Art Producers Speak: Paul Costello

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:

Anonymous Art Producer: I nominate Paul Costello.


How many years have you been in business?

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I have a BFA in photography from NYU.  Aside from a great foundation in art history, I learned nearly everything assisting and shooting.  After college I assisted for Ellen Von Unworth and was amazed by her process and work ethic.  I only was with her a short time but that stayed with me.  She worked a picture… tried out lots of ideas… and really collaborated with who she was shooting.  From a process stand point, I do the same thing.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
My father was a prolific photographer when I was little.  I don’t know if he inspired me to think of shooting as a business, but I’m sure I got my love of picture taking from him and I still aspire to make pictures that feel like those snap shots of my childhood.

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?
I probably worry way too little about people noticing me… but I’m inspired all the time.  There really is an infinite amount of inspiration around us all the time.  Seeing someone with great style crossing the street can be the jumping off point for a whole new project.  Or my daughter might put on one of my ties and then have me following her with a camera for an hour.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
That was true for a time.  When the economy tanked in 2008 there was a palpable fear that I think had a real effect on creativity… I don’t feel that at all anymore.  I’m a real collaborator.  There’s nothing more rewarding than a great team feeding off each others talent.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I take full advantage of social media.  Tumblr especially.  I made a decision a while back to make it very personal.  I very rarely post work there that will be available elsewhere… It really gave a platform to a part of what I do that clients wouldn’t have had the chance to see otherwise.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
As long as it feel true to your vision, I think it’s ok to cater to your audience.  For me that happens in the edit.  I like to shoot for many possible edits, and if you know a buyer is looking for apples… why show her oranges?

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Oh yeah.  At some point it just becomes a part of who you are.

How often are you shooting new work?
All the time!


Henry LEE
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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.

There Are 2 Comments On This Article.

  1. Been a HUGE fan of Paul’s work since I first saw his images in the now defunct Domino magazine. Love his use of color and his directoral style that is reflected in the energy of his subjects.