Had a mini freak-out the other day at the vet when we had to bring Mojo in to get a lump removed. They couldn’t say either way if it was cancerous, and would be 6 days until we got the results back. I left there thinking totally irrationally, and jumped on 99 Designs right when I got home to get a logo of him made up. No idea why I was doing it at all. Even asked myself that question the next day after calming down. Still not sure of the answer other than wanting something of him besides a photo that will also last forever. Now that I think about it, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to logos lately and thinking how similar they all are. On top of that, thinking how little my previous logo meant to me. I love this depiction of Mojo because he means so much to me, and it’s vastly different than anything commercial photographers use. It’s also cool to think about how much he has been involved in my photography. He has been on board for all of my biggest/long term personal projects like Barbershops of America and The Basketball Hoops Project. Not quite sure of the total tally, but he’s been to roughly 45 states with me. He’s made a lot of people smile, and just about everywhere I go, people ask how he’s doing. Glad he doesn’t have cancer.
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?
Tim Mantoani passed away last week. He has been a huge inspiration of mine for a long time, and I regret not getting to know him better. Aside from being an incredible photographer who worked on huge campaign's with legendary athletes, he was a great person. Any time I ever had a question about photography, Tim was always willing to help. Which is a rare thing in our industry, let alone a small market like San Diego. A lot of photographers out there would (and do) view me as the competition, and in turn, blow me off. Not Tim though. Id approach him with questions about big ad jobs that I was lucky enough to have come my way (and any photographer would love to have come their way). And tim would take the time to tell me as much as he could about what I could do to land that "job". What do you say about someone willing to do that? Another thing Tim and I shared in common was our love for personal projects. He and I have always been big advocates for not just shooting, but promoting them as well. Shooting commercial campaigns are great, and I love it. But nothing is more rewarding than shooting for yourself. In my experience, they are also the thing that leads to more commercial work down the road. So it's an amazing win win. If you follow what I do, you know about the personal projects I've worked on in the past. The most recent, and ongoing, being The Basketball Hoops Project. Been shooting this for about three years now, and it's finally gaining steam. It was published this morning on Sports Illustrated's The Cauldron. Which has resulted in another news outlet approaching me about also publishing the story. You might be thinking that these things don't matter, but this is how it starts. A series of small steps that lead to a much bigger payoff. Ive got big goals for this project and it's commercial usage, so these things are great little pieces of a much bigger puzzle. Not sure where I'm going with this, but most importantly, want to encourage any photographer who reads this, to put more time into their personal projects. Anyone proud enough to call themselves a photographer probably has 20 different projects in their head at any given time. The problem is actually doing something about it. So if you are reading this, get off your ass and start one of your projects. Doesn't have to be huge, but go at it 100%.
Link to the article: HERE.
Link to my Hoops Project: HERE.