On Set Photo Editor: Rachael Lieberman Photography Director:Catriona Ni Aolain Lindbaek Creative Director: Andrea Dunham Photographer:Bradley MeinzHeidi: How long did you have for this shoot?
Bradley: I was given ten minutes total for the shoot, which took place during the press junket at the Four Season’s hotel in Beverly Hills, California. The shoot was to promote the new Samuel l. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds film, Hit Man’s Bodyguard.
What type of direction did you get from the magazine?
I had a call with the magazine’s photo director in NYC prior to the shoot, she really wanted to get a reportage style image rather than a controlled portrait on seamless, however to cover all bases I was asked to get both!
With only 10 minutes to shoot, what type of exchange did you have with the subjects and the publicist?
The publicist were mainly just a voice to keep the shoot to the ten minute limit! I introduced myself to talent when they stepped into my set (first shoot was seamless) and I gave them only a little direction asking them to have fun with it.
What are your go to tools for managing the stress of this type of shoot?
I always try and tell myself to stay in the moment, often times these types of high profile celebrity shoots take on there own personality. I never really want the photo to feel “about me” as the photographer but rather the energy of the subjects.
How did you overcome the obstacles of the uninspired hotel room and low ceilings?
I called the hotel prior to the shoot asking for the rooms measurements & ceiling height! I knew it was going to be a close fit with lighting and grip. I could of used one light on the seamless set up and called it a day, however I actually had four sources playing in that shot, it was really important to me that I had nice quality of light for these two amazing actors! The outdoor photograph was much more loose and I had my first assistant
handhold “Hollywood” the key light.
Who printed it? We got it printed by Chromatic in beautiful, sunny Glendale, CA.
Who designed it?
Julie Johnson designed it in collaboration with Jen Jenkins, my rep at Giant Artists.
Who edited the images?
Jen and I edited the images together. My work is pretty wide-ranging, so we wanted to show that aforementioned range, but also keep it feeling cohesive and of one voice. The images are primarily from a campaign I shot for OpenTable last year (the main back image of the boat, as well as the top three images in the grid), the bottom left is for BMW, shot at The Whale Wins in Seattle, and the bottom right is from a Rapha lookbook in Amsterdam. We went back and forth a bit on how to simultaneously show food, environment, portraiture, and some sport, but mostly wanted to show some soul and nice colours.
How many did you make?
Enough for all of the land (the land has 1500 people on it).
How many times a year do you send out promos? I try to send out a round of promos about once a year. Since Giant sends out promos to commercial clients, I stick towards personalized promos to magazine photo editors in the US and Europe, with sticky notes of English Bulldogs and Retrievers with cute handwritten phrases like “welcome to my brand!” on them.
This particular promo also serves as a take-away card at meetings as well as a mailer in a clear cello envelope. The size is intentional – it fits into the back pocket of a portfolio. It’s also not as small as a traditional postcard to get lost at the bottom of a file drawer. But not so big as to be obnoxious and take up valuable space. Altogether, they are a cohesive presentation at portfolio shows that have become synonymous with the Giant brand. The idea is to put a full bleed image on the front that may be more personal or fine art that someone would keep on their wall with 4-5 images on back that show your range.
Giant also creates an annual book that comes out each Fall. Each edition is themed, with a written introduction by Jen, and features a variety of work from each artist.
Photographs by Ackerman + Gruber/Mpls. St. Paul Magazine
Photographs by Eliesa Johnson/Mpls. St. Paul Magazine
Associate Creative Director: Michael Norseng
Heidi: What advice do you have for any photo director looking to transition out of magazines? Michael: Over time, (and this is a continual discovery), I have found that titles can often be misleading. And especially people’s perceptions of those titles. “Photo Editor”, outside of the NYC publishing carousel, newspapers, or rarified titles and markets, can be a bit of a limiting designation. Two decades in, I still often get the question, “so what did you do or rather do exactly?” The reality is that for each person, the experience, responsibilities, and creative role in the process is varied. I think it is beneficial to shift the semantics and attempt to make people understand that the term is broad and more of an umbrella to describe a lot of other sub roles. In my case and just a few: Researcher, Producer, Project Manager, Video Producer, Art Buyer, Problem solver, conceptor, and yes, Creative Director. I think that understanding of capabilities and embracing the ability to sell oneself can be a difficult roadblock to overcome, but in the end it is essentially about not limiting yourself to just being defined by one thing, or one title. There is no clear path.
For me it took stepping away from NY, and having someone, Creative Director Brian Johnson, and a company, MSP Communications, realize that I could be an important asset/cog in the wheel of their creative process. I feel lucky in that regard.
You had an impressive run at Esquire, what do you miss most about being in editorial? I’m incredibly grateful for the time I had living in NYC, working in magazines, and especially at Esquire/Hearst. But there was a confluence of reasons of why the experience was coming to an end, both personally and professionally. I was extremely, (extremely is an understatement), blessed during my time in NYC that I rode this wave and crossed paths and learned from some of the best Photo Editors, Creative Directors, Designers, and Editors in the industry. And additionally by extension, photographers, writers, illustrators, agents, subjects, on and on…and on. I believe, and I hope, I carried a lot of what I learned from those individuals on to this role I am in now.
One of the things that David Granger, former Editor and Chief of Esquire, and by extension David Curcurito, Design Director, instilled in all of us was to continue to be ambitious, curious, and varied in terms of story-telling and put out high quality work into the world no matter what the restraints. Every day it felt like we were constantly evolving creatively. Or at least I hope we were. It was often a fulfilling and exciting place to work, even if not everything we tried landed in the way we hoped.
By extension too, there was a recognition that individuals had capabilities outside of their designated roles, (back to the previous question). So yes, I worked on photography and managed that department, but also contributed a few times little bits of writing, or story ideas, or what have you. It was the sort of environment that fostered ambition and embraced whatever people wanted to contribute and there were no set lanes in which you were forced to stay. In fact, I think the entire reason why I was originally promoted from within there about a decade ago is because I had expressed an interest in producing video content and extending the reach of the stories (mostly in a surface visual way) online or eventually on the ipad.
So it has been exciting transitioning to MSP Communication where that work or my varied background has been valued. I am not only involved in some editorial photo capacities with Delta Sky Magazine and Mpls/St. Paul, but also working on video projects as well. The environment is collaborative, my colleagues are great, and I feel like I’m working in a similar role to put out public facing work which is both ambitious, but of a high quality both locally and nationally.
Photograph by Ture Lillegraven
Photograph by Caitlin Cronenberg
As a creative, what is the most important ingredient to keep you fully engaged? I have a broad range of personal interests and knowledge, so I love diversified subject matter. Or the ability to think of ways to poach or have cross-over applications to how something is presented in a unique way. It is one of the reasons why I’ve always loved editorial, and especially what could be called as general interest, because the subject matter, perspective, and story-telling is always varied. I also love the pace that it provides…that there is constant creation on all levels of size each day. If it doesn’t work once, learn from it, and move on. The goalpost is constantly shifting and you have to work fast.
