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: Michael Spain-Smith
How long have you been shooting?
17 years – 1998 marked the opening of my first studio in Philadelphia.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Photography schooled – yet primarily, and especially, self-taught.
With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
Principally? My insatiable sweet tooth! Specifically? This love of fresh, local honey that I have acquired from my travels around the world. For this project, I really just wanted to learn. Honey-harvesting, much like a vineyard produces wine, is a year long commitment. Nurturing the bee’s environment by planting selected floral varieties close to the hive and annually introducing a new queen is only some of many variables that factor into the equation for a successful season’s harvest – a dedicated and laborious process that stands only to be appreciated. And in my mind – photographed. My rep, Kim Knight, and I are big proponents of sustainable foods and farming. When I shared with her this opportunity to shoot a honey harvest, we knew it had the potential to bring awareness to a larger platform – the serious impacts on Honey Bee health that threaten an estimated one-third of all food and beverages that are made possible by pollination.
How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
One day of shooting. However, roughly one year of patience and planning for that late fall “day of harvest”.
How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
It could be an immediate shoot planned on the fly or years in the making. In fact, some of my best work was never planned at all – merely just the result of me deciding to pack my camera! I think the important thing to highlight here is that I’m always shooting and always exploring light. It’s what keeps my skills fresh, my eye challenged and my work relevant.
Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
I approach all assignments or portfolio shoots the same. Before reaching for my camera, I take some time to get inspired; to find something I can connect with – sometimes it’s the lighting, sometimes it’s a mood – but I find a connection. Reflecting on some of my best work, this critical component of my creative process has been ever-present. For me, shooting is a lifestyle – a passion. Yet, as a business, the goal of my personal work is to reflect my ability to fully understand the essence of a brand by illustrating its elements, details and emotion in a way that guarantees a captive audience.
Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
Absolutely! I post regularly and share many visuals that may have been a moment from a national campaign or part of a series of a personal work. I feel it essential to your brand as an artist to take the time to post work that reflects your individual personality, vision, color palate and style.
One of the elements that is, now, a large part of requests for advertising work is: creating a gallery of custom visuals for the brands social media content. What better way to show your style and understanding a brand’s pulse than with a personal series of something you have captured naturally?
If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
It has! Shooting celebrity pastry chef, Johnny Iuzzini’s, recent cookbook project Sugar Rush images have gone viral from a single posting many times. It’s really fascinating to see the trajectory of social media making a global footprint in seconds to audiences across the globe. Social media is powerful tool that should be respected yet utilized.
Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
All the time. Virtually all of my personal work is used for marketing to either reach new, potential clients or touch base on past relationships. I shoot a personal project at least once a month and, if traveling, always plan for a day of creative time to shoot local elements or people in an environment not always accessible to me.
MSS is a seasoned photographer, worldwide traveler and motorcycle racer who loves speed and adrenaline but often enjoys a long road trip as a favorite place to concept and unwind.
Following his passion as an advertising and lifestyle photographer, he is known to capture authentic moments often told with a luxury lifestyle feel in a story-telling and stylized way.
Classic and pure, consistent and deliberate whether in-studio or on remote locations, Michael is a veteran collaborator and patient problem solver that make him a memorable photographer to work with.
To MSS, it’s all about capturing and enjoying the smooth ride.
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.