Posts by: A Photo Editor

Expert Advice: The Creative Call

- - Expert Advice

Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Just as often as I consult with photographers when they need pricing and negotiation support, I work closely with agencies to oversee projects from initial photographer recommendations through production and retouching. This experience on both sides of productions has allowed me to thoroughly understand what clients are looking for, and many times it’s the photographer’s personality and ability to be a problem solver that lands them the gig. While a photographer’s portfolio and body of work will get them to the point of consideration by a client for a given project, they can articulate their experience and ability to add value to the production that will help them cross the finish line. So, how do clients find out if a photographer will be a sure bet when everything is on the line? Enter the creative call.

Creative calls can take many forms. Sometimes a client (typically an art buyer at an ad agency or a photo editor at a magazine) will send a photographer some notes in an email and will want to hop on a quick call to gauge interest and availability for a small project. Other times (and this is typically the case for larger assignments), these phone calls will be scheduled in advance and involve not only the art buyer or agency producer, but also their creative director, art director, and/or account executives that are involved with the project. These phone calls can make or break a photographer’s chance of being awarded a project, no matter how on-point their numbers are or how great their portfolios look.

Expert Advice, Wonderful Machine, Photography, Photographer, Craig Oppenheimer, The Creative Call, How to Conduct a Creative Call, Best Creative Call Strategies, Professional Creative Call Advice, Creative Call Expert Advice, Wonderful Machine Expert Advice

It’s important to understand a few things about these phone calls. First, you should always assume that the agency/client is considering other photographers, and when they finish a conversation with you, they are likely jumping on a call to talk through the same details with another photographer…or maybe two or three more photographers. For that reason, it’s important to express enthusiasm for a project, be energetic, have questions prepared and generally put your best foot forward. I’ve been on many creative calls where photographers have responded to questions in one-word answers, or don’t have any questions about the project, and this is a sure-fire way for the agency/client to lose interest in you. Clients don’t just want a great photographer; they want a great collaborator as well. They want to work with someone who they’ll enjoy traveling with and be spending a lot of time with in high-pressure situations, and they want to make sure you are like-minded and easy to work with. Above all, they want to make sure that you understand the overall goals from a creative standpoint and a marketing strategy perspective. During the call, it’s therefore important for a photographer to prove that they have fully internalized the project, and explain how they can add value to the production and therefore the entire campaign. First impressions are crucial, and when you are meeting over the phone, it’s your voice and energy that matter, so make it count.

The second important thing to understand about these calls is that clients are trying to figure out if they can trust you. They want to hear how your experience can translate into success, whether that means being a problem solver in tough situations, or being a specialist in a certain genre. Creative calls are the perfect time to brag about recent accomplishments and tell clients about other projects you’ve worked on. Don’t be afraid to drop some names of other clients you’ve worked with, and take the opportunity to relay anecdotes about other shoots. Clients want to know that you are confident in your abilities and that you can handle the pressure of a big assignment. Sometimes clients are looking for you to come up with a plan and drive a given project with confidence from start to finish. That means they might be relying on you to tell them the best way to accomplish a difficult task or suggest production approaches that they may not have thought of.  However, it’s also important to realize when the client will want to be heavily involved in each step, and when they are just relying on you to be a technician to accomplish their fully thought out concept. So, showcase your confidence in a way that lets them know they can trust you, but also expresses enthusiasm for collaboration.

Third, it’s important to know that creative calls are not usually the time to talk about numbers. Save that conversation for a separate call between you and the art buyer or agency producer. The point of the creative call is to talk about…well, the creative! What are you photographing? Where will it take place? What do they want the final images to look like? What’s the story they are trying to tell? How are you going to accomplish it? These are the types of topics to focus on, and this is why the creative directors, art directors, and account executives are also joining the call. So, as much as you are dying to know how much money a client might have to spend, save that question for another conversation.

Fourth, this might seem like common sense, but be sure to take the call in a quiet place where you can focus on the conversation. Don’t jump on the call while you are driving in the car. Don’t be in the middle of the woods with poor reception. Don’t be somewhere noisy. Clients want to know that they have your undivided attention and that you can focus on the project. It’s ok to tell a client that you need to schedule a call when you will be in an appropriate location to talk (your house, a hotel room, a quiet studio), and although your schedule might be busy with other productions, it’s important to show a client that their project is equally (if not more) important as any other production you might be working on.

Lastly, it doesn’t hurt to have a producer on the line with you when you jump on a creative call. They can help you show confidence in your ability to execute a concept by drawing on their experience, and they can ensure that you’ve received all the information you might need to develop a cost estimate when the time comes. It also shows your ability to pull a team together quickly, and lets the agency/client know that you have a team to rely on to execute the project seamlessly.

So, let’s review. Here are the top tips for a successful creative call:

  1. Assume you are one of many options for them. Make them like you more than other contenders.
  2. Exude confidence, but just the right amount. Show them that you have ideas and will be a team player.
  3. Don’t talk about the budget. Save that conversation for another time.
  4. Take the call in a quiet place where you can focus on the conversation.
  5. Invite a producer to join the call. It will help to showcase your capabilities.

If you need help preparing for a creative call, or if you are interested in pricing/negotiation support, don’t hesitate to call 610.260.0200 or reach out. Our consulting services are available to everyone, and we’re always happy to help.

The Daily Promo – Jason Elias

- - The Daily Promo

Jason Elias

Who printed it?
The promo was printed by Paper Chase Press in Hollywood – http://shop.paperchasepress.com/. They are super easy to work with, their color and print quality are pretty high, so I’m always happy with what I get. Every time I go in there I ask for sample packs and fairly recently I saw this postcard book. I thought it was a great and unique way to get noticed and one part I liked was that if someone liked an image, they could easily tear it out and tack it to a wall or put it in their creative archive of work they liked (at least that’s what I had in my imagination). And then one Producer told me she was going to use one as an actual postcard which was great.

Who designed it?
I designed the layout of both the front and the back but the edit was done by a great editor based in Texas, Jasmine DeFoore – https://www.jasminedefoore.com/. I really like Jasmine’s take on things and she always helps me see my work with fresh eyes. Once she knew I was going to do the postcard book, she also had the great idea of having an animated GIF in flipbook form on the back. So I found a great animator in DC named Travis Pietsch to build me one – https://www.travispietsch.com/. I kind of had an idea and he helped craft it and make it. Once I had it on there I realized that as much as you try to stand out in some way, there is also something to just having fun and enjoying being creative for the sake of being creative, and that’s why I loved the flip book so much.

Tell me about the images?
The images in this promo were meant to take someone on a bit of a journey. My initial inclination was just to pack the promo full of what I felt were iconic images. But when I do that I find I have just a bunch of great images with no coherent connection, like all sizzle and no steak. So that’s also why I find working with an editor so helpful. It allows you to take a step back and hopefully connect with something larger in your work. If I were to just put images in it that I love, it might not fully communicate the deeper vision that tends to drive what I shoot, and more importantly, what people hire me for. So Jasmine was able to help me find a through-line, tell the story of what it is that I shoot. So I guess I would say the images are many that I love bridged by others that help evoke the larger vision of why I love to shoot.

