The Art of the Personal Project: Ted Catanzaro

- - Personal Project

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 Projects are discovered online and submissions are not accepted.

Today’s featured photographer is: Ted Catanzaro










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How long have you been shooting?

I’ve been shooting photos since high school. My parents were very supportive about photography. One of the bedrooms of our house was converted into a darkroom and there were always cameras and photo magazines lying around the house. Our encyclopedias were the Time Life Library of Photography. My brother went to Ansel Adams’ workshop in Yosemite for a couple of summers when Ansel was still alive. I remember my dad talking to him on the phone a few times when we were building our darkroom. I had an incredible photo teacher at Palisades High – Rob Doucette. A bunch of kids in his classes went on to become professional photographers. I still keep in contact with him on Facebook and see him surfing a couple of times a year.

Are you self‐taught or photography school taught?
I learned the basics about photography developing, printing, and the history of the medium—in high school, and I did my undergraduate and graduate work in fine art at U.C.L.A . Again, I was lucky to have great instructors at UCLA like Mike Kelley, Chris Burden, Roger Herman, and John Divola. Robert Heinecken was the head of the photo dept. We rented a loft from him in Culver City. During my years at UCLA we had visiting lecturers like John Baldassari, Lewis Baltz, and Gary Winogrand.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
Originally, the blog was a way of posting images for friends and families, just to share what we’ve been up to, what it’s like to have five boys, and it sort of became a creative vehicle for me. The writing along with images sort of developed into the life of the blog. We put a link for it in our website just because it was the easiest way to navigate to it.

The blog is the first category I go to on anyone’s website. I’ve had my blog for about seven years now and there are certain themes and stories that are recurrent. They usually involve being a dad/husband, coffee, music, surfing , gardening, cooking, camping, or going to Kauai.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?

I’ve had the blog since 2008. I try to update every week or so. I try to stay away from direct work postings or behind the scene stuff. If I do post about an assignment I try to keep it more personal.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
That’s hard to say, The most popular project on our website is our Holiday Card section. It features our holiday cards from the mid-1980’s to the present.

I’ve got a couple of other projects I’m working on right now, like my surfer tailgate portrait project, a Homeboy/Homegirl story, my Punk rock project, and my Dead Rat project. All of these get some airplay to some extent on the website, Insta, Tumblr. Etc… and I’ll see where they go.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?

It’s different, and I’d be kidding myself if I thought we actually got booked for shoots based on the blog, but every client we work for tells me how much they love reading the blog and looking at the photos. Ever since then I’ve geared the portfolio/ website to my personal work. Our new website design makes it really easy to create a new project or story.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?

I use Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr and spend way too much time on all of them. There’s something weirdly satisfying (and perverse) having my images being stored on a phone in someone’s pocket halfway around the world.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?

No, I wish, but it’s really rewarding when someone says I love your blog, I spent an hour on it, or, that last blog posting made me cry.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?

Yes, most of our promos/marketing uses our personal images from our blog.


Ted Catanzaro is the Ted of Ted & Debbie, a photography production team based in Los Angeles. They have 5 boys and 2 guinea pigs.

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.

Suzanne Sease

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