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:  Eric Axene

I am Small Business is a “personal project” not only because it’s self-assigned, but because it’s just as much of a journey of self-discovery as it’s an exploration of neighborhoods and small shops. Raised by a single mom who ran her own jewelry business, I’ve seen first-hand the balancing act required to keep things moving. I’ve been running my small photography business and working closely with my clients to create their visions for years. This project has allowed me to readdress who I am as a photographer mid-way into my craft and develop a new methodology for expressing how I experience the world.

I began my project a year ago, in a vibrant and popular neighborhood of Northeast Los Angeles. Highland Park is known as a trendy destination, but if you look closer you find a wonderful mix of old and new. I walked up and down the two major streets that transect the neighborhood (Figueroa and York) pushing my cart of gear and asking in every store if the owner was willing to be photographed. The resulting portfolio is a peek into some of the many worlds that co-exist along the avenues of Southern California. Turns out that the Cinemascope format is closest to what I was experiencing when standing in a store, so I recreated the super-wide framing by piecing together 5 photos for each image.

I’m looking forward to expanding the project, exploring small businesses across America and sharing their stories. I was recently commissioned by my hometown of Glendale to produce 7 small business portraits for an online exhibition titled Art Happens Anywhere. For that, I wanted to create extremely detailed images, and I ended up making photo-collages with over 200 shots used per store. I’ve begun interviewing my subjects, and maybe that will eventually lead to a documentary.

In LA we’re facing another round of restrictions just ahead of the holidays, bookending a critical and defining year. Small business is a big deal to me, and I’m thrilled that especially now, with everything going on, people have been receptive to the project. I’m psyched to advocate for small businesses, and I hope that my photos will continue to bring awareness to the wonderful establishments I’ve discovered and the people who are working hard to keep the doors open. I’ve learned a lot this year about tenacity, readjustment, and my own process through photographing them.

The Juicy Leaf– Felix is selling DIY kits based on his unique succulent arrangements. The kits come with everything you need to create an arrangement at home, including a QR code to access video tutorials. On Friday evenings he goes on Instagram Live and shows how to put together the “kit of the week” in real time. The Juicy Leaf is also hosting private Zoom parties where you can buy kits and he ship kits anywhere in the world.  You can then schedule a live Zoom session where Felix will personally guide the group through the project. Private parties can be up to 20 people.

Mi Vida  Noelle sells unique handmade clothing and gifts inspired by “nuestra Vida, Arte y Cultura” in Los Angeles. Mi Vida’s website is fully running, and they ship anywhere.

Bob Baker Marionette Theatre-    A recent addition to Highland Park, the Bob Baker Marionettes have been around since 1963. They had just opened their newly renovated theater when they were shuttered in the Spring. They’ve gone online with their Holiday on Strings show at the link below:

Le Petite Cirque–   Le Petite Cirque is offering Zoom training sessions for all different ages (4- up) and abilities. From beginner handstands and dance to advanced choreography and acrobatics. Group sessions are just $10-$15 each and are 45mins.

Once Upon A Time Bookstore   Located in Montrose, CA, Once Upon a Time is America’s oldest children’s bookshop. Maureen and her daughter Jessica will ship anywhere, and their website offers recommendations and hosts author discussions and readings. If you can’t find what you are looking for, or want a personal recommendation for a great gift, they answer the phone and emails.

Mario’s Italian Deli-Mario’s Deli makes the best sandwiches in Glendale! They make all their pastas, sausages, and salads in house. They stock vintage Italian wines and stock all the cheeses and charcuterie of Italy as well as imported olive oils.

Call ahead for quick service: 818-242-4114

Monsivais & Co.   Damian designs and creates caps, clothes, and accessories inspired by the early 1900s. He uses antique machinery and tools to make them as authentic as possible. His e-commerce site is fairly extensive, and he ships worldwide.

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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