How many did you make?
I used to be the guy that printed 2000 promos and blasted them across the land. As I have matured and my work has grown I tend to be much more focused. So I printed 75 and still have 15 in my office.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
As far as printed promos I usually do two small poster runs and one larger book, or now, postcard book a year. Then I also send out maybe 4 to 5 email campaigns a year.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I do think they are effective and I have a couple of clients who specifically contacted me after getting a printed promo. But its hard to know what is most effective and that is why I am pretty excited to be signing with a new rep in January at The Gren Group http://thegrengroupinc.com/. One of the things that Paula and Mark (who run The Gren Group) and I have talked about is using analytics to discover what marketing is most effective. It costs so much money and takes so much time that getting a deeper understanding of what marketing works will, I think, be really insightful.

The Daily Promo – Daymon Gardner

- - The Daily Promo

Daymon Gardner

Who printed it?
Grossman Marketing, handled by Julie O’Gorman
http://www.grossmanmarketing.com/

Who designed it?
Ben Tousley
http://www.wilkerton.com

Tell me about the images?
The promo consists of fifty-three images spanning eight years and is titled <89 Seconds, which represents the total exposure time of all the images. I knew I wanted to play with the concept of time in the early stages of the promo, and realized the concept became a vehicle that allowed my edit to be diverse in subject matter. I’ve been in New Orleans for 10 years and because it’s a small market, have covered a wide range of subject matter. I wanted to include hints of still life, landscape, and documentary work while anchoring the promo with sports and portraiture work. The editing process was tedious, but cohesive in the end I think.

How many did you make?
500, 300 mailed directly from the printer, 200 sent to me that I could mail to current clients with a personalized note or keep on hand as leave-behinds.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
This is my first printed promo and is long overdue. I typically send out an email promo 2-3 times a year and try to setup portfolio meetings whenever possible. I think because I waited so long to send out my first printed piece, I was pretty ambitious and wanted to send out a portfolio essentially. My plan moving forward is to continue a printed piece twice a year, but smaller in scale.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I’ve received a few email responses already and noticed a spike in site traffic the same week the promo shipped. I’ve noticed the open rate on my email campaigns drop off over the years and feel like print is an effective way to break through the clutter. My short term goal for the promo was to get my work in front of people and build a handful of relationships, both in editorial and advertising. I believe I already am meeting that short-term goal. Long term, I hope to build on those relationships and earn the opportunity to create images for those individuals. Its too early to measure that goal, but I’m optimistic.

The Daily Promo – River Jordan

- - The Daily Promo

River Jordan

Who printed it?
The promo was printed in Portland by Mark Evans at Premier Press. (mark.evans@premierpress.com / premierpress.com).

Who designed it?
The design was a fun collaboration between Mariah Jochai at Craft-O-Graph (mariah@craftograph.com / craftograph.com) and myself. Mariah has helped me with logos, web design, and also happens to be a badass creative director too! I had a couple of different ideas for this promo so I got out my scissors, made a rough version of it, and then Mariah created the template. I placed the photos and then she took over, gave it some swag, and made sure it would print properly.

Tell me about the images?
My goal for this piece was to show a range of the work I had done over the past 18 months. I shoot three very different things- sports, travel stories, and cowboys. I decided that I would focus on water-related adventures for this project. The images are a combination of personal projects, editorial assignments, and advertising work. My goal with photography has always been to shoot what I love and then hopefully have that translate into work for companies and magazines. I have a great rotating crew of guys that I travel with and finding off the beaten path adventures is not only super fun but helps keep the inspiration flowing in my work.

The first spread of the promo was a trip that we took to El Salvador and Colombia. We didn’t really know much about surfing in Colombia but we ended up perched on the edge of the jungle for a week. We scored surf for one day and then ended up diving with whales and hunting for waterfalls the rest of the time. As luck would have it, I ended up shooting a similar combination of activities in Indonesia for a magazine a couple months later.

I love to do projects with athletes. Their focus, determination, and competitive nature are infectious! The Hawaii section was a trip I took with pro volleyball player Tri Bourne to his hometown in Oahu. The goal was to get some insight into what kind of an environment builds an Olympic caliber athlete. I had all kinds of questions! They were answered in the time we spent bodysurfing at his local break, hiking with his childhood friends, canoe sailing down the coast, and bullshitting in the back of an open truck on the way to the North Shore. These are the types of projects I live for!

How many did you make?
We printed 500. My agency pulled together a list of potential clients that I would love to work with and then I sent a bunch to folks I’ve done projects with in the past. I put 400 in the mail, sent 50 to my agency, and kept 50 for meetings.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
This is the first “proper” promo I have ever sent. I have done some postcards in the past that were sent as thank you notes and such but this was the first one.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
For me, it’s just an amazing way to connect with potential clients. Not to mention I love having something tangible to share with people! I have spoken to a few people since the promos went out and they all said positive things. I’m hoping a few of them made an impact! I sometimes think photographers put a little too much emphasis on positioning themselves in a certain way. I like an approach that reflects who you are and what you’re passionate about. My Dad’s side of the family are cattle ranchers from Colorado so I spent time on the ranch when I was a kid, my folks bought a boat and we sailed all over the world when I was in my early teens, and then I played water polo in high school. Everything I focus on in my work is either something I know about from personal experience or that I’m curious about. Generally, those things go hand in hand.

I think that at the end of the day your marketing should reflect your story. Live a great story, share it, and the right people will find ya!

The Daily Promo – Emily Shur

- - The Daily Promo

Emily Shur

Who printed it?
I printed it with Anthony Wright who is sort of a print broker, for lack of a better term. You send him the specs of the project. He will source the printing and quote based on your needs – printing only, printing + mailing services, etc. He oversees the job and was actually the one who was on press for this project as I was out of town.

Who designed it?
The fabulous George McCalman designed it.

Tell me about the images?
Well, this is really a big ol’ mixed bag. There’s some editorial work, some advertising work, and some personal work. I knew I wanted to do a promo piece that showed different facets of my work. I love doing celebrity portraiture, but I also love doing other things so I’ve been trying to integrate the “other things” in with the work that clients may already associate with me or my style. It’s a little risky because I don’t want to confuse people, but I do want to make sure I’m showing work that I’m proud of, excited about, and would be excited to shoot. The thought process behind grouping these images together specifically was to show images that (hopefully) all feel rooted in a consistent point of view even though the subject matter and style might be varied.

How many did you make?
I made 1500 total and mailed out about 1400.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I try to do one printed promo a year on my own, and my reps do an agency promo once a year as well.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
It’s hard to say definitively, but I think I’ve had the best luck with quality printed pieces over quantity. The promos that seem to help the most are the more thoughtful and ambitious ones – the ones that take longer to put together and are more expensive, which some years just aren’t doable – but if you book some good jobs because of it then it will pay for itself. I don’t see the point in spending money or energy on a forgettable piece. However, you never really know what people will respond to, so sometimes you have to trust your judgment and just go for it.

The Daily Promo – Brian Kaldorf

- - The Daily Promo

Brian Kaldorf

Who printed it?
The postcards were printed by www.4by6.com. I really like their finishes and variety. The boxes were printed by www.packlane.com– super easy to upload a design and excellent service. The tissue paper was done by digiwrapit.com, again, a huge variety of the types and textures of paper that they offer. Last and certainly not least, the mini growler was made by this wonderful company sigilandgrowler.com. They do a variety of custom growler configurations, really awesome stuff.

Who designed it?
I did all of the design work myself, I worked with a designer on my initial branding years ago and I’ve been slowly rolling out these hyper-targeted mailers.

