The Importance of a Personal Project
The importance of the personal project is that that is what is gonna help shape and define your style, committing to a single idea and seeing it visually come to life through creating images and ultimately, establishing a body of work in a style is what art directors and creative directors at agencies and brands that hire photographers to create content, that's what they're gonna look to and you have to create the type of work that you wanna get hired for. So, the tipping point where it's hard to get hired for commercial work from and out of creating personal projects was over 10 years ago now and you know, that journey and story for me obviously intersected with the rise and popularity with Instagram, and we were early adopters to the platform and the biggest thing that we were doing was sharing content out of pure joy, out of love for creating images. So, it definitely was tied to passion and interest and what I was doing and other photographers, you know, around me...
were doing at that time, and just sharing those images on a consistent basis. And you know, that was the biggest piece of it. We weren't necessarily creating because we wanted to be famous or, you know, to get rich, we were doing it because we truly loved image-making. We loved photography and it was our creative output for the world, for our life. It's like the stories that we wanted to tell, they were important to us. But you know, that also does intersect commercial. You also want to make a living and a life out of creating images. There's no greater blessing for someone to see an image that you made and love it and say, "I want you to execute similar ideas in a similar style and vision for our brand to help us tell our story." That's the biggest reward, being a photographer. Essentially what happened was, we were out shooting images in the world because we loved being photographers and Instagram came around, a platform for sharing photographs. We started using it and initially, it wasn't taken seriously as a platform, and we made it into like a platform to be taken seriously for the world's best photography and still images and now that is Instagram. So what happened was, you know, we were in our early twenties sharing images and a lot of people that were following us were of course younger than us at the time. You know, those same kind of stories hold true for TikTok and YouTube today, and then, you know, we aged and got older and that group of people who maybe were in middle school or high school following us in the early days, you know, they grew up. They went to college, they graduated. They got job at ad agencies and now they're responsible for social media which is this new booming industry that maybe some of the old timers in the field aren't in sync with as much. So, they started to get budgets and those people decided, "Hey, I wanna hire the people that I've been following since I was 12 years old." I know, which blows my mind to think about but that's my best, you know, analysis of what happened and it's like, you know, it's been amazing. I don't, you know, I don't know cut here, but I don't know if it's repeatable again, you know. I think whatever it is, I think it's gonna be something new and different, you know. Yeah, the components of turning personal work into a successful commercial work are the same across a lot of different mediums, but it's also not a guarantee. There's, I think the best analogy that we're kind of aware of broadly in our cultures like, you know, this idea of "the starving artist" or the musician who's playing coffee shops and trying to land gigs or, you know, with an actor doing the same thing. So, there's no guarantee for success but there are components that are required to even enter into the space and pursuing that passion and the biggest one is you just have to love what you're creating. It has to come from a place of pure joy. You have to care about the subject and you have to really care about what you're saying. You can't be disingenuous with it. You can't be trying to create something 'cause you think it's the... You're like, "Oh, that's the right thing to do." You have to love it in your core and believe in it. That's number one, and the second one is that there is consistency to it. You have to do it frequently and it has to be a challenge. It can't come easy because all that low hanging fruit has already been picked and to stand out and to be unique, I don't think you have to be extreme and over the top, but you do have to find a niche and say something new and unique that is still important to what's going on in culture today, and the space that I found myself in, and I fell into it because I love dogs and I love my dog, Maddie and our relationship, and that came from a place to something that was happening in my life. I didn't... And here's the difference, (indistinctive chatter) "Oh yeah, people love dog photos and I can capitalize on that." The origins of it was, "I love my dog, she's with me so therefore, I'm gonna photograph and document her," and it grew organically. And the best analogy I have for that is like a restaurant analogy. It's that story of someone who loves to cook. They start out in other people's kitchen, they take a risk, they buy their own food truck. They start out small and they're dedicated to that food truck. They're there every Friday, every Saturday, week after week after week, making amazing food and the business grows and more people come, and then one day they take another risk and then they buy their little corner bistro. Now, they have a corner physical space and their restaurant grows from there. Now, that kind of same analogy is true for photography and for making images. Becoming known for a certain type of work is definitely a double-edged sword and it's very much analogous to the actor getting typecast. And I think ultimately, the place to land with it is, you know, just being grateful to create photographs and shoot for brands. That's the biggest reward if photography is something that you love and kind of the double-edged sword part about it is you need to develop a style to become recognizable for yourself and for others because that is how you're gonna differentiate yourself in a really large sea of other people that want to be pursuing the craft as well, and you have to make images that are gonna stick in our director's minds at agencies or, you know, brands direct so they will think of you and come up in their mind when they have projects that come through their desk and you know... You have to create the work that you wanna get hired for and the reason that's important is because that is how you're gonna be identified to art directors and brands. They are gonna see your style. They're gonna think of you for the project and they're gonna be able to pull up their screen and see the exact feelings and images that they want to bring into their campaign that they're shooting.