I think I’m also excited by putting out content into the world either in print or online that either engages or people consume in some regard. If it initiates an emotional response, or the person looking at feels like it was well done, enough to capture their attention, then that is the ideal. Personally I want the work that either myself or my colleagues put out to deliver on being high quality.
How much has your video experience influenced your career? I think it safe to say that if I wouldn’t have experimented with video, or taken advantage of the opportunities to do it, I wouldn’t have found myself in the position I am in today. I believe it is what separated me from the pack when individuals were being brought through the door to interview at Esquire 10 years ago. And it has been instrumental of course to me in this next role I find myself in.
How did this video series come about? My new(ish) colleagues at Mpls St. Paul Magazine/MSP Communications had this incredibly ambitious video series pitch, (in conjunction with Explore Minesota and The Superbowl Host Committee), already in the works before I started here in December. So although I heard only minor mentions of it during my interview process last fall, it wasn’t necessarily a reality until I started. I think it was my first week of work here when Brian Johnson, (Creative Director), Drew Wood (Editor), and Jayne Haugen Olson (Editorial Director), and I sat in a room and collaboratively said ok, we have this seed of an idea and an opportunity, so how do we execute upon it and what do we want this ultimately to be and look like. Given my background, and some experience in this regard, I think they, and leadership and MSP, collectively leaned on me and my perspective and background in terms of the best way to execute, package, and present these. So we/I hit the ground running. And now we are leading up to week 30 of 52. It has been exciting, to say the least, each and every week putting one of these out there.
Tell us about your creative process for these videos? Essentially, what these are, and the elevator pitch which I often repeat, is that Superbowl 52 is coming to Minneapolis in 2018, and thus we wanted to figure out a way to capitalize on that and shine a spotlight on the state via videos with 52 notable individuals, one each week until next year, that have connection to the state. The goal each week has been to not only tell their stories through individualized love letters, but also bring in elements of things to ether do and/or see if someone was to come and visit. All within 2:30.
Because of how we/I am executing these, with different contributors, restraints on time and access to subjects, etc., these are all a bit apples and oranges in terms of presentation. I would like to think each one is unique as the different subjects we are covering. The front end title sequence, (with exception of the background) and closing credits are for the most part templated, initially developed along with a former colleague and great AE designer (Tom Losinski), but I am able to alter them each week to be specific to each subject. So I like to think the bookends or cookies to the Oreo stay relatively the same, and it is the cream/content that shifts week to week.
And that constant shifting of sands also goes for my role on the project. For the most part you could say I’m the lead in the creative execution along with my partner and colleague Drew Wood. But there is so much as well that happens behind the scenes with my colleagues that people will never get to see…in terms of how we get the most eyeballs on them, the design of the website, etc. And in terms of myself week to week, I would say my lead role is that I am hiring the individual photographers, directors, cinematographers, etc, to do these and managing the output, the say on the final videos. I’m also working alongside my colleagues sending requests to PR to try to wrangle talent/subjects, which has been fun and extension of some of the moderate communication I did before with PR people. And some weeks, and this has been fun, actually trying my hand at interviewing the subjects off camera. Har Mar Superstar, Lindsey Vonn (upcoming), and Alec Soth have been a few highlights in this regard. Or and additionally, outside of outputting the titles each week, I’m actually from time to time editing the actual videos or shooting some of the b-roll, or just working with the directors on the best final cuts. It has been really fun. Intense at times. But I/we are pleased I think with what we are producing.
And again, back to the beginning of this interview, and I feel like this series is emblematic, there are no clear lanes of responsibility on this. It is just all hands on deck, in a collaborative editorial environment, to put what we hope is good, high quality storytelling to the world…at an extremely quick pace. You can find a few below and the rest here: myboldnorth.com
Who printed it?
The promo was printed by Moo (www.moo.com). Since I’m new at promos I decided to experiment with a company I am already aware of, and familiar with the their high quality printing.
Who designed it?
I designed the cards, but used a template for the text (moo has pretty limited designs for text) and worked around the limited template as much as possible.
Who edited the images?
The images were edited by me also. The original images were shot for Sunbum and used in their product promotional catalog. The photos originally ran in color, but I much prefer the black & white versions.
How many did you make?
I did a very small run as a test of the print quality from Moo. In my opinion, their quality is fantastic and exactly as I envisioned when toning them on screen with deep rich blacks, a wide tonal range and crisp detail. Since I’m pleased with the results, I’m preparing to do a full run of these same cards soon.
How many times a year do you send out promos?
This is my first attempt at such a thing, but looking ahead I plan to send out promos at least twice per year to see how it goes.
I know you were aHerb Ritts protégé what were key insights he offered and how difficult was it not to follow his footsteps? I think the main value of working with Herb was to realize how important it is to always aim for perfection. He never stopped doing exactly that. It’s challenging and hard at times. Also, I saw how he was able to make people feel at ease by focusing all attention on his subjects, whether celebrities, models or ordinary people. In my eyes, that was his main gift in addition to his keen eye, communication.
Herb is not someone whose footsteps one automatically tries to follow. He was one of a kind. I did not want to become a poor replica of the master, so I took deliberate steps to go a different route.
In a sentence describe what it’s like to have a mentor? In the best of times, it is an extremely rewarding relationship for both parties. Usually, with lots of sacrifices on the part of the protegé.
How did your former law schooling transcend into your photographic career, if at all?
Did not transcend at all, but I realize I have a creative and an analytical side. Needless to say, the analytical side has been completely sidetracked for the last couple of decades.
How did you make the transition from commercial to fine art? It was more of a necessary evolution than anything else. The desire to create something that represents my way of seeing without embellishments or the influence of other visions.
Your fine ark work, The Stillness of Motion celebrates the organic beauty with a linear eye; we don’t feel rushed nor pushed into a lane. What was your creative message? I try to capture imagery that resonates with who I am, how I see things, how I think, dream. What my preferences in life are. All of that, really. The serenity and graphic simplicity envelop everything I am and strive for.
How many images did you shoot in order to refine it to the edit you currently have? Multiple thousands. I guess that’s partly why it’s rewarding when I feel that I have one that stands out. Because the road to getting there is often quite long.
Describe the creative space you feel when in your commissioned work vs the fine art? Ideally, you want to have the same freedom in commissioned work as in fine art. Though in reality, that is seldom possible. Fine art is so unconstrained, so liberating. In the end, all that matters is that you create something that resonates with yourself and your audience. And that you do it without compromises or short cuts.
Photo and Design Director: Hannah McCaughey Photo Editor: Amy Silverman Deputy Art Director: Petra Zeiler Photographer:Nigel Parry
Heidi: How many set ups did you do and what type of direction did you give for this image for Cory in the snowsuit? Nigel: We got to maybe five or did six different setups, things were going well. Then we we’re coming to the last set and I said, “This is where I want you to put your big snow suit on as if you’ve traveled, you’ve done your climb and you are finally at rest. It’s obviously in a studio, but just try and make yourself feel like the avalanche has just happened.”
“Cool, that’s good.” he said, “I just need to go over and pick up this message,” and he just sat at the dressing table for maybe 10-15 minutes.
I said, “Okay, when you’re ready,” and he then walked back over to the set and we started shooting again.