Tell me about the images?
I had the concept for this particular promo long before I even had a full body of beverage work. I discovered the sigil and growler website and the idea for a personalized promo evolved from that. I wanted something that felt a little more personal than just the standard postcard. The imagery has been an ongoing evolution to produce a new beverage portfolio with the hopes of attracting some new beverage clients. My primary background is in product photography and I worked for about a year on this new book (you can view the new portfolio here). I wanted to produce images that were dynamic, graphic, and clean.

How many did you make?
So far I have only created half a dozen due to the expense. Because of the cost, I am hyper-targeting who they go out to- mainly dream clients or those who have really, legitimately shown an interest in this new body of work.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
Right now I send printed promos in the form of 6 postcards spaced out throughout the year. I also do an email blast that goes out every month that the printed promo doesn’t go out. Larger promos ( like this growler box) aren’t based on a timetable, but rather go out based on interest level in my work and potential client interaction.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I think it’s a “fire on all fronts” kind of thing with promotional material. I think for the most effective return on your efforts you need to be doing all you can to get and keep your name and work out there. It can’t just be printed promos, it needs to be email blasts, face to face meetings, phone calls, etc., anything that keeps you top of mind with our client base.

The Daily Promo – Lauryn Ishak

- - The Daily Promo

Lauryn Ishak

Who printed it?
It was printed by Ilitho in Indonesia (http://www.ilitho.co.id/). Brownfox uses them frequently and their quality is great and they’re one of the few able to do offset printing, with certain stock papers at a smaller print run and also at a reasonable cost.

Who designed it?
Brownfox Studio (http://brownfoxstudio.com/). I was introduced to Brownfox Studio by an art director friend of mine and really liked their work. They have a superb portfolio, most of it for brands and F&B outlets but are experienced in photography, as well, as they design the feature stories of the Indonesian-based travel magazine DestinAsian (http://www.destinasian.com/). Brownfox also redesigned my website (www.laurynishak.com).
We went through very minimal revisions as their ideas were pretty spot on. It was minimalist and practical but striking and beautiful at the same time.

Tell me about the images?
I worked with Stacy Swiderski at Wonderful Machine on the selection. We went through a couple of revisions on the selects as they had to be somewhat equal in representation (portrait, lifestyle, food, hospitality, travel, etc) and new work kept coming into the fold. In the end, we picked 60 images. This meant that I was able to curate a set of 8 (each envelope contains 8) for a specific client or industry. Having that breadth of 60 also means that I am able to make many different “general” versions for leave-behinds.

How many did you make?
I printed 60 images at 50 counts each. I have 200 of the green envelopes and 200 of the fabric pouches. We figured we could make more if we needed to. More than half has been mailed out or left behind after meetings with clients.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
Living in Asia and working with quite a few regional clients, promos aren’t quite as common as they are in the US. It’s just a different way of working out here. I had done a promo a long time ago when I first started shooting but didn’t think it was much needed. Then luckily things got busy over the years and the thought of making a proper promo, truthfully, fell by the wayside. But last year, I figured it was finally time to make one so I got cracking and designed these ones with Brownfox Studio. And from now on, I’ll do them once a year.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I’ve received very positive feedback on these so far and in the short time these have been circulating, some editors have gotten in touch with queries and needs which have led to collaboration. However, having said that, since this is my first one in a long time, I think I need to give it a little bit more time to make a proper assessment.

Pricing & Negotiating: Licensing Extension

Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine

Concept: Licensing extension

Licensing: Unlimited use of 36 images for two additional years

Photographer: Lifestyle and portrait specialist

Agency: Mid-sized agency based in the Midwest

Client: One of the largest manufacturers you’ve probably never heard of

Here is the estimate:

pricing and negotiating, wonderful machine, estimates for shoot production, shoot production estimates, executive producers who do estimates, estimates for photographers, wonderful machine production company, examples of photographer contracts, Jess Dudley, executive producer

I wanted to take this opportunity to make the case, yet again, for limiting licensing. As many of you have surely experienced, clients are increasingly expecting unlimited use, by default, regardless of the intended use. Nevertheless, it is important to press against that default request whenever you face it.

A lot of times, you’ll get the canned, CYA response – “it’s going to end up in a lawless, Wild West of an asset library and our people can’t be trusted to read the metadata or attached restrictions.”

I don’t blame clients for taking this protective stance. If an intern inadvertently pulls an image for a use beyond the scope of its licensing restrictions, the client could get dinged with an unexpected licensing fee, talent fee and/or infringement claim. However, acceptance of an unlimited usage agreement eliminates the opportunity to generate future revenue for a given image or set of images, which is crucial to sustaining and growing any photography business.

Unfortunately, the request/expectation/demand for unlimited use has become so ubiquitous that we have defined the term in our standard terms and conditions. In some cases, when the client asks for a buyout or unlimited use, they mean it and plan to fully utilize the extensive license (price at-will in those cases). But in many cases, they don’t, so it is important to do your due diligence to find out exactly what the client means by “unlimited.”  “Unlimited,” like “Buyout,” means different things to different people, so it’s important to run through the gamut of potential uses and mediums with the client to figure out exactly how they plan to use the images. Do they really need international use? Are they really planning to put billboards up in El Paso? Do they really plan to use the images after 2024? It could be that they mean an “unlimited” or unknown quantity of emailers, postcards or brochures. “Unlimited” collateral use is far less valuable for most clients than “unlimited” advertising use. Or they may be referring to the duration of use or the number of images from the shoot, expecting a “library” of content instead of a set number.

The point is, it is important to press for more info so that you can create the opportunity to generate licensing fees down the road. Once you narrow the scope to precisely what the need is, push hard to cap the duration for as brief a window as tolerable, even if that means giving up imagery. In many cases, there’s real potential for the client to extend the duration of use, even by a few months, while they wind down a particular placement.

Last year I wrote a post about a project I negotiated for a Trade Ad campaign. The client came to us with a broad scope of use (Unlimited), but was willing to limit the duration of use, and also requested pricing options for licensing extensions. This allowed us the opportunity to create the potential for future revenue. Just as the license was set to expire at the end of last year, I followed up with the client to find out if they were still using the images, and/or if they planned on extending the licensing through 2017 or 2018. (side note – get in the habit of adding license expirations to your calendar or using license tracking software like Blinkbid to remind you when licenses are set to expire so you can follow up about continued use).

The client was still using the images and planned to continue doing so through 2018. On the approved shoot estimate, we’d quoted the 2018 duration extension at $26,750.00 That represented the minimum licensing fee we would be proposing. I say minimum because our standard terms note that any licensing options presented are only valid for 15 days from original file delivery. It’s written this way because the leverage shifts dramatically after the images are created and as time wears on. In a perfect world, the expiration of the licensing option pricing would be the day before the shoot, but that may be a little too aggressive. The value of the imagery changes (generally increasing) as you move from estimating to delivery to first use.

If a client comes back to extend usage, it could simply mean that they now have funds that they didn’t initially, or that something that was unknown and unproven is now known and proven, essentially giving us leverage to push for higher fees based on the new perceived value. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Once those numbers hit the page on the initial estimate, in normal circumstances, you’ll be hard pressed to increase the fees in any substantial way without potentially impacting your relationship with the client (particularly if there is additional work on the horizon, which in this case there was… more on that in a future post). Also, in this instance, we felt like the fees were healthy enough, to begin with, so there wasn’t much need to even consider higher fees. Accordingly, we sent the above quote, which was quickly approved by the client to allow for the uninterrupted use of the imagery.

