What are the elements of a successful personal project?

JS: A successful personal project, from my perspective, should be about something or someone that you care about, it’s much easier (and exciting) to make photographs when you are invested in that particular topic, issue, or community. The project should be a vehicle to showcase your aesthetic and the images should be presented the way that you see fit. It should also be about discovery, you should be learning during the process. A printed piece, a pop-up installation, a project-specific website, a hashtag, are a few examples of ways to present and distribute a body of work. Field time for my projects has varied based on the topic: 10 years, 2 weeks, and 2 days. Time is always a good thing but it doesn’t always result in a worthy project.

Self-initiated projects represent who I am as an artist. This type of work is the foundation that drives me to make photographs. Small Town Hip hop, The Farms, and The Skaters of La Paz are all examples of my personal work.

EG: Beyond what JS said, it should ideally represent the type of work you want to make. Every assignment will have an agenda that isn’t necessarily your agenda. A personal project should be 100% about your agenda.

CC: One project I found to be successful because I was able to demonstrate a new approach to lighting in studio. Another project was successful because I was able to tell stories and create images and compile them into a self-published book that I wanted to see exist in the world. Another was successful because I was able to stretch myself and direct, DP, and edit a motion piece. All this to say, I have found success in personal projects when I felt that I was able to do something different from what I typically do when I’m commissioned and stretch myself to apply a new skill or create something I hadn’t done before. I think a personal project is successful if it yanks you out of complacency to create work that tells people more about you (personally/stylistically/artistically). Naturally, this will be something you’re excited to share, and maybe someone will see it, be inspired by it, and hire you to create something similar for them. But, I see this as a bonus by-product of the project and it’s not my motivation because what if you don’t receive any response?