No, really, he ate one.
Back to that in a minute.
I’ve always had mixed feelings when it comes to hiring photographers overly versed in a subject matter. Certainly, when a photographer knows how to behave, act and dress around a subject it can cause the subject to drop their guard a bit and make for more intimate images. It also usually means they’ll be more accommodating with their time and with what they allow to be photographed so you get better access. The trade off is that photographers sometimes don’t push the pictures beyond comfort level, they won’t ask the subject to do something that might make them uncomfortable or might jeopardize their relationship with the subject.
On the other hand picking a photographer who has some distance from the subject and is not excessively concerned with their feelings or the possibility of making them uncomfortable or how they might be looked upon by the subject can result in some really spectacular work.
Anyway, this is a little more heady than I wanted to get into with this post because really I just saw this narrated slideshow over on the Texas Monthly website and I was imagining Peter Yang in his checkered vans and spiked hair dragging his cow shit covered 7b’s, c-stands and octabanks all over Texas and thought that was interesting. Of course I know Peter as a guy who shoots a lot of Rock and Roll pictures for Rolling Stone so I didn’t realize he’s from Dallas and went to school at UT and worked in Austin for 9 years and to what extremes he’d go to, to get a picture when I fired off a bunch of questions to see what the hell he was doing shooting cowboys in Texas.
Check out the slide show and audio commentary (here)
Was it really a 16 day shoot? I’m amazed magazines still do 16 day shoots. Did you have to sleep in a ditch?
It was sixteen days altogether for a cover and an 18-page portfolio in Texas Monthly. We logged 5,000 miles driving back and forth across Texas. In reality, there were six or seven days of shooting. The other days were spent traveling, scouting and investigating.
Leslie Baldwin and TJ Tucker at TM made initial contact with the ranches, but in the end, cowboys aren’t phone people. Arriving at each ranch felt like starting from scratch. I’m this Asian guy with spiky hair and checkered Vans, my first assistant is a California kid, and the second assistant is a hipster with tattoos running down her arms. We had to win them over with our charming ways.
On another occasion, we were out near Marfa. It was already ten at night and I had nothing planned for the next day. I was feeling really depressed as all I’d done that day was hang out in a field throwing rocks at a fence while the cowboys were out working on horseback. That night, we came across a bar and got to chatting with the bartender, and out of sheer desperation, I asked her if she knows any cowboys. It turns out her ex-husband is a cowboy and we ended up driving 3 hours due west and making some of the best images from the trip.
It sounded like you were shooting film. Why did you decide to shoot film?
No, I was shooting digital. I haven’t shot film in a long while. For the portraits I used a medium format digital back (Leaf Aptus at 75 S on a Hasselblad H2). For the documentary shots, I used a Cannon 1Ds2. There was a ton of dust and shit kicking up everywhere I went. For someone who rarely needs to clean his cameras, I was in my motel every night with an air blower and Pec Pad cleaning my cameras Nachtwey-style.
Cowboys, cows, horses and octabanks don’t sound like a natural combination and I suppose that’s why Texas Monthly choose you for this assignment. Did you ever feel completely out of your element like what the hell am I doing here? A New Yorker out in the middle of Texas with a bunch of cowboys sounds like a recipe for trouble to me.
Hey, I’ve only been a New Yorker for four years. I may not have grown up on a ranch (or anywhere near cows or horses), but I am from Texas.
I did feel out of my element at the beginning. I had just come out of 3 straight months of shooting my usual fare. Celebrity shoots where everything has been discussed and agreed upon and every moment of the shoot accounted for. Advertising campaigns with art directors and their clients standing in front of the monitor approving every shot frame by frame. Now here I was in Texas with no one telling me what to do. It’s a photographer’s dream, but it took a bit to get used to.
As far as trouble goes, no one was seriously injured in the process. I drank a lot of beer, ate a cow testicle or two, rode a crazy horse, heard jokes that haven’t been kosher since ’64, tried to lasso a fence post, and ate at a lot of Dairy Queens. A lot.