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing a project, please give us a call at (610) 260-0200. We’re available to help with any and all pricing and negotiating needs—from small stock sales to large ad campaigns.

The Daily Promo – Winnie Au

- - The Daily Promo

Winnie Au

Who printed it?
Kirkwood Printing – they’re a great place based a little outside of Boston, MA. They have been in the business forever and were really easy to work with. I previously have done a lot of digital printing/printing through the internet for my promos so it was nice to do something that involved person to person contact. I went to the press check, and I really enjoyed touring their space, seeing the CMYK plates, and meeting people who know their colors, machines and craft so well.

Who designed it?
Suzanne McKenzie. I was very lucky to have someone as talented as Suzanne working on my promo. We’ve known each other for many years, and I’ve done several shoots for her company Ablemade, so it was a natural fit to have her design something for me. She has an amazing vision and understands the type of people I am trying to reach, so it was great to have her insight and eye on both the edit and design.

Tell me about the images?
We spent a lot of time working on the edit of this zine. I do a lot of shoots of various subjects, which is generally a great thing, except when it comes time to edit. I think that a huge part of what defines you as a photographer comes down to your edit, especially in this age of digital photography where we tend to [as photographers] shoot way more frames than film photographers did. So sifting through the past year’s work to tell a coherent story can take some time. As my other photographer friends have advised me in the past, you have to only show work that you want to get. A lot of my work is environmental portraiture, so I wanted this zine to be a window into the lives of the people I am lucky enough to photograph, as well as showcase diversity of age, gender, and race. I always find my subjects and their lives/homes/workplaces to be inspiring, so hopefully, others who see the images in my zine will also find inspiration in them.

How many did you make?
An edition of 1000 – we mailed out 750 copies to art buyers, photo editors and to past/current/prospective clients. I retained the rest for my rep to hand out in person and for my own in-person meetings.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
Not enough! Usually, I manage to do 2 print promos a year – one larger mailer and then a more focused holiday mailer. And then I do email newsletters in between, more frequently throughout the year. I think the strategy of doing smaller mailers or postcards (vs a 52-page zine) more frequently could be effective, but I haven’t figured out how to make that work with my brain and schedule.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
Yes, definitely. I guess a huge part of me just enjoys printing things and so selfishly I like to tell myself that of course, it’s effective and worth the time and money.

But on a less emotional and more logical side, I think that if you can make print pieces that stand out, they are extremely effective. I know art buyers/editors do receive a lot of promos, but at the same time, I think people still enjoy receiving old-fashioned snail mail and packages that are thoughtfully executed. Hopefully, someone will keep it at their desk or on their shelf as a reference. But basically, if just one person gives you a job after seeing your promo or remembers your name who didn’t know it before, it all becomes worth it.

This year a few of the people I sent promos to did Instagram stories of the inside of it, which was a nice way to get instant feedback from the promo and know that it made it into my intended audience’s hands and that they were enjoying it. I think all marketing is still a numbers game. If you can reach someone via snail mail, great. If you can reach some via an email newsletter, also great. You really just need to be reaching people through various methods so that at the end of they day, they know you exist or are aware of your recent work.

Tell me about the title?
The title “Without Words” is part of an ongoing theme in my print promos. The first zine promo I did was named “Wander Over With”. The second one I did was named “Way Over Where”.

The connecting thread is that each title loosely is an acrostic spelling out “WOW” in it (which refers back to my website winniewow.com, which happens to be a phonetic spelling of my full name, Winnie W Au). It’s a bit convoluted and I don’t think anyone will ever notice, but it helps me creatively to have this structure to work around when naming my promos. Or…is it a really effective subliminal message?! Ok, probably not, but one can hope.

The Daily Promo – Elysa Weitala

- - The Daily Promo

Elysa Weitala

Who printed it?
HH Imaging in San Francisco printed the photo cards. I’ve worked with them on a few other projects and they are wonderful! Great quality prints and awesome people! The custom blue box was printed by Packlane and the branded wrapping paper was from Spoonflower.

Who designed it?
Last year I went through a full rebranding with a team at Wonderful Machine. This promo was the final piece to my new brand! Karen Yee was my amazing designer throughout the entire rebranding and created the design and concept for this promo. Stacy Swiderski was my editor and helped me select just the right images.

Tell me about the images?
My editor, Stacy and I wanted to make sure that my first large promo showcased the range and variety of my work. With a cohesive style that reaches across my primary disciplines, Food and Still Life / Product Photography, we opted to send each contact a set of both food and lifestyle cards. The images are a mix of personal and commissioned work from the past few years. The images chosen worked well together but could also stand strong on their own.

How many did you make?
100 Complete Box Sets and 20 Individual Card Sets

How many times a year do you send out promos?
This is my first promo! I plan to send one intricate or large promo each year followed by one (or two) smaller promos throughout the year.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
Yes, very much so! It is a break from the constant stream of digital media present in this industry. It also gives me the chance to bring elements and materials into my branding that is not possible with a website, blog, or email campaigns.

The Daily Promo – Lisa Linke

- - The Daily Promo

Lisa Linke now represented by Picture Matters

Regarding the promo:

https://www.prodpi.com/ printed the promos. Their quality is great and I also order the prints for my portfolio book there.

I designed the promo myself, I wanted to make a simple and cost-effective mailer, that the receiver wants to open right away. After making a really involved promo about a year ago, I felt like this was the right idea. Cards are always nice, because you can share a specific image with another creative that caught your eye. Each card has my contact info on it, so that whoever ends up looking at it, can reach out. I didn’t want to show a specific car as an opening image, instead I chose something environmental, that gives an indication on what is inside the envelope, but doesn’t tell too much. To me it was important to not only show the car, but also the surroundings. A car brings you to places and I often forgot to capture where it brought me to, so this time I wanted to show this and make it be part of my mailer.

The shoot itself was really fun and I was excited to share these images with creatives and agencies. But who doesn’t like jumping a truck in the desert?! To me this shoot was more like an adventure than work, an experience I was able to share during portfolio reviews. This adventure included me almost getting bit by a snake, a lot of dust and the most beautiful sunrise I had seen in a long while.

I actually made two different mailers, one with the off-road car and one with a performance car showing the capability of the vehicle to be used on streets as well as on a race track. Not every agency or client does shoots that involve off-roading, so I wanted to make two mailers I could send out to the right people. I made about 30 of each, so 60 total. The ones I had left I used to hand out during meetings.

This is the second mailer I made. I’m trying to send out mailers at least twice a year, simply to remind people of me and keep them posted about special projects.

I think print promos can be really effective. I personally love seeing my work printed, it shows the quality of your work. Even if it doesn’t get you a job right away, people remember you and your work and maybe at some point they get back to you.

The Daily Promo – Carmen Chan

- - The Daily Promo

Carmen Chan

Who printed it?
It was printed by FLASH Reproductions in Toronto. The designer found the printer and FLASH mailed us physical proofs to check color and quality before going to print. We went with them because they were able to accommodate the special binding for a reasonable rate.

Who designed it?
Kati Forner (katiforner.com)
I became a fan of her work via the print spreads she designed for other clients, and felt as though our styles aligned. She also has experience creating photographer’s pieces – coming up with a design language and format that speaks to each photographer’s work is a passion of hers. She started by presenting me with four design concepts (some of which I didn’t choose, she’s shared on her instagram) and explored cover layouts for one of them and then she went ahead with the layout.

