Every visual artist must know the importance of undertaking personal projects. Not only do they serve to develop your work, they are a great opportunity to do just what you want with almost total freedom. I use the world almost because although there is no direct client, you are still bound by certain things. This could be finances, your comfort level, your access to locations, time etc. But you ultimately decide what is right for the project.
These images usually are a good indication to anyone where exactly your real interest’s or passions lie.
I personally keep a journal with ideas for projects I would like to undertake but also regularly visit and talk to others about their personal projects and have noticed that there are a number of students hoping to survive as commercial photographers out there who seem to have transitioned into doing entirely personal work and then selling or exhibiting said work.
This by itself should not be an issue but it seems that these days, the majority of self work entails looking into “themselves”. Photographing their loved ones and or objects and places from childhood.
I recently came across a feature in the March edition of Professional Photographer magazine addressing the same issue and decided that it’s clearly going on a lot more than I think it is.
I won’t go into the entire discussion as there are several points to be raised but you can pick up a copy from the stands and read if you’re interested.
As an artist I understand the need to want to own your work entirely. To not have to make choices you are unhappy about just to sometimes satisfy the client but at the end of the day, we are photographers and need to make a living off our work.
To continue to create introspective images only could be dangerous. What makes you think your life is really that interesting and that we or clients care enough to pay good money to be taken on your ride. While the work might be interesting, it’s unlikely it’s you’ll get booked from that book.
So while I’m all for personal projects and finding yourself, my suggestion for those that ask me regularly how I find my clients or how I sell my style of work to them is to find a balance and create images that appeal to those who hire you or you could very well find yourself in another profession soon enough.
The logic here is simple, show the type of work you’d like to be hired for.