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 Scott
How long have you been shooting?
We moved to Germany in the middle of my freshman year of high school – my Dad was in the Army. It could have been awful, but it wasn’t – the experience helped me become a photographer. I was fascinated with how different everything was and started taking pictures non-stop. I had a camera for several years before, but it was shooting around Europe that really got me started “seeing” the world in pictures. I’ve shot commercially now for about 25 years.
Are you self taught or photography school taught?
Originally self taught. In high school I packed a 35mm camera around everywhere. Shot tons of b&w, spent hours and hours in the darkroom on base, processing and printing pictures. My chemistry teacher, who was a photo geek, introduced me to the work of photographers like Cartier-Bresson and Andre Kertész. He liked to critique my pictures, always encouraging me to shoot more.
I took a community college photography program in Washington state learning basic technic, and then moved to L.A. to go to Art Center. But I never made it there. I was lucky to get a full-time assistant job with a successful lifestyle photographer who also had just come to L.A. Most of the work was ad campaigns for agencies in NY and Chicago. It was intense, but I was learning so much I decided postpone Art Center. Assisting is a job every young photographer should have for a while. We did everything in house from estimating to image delivery. Besides working as camera assistant on shoots, I was involved in production, casting, scouting, even sourcing props at the studios and prop houses. After that, I freelanced with a variety of out of town photographers shooting ad campaigns on the West Coast. I never went back to school.
With this particular project what was your inspiration to shoot it?
My first studio was on Melrose, right in the heart of the Melrose District. Melrose, which isn’t far from my home, is a magnet for creative people from all over the world. I’m pretty low key, and not much of a fashionista, but what I’ve always loved about Melrose are those people who do make bold personal statements with the way they look and dress. And combined with the creative street artists there’s always opportunity for pictures. That’s a good match for a social media project. There’s a great energy from street shooting, and I wanted to revisit Melrose as a project to share on social media.
How long have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
From day one I started putting this work out on Instagram. But when I started, there was really no project yet. I just shot and posted pictures. A few months later I started dopemelrose.com, an image blog using WordPress. I got great response, so I included DopeMelrose pictures in my printed portfolio, on my website and in the work I promote on Workbook. That section of the portfolio always sparks conversation.
Since shooting work for your portfolio is different from personal work how do you feel when the work is different?
That’s an interesting question, because the difference is a little blurry sometimes. Some of my personal work is shot for my portfolio. It’s the motivation and the approach that changes.
Exploring the world through the lens of a camera is such a great feeling of discovery. It’s what I fell in love with when I first started taking pictures and what motivates my personal work. I like to explore subjects that interest me – then observe, experiment and let the imagery evolve organically. I approach some projects like visual brainstorming … looking to find or create moments that are authentic, moments that tell a story or that have amazing light and composition. Personal work helps to hone my craft and is a great source of inspiration for my commercial work.
But of course the approach is different when I’m shooting portfolio pictures that are relevant to clients and brands I want to work with. DopeMelrose is much more serendipitous. Portfolio shoots are storyboarded with clear image goals in mind and production values more like assignments. I shoot lifestyle, so crew, talent, scouting, locations, permits, permissions, props and wardrobe are necessary when producing portfolio shoots.
How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it’s working?
How do you define “working?” Personal projects always work. Not because they always create awesome images but because the experience is fun, interesting and the process exercises creativity.
Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues like Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram, or Facebook?
I started DopeMelrose to be an ongoing social media project using Instagram. Instagram has been key to this project because when I ask someone to participate, within a few seconds they have my Instagram up on their phone and they’re totally cool to shoot a quick portrait. I’m experimenting with shooting on an iPad, selecting the picture with the people and posting immediately. People love being part of the entire process. I just started posting to tumblr.
If so has the work every gone viral and possibly with great press?
Nothing like @thedress or “Charlie bit my finger”.
Have you ever printed your personal projects for marketing to potential clients?
Early in my career I marketed a personal project I shot on the American West to a handful of Western brands. That quickly led to years of work with the Martin Agency for Wrangler.
Pictures from that project – cowboy portraits, authentic relationship moments and the printing technic have also inspired other ads. It’s exciting to get layouts referencing personal work. Imagery from that project has also been licensed for a variety of companies, including a major U.S. liquor company promoting its brand in Eastern Europe.
One really exciting result of the American West project was that I was asked by an art buyer I had been working with to hang a show of my photographs in the halls of Ogilvy NY.
I shot and marketed that project for several years. It’s really amazing not only how much commercial work was the direct result of that one project but also how many amazing creatives I’ve gotten to know and collaborate with along the way.
I wanted to connect with the creative spirit and personal stories of the people who make Melrose what it is. Past generations have influenced this street with Punk, New Age, Goth. It will be fun to look back and see the social and creative influences of today’s generation.
Mark Scott is a lifestyle photographer based in Los Angeles. He specializes lifestyle, portraiture, sports and reportage. You can see his work at http://www.markscottphoto.com
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.