The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.


Today’s featured artist:  Bob Stevens

An agent pal of mine in NY, reached out to me because he had gotten wind of a potential bid opportunity. He knows that I like to shoot personal, self-assigned images as often as possible, so thought I would be interested. He had few details except for these: the women needed to be 55+ years of age and photographed without any makeup. No clue who the client was, etc. And he wanted samples within a couple of days.

I called my bestie in the talent agency biz, shared the specs and had an online gallery to view within an hour. She offered me her casting room to shoot in. A 10’x10’ ‘studio’ was not my ideal scenario, but hey, that ‘Necessity/Invention” saying comes to mind.

Driven by logistics and a desire to make the environment as intimate as possible, I used one light, a fill card and a small canvas backdrop. My objective was to keep things simple and compact.

I invited these women to pose for me with no makeup, clothed in a way that would allow me to show them ‘discreetly naked’,  to increase the vulnerability of the setting.

The draped, gray fabric was inspired by classic sculpture and paintings (’Venus de Milo’ for example), and the lighting is “3/4”, the way Rembrandt he lit all his painted portraits.

I created a private atmosphere, where I spoke to each of them personally and individually before each session. As we spoke, each subject opened up in a remarkable way. I realized that their stories needed to be told with motion, because there was so much to relate.

I wrote a list of questions, and my plan was to ask each individual the same ones so that in editorial I could create the voice of ‘Woman’.

What I discovered is just how much these ladies had to say, and how powerfully they related to the questions I asked them: ‘Who are You?”, “How is your life different now than it was 20-30 years ago?”, “What does it feel like to be you at this age?” among others.

I was after personal moments, simply executed. I chose a very simple lighting setup and a black backdrop to feature my subjects. This was not ‘about me’, and I wanted to make sure that technique and production value took a backseat to the message.

An unexpected part of my experience is how vulnerable and candid they were, at times, breaking down. Not so much because of what they were saying, but my perception was that they were being ‘listened’ to and were moved that someone cared enough to ask.

The working title of the still shoot was ‘Authenticity’. After I shot the film, I changed it to “I Am” in honor of their statements.

I am grateful for the Vulnerability, Courage and Power of these amazing women.

Video Link

To see more of this project, click here.

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 decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it.  And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.


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