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 Victoria Will. She was a pleasure to work with, ever gregarious and an all- around rockstar on set. Difficult weather conditions, challenging directors and limited time with the cast did not hinder her talents. I can’t wait to work with her again.
How many years have you been in business?
10 years ago I started working as a photojournalist in New York City. That gave me the background that allowed me to go freelance 4 years ago to focus on the parts of photography I enjoy most.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I suppose I’m a little bit of both. I didn’t go to a photo school, but was lucky enough to study with Emmet Gowin and Andrew Moore at Princeton.
When I was transitioning from photojournalism, I took a portrait workshop in Santa Fe with Platon. It blew my mind and changed my life. From him, I learned what I don’t think I could have learned in a classroom. I saw just how powerful a collaborative effort between a subject and photographer can be and how you need to trust your vision — it’s something that can’t be forced, but has to be felt.
That workshop wasn’t my last. I find those environments recharge me creatively and I am always hungry to learn.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
Looking back, it’s so clear that I was always a visual person. I learned and expressed myself that way best. My mother even saved portraits of dolls that I made with her polaroid camera when I was 6, but it took me awhile to figure out. It wasn’t until college that I starting to think about photography as something I could actually pursue. I stumbled into a history of photography class with Peter Bunnell and immediately fell in love. After that I couldn’t read fast enough and spent a lot of time devouring the work of Lillian Bassman, David Bailey, Larry Sultan, and the paintings of Andrew Wyeth and John Singer Sargent. At that point, photography became more than just an artistic expression, it became a sort of language for me that I could really understand.
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 find inspiration in the usual suspects — photo books, music and movies, but also in the strangest places. Its not always visual, sometimes its a sound, or a feeling, or an experience that I want to recreate in a visual way. For example, the first time you get to jump in a pool at the beginning of the summer — thats the way I want a photograph to feel. I think it should have an emotion attached to it.
I’ve spent a lot of time observing the people around me—and I was always struck by how beautiful a simple and natural human gesture can be. Those little moments can tell a much larger story. Ultimately, I love creating narratives that allow a story to unfold. My goal is to create work that takes you on the same sort of journey.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
I’d like to think that the creatives and the client ultimately choose me because they believe that my point of view will help bring their ideas to life. That being said, I love collaborating, with anyone that will have me. Luckily, every part of a shoot is a collaboration whether its with the client, the subject of the shoot, or the crew. That’s where being flexible becomes a crucial part of the job and you have to be willing to make adjustments. Working as a photojournalist really helped teach me that it is possible to adapt to any situation without having to compromise my vision or the clients needs.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I love to send out work that I think is successful and what better way is there to promote yourself than creating work you feel has a piece of you in it. At heart though I am a people person so I try to meet as many people as I can — face to face. Sitting down with someone helps to give them a better idea of who I am and who they would be hiring. To me making a connection and having someone trust that I will execute their vision is just as important as the work.
On the other hand, I don’t do it alone. I am lucky to have people in my life like my photojournalist husband, and my agent, Paige Long, who I am constantly brainstorming with and bouncing ideas off of. Paige has an incredibly creative eye and great institutional knowledge that has helped define my voice. Having that close network of support is invaluable.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
I give the same advice someone gave me — shoot what you want to be hired to shoot. If you are inspired by your subject, it will show. If you aren’t, and you are doing it for the wrong reason, it comes from the wrong place and I think that shows as well.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
There was a time when I didn’t shoot for myself enough. That sometimes made it difficult to have a connection to the work. Now I shoot for myself as often as I can, experimenting and looking at things with new eyes. That’s how a recent project with tintypes happened. I saw one and became obsessed with making them work for me. Its not so much about trying to push the envelope, but about trying to evolve creatively. If I’m making the same safe images all the time, there is no room to grow.
How often are you shooting new work?
Whenever I am inspired! I have a list where I write down images I someday want to make that I’ve imagined and I’m slowly making my way through. Its feels like a rolodex of pictures in my head. But as fast as I cross them off, I seem to write more down.
VICTORIA began her career at the New York Post where she was a staff photographer. In a news environment responsible for headlines like “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” Victoria honed her skills and sense of humor. With a focus on commercial and editorial portraiture, her photographs appear in newspapers and magazines worldwide, from the Associated Press to W magazine, The New York Times to Vogue. A graduate from Princeton University, she hails from Washington, D.C., but now resides in New York with her two French Bulldogs and photojournalist husband.
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.