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.email@example.com
Anonymous Art Producer: I nominate Adam Amengual
How many years have you been in business?
I started assisting in late 2003, so between assisting and shooting, almost 10 years.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I started off taking basic black and white classes in high school then later I received my BFA from The Massachusetts College of Art in 2003. Mass Art was a very fine art based program, which gave me a love for fine art and documentary photography. I also studied at Parson for the second semester of my junior year where amongst other classes I was taught basic lighting techniques.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
If I could attribute garnering my interest in commercial photography to one person it had to be Neil Selkirk who taught my lighting class while I was at Parsons. Neil was a professor but also a commercial photographer. Although Neil has had many gallery shows and books published he also shot advertising and editorial work. All my professors previously were solely fine art photographers. Through Neil I learned about shooting assignments, assisting and later I assisted him as well. Of course I knew that commercial photography existed before studying at Parsons but I had not given it any thought in terms of my own path before that 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?
My favorite photographers are those who have straddled both fine art and commercial photography such as Larry Sultan, Stefan Ruiz, Paul Murphy and Richard Avedon. I also find myself always going back to look at the work of Joel Sternfeld, Rineke Dijkstra, Taryn Simon and Mitch Epstein. All documentary photographers on some level. Like these photographers I strive to make images that are timeless, and that people will want to look at 50 years from now. Images that will be seen in some sort of cultural and social context. Working mostly in a documentary portrait manner allows me to fulfill both of my own curiosities in the world, which is to reach out to people and explore. I think the late Tim Hetherington said it best, “I want to reach people. Can’t it come out of a place of personal curiosity? A desire to locate myself in the world and also have some utility?”
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
I assume I would get more work if I had more smiles in my pictures or if they were a bit more lit and “illustrated” or lifestyle based. I feel most clients want to have a creative look to their campaign that is on par with the current trends in advertising photography. So to be honest in some upcoming projects I will be trying to find a place where what I do more closely meets those client needs. It will be my aesthetic and subject matter with a small twist.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I do a lot of cold emailing and then, face to face meetings as they come up. I have also built relationships with some art buyers and art directors through my time assisting. I try to have some sort of new project to show every six months. In this way, I always have something to show to keep my work fresh in their mind.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
I really believe that you need to stay as true as possible to making work that you love creating. If you love shooting kids or puppies or whatever, then you should be building a book of those kinds of images. But, there always needs to be a thoughtful aesthetic to it.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Shooting personal projects keeps me happy and motivated. I get the opportunity to try shooting with a slightly different aesthetic or new subject matter without having to answer to anyone but myself. I am never trying to waste my own time or money, so I do have some sort of vision for how each new project fits into my larger body of work, but at the very least it’s fun to play.
How often are you shooting new work?
Constantly. I am currently working on several projects that are in different phases. I have one project that I am shooting, but haven’t shown…two are in the research phase. I consider the I Survived Skatopia to still be in the “shooting phase” as it’s an on-going project, images from my first trip are on my site now but I plan on making a second trip to Ohio this summer.
I always have some sort of camera with me, either my Canon 5D, Hasselblad, or my 4×5. I recently added a point and shoot camera to my collection to use as a sketchbook. Neil Selkirk told me once that as a photographer you should be making pictures everyday. He didn’t mean you that needed to make images that require a huge production. Every time you compose a picture, even on your iPhone, you are honing your craft.
Adam Amengual was born in Queens, NY and raised on the North Shore of Massachusetts. His father Angelo gave him his first camera at 12 and he started documenting his friends and his surroundings. After studying the basics of photography in high school he continued his photographic education at both Massachusetts College of Art and Parsons School of Design. After art school Adam moved to Brooklyn, NY and began assisting photographers in advertising, fashion, celebrity, and music such as Danielle Levitt, Art Streiber, and Ben Watts, just to name a few.
Adam is currently living in Brooklyn, NY with his wife Kate and dog Shug. His clients include The U.S. State Department via Lipman Hearne, Inc. Magazine, Time Out New York, Men’s Health, New York Magazine, Juxtapoz Magazine, Sony BMG, NDLON, Nobu and Wieden+Kennedy NYC. His work has been shown in galleries at THIS Los Angeles and the University of Massachusetts Boston. His recently completed project entitle Homies has been featured in Exit Magazine and blogs such as Time’s Lightbox, Prison Photography, This Is the What, and Conscientious. His portrait of Adrien Caceres from Homies in the permanent collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Adam has recently received several awards for his work:
-The Sony Emerging Photographer Award 2012 -Honorable mention in En Foco’s New Works Photography Awards #15 Fellowship, 2011-12. -Homies was featured in the PDN Photo annual 2012 and the American Photography 28 -Selected as one of Digital Photo Pro Magazine’s 2012 “Emerging Pro”
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.