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Posts Tagged: It’s Personal

Every month on RESOLVE we ask a photographer to share a personal project they’re currently working on. We’re doubly happy to highlight Faces 4 Reform from Robert and Robbie Bailey, since it addresses a pressing issue for all Americans — the rising number of uninsured — and because the website liveBooks donated has helped bring extra attention to the project.

From the Faces 4 Reform project. ©Robert & Robbie Bailey

Name: Robert & Robbie Bailey
Website: faces4reform.com
Age: 42  & 41
Location: New York
Kind of photography we specialize in: Portraiture

Personal project name and short description: Faces4Reform – Portraits of America’s Uninsured. According to the 2008 U.S. Census Bureau, there were 46.3 million people living in the United State without health insurance.  This series of portraits gives you a close look at some of their faces.

When and why did you start it?
Towards the end of the summer, we began to pay close attention to the debate over health insurance reform.  As small business owners, we personally understand the plight of the uninsured.  For years, we worked 80 hour weeks but were still unable to afford the high premiums unfairly imposed on the self-employed.  We opted for a reasonable state subsidized insurance plan but that has increased by 65% in the last three years.  If something doesn’t change, we could be uninsured again in the very near future.

Aside from our own personal motivation, we felt compelled to respond to the misconceptions about the uninsured.  There are those that would like for you to believe that the majority are illegal immigrants or welfare recipients. In contrast, many of the uninsured people that we know are productive, hardworking individuals and families that are simply locked out of a broken system.

Sadly, political lines have been drawn, the spin-masters are hard at work, and the American public is once again at the mercy of entertainment journalism and those that specialize in misinformation. When that happens, those most affected get lost in the discussion and politics takes precedence over people. This series of portraits hopes to humanize the ongoing debate and encourage participation in the political process. As artists and small business owners, we obviously don’t have the money or influence to affect polices in Washington but we do possess a creative power that can be used to inform and inspire.

Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far?
The power in this particular body of work lies in seeing the images as a collective.

What has been the most challenging thing about the project?
Finding the time to do it.

What has been the most rewarding thing about it? More »

Josh Maready’s multimedia portrait of an Inwood shop owner, who the photographer interviewed shortly before he died of cancer, is the essence of what a personal project can achieve. Josh usually shoots fashion and portraits, but in the end it was this documentary project that helped re-energize him about his own work — and helped keep a special person and his stories alive through his images.

Name: Josh Maready
Website: joshmaready.com
Age: 30
Location: NYC

What kind of photography do you specialize in?
I shoot mostly fashion and portraiture, but I feel really connected to photojournalism and documentary. I like capturing pieces of history that otherwise might have been lost or forgotten.

Personal project name and short description
Pic-A-Pet: This is a slideshow and interview with Mr. Madonna, the owner of a small plant and pet store named “Pic-A-Pet” in my hood in Inwood, at the very top of Manhattan.

When and why did you start it?
My old apartment was right above where the super put all of the trash overnight before he put it out on the street, and because of it there were always some stray flies that found their way in. I got pissed and went on a search to find some Venus fly traps that led me to Pic-A-Pet. I loved that place ever since I first walked in.

I have soft spot for old stores — the dirtier and more cluttered the better. Those places are so full of stories and have so much soul, you know?  I instantly wanted to take pictures of that place and hear some of those stories, so I grabbed my camera and voice recorder and sat down with the owner, Mr, Madonna.  Sadly, he had Stage 4 cancer and died a couple of weeks after our interview. It’s pretty amazing to think that because of the interview I did, a few of his stories will always be alive. That’s powerful stuff.

Mr. Madonna by Josh Maready

Mr. Madonna by Josh Maready

Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far?
From this story, I like two images the most: a portrait of Mr. Madonna smiling and a picture of his cluttered cash register that he told me he hasn’t used since the first day he opened. In the portrait, maybe it’s the smile he’s wearing, even though I knew he was in pain, or maybe the sunlight hitting the dust on his glasses. The register, to me, is a perfect summary of everything I love about old stores.

What has been the most challenging thing about the project?
The most challenging part was the editing. I sat down and talked with Mr. Madonna for almost an hour and a half. So taking all of those stories and condensing them into 10 minutes was tough.

What has been the most rewarding thing about it?
Just what I said earlier — to know that I was a part of keeping someone’s legacy alive is a huge honor.  Mr. Madonna was loved by so many people. And even though this is a small and unworthy tribute for such a good man, at least it’ll give people a taste of what he was like.

In your ideal world, where would this project end up?
I hope this ends up in front of the eyes of people who appreciate the stories of the unknown heros of the world as much as I do.

