Art Producers Speak: Alex Farnum

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: Alex Farnum. “He is a great creative collaborator, professional and wonderful with the client. He is always willing to make anything work. He is an amazing person and genius photographer”

This Gypsy story was completed in late 2012. A collaborative effort with my favorite stylist, Jasmine Hamed (

A spring fashion feature and cover story for 7x7 Magazine.

One of 20 portraits of N. California Grape Pickers during harvest.

This image is from a series I created while in Mexico. Images of people finishing their swim.

From the book This is a Cookbook. By Max and Eli Sussman (Weldon Owen Publisher)

An advertisement for the launch of a new type of mountain bike apparel - Kitsbow. Shot deep in the mountains outside of Bend, OR.

A real cowboy seen in the streets of Santa Fe, NM while on assignment for Travel + Leisure

From the Lost Coast Surf Story photograph for Kinfolk Magazine. This is where they jumped into the waves.

Shot for a Style Council story about San Francisco's most fashionable people. This was shot in the bathroom

A part of EBAY'S Show your Love campaign for Valentine's Day - 2013

From In the Charcuterie - a book by the team at Fatted Calf about meat preparation

How many years have you been in business?

This June will mark my 8th year that a.farnum has been in business..

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?

I studied Photography, Filmmaking and cinematography at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?

I can’t say that any photographer was my early inspirations. I don’t think I was that sophisticated in my teen years. Being an “artist” was as far as I had gotten. My father gave me his old camera outfit when I was 18. This was a huge deal since it was always his “fancy” camera that we were not to get into. So when it became mine, that is when I really became inspired.

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?

The easy answer is this…..all I want to do is shoot photographs, document the world, meet and hear interesting stories. If I can do this every single day, then I will be a happy man. So this is what I do, jobs or no jobs. If I am slow, I pick a subject and a day and I go shoot it. Sometimes this includes planning a test and sometimes it is simply getting into my car and heading out. My inspiration for these ideas comes from the endless amazing photographers, writers, designers etc. etc. that I find on the web. Thank you Tumblr. Thank you Cargo Collective, thank you Instagram….

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?

This is an interesting question…..I think that my main priority when hired for a project is to understand the needs of my clients. Photography is a Service based industry, especially commercial photography. Even though I may be considered an artist, my main goal is to deliver what my client needs whether it’s the agency or the client. Understanding the politics is also a key to success. If you can wrap your head around the dynamics of these relationships, you can build your workflow to make all parties happy including yourself.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?

I do a whole myriad of things. Of course the most common which are mailers, email promos, continuous blog updates ( and tons of social networking, but for me, I try to complete personal projects on subjects I love and share these with the buying audience. That way, I then have the chance to bid on projects that suit me and my interests. It’s a win win!

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?

People will tell you to follow your heart, your style and to make sure to stay true to yourself. I think this is only one part of a much bigger machine. What about understanding marketing? Understanding the push and pull that goes one within an agency or magazine? Your work is a reflection of your artistic view, but that is only 50%. “Are you a good collaborator? Yes? Show me….” The pre-production I put into my jobs include presentation after presentation to communicate my vision and to allow all creatives including the client to collaborate on ideas from the get go. This leaves nothing to chance and helps all the parties understand what the plan is both creatively and logistically.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?

Tons. If I am not booked on a job, I am looking for something or someone to shoot.

How often are you shooting new work?

Ideally I am shooting new work weekly and posting that work to my blog once a month or so….4 new posts per month. That has been my goal for the last four years or so.

1979 – Born to John and Cecilia Farnum in Long Beach, California, 8LB. 4OZ.
1981 – Picked up a pencil at age 2 and shocked mother with my scribble abilities.
1986 – Excelled at Dad’s weekend 3-D drawing classes
1991 – Climbed to the top of the middle school art scene (AKA bad grafitti)
1996 – Scored my first camera senior year, a Pentax K1000, never put it down.
1997 – Moved to SF at 18, art school (last photo class to be taught in film)
2002 – Moved to LA and scored my first big job as a set photographer
2003 – Then to New York, wiggled my way into a full-time Graphic Design job
2004 – Back to SF, landed a photo gig at ANTHEM, a national branding agency
2006 – Burning Man, Coachella, and real life helped me better understand the world
2007 – Started a.farnum photography hungry as a tiger
2013 – 5 years later and things are sizzlin’

Represented by APOSTROPHE

East Coast – Kelly Montez
(212) 279-2252

West Coast – Jenifer Guskay
(415) 824-4000 329

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 3 Comments On This Article.

  1. Great interview. Alex’s understanding of both the creative side and the business/relationship side of being a photographer is refreshing. It’s not about being wildly creative and clients constantly holding you back……it’s about being the right piece that fits into the bigger puzzle. Bravo.