“Just try and take yourself back there and I’m going to keep shooting.” He carried on just looking at me and all of a sudden, he started crying.” There are tears in his eyes I said, “I’m going to keep shooting,”
“That’s fine,” Cory replied.
After I stopped shooting I went and gave him a big hug and assumed what just happened was he’d taken himself back into that terrible state where he had almost died and he was reliving the emotions. He said,” You know when I went over there and picked and picked up that message? I was told that my best friend just committed suicide.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said, “I’m so sorry,”
He said, “No, it was my decision to keep going on. It seemed fitting anyway, I knew I was going to be quite upset.”
Do you find that a little challenging to shoot a peer? Cory is an adventure photographer and takes incredible photographs in situations where I wouldn’t even in my wildest dreams think to find myself. He takes very different pictures. To me, photography is so compartmentalized; we’re just in two totally different spheres.
What type of direction did you get from Hannah? The direction I got from her was simple. She told me he’d almost died and she wanted something similar to the photos you see of people before they climbed Everest; with a nod towards early 20th century images where they’re very slow shutter speeds so everyone had to sit very still and stare at the camera. I thought this was perfect direction since he’s a mountaineer, there’s no smiling, no movement. The fact that I was shooting a lot of black and white made it easier and more powerful.
Had you met Cory before? No, though he seemed like a sincere bloke. I don’t know what he was like before the accident, and maybe that’s changed him. But I found him a terrifically interesting in every way. You want to get to know him more. I think he’s very visually appealing and we have been doing some corresponding actually because he’s doing a bit of portrait work, and I’ve been mentoring him a little with of all of that.
Is there something creatively that you learned about yourself or did anything shift for you as a photographer after the shoot? Every now and again you have what is an abundance of creativity and you can work with that if you want. It’s really an abundance of Limbic resonance. That’s what photographers want in their arsenal. Because that’s just, there are areas of your brain which basically feels emotions and is able to empathize with another person. If you’re able to do that, That’s your major tool, once you’ve got all your lighting source figured out. As a portrait of photographer you want to be able to get so close to the person, not necessarily as in proximity, but just be close to them emotionally and on their wave length that you and they become joined mentally, emotionally. That’s what one always strives for. I don’t know how one gets it. I just know that this is my goal in portrait photography. I’m so desperate [laughs] to people — because it makes people open up. Our shoot was great in that respect. If somebody is very receptive to that, then it makes for a wonderful connected shoot where the person who’s being photographed knows just about when I’m going to shoot the photograph, and I know what they’re going to do next. You become sort of connected.
You do have a nice connection then since you’re mentoring him. Well, I do now, but the first time I met him was when he walked in and said, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that I’m meeting you and you’re going to photograph me.” I said, “What? What are you talking about mate?” [laughs].Yes. That’s very lovely of him to say that. He said, “You’re also my hero.” “Oh, well that’s fantastic. I’m sure by the end of this you’ll be my hero because I’ve never climbed a mountain that spared my life.” I replied.
Do you have any photographic influences? Yes. I’ve had many. Not many of them are living right now. I’ve tried to emulate or pay homage to David Bailey. I use David Bailey as the person I would love to learn from, I was totally taken by his pictures. His directness and his cruelty in some respects. It’s a sort of cruelty you don’t get from Irving Penn who I also love. Also for the decisive moment, the good old favorite Cartier-Bresson because I started out as a reportage photographer. Cartier-Bresson was my idol and hero, alongside David Bailey as well. I find that there’s an awful lot of similarity between portraiture and Cartier-Bresson’s work. In fact, there’s an awful lot of similarity between portraiture and virtually any other kind of work. Once you’ve mastered portraiture, you can pretty much jump off to anything. The key to portraiture is to have an environment in which, be it lighting, or whatever it is in that environment that you’re photographing, the moment comes to make the magic happen.The only difference between say, portraiture, and reportage is that reportage people have to get themselves in the middle of the crowd. Whereas I have to get my studio set so that when the magic happens, I can get it. There’s very little difference in the actual execution, the principles of execution they are very, very similar.
Do you remember some of your first images when you thought, “I love photography and this is what I want to do? Well, I remember a lot of my first images. The first image that I ever had published was a picture of some little girls walking down some steps inside the British museum in London. I realized that even though it was only sold as a postcard, that must be a great way of making some money out of something which I enjoy so much. It was the fact that I was willing to put money behind this to make a wet plate of it than print it on paper, buy the paper, buy the ink and distribute it. There must be something good about it.
What would you tell your younger self, now that you have so much experience as a photographer? I’d tell myself not to become a photographer, be a lawyer or a doctor or do something that can’t be replaced by a phone and a bunch of algorithms–but no, I wouldn’t change a thing about my chosen career. It has been the most wonderful, the most interesting, the most challenging, the most frightening. The road with the most twisted bends, and turns and highways and freeways. I wouldn’t change a thing. It has, and hopefully will still be wonderful.
Who printed it? JEJ Print in Monterey Park, Los Angeles, CA. They are a family owned, web press printer; I love that they can customize. This was my first time printing on newsprint so I wanted to work closely with the printer learning about the characteristics of newsprint, how the images would interact with the medium and I wanted to support a local business. Ryan at JEJ Print was very helpful during the entire process.
Who designed it? I designed it myself. Once I fined tuned the layout a graphic designer friend of mine, Blake Ingram created the final export. He finessed the font placement and also gave great advice on the overall design. I wanted the design to be simple and photography forward. I placed the cover portrait’s (Lance Mountain) eye specifically, so that it would appear in the perfect spot – peeping overto achieve an eye-catching effect and be easy to mail.
Who edited the images? I edited it myself with feedback, advice and opinions from variety of people: mentors, colleagues, friends, artists.I’m so grateful for everyone’s help, thank you! My editing goal was to select images that ultimately spoke to my style, community and interests. I completed around 3 rounds of edits until I reached the final decision.
How many did you make? 1000 copies. I sent out approximately 800 in the US. I still plan on sending a portion to international clients and keep some for leave behinds.
How many times a year do you send out promos? This is my very first large run mailing promo! Previously I was sending out more DIY printed post cards to a select list of publications I wanted to contribute to, mailing them twice a year as well as supplementing with email promos twice a year. I have regular clients in Japan, but I knew I needed to be more proactive to promote my work within the US market. One of my goals was to include the US advertising and client direct market. The idea of this promo was to make my first big introduction to a broader audience. The idea of the cover title “HELLO” came along pretty quick: “Hello, nice to meet you. Here is my work, my name is Yuri!” Allong with this serving as a promo piece, I wanted to make something that I could give away and show my photographs in a different format.I often grab a “newspaper” if it’s free and full of photography, I’m so intrigued by the play of the images on newsprint.
Heidi: You were named by Time Magazine as one of the of top instagram photographers to follow, when did you start your Instagram practice?
Jesse: Social media in my photography practice started back with the advent of Instagram in 2010. I had initially decided that I was going to use my Instagram account as a way of sharing personal photos only with my friends and family. Very quickly, my clients got wind of it and really liked the images. We then started having conversations about what it all meant. It was exciting and new for everyone; this, of course, shifted my thinking about how I could organically use Instagram and social media in general by applying my personal aesthetic. This is something that I strive to keep true throughout my postings, whether personal or commercial.
