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 Eugenie Frerichs. She is a Portland, OR based photographer. She has several sites worth looking at. She most recently documented people behind Chilean Patagonia National Park and farmer’s in Colorado. Her work is visually stunning, filled with such emotion and hope.
How many years have you been in business?
I’ve worked in the photo industry in one form or another since 2005, mostly as a photo editor, then art director and art producer. I started focusing on my own photography in earnest about three years ago.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Somewhere in between. I have a degree in art history, and assisted a photographer during college, but mostly I’ve learned from the industry itself, having worked on set in so many different roles. A lot of observation, getting in over my head, and learning by doing. I also have very generous photographer friends who have helped me tremendously over the years.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
I saw Alec Soth give a talk recently where he said he had two artists hunkered on his shoulders, Robert Adams on one side, Weegee on the other, opposing forces influencing his work in equal parts. I liked that image, though mine would be with Dorothea Lange and Taryn Simon. They are both truth seekers making work in the realm of nonfiction, but they go (or in Lange’s case, went) about it in very different ways – a bit of editorial, a bit of fine art, one from the hip, the other very conceptual and calculated. I have been working to strike a balance between these two ways of shooting in my own projects, and try to channel the wisdoms of Lange and Simon to make better, smarter work.
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?
Nothing inspires me more than hitting the road, truck packed up with gear and dog, maybe a loose schedule but ideally a lot of room for the unpredictable. Most recently my work’s been focusing on farm life and what I’ve been calling the “modern wild”, which requires that I head into far off places, rural communities, mountains, deserts, coastal areas – epicenters of ways of life that fascinate and inspire me. Finding stories in these zones, and attempting to tell them best I can, keeps me fresh and feeds my curiosity (which never seems to be satiated). I save my pennies to make these trips possible, and as for turning them into paid work, well, I just have to trust that as long as I keep doing this – pursuing stories that are interesting to me, and shooting them in a way that feels true to my style – then eventually it will resonate with the right someone at the right time. This could mean a long life of dirtbagging in my truck! But an example of this did just happen, when a road trip I’d been planning from Portland to Alaska turned into a month-long online series for the magazine Modern Farmer. It’s a very cool new publication out of the Hudson River Valley, with a smart team of writers and editors. It’s been exciting to work with a publication that is so aligned with what I’ve been pursuing on my own.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
I can’t say I’ve experienced this as a photographer, but I’ve definitely seen it play out when on set in other roles. The creatives want one thing, the clients want another. I have a friend who says she treats every client job like an art school assignment – creative challenges that keep her brain in shape. That’s a smart way to look at it – turn the potential tension into a teachable moment.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I am still very much in the realm of just shooting and sharing what I’m up to with peers via the usual digital channels. For longer-term projects, grants and residencies become important, and eventually exhibitions – all things that can drum up great PR. I also find a lot of value in being part of the audience, not just needing things from it; stepping outside of my own work, and engaging with the art community when I can. Last year I joined the board of the Portland arts org Photolucida, and have made so many more connections that way, just by showing up and getting exposed to new work and an inspiring community of artists, curators, and editors. Making real human contact – I like that stuff. It goes a long way.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
From my experience as an art producer in the ad industry, I’ve seen that often an artist’s personal work is the work that gets the job. Not always, but often enough to take notice. So I guess the advice I’d give is what I’ve been telling myself, too: Just pursue what you love and be genuinely psyched about it. Sounds trite but I really believe it. Set your own course and boldly stick to it. No apologizing for the weird things you love, this will yield better work in the end. I think art buyers recognize this, and appreciate originality and authenticity far more than knowing that you’re technically able to shoot what you think they want you to shoot.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Yes, always. For example, I’m writing this from Alaska, wrapping up two months of work on a new series.
How often are you shooting new work?
As often as I can. I learn something new every time I head out, so I’m kind of hooked.
Eugénie Frerichs lives and works in Portland, Ore. though travels often in search of stories on farm life and the modern wild.
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.