The Art of the Personal Projects: Tony Novak-Clifford

- - Personal Project

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 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 find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Tony Novak-Clifford

Artist’s Statement On the Book:

I first traveled to the Island of Bali, one of the over 14,000 islands making up the Republic of Indonesia and the Indonesian Archipelago, back in the mid-1980’s. At that time, my only goal was to surf the fabled waves of Bali’s coastline and enjoy a relatively cheap holiday in an exotic destination with my wife. It was our first trip to Asia and we knew very little about the country, the island or its culture. Little did I know at the time that this would be the beginning of a love affair that continues to this day.

While the waves and other amenities related to the tourism scene were fantastic, it was difficult not to notice a graceful and dignified people engaged in daily activity devoted to prayer and ritual in order the please and appease an enormous pantheon of spirits, gods and demons with the intent of maintaining a spiritual balance to not only their world, but also to ours.

It wasn’t more than a couple of days before I was ditching the surfboard and grabbing the camera and making inquiries. Before long, I was pursuing ritual activities and temple festivals (Bali has over 20,000 temples, each one holding a “birthday festival every 210 days) all over the island, visiting remote villages and temples well of the beaten tourist trail in pursuit of documenting the lives and spiritual activities of this generous and hospitable people.

What I found along the way was a culture rich in art; though their language has no word for “art”, highly refined forms of music & dance, painters, sculptors and wood-carver producing amazing, elegant and colorful rituals of devotion, joyful rites surrounding death, ancient mysticism and a generosity and hospitality I had never before experienced. Everywhere I ventured I was welcomed, fed, protected. As a photographer, the culture displayed enough pomp and circumstance to make a pope envious. Finding subject matter at which to aim my lenses were never-ending.

Thirty years later the love affair continues and I have been making nearly annual visits to the island to the island, sometimes for a month or more at a time, ever since that first visit. Through friendships developed over the years, I have been afforded access to sites and places few westerners will ever venture.

On the prodding of friends and family, I have finally set out on this book project, collecting and editing nearly 30 years of images down to a collection that I hope brings a sense of dignity and appreciation of this remarkable culture, along with  curiosity to the viewer.  With the assistance of designer Zenobia Lakwadalla and some editing by a dear friend and amazing journalist Tad Bartimus, the book was completed just over two weeks ago, self-published & released to the public. So far, the response has been very encouraging. The goal now is to use this version of the book to pitch to a publisher/distributor in Singapore with a large distribution network throughout Asia.

To see more of this project, click here.

The hands of a “Gambuh” dancer. Gambuh is perhaps the oldest surviving form of Balinese performing arts, dating back to the 15th century. From a very young age, aspiring dancers begin stretching the tendons of their fingers with various exercises in order to perform the acrobatic hand movements required of this dance form.

A Bull sarcophagus (Lembu) is engulfed in flames during the Cremation of a member of the Royal family of the village of Batubulan. The “Bull” represents that deceased is of Brahmin (high) caste, the color black indicated the deceased is male.

A young boy stands before an offering laden temple altar during festivities at Pura Tama Sari, a remote mountain temple in Tabanan Regency

In the remote mountain lake village of Gubung, high above Bali’s norther coast, a woman sets out baskets of fighting cocks to air in the early morning sun.

A simple candid street portrait made roadside in the village of Sukawati.

A woman dances a style known as “Pendet” while deep in a state of trance as a welcoming to her gods during a ritual in the village of Selumbung in Karangasem Regency.

Bali: Portraits of Life, Culture & Ritual

 Published: April 2018

Author: Tony Novak-Clifford

Available Online at and direct from the author. ( coming soon.)

Hard Cover, Linen Bound with Full Cover Dust Jacket with Flaps.

124 pages, Over 120 color and B&W Photographs.



Tony Novak-Clifford is a commercial/editorial photographer based in Maui, Hawaii, producing award-winning advertising campaigns and editorial features for international, regional & local brands & publications.

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 new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.


Suzanne Sease

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