Jesse: Just because you have an iPhone and a social media account doesn’t mean you are a photographer. How has the iPhone shaped your craft?
When I started shooting with my phone as a secondary source I realized that my voice was still there in the images, even though the intent of the picture making process was a little bit different. I think over the years this has influenced my outlook on how I perceive myself and shifted my vision in my work. I think what sets me apart from other photographers is that vision. I stay very true to who I am as a person and that guides the picture making practice. In my case this means being a husband/dad first, artist/photographer second, and nature lover/farmer guy third.
How has your phone made you a better photographer?
Since I was academically trained as an artist, all of the practices that I was implementing into my artwork were very quickly falling into my social media channels and my commercial photography. I believe the strength of my voice comes from my art making background. Initially, I made a very concerted effort, and still do, to “keep it real” as much as possible. To be myself and not swayed by outside forces. I will post pictures through social channels that I really love regardless of their content. Sometimes they may seem a little silly but they’re important to me and I simply like them. That’s the approval process. There’s a lower bar for what I think is acceptable on my social channels, which allows me to be much looser in terms of my editing and shooting practices. I think this has expanded my outlook on how my photography can be approached and has strengthened my abilities as a photographer.
Do you feel this notion of the skill needed in being a photographer is undermined by technology?
I don’t. I believe it’s actually accentuated. Skill is a complicated word. Does it refer to one’s ability to control the tools or to have a unique vision? Both? I often think in a pretty conceptual or metaphysical way about photography. I trust my gut. I’m not sure I would call that skill, although one certainly needs a lot of skills to be a photographer, no doubt. For me the technology has really helped me by allowing me to have better pictures; sharper and higher quality images, a looser approach, and in the end more balance to my work. I think the quality of the camera, whether it be an iPhone or the Canon digital I use, is so good now that every picture can be technically fantastic. So the skill part comes back to the concepts and execution of the ideas in my opinion and I’m not sure technology harms that. I’m thankful that digital technology supports me and allows me the ability to create conceptual art pieces from my iPhone that I can show in the gallery setting and place into museum collections. Back when Instagram started I would never have imagined that the photos on my feed would live in museum collections. This still blows my mind.
Let’s circle back to vision, what is yours?
If everybody has great files then it’s the artistic vision and aesthetic that’s going to allow the cream to rise. Originality is key in a world where authenticity is paramount. I see a lot of inauthenticity, especially on social media. Trends will ebb and flow and we as connoisseurs can get swept up in that. It’s nature and it’s not terrible, but I think holding on to your version of authentic can be your best asset. My artistic vision is just my version of how I see the world. My vision is dependent on my priorities, my family, the well-being of the planet, nature, animals, and art in general. If I had to be specific I would say my vision is that of a thoughtful, but wild, environmental portraitist looking for ways to connect my subject to the landscape and light. Ideally, something real and considered yet gritty and raw.
How do you stay authentic to yourself and your work?
I stay authentic to myself and my work is just by embracing what’s around me. I know that sounds cliché but if you look through my social media channels you will see that I’m just a guy living on and appreciating the land for all it’s worth. I have a little farm with my family (3 kids, 10 chickens, 2 ducks, 1 dog, and 1 pet skunk, as well as a various assortment of rehab animals coming in and out) in Rhode Island and we do all kinds of amazing things out in the wild together. We are explorers and we are open to what’s in front of us. Being open to the magic around you is such a huge part of the journey for me. I go about my life paying close attention to and documenting these things, and that has become the makeup of who I am as a person and photographer. There’s no space for lack of authenticity when you’re working in conditions like that.
You use your work as a diary, how are you archiving this and do you have broader plans for family posterity?
I do use photography as a diary of sorts, constantly documenting the events in my life. Sometimes that’s shooting art projects in the deep woods of Maine, sometimes it’s at the dining room table at breakfast with the girls, and sometimes that’s on a set shooting fashion models or Ford cars. I think as you live with my work you start to see how it all gels together and in the end, it becomes the authentic version of who I am as a person and inevitably as a photographer. It’s all over the place and that is my favorite part. My creative partners, whether they’re art directors, photo editors, or social media experts, are sophisticated and can see how my particular version of authenticity can play into what they need for their clients. Sometimes it’s an obvious direct hit and sometimes it takes courage and a bigger leap. As far as family posterity is concerned, part of my larger goal in life is to teach my kids how to be aware of the magic I mentioned in the previous question. The journey to appreciate and acknowledge that is what guides this ride we’re on. Hopefully my girls will grow up to aware of what’s around them and brave enough to interact with it. Photography is one of the vehicles I use to ensure this happens.
What do you feel is your particular gift as an artist and when did you realize this?
Ultimately, I think my strength is in storytelling. Any project I approach, whether personal or commissioned, I try my damnedest to tell the whole story. This originates from my time at RISD attending graduate school. I started making work that truly explored a given concept from micro to macro. I was shooting landscapes, portraits, and still lifes that all spoke a common language and told a single story. Once I finished my thesis project, Intertidal, I realized that this methodology was working for me and I kept at it. This is exactly what I do for my clients because it’s the only way my mind works and it’s the best way for them to use me. Sure, I can take a single portrait of any given subject, such as a farmer. But I would much rather shoot the farm, the farmer, the farm dog, the produce, the soil… the details. I love the minutiae. The whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts. I want my photographs to elicit a genuine response to how amazing a situation is, to tell a story and share the narrative visually. A friend recently introduced me to this amazing quote from writer John Lubbock, “The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live In”that really sums up how feel about my approach, “What we do see depends mainly on what we look for. … In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.” I try to be them all.
What has documenting your daughters taught you about your craft?
I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons over the years by collaborating with my daughters. The first has to be acquiring some serious patience, something I innately lack. When I first started shooting with Clover, about 6 years ago, I realized this was uncharted territory for me. The way I had shot images up that point was slowly and carefully, working in a seemingly “adult” way. That wasn’t going to cut it with the kids. I had to get a grip on the fact that finding patience would allow me to get what I needed and wanted. Also, I realized very quickly that I wasn’t solely in charge. Once I let go of some of the control and allowed them to be themselves, and stop being a director, barking orders, the images became so much better. I now approach photography from a much more fun, almost childlike, way. I try to think of shoots from all perspectives, both still and moving, calm and chaotic, adult and childlike. The kids forced me to break out of my formal comfort zone. Obviously, becoming a father changes you at the core, but strangely it took me turning my camera on them to realize this. I want to see them smiling and crying, proud and wounded. I try to be very aware of all of these scenarios as they are happening. It’s hard to do, but many times you just have to be there. Being present is half the battle.
How did Wild & Precious come about and how have you grown professionally from that project? Wild & Precious originated from a road trip that I took with my oldest child to explore and document the New England landscape and in the fall of 2010. Very quickly I realized that I was on to something and this might be my next personal project. Personally, I was growing as a parent and photographer while I worked on this project and naturally it spilt into my professional career. I have become this environmental portrait photographer/nature dad by way of Wild & Precious. Once I realized that was happening the road trips became a priority for us personally and it became important for me professionally to document it all. The project has allowed my work to really grow in ways that I never expected. I couldn’t be happier with where I am as a professional and I owe a lot of that to being that nature dad. Now I find myself working very specifically for clients to make work that was spawned from Wild & Precious. We recently worked on a children’s hospital commercial project that was about showing the strength and vulnerability of children. This is exactly what I am interested in my personal work so it was a dream to create those types of images for clients.
