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 were nominated in LeBook’s Connections.

Today’s featured photographer is: Tim Tadder

Las Muertas








How long have you been shooting?
I spent 4 years as a photojournalist before entering the advertising world in 2005

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Both. And, it’s complicated. My father was a professional photographer in Baltimore so I grew up around the craft. During my 5-year stint as a high school teacher I picked up a camera as a hobby during my vacations. In 1999 I left teaching and started freelancing at the local newspaper. After two years grinding doing community news I went to graduate school for photojournalism at Ohio University. That lead me to California and eventually to the advertising industry.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
The Las Muertas projects was inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos.

Two things came into play that inspired this project. First and foremost a wild fire burned homes and land very close (across the street) from our studio. It turned the landscape into this apocalyptic wasteland that I would pass daily. There was incredible beauty in the destruction, I knew I wanted to feature it, I was not sure how.

Then Halloween happened, and I saw people in costume walking the sidewalks past this barren landscape and a light bulb turned on. Being in Southern California, the Dia De Los Muertos holiday is very much an influence and the landscape was the perfect setting for featuring the subject matter.

Dia De Los Muertos is on November 2nd each year and its is a day in Mexican culture where the dead are remembered and celebrated. It is said that on that day the dead are able to walk through purgatory and visit their earthly haunts. The wildfire destruction to me, represented this purgatory. So that stage was set, and the rest of the project seemed to come together from there.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
This was just a one day shoot followed up with a couple of days of postproduction. This is concept based not documentary so the time invested is more in the conceptualizing and pre/post production. Less time shooting more time planning and refining.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
That varies, there are things I spend a lot of time on that never work and something’s I spend a few days on that work really well. Time for me never determines the success of the project, because my projects don’t require months and months. I don’t have that kind of personal time to invest in my work. Between being a husband, father, and running a business I feel that my days of long-term projects are on hold. I find that the projects I can do are shorter an well thought out, which affords me the ability to keep my priorities central and my life balanced.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
I don’t agree with this point of view. I feel that my personal work should be my portfolio. That’s who I am as a visual communicator. My work is personal, and I pour my soul into every job I do, so if there is a disconnect between my personal work and my portfolio, I feel that my voice will be inauthentic. I want to inspire creative’s with my vision and my personal work is the vehicle.

I get more projects based off my personal work than any other images. Literally we get assignments that the creative is my personal work with the logo. Clients and agencies sometimes fall in love with the visuals and they want to contract it for their own messaging. That’s what drives my revenue, the more personal projects I do the more commercial projects I get. It’s a simple recipe that works.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
I have never posted them on Reddit or Tumblr, but others have. Its crazy but the moment I release a new project it gets picked up and spread around the web quite quickly. If it hits Reddit, then game on, and the viral thing happens. We have enjoyed the success of some really powerful viral exposure, which always leads to magazine articles, TV interviews, and a zillion blog posts. Ultimately this leads to commercial exposure and success. The Las Muertas series has been featured around the world on tons of blogs and media outlets. Its been extremely well received in Mexico, and we are currently bidding a project based on this creative for a beer company. I am most proud that the Mexican audience likes the work.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
Yes see above. Las Muertas, when googled turns up tons and tons of results from news outlets and blogs around the world.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yes we use them for mailers and source book ads, as well as post on creative sites like We share them with our audience every chance we get.

Las Muertas is a celebration of the Mexican holiday Dia De Los Muertos or “Day of the Dead.” Inspired by the beautiful designs and colors of the November 2nd festival, I set out to pay homage to the beauty of the tradition but to also put an environmental connection to the dead and their journey. This project was a collaboration between talented artists that believed in the concept and lent their time and passion to make it a success. The beautiful head dresses were made by the celebrated Dia De Los Muertos sculpture artist Krisztianna and the incredible wardrobe provided by stylist Julia Reeser.


Tim Tadder is a Southern California based creative photographer and director with a strong sport and conceptual portfolio. Since 2012 Tim Tadder has published multiple personal projects that have enjoyed viral success. The most wildly acclaimed “Water Wigs” received over 1 million unique views within the first 24 hours of publication.

Tadder is often hired to produce images and motion projects with either a sport thematic or a conceptual visual challenge. Recent clients include, Mercedes Benz, Reebok, NFL, New Era, McDonalds, Merck, Capri Sun, Modelo, Tecate, Bud Light, Avia, WD-40, Kia, Proctor and Gamble, Walmart

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.

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