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: Sandra Salvas
How long have you been shooting?
Technically, since high school…which is about 18 years ago now…yikes.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I went to the School of Visual Arts in NYC. I wanted to learn not just how to take photos, but how to market myself and sell my work commercially.
With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
I am an animal lover and have worked with several local dog rescues in Utah over the past 5 years. Yes, I’m a crazy dog lady.
I had just been laid off from a full time job as a photo editor, and was completely burnt out. I wanted to work on something bigger than marketing objectives, and for someone who was actually making a difference. I perused the interwebs for volunteer photography projects and found the site Photographers Without Borders. They are a non-profit organization who work with NGOs in developing countries. They partner photographers with causes in order to raise awareness through visual story telling. I read their Mission & Vision statement and immediately applied for an opportunity to work with an animal rescue. After an interview and a couple months, they asked if I’d like to partner with Love Animal House in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I raised money for my airfare and stay, as well as some additional money I was able to donate to Love Animal House.
I wanted this to be pure journalism. I followed Maryanne, her dogs, her cows, cats, and her employees around for 2 weeks just watching, observing, and learning.
Animal welfare is low on the totem pole for most people in Thailand. They don’t understand spaying and neutering pets is the way to control an overpopulation of cats and dogs. Sadly, they result in poisoning their pets to “get a hold of the situation.” Slaughter houses are violent and inhumane, and farm animals are often left suffering and unattended to. The sanctuary was founded over 21 years ago to change this; to offer a place of equality for all living animals, and to educate the community in animal welfare. The organization is currently developing their bovine shelter for rescued cows and water buffalo to be developed into a free energy plant by turning their waste into gas to run generators and provide electricity to their project site and neighborhood.
I wanted the opportunity to tell this story. The project focuses on the animals she’s rescued, as well as the monks who protect the animals in the local temples of Mae Rim. It really goes beyond Chiang Mai, so I feel like this is just one door that has opened to a much bigger project.
How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
This was a 2 week project, but I want to go back. There’s so much more to tell.
How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
It depends on the depth of the project. Some projects only last 1 day, some I spend years on. If it’s a real story, with progression and substance, it usually only takes a day to realize that and then I try to go back within a reasonable time and continue it over a year. Sometimes I just have random ideas that are more conceptual and it’s just a one day shoot and done.
Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
I actually consider all of it portfolio work. Part of being a photographer is being personally creative but also having the ability to adapt your style for a clients needs. I like the challenge of making it all cohesive. My personal work comes from what I am most passionate about, and I like to think that clients consider those things before they hire me for an assignment. “Oh, she loves dogs. She must be patient and understanding.” Haha!
Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
I only post personal work on Instagram. I have rules for this platform,
Rule 1 is iphone only. What’s more challenging than taking a great photo? Taking a great photo with your optically challenged iphone. Funnily enough, I broke this rule twice during promotion of this trip to Thailand, but that was it. I’ve stayed true before and since.
Rule 2 is only 1 post a day. No one wants to see the progression of me “getting the shot” Just post the best one.
As for Tumblr and Facebook, anything goes. I use Tumblr to promote photos before I add them to my website galleries, or will throw up an image with Facebook. Honestly I’m not the best social media promoter.
If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
Not yet, but maybe one of these days. I’m optimistic.
Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
I do it all the time. It’s not like a lot of people are going to have the opportunity to see my personal work unless I’m on their radar. By printing and mailing pieces out, I only hope it doesn’t just go from the mail box to the recycling bin. I don’t over print or over send. I really try to target the audience of the mailer so I’m not wasting paper or anyone’s time.
I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, moved to NYC for college, and after graduating quickly traded in the concrete jungle for the mountains. After a 5 year stint in Boulder, CO, I moved to Park City, UT where I currently reside with my husband and 2 fur kids.
I am inspired by real moments, real people, bad dogs, being outside, and all kinds of adventure. I love projects with depth and process that keep you wanting to go back for more: to learn, see, and experience it all as much as you can.
a cold beer
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.