The Art of the Personal Project: Gabriela Hasbun

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: Gabriela Hasbun
















How long have you been shooting?
11 years

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Although I went to photo school, some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned were from assisting other photographers.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
A friend approached me about collaborating with her on a project. After a while, she lost interest, but I’ve been pursuing it ever since! The Mission neighborhood was, and is, my hang out. It’s a project I continually revisit over time.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
Not long— maybe a year after I started shooting my Mission series, I got asked to be part of a group show at a gallery in San Francisco. Soon after that, I started sharing the collection with photo editors as part of my portfolio. In fact, it was the primary body of work that got me my first assignment work.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
If I don’t feel passionate about it or if it isn’t working out in my head, a personal project never gets shot.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
For me. there is no difference between portfolio work and personal work. They are one and the same. I choose subject matters that I’m interested in learning more about or have a true connection to.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
My strength isn’t self-promotion online and I don’t usually put much energy into posting these projects there. However, three years ago, Feature Shoot picked up my Fat Series and it went viral.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
When my Fat Series went viral, a lot of media outlets picked it up. I am definitely protective of that particular series because people on the internet love to body shame and I have a lot of affection for those subjects— I consider many of them my friends. Each time the work was published, the online comments started to spiral out of control. It was an odd balance between feeling excited to see the series published in so many media outlets but I also wanted to shield my subjects from negativity.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yes, in the past, I’ve sent some personal work as marketing promos and I also try to show personal work to clients every time I see them in person. Those photographs always seems to be what interests them most and what we end up connecting over more deeply.

Artist Statement:
In 2002, I decided to document some of the Mission’s most colorful patrons. San Francisco’s Mission District has long been the home of the working-class retailer. Between the 1906 earthquake and World War II, Mission Street was proudly known as the “Mission Miracle Mile.” Second only to San Francisco’s Union Square shopping district, Mission Street provided a shopping haven for goods and services of high quality. As a symbol and testament to its name, there were two decorative bridges on each end of Mission Street, beginning on 16th street and ending on Cesar Chavez.

The Mission has historically been a neighborhood for the immigrant. Jewish, Irish, Italian and Hispanic families have all resided and worked in this area for decades. Currently, the neighborhood is in the midst of dramatic changes. Since the early 2000’s the area has seen an explosion in popularity with the Bay Area’s young tech entrepreneurs, resulting in an influx of upscale retail outlets and trendy eateries, often pricing out the residents and small businesses who’ve made the area so special.

This series of images hopes to capture the essence of the small businesses and the owners who have been in the neighborhood for over 30 years before the neighborhood is completely gentrified. JJ O’Connor Florists, an establishment that came to Mission street over a hundred years ago, was among the oldest in this tradition and one of the many I’ve been lucky to photograph. Sadly, it shut down, as have many of the others that are documented in this series.

Gabriela Hasbun lives in San Francisco with her husband, Nick, and their little boy, Matteo. Gabriela comes from a large and vibrant family in El Salvador. Even though she hails from warm and humid lands, she’s adapted well to the air conditioned climate of the Bay Area.
Gabriela loves shooting for editorial and commercial clients, specializing in environmental portraits. ‘Bold’, ‘colorful’, and ‘quirky’ are common descriptions of the work she produces. Her portraits have been featured in numerous magazines including Fortune, Sunset, WIRED and The Wall Street Journal. She has several portrait series based on cultural issues that document change and gentrification in the Mission and Polk street districts of San Francisco which have also been exhibited at San Francisco galleries including Southern Exposure and San Francisco Arts Commission.

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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