Do you recommend personal projects to other photographers, and why?
Totally. I try to find time to fuel the creative fire by shooting things that really mean something to me. This project was time consuming and finding free time is hard. Freeing up time is usually hard to justify. But to look back and feel like I’ve done something good for the world is worth it.

Wow – you wanna hear something weird? Right now as i’m writing this I just got an email from someone who had known Mr. Madonna. They told me they just watched the slideshow/interview and then poured their heart out about Mr. Madonna and told me a few of their own stories about him. That’s it, man! That’s why I love this stuff! That’s good fuel for the fire and motivation for the next few stories I have in mind…

For Lisa Wiseman, a San Francisco-based editorial and commercial photographer, it’s important that her portfolio convey her “eye,” the way she sees, no matter what camera she’s using. That’s why, despite her initial hesitancy, she began showing personal work as part of her book and online portfolio last year. This year she was named one of PDN’s 30 — in part because of her “New Polaroids” personal project, taken entirely on her iPhone.

©Lisa Wiseman (2)

Name: Lisa Wiseman
Website:
lisawiseman.com
Age: 27
Location:
San Francisco
Full-time job:
Photographer

Personal project name and short description
The New Polaroid — This project is shot completely with my iPhone and is an exploration of iPhone as the new Polaroid. As the iPhone is becoming a ubiquitous and trendy accessory, on-the-go picture taking is now the norm. I see people using their iPhones to take spontaneous photos in the same carefree way that cheap Polaroid has been used in the past. In concept and ideology, the iPhone mimics Polaroid; however, it pushes the aesthetic forward by utilizing a new non-film (but technologically infantile) medium. Just like traditional Polaroids had a specific size and unique look, iPhone photos are unmistakable because the technology limits them to a fixed size and resolution and imbues them with a unique chromatic aberration that says “iPhone” and nothing else.

©Lisa Wiseman (2)

When and why did you start it?
I have been shooting with my iPhone since I got it approximately two years ago. I started showing The New Polaroid alongside my portraiture portfolios on my website and in my book in June, 2008, along with other personal work including a project shot on traditional Polaroid film. It was important to me to show my potential clients another side of my shooting personality — I wanted creatives to have a feel for what the world looks like to me and what I photograph when I’m not shooting portraits. With a wider breadth of work encompassing still lifes and interiors, I wanted to show that my vision carries through everything I shoot. Showing personal work has directly led to jobs, and when I show my work in person my work seems to resonate more with the viewer because it includes the iPhone images and traditional Polaroids.

©Lisa Wiseman (2)

Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far? More »

When RESOLVE was just a fledgling, we ran two posts from Greg Gibson titled “It’s never too late to start a personal project.” Since then we’ve seen so many great personal projects, and heard about even more that are still just ideas. By highlighting our faves in this new “It’s Personal” column, we hope to encourage more photographers to turn their great idea into a great personal project.
Pronghorn antelope in western Wyoming. ©Joe Riis

Pronghorn antelope in western Wyoming.

Name: Joe Riis
Website:
www.joeriis.com
Age:
25
Location:
Moose, Wyoming right now and moving to Bijou Hills, South Dakota, early in 2010. I want to live in a cabin on the prairie.
Full-time job:
Wildlife photographer and videographer

Personal project name and short description
Pronghorn Passage, a conservation photography project that focuses on the Grand Teton National Park pronghorn migration. Each fall a herd of 400 pronghorn antelope migrate from Grand Teton National Park down into the Upper Green River Basin of Wyoming, a total round-trip journey of 300 miles. This migration is the second longest overland mammal migration in the western hemisphere (after caribou in Alaska). The migration corridor is being squeezed down by residential development and mineral extraction on the private and public lands that it crosses. Pronghorn Passage is a collaborative project between myself and essayist Emilene Ostlind.

When and why did you start it?
The project was actually Emilene’s idea; she approached me and wanted to work together. She is a writer, and was just finishing up working at National Geographic Magazine and as Steve Winter’s assistant on his snow leopard story in India. She was coming back home to Wyoming to write a selection of essays about the pronghorn migration and wanted me to photograph it. At the time, I was just finishing up a 2-year conservation photography project on environmental threats to the Missouri River. I was ready to start photographing something new, and the pronghorn project, which had never been photographed before, seemed like a great idea.

I started researching and filling out grant applications in November 2007, and started my fieldwork in May 2008, the day after I graduated from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s in Wildlife Biology. We got the project fully funded through the National Geographic Expeditions Council, The Banff Centre, University of Wyoming, North American Nature Photographers Association, Grand Teton National Park, and Patagonia the clothing company. I feel very fortunate to have received so much financial backing for the project, which has allowed me to focus all my efforts on fieldwork.

