What Will Your Next Personal Project Be?

What Will Your Next Personal Project Be?

Tadao Cern is a photographer who has a particularly interesting approach to developing his projects. His latest body of work, “Comfort Zone” is a whimsical look at how we can all – for whatever reason – seemingly leave our physical and psychological inhibitions at home when it comes to sunbathing on the beach, and be happy to "let it all hang out". We’ll take a look at Comfort Zone, and how Tadao approaches ideas for his work, which we can probably all learn a little something from.

On a recent trip to the beach near the Baltic Sea in Lithuania, Tadao notes that he "was surprised how a certain place or surrounding can affect peoples behavior. During our everyday life we attempt to hide our deficiencies, both physical and psychological. However, once we find ourselves on a beach – we forget about everything and start acting in an absolutely different manner. Is that because everyone else around you is doing the same?". It's an interesting question, and while he doesn't aim to provide answers, he does use "Comfort Zone" as a way to showcase an interesting perspective on how this is the case.

Comfort Zone simply aims to show how at east various beach-goers can be as they laze about and snooze at the beach. It certainly is an interesting idea – as many people have become so obsessed with how they look or at least appear to look in modern Western society, it does seem that we are quite happy to let it “all hang out” at the beach, so to speak.
















Tadao has previously featured on Fstoppers for some of his previous project work, notably “Blow Job” (a series of portraits shot with wind blasting into the face of his subjects, some of which can be seen below) and “Revealing the Truth”, a brilliant reconstruction and reveal of Van Gogh’s “Self Portrait” (image below).







As I reviewed his different bodies of work, it became apparent that he comes up with some interesting and - at first glance -  unrelated personal projects.

Although he is obviously interested in how we see ourselves and how we are perceived (and can influence how we are perceived through the surreal manner in which he makes his photographs), I was more intrigued with how he came up with his ideas for his projects. This was particularly interesting right now, because I’m trying to get some of my own personal projects back up and running again after client work put many of them to the back burner. It also got me thinking about how others out there decide on their own personal projects and then bring them to fruition.

I was fortunate to speak to Tadao about his process for creating Comfort Zone, and also decided to find out a little about his approach to personal projects in general to see if we could learn anything from his process.

Fstoppers: Can you briefly explain the process and technique you used to capture the subjects in Comfort Zone? Why was the top-down view so important?

Tadao: I was using a long pole with a camera on top of it. I was putting it on to my shoulders and the process was more one of scanning the ground than taking single shots. The exact point of view was one of my main goals to achieve because it gives a typological, clean and a surrealistic feeling to those images. That is why I find them so appealing and in some cases, even hard to believe that they are real. I think that a point of view separates good photographs from bad, because in pictures you're always looking for something else than what you are used to seeing with your own eyes. In this case, this particular point of view makes you feel like you're floating above these people without them even noticing you.

Fstoppers: Was anyone aware they were being photographed? Did anyone (either the subjects or members of the public) ask what you were doing and if so, what did you say to them to explain the project? What was the reaction by members of the public?

Tadao: No one noticed, and that was one of my goals too. I was trying to avoid any confrontation with people. This is usually the same when I am taking pictures in any other public places, with street photography for instance; unless the idea is different, and you want to get a connection with a subject you are photographing, of course. I also wanted to keep those images natural as much as possible, and asking for permission or coming to peoples notice would change the whole concept and the final result.

You have a right to take pictures in public places, but not all people know that and that is why I try to focus more on doing my own thing than being an personal educator. I had to make some explanations sometimes about what was going on, but usually I was trying to walk away quietly. My usual response to a friendly stranger was that I am taking pictures of  nature, and I wasn't lying, because people are part of nature.

Fstoppers: You manage to come up with some pretty innovative and interesting projects for your work. If anyone wants to undertake their own project, do you have any advice or thoughts you could share with us to help them succeed?

Tadao: It sounds simple, but try to make your work worth sharing. Try to look at your images as if it wasn't you who made them: would you like them and would you share them with your friends? If both answers are 'yes', then you're good to go.

Fstoppers: Can you hint at what your next project is going to be?

