The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own. I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before. In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist’s statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I found. Please DO NOT send me your work. I do not take submissions.
Today’s featured artist: Ian Spanier
Two days before a quarantine order was issued (March 2020) I had begun my latest personal project. The concept was a series of portraits of motorcycle riders, chosen partially for the bikes they rode, but more on the individual. Whenever I embark on a personal project, I do so in part to always have a project going on in the background to my normal commercial work, and secondly to find a new challenge for myself. Usually, this is in the form of creating a new form of lighting or in approaching shoots differently. I found this to be a great means of growing up as a photographer and adding techniques to my arsenal of lighting options for my assignment work.
In my last body of work, Right Next Door, I chose to approach all my portraits with minimal lighting, and instead of my normal heavily technical approach for lighting, I chose to simply “bang” a light into a wall or ceiling to light my subjects. For MoTo, I wanted to shoot with a much deeper depth of field for my portraits, specifically an aperture of f20 in opposition to my normal comfort range of f8 and wider. This would of course mean the need for MORE lighting. To add to the challenge, I wanted to create this look in my home entryway and living room. This presents a series of challenges for space, obstacles and length and height limitations. What I did not realize, was how this shoot would shape how I would work for the rest of the pandemic.
Then the quarantine was ordered.
Like most, I had no idea what would be next, how long we would be quarantined, and what the next step would be. More so, how would career be affected? An opportunity to take a free Covid Compliance Officer Training Course was offered by ASMP, so I decided to take the course. I had no plans to become an officer, but this would give me a better understanding of things to come.
Five weeks past, and I was churning out the results of my first shoot, and absolutely loving the results…but I was stuck. I really wanted to continue, but Hollywood was literally shut down. How could I continue to shoot when everything was shut down? Well, I now had some tools…I knew what a “safe” shoot looked like, and a way to turn my living room into a white studio. As was already my practice, I shoot with a CamRanger 2, a fantastic camera accessory that allows for a jpg to be sent wirelessly to an iPad, iPhone or computer. This allows for my clients on set to view images in near real time, and in this case, my subject to view from the recommended six-foot distance while we are working. I am not one to ever really sit still, so with the belief that I could work safely with my newly gained knowledge, I began to seek out more subjects. Some subjects I knew, either from previous shoots whom I knew were riders, or some previous connections of mine who I just noticed they were motorcycle owners. From there, I used the likely/unlikely source of Instagram to do so. By searching through images of motorcycles, then whittling down to Los Angeles, I was able to make connections with more riders. I simply reached out, and asked, sharing my images along the way. With images, I was able to easily explain my concept. Sure, there were skeptical responses from some, Coronavirus or not, but it always helps to have images to back up the request. Slowly, I was able to add subjects two, three, four, and so on. One unplanned benefit arose, which was this manner of shooting, combined with the knowledge of a newly appointed Compliance Officer, I began to reach out to clients, and let them know I was ready and willing to work, and how.
My next subject was found through a conversation with a model agent I regularly spoke with. She had wanted to connect me with one of her models, who just happened to ride a bike. I explained my new process and how we could safely do a shoot and check off another subject. Add to that, this inspired the same agent to suggest me to a contact of hers who needed a photographed clothing catalog but was stuck how with the limitations of the now long quarantine. I presented the process and BOOM, assignment! Now I truly had a means to keep working, despite the limitations. My new client stayed in Arizona, comfortably in her living room, watching my shoot on ZOOM, with the ability to talk to both me and the carefully scheduled models (who were separated by 30 min windows so I could clean/sanitize in-between) , and see my images in real time thanks to CamRanger 2’s ability to be on a dual WIFI band from my home while ZOOM was also running.
From here, I kept rolling, seeking out subjects from IG as well as recommendations from my subjects, and on and on. Finally, my hope was to round out the project with a Motorcycle Club…easier said than done. Nearly six months later, after many rejections ranging from “we have members who are photographers, so we wouldn’t want to have any conflicts,” to simple “we are not interested” responses, I finally found a willing club. I sensed the reluctance of Venice Vintage Moto Club president Dayne Ashbaugh, but I persisted, and he ultimately agreed to help. It took a couple months, but finally we had a plan to photograph fourteen members, all in one morning, this included members, as well as probate members along with their bikes. Now, as I mentioned, the idea was more about the riders than the bikes, but per Dayne’s request, the guys would love to be shot with their bikes. Worth it for sure, as the vintage bikes are quite special. Unlike my home location, we chose to shoot outside, which presents many other challenges, but as I always say, I call them challenges, not problems for a reason, because challenges are meant to be solved, and I love challenges.
Shooting in the back of Dayne’s high end window company, the morning was spent mostly in the shade of the building, but I came prepared for sun with some 4×4 black floppy flags and thankfully, as it is LA, some of the guys were in the business, so they happily (and thankfully) lent a hand playing grip as well as shoot some great behind the scenes pics.
To see more of this project, click here
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s. After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty. Follow her at @SuzanneSease. Instagram
Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it. And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.