Someone I Know: Stuart Pilkington’s project
After gathering more than one hundred photographers Stuart Pilkington asked them to take one picture of somebody they knew
Curator and photographer from Northwich (England). Worked with Terry Gilliam, Alan Parker and Luc Besson. Photographs for the British Film Institute. Curated projects with Brian Ulrich, Harry Borden and Lydia Panas. Favorite book — “The Music of Chance” by Paul Auster. Gets inspired by works of Alec Soth and Joel Sternfeld.
I have curated photography projects since 2008. One of the things I realised whilst managing these projects is that I no longer wanted to be involved as a photographer. I wanted my first concept of 2013 to be about portraiture and thought that the simple premise could be to ask photographers to take a picture of someone they knew. All my ideas have been simple as I believe that is the greatest catalyst to creativity. The “Someone I Know” project was an opportunity for each photographer to show off their talent and tell something about the relationship they had with the sitter.
It is inevitable that the connection between the photographer and his subject will determine how the final image turns out. In some ways it is probably easier to photograph someone who is an acquaintance as opposed to a family member, friend or lover. You carry less baggage and are probably more at ease with your approach. You are less worried that you are telling what you want to convey to the viewer. It is quite difficult sometimes to determine whether an image is a success or not when you first see it — you may need to review it a few months later.
“alt”: “Someone I Know 1”,
“text”: “© Corey Arnold”
“alt”: “Someone I Know 2”,
“text”: “© Adam Jahiel”
“alt”: “Someone I Know 3”,
“text”: “© Kathleen Robbins”
“alt”: “Someone I Know 4”,
“text”: “© Justin Maxon”
“alt”: “Someone I Know 5”,
“text”: “© Harry Borden”
Many of the photographers from my previous projects such as “The 50 States Project” and “The Chain” participated in “Someone I Know”. I also asked some artists whom I had not worked with before and whose work I admired — many of them are from the United States. A lot of them are second or third generation photographers descended from the likes of William Eggleston and Stephen Shore whose sensibility I rate above any other.
I think my communication with the people involved is what I bring to the table. I am methodical and organized and as positive as I can be so people feel good about taking part. They know when they have to submit their images — I send several reminders mentioning the deadline.
To promote the project, I posted on Twitter and Facebook and created a page for “Someone I Know” so that people could join. The main promotion was done by photographers themselves and this is what brought most of the traffic in — their tweets and posts attracted tens of thousands visitors to the site.
“alt”: “Someone I Know 6”,
“text”: “© Aline Smithson”
“alt”: “Someone I Know 7”,
“text”: “© Justin James Reed”
“alt”: “Someone I Know 8”,
“text”: “© Elizabeth Fleming”
“alt”: “Someone I Know 9”,
“text”: “© Susana Raab ”
“alt”: “Someone I Know 10”,
“text”: “© Shen Wei”
“alt”: “Someone I Know 11”,
“text”: “© Hin Chua”
Good communication, the ability to inspire and encourage and an eye for a good image maker are important for a curator. Oh, and a fine beard! My goal has always been to ensure that the photographers involved have a good time and that they have the resources they need easily on hand.
The sequence of photographs enhances the viewer’s experience a lot. The success of many projects (including mine) depends on people, who are taking part in it — they make the concepts work.
If you want to be a photographer, go ahead and have fun! Do it because it makes you happy. Follow the steps of photographers you like and try and try to understand how they do it. Email them and ask whatever you want to know — most people are pretty generous with their knowledge. And then eventually you will become the photographer you always wanted to be.
A great photograph reminds you of something you may have seen before — it just looks familiar. Appreciation begins when you try to go after the same shot — and you realise that it is a lot more complex than it first appears.