Tell me about the images?
The images are an edit of my commercial, editorial, and personal work from the last 1-2 years for clients including WWD, Cereal Magazine, and Marriott Hotels. I sent Kati a wide edit of my favorite work and gave her free reign to make the first edit for the layout. We swapped out a few images after receiving input from a few close friends who are familiar with my body of work. I really liked the pairings we ended up with and the variety in scale and space throughout the piece.

How many did you make?
500. Half of them have been mailed to prospective clients. The rest will go to current clients, friends, and I’ll keep the rest as leave-behinds.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
Last year, I sent out my first promos – a variety of double sided 5×7 postcards. This year, I’m only sending this one. Moving forward, I’ll be sending them once a year.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
It’s nice to be able to share your work in a print piece that is designed in a way that compliments your work, and this piece in particular acts as a mini-portfolio. So I think they can be effective in conjunction with your work being seen elsewhere. A good example of this is a photo rep I recently met with who first saw my work in a magazine, then received my printed promo, then received my e-newsletter and responded to the newsletter asking for a meeting. Then there’s serendipity – the postcard promos that were sent last year were graciously shared on your instagram feed (@aphotoeditor) and John Cogan from GOODNOISE (goodnoisephoto.com) saw it and reached out. We worked on a commercial job together last month that wouldn’t otherwise had come about had I not shared that promo with you. Thank you so much for sharing it!

Jerry Saltz: My Life As a Failed Artist

- - Working

But then I looked back, into the abyss of self-doubt. I erupted with fear, self-loathing, dark thoughts about how bad my work was, how pointless, unoriginal, ridiculous. “You don’t know how to draw,” I told myself. “You never went to school. Your work has nothing to do with anything. You’re not a real artist. Your art is irrelevant. You don’t know art history. You can’t paint. You aren’t a good schmoozer. You’re too poor. You don’t have enough time to make your work. No one cares about you. You’re a fake. You only draw and work small because you’re too afraid to paint and work big.”Every artist does battle, every day, with doubts like these. I lost the battle. It doomed me. But also made me the critic I am today.

Read More: Jerry Saltz: My Life As a Failed Artist

Chris Buck: The Story Behind Newsweek’s Michele Bachmann Cover

- - Working

On August 11, 2011, Newsweek ran a photograph of Congresswoman, GOP presidential candidate, and tea party darling Michele Bachmann that ignited a media firestorm. The image taken on assignment by Chris Buck earned her the nickname, “Crazy Eyes” and marked a turning point as she went from leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination to eventually abandoning the race in 6th place. Newsweek Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown defended the image choice and headline “the Queen of Rage” as merely portraying intensity, but many felt it was unnecessarily unflattering and sexist. In May of 2013, under investigation for ethics violations, Michele Bachmann announced she would not seek re-election in 2014.

The image also marked a turning point for Chris Buck as he had spent the previous year campaigning photo editors to assign him serious political work and this breakthrough image sent him on a path shooting more and more A-List covers in the years to come.

On November 11, 2011, I interviewed Chris about the cover and he was refreshingly candid about how it all went down. Unfortunately, the controversy had just simmered down and Newsweek was afraid to reignite it again, so we shelved the interview. Luckily, Chris has a new retrospective book out titled Uneasy (https://www.chrisbuckuneasy.com/buy-now) and this image is included so we can now tell the story behind the Michele Bachmann cover. I think you’ll find it just as relevant today.

— aPE

Rob Haggart: I want to start with Newsweek calling you to shoot a politician for the cover. That’s not something that probably happens very often with you, is it?

Chris Buck: Let’s go back to the 2008 presidential election, which I felt was such a special time, because the electorate was ignited in a way that I’ve never seen in the years I’d lived in the US. I was upset about having not gotten any of those jobs. So I decided to do whatever I could, to try to get that work for the 2012 cycle.

Rob: What did you do to try and get that work?

Chris: I put up a section on my website of political portraits. Then I made an e-mail newsletter addressing that question specifically. I featured my shoot with William F. Buckley Jr. from 2004 and had the portrait of him plus some funny out-takes. Then I contacted a number of clients more directly who I knew commissioned political shoots, like GQ, New York Magazine, and ultimately Newsweek.

Rob: It worked…

Chris: I have now shot three politicians in this election cycle for different magazines. It’s all very, very last minute. I’m basically given the heads-up a few days ahead and then I just sit around waiting for the phone call where they’re like, “Go to the airport now!” And I rush off to the airport.

Rob: And that’s because of both the approval process and the scheduling?

Chris: There’s no approval process.

Rob: They don’t have people who approve photographers?

Chris: Not that I know of. I would imagine that it could come up as a First Amendment issue if politicians were appearing to pointedly dictate terms to the press.

Rob: It’s not the same as with a celebrity then? I guess I just assumed it was. Ok, how did the assignment go down?

Chris: Newsweek contacted me, the photo editor emailed me saying, “Would you be available for this?” and he said, “It will be either Sunday or Monday, or on the weekend, we’re not sure.” My schedule was open enough. I said, “Yes, just let me know.”

I put the assistant on hold, got together the equipment I needed and just waited. Then, at the last second it was, “Go to Washington. No, no, go to Iowa. No. Go to Washington. No, no. Wait. Wait. Go to Iowa.” In the end I went to Iowa. We were actually in Iowa for a day with the campaign and then went to Washington the next day, which is where the portraits were made. The scheduling was quite chaotic.

Rob: Why do you think Newsweek hired you to shoot Michele Bachmann? Did they want something besides the traditional power portrait for the cover?

Chris: I’m not going to go into detail about my conversations with Newsweek but I think that it’s reasonable to assume that they hired me for what I do. My guess is that they wanted something a little bit more human and vulnerable.

Rob: They said, “Do your thing.”

Chris: We had a more detailed conversation than that because it is a cover. But, yes, they did say something along those lines at some point. Of course I know since it’s a cover I need to get a variety of shots. I feel a professional obligation that I give them some choices, partly, even to surprise me. Maybe it would be something I wouldn’t think of as my first choice and maybe that would be the most interesting thing. You never know.

Rob: Take me to the shoot. You’re in D.C. now.

Chris: Her campaign team were staying at the Willard Hotel; I met up with Ms. Bachmann and her people in their room. They were pushing for me to shoot there but I didn’t want to, I didn’t like the idea that the space I was going to shoot in was also going to be the suite of rooms where they are spending the day doing their business. It just made me uncomfortable. So, I looked around with the hotel staff and found another space to shoot and rented it.

Rob: How much time are they giving you to do the pictures?

Chris: We were told we’d have a half an hour.

Rob: OK, that’s good.

Chris: I didn’t realize how little time politicians often give, but it turns out that wasn’t bad. With Rahm Emanuel for Bloomberg Businessweek, we followed him around for a day, and they were trying to give us 60 seconds at a time for portraits. And I was like, “That just won’t do”. And after three long conversations, they got me a five-minute block, which they considered very generous.

Rob: Wow, OK.

Chris: So half an hour seemed kind of reasonable. If the subject is cooperative and you’ve got time to prepare ahead of time, it’s totally workable.

We had different setups in this suite of rooms. The back room was a small conference room, so we moved the conference table over, and set up the blue backdrop and some lighting. I closed the drapes so I could see what my model lights were doing. It was now a semi-dark mini photo studio.

