As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects. A personal project is the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director/photo editor or graphic designer. This column features the personal projects of photographers who use the database for their marketing with Yodelist. You can read their blog at http://yodelist.wordpress.com
Today’s featured photographer is: Rhea Anna
How long have you been shooting?
I’m trying to remember the first time I picked up a camera. Grade school… maybe. I’ve been obsessed with photography forever, and this obsession still burns bright in me to this day. My brain just thinks in images. I remember in pictures. In my head, I’m constantly framing flashes of moments and thoughts.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
My journey in photography started in college but was in no way a direct route. I received a BFA in photography from SUNY College in Buffalo NY and then took a detour and found myself as a first mate on a sailboat in the Caribbean. After 5 years of traveling the seas, I made my way back north and started freelance assisting for photographers in the Rochester area (think RIT, Kodak, IBM…). With some perspective and a new sense of direction, assisting helped me pick up where I left off with my education. I consider assisting the most important part of my education. It was here that I combined the theoretical piece from my fine arts background with the technical insights learned in studios across Rochester that I really started to shift from exploring photography to being a photographer. My love for learning the craft has never stopped and I still enjoy taking weekend workshops and seminars whenever I can.
With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
Throughout my career, there’s been a piece of advice that seems to come up over and over again. Find your Voice. Find your point of view. Now express it in your work. I’ve been working with this in mind for years, I think that’s what makes my lifestyle work consistent. This advice is something every successful commercial photographer pulls into their process, and rightfully so because it’s helped develop a lot successful careers. That said, I’ve also found that it can be a bit confining at times. With inspiration hitting me from every direction, there are so many ways of seeing, so many ways for me to interpret those images swirling around in my head.
For this project, I gave myself the gift of releasing myself from those boundaries. The inspiration was to go out and push myself to shoot this work without feeling like the images needed to fit into the portfolio or speak to a particular audience. I wanted to be that little girl obsessed with photography, but before she learned to be a commercial photographer.
How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
Taking on a personal project these days is a particularly complex task for me. My business has morphed into two (photography and directorial/dp work) and I’m the mom of two school age girls. At a certain point something’s gotta give and for me that’s the long term personal project. This work was one month in planning and was shot in 6 days.
How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
Personal projects can mean so many things. I’ve always admired photographers dedicated to an idea or a cause so much so that they’ve committed to shooting the project for years. In my case, my personal project was more like creative play, a push to experiment, less about a well thought out idea and more like an investigation into something raw and unexplored. You can’t really over think this kind of personal project. ‘Anything goes’ was the philosophy here, as long as it felt like I was listening to my own voice. Of course, it didn’t always go like that though. The first day I was constantly trying to shake off my lifestyle hat, which took some time and was really uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I love that lifestyle hat, but I just needed to try on something different here; something that felt like risk. I needed a change in my photographic energy, so I could continue to be excited about creating imagery. Sometimes your work grows the most when you see an edge and you walk right up to it, maybe even jump.
In the end, there are some images I really love, and they will help pave new directions for my future work, both personal and professional.
Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
When shooting for my book, I’m always thinking about that imaginary client or brand. My goal is to create images that emotionally connect with a client. I want to show them I can capture a moment that will resonate with their customers. My personal project didn’t have a product in mind. In most of the shots, I wasn’t even thinking about what market would find it appealing. So the work looks different, and it taps into a side of my work that’s a bit more introspective and edgy, and sometimes intentionally more somber than lifestyle imagery typically wants to be.
Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
I do post personal work on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter albeit somewhat sporadically. I post to Instagram a whole lot more regularly, mainly because it’s more about the pictures and less about the commentary. Recently I’ve gotten most eyes on my work by posting on storytelling platforms like Storehouse and Shocase, and then publishing theose links on the aforementioned social media sites.
If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
I’m still in love with print, and in the past I have traditionally hand printed my promos, cutting and assembling them in very small runs in my studio. The ‘small and select’ mailing has always been my m.o. Even though I’m not really able to be as hands on with it now, I do still regularly send personal work out in beautifully crafted print promos. Just now I’ve just finished reviewing design ideas for a promo with this body of work. It will go out to a very small group of creatives very soon.
Visão de Portugal
Visão translates to vision, and this project was about rediscovering my own vision. It was about getting lost and finding a new way; it was about being out of my element.
Rhea is a creative collaborator, a commercial photographer, director, and DP.
She is best known for bringing a ‘zest for life’ to everyday lifestyle moments. With a close eye on style and design in her work and in her life, the images she captures are fun and carefree. Clients are drawn to Rhea because she is able to connect a deep sense of optimism and a love of life to the campaign’s concept.
Through Rhea’s lens, a road trip or an afternoon playing in the backyard becomes a modern day milestone… one of those moments that are forever etched in your memory as simply “the perfect day”.
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 believing that marketing should be brand driven and not by specialty. Follow her on twitter at SuzanneSease.