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 John Davis. His demeanor and professionalism, combined with his creativity and flexibility, make John our top choice for many different types of projects. He has literally turned a cloudy day into a sunny one! His work always exceeds our hopes and it’s a pleasure to review photography knowing that John sets out to deliver something truly impressive.
How many years have you been in business?
More or less, 15 years with the requisite assisting overlap.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I started as a Fine Art major at the University of Maine and transferred to The Maryland Institute, College of Art (MICA) where I graduated with a BA in Photography.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
I didn’t really have a professional influence until I was already in the flow of the photo assisting world. The business of photography, at least my perception of it at the time, seemed like my only option at the time. I knew I wanted to make a living doing something creative and I had just graduated with a degree in photo so that was that. There were definitely photographers that inspired me, but they were mostly fine artists/teachers of art that didn’t push the business side of things. Helen Levitt, Sally Mann, Emmit Gowin and my first Basic Photo professor at U. Maine were big ones for me artistically. Professionally, I would say Dan Winters and Chris Buck.
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?
Is this a trick question?
I try to keep an open mind and let things happen organically. If I’m shooting a lot of higher ed or people, I’ll force myself to do a multilple exposure light test with still life.
A couple of years ago I decided to work with a consultant to completely overhaul my website and put together a new book. The goal was to steer my business away from a certain kind of client. Within two months of the new site launch I was caught in an avalanche of RFPs to shoot for exactly the clients I was lookin for.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
I’ve been pretty lucky. The last few years clients have been mostly on board with my take on things. I think a lot of times they are hiring me because they want me to do what I do best.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
Everything. Networking, Direct mail, Email promos, Social Media and other online resources like Wonderful Machine, Photoserve and ASMP Find a Photographer.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
If it’s original it will stand out. If it isn’t, it won’t.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Yes, as often as I can. I wouldn’t be in business right now without it.
How often are you shooting new work?
I’m always making pictures and keep a notebook / Evernote of ideas and images that inspire me. I love a good Moleskin but the Evernote app is great because it syncs across all my computers and devices. Realistically, I try to shoot a project every few months and don’t worry too much about whether the personal projects jive with my current paid gigs. I’m always thinking about how to change things up. I also try to collaborate with other artist friends.
John is a photographer based in the Baltimore/Washington, DC Corridor and is represented by Wonderful Machine. He specializes in telling stories with images for a wide range of clients, from higher education and advertising to national editorial publications. On his “off” days he keeps busy by training for his next Marathon and photographing his fellow athletes.
You can see more of John’s work and a list of clients here http://www.jdph.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.