The candidate came in a little bit late and then we waited a few minutes for the makeup artist. I went over to chat with her and she was really distracted, barely acknowledging that I was standing there. I was kind of surprised, because at the rally she was very engaged with people. And even when I saw her earlier that day, she was relaxed and happy to chat.

Rob: Did you get a sense at all that she didn’t trust you, or didn’t trust Newsweek, that she thought they had an agenda behind what they were doing?

Chris: I didn’t really know what to make of it. I just thought that she had something on her mind, and that once we stepped into the other room that she’d be engaged and it would be all good. But that’s not what happened.

It’s very important that I have a meaningful or even non-meaningful conversation with a subject as we’re going into a shoot. It’s not necessarily that I want my subjects to be super-relaxed, but there is some basic level of decorum. We’re moving into this space and we’re going to work together on this. A portrait is collaboration, and it’s laying the groundwork for that. In doing my reading ahead of time I try to pick up on little details about them and their stories, so that they know that I’ve done my homework, and I’m genuinely immersed in what’s going on. I think it shows in the work too.

So we go in the room, I have her in the frame, and she is very stiff. I said, “I’d like you to relax, and maybe even if you want to gesture a little bit, we can even talk so you can be more relaxed. I want something more animated with more life.” And she said something like, “I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to look foolish for you. I’m not going to gesture in some way that you’re going to capture that’s going to make me look foolish or awkward.”

Rob: [laughs] Holy crap.

Chris: And she said “I’m not going to be portrayed this way by the left-wing media. I’m not going to let the left-wing media frame me in some way that is going to be damaging to me.” I’m paraphrasing, but it was along those lines.

I was shocked, because one, it’s amazing for someone just to speak their mind so directly, but two, we had really just begun. And I was asking for something pretty standard, you know? Not to say that she has to do everything I say, but there are other ways to deflect or refigure something without directly accusing me and my client of trying to disparage her.

She also started talking about how when Obama was running. “He was always portrayed so favorably, and that’s the kind of treatment I want.” I was just… I mean, I didn’t know how to respond to this. And she started talking about specific Time Magazine covers that she thought were unflattering. She mentioned one of Laura Bush. I had never seen this picture, but she described it as a black-and-white picture of the first lady where every pore and line is showing.

And she asks, “that’s not how this lighting is, right? That’s not this kind of lighting?” And I said, “Well, we’ll show you or your representatives a frame so you can see how the lighting looks.” So we did a few frames so we could show her one that might look good.

Rob: So you showed them a frame to try and get her to relax.

Chris: Yes, and basically what I said to her was, look, Newsweek wants a really interesting picture, and you want a picture where you look great. And I kind of did this gesture of two circles in the air. And I said, you know, Newsweek wants this — and then I added one with my other hand — and I said there’s this other circle, and here’s where they overlap – like a quarter of each circle kind of overlaps in the middle. “Let’s find this sweet spot in the middle where you can feel confident about the way you’re portrayed, and they’re going to have a really great, interesting picture. Let’s aim for that.

And she agreed. But as we tried to move towards something I realized that, basically she agreed in theory, her attitude was already set. She was already upset and defensive. One of the things I found surprising about the whole thing that it wasn’t one of her staff who was saying, “We’re hoping we can do something like this with the candidate. Can we start that way at least, and see where we go?” That’s the kind of conversation that usually happens with a handler.

Rob: There are no handlers involved in this?

Chris: Well, there were handlers there, but surprisingly it was the candidate who was fighting her own battle.

Rob: So, you’re four minutes in, the clock is ticking down and you’re arguing with Michele Bachmann. She said, “I’m not giving you anything.” And you’re trying to tell her, “Let’s try and meet in the middle,” and she’s still refusing. So when does this picture happen?

Chris: I’m shooting and talking, it’s just a photographer’s instinct, you don’t stop shooting, at least not entirely. Of course, part of my thinking is “I’ve got to get something.”

Rob: And snap, you took the picture. Amazing. So she basically came in super defensive and said “I’m not going to give you anything,” and as she was saying that the picture that you made is the one…?

Chris: I’m not 100% sure, because I’m shooting as we’re talking. But looking at it, clearly she has either just finished talking or she is about to talk.

Rob: Incredible. Then what?

At a certain point her people are like, “Look, she needs to get back on to the Hill to do a vote. We need to leave in 10 minutes.” I’ve learned to be stubborn about protecting the time I’ve been promised because people will happily take that away from you. I said, “Look, you’re not ready to do this. You should leave. Go do your vote. Go do whatever obligations you have. And I hope you can come back later, maybe in an hour and a half, two hours or whatever, and we can do this right. Think about how you might want to do this in a way that we can both be happy.”

Rob: Wow. So you sent her away because she’s not giving you what you need.

Chris: My feeling is it’s much better to come in positive but cautious than to come in negative and defensive. No one looks good when they’re saying, “I don’t trust you.”

Rob: OK, so take me through the second session. What happened?

Chris: I’ve worked out some locations that her handler felt would help the candidate relax. I was wary about shooting outside because it gives us less control, and it sucks up time, but he felt that she’d be more relaxed in a real-world environment. He said that the room with the blue background, because it was small and dark, spooked her.

So that’s what we did first when she first came back, and clearly they had spoken with her and she was much more relaxed. Plus, she had gotten some of her duties out of the way and her schedule was less pressed. Some of the pictures from this next section are much more relaxed, and she looks great.

We shot there a bit, but I wasn’t really liking what I was getting. I was feeling like, for both my client and for myself, that these were looking like PR pictures.

Rob: Right. They’re not cover pictures.

Chris: I still needed to get something that was a great portrait for Newsweek and hopefully point towards something really interesting as a photographer for me. So, we went to this semi-rooftop of the building, and we did some more outdoor shots there. She was a little bit more relaxed but her hair wasn’t looking so great. She had already had a long day and she’s a little distracted now, and some of these pictures don’t have the same kind of focus as earlier. Then we went down to the oval room, and we shot maybe a dozen frames and that was it. But it was really a shame, if they’d given us another 20 minutes; I think we could have found that sweet spot that would have been a great Newsweek picture as well as something that she would have felt more comfortable with.

Rob: So when you’re doing your edit and you see this picture, are you thinking, “Yeah, that’s a Chris Buck shot”?

Chris: I turned in 21 images and I think we did five different set-ups, so I handed in a mix from two frames to five frames from each scenario. I had three favorites. The one that became the cover, the one in that Oval Room that became an inside picture, and then the one I showed as an outtake on my blog.

By the way, one thing I’ll mention to you, is that I did something I almost never do, which is when the shoot was done I let the handler who was there hang around and look over our shoulders a little bit while we were looking at the material. I wanted him to know that what I had said before was genuine, that I really was trying to find a place that both the candidate and the magazine could be happy.

Rob: So he saw all the pictures?

Chris: We didn’t sit and specifically walk him through the pictures because the last thing I want is for him to say something like, “That picture is something I don’t like. I’d rather you not use it.” But he knew perfectly well he wasn’t there to influence the edit.

Rob: So Newsweek orders the high res…

Chris: They order four high res: the praying shot, the one that became the cover, the oval room picture, and then one at the rally.

Rob: Did you know that this shot was going to be the cover?

Chris: No, when he gave me the image order, he said, “We might come back and ask for more.” In fact, on Friday night, he came back and asked for two more. And one of them was one of the rooftop shots and one of them was another shot from the blue background set-up.

