Sophie Calle and Hans Eijekelboom, in particular, come to mind. For one of Eijekelboom's projects, he managed to get himself into photographs (sometimes the front page) of his local newspaper for 10 days in a row. His more recently published Paris—New York—Shanghai is based on a self-imposed routine of going out in the city for a couple of hours, looking for a "type," (say, people wearing camo pants) and then photographing it to create a visual typology. His grids of photos featuring mean wearing striped polos makes me never want to wear another striped shirt (and not just because those horizontal stripes are unflattering). Sophie Calle's many projects include a chromatic diet (in which she ate a menu composed entirely of one color for each day of the week and photographed it) and the hotel project (in which she worked in Italy as a maid and photographed the contents of the guests' suitcases) stand out.
Clearly, those projects are at the more experimental end of the spectrum. But one thing we can all learn from conceptual work is how forethought and method can create coherence and a sense of purpose to our work. Sometimes the most arbitrary set of constraints can lead to unexpected and thought-provoking work.
abécédaire became the organizing principle that helped me capture the city. I have always liked Victor Hugo's quote from Notre Dame de Paris: “If you know how to see, you can recognize the physiognomy of a king in a door knocker.” Hugo felt that although the invention of the printing press had help disseminate knowledge, it had also made people visually illiterate. During the Middle Ages, he most common laborer knew how to "read" a cathedral, but in post-Revolutionary post-Napoleonic France, cathedrals were falling into ruin and architecture had become a dead language.
My ABC Paris project is a sort of primer for reading my favorite city. Whatever the literary connections that I may draw, however, the project is meant to be accessible and even commercial. For me, the thought of those images hanging up in someone's home is as great an end to the project as a book (well, maybe a close second), which is why I have priced the letters very low—starting at just $10 for a 5x5 print. I have made a minimum of 3 versions of each letter with the idea that people might want to buy several prints and spell things without repeating the same version of a letter. In all, there are 113 letters.
I have divided the project into three galleries:
1. The individual letters (available as 5x5 inch and 8x8 inch prints)
A 24x36 inch print with the entire original alphabet
3. 11x14 inch prints of each original alphabet letter accompanied by a quote from a French historical/literary figure.
As a real "monthly special," I am offering my readers a 15% discount for the month of April. Just enter "takeoutphoto" (as one word, no spaces, all lower case) as a coupon code at checkout.
Two ways you can win FREE ABC PARIS PRINTS:
1. For a chance to win a $40 credit, check out the galleries, leave a comment on this post saying which thing you would choose to buy, and on Friday, April 9, I will announce a randomly chosen winner. (I will let my 4-yr-old daughter choose a name out of a hat)
2. For a chance to win an $80 credit, do a post about my ABC launch, post the link to your post back here (my FAQ page tells you how to link here), and I will announce a winner on Friday, April 9. You can add images to your post from any of my galleries by clicking on the "share" tab and getting a link.