Commercial clients are now doing more branded content with a hint to editorial, blurring the lines. What projects have you shot that fit this authentic storytelling? This summer I worked with Fatherly.com to photograph a version of Wild & Precious for L.L. Bean. We collaborated together to create images that tell the story of “A Classroom In Nature.” This is at the core of everything I believe in both personally and professionally. It was a perfect collaboration and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Most recently I worked with Honda to travel around and document what it means to be a father in the US. I got to meet and photograph a wide variety of dads and their children. This was an incredibly eye opening project that jives perfectly with all of my personal and professional goals. It was unbelievable to get out there on the road and bond with these families and shoot pictures of them just being themselves. It was beyond rewarding and constantly forced me to assess my own views on fatherhood. I should also mention that the Wild & Precious film was my first foray into filmmaking and I am now completely addicted.
Who are you represented by and why did you choose them? I am commercially represented by Tea & Water Pictures. It’s a relatively new signing for me, as of this past winter. I chose to go with Tea & Water for many reasons but ultimately it was because of their sustainability message that won me over. They want to do good things for the Earth and tell amazing stories. That is what my life is all about! It’s a perfect match up and we’re already doing great things together. I couldn’t be happier. It’s a real privilege to work with people who appreciate you on all levels, both artistically and personally. We’re bound for great things and I’m excited about the journey forward!
Are you your own photo editor? If so what is your approach?
I am my own photo editor. In terms of an approach, I always want to tell a meaningful story. Telling a rich story has always been the back bone of my approach to photography. I try to think about the narrative from all ends. I will include wide shots, medium shots, and tight shots in my edits. I will use portraits, landscapes, and still lifes as a way to show a whole story. I usually try to say something about strength and something about vulnerability, as I stated before. I love how opposing forces can feed off of one another. I like to think of my photographic approach to editing as a sliding scale from black to white. You need some black, some white and inevitably a lot of grey. The idea of curating a viewers experience is really exciting to me. The edit of my Wild & Precious book is one of the things I am most proud of. I suffered through that process but in the end, it came out perfect. It was so important that the images relate to one another in just the right way so that when you flip the page the connections make sense and gel. The book form is in many ways an idealized state of the work for me. It’s a curated collection of all my thoughts and dreams come to life presented in just the right way so we are on the journey together.
Who designed it?
I design all of my promotional material my background is in graphic design.
Who edited the images?
I edited and retouched all of my work.
How many did you make?
There are currently 15 pieces in that series.
How many times a year do you send out promos
Funny you should ask. Sending them to Rob was actually my first time. This is my 2nd year in business for myself and I have been getting by on word of mouth but it’s time to expand.
Creative Director: Kevin de Miranda Photographer:Cade Martin
Heidi: Did Derek share any reflections about his injury?
Cade: We did not talk about the injury itself but we talked about his gravitating towards a piano after the injury. Derek dove into the shallow end of a pool at a party. After being diagnosed with a severe concussion and resting for 5 days, he woke up with an unquenchable urge to play the piano. He doesn’t even read music, but the most complex and intricate works – spanning all genres – now flow from his fingertips. In some ways, the injury itself is just a moment that marks a before and after and so much focus is on how his life has changed.
Tell us about the concept behind this shoot. It was an honor to be trusted with this story and I was super excited when I heard about the opportunity. Kevin de Miranda, Creative Director at Pace Communications, came to me with the conceptual idea of Derek playing the piano at the bottom of a pool, it was perfect…then I just had to figure out how to pull it off. At the time, I had only photographed one underwater image before – but I loved the idea of creating something ethereal and beautiful. It was a bit of challenge logistically as well as technically but Derek was amazing throughout – as generous with his time and energy as he is with his story and his music. He was up for anything and ready for the underwater adventure.
Did Derek have any hesitation about getting into the pool since a pool where his injury happened? Not at all, Derek was amazing from our first call and was completely game for anything and going anywhere.
Did you photograph the piano in a pool or was this done in post? I put a piano in a pool at Matt Hyland’s 4th of July party in 11th grade and vowed that I wouldn’t do that again. Joking.We created the piano and the bench with CGI in post-production.
What were the technical challenges of this shoot? The biggest challenge was the location honestly. We found a great outdoor pool in the Ft. Lauderdale area. We arrived and it had rained the day before so the pool water was very murky. We ultimately embraced the look and plowed ahead. I love the otherworldly effect you get with how an image captures underwater, but other than that, it is surprisingly similar to any other project as far as focusing on capturing what is needed.
Did he play the piano for you on set? The piano was created in post-production so there was no piano there but he was always diddling with his fingers as if we was playing an air-piano.
How did this shoot inspire you as a photographer? It would be hard not to be inspired, as a person, regardless of profession. The idea that there are gifts within even our hardest days is one that we can all learn from. As a photographer I’m inspired by characters and their stories, and by the adventure afforded to me by seeking that out. Derek’s story is utterly unique and almost unbelievable, but he is so genuine and open and accessible, I thought that was such a cool juxtaposition to capture. It’s what I enjoy most about what I do. I don’t know if I’m interested in the camera as much as the adventure, but the camera has been my trusty vehicle and we’ve developed a pretty good relationship. A story like Derek’s reminds me of the surprises and gifts I find on the other side of the lens.
Who printed it? Prints were done by PSPrint. Because each promo included seven cards, I wanted to keep the costs down. I’ve used PSPrint in the past and the quality is solid and the price very reasonable. I was able to catch them when they were having a sale.
Who designed it? I did it all myself. I took inspiration from actual Pantone cards as well as other promos I had seen on the aPhotoEditor instagram. The hardest part was finding all the different pieces but in the end it all came together.
Who edited the images? Again, I did it all myself. I had done a project earlier in the year for a client where we shot people on a red background (done in post). After seeing it, I realized I always shot on black or white and wanted to explore color as well. To keep things efficient, I shot everything on white and then changed the background color in post.
How many did you make? There were 50 promos that had the box, cards, and jelly beans. There was another 50 that just had the cards that I sent out as well. It was tricky deciding which went to which but at the end of the day 100 people got promos from this project.
What made you want to include the jelly beans? Honestly? I think people love food so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with adding something in there. I wanted it to be one solid color to kind of play off the project theme. I looked at M&M’s for a second but figured it being so hot this summer they might melt in transit.
Were they all green? How much did you buy and how did you package them? They weren’t all green. In hindsight, I think I would have just stuck to one color for all. I ended up buying a little less than 20 lbs of jelly beans in green, purple, blue and orange to match some of the cards. I purchased some small bags and basically measured it out to the best of my ability. I’m so thankful I didn’t end up running out and actually allotted the perfect amount. I won’t lie though, a couple did get eaten during the packing process.
