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 Photo Editor: I nominate Will Adler. His take on the surfing lifestyle/man on wave is unusual in our world here of surf photography.
How many years have you been in business?
I’ve been shooting for 8 years but only working in a professional way for the past 3.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I’m self-taught—I didn’t study photography in school—but that’s not to say I haven’t learned a lot from all kinds of people along the way, most notably, Bruce Weber; assisting him, watching him work up close, has been invaluable.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
My influences, in addition to Bruce, are all over the map: from Stephen Shore, Henry Wessel, William Eggleston, and Wolfgang Tillmans to Masao Yamamoto. But one person who’s really inspired me from the very beginning is my uncle, Tom Alder. He’s a celebrated art director, publisher, and designer deeply rooted in surf culture. I’m a surfer myself, so when I started taking photos surf culture was the direction I naturally pointed my camera; and that became my entrance to the business side of photography. But Tom was there from the beginning.
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 always try to pay attention to ideas that pop into my head without deliberation, even when they may seem somewhat insignificant. Those are often the ideas that surprise you and wind up having enduring power. But nothing is more important than actively shooting every week (if not every day). I love looking for new subjects and locations. I get most of my inspiration from my surroundings, and I try to keep my surroundings a little outside of the normal.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
Every situation is different, but generally speaking I’ve been very fortunate to work with great people. Something that I learned from assisting is how important a good crew can be when it comes to getting work done. If everyone is into it and enjoying themselves, it really doesn’t feel like work at all. But when you’re in a situation where you feel limited, I think it’s important to voice your opinion while at the same time remaining open to other people’s ideas—because in the end, commercial work really is a collaborative process.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
There are so many good ways to get your work out there these days, all of them totally viable and legitimate. I think the important thing is to choose an approach that feels natural and not forced in any way. But personally, I continue to believe in the tangible print over the digital screen. (I realize this exchange and my images are being published online! Thank you, APE.) Printing has always been an important part of my practice, and I think that in our digital age it’s something that gets overlooked by a lot of young photographers. I also think there’s no substitute for meeting with editors and art buyers in person. And having an inspired rep. I recently signed up with Massif Management, which has been incredible. Massif has opened up doors that probably wouldn’t have opened for me otherwise.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
Believe in your work, and pay close attention to how you present it.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Whether it’s for a client or myself, I’m always taking photos that interest me. I try to be mindful of the importance of unconscious inspiration and let things come together.
How often are you shooting new work?
I try and shoot something every week, as well as review my work. Editing is a very important, if unglamorous, part of my practice.
Will Adler’s seemingly off-the-cuff photographs—typically of friends at play—betray a poignancy that can be hard to reconcile with their breezy surfaces. His photographs have appeared in Juxtapoz, Neon, Surfer, The Surfers Journal, WAX, The New Yorker, Rankin’s Hunger TV, and Paper; commercial clients include Quiksilver, Patagonia, Nike, and Hixsept. His newsprint folio “Bummerland” was recently republished in a second, limited edition by Fourteen-Nineteen books. Will lives in Santa Barbara, California. He is represented by Massif Management [http://massifmanagement.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.