I always think to myself that any photographer who really gives a shit will invest heavily in personal projects. That's not to say you have to spend a lot of money, but invest yourself. Shoot something that's just for you and let that project develop a life of it's own. You'll be glad you did. I also think that a photographers personal project begins without even knowing it. In your own time you shoot what you're randomly and naturally drawn to. Then over time, a small collection or series of images comes together that you didn't even realize you were creating. The even greater part is over the same period of time, that body of work naturally grows followers of people with similar interests. Those people can be totally random, but they can also be commercial clients who want to buy your images or pay you to make something similar. That's a win on all levels. No longer are you searching for the right clients. Now the right clients are looking for you.
I don't care who you are, things can get slow from time to time. And what happens during those lows, is that you take assignments you're not right for. Maybe it's not your speciality, or maybe you just don't give a shit? Either way, you shouldn't have taken it because it always shows up in the work. Everyone who views an image can tell if it's right or not. When a photographer wants to make a great image he'll do whatever he can to make it. But when the interest isn't there, or they just took the job for the money, you can see it. I decided a long time ago that I'd rather be broke than take assignments that aren't right for me. I use to take them all the time, and it just led to bad relationships and bad images. Definitely not the kind of thing you want out in the world as a freelance photographer. So I started investing heavily in my own projects while also shooting commercially. And after years of building up different portfolios, all that work is starting to pay off. One of them in particular is starting to get really fun, The Basketball Hoops Project. Last February the project had it's first exhibition in New Orleans for NBA All-Star Weekend. And just recently I signed on with Fathom Gallery in Los Angeles. They will not only be sourcing shows for the project and selling prints, but also seeking commercial licensing. I'm really excited about this partnership, and look forward to seeing where it goes.
Creating images for the right clients is always fun. For a company to choose you out of all the other photographers in the world is a great compliment. When your personal projects start to take flight though, that's the real reward. Hugh Hefner died yesterday. Calling him a legend would be an understatement. Among the many great things he's ever said, my favorite has to be "Life is too short to be living someone else's dream".
Go out and create for yourself.
I made this image back in April of 2011 during a road trip with my mother. At the time the Hoops Project wasn't even a thought. Yesterday though, after stumbling on this, it made me wonder if it was?