How many times a year do you send out promos? I try to send out promos around four times a year. Not always to this extent though. Some just postcards, some posters, and some that have a little treat like this. In the end, I like to switch it up or else I get bored of what I’m sending out (and I don’t want to send it to people and for them to get bored as well!). I will say, this is the first time I’ve sent a promo out and received emails back from people. So, I might be doing more like this one in the future!
Director of Photography Digital and Print: Tim Rasmussen Director of Photography ESPN the Magazine: Karen Frank Creative Director, Digital and Print: Ching Wang Art Director: Eric Paul Photographer:Lisette Poole
Heidi: How much of your work is based in Cuba vs North American/Carribean? Lisette: I’m mostly based in Cuba but have worked all over Latin America and in the U.S. I have a lot of personal and assignment work in Cuba which I’d say makes up 60% of the work I do right now.
Is there a large local talent pool? Yes, there are a large number of talented correspondents in Cuba. I feel lucky to have worked with them over the last two years.
Tell us about this opening image. Did you shoot this particular image for the opener? I hadn’t planned it as an opener. I discovered that scene when I went to meet the subject at his house, Dary. We missed Dary for our first meeting but it gave me a chance to scout our location which was his house. The next day I shot him prepping for training and when I knew he’d be coming up that hill, I ran ahead. I thought it gave a great sense of place for his life and current situation.
What were you trying to draw out of the subject here? Dary was usually upbeat and funny, but I could tell deep down he was disappointed by some of the things that happened in his career. I hoped he would let his guard down for a moment. First thing in the morning (this was shot around 6-7am) he was tired, on his way to work, he had just introduced me to his newborn son. It seemed like he was more “himself” then without his guard up. On this quiet morning, I could sense that he was out of place, no longer home, and not having reached that dream.
How did you and Lerys connect during the shoot? (Lerys is the main character, the portrait shot with the green background)
We connected because I listened. I am also Cuban and have lived there for almost three years now so we had an automatic bond. It was fascinating to me to hear the players’ stories of leaving Cuba, especially Lerys. He said that he left his house, telling his grandma he was going to buy cooking oil and never returned. He was still visibly shaken from the migration experience, spending hours on a tiny boat which was ill-equipped for the trip to Haiti. He also missed Cuba and really wanted to be home. Lerys seemed to feel defeated and didn’t want to be photographed so it took time to build confidence with him. His story reminded me so much of all the Cubans I know who’ve left like my own family and the women I followed last year as they travelled to the U.S. from Cuba through 13 countries.
Who printed it? We got it printed through the online service Modern Postcard.It was our first time printing through them, so we weren’t sure how the process would go.It turns out that it was very smooth and we were thrilled that one person at the company was assigned to us and was our point person throughout the entire process.Huge thanks to Nick Kennedy at Modern postcard for taking care of us from beginning to end!
Who designed it? We don’t really go around calling ourselves designers, but when it comes to our work we usually have a pretty clear idea of how we want it to be presented.Often tackling the design ourselves means cutting out a lot of back and forth and getting to the heart of the piece quicker.For this promo we basically locked ourselves in the studio for two days straight and were able to solidify the design of the book fairly quickly.
Who edited the images? The images were edited by us as well.We have a wall in our office coated in sheet metal so that we can display magnet versions of our work and rearrange the edit with ease.We both previously interned for the amazing photographer Art Streiber and one of our many tasks as interns was to print new work onto magnets and maintain the editing wall.Sometimes ideas are so good you just have to take them for yourself.Thanks Art!
How many did you make? We printed a run of 500.350 were sent out to current and prospective editorial and advertising clients.The rest have been given out at jobs, shows, trips…and of course you guys at A Photo Editor.Each time we create a print a promo we push ourselves to order and mail out more than we did the time before.
How many times a year do you send out promos? The last two years we have been averaging about 3/4 per year.The process has evolved along with our shooting careers.Past promos include printed coasters, postcards, newspapers, and now paperback books, We are hoping to start working on a new one soon as well as out first limited edition hard cover photo book.
Creative Director: David Schlow
Director of Photography: Jennifer Santana Art Director: Justin Long Associate Photo Editor: David Carr Photographer:Jeremy Lange
Heidi: Was this your first assignment with Men’s Journal? Jeremy: No, in late March of this year I did my first story for Men’s Journal about rock climber Kai Lightner. Just a few weeks later, I got an email from DOP Jennifer Santana saying basically this “…interested in shooting a feature profile this week? It would need to be in a studio. It is a sensitive issue as the subject is in witness protection.”
I was obviously intrigued and pretty open the week so I immediately said yes and set about getting a studio rented in the area we had discussed. Some friends of mine run Shadow Box Studios in Durham, NC and they had couple open spots that week so I sent Jennifer back the possible dates.
What type of direction and information did you get about the assignment considering it was a sensitive issue?
Once we had a shoot date confirmed she sent over some details of what the images would have to be like. Martin, not his real name obviously, must be pretty much unidentifiable in the photos, so shoot in silhouette, or with directional like that obscured most of his features. Jennifer also sent over some examples of what was permissible in this situation so I could get thinking about how to get it done.
Had you done any images like this before?
Yes, I had made some portraits years ago of sexual assault victims that could not be identified so I had a little bit of experience with the general parameters, but those were outside so this situation was a little more difficult.
From there I made a few sketches in my notebook of what I was thinking and tested one or two at my little home studio to be sure it would generally work.
How much time did you have for this portrait and did you practice your light set up to be efficient? There was no specific time frame for the session, but I generally planned on an hour in the studio. Given the constraints we had on the job, I knew that we would not be able to try too many things and spend hours playing with lighting set ups. I also have found that many “normal” people, i.e. people that are not used to being photographed all the time, are pretty exhausted by the whole thing in an hour or so. That is obviously not a hard and fast rule, but it has been my experience several times, especially in studio situations. And if they want to go home after work.
We, my assistant Ethan and I, got to the studio a couple hours early to set things up and make sure we had at least two working lighting scenarios so when Martin arrived we were ready to go. I like to take my time so it is nice to be able to show up early and play for a bit before settling on a couple things. The extra time paid off here as I was able to add a lighting element I had not considered before after Ethan and I experimented for a little while with what I had planned.
Did the subject request to see the images? He did ask to see what I was capturing at one point but it seems more out of curiosity than out of concern. Under the circumstances, he was incredibly trusting of us to do what we had agreed upon.He seemed to like what he saw when I showed him and we kept on going after that for a while
Did you direct him? He had a good natural presence, comfortable in his own skin but I did direct him a bit after a while. I typically do not direct much at the beginning so I can see the gestures and positions people give of themselves and then perhaps have them repeat those, or we refine them to suit a photograph. This feels more natural and seems to give the person being photographed a sense of collaboration that helps us make better photographs. With this somewhat restrictive lighting set up, I did have to make sure his head and body were positioned in certain ways to disguise his identity but still give us a dramatic and powerful portrait. The photograph the magazine chose was one of the last setups we did, with the lights off center and raking across his face from behind. A little less standard, I think Jennifer chose a strong one.
I had produced a project in Mexico with a local celebrity where we spent $25,000 on security (24-hour armed guard and an executive evasion driver). Did this project require special security?
