Collaboration Project: Assignment 1

Ever since graduating from Alfred University 3 years ago, I’ve found it really hard to motivate myself to do photography, and it seriously sucks. I refuse to let it die. My friend John is basically in the same boat as me. He’s a writer and has been having trouble as well. So, I proposed we do a project together. I would take a photo and he would write something, then we would swap and I would have to photograph something based on what he wrote and he would have to write something based on what I photographed. I think this is a good way to exercise our creativity.

John’s thoughts on the project:

“I haven’t been writing much lately, so this first “swap” project was very difficult for me. I hope that it becomes a bit easier as we continue, but for now, this was definitely an exercise for my creative muscles. I envisioned writing long, expansive pieces, but I ended up with two very short works for my first time out.”

The photo below is what i did for the first part of the project and the story is what John wrote based on this photo.

“At the very beginning,

she knew only her name–

not where, not when,

not why she was,

but only the essence, the seed,

the name carried by the wind,

the name whispered by the sunlight

that came dappled through the leaves.

She rose with it every dawn,

the light of her name,

the promise of knowing more.

Maybe she came from it. Maybe

she had chlorophyll for blood, and

maybe her waist was a petiole,

her hands were stipules, her feet were her stem.

But even leaves had family, and even

leaves knew where to go:

carried by gravity, they returned to Earth.

Instead, she chose.

She put on her Sunday best;

she rose.”

By John Sotomayor

“For the written work inspired by the photograph, I was initially going to write a long piece of prose that was very descriptive and basically re-told the image through my own words, but I quickly became bored by that concept. It wasn’t enough to simply describe the photograph, even if I were telling my own story; instead, like with the letter from the traveler, I wanted to take the feelings that I felt when looking at the photograph and clearly explain them. I ended up writing a poem after stringing various fragments together–scientific terminology of leaf parts, feelings, the briefest sequences from daily life that the photo reminded me of regardless of any cognitive dissonance–and discovered that the emotions I felt from the photograph were similar to the feelings of longing I initially described in the letter I wrote for my side of the project.”

For this photo I wanted to do something simple to get my feet wet again, so I decided to do levitation photography, which is something I did a lot of a few years ago. While I’m not completely happy with this photo, I am proud of the way pushed myself with the editing. I’m pretty orthodox in my editing, with a little contrast here and some saturation there, but I wanted to push myself. I decided to color grade (I think that’s the term?) the photo to make it look more soft and airy and I added a light burst…which I never do. All in all, I’m satisfied with what I’ve done.


The story below is what John did for the first part of the project and the photo is what I photographed based on his story.

I thought of you when the clumsy engine woke me up. Mornings on trains never ceased to amaze me — the same old sunlight fell through the window, but everything else was different. I didn’t even know where I was for a minute or two; it was like waking up from an intense dream. The train, snaking through the countryside, rumbled gently. My stomach did much the same. But weren’t all mornings like that whether or not you’re traveling? Have you ever woken up with a full stomach?

I thought of you that morning like I did every single morning. If I said the words ‘good morning’ out loud, would you have reached through the distance of time and space to say the same to me?” By John Sotomayor



“I didn’t want to write something that had a lot of descriptive language because I wanted the resulting photograph to come from the imagination of the photographer, with my words solely serving as inspiration. Instead of directing a scene, I chose to convey feelings and emotions; to that end, I decided to write a short letter or note from a traveler to a distant loved one. The goal wasn’t to tell a story, but rather to establish a general mood or atmosphere that could serve as a jumping point for the photographer.”

I had a lot of trouble coming up with a photo for John’s story, mostly because it was pure emotion. After coming up with a bunch of crappy ideas, I eventually decided that a still life was the best way to go. I also figured this would be a good exercise for me, because I’ve never really tried to photograph a still life before. I tried to express the longing the character in the story had for their loved one by placing my hand on the black and white photo. Photoshop was used in some parts of the photo, it might be obvious with how awkward some spots are. Creating this photo was very frustrating and showed me that there’s still a lot I need to work on, mainly setting up a scene, conveying emotion, and photoshopping.


While this project was very challenging for us, we decided that it would be a good idea to keep it going. The second assignment is underway and the results will be posted here.


If you are interested in more of John’s work, please click here to visit his twitter and click here to visit his website.


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