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.

Today’s featured photographer is: Mark Laita

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Dr Wagner

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How long have you been shooting? 
I starting photographing rock bands that would come through Chicago when I was in high school in the late 70’s. I started shooting advertising in the mid 80’s.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Self taught, or by assisting great photographers, but I went to photography school as well.
With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
I love the cultural uniqueness of Mexican wrestling. I can’t say I love the wrestling itself, but documenting these large, masked Mexican men in tights and capes can’t be beat.
How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
I haven’t really presented it yet. When I feel I’m finished I’ll show it to publishers.
How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
The way I work is I’ll shoot things and some of them will show potential as a series and I’ll keep shooting until it feels done. With Serpentine, it took more than ten years before I decided to expand the 5 images I did in 1998 into a series of hundreds of images.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
They often overlap, but generally, advertising clients still need to see some images that make sense commercially. A mix of both seems to work. It shows that you can be very creative, but can also do what the client wants, if needed.
Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
No. I’ll pursue a publisher if the project has potential as a book.
If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
When a popular blog covers one of my books it can quickly spread to many others that want to feature it. That’s happened with my book, Created Equal a few times now. It’s crazy for a few weeks and then it fades down.
Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
I’ve used some non-commercial images in my self promotion and later decided to expand on it and turn it into a larger body of work. 

Mark Laita is a commercial and fine art photographer based in Los Angeles. His work has been featured in campaigns for Adidas, Apple, Estee Lauder, Mercedez-Benz and Van Cleef and Arpels. Mark has had three books of his photographs published; Created Equal, Steidl 2009, Sea, Abrams, 2010 and Serpentine, Abrams, 2012. His work has been exhibited at galleries in the U.S. and Europe.

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.

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