When you decided to do the lit portraits were you thinking this is my style and I’m sticking with it even if the 7b’s get covered in shit or were you thinking of bringing something new to the genre of cowboy portraits?
Lighting the photos had always been my plan. I’d seen a lot of images of cowboys growing up and I wanted to bring something new to the table while staying true to who they are. It rained a couple of days and there was lots of dust everywhere we went. The lights were always tarped to keep out the elements.
Of your other portrait work how much is planned and how much is just “let’s see what’s happening when we get there.”
I started my training as a newspaper photographer. As a journalist, you are not permitted to affect the environment. When I moved to magazines, this way of thinking stuck with me for years, and helped bring a candid, found quality to my photos. With celebrity work, you can’t tell a publicist “we’ll just get there and see what happens.” You have to assure them you won’t make their client look like an ass. My shoots now are much more planned and produced, but I always strive to keep some spontaneity.
I see a growing trend here as the Yousuf Karsh estate (here) becomes the latest in a series of photography masters to unveil professional websites that will not only serve as wonderful resources for the photo community but act as a central resource for consumers and professionals looking to purchase prints and reprint rights.
During his career he held 15,312 sittings and produced over 150,000 negatives.
The short video clips (here) are particularly interesting to watch as Yousuf answers questions that we seem to ask photographers over and over.
AT THE AGE of 93, Charis Wilson has seen more than most people ever will – and the art world has seen more of her than almost any other woman in the history of photography. As Edward Weston’s lover, writer, companion, driver (Weston never learned to drive), and model from 1934-1945, Charis left an indelible imprint on Weston’s work and the way in which his photographic nudes are examined. Charis is the subject of more than half of all of Weston’s nudes, including some of his most famous – the Oceano Dunes series and Nude in a Doorway. His portrait of her at Lake Ediza is well known (if somewhat misunderstood). Charis grew up in a literary family, surrounded by adults and few children to play with. She was a sickly child and developed her strength by bicycling – and swimming naked out to the kelp beds in Carmel Bay. When she met Weston, she was 19 and he was 48, already an accomplished photographer with one book to his credit and a growing reputation as a new breed of modernist photographer. Her literary skills helped secure Weston a Guggenheim grant in 1937 – the first ever awarded to a photographer. Her insight and observations accompanied his photographs during their Guggenheim travels in the ground-breaking and bestselling book, California and the West.
What was your reaction to seeing the photographs for the first time? I had seen some poor reproductions before that – but to actually look at the prints, I had never seen pictures like that. I was used to other people that made pictures softening things – the Pictorialist style was in vogue – so I had never seen photographs like these. Sonya showed me some of the shells and the peppers – then pulled out some of the 4×5 nudes.
… and what was your reaction to the nude photographs?
I thought they were terrific. Again, I’d never seen anything like that.
Did it make you want to be part of that art or did it make you more interested in him as a man and a person?
Yes, I was more interested in him I think… well, it’s hard to say. It’s too far back to really determine – but whatever it was, I wanted more of it. More photographs. More of the person that made the photographs!
What was the posing or directing method that he would use in those early sessions?
He didn’t give any directions. He just said: ‘Go over there and sit down or lie down, or do what you feel like doing and move around all you want. Change your position as you want to’. That’s what Sonya had told me: ‘… there’s nothing to posing for Edward. In fact, you don’t even pose. You just move around and do what you feel like’. And that’s all very well, except when you try to do what you feel like he’d yell: ‘Hold it! Hold it! Stop right there’. So you could never move without being told to ‘hold it’. I had a mental picture of what I would look like in his camera – these rather idealized nudes based on ones seen in his darkroom – but even after 5 or 6 moves I never got to the point I had imagined because he’d keep stopping me on the way.
It was during that time in 1936 that Edward made the famous nude study of you in the doorway of the Santa Monica Canyon house – and neither you nor he were completely happy with that image, correct?
Well, we knew it was a good picture. But we had our objections to things that should have been straightened up.
You were not satisfied with the uneven part in your hair and the bobby pins and he was not satisfied with the shadow on your arm?
