Name: Evan Clark
School: Rockford High School
Jam: Car photography
Rockford — Like many, this Rockford High School junior sought new ways to keep busy during the early days of COVID-19 shutdowns and quarantines. He’s now the owner/photographer of Mitten Project, a car photography business.
How old were you when this became something you were interested in, and what’s the story there? “I’ve always loved cars, like, since I played with toys — I always had Matchbox cars in my hand. And I always loved being creative, too… drawing when I was a kid and then in middle school, when I got my first phone, I started taking pictures with it.”
When schools shut down for the first time in March 2020, Evan decided to combine the two interests. He picked up a family camera that his parents didn’t use much and began tinkering. He practiced with different lighting outdoors. He went to car shows. He started posting images on Instagram @mittenproject. “And then someone asked me, ‘Do you do (photo) shoots?’ And I was like, ‘What’s a shoot?’”
Evan and his business have come a long way since then. During the school year, he does about 5-10 car photo shoots per month; during the summer, it’s closer to 10-15 each month. His clients have included businesses and people selling a vehicle. But the majority are individuals who have purchased a nice car and want images to frame, share on social media, “or just to have a cool photo of the car, because it’s fun to show people the cool shots,” he said.
He’s now developed into a full-fledged entrepreneur, with business cards, a website, rate sheets and even a jacket embroidered with his Mitten Project logo. He says much of his business know-how is self-taught, with some help from YouTube tutorials and a little input from dad Craig, a public relations professional. “I love learning things; since day one it’s been really fun learning how a business works. I’m going out there to try new things and learn from the experiences, and making it my own is just a blast.”
And while he does enjoy taking photos of other subjects, Evan says cars are where his work can really shine: “You can really do almost anything with them — you can make them what you want, you can make them go fast, you can make them look cool. The creativity is great for me because there’s really no rules about what you can or can’t do, so the options are endless for the kind of image you want to make. … The car community is also really cool, in my experience — they’re super nice and accepting.”
A few related accomplishments: The business has afforded Evan the chance to photograph two dream cars. The first, a white Porsche GT3RS with black pin stripes and yellow calipers, was one of his favorite shoots to date: “It was toward the end of the night and it was raining out, and there are a few shots where you can see lightning in the background. The photos came out sweet.”
He also traveled to Cadillac to photograph an exact replica of the original Ford GT40, a high-performance endurance racing car built to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. “There’s only a handful of original ones left, so (photographing) an exact replica of something that was in a famous livery was really cool. … It’s such a unique car—it’s, like, a lot more raw and more of a race car than Lamborghini or McLaren.”
Beyond these bucket-list photo shoots, Evan says his biggest accomplishment is the level of business recognition that he’s achieved to date. “My photos have been reposted on a few big Instagram pages, from pretty big companies … It’s cool to get that attention from people with larger (audience) than what I have.”
Is there a teacher or teachers who have had a big impact on your work or growth? Evan says his graphic design teacher, Melissa Burkholder, has been “a big influence,” helping him to learn programs like Adobe Photoshop and more complicated elements of both photography and graphic design. A photographer herself, Burkholder even invited Evan to work alongside her at a wedding — his first professional people-based photo shoot.
“The way she teaches, and the stuff she teaches, is awesome. I’ve learned very complicated programs from her and I can always ask her questions, and she is super helpful.”
Do you plan to pursue this professionally? Evan says he’s still trying to narrow things down. He’s always liked architecture and interior design, and his latest forays into graphic design have been intriguing as well. “I would love to be a full-time photographer, but I know it can take a bit of time to get to the point where you can do that full-time. Right now I’m learning more toward graphic design or interior design, so I can definitely still be creative. And I can use my photography skills to take pictures of homes and graphic design abilities to render … I’m not fully sure, but it will probably (involve) some sort of design and something where I can be creative.”
The biggest lesson you have learned from your involvement in this is… “Be creative, be yourself and don’t base what you do around what everyone else does. You can enjoy what other people make and appreciate what they do, but you should be unique. And make sure you’re having fun with (your work).”
Other hobbies/interests: While the business takes up a lot of Evan’s free time, he also enjoys biking, hiking and video games — particularly car games. He also loves to explore the architecture in any new city he visits.
Bonus question: Since you’re a car guy, what would you like to drive? Evan currently drives a 2009 Nissan Sentra, which used to be his parents’ car. For his own “someday” car, he hopes to find “something German” that needs some work, and then put in the work to make it his own.