I was a little worried because those shots were more conventional and less interesting to me, I was really pleased with their initial edit and I told them so. A lot of people assume that the edit was entirely Newsweek’s doing and ultimately what ran was their choices, but I know if I include something in my edit, it could be used. I stand by my edit.

Rob: Did you have any idea of the controversy that would come after running this picture on the cover?

Chris: I did have some idea, but the scale of it was larger than I expected. They released the cover to the media on Sunday night, so I Googled, “Newsweek Bachmann cover” and already it was on “Gawker” or a site like that. They sent out a pretty high res pdf of the cover. So sites were blowing it up really big, just on the face, and it was already being talked about as being like a controversial cover. Let’s just say, I didn’t sleep very well that night.

Rob: [laughs] You didn’t?

Chris: No.

Rob: Really? You were distressed?

Chris: I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I was pleased they picked a really interesting picture. But at the same time, I’m a human; ultimately I would love it if people liked the pictures I take of them. It’s not my first thought, it’s not my first obligation, but I’m human. I prefer they like it, than not like it. And I understood that she was unlikely to be happy with this choice.

Rob: Then you must battle with that constantly because I can’t imagine ever hiring Chris Buck and not trying to get some kind of moment like that.

Chris: I’m not saying that it’s not fair and that it’s not reasonable. I included it in the edit not only because I think it’s interesting but because on some level I feel that it captures something of who she is, something of her character and something of her campaign. It was one of the most intense and aggressive photo shoots that I’ve ever experienced in my career. So in a way, she helped make this portrait happen. The edit reflects the environment in the room; it conveys the intensity of the session.

Rob: And that’s what makes it an amazing story, but also understand that doing that is what makes you Chris Buck, what makes you a unique photographer. I can name a dozen photographers that will shoot a heroic portrait no matter what happens in the room and so it’s just how you approach photography. It’s who you are. It’s also what makes you an interesting choice, for Newsweek and any other magazine shooting politicians.

Chris: Thanks. I find it surprising that the media is quite happy to write about politicians as being flawed and yet when doing portraits sittings they seem hesitant to go down that line. They kind of fall into the convention of doing the power portrait instead of doing something that might be a little more challenging.

Rob: And, as far as your body of work goes, without the controversy that this cover created does it stand up on its own with the other pictures that you’ve made?

Chris: Oh, absolutely. One of the things I really like about this is that the two pictures I was best known for before this were the one with Steve Martin with the bread hands and the Citibank ad where the dog has fake teeth, so this being my best-known picture is something I’m much more comfortable with. It shows a little awkwardness.

People ascribe an anti-Republican or anti-Bachmann thing to me because of the impact it had in the culture, but it’s not how I feel about it. As a portrait, I stand by it. I don’t champion the right or the left; it’s not the point of this. The point was, as a photographer, to do good work for my client, to make interesting work for the public, and also to reflect, from a subjective viewpoint, what she might be about.

Photographer’s on-set note book for the Michele Bachmann session. Note “throw punch.”

Representative Bachmann accused Buck of submitting a light test for the Newsweek cover. This is the actual light test frame.

Chris Buck’s portrait of Michele Bachmann, as it appears in his 30 year retrospective UNEASY.

Buck’s favorite frame from the Bachmann sitting.

Portfolio Visit To New York – Tom M Johnson

- - From The Field

I asked Tom M Johnson to write about a recent portfolio trip to NYC. I think you’ll enjoy this informative and candid account of his 7th trip to meet with editors and show his portfolio in person.
— aPE

Initially, I thought I’d write a day-to-day summary of my recent New York trip to meet with Photo Editors. Rather, I’ve opted to write a summary of the experience. I believe the trip went well. Of course, exact success will not be known for some time. If 6 months go by and not one commission results from the trip, I’ll probably feel the trip was unsuccessful. Yet, I will not consider it a failure and waste of money because in my career I’ve come to learn success comes in small rather steps. The ultimate of course would be to receive a couple of calls in next couple of months offering assignments. However, I believe I benefited from the trip by nurturing previous relationships and developing a few more. I was fortunate enough to meet with a couple of editors I’ve been trying to see for a few years and believe those meetings went very well. I feel positive about this trip, because (since 1997 this was my 7th trip to New York) I was never more prepared. Of course my work is much better now, and after all these years one would hope, so I entered these meetings with more confidence and greater conviction. Yet, I believe the biggest reason for my success was the preparation I did in advance, which began a month before stepping on the Amtrak train to New York.

I must give some credit to Selina Maitreya because she helped me to create a strategy. Selina is a consultant I’ve worked with off and on since 2002. She knows me well, and I’m not just her client- we are also friends. I’ve had a few consultants over the years and gotten something from all of them, yet some were definitely better than others. Of them all, I believe Selina invests more of herself, and she truly cares for her clients… With her council, a month before my departure I sent an email blast to the 120 New York photo editors in my database. In the email, I announced that in a month I would be coming to New York to see clients and while there I would be making appointments and contacting them soon. Attached to the email was a cool image from a recent assignment for the New York Times along with links to my website. I liken this approach to an invasion like D-Day where I first hit them with artillery to soften up the beachhead before landing. To my pleasant surprise I had 5 replies from editors who had seen the photograph in the Times, and a few of them offered times for appointments… 2 weeks later I sent a second email with another image attached, this time specifying the dates I would be in New York, and that I would be in touch with them soon. A couple of more editors replied offering appointments… Then 10 days before departure I sent a 3rd email again with another image attached, this time telling them I would be calling them shortly.

The week before departing I called all 120 editors. Photo Editors move from magazine to magazine, so this also gave me an opportunity to update my database. Mostly I heard voicemails, yet I left messages announcing that I’d be in New York and looked forward to seeing them. I followed each call with a 4th email, this time directed to the photo editor I had just called with a specific pitch. Of all the editors I reached out to I made actual contact with, either by phone or email, about 25. I ultimately met with 17. It reminded me of what a salesman once told me, “You call 100 people, maybe 10 will speak with you, and out of that 10 hopefully one will do business with you.”

I am convinced that face time is paramount, yet these days it’s difficult to get appointments with Photo Editors. For one, more than ever, magazines are fighting for their survival. I met with Fiona Gardner, former Photo Editor of Popular Photography, at a coffee shop because Popular Photography and American Photo had recently closed their doors. Staffs at many magazines have been reduced and their workloads increased, and let’s face it: if Photo Editors saw every photographer who wanted to meet with them, all they would do is see photographers. Then there are a few big editors whom my chances of having a one on one with the Pope are greater than meeting with one of them. Yet, even knowing all of this, I forced myself to be vigilant and persistently continued making my calls. Some disagree, but I believe cold calling is an important part of the process because talking with someone establishes a connection and lets them know that I am determined. Even if it’s only for a brief 30 seconds, I feel a Photo Editor will remember my name more so than if I had sent him or her 10 emails. It’s difficult and often scary, especially with New Yorkers who can be terse and immune to charm, yet with practice, cold calling gets less difficult. But it’s still never easy, and because 90 percent of the calls result in voice mails when I finally do get a Photo Editor on the phone- it’s difficult to get into the rhythm of my pitch. And, trying to find that right tone of confidence is not unlike back in the day calling that special girl for a date. What’s really frustrating is after having finally succeeded in getting an editor on the phone, most would terminate the call requesting that I send, even though by this time I had already sent them 5, an email with links to my work. This I find a challenge to work around. For most editors, this is their polite way of getting rid of me. They have no intention of making an appointment, and I’m unsure if they will ever look at the 6th email I send them. While I have them on the phone I’m always tempted to push them to make an appointment, and I suppose this is where hutzpah and confidence are most needed. Because, if I push them to make an appointment and they grudgingly acquiesce, what happens if they don’t like my work?