That’s right. Well, the shadow on my arm was really worth protesting, because if you didn’t print it very carefully it looked as if I had a withered arm. Whereas the hairdressing was simply sloppiness on my part I’m afraid.
… and he only made the one exposure of that?
He did with everything 8×10; you couldn’t afford to make duplicate exposures. He never did.
People read all sorts of symbolism into Edward’s still lifes – that he never felt was there. Did you think Edward was being truthful with you and with himself (and with the art world) when he said that there were no hidden meanings?
Edward had a way of saying that in some cases symbolism was inescapable. It is just there and you can’t very well erase it when you’re making a picture, even if what is moving you to make the picture is something else. So he was not interested in the obvious reading of a photograph. He got impatient with people who were looking for everything to be sexual in a picture of a pepper. To him, that was a much too simple – and simplistic – way of looking at a picture.
And similarly, with the famous Lake Ediza photograph – you’ve written about how tired you were and how exhausted, but still you were somewhat perplexed or amused that people would read into that photograph a certain sensuality. It was really you just sitting against the rock exhausted.
Um… hmm. Yes, I really was just exhausted [smiles].
It got to the point where driving around during the Guggenheim travels, Edward would doze off and you would scout a location because you were so tuned in…
Uh huh. Right. For the most part.
But you felt like you still could never quite see the ‘Weston moment’.
In the early years, I was obsessed with doing that. I was making the picture in my head. I figured I knew what he was doing, and how he was seeing, so well that I could put it together – I never did. I finally figured that Edward was the picture maker and I was the wordsmith. He simply does not do it in words; I do not do it in pictures.
Why do you think you were obsessed in the early years with doing that?
I think because I had a very strong feeling that anything anyone else could do, I could do, you know. It was really bigheaded on my part, I think. That everything in the world could be that simple. That it was possible to get hold of and ease myself
Did you ever have any desire to photograph or do nudes of him?
No. No. I never wanted to take photographs. And it absolutely amazed Edward, because he had a good number of female students in those days that had all been helpers of one sort or another and he kept offering to teach me. I always wanted to look through the ground glass, in fact, it was so automatic that he finally stopped asking me and just moved off for me to get under the focusing cloth and look at his picture. He knew I always wanted to see it. But to do anything photographic? Absolutely not. I knew this much about photography from listening to what he said. It took far more command, self-command, of what you were looking at and doing than I would ever have. As far as I was concerned, writing – which is what I assumed I was pretty good at – meant that you wrote and then you rewrote – and then you rewrote again. Carefully. I had learned this from my grandmother and great aunt and father, all of whom were writers of one kind or another. Something you worked on. This was anathema to Edward. Photography – a photograph – wasn’t something you worked on. That was the kind of thing that no good people who fixed it up later in the darkroom did. He had to be so sharp and so straightforward that he could find the thing immediately, set up the camera and see just what he expected to find there. Get the thing in focus in no time at all, pull the slide, make the exposure. I could never see this as a way of working.
Why would I want to be a photographer? I loved what he did and that was enough for me.
When I see a project like this (Timothy Archibald’s sex machines comes to mind as well) I’m always impressed by the photographers ability to convince the subjects to sit for pictures that will potentially be seen by hundreds of thousands of people. It’s worth noting for for future assignments where a subject might be spooked easily.
Hey, it Looks like Sheila Metzner’s got a new website (here) as well, complete with music and slideshows (Caution: If you’re at work make sure the volume is down) so I think it’s safe to say we have a genuine trend here (ok, maybe it started a year ago, I haven’t been keeping up with Sheila and Albert).
It think this is partially about building a fan base and mostly about taking control of your content. All the legendary photographers have content floating around the internet and there needs to be a place to link everything back. Also, when consumers run into your work somewhere and google you to find out more, there should be a place they can go to see more work and other stuff like buying books or getting a lecture schedule or watching a video interview (you can do whatever, once you’ve got the google juice). Let’s hope the trend continues.
Thanks for the tip Robert Wright.
