The Art of the Personal Project: Brinson+Banks

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: Brinson+Banks (Kendrick Brinson and David Walter Banks)

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How long have you been shooting?
We both started working at newspapers 10 years ago before moving to freelance photography, and then we teamed up to create Brinson+Banks a little over two years ago.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
A little both–we were both inspired by the same passionate photojournalism professor at The University of Georgia (Jim Virga, who is now in Miami) but we took only three classes each, which covered the basics of photojournalism ethics and how to manually use a camera and tell a story with photography.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
With Chameleons, we were incredibly inspired by the landscape in Southern California. We both grew up and spent the majority of our lives in Georgia and South Carolina and when we moved to Los Angeles a year and half ago, we were just visually awestruck by the diversity of the environment and it sparked something in both of us. Right away, we wanted to explore it all–we went to beaches and the desert and the mountains between and shot landscape photos in preparation for this project (and also because it was, and continues to be, a great adventure).

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
Just one year.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
I think that really depends on the project. Both of us have personal projects of our own (something we do as individuals, rather than a team) that we’ve worked on for years, and one that Kendrick is convinced will never be done because she enjoys working on it so much. Personal projects should be foremost about documenting/capturing something you’re really interested in–you’re doing it for the joy of doing it, not for business, but for sheer pleasure–so it could be one shoot or 10, one month or 15 years. It’s working if you feel your work, your eye, your creativity is growing. If you’re not excited about it anymore, that will show in the work, so give it a break and a rest or call it finished. Don’t force it.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
We both feel so damn lucky that we’ve found a job that we are so passionate about. We’ve talked to photography students at almost a dozen photography schools at this point and something we always drill to the students is personal work. It’s how you grow and evolve and keep from stagnating. It’s where we stumble upon happy accidents that then we’ll repeat on a shoot for a client. If you’re not getting paid to shoot the photos you want to shoot, build a portfolio on your own of personal work and maybe it will translate to future work.. Recently, a client hired us to duplicate a photo we shot while we were shooting just for fun. That’s the best marriage of the personal side of photography and the business side of photography when they blend like that, though it doesn’t happen every time. I would think that if your personal work is extremely different than the work you do for clients, then maybe you should share that work and see if you can expand your client-base to include that type of work, too, so you can create more of what you love to create and have it funded, as well. But some projects we do just for the sheer joy of doing them and wanting to branch out of our comfort zone and that’s good, too, to show off a different aesthetic.

Personal work is really important because it’s a place to mess up and have fun and experiment without any outside influences saying “no, do it this way” or asking for it to be tamed down. You get to have fun for the sake of having fun, and with all the meetings and emails and shooting we do for “work,” it’s a really important refresher and can really revitalize us.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
Yep! We love using social media to share our personalities–that’s how a lot of our clients keep in touch with us. We don’t see a huge line between the personal and the business because it’s all making photos and it’s all doing what we love. The jobs we do are personal, too, because we put so much of ourselves into them.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
We’re a married couple and do this pose with the camera on self-timer and last year that series of photos, that was hilariously dubbed “#BrinsonBanksing” went viral–it was published everywhere from CNN to the Weather Channel to Cosmo to Buzzfeed. It’s a funny thing how you can work your butt off putting your work-work out there and then something we do for fun, that is a truly personal family album type thing, goes all over the world.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yep! Almost half of our portfolio book is personal work. A lot of our emailers and postcards we send out to clients are our personal work. We get hired to do jobs because of the work we do for fun. How great is that?

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Artist Statement:

Chameleons was born from a fascination of the new landscape we’d landed in. We are two photographers who spent the majority of our lives in the green of the Deep South. We relocated to Southern California and discovered foreign flora where green was replaced by pink and tan, and dogwood trees were replaced by succulents and Joshua trees. We’ve always been inspired by the landscape, and a lot of our lifestyle and portraiture work is environmentally based, so when we first moved to LA we knew we wanted to explore the region more with our cameras. We concocted a plan to go to the ocean, the cliffs of Malibu, the desert, the mountains and to then project those images on models in a studio–it was the perfect excuse for an adventure in our new home and to experiment more with our portraiture as a team. We had fun collaborating with our models and creating something a little out of context for the viewer. And, as a bonus, it was a way for us to announce our new home in a visual way.

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We are Kendrick Brinson and David Walter Banks, a commercial photography team based in Los Angeles. We collaborate with each other, our team, and our clients to create portraiture and lifestyle imagery that tells a story or creates a mood.
We met in a photojournalism class in college and fell in love with photography and storytelling at the same time in the same place. But we didn’t fall in love with each other until two years later. Before we joined forces to create something more colorful and surreal as a team, we worked individually for the likes of TIME Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated and FADER for several years.

We love to be involved in every part of the creative process from the conceptual, storyboarding and planning stage to the execution on the day of the shoot and everything in between.

We have been interviewed by PDN, American Photography, TIME’s Lightbox, The New York Times Lens Blog, CNN Photos and PhotoShelter about our unique vision. Our images have appeared in exhibitions in Houston, New York, Atlanta, Groningen, The Netherlands, and are in the permanent collection of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection at the New York Public Library, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia.

Clients
R/GA, Target, Airbnb, Tiffany & Co., Audi, Garnier, Deutsch, ADIDAS, L’Oreal, Publicis Kaplan Thaler, Seventh Generation, Leisure Society, Bombay Sapphire, Vitamin Water, Hennessy, Google, Panera, Enterprise, SBE, Sanofi, PhotoShelter, Billboard, Huck, Wonderland, Rolling Stone, NME, Panda Express, The New Yorker, TIME Magazine, New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Shape, NPR, Complex, Fortune Magazine, New York Magazine, XXL, GQ, ESPN The Magazine, The FADER, Stern, Smithsonian, Inked Magazine, Mother Jones, Newsweek, Le Monde, Juice, AARP, US News & World Report, Bloomberg Businessweek, Wired, Forbes Magazine and Golf Digest, among others.


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 has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information believing that marketing should be driven by a brand and not specialty. Follow her on twitter at SuzanneSease.

Suzanne Sease

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