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 Buyer: I nominate Josh DeHonney. I’m a big fan of his work. One of our favorite portrait photographers who is exceedingly nice guy who I praise his humbleness when he is praised for his craft.
How many years have you been in business?
For years I worked as an assistant and at Pier 59 Studios in New York while simultaneously building my brand. But in 2010, I quit assisting and have since focused on my own work full time. As much as I loved assisting and working at the Pier as a side hustle, it’s great to be shooting on my own.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
A little of both. School gave me the fundamentals. But I also learned a lot on the job and by being around world-class photographers on a near-daily basis at the Pier. Also, the Pier used to let employees test once a month for free. I took full — and I mean full — advantage of that deal. Between that and my assisting work, I was able to shoot and test a ton. Studio photography is amazing. It’s an important skill to develop. All of the techniques and lighting tricks you learn are universally applied when you don’t have the luxury of a fully-stocked equipment room.
Also, packing jobs for remote locations, where there are no stores, let alone EQ rooms, teaches you the importance of triple-checking. You can never take anyone’s word on equipment that you didn’t see. And sometimes going without it is not an option. No art school can teach you pragmatic things like that.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
My mom always stressed the importance of doing what you love, no matter what. She travelled the world taking pictures for fun. Though she chose a stable career as a dental hygienist, her pictures covered the walls. She is also a long-time subscriber and avid collector of National Geographic. Those magazines were major influences. And for years I assisted Kip Meyer, who is an awesome photographer. I really admire the way he interacts with clients and models as well as his general approach to projects.
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?
Inspiration is the easy part. Being inspired is a prerequisite for the job. I get ideas for pictures from the imagery I see all around me. I drive a lot, ride my bike a lot. I find inspiration in that. I can’t help but notice amazing landscapes, or an interesting building, even if I can’t shoot them. Then I imagine what I see as context for a subject. So when I arrive at a location for a client sight unseen and have to make an interesting image happen no matter what, I have a whole catalog of ideas in my mind to draw on.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
It seems the work that gets the best response from creatives and peers isn’t always what appeals to a client’s target audience. Just because an image or series of work is cool on tumblr, or gets a bunch of Likes, doesn’t mean it will sell. The most important thing about photography is being creative. But with commercial work, you have to consider the client’s goals. I am providing a service, and incorporating what the client has in mind is the most important thing. I still try to be sure you can see my thumbprint on the final product, since the client chose me to make the image, after all.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I have a show at the end of April to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Urban Latino magazine. I’m the photo editor of ULM. I’ve worked with them for years. The show will highlight the work I have done for the magazine. I also stay up on social media as much as I can. And I’ve been known to cold call brands that I love and want to work with. I also love to make new connections through editorial work. But what usually works best is sticking with the network I know.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
Being a photographer is a lot like being a writer. Great writers have a very clear voice. That’s how you distinguish yourself from the crowd. I love looking at other photographer’s work, taking in as many photo books, blogs, and magazines as I can. This process helps me find my voice. So look at as many pictures you can. Know the landscape. Look at your own work all the time, too. Be sure your images speak to your vision. Know what you want to shoot. Be very clear in your mind what it is you want to see before you make it happen. As with all other art forms, there are lots of trends, but honesty never gets old.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Always. One of my favorite things about location shooting is that you have to get an idea of where you are shooting by walking around, and of course you are going to bring your camera. So at that moment, it’s nice to relax and imagine that you are just out in the park, shooting pictures with no pressure, and there is no art director 10 yards away stressing because it’s overcast or the model is late.
Also, I have two young children who are changing by the second — it’s amazing to see them grow. I want make sure that I am changing and developing, too. I don’t want to take the same pictures my whole life. That just doesn’t make sense.
How often are you shooting new work?
At least 3 times a week. In the summer, almost every day. Photography is built into my life. There is always a camera in arm’s reach.
Josh was born in Toronto and grew up in nearby Oshawa. He relocated to New York in 2000, where he was on the grind until 2011. Josh now resides just outside of the city with his wife, Melissa, and their two photo assistants-in-training, Jalen (3) and Janessa (1).
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.