The scale referred to must relate to the extent of the journeying undertaken by the photographer, the better to expose himself to as much variation within his chosen area as possible.
There are other influences at work here. Immersion in the way of life of the inhabitants surely will affect the way the photographer views his chosen subjects. Perhaps if he is sympathetic to their circumstances the work will appear well disposed to them.
I wonder if it is necessary for a photographer to connect with his subjects in order to produce informed work. I somehow doubt this, although I think that the more one puts into the work, the more the viewer will get out of it – but probably not the same as was put in.
I had the opportunity to do a similar project recently but I didn’t act on it – I was too preoccupied with the demands of travel itself. Whilst travelling the French and Iberian coast I met many individuals who were engaged on similar journeys; each had their own quite distinct raison, each a quite profound purpose.
They were generally balancing their responsibilities and resources with an urge to move and more often than not the urge was getting the upper hand. I still feel it would have been an interesting project, about people who live full time aboard small sailing boats (they are all small to live on no matter how long they are).
These guys pitched up in the middle of the night in the berth next to ours. They had sailed non-stop from Sweden in a 23′ boat. They were both ex-Swedish army and had been discharged on medical grounds, having served in Kosovo. They were heading for St Marten. I later learned via Facebook that they had arrived safe and sound.
The project I missed doing would have been a curious mixture of insider/outsider; I could have no way of being involved in their lives before or after meeting but at the same time we were sharing many day-to-day experiences.
It’s said that long term projects give the photographer the opportunity to get right under the skin of the subject but I wonder how this assertion would stand up to comparative scrutiny? Would a ‘panel of experts’ be able to say whether a series had been produced in a week or a year if they knew nothing of the photographer? I think the long term aspect of a project satisfies the photographer more than the viewer but if the viewer is aware of the effort and commitment involved, this may imbue the series with greater authenticity – in their eyes.