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 Associate Creative Director: I nominate William Anthony. I’ve floated past him in the industry circles for the past eight years or so and have had the pleasure of getting to see his career evolve. He’s an amazingly talented dude.
How many years have you been in business?
As a photographer, almost 10 years. But I have been a creative professional for 17 years now. I started out as a graphic designer in ‘96 and then moved over to the advertising world as a studio manager for an award-winning boutique in Del Mar, CA called Big Bang Idea Engineering around 2000. I transferred up to Seattle with them and soon moved to another agency as an Art Director. It was the ad world that really opened my eyes to professional photography. I saw so much good work cross my desk. I ended up being that art director shooting black and white set photos while on agency shoots that I processed myself. Around 2004 I thought I would try shooting as a career. I gave myself one year. If I was in the black after 12 months, I said to myself, I’ll stick with it. And here I am, almost ten years later.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Self-taught. I did, however, take a Photo 100 class with darkroom lab. That’s kind of what bit me. It was an elective for a graphic design degree (that I never finished), but I was hooked the first day in the darkroom.
The steepest part of my learning curve, however, came when I got my first DSLR in ’03. Around the same time I started volunteering my time as a photographer at the amazing public radio station here in Seattle, KEXP 90.3 FM. They were relaunching their (now-revolutionary) web site and needed photography content. Since I had virtually no money to donate at the time, I gave them my time and they gave me an endless stream of incredible subject matter and the creative freedom to try new things. I wanted to be to KEXP what Charles Peterson was to Sub Pop. I shot for them for three years straight and still do to this day. The station is now a world leader in online radio and their YouTube channel is incredible. So proud to have been a part of that station.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
My good friend Catherine Ledner. Back when I was an art director, I found her on Getty and hired her for a job in Los Angeles in 2001. We became instant friends and still are. Her sense of humor, talent and unending encouragement are probably my most consistent motivator.
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 stay as open-minded as possible. I see myself as an assignment photographer in the truest sense of the term. When I get calls, especially cold calls, on the other end of the line is an experience I may or may not have any history or knowledge of. Whether an editorial assignment of a story or a commercial assignment where my responsibility is to help craft a predetermined narrative, I approach each assignment/job with fresh eyes. I’ve been doing this long enough to have the confidence in my skill set that I know my personal style will come through in the end. And ultimately, that’s why I like to think I get hired, for my perspective.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
Not really. It depends on the client—and the agency. As I mentioned before, I’ve been on the other end of the phone before, and have had to have those conversations with clients as part of the creative team. So I understand the responsibilities creative agencies have to their clients. The good agencies know how to not only get amazing creative work, but satisfy the creative brief, strategist, media buyer, etc. It’s a juggling act but what I think separates the good agencies from the legendary ones is the ability to manage all those moving parts like a surgical team. By the time I come into the picture, (post-awarding), the process has begun and I’ve already been chosen for my aesthetic. So there’s rarely a request to “be” something else other than myself.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
In addition to the usual gamut of mailers, e-mails, phonecalls and agency visits, social media has helped me enormously. I can’t stress it enough. I have a very active and robust Instagram feed. But I am really careful to handle it like a visual diary and not a portfolio. (I make that clear in my profile.) I stick to iPhone photos as much as possible and when I post non-iPhone work, I make it very clear. Instagram fits my personality perfectly. I have adult ADHD, so things tend to catch my attention for just a moment or two. Tops. My feed is made up of anything that catches my eye. That said, I do curate it carefully. Editing is still important even in something so casual. My feed gives potential art buyers and photo editors not only a glimpse of my unfettered eye, but also my personality. A client once likened me to the slow food movement and called me a “slow artist.” Someone whose holistic vision really can’t be accurately seen unless you spend some time with it. I like that. I’ll take it. Also, if a client follows me for a while, and I follow them, we begin building a rapport early so that should we be lucky enough to work together, we kind of already know each other. It really does prime the pump. Lastly, and importantly, Instagram has led to actual, real jobs. Jobs I wouldn’t have had otherwise. So it’s not just a diversion for me. It’s a necessary tool. It’s not for everyone, but I am glad it’s available because it’s a perfect fit for me.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
Show “yourself,” not just a body random of work. I remember the days when the only ways to find new shooters were the annuals and directories. There are so many other avenues now. Avenues that can give a deeper view into you as an artist and as a professional that were simply unavailable in the past. I work with a lot of musicians and seeing their business model transform from one of major distributors (major labels) to self-publishing ended up being a blueprint for the commercial visual arts. I love my Tumblr feed. I follow a few curated feeds that show me new artist everyday. (Don’t forget to credit the artist, Tumblrs. I need to find them somehow!) My advice is to get your vision out to as many of these curators and tastemakers as possible. But make sure it’s YOUR vision. It’s really the only thing separating photographers these days. Lighting styles, color-palettes and unique camera tricks are all great, but what separated Hemingway from Huxley wasn’t their typing techniques. It was what they were writing.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Always. It’s the art director in me. Finish one campaign, on to the next campaign. The next adventure. The only way to hone your vision is to do the leg work. If something interests me, personally, I always try to find a way to get to shoot it. I maintain a “Personal Work” section on my web site for just this purpose.) Commisioned work is important, but personal work is raw. There’s no outside influence so you are seeing EXACTLY what I want you to see.
I am in pre-pro on two personal projects now. One that will definitely happen and one that I really hope happens. (The green light depends on a lot of unknowns at this point.)
How often are you shooting new work?
Constantly. I couldn’t stop if I tried. (See also: ADHD)
William Anthony is a former advertising art director, commercial & editorial photographer, husband, eternal optimist and annoying grammar cop. West-coast based, but well-traveled, William has become expert at photographing people, places influenced by people and animals acting like people.
He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife and two cats despite being a “dog person.”
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.