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 Buyer: I nominate Sam Kaplan.
How many years have you been in business?
I’ve been shooting on my own for about two years.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I majored in Studio Arts with a concentration in photography at Wesleyan University but I learned more about the creative process from the conceptual sculpture classes I took there. In terms of technical knowledge, I learned most of what I know from assisting and shooting.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
When I moved to New York in 2007 I wasn’t even aware that you could be a commercial photographer. There’s not one specific person that inspired me to get into the business, but I was definitely influenced by many of the photographers I assisted.
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 try to shoot for myself as much as possible. Trusting my instincts at all stages of a shoot is very important to me. I feel that doing personal work and pushing myself in that way can really inform my assigned work.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
Every assignment is different. With still-life photography, some of jobs are very straightforward, other times I’m being hired to bring more of my personal vision to the process. Each assignment is a collaboration in order to find the best visual solution to a problem.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I send out high-quality mailers two or three times a year. I spend a lot of time conceptualizing, shooting and physically making the mailers. Editorial work is a great promotional tool as well – every story I shoot could reach far more buyers than an e-promo or mailer.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
It’s not the right move. Buyers want to see your voice and that comes through in work you’re passionate about. Despite this, still-life advertising can be very technical and it can make the agency’s client apprehensive if they don’t see a comparable shot in a book. I’m sometimes asked to do a test shoot for larger campaigns to show the client what they are looking for. I see doing this type of work as an investment that hopefully pays off down the road.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Shooting successful personal work is extremely gratifying. I try to plan most of my personal projects in advance and I’ve found that the more time I spend thinking about something the better the end result will be. There is a freedom to shooting personal work is always exhilarating.
How often are you shooting new work?
As often as possible. The rhythms of client work often dictates when I have time to work on personal projects.
Based in New York, Sam Kaplan was born and raised in Boston, MA. He moved to New York after graduating from Wesleyan University. His clients include The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, Fortune, Men’s Health and Budweiser. He is represented by Candace Gelman & Associates. http://www.samkaplan.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.