To put this secret project in to a few figures:
✈️ 30,000 miles
📅 17 months
🎞️ 15 exposures
👥 5 photographers
🗺️ 3 countries
📷 1 camera
After the success of the “negative journey” project I thought about a larger scope for the next one. So I reached out to a few friends and contacts and ended up with enough photographers to move forward. This one became known as the “secret project” – you will find out why soon.
The secret project started officially in September 2018 with the idea of sending one camera around the world. Well not the whole world, but a few different countries including the UK, Romania, Austria and America. I had planned this as thoroughly as possible, ensuring all parties knew what would be involved. After all, a project of this magnitude would not be completed in a few months, that was for sure.
As a man fuelled by a desire to learn and communicate with others around the globe, I came up with an idea. I have a calling to get people back to simplicity and start shooting film again. The best way to do this is to provide the tools and an idea.
What I wanted to do was get the photographers to take 3 frames each and they would be told the subject matter for each. They had to:
- Take a selfie
- Take a photo of something about their area
- Get a stranger to take a photo
To add to the documenting of this, enclosed was a small a5 size notebook that each person was to complete. Everyone kindly completed this too, as it would provide a memory of settings, location, and a little about them.
The twist was the photographers would not only not know who was involved or what do!!! Hence why I called it secret project, it was a mystery to them.
They only knew they were receiving a film camera and would have to another photographer.
To keep this fun and mysterious – I recorded a youtube video explaining what to do (private too). So no-one knew the video existed and the only link to this was inside the box (on a piece of paper).
Each photographer would open the box with a few sheets of paper saying “don’t panic” (yes I’m a massive Douglas Adams fan). On the paper was the URL (link) to the video and that’s it (as above)!
As a fun little extra I encouraged everyone to post a digital selfie or something about using the camera. It was nice to see these too, as it gave a sense of progress. We did this using the Instagram hashtag #phloggersecret.
After starting my journey to podcasting, I had made a few friends in different countries so wanted to involve them. The photographers would be a complete mixture of people and styles of photography too. These are the few that managed to shoot:
- Sarah from New York
- Chris from Washington
- Bob from Charlottesville
- Paul from L.A.
The other secret group included – Alejandro from Romania, Paul from Analogue Wonderland, Hana & Michael at Revelog, Rachel from Little Vintage Photography, Leon from Derby and Corina at Foto Factory (the final stop and who was going to develop the film).
I don’t know if you have ever collaborated over a project before, but it’s never simple. Some people don’t read, some go over deadlines and some people make mistakes. It’s just part of life and something you have to accept. So let’s go over a few problems:
- Not following instructions
- Postal services
It was going so well, the first few shooters all took some photos on Instagram to keep me up to date. However, after it’s journey to Romania problems started.
The parcel made it to the destination but apparently it was not collected, so it went back to the West Coast of USA! Unfortunately we knew nothing about this, as far as we knew the camera was lost. It took many months to find out what happened, as the tracking information was not updated and no postal service would take responsibility.
Since it was with my friend Paul in Los Angeles we decided to try and send it to myself instead. However due to the parcel labelling the parcel company wanted to charge me (import tax) for my camera. It was much higher than the cost of the camera (£30), so I refused and it went back to America! At this point and many dollars out of pocket, we decided to quit the project and let the camera stay there. Paul Lefko kindly paid for the film to be developed and scanned.
One other problem encountered was one of the photographers was so excited to play with film again they took a few shots, then read the master plan. It was funny as the photographer emailed me apologising and even left a note for the next person.
The project was only ever meant to be fun and get people excited again, so I didn’t expect anything amazing. Some of the photographers had not shot film in a long time.
As I mentioned earlier it was nice to document a little about each photographer and the postage too. Shooting analog is fun and using a pen and notebook only added to the experience.
So as you have read projects may fail but you learn and do have fun (eventually). Who would have known the time span between sending off the camera and writing this took 2 years!
To be honest you have to keep the faith with projects like this, Alejandro in Romania was excited to take part. Unfortunately it never happened, nor did many of the others get a chance. I feel like I have let them down and would love to run this again sometime, but the postage costs are only going to increase (COVID after-effects?) With the new airport scanning procedures in place, I probably wouldn’t risk it. I’m not a man of wealth either, so even losing 1 camera was enough (it was my only spare one).
Personally, I believe the results are great and I’ve enjoyed looking back on them. It’s part of my photography life and a lovely memory. You see the main thing is I tried, I got myself organised and made it happen. I can’t influence every part of a project, even after very careful planning.
All I can say is, get out there and run a collaborative project, but take this little bit of advice:
- You will learn lessons
- Ensure you understand postage costs
- Communication is everything
- There will be delays
- You may lose items
- Have fun!!!
Lastly, I would really like to thank everyone for taking part, each person I hold dearly. They are all still friends now and who knows what projects lie ahead? I apologise once again to those who didn’t get to shoot, until next time.
For anyone who enjoyed this, please do think about joining my newsletter. My little community on the list and podcast listeners will always get first access to any projects.
It’s only fair to share links of the featured artists and those who were due to be involved.
Phlogger (photographer 1) – https://www.instagram.com/phlogger.co.uk/
Sarah (photographer 2) – https://www.instagram.com/sarahstreetmedia/
Chris (photographer 3) – https://www.instagram.com/chrismiralles_/
Bob (photographer 4) – https://www.instagram.com/rbpatt/
Paul (photographer 5) – https://www.instagram.com/paul_lefko/
The rest of the photographers were:
Alejandro from Romania – https://www.instagram.com/ailukewitsch/
Paul from Analogue Wonderland – www.analoguewonderland.co.uk
Hanna & Michael from Revelog – https://shop.revolog.net/
Rachel Brewster – https://www.littlevintagephotography.co.uk/
Leon Broomhead – n/a
Corina at Foto Factory – http://www.fotofactory.co.uk/