Tadao: I don't know. Honestly. I never plan any of these projects and usually in the middle of the process, I simply catch myself thinking that I am only a tool to make these ideas happen. There's no particular process of coming up with new ideas - you just wait for them and when they do come - it's your task to evaluate them and make a decision, namely "wait for a new one or to go on with this one?".


Tadao’s approach to his project work seems very organic – he seems to be open to an idea at anytime, and when he sees the opportunity, becomes completely focused on capturing what he has envisioned in his head.

What personal projects are you guys working on? What ideas have you got for personal work in 2014? How do you get inspired to begin new personal projects? Would love to hear some of your thoughts in the comments section, feel free to share.


Image Credit & Thanks: [Tadao Cern]

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Ivan M's picture

Oh man.. I did not need to see most of these. Great project though.

Andrew Chavis's picture

The more I see articles like this, the more ideas pop into my head.

David Geffin's picture

Andrew, that's great, thank you for the comment, that's really the main reason i post up stuff like this, because it inspires me and hopefully inspires others. Glad it resonated.

David Geffin's picture

Haha, I did consider posting a warning Ivan, but then i figured his work wouldn't have been as impactful as i'm sure he intended.

Namu Williams's picture

What warning would you have posted? "Pictures of fat people ahead"?

David Geffin's picture

no, that's a rather odd warning.

I thought it might need a slight NSFW warning due to the large amount of exposed flesh. No one is naked but i was a little worried about the connotations of someone scanning through this at work.

Kez's picture

Terribly immature comment. You know that's what you might look like one day and so what? Who wants to be a trussed up turkey all day with our bras, jocks, tight pants ect. This is reality! They have the wisdom of not caring how they are perceived by others.

David Vaughn's picture

Actually, this is a selected reality. This isn't anymore real than finding the dirtiest most down-trodden homeless people possible and saying "THIS IS WHAT A HOMELESS PERSON LOOKS LIKE: DIRT AND SHAME."

I think some of the photos are interesting, but saying that this is reality and we should deal with it is not...correct.

I'm also pretty sure the original poster was being facetious. Geez.

Ralph Hightower's picture

I have no clue what no clue what my photography project for 2014 will be.
My photography projects for 2012 and 2013 are subject to the weather.
For 2012, I had two photography projects: 1) Photograph the full moons; I tried to get the rising and setting of the moon, weather permitting, 2) Photograph the sunrise over Columbia, SC from the Lake Murray Dam on the equinoxes and solstices. My New Years Resolution for 2012 was to use B&W film exclusively. I carried over my Equinox/Solstice project into 2013 using color film.

David Geffin's picture

sounds interesting Ralph, did you shoot B&W film all year then? How was it?

Ralph Hightower's picture

It turned out well; it was a learning experience for me to use the different B&W contrast filters. I would say that it was probably in March where I learned how to visualize what a scene would be like in B&W. Of course, the temptation to throw a roll of color film in the camera was there, but I stuck with it shooting 62 rolls of B&W film.

David Geffin's picture

that's cool. I like the idea of visualizing in B&W as you mention - being able to look at something and work out if color adds or removes something from the image is often quite a challenge. Thanks for sharing!

David Vaughn's picture

I have a hard time finding new projects that I'm capable of attempting. I have a lot of ideas that I think would make for some neat photos, but a lot of them require more technical skill than I currently have. Either that or I'm afraid of messing them up. :/

But the current plausible idea that's swirling around in my head is one that is both lofty and sensitive, so I'm still trying to figure out how to approach it.

I'm a college student, and I really want to start a project involving cancer and college. Most of the time, young people tend to see college as a time of "YOLO" and invincibility. I just want to document several people (preferrably students, but also faculty and staff) about how cancer has affected their lives.

I don't want it to be incredibly depressing, however. I really hope that it will be very optimistic, but I'm just going to let it fall into place as it may. I don't want to taint the stories of others with my own selfishness.

Mitzi's picture

Where is the wind from the surf?

Chris's picture

All of his projects are very creative. So inspiring.

I really like the colors on these ones, looks like Portra 400.