The Art of the Personal Project: Brian Kuhlmann

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: Brian Kuhlmann

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How long have you been shooting?
I started this business while still in high school, so 31 years.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Self taught.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
My inspiration was the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The seen and unseen effects on the wildlife were horrendous. I chose to shoot dancers with fabrics and petroleum products to recreate visuals of the spill.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
This is still a rough draft .

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
Not sure how to answer this. I work on the project until I feel it is complete. Every test works in one way or another.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
I don’t draw lines between the two. I love to shoot, and all of my images are my portfolio; the only difference is where I decide they end up in my presentation.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
Not really. With the current terms and conditions of social media sites, I am careful what goes into those venues.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
I had a couple of these images picked up by magazines and books. Rangefinder did a short piece, and Weldon Owen also ran a page dedicated to one of the images, in the book “How to Photograph Anything”.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
My personal projects usually end up in gallery shows. I have used some of the images as special gifts for important people in my life.

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Brian Kuhlmann’s favorite part of being a photographer is… photographing. He’s been a working photographer for the better part of 30 years. While now based in Los Angeles, he started out in St. Louis and lived more than a decade in Chicago. His commercial work is based in creating energetic lifestyle for some of the largest brands in the world.
Into The Fray – Brian Kuhlmann

Capturing the controlled movement of dancers has long been a passion of mine; this particular body of work was a direct response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its effect on wildlife.

Working with professional modern dancers, I shot this sketch of what is to be a larger project. We explored different textures and materials, from the watery texture of silk to more literal petroleum-based products, letting the dancers bring their own personal interpretation to the subject matter.


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.

Suzanne Sease

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