“The hair on the back of you neck will stand up and you’ll know your project.”

Maybe your story idea is not something you’ll find in the outside world. Maybe there is a story idea jumping up and down trying to get your attention from your own archive of images. So says Brooks Jensen, photographer and publisher of the long-standing and highly regarded publication LensWork.

He cites a workshop he took with the co-author of Art & Fear, David Bayles. He credits “The Bayles Exercise” with helping him discover a number of projects he was unaware he had. The process is relatively simple. Normally, when we look at our work, we try and pick out the best of the bunch. This is different.

Divide a large selection of your images into two piles (physically or electronically). It doesn’t matter what genre the images are from, but you need to separate them by a specific criteria. That criteria can be anything. Maybe start with a landscape pile and a vertical pile. Then stand back, take a look and wait for something to happen. 

Anything? If not, simply repeat the process…with people/without people; morning/afternoon; daytime/night; closer than 15 feet/further away; color/black and white; street/landscape…

The idea here is you will make a not-so-subtle recognition and see something that will open a creative door or either spark a project idea or smack you over the head with one. And don’t worry if you don’t find anything on your first few tries, don’t give up. You may have to do this 30 or 40 times until one time says Jensen, “The hair on the back of you neck will stand up and you’ll know your project.”

And don’t forget to let us know in the comments if this works (or doesn’t work) for you. 

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