We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.firstname.lastname@example.org
Anonymous Art Producer: I nominate Young and Hungry: Anais & Dax
How many years have you been in business?
It will be two years in April since we started working together under the name Young & Hungry. We are starting 2013 with two exciting changes. First we are close to signing with an amazing rep and second we are going to change our name from “Young & Hungry” to “Anais & Dax”. When we started working together Young & Hungry was a good fit what we wanted to shoot and how we felt about it, but our work has grown ever since and we feel that just using our actual first names is more appropriate and honest.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Dax: As a kid, my mother and uncle were into photography as a hobby, and I picked it up from them. When my uncle passed I inherited his Asahi Pentax and took it to college with me, and it inspired me to start shooting more. After receiving a BFA in photography from the University of MT, I moved to Los Angeles and started working as a photo assistant. Photo assisting was probably the best education I’ve ever had, there’s nothing like learning by doing and problem solving on a day-to-day basis.
Anais: I taught myself photography after I borrowed a Canon Nikkormat camera from my mom in highschool and never returned it. I would then spend hours in my neighbor’s dark room. After years of working in the fine art photography business in LA, I decided to treat myself to a photo education and went to ICP in New York. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. My photography education was then enhanced by working as a retoucher for Norman Jean Roy for almost 2 years, before I decided to go on my own.
Who was you greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
Dax: The photographers I worked for over the years. They shaped my eye and taught me how to think on my feet and problem solve. They trusted me to help them with their work and that gave me the confidence to become a photographer. It was extremely hard at times being a photo assistant; it really is a humbling job. But it was those relationships good or bad that inspired to want to be in this business.
Anais: If I had to pick one person it would be my grandfather. He passed away when I was 10, but I was very close to him. He was a painter and ceramist, and I grew up spending part of my summer vacations with him and my grandmother, smelling the turpentine in his studio and looking at his charcoal drawings of voluptuous women. He loved what he did, and he dedicated his life to it. I spent 5 years in law school, and then 4 years in the fine art business. After almost 10 years I decided that it was finally time for me to start doing what I love, full time.
How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?
Dax: I find inspiration from looking at other peoples work, but working with Anais has been the greatest gift for my work. I feel incredibly lucky to have such an amazing partner to bounce ideas off of. We push each other when we shoot. The best feeling in the world is the moment you find the angle, the light, the subject and every frame is looking better than the last. As far as staying true to ourselves we show our work to clients who inspire us and hope we land a job with them. But we are always happy to work with new ideas and new people, as being challenged is always a great way to grow.
Anais: Ha, do I have to say Dax too?! It is greatly helpful to have a partner who can support, but also help me think outside of my own head. I really think that what makes the work fresh is that we do it for ourselves, not for others. It might sound selfish, but in the end it is what helps us be who we are, and that honesty transpires in the images we make. We’re also constantly looking at other people’s work, whether it is editorial, advertising or fine art. But most likely our greatest influence since we have started working together is the city of Los Angeles and more precisely the neighborhood we live in, Venice Beach. It is filled with beautiful and inspiring people, the light is just glorious, the ocean is close and there’s such a great vibe!
Do you find that some creative love your work but the client holds you back?
A & D: Each job is a different challenge, with a different set of creative needs that all need to come together to make a final image, and so we need to learn to be flexible. The creatives help translate the client’s vision and our task is to come up with visual solutions but also technical answers to practical issues. It really is about team work and collective brainstorming. So as long as the client is open to us about his or her concerns, we are there to respond to it along with other creatives. Of course it’s not always easy, but isn’t it the whole point?
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
A & D: Editorial exposure has been great for increasing our name recognition. Kinfolk Magazine was coming out with its first issue at the same time we were just starting to build our portfolio and that collaboration has opened many doors for us. It’s a beautiful quarterly publication with originally curated images and layouts. Additionally, we’ve been hired by many of the top mainstream magazines that have wide appeal to the audience. We also take advantage of social media outlets by keeping a Tumblr blog and using Instagram. It gives us a chance to keep showing the work we do, but also our work in progress. We love how blogging and instagramming allows our viewers and followers to get a better sense of who we are, what it takes us to make an image and where we get our inspiration from. It also makes us more accessible, and reminds us of how it is all about human exchange.
We’ve also had great success with face to face meetings. We go to New York twice a year to meet with editors and art buyers, and every time we have a job away from our home base, we always try to squeeze in a meeting or two with local creatives. That’s how we got to meet with art buyers at Wieden+Kennedy in Portland while shooting an editorial there. Our work is a reflection of who we are, so I think it’s been helpful for people to meet us and get a chance to know us.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
A & D: If you are looking at the art buyers’ past work to try and cater to what they have done before you should stop. In our experience art buyers are looking for something new and fresh. So if you are trying to please them with similar work they are not going to really see your talent and your voice. And of course, shoot a lot, show a lot. Keep in touch. Show that you care, and that you are passionate. Shoot more, accept failure and learn from it. Communicate and be enthusiastic. And above all, just be yourself.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
A & D: Yes, we need to shoot for ourselves, otherwise we loose sight of why we started shooting in the first place. It is what keeps our ideas and photography alive. It is how we started our portfolio by traveling and shooting in California, Oregon, Montana where one of us is from (Dax), and then in France where the other one is from (Anais). In total, we shot for three months, slept in cheap hotels, stayed at friend’s places. It was exhausting, our bank accounts were pretty much empty (hence the name Young & Hungry!) but at the end we had our first portfolio that we were so proud of. And the response to it was amazing! Aside from traveling to more distant destinations, we also create new work by photographing people from our neighborhood, and stories around California that translate what we appreciate the most in life: travel, good meals with friends and nature.
How often are you shooting new work?
A & D: At least once a month, but it is not always easy to get our idea off the ground while managing our business day to day, but those failed attempts lead to another idea. New work can just be an afternoon portrait session with a friend or model, or a self assigned story and fully produced day or two of shooting concepts that we are passionate about and that we think could appeal to new clients. We also carry film cameras with us on a day-to-day basis, and shoot whatever catches our eye.
Dax Henry and Anais Wade started collaborating under the name Young & Hungry at the end of 2010 when they began to document what they loved most: food, destinations and good friend’s gatherings. After over 2 years of working together, they decided to work under their names as their work had expanded to a wider range of subjects.
Dax was born in Chicago and raised in California and Montana, and graduated with a BFA from the University of Missoula, MT. Anais was born and raised in France and Italy, and graduated from the General Studies Program at the International Center of Photography. They met in Los Angeles, and instantly shared their passion for photography.
They are inspired by California’s visual diversity, enjoy a community based life and love having meals with friends around a simple table. With 4 languages (English, Spanish, French and Italian) and a longstanding experience in the photographic industry, they’re always ready for the next challenge, whether it is at home or abroad. www.anaisdax.com
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 founding 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 fed with helpful marketing information. Follow her@SuzanneSease.