Beating the Block: Douglas Beasly’s Vision Quest Cards

I came across Vision Quest Cards when I was browsing projects on Kickstarter. The concept seemed promising: a deck of cards that would act as prompts for photographers (either alone or in groups) who might find themselves stuck from time to time. I was sufficiently intrigued to plunk down the money for a deck, and now that I’ve had the chance to look them over, I’m glad that I did.

The deck consists of 36 cards, each of which represents a short project. These range from the simple (like the first card, with the simple instruction to “Photograph the color red.”) to the more abstract or challenging (“Walk an area you would normally drive past. Bring your camera and make photos of what you might normally overlook.” Sound familiar?) The card format makes sense, partly because the assignments aren’t numerous enough to sustain a book, and partly because they’re not meant to be used in quite the same way you’d use a book. You don’t plow through this deck start to finish, in other words. It’s something more like a well from which you can draw when the inspiration’s run a bit dry.

This deck might not be for everybody. There’s a simplicity here that a certain breed of photographers (the ones, generally speaking, who pride themselves on how advanced they are and aren’t afraid to remind you of that fact) might find beneath them. That same simplicity allows the project to be as little as you’d like (if you’re pressed for time, it’s not as though it’s that hard to find something red) or as complex as you’re willing to make it, as well. The option for simplicity is a good thing, though, since if you’re stuck, the last thing you need is more complications. Besides which, someone who’s dug themselves a nice, deep hole probably ought not to complain about the color of the rope that’s thrown to them.

Which, of course, is another way of saying that if you’re willing to approach the cards with an open mind, they have the potential to be quite effective. In fact, perhaps the best thing about Beasly’s cards is that you could, if you had a mind to, very easily expand the deck yourself using nothing more than a stack of index cards and a ballpoint pen. They won’t be as elegant looking as the original pack of 36, but as I’ve mentioned before, it can be very useful to keep a stock (or a stack) of ideas in reserve, ’cause you just never know when you might need a shot of inspiration. The Vision Quest deck will easily fit into your camera bag for quick reference.

Postscript: You can find out more at