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: Mike Tittel

















How long have you been shooting?
17 years.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Both—I attended the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula, Montana way back in 1999 but have learned a ton over the years as the industry and my career has evolved.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
I’ve always been a huge proponent of living an active lifestyle, and the National Veterans Wheelchair Games is a program designed to help Veterans with various injuries do just that. Although my experience with adaptive sports was limited prior to this experience I was inspired by the vets I met on commissioned portrait shoot for USAA at the start of this year’s event in Salt Lake City. The portrait project only allowed me a few minutes with each veteran, but in that time it became clear to me the games and these men and women were special. Knowing each person had sacrificed so much and they all had such spirits of generosity that I couldn’t help walking away from the portrait day inspired. Although I had considered a personal project in the weeks leading up to the commissioned shoot, it was meeting these outstanding individuals that solidified my vision. At the first event I quickly realized this program was less about competition and more about supporting one another in achieving personal goals. Of course, that only inspired me more.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
I’ve only photographed this event once and decided to share it immediately after.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
For this project I gave myself the week to shoot since I was limited to the timeframe of the Games. I really had no expectations going into it other than I wanted it to feel different the rest of my work—less polished and more photojournalistic. Each evening as I downloaded the photos from that day, I was able to get a better and better sense of what I wanted to convey and the look I was after. The project unfolded very organically, and I let myself photograph the moments and people that I was most drawn to.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
For me one of the best things about shooting personal projects is that they can be different from your main body of work. They don’t necessarily have to fit into your overall brand and there is more freedom to create and shoot subjects/projects that interest you. I also feel with personal work doesn’t have to be this huge production with massive crew and big expectations. This was different from my normal style in that I shot everything with available light only focusing on the players and moments that made the event so special.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
Not yet.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
I have in the past but have not with this project since the work is so fresh.

Artist Statement
National Veterans Wheelchair Games is a program designed to help Veterans with various injuries to live more active and healthy lives through wheelchair sports and recreation. Each summer Veterans from all over the country gather in a new host city to compete, while also providing encouragement and mentoring for newly disabled Veterans.

Inspired by the vets I met on commissioned portrait shoot for USAA at the start of the week, I knew I had to capture these amazing men and women in action. Although this was shot in a more editorial style than my typical work it was an amazing experience watching these Vets conquer personal goals and inspire each other. The spirit of camaraderie, support and determination was so powerful, I couldn’t help but leave each event with a smile across my face. These outstanding individuals are proof that any limitation can be conquered with the right frame of mind.


Mike Tittel is an advertising and commercial photographer based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. He specializes in sports, fitness and active lifestyle images shot on location worldwide. Follow along on Instagram @miketittel or behind-the-scenes on snapchat @miketittelphoto.
If you want to contact his agent

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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1 Comment

  1. This is a great series on a great organization – good work all around

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