hundreds of photographs.
Something that fascinates me about such photography projects is that the collection of images itself usually is what makes it something special and meaningful, not any given individual piece. Out of 100 or a 1,000 photographs on a subject, not all 100 or a 1,000 must individually be the most and the best of all things photography. The greatest power is in the sum of the parts.
I’m not the first to think of photographing basketball hoops, of course. No idea is original, they say. I haven’t been able to debunk they on that yet, so I accept it. There are fantastic basketball hoops photographs and projects out there, ones the ego in me could be envious of.
A past me would have shut down production upon discovery of such projects. “Someone has already done it. They’ve done it well. What’s the point? Why bother?”
The present me is in a different place with creativity and self, and the value of keeping on with it. Grateful for that, I’ll continue with the project, as I’ve been called from within to do. I don’t need to know why. I just need to do.
One of the things that is shaping up in a different way than others’ work I’ve seen, in part because I’ve been using my phone camera and working within its limitations, is the opportunity to share more of the story of the environment in which the basketball goal is erected. Basketball hoops not hidden in the scene, but not obvious. Just … part of it, part of the larger life that we don’t know but can pleasure in imagining and guessing at. And what role the basketball plays, or once played, in it.
How does the feel, the connection and the story of a photograph shift when the leading subject (i.e. basketball hoop) fills the frame versus when it’s only a small detail within a wide, environmental view? The photographs don’t have to be all about the basketball hoops to tell stories about life and love with basketball hoops, is what I’m saying.
The story in this project, as I’m feeling it right now, is not only in the cool and unusual and unexpected hoops, like homemade ones in seemingly random places. Though, I love seeing photographs of those basketball goals. Think, milkcrate nailed to a light pole or a tire bolted onto, I don’t know, the side of a barn. Along with those opportunities, I’m broadening my vision of the possibilities of this project.
It will evolve over time and as I luck into opportunities while out in the world, here and there on road trips and in different locations, and when I’m not actively looking. Like that all-knowing they says about love, too, right? It happens when you least expect it.
I’ll be driving a rural road one of these days (or years). A basketball goal on a ranch will catch my eye. My heart will skip a beat. I’ll press the brakes and rush to capture this revelation, as if I’m the first and only ever to see it, the first to really see it, to love it, to know its worth.
Many of those days lie ahead. Each opportunity will be its own. Some close up and full of texture. Some from far and cast wide, breathing in the storytelling scene that surrounds the hoop. In the end, it will be the collection of the works that shines the brightest, not any given photograph.
Such is the creative process, slowly unfolding and building over time. It’s a ride I’ll mostly be taking alone. But with #showyourwork posts like this one, I am sharing parts of it along the way.