©Joe Riis
I am still surprised by the support we got, but the bottom line is that the pronghorn story had all the elements to a good wildlife story. A small herd of pronghorn migrating a super long distance over an incredible landscape, under threat, that had never been photographed before — plus we were two young Wyomingites who wanted to live with pronghorn. The reason is hadn’t been photographed before is because it takes a huge time commitment, at least a full year. No one knew exactly where they were migrating so I had to do field biology before I could photograph it. Because most of my work is by camera trap, I have to know exactly where the animals are moving.

Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far? More »

When RESOLVE was just a fledgling, we ran two posts from Greg Gibson titled “It’s never too late to start a personal project.” Since then we’ve seen so many great personal projects, and heard about even more that are still just ideas. By highlighting our faves in this new “It’s Personal” column, we hope to encourage more photographers to turn their great idea into a great personal project.
Garrett with his mom and dad. ©André Hermann

Garrett with his mom and dad. ©André Hermann

Name: André Hermann
Website: www.andrehermannphoto.com
Age: 35
Location: Oakland, CA
Full-time job: Visual storyteller

Personal project name and description
Garrett: The Boy Beneath The BandagesEpidermolysis Bullosa, or, EB, is a rare genetic skin disease that most people have never heard of, yet it affects 100,000 children across the United States alone. Children born with this disease lack the ability to produce the collagen-7 protein that acts as a glue to bind the inner and outer layers of skin together. Their skin is extremely sensitive and fragile, with open wounds similar to third degree burns that never heal. The slightest friction or bump causes the skin to blister and break down. EB kids live relatively short lives, wrapped in bandages and in constant pain.

This series of images tells the story of a 12-year-old boy named Garrett, his family, and the challenges they face every day because of this debilitating disease. EB not only takes a toll on its victims and their families, it also affects their friends, caregivers, and the communities that help them. Through these images, I will attempt to give a face to this horrific and unpublicized disease.

When and why did you start it?
I started work on this story in 2008 as my thesis while pursuing a masters in photography at the Academy of Art University. During the summer semester of 2007, I answered an ad on the school’s job board. A nonprofit organization that ran a week-long summer camp for kids with genetic skin disorders needed a photographer. I jumped at the opportunity.

During the week of camp, I met Garrett and his family. I had never heard of EB. In a weird way, I feel like this story found me. Everything just seemed to fall into place. Garrett’s family and I both recognized this as an opportunity to gain much needed awareness for the disease. I pitched the idea to them. I was nervous because I was asking them to enter a 1-year+ commitment without knowing much about me. They agreed to the idea, and here we are today.

Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far? More »

When RESOLVE was just a fledgling, we ran two posts from Greg Gibson titled “It’s never too late to start a personal project.” Since then we’ve seen so many great personal projects, and heard about even more that are still just ideas. By highlighting our faves in this new “It’s Personal” column, we hope to encourage more photographers to turn their great idea into a great personal project.
Elliott Erwitt and Jim Marshall, from Tim Mantoani's "Behind Photographs" project. ©Tim Mantoani Photography Inc.

Elliott Erwitt and Jim Marshall, from Tim Mantoani's "Behind Photographs" project. ©Tim Mantoani Photography Inc.

Name: Tim Mantoani
Website:
www.mantoani.com
Age:
40
Location:
San Diego
Full-time job:
Photographer

Personal project name and description
Behind Photographs — I have been shooting portraits of photographers for the past 2.5 years on 20×24 Polaroid. Each photographer is holding an image they are known for. As many of these photographers, like Polaroid, fade away, I hope these images will be a way for future generation to appreciate the contribution these artists have made.

When and why did you start it?
I started shooting in Dec ’06; I always wanted to try shooting with the 20×24 Polaroid. Since it is expensive to rent, I wanted to shoot something that meant something special to me. I knew both Jim Marshall and Michael Zagaris and asked them to bring in a favorite image to hold for a portrait. It all snowballed from there.

What is your favorite image so far?
Too many great images and memories to call out a single image.

What has been the most challenging thing about the project?
Cost and time. I have really maxed myself out financially shooting this project, but it is all starting to come together now that people can see the work. Sadly, some of the participants have passed away, but it is a great feeling to know that I can help keep their legacies alive.

What has been the most rewarding thing about it?
Being able to spend some time with each of these photographers, to hear their stories and collaborate on the final image.

In your ideal world, where would this project end up?
I would love to see this project in a large venue where I can show all of the images at full size.

Do you recommend personal projects to other photographers, and why?
Every photographer has a personal project they want to shoot. JUST GO DO IT!!!! There will always be a bunch of reasons not to: money, time, risk. But at the end of the day, the images you shoot for YOU are the ones that will be your best and the most rewarding. The roller coaster is more fun than the merry-go-round.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Do you have a personal project or know of one that you’d like us to highlight on RESOLVE? Add your suggestions to the comments or email us.



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