The Art of the Personal Project: Jeff Shaffer

As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects because they are the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director, photo editor, or graphic designer. This new column, “The Art of the Personal Project” will feature the personal projects of photographers using the Yodelist marketing database. You can read their blog at http://yodelist.wordpress.com. Projects are discovered online and submissions are not accepted.

Today’s featured photographer is: Jeff Shaffer

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How long have you been shooting?
28 years

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
RIT BFA Photo Illustration and School of Visuals Arts MPS Digital Photo Assisting in NYC for 3 years taught me the business, though!

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
It evolved from another personal project featuring composited images of obsolete future contraptions, called FutureTech.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
I shot and produced the whole project in 5 months. I was able to use some landscape images shot years before in California, but some other background elements were recently shot in Philadelphia. I used models and a wardrobe stylist from SVA(the male actor also did the voice-over for my video), and purchased props and additional wardrobe from iGoldberg Army-Navy in Philly. Very cost-effective!

The project was presented in a group show at the School of Visual Arts gallery on E23rd Street, as a custom-made book and video presentation.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
I did a fair amount of research and concept sketches before I began this one. I’d say it was a couple of months of prep all told. I showed work in progress to a number of fellow photographers and respected peers to get feedback, which was very helpful!

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
I’d never had the opportunity before to take this much time to focus on a project, and explore ideas in this much depth. It felt great, and I’m glad it worked out as well as it has so far!

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
I do post on Facebook and Instagram(mostly iPhone street graphics).
My blog is on Tumblr and also includes some occasional behind the scenes details.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
Nothing viral, but I hope this post will generate some more great press!

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yes, just last month sent out a mailer featuring an image from this project, mostly to entertainment-industry companies. More will follow along with email and social media posts.

Artist’s Statement
Technology surrounds us, and we have become ever more dependent upon it. We can access information and communicate faster with one another than ever before, using a huge variety of systems and devices. These seemingly valuable abilities depend upon an ever-increasing demand for energy. This, in turn, has led to more pollution and dramatic climate change. and possible extinction for many creature that inhabit our planet. Human energy is often squandered on social media that actually serves to isolate us both from each other and from the serious global threats we all face. Because my work is heavily influenced by dystopian films such as The Zero Theorem, Blade Runner, and 12 Monkeys, this vision is bleak. it tells the story of two explorers, human survivors of the planet’s ruination, as they examine its after effects and try to find some salvation for the world or redemption for themselves.These images are presented in the form of a storyboard or graphic novel sequence.They are digitally assembled in much the same way as these two explorers have assembled their wardrobe. They are an amalgam of diverse elements; landscapes, signs, camera and computer parts.I use the very same digital technology that is leading us towards this dystopia to create a vision of that future world. No one can predict the end game of these trends, but Apocalyptech offers one view of a possible, not-too-distant future. If culture is lost, along with our fellow inhabitants, both human and animal, we lose spirit and humanity. Can it be recaptured and revived? These images illustrate those issues and raise those questions, but leave it up to all of us to provide the answers.

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Jeff Shaffer’s advertising photography has garnered numerous awards from art director’s clubs and other publication design groups. Based in Philadelphia, he has worked on national ad campaigns and annual reports for such prominent clients as Pfizer, Neiman Marcus, Ralph Lauren, Tanqueray, and Heineken. Jeff’s fine-art photography draws its inspiration from futuristic cinema and graphic novels, relying heavily on post-production manipulation in the style of computer graphics. He refined those skills while earning his Master of Professional Studies in Digital Photography degree from New York’s prestigious School of Visual Arts.


APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information believing that marketing should be driven by a brand and not specialty. Follow her on twitter at SuzanneSease.

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