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: Justin Bettman
Having grown up in a reform Jewish household in Northern California, my initial perception of the Hasidic community when I moved to NYC was that it almost looked and felt like a completely separate religion. But I wondered: how are we similar? In this portrait series, I wanted to bridge the gap between the reform Jewish community I grew up in and the Hasidic Jewish community that I lived adjacent to in NY.
There’s a difference between watching people and really seeing them. To that point, many photographs of the Hasidic community in New York have a voyeuristic and documentary quality to them since there is a lack of permission and trust by many of the individuals in the Hasidic community. I did not want to replicate that. Rather, I wanted to elevate them and treat them the same way I would treat any individual or celebrity coming into my studio. I wanted consent and permission.
For many reasons, sitting for a portrait within the Hasidic community is seen as taboo. There is not a rule written in the Torah that expressly prohibits doing so. However, one of the main unwritten rules within the Hasidic community is to do what everyone else does and avoid what everyone else avoids. Without a doubt, the toughest part of this project was gaining the access and permission to find willing subjects to sit for a portrait.
My main goal was to make each person feel comfortable enough to reveal their unique characteristics and personality. Oftentimes, the outside world only notices the surface level trademarks that are reflected in the Hasidic community — their intricate hats, their beards, and their payot. I strived to go beyond that.
I used these photo sessions as an opportunity to learn more about the Hasidic community and share my experiences as a reform Jew. Through this sense of shared humanity, I was able to capture something timeless, personal and honest.
Many people have asked why I didn’t include women in the project. I had a few Hasidic women who were willing to sit for portraits, however they didn’t feel comfortable having their images shared publicly.
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 @SuzanneSease. Instagram
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.