The Value of Personal Work: A Look at Work by Zack Seckler and Michael Hall


For most of us, what we do is more than just a job. It’s a calling. We’re compelled to create for better or worse. And for many of us, the only way to truly do what we really want to do is by pursuing our own projects. Of course, there’s a tremendous amount of intrinsic value in doing just that. For most of us, personal projects show our softer side – the side that loves doing the work we do.

While it takes time and money to pursue our passions, I think most of us feel its worth it in the end. Especially when you can share what you’ve done with others. To that end, personal projects make for great promotional opportunities. They’re usually more interesting than client work as they give you an opportunity to explore an idea, to communicate your own vision and push beyond client constraints. They give you a reason to get in touch – sending clients, buyers and others a mailer or email, letting them know about the project and reminding them about you and your work. Sometimes, personal work makes for a great piece to submit to an industry competition or has the potential to end up in a show – reaching audiences you may not otherwise have connected with. In the end, personal projects that are done well can demonstrate your passion for your industry, showing the zeal you bring to your work. That’s something that anyone who’s thinking of hiring you likes to see.

A high quality personal project can go a long way with potential clients or employers. So definitely think about personal work in your portfolio. Many of the industry professionals, my co-author and I interviewed for our book, specifically mentioned how much they enjoy seeing personal work in a portfolio. In some cases, considering personal work even more so than commercial work. They felt it told them a lot more about the individual they were thinking about hiring – their own personal attitudes, vision and “no holds barred” talent.

The following are two examples of personal projects that were recently submitted to No Plastic Sleeves .

The first project comes from photographer, Zack Seckler and is called “True Love”. This project is all about loving what you do. The concept for the project is definitely intriguing. In an opening statement, Zack describes the project as one in which “a group of volunteers worked with professional hypnotist, Joel Elfman, to reach, in trance, a point where they were able to visualize the camera as a beloved person”.

In 2009, Zack received 1st Place in the IPA 2009 Digital Enhancement category, IPA 2009 Honorable Mention in People category and was a Communication Arts 2009 feature in Fresh.

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Below is a “behind-the-scenes” video from Zack’s website, http://thetrueloveproject.com/ .

The True Love Project from Zack Seckler on Vimeo.

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The next piece is a book submitted by Melissa Hennessy of Hennessy Represents, on behalf of photographer, Michael Hall. It’s a great example of a polished piece that integrates both design and photography while communicating a clear and thoughtful message. The small book published by Michael Hall, serves as a self-promotion piece to raise awareness about climate change & its devastating effects. For more visit www.michaelhall.net.

Michael has been a professional photographer in Australia for over 20 years. He was selected as ‘photographer of the year’ in 2006 by the Federation of European Photographers. Recently, he was announced as a finalist in the Hasselblad Masters 2009 .

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  1. 1
    Mike Tittel

    I agree 100%. A large percentage of my portfolio was shot during personal projects for the reasons mentioned. In addition, I believe some of the best work we do as photographers comes when given the freedom to experience and step out of our comfort zones. Although these opportunities can occur when shooting assigned work there is something to be said about shooting without the demands of an end client in mind.

    Keep up the great work on the blog. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of your book.

  2. 2
    Chris

    Having the time to explore my own work was one of the big reason I enjoyed grad school so much. And I will say that the more experimental work I did in grad school really helped my career. Wish i had more time for such projects now.

  3. 3
    Genevieve

    Zack Seckler’s “True Love” has inspired me to study the intrinsic nature and value of human love. Sounds a little corny but this really moved me.

  4. 4
    David Paul Larson

    I also 100% agree. To me personal work is one of the only reasons to become a photographer. Its a heart felt process. If you dont love what you shoot. No one else will either.

    One of the greatest feelings I have ever encountered as a photographer is when a client hires you because of your personal work.

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