A month before the trip I got the idea to buy a suit for my interviews. Not wanting to look like a banker, I skipped the tie. I’m older and a bit old school, so I believe this was my way of presenting myself as a serious and dedicated photographer, as well as someone whom the editors could trust to send on an assignment to photograph a CEO. Also, I showed 3 bodies of printed work displayed in custom portfolios, 2 of them made by Mullenburg Designs based near Portland, Maine. It was a royal pain in the ass to schlep this load of work via subways and a ton of walking from appointment to appointment, but I felt it was worth it. At the end of the day, the weight took its toll on my knees and back, yet I don’t see the point of showing work on an iPad when the editor can just as easily view the work on the website… After several years of trying I finally connected with this one photo editor on the phone who works for a business magazine at Time Inc. I told him that I was in New York and dying to see him, so he told me to call him back the next day to set up an appointment. I did and got a voice mail and of course, he never replied. Well, that very next day I was on his floor in the Time Inc. building, and I was so tempted to walk around the floor asking anyone I bumped into if they knew where I could find him. But I didn’t, and I’m still kicking myself for chickening out…

My goal was 15 appointments and I ended up seeing 17 Photo Editors in 4 days. Success! I could have had a few more but one editor of a major journal canceled my appointment an hour before we were to meet, much too late to hustle another meeting during that time slot. As well, by not getting the chance to see her I missed the opportunity of perhaps seeing some of her colleagues… Overall, I felt that my interviews went well; the editors seemed interested in my work, and no one told me I sucked. Once back in Pittsburgh I wrote all the editors I met with thank you letters included with another promo piece. In a couple of months, I’ll send them all another promo, with email blasts in between, all part of my marketing strategy.

Though I still believe making trips to New York is important, I wonder if the day will soon come when magazines will be not unlike darkrooms. I learned from one photo editor of a successful fashion/hipster magazine that although their feature photo spreads of young hot celebrities photographed by young hot photographers with Instagram followings in the hundreds of thousands get millions of likes and shares, yet few click on the articles to read the text and see the advertising that pays for the magazine to stay in business. I met with another editor of one of the most famous celebrity/fashion magazines in the business and she told me that they have to come up with the same quality of productions with ½ the budgets. As well, I heard that 2 of the business magazines at Time Inc. are consolidating, which means there will soon be some more unemployed Photo Editors. When the millennials want to view everything on their smartphones without paying a fee, who will pay for the providers of the content?

This Week In Photography Books: Eric Etheridge

by Jonathan Blaustein

Remember when people used to talk about the 24 hour news cycle?

How quaint.

These days, we’ve got a 60/60/24/7/365 news cycle, brought to you by the fine folks at Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc.

Personally, I don’t submit to the Borg all the time. I jump off email and social media each night at 5pm, and take the weekends off as well, so I avoid losing myself in the endlessness of it all.

Because it never. ever. stops.

There’s so much out there that I’m just as likely to get a sense of things during my “work hours,” as there is still plenty of time to look for memes and CULTURALLY SIGNIFICANT TWEETS.

For instance:

Just since Friday, we’ve had the American professor in Korea who got interrupted by his adorable kids during his BBC Skype interview. At first, he knocked his daughter back like he was Frank Costanza reaching across at a jarring traffic stop.

His wife came in, trying to be stealthy like a ninja, but the camera caught it all. At first, the guy was criticized for being a grump, instead of taking his child on his lap and making light of the whole thing.

Then, media scrutiny switched to the people who’d mistakenly assumed the Asian woman was his nanny, not his wife.

Is that racist?

If not, I know something that is definitely racist. Steve King, a sitting US Congressman from Iowa, tweeted that he couldn’t wait for America to become homogenous, as foreign babies were ruining civilization.

His tweet was received enthusiastically by more overt scumbags, like David Duke and Richard Spencer. Then Representative King doubled-down, (rather than retracting,) and stressed that Western Civilization was superior to all others.

Not to be outdone, Kellyanne Conway may or may not have said that Barack Obama spied on Donald Trump with microwaves.

And finally, today, Jorg Colberg tweeted an article, which I promptly read, in which a British cultural critic named Adam Curtis persuasively argued that art was no longer rebellious, in any way, as its ethos of personal expression had so perfectly been absorbed by the insatiable beast that is Global International Capitalism.

It was a good piece, and got me thinking a bit, as I often wonder if so much of what I do, with my writing and photographic work, isn’t just preaching to the crowd.

Even photography itself, once a specific habit, has been appropriated across the globe by EVERYONE.

Is art still relevant, if it’s only used to trumpet individual voices, one at a time in a sea of noise, as everyone else now has platforms to scream ME ME ME ME ME simultaneously?

I’m glad you asked. (Seriously, that was an astute question.)

I’m feeling pretty good about art, right now, having just put down “Cocoon” a new book that documents a public sculpture done by Kate Browne in the Goutte D’Or neighborhood in Paris, back in 2014.

This one came in not too long ago, as the photographer, Eric Etheridge, (Ms. Browne’s husband,) saw my review of the book that Matthew Chase-Daniel and Jerry Wellman made from their public art project on the Navajo Nation.

He noticed similarities, and hoped I might like his collaborative book as well.

Eric, you were right. This was the perfect book for me to see today.

The gist is that Kate Browne has engaged in a series of public art projects in places with fraught, violent histories. There were Cocoons in Mexico City, on the site where the Aztecs were vanquished by the Spanish, and two in Mississippi that investigated the dark history of Slavery and Jim Crow.

This endeavor was done in Goutte d’Or, a historically North African, Parisian neighborhood that has become a way station for many on the contemporary European Refugee Circuit.

The artist builds communities during her projects, while engaging those same communities in the construction of her sculptures. She offers workshops, and other programs, that reach directly into the neighborhood, and teaches people how to make their own little cocoons, personal talismen, to represent difficulties in their pasts.

There is a section of the book that is almost exactly what Matthew and Jerry did, as residents are photographed in a white, studio environment, holding their personal totems. How wild, that two ideas took hold on opposite sides of the world.

But that’s only a small part of this book, as there are opening essays, including two by local community organizers, and it ends with a litany of direct interviews from project participants, describing their racial and cultural pasts.

Essentially, this book refutes the idea that art is only about yelling “hey look at me” in an obnoxious echo chamber. There are countless artists out there who work with others to build teams. To enhance society. To make a difference in people’s lives.

I wrote last week about that famously Chinese ending in “Hero,” in which the greater good is presented as noble, and duty paramount, while individual desire appears sinful in context. That used to give me the willies, as I thought it meant that China intended to rule the world.

Now, though, I’ve begun to wonder whether America isn’t wounded, as it’s become so much harder for people to work together, or even get along, across the partisan divide.

I don’t want to end on a negative thought, though. One defining feature of the Cocoon series is that the sculptures, like their namesake, are temporary. After a public procession at the end of its construction, the Cocoon is lit up, enjoyed for 2 days, and then struck from the scene.

This book serves as proof of its existence. True. But if you read these stories, and look at the vibrance in the photographs, it’s clear that the Cocoon project strengthened a group of marginalized people, if only for a little while.

Bottom Line: Cool book that documents an inspiring, collaborative, public art project in Paris