Albert Watson has a new website (here) at least I think it’s fairly new, last time I checked was a year ago when I tried to hire him and felt like a fool for leaving urgent messages for a very last minute cover, then of course when I finally got his wife on the phone he’s in Europe for a month and booked on jobs as far as the eye can see. Nevertheless Jodi @ RS told me he’s an incredible sweet-heart and still works harder then an art school grad on their first assignment so I thought what the hell I’ll see if he’s up for it. The first portfolio on the website has 186 images in it. Not recommended that any art school grads try and pull that off.
Check out the new and improved thumbnail view for the free promo at ILikeThesePhotos.com. This will give buyers a great opportunity to view 297 photographers in 10 seconds flat. Don’t think you’ll find that anywhere on the web. Special wOOt to my new business partner Erik Dungan for coding that up. It took him all of 10 minutes to do it so look for cool stuff coming down the pike in the near future. I’ll be taking this show on the road (email) in the next day or so.
Click on the photograph to see the name and website of the photographer. Adjust the speed of the slideshow (I like 1.2 seconds) or use the manual controls at the top.
Attention art buyers and photo editors, this is a free promo that’s meant to supplement all the other ways you find photographers to hire. I created it see if there might be an easier more efficient way to quickly look at 200-300 photographers. Compared to the weekly promo pile this works pretty good. Plus, if you’re like me, you remember a picture and not necessarily who took it so you can come back to this slideshow and find the name and website of the photographer whenever you like. This project only works if you find work you like and hire the photographer. I can create more of these but it’s a complete waste of time if it doesn’t connect buyers with photographers. That’s the only reason I did this. If you have suggestions on how to make the next one more useful for you please let me know.
Photographers, I want to thank everyone who participated, it was a privilege to look at all your work. If you disagree with the selection I’ve made not to worry, we’re going to do this again with different editors in a couple months. The flickr group was such a pain in the ass because it didn’t behave anything like the personal area but now that everything is hosted on my account it seems to work fine. Let me know if you need me to do something with your photo. I ended up editing it down to 1 photo per photographer to make the viewing faster.
Anyone who has a blog and feels like spreading the word you can use this embed code or link to the full page version at http://www.ilikethesephotos.com You can change the size of the embeded version by changing the width and height (keep it square).
Photoshelter blogger Rachel Hulin has a nice interview (here) with one of my all time favorite photographers, Antonin Kratochvil (he also sent me work from the road for the slide show which you can all see once I repair the problem). I love working with Antonin because although he appears to be tough as a bag full of hammers, in reality, he’s a very down to earth man who endearingly refers to everyone as “bitches.” Oh, and his pictures ROCK. His contact sheets are something to behold because there’s hardly any frames leading up to “the shot.” Talk about a tough edit, try editing 50 of his contact sheets down to 5 pictures in a magazine. Impossible.
If you made the final cut and sent me your photos on flickr you now need to email them to me here: promo(at)aphotoeditor.com
If you already emailed them to me to begin with you don’t need to do it again.
The slideshow is not working the way it should and I need to upload them into a set on my account. It has to work right before it goes out to art buyers and photo editors.
Here’s the pool of images that made the cut: http://www.flickr.com/groups/aphotoeditor/pool/
You have to be logged in to flickr to see all 550 images and that’s the problem at the moment.
April Fools Joke. Since it’s over I thought I’d let you know first.
The NY Times has the details on the reported 25 Million dollar deal that would move her entire collection to Flickr with a Creative Commons License (!).
I grabbed a couple screen shots but the place is absolutely mobbed with people. I was able to drop a “nice one” on the picture of the queen tho.
Link to her Flickr page (here).
I emailed Jennifer Rocholl after a few readers raised questions about the similarity between an image of hers and an entire body of work by Jan Von Holleben (here). I actually saw the photo in question in her portfolio several months ago and didn’t give it a second thought because honestly it’s not unusual to see similar work and ideas in photographers portfolios. A former first assistant’s work is actually expected to be very close to their bosses. Not a problem in my mind and even more so when it’s the only image like it in the portfolio.
It really only becomes a problem when you win an award or some kind of recognition and that image is published to represent you as a photographer. That’s exactly what happened with Jennifer and from what she tells me PDN was unaware of Jan’s work as well, when they made the selection.
