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: Mark Lipczynski (pronounced “Lip-chin-ski”)
How long have you been shooting?
Professionally since the fall of 2001 when I started my first newspaper internship out of college at my hometown newspaper in Warren, Ohio. I was a photography hobbyist since long before that internship though.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I am self-taught since I was a kid who enjoyed chasing trains and photographing them in Northeast Ohio. However, in college at The University of Maine, Orono I was enlightened by a visiting professor from the University of Missouri School of Photojournalism, Bill Kuykendall, who taught me that photography could be a fulfilling career. He helped me narrow my discipline and focus on visual storytelling through photojournalism. One of the most important career decisions I ever made was to force myself into his class! I am forever grateful for Mr. Kuykendall’s influence on me.
With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
I am a casual history buff and enjoy the dedication reenact-ors give to recreating moments in history as accurately as they can. I came across an opportunity to photograph this particular reenactment because my dog sitter and her husband are reenact-ors (The husband, Rex, is the guy in the portrait posed next to the canon). They tipped me off to this event happening and I was all over it. I also wanted to use it as a learning experience so I forced myself to haul my lights and a paper backdrop out into the desert to try and do some outdoor, studio style portraits. I understood that there would be some degree of failure since it was an experiment but I also knew that the successes would far outweigh the failures. My paper backdrop got destroyed by the breeze but I managed to get a few really nice portraits using my lights.
How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
This was just a one-day shoot that has been on my mind for a few years.
How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
Since it was an experiment I threw caution to the wind and jumped in head first making portraits, asking people to pose and shooting photojournalism style candids while putting together a narrative in my mind. I just simply had fun with it for the love of photography. So whether it was working or not didn’t matter to me. I knew through trusting the process I would come away with some great photos. I wish the outdoor studio style portraits had gone better and I didn’t lose a roll of seamless. But I knew the risks from the beginning and I’ll never lose the knowledge of what I learned from that experience. Next time I’ll be prepared to do it a little differently.
Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
I feel like my portfolio is the best expression of my voice as a photographer whether it’s commercial or personal work. I enjoy it all the same. There’s only the pressure I put on myself to perform whether it’s for a client or for a personal project. In the end I have to live with what I created so I always give 100% of myself to create something that I can stand behind.
Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
I post only my favorite and most meaningful work to social media. That can be both personal work and commercial work. I use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter mainly. I have other social media but don’t really use them for much.
If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
I realize the importance of social media in marketing today, however I’m not very popular at it because I don’t post consistently enough. The most likes I’ve ever gotten on a photo is 82 and that was recently for a night photo I did at Joshua Tree National Park. Not my strongest image ever but it apparently resonated with a lot of people. I think the idea of going viral to many means a fast and easy path to success in any given industry. For a select few this may be the case which is probably why so many believe in the importance of going viral. However, for as important as social media is in marketing today, I believe it is more important than ever as a photographer to market yourself in other ways to like print promos, portfolio reviews and go-sees. It’s easy to get comfortable behind your computer or device and neglect the personal touch that I think a lot of art buyers and art directors want to have with the artists they represent or hire. Photography is all too accessible today and I think art buyers and art directors want to know the person behind the lens. Virtual relationships are not real relationships and there’s a bit of risk involved if you don’t know the person who’s posting.
Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yes, I shoot a lot. I have a local food magazine in Arizona that I co-founded with my wife called Bite (www.readbite.com). I consider all of the work I do for Bite personal because it is all created as a labor of love. It allows me to experiment and to hone my craft further. So a lot of that work ends up in print promos and e-promos alike. I seldom use commercial work for promotional materials because it often feels impersonal to me since it was created for someone else. Again, the personal touch goes a long way with me so I put out what I feel I have a deep personal connection to whether it’s personal or commercial.
Mark Lipcyznski is a commercial and editorial lifestyle photographer residing in Phoenix, Arizona’s “East Valley.” His curiosity and optimism draw him to the unusual and comical. He embraces life with open arms and cameras blazing. He is an advocate for keeping film photography alive. Mark has a collection of more than 30 polaroid and film cameras that he uses alongside his digital cameras while on assignment or shooting for himself. Some of his more recent clients include: PING Golf, Arizona Highways Magazine, USA Today, American Airlines, Curbed, Sunset Magazine and Dwell Magazine.
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.