That sounds crazy! Here, surprisingly, no. Martin showed up on time with just his girlfriend with him, who sat in the lobby of the studio as we photographed Martin. He was incredibly low key about the whole thing, sharing some stories and some small facts about himself. Given the circumstances under which we were photographing him, it was very normal, not much different from the usual small talk that occurs during a portrait session. Some personal stories, some basic back and forth between shots.
Who printed it?
The promo has been printed by Gelato Globe. It’s a Norwegian company that has printing facilities around the world, so wherever you are they choose the closest facility to save shipping costs, and effectively, the environment. And as they put it on their website: “We believe that “collaborative consumption” can be the positive consequence of a “sharing economy”. We believe in sharing fixed assets – in our case sharing of print machines. And in allowing excess capacity to be intelligently allocated.”
Who designed it?
I designed it myself. I find your instagram page very inspirational and I always look at how other photographers have designed their promos.
Who edited the images?
The product shots on black background I have edited myself, the other two are edited by Martin Bo Kristensen of TheImageFaculty.
How many did you make?
I printed 50 in Danish and 50 in English, and send them out to specifically chosen people.
How many times a year do you send out promos?
I try to send out twice a year. My first promo went out in November last year, and this one went out in May.
Design Director: Gail Bichler Art Director: Michael Willey Deputy Art Director: Ben Grandgenett Photographer Director: Kathy Ryan Associate Photo Editors: Amy Kellner, Christine Walsh, Stacey Baker Photographer:Spencer Lowell
Heidi: How difficult was it to get to the location considering how remote the seed vault was? Spencer: The seed vault actually isn’t that remote once you get to the town of Longyearbyen, which is only a couple of connecting flights from LA. You can actually see the vault from the airport up in the mountainside. It has to be accessible because it’s opened up a few times a year for deposits to be made. The biggest difficulty was dealing with the -20 degree temperatures once I was actually at the vault.
What was your security clearance process for the vault? After some googling, I emailed the press department at the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food and told them I was working on a project for the New York Times and wanted to photograph the vault. They wrote me back saying the vault was actually going to be open the following week for a deposit and let me know I was more than welcome to come. I booked my travel and was there the next week. I assume they looked at my website but besides that, there was no security clearance.
Did you have to wear protective gear considering how precious the subject matter was? For the shoot at the seed bank, I was wearing an obscene amount of layers because of how cold it was so no additional protection was needed. I could bare my hands being out of my gloves for a few seconds if I needed to change my camera and light settings but all the actual shooting was with gloves on.
Regarding the frogs, the staff who handled them were wearing gloves but my assistant and I didn’t touch them ourselves so we didn’t need to wear anything protective. However, we did have to clean the bottoms of our shoes before entering the facility to make sure we didn’t drag in any contaminates.
The biggest safety concern on this project was the shoot with the orangutan, Batang and her baby, Redd. Because their DNA is so similar to ours, they’re actually susceptible to our diseases. So I had to get tested for Tuberculosis the week before the shoot, which luckily I didn’t have and the shoot would’ve been called off if I’d had even a slight cold. Ultimately I had to keep my distance and wear scrubs, a mask and gloves.
How long were you allowed in the seed bank? I was allowed inside the vault for a total of about an hour between two visits. I also went back for another 3 visits to shoot the exterior.
How if at all do you think differently about food security, the fragility of life and our handprint on nature after this project; how did you try to convey that in your work? We’re in the midst of the sixth mass extinction this planet has experienced. Four out of the other five extinctions were caused by climate change. The difference with what we’re seeing now is that human impact is changing the climate and it’s happening over decades rather than over thousands of years.
We know this because the ancient atmosphere is trapped in ice, which we’re able to extract from cores and study. I’ve seen a lot of images of ice melting but I felt like images of ice being artificially frozen would carry a powerful message. So, when Amy Kellner at NYT Mag asked me if I had any ideas for climate change stories, I pitched shooting the National Ice Core Lab. She was into the idea and asked if I could find any other facilities storing other natural assets. From there we collaborated on the story along with the writer, Malia Wollan until it became what it is.
It’s easy to forget that we’re a part of nature. We may live in cities and use tools but the fact is, we’re part of the natural world and are capable of causing natural disasters. With that said, we’re also capable of preventing them. That’s the main thing I learned from doing this project- that the hard work and dedication of a few can begin to counteract the mistakes our species is making as a whole.
How much underwater photography had you done prior to the reef shots? I actually got certified to scuba dive for this job. Once I knew the coral nursery was going to be a component of the essay, I wanted to be the one to shoot it. I’ve always had a crippling fear of the ocean but I figured there wouldn’t be a better excuse to move through it. By the time I finished the scuba classes, the fear was gone.
Because I’d never shot underwater, I asked a photographer friend who has done some work underwater if he knew a good underwater assistant and he recommended a guy by the name of Mark Nakagawa. Mark is a seasoned diver and has worked in photo and video underwater so he helped me prep for the shoot and flew with me to the Keys to assist. We did four dives in the two days we were there and I couldn’t have done it without him.
Where there any technical obstacles for this project? This was the most technically challenging project I’ve ever worked on because of the extreme shooting conditions. Between the below freezing temperatures, working underwater out in the ocean and being in the presence of living things that are either rare or no longer exist in the natural world, there was no margin for error. I like working with limitations because I’m forced to make decisions but this shoot left absolutely no room for second guessing.
What did you learn about your self creatively on this assignment? I believe the creative process is in a constant state of refinement. I graduated from college almost a decade ago and I still strive for the same things that I did when I first started my career, I just have more clarity in vision and execution now. Creatively, my goal is to always keep things simple which I feel I was really able to achieve on this project because I didn’t have a choice. Passion for the subject matter plays a major role in my process and I find nothing to be more important than the future habitability of our planet.
What was the direction from the Times photo staff? The whole project was a collaboration with Amy Kellner directly and Kathy Ryan and the rest of the photo department via Amy. With the exception of the Frozen Zoo in San Diego, I had multiple days at each location. So I would send Amy images with my notes from the first day’s shoot at each location and see if there was anything specific she wanted me to focus on the following day(s). If she asked for anything specific, I would do my best to deliver and regardless I would just shoot as much as possible. The clear stream of communication back and forth from the very beginning was the biggest contributing factor to the success of this project.
Design Director: Marshall McKinney Photography Director: Maggie B. Kennedy Associate Photo Editor: Margaret Houston
Heidi: You came from the commercial side of photography as a creative director at Williams-Sonoma, Inc. in San Francisco. What surprised you about editorial photography now that your 11 years in the game?
Maggie: I think working on both the commercial and editorial sides of the photo industry has proved beneficial. I had the opportunity to work with so many talented photographers, stylists, art directors, creatives, etc. during my decade with Williams-Sonoma years as well as be exposed to the various company departments and business overall. How a photograph of a beautiful table setting or friends cooking together sets the tone of a brand. So much is thought about before the actual photograph is taken. Many of the photographers I was fortunate enough to work with at Williams-Sonoma shot both commercial and editorial projects. I think that time marked the beginning of the advertising/commercial world starting to explore a more editorial/lifestyle approach you see in campaigns today. I think the two worlds continue to weave together to keep up with new business models, whether for a retail company, a magazine, any business now. It’s all about creating a larger brand, a lifestyle.
