The Art of the Personal Project: Neil DaCosta

- - Personal Project

As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects because they are the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director, photo editor, or graphic designer. This new column, “The Art of the Personal Project” will feature the personal projects of photographers using the Yodelist marketing database. You can read their blog at http://yodelist.wordpress.com. Projects are discovered online and submissions are not accepted.

Today’s featured photographer is: Neil DaCosta

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How long have you been shooting?
12 Years, the first half was strictly snowboard images.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I have a degree from RIT, but that only teaches you the basics. I learned the most from self-teaching after entering “the real world”.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
The other collaborators and I had talked for a while about doing a Mormon project. We were not happy with their meddling in California’s Proposition 8 and their views/actions on homosexuality in general.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
The shoot only took one day. We released it the next week, I think. We wanted it to be released while Romney was still running for President.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
Not long. If I am not feeling it, I scrap it and move on to the next one. That doesn’t mean I don’t get a few images out of it that I might be happy with, but I know whether it is worth pursuing longer-term or not.

The toughest part for me is not sharing a project prematurely. I am working on one now focused on guns. I really want to start showing of the photos I have, but know it will be better if I wait until I feel like it is a complete body of work.

As for the Mormon project, by the first frame, we knew we had something good.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
To keep my sanity intact, I combine the two. I see my portfolio as an extension of my character, but I also understand that it has to be geared towards getting work. When I see a hole in the portfolio, I then come up with a personal project to fill it. As an example, talking over my portfolio with my rep, it was decided that I needed some images that had younger faces, multiple people, a motion piece, and production value. I then started to brainstorm on how I could have fun within those parameters. My series Teenage Angst was the result. Although I will never enjoy dry walling, every other aspect of that project was a blast and I am proud of showing those photos/video in my portfolio.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
Constantly. It is a free way to get your work out there. I haven’t personally dabbled in Reddit too much, but other people have posted my work on there and it gets a lot of hits. Mormon Missionary Positions got as big as it did because of Reddit.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
As prefaced above, the first day the Mormon project got released, a well known Redditor (is that even a word?) posted it on there and it went crazy. It crashed our server and we had to upgrade it in the middle of the night. The first day it had over a quarter million views. And in the past two years it has entered the ebb and flow of the Internet. A blogger in Turkey will post it and all of a sudden there are 3,000 hits in a day from there.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yes. With this project I made a promo piece that I sent to a few targeted people that I have worked with previously or really want to work with. With inspiration from the cut out bibles that you can hide a flask/gun/contraband in, I bought about 50 Books Of Mormon from the local Mormon bookstore. I then cut holes in them and glued the pages together. In the holes, I dropped a stack of photos from the project. Attached the project’s artist statement and sent them out.

It is weird though, I still haven’t been hired to shoot any paying Mormon jobs!

Artist Statement:

Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, are sinful and undermine the divinely created institution of the family. The Church accordingly affirms defining marriage as the legal and lawful union between a man and a woman.

LDS Handbook 2
21.4.10
A visual discourse into the relationship of state and church.

Neil DaCosta is represented by Held & Associates http://www.cynthiaheld.com

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 founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

There Are 2 Comments On This Article.

  1. The funniest and smartest photo project I’ve seen in years. Thanks so much! It’s absolutely perfect!