The Art of the Personal Project: Doug Levy

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: Doug Levy

How long have you been shooting?
Part-time since 2007, full time since the end of the 2009 baseball season.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Totally self taught (I have a finance degree!). After graduating from college in 2003 I spent six years umpiring professional baseball. Before spring training in 2006 minor league umpires went on strike. Baseball was threatening to cut off our health insurance so I started saving money to pay for that, but the day before I had to mail the check the strike was resolved and I went and spent it all on a Nikon D70s.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
As someone who has absolutely no inherent ability to build or fix anything, people who are naturally able to create gorgeous handmade things have fascinated me for a long time.

Over the winter of 2014 I met the Bully Boy whiskey guys through a mutual chef friend and asked them if I could come by and photograph them at their distillery. Initially I thought it would be just a cool portrait for my website but then I met a few other local folks who fit in and started thinking that this could be it’s own standalone series.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
I’ve been working on this for a little more than two years, but before it came together as a series, I was already sharing individual shoots in my portfolio.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
I shoot a lot of personal work, and they’re not always things that fit into longer form series. Sometimes it is just a single portrait that ends up in my portraits gallery or on my social. This is definitely the longest project I’ve done though, and not one I see ending anytime soon.

The great thing is that this is starting to snowball; the Trillium beer guys introduced me to the Barrington Coffee guys, the Firefly Bikes guys introduced me to Sam Densmore who makes amazing custom knives on Cape Cod and so on. That’s always my last question as I’m out the door, “Who should I photograph next for this?”

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
In an industry where I definitely feel like if I’m not getting better I’m getting worse, I think the personal work really informs my client work and point of view. When you remove some of that natural pressure that comes from shooting for clients, it opens up the possibility to experiment and hone new techniques that can then migrate into commissioned work.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
I’ve never used Reddit, but I do post frequently to my Instagram and blog most shoots on my Tumblr.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
Not yet, but Instagram did feature one of a shorter series of hand close-ups I shot last year.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yes, I do quarterly printed promos and recently just did a large run featuring the most recent work from this project.

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A portrait photographer living outside of Boston with his wife and two dogs, Doug Levy spent six years pursuing a career as a professional baseball umpire before meeting his wife and getting struck in the head with a bat showed him that a lifetime of 7:05 starts wasn’t for him. A professional photographer since 2007, Doug’s clients have included WebMD, MIT Technology Review, Dunkin’ Brands and LinkedIn.

You can see Doug’s work on his website http://www.douglaslevy.com or on Instagram @douglevy

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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