When you left San Francisco, what did most of your peers say about your moving to a start-up? I continued to work with Williams-Sonoma for a few years after relocating to Charleston, SC (Garden & Gun magazine’s hometown). A lot of the photographers and creatives I worked with for so many years in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, etc. thought I had lost my mind moving back to the South!! (I’m originally from North Carolina.) I, too, questioned my decision those first months after landing in Charleston but was ready to be back on the East Coast. But the start-up didn’t enter the picture until a year or so later. I decided to take a leap of faith when I met Rebecca Darwin, Garden & Gun’s president and CEO and one of the founders. She’s an incredible businesswoman and inspiring both professionally and personally. I instantly had a gut feeling and wanted to jump on board! That was September 2006. The first issue of Garden & Gun hit the newsstands April 2007.
Garden & Gun has a dedicated audience. Tell us the story behind the name and how this lifestyle stole everyone’s heart. The name “Garden & Gun” comes from an old Charleston nightclub, popular in the late ‘70s. The Garden & Gun Club. Rebecca thought the name really captured the personality of this new magazine. The “garden” is a metaphor for the land that is the South, the “gun” for the sporting life. Both are key components of our content as well as food and drink, culture, literature, music and art. Nothing like it existed on the newsstand when the magazine was born a decade ago. And the response and dedication from our readers from the beginning has been like nothing anyone has ever seen. Passionate is putting it lightly! We received a letter from an avid reader in the first few years – “If you ever close down Garden & Gun, we will hunt you down and shoot you.” Jokingly of course but this letter is framed in our office and speaks to the heart of the brand.
The brand has exploded in its first decade and now has a store, hosts events, has a podcast, etc. Tell us about the first few issues and the genesis of the brand. It really has been an honour and a privilege to have played a role in getting G&G off the ground since the first issue. It’s come a long way and definitely been a wild ride! That first year it was all hands on deck, only a few people doing a little bit of everything to make G&G a reality. From the beginning, photography has played a large part in the brand visually and it’s exciting to see that continue.
How did the magazine benefit from the recession in the mid-2000s ? The magazine was launched in Spring 2007, right before the great recession. Not the best timing but in the end proved G&G really was a unique brand. We did everything we could to keep the doors open and our readers were so supportive. The recession made G&G stronger than ever and showed us just what this brand could become. It was a time when so many magazines were closing in New York. Even though it was a struggle, I think we benefitted from being independent and not based in NYC. Everyone involved with G&G at that point was fully vested with their heart and soul. It wasn’t just a job, we really believed in what we were creating and so did our readers.
The magazine covers lively people and places off the grid, have you had any production challenges or difficulty explaining to subjects what the shoot entails? Absolutely! But that’s what makes the best stories after ten years. I think that is one of the reasons photographers like shooting for us. Usually, for me, it’s “how are we going to pull this off with barely any budget and within only a week!” The name of our magazine turned heads in the first few years but I’ve always loved sending a copy of the magazine to a photographer, stylist, etc. so they can experience the content. Then they get it and are intrigued to learn more. It’s definitely helped to have a few years under our belt now to secure more high-profile subjects – actors, musicians, etc.
Your magazine celebrates emerging talent, how do you find your photographers? One of my favorite parts of the job is finding up-and-coming photographers and working with them on a first project. Since we’re a general interest title, I get the opportunity to work with all types of shooters – food, still life, portrait, travel, etc. I enjoy discovering emerging talent through a variety of sources – emails, portfolio reviews, social media, blogs, word of mouth. I’ve been lucky to see some of our younger photographers develop professionally through this first decade of G&G. (And sometimes I can still get them on a project if I’m lucky!!) The biggest compliment is to see a G&G shoot on a photographer’s website and know they were inspired by the assignment.
Every title has some obstacles to overcome, such as remote locations and weather what else are you confronted with and what are your solutions? G&G covers very specific subjects in unique locations. Probably 95% of each issue is original photography. That definitely keeps a two person photo department on our toes! One of my favorite “in the field” stories was many years ago. Photographer Jim Herrington shot Morgan Freeman at home in Mississippi. It was a project we’d tried to make happen for a long time and once we got the green light, everything had to come together in a matter of days. I checked in with Jim to see how the shoot was going and received this photo. No words, just photo. That’s the sign of an epic shoot!
Photographer Jim Herrington on assignment at Morgan Freeman’s farm in Mississippi. I emailed Jim to check in and see how the day went and this was the reply.
We always want to think about pairing personalities together (photographer and subject) that will make the best mix. A little matchmaking I guess! Earlier this year photographer Bill Phelps travelled to Gatlinburg, TN for us. The assignment was to take portraits of survivors of the horrible fire that happened last November. A few of the subjects were, of course, apprehensive about having their portrait taken and reliving that awful night. I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen and wanted to ensure they were comfortable and earn their trust. Even the day Bill arrived in Gatlinburg we still weren’t sure if one or two of the subjects would go through with it. Visually, these portraits needed to be artful and stoic rather than documentary in nature to make it feel right for G&G. Bill’s portraits speak for themselves and he and I were both so moved by the project and getting to know these individuals.
Despite being based in Charleston, you’ve been invited to be an SPD judge and involved in the NYC industry scene. What are the benefits of being a bit further from your industry peers?
We all feel lucky to be able to do what we do in Charleston. Anytime a photographer is in town and stops by our office, they want to figure out a way to move here! Rather than an obstacle, our location away from NYC and independence has allowed us to follow our own creative path which is part of the brand loyalty and success. We’ve a national magazine that’s won two ASME General Excellence awards and received other industry recognition in our first decade. We just happen to have a different zip code. I’ve loved being an SPD judge as well as involvement with other creative organizations based in NYC or other cities. I do wish I had opportunities for more regular interaction with industry peers. It’s always an honor to have G&G recognized.
What were some of your favorite images? I love all the work we do, if I had to choose a cover, I’d say the Oct/Nov 2012 cover – biscuits. One of my all-time favorite covers, we were thrilled to win ASME’s Most Delicious. Photographer Johnny Autry.
Chef Ashley Christensen photographed by Peter Yang. Peter was trying to think of what to do with this portrait when he looked out the window of Ashley’s restaurant in Raleigh, NC and saw a man walking his pig down the street. Barbeque is very fitting for this chef but we didn’t tell the pig owner that. Only happens in the South!
Photographer Rush Jagoe and the 610 Stompers in New Orleans, LA. A photo shoot that was inspiring and fun enough to deliver a little video as well.
Photographer Erika Larsen’s portrait of author Barry Hannah. One of the last photos taken before the legendary Southern writer passed away.
The photo of Morgan Freeman looking in the mirror. Jim Herrington took that in Morgan’s mother’s former home on his farm in Mississippi
Photographer Peter Frank Edwards on assignment in rural Virginia. He has photographed for G&G since the very first issue and is such a big part of the brand visually. Hard to choose just one of his assignments through the years but this falconry project was one of the more challenging and “open to interpretation.” We ended up turning in into a photo essay.