Do you know about Work-In-Progress (WIP) photos? This is, apparently, a widespread phenomenon in the art world. The idea is to capture images of your progress, as you work, and share the photos with other artists. What a simple idea – loaded with insights about how we learn.
In June of this year I started work on the largest mosaic I’d ever attempted. My plan was to work a big field of one-color background in order to gain proficiency on a particular cutting and laying technique. Other mosaic artists I knew encouraged me to share my “WIP photos” and so I decided to give it a try. At first it seemed like a small thing – take a few snaps while you work, upload and share. But I quickly realized, there’s more to it than that.
In order to take photos as you work, you must make a conscious decision about when to stop and document. What are the appropriate/best inflection points? What are those – when does a plan detour, what are the guidepost moments, what are the best places to reveal decision-making? I soon realized that stopping to take the photo means that I pause the work, stand back from it, take a breather and – ultimately – notice something that would have gone unnoticed without the interruption.
There are useful lessons in framing the shot. What should I include? Tools, supplies, fixatives, measurement devices? Should I clean up the workspace before the shot or is there something useful in the messiness? It’s helpful to take a few shots at a distance, to gain perspective and maybe see a part of the room, then take a few close-up to reveal details.
When the project is complete, you discover that the WIP photos tell a story. From planning, to inception, through execution – as I flip through those photos, the decisions and trade-offs I made along the way are available to me – and to others.