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 Michael Weschler. His signature style remains defined and he is collaborative, supporting and enhancing the creative vision of any project he participates in. His numerous awards, active participation in industry activities and charitable initiatives, coupled with his passion for mentoring are a testament to what propel photography as an industry and an art.
How many years have you been in business?
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Well, I started shooting portraits of my friends when I was 8 and was always the kid with the camera. Later I learned to use photography as a tool to draw better, while studying architecture in college. When I switched majors to fine art, I also started working in a gallery, a photo lab, a camera store, and that all led to assisting professional photographers and shooting for them as an associate.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
My mentor was Jerry Burchfield, who used to hang out with Garry Winogrand & Robert Heineken. He helped to create the World’s Largest Photograph, by converting an airplane hanger into a pinhole camera, so he was a historical figure. Anyway, he introduced me to lots of people in the Arts, which opened a lot of doors for me, like shooting with the 20×24 Polaroid camera. He taught me how to make Photograms, which are camera-less photographs made by painting with light on Cibachrome in complete darkness. A couple of years before he died, we took a trip to the Amazon with the same boat Captain for the National Geographic expedition, and he always encouraged me to go further with my work.
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?
Because everyone is a photographer these days, in a way, I focus on making signature images that cut through the noise. Of course, that is easier said than done, but I’m always trying to raise the bar, so that I’m creating something fresh. When I recently shot Chuck Close for Architectural Digest, I knew I couldn’t do a picture of him anything like what he might do, close-up. My portrait of him in his studio was recently selected for the Communication Arts 2014 Photography Annual, so that was very validating. Trust your gut.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
It would be easy to say that, but the constraints you find working for others offer new challenges. With personal work, an artist can be selfish, and not be so concerned about pleasing other people’s tastes. However, making a marketable image that millions of people like is quite hard, so any informed input is often helpful to get you there. In the end, photography is very collaborative, whether it is yourself and one person, place or thing before your lens, or a team of sixty people helping produce a compelling campaign image.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
It’s hard to keep things under wraps these days, and one thing often leads to another. My agents and I share our updates often, so there’s continuous conversation. While some clients’ projects can be confidential, I’m always testing and shooting outtakes whenever I can. The way we share images has changed and we’re always concerned about the value and integrity of the work. We try to unveil a new image each month, one way or another.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
Buyers want to see that you can produce what they need, at a bare minimum, and then they want to see your personal work. They’re not going out on a limb for somebody who shoots a bunch of grainy black & white nudes, or just because they’re cool. You’ve got to learn how to show a balance of marketable pictures, as well.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
As my career progresses, I find myself shooting more for others, and less just for me. Because the level of production has increased, it becomes harder to let go, and just make a simple image that still fits with the larger body of work. When I’m able to just shoot and let go, I’m reminded of why I got into Photography in the first place. While these pictures often don’t become part of my portfolio, they are all part of the creative process and keep me in tune.
How often are you shooting new work?
Almost every day. Otherwise, I’m sorting out the details for the next project or the last one.
Michael Weschler Bio:
Michael Weschler started doing portraits of his friends at the age of seven with a Kodak 110 camera. After studying Architecture, he switched to Fine Art Photography at Cal State University & began showing his photographs, installations, and 20×24 Polaroids in galleries. Gaining experience assisting alongside high-profile photographers like Peggy Sirota, the larger assignments gave him the confidence to quickly rise as a renowned photographer in his own right. Known for capturing the detail, personality, and moment that make a photograph unforgettable, Michael is highly sought after to collaborate with other talented creatives. His Portrait work includes notable personalities: Richard Gere, Liam Neeson, Donatella Versace, Liev Schreiber, Don Cheadle, Isaac Mizrahi, LeAnn Rimes, Meredith Vieira, Carrie Underwood, Wolfgang Puck, John McEnroe, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus to name a few. His Editorial work has run in magazines such as GQ, Vogue, Architectural Digest, Oprah, Allure, Life, Newsweek, Stern, Men’s Health, Dwell, Food & Wine and more. He has worked collaboratively on many books and his pictures have been included in Photography textbooks, most notably, “Photography in Focus”. Michael has captured interiors for Giorgio Armani, Ferragammo, and Frederic Fekkai as well as The Gramercy Park Hotel, Grand Hyatt, Liberty Hotel & Hotel Carlton. His Portrait & Lifestyle work has also graced over 20 covers of magazines such as U.S. News & World Report, and he works frequently for such high profile newspapers as The New York Times. Recent Ad campaigns include Nestle, Johnson & Johnson, Marriot, Bank of America, The National Pork Board, National Car Rental, etc. His personal work has been exhibited in art galleries and museums from LA to NY to Paris, and he is a national board member of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP). Recent photography awards include Communication Arts 2014 Photography Annual Winner, American Photography 2014, 6 Honorable Mentions in The International Photography Awards and Archive’s Top 200 Ad Photographers. He’s received grants to teach Photography from The California Arts Commission, and is currently a mentor for the Young Photographers Alliance. Michael also works with 2 charities in New York City that improve the lives of foster children: (HeartgalleryNYC.org & WeDeserveLoveToo.org) Michael has a studio in New York City, but travels frequently for shoots in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, and around the world. Since he believes “getting the shot” requires fitness & movement, Michael trains as a triathlete managing to get 4 triathlons under his belt, while also enjoying tennis, hiking and yoga.
Anne Albrecht Artist Agents
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.