One of the things I love most about Utata—the peculiar collective of photographers I’m involved with—is a project we call Iron Photographer. We’ve been doing IP projects since April of 2006. Every two weeks Jamelah Earle and I come up with three elements—two compositional elements and an artistic element—which our members try to put together in an artful way.
The IP process begins when Jamelah and I chat about the elements over Instant Messaging. We purposely refuse to come up with a list of possible elements in advance; we want the elements to grow organically out of the conversation. Sometimes one (or both) of us isn’t in the mood to be creative, and the process is messy and awkward and a jangle of nerves, annoying as a paper cut. Other times the process is like the very best jazz, improvisational and intelligent and funny and entirely unpredictable. Sometimes it starts off one way and ends another, or goes through two or three iterations of each. But somehow, we always manage to come up with something.
The elements can be…let’s call them idiosyncratic. Something with stripes, a food item, shot slightly out of focus (IP 47). Something white, a chair, shot in a gothic style (IP 102). A plastic bag, something red, shot in square format (IP 118).
What’s amazing to me is how often the members of Utata can take the most impossible and bizarre elements and find incredibly creative and artful ways to put them together. They do it so beautifully and with such consistency that they’ve forced me to become a better photographer in an attempt to keep up with them.
There’s nothing quite like a community of smart, funny, creative people to keep the creative juices percolating (if juices percolate—which under most circumstances, they don’t but in Utata percolating juices wouldn’t raise an eyebrow).