Tell me about the picture in question.
I shot that picture last May as a portrait of 2 clothing designers called Brown Sound, for Flaunt Magazine. It was a collaborative idea between the 3 of us, and developed that afternoon as we were coming up with ideas.
I was unaware of Jan’s work until last week when he emailed me and I saw his “dreams of flying” series on his site.
So, Jan emailed you after seeing it, what was his reaction?
He asked why I chose that particular image to represent my photography. Actually, PDN selected it out of my portfolio submission. I said I was sorry if he felt I copied his work, but that was not the case as I had not been familiar with him as a photographer or his series. And actually, if I was at all influenced by any images, they would be this fashion story Zach Scott did in 2002 for Los Angeles Magazine:
and this shot of charles and ray eames:
If you develop an idea that’s similar to another photographer’s do you think you should abandon it once you discover the similarities?
If I stopped what I was doing every time I thought I was emulating a form of someone else’s work, I wouldn’t get anything done. Would any photographer, at this point in photo history? Can you imagine if after Avedon, no one ever dared to shoot a subject in front of a white background? Or after Halsman shot his collection of celebrities jumping in the air, jumping was off limits to any other photographer? What if Tom Waits stopped doing his thing when people told him he sounded too much like Captain Beefheart? When I take a picture of the forced perspective illusion of someone standing in the palm of another person’s hand, does this now mean that I’ve monopolized this trick and I’m known as the “forced perspective photographer that shoots people holding tiny people”?
Ultimately, I think there’s a thousand more variables that make up a photographer’s consistent body of work and gets him/her jobs, besides an optical illusion gimmick. I think Jan’s a genius at what he does, the collection of these images is really beautiful and creative, but I don’t think my work and his compete aesthetically or stylistically. He and I have discussed our positions to each other and are both fine with it.
Off topic here but did anyone call and give you a job after seeing the PDN 30? I think that’s the reaction photographers would expect after being featured like that.
No jobs yet.
One of my all time favorite photographers has no agent, no website, doesn’t send out promo mailers, no logo, isn’t in any of the sourcebooks, not listed in the free workbook phonebook, has never called to see if I’ve got anything for him and if I hadn’t scoured the web and made a few phone calls years ago I would have no clue how to contact him (you have to email me if you want his info).
Sometimes I get tired of talking about marketing and business because the reality is I really just like looking at pictures and I get a real buzz out of sending photographers off to take pictures and wish I didn’t have to deal with any of the other shit and I know photographers just want to take pictures so I thought I’d take this opportunity to say that if you want to be like Seamus Murphy and work hard to develop your craft then go do it.
A reader points out: …”Yours is probably the most helpful blog I have ever come across, however your insights make the whole industry sound so strategic. Your blog makes it sound as if us photographers all have to be walking on egg shells so as not to step on any toes. Hey! We’re the ones producing the actual pictures!”
Yeah, I hear ya buddy. There’s something I really enjoy about photographers who could give a flying rats ass about marketing themselves to me.
If you want to just go out take great pictures, I will find YOU. That’s my job. That’s why photo editors exist. If it were easy the editor could do it.
One day sitting in my office on 6th avenue reading photo industry blogs while the phone rang off it’s hook and the books piled up outside my door and assignments that needed to be made were not being made I had a eureka moment. I was reading Andrew Hetherington’s blog *what’s the jackanory* and there was debate about why a photo editor did something and why a photographer let a photo editor do something and I thought, “Photo Editors need a blog, I’ll start one.” I owe him a debt of gratitude for that moment but that’s not why you’re reading about him here. He’s also been on my list of photographers to hire for many years so I’m not going to ignore him despite the fact that a few of you think photo industry blogging is a self-perpetuating back slapping machine.
Andrew (website here) is a top editorial photographer who lands commissions from magazines like GQ, ESPN and Details; and wins awards from CA, American Photography and PDN. Even though he spills his guts on his blog every week I thought you’d like to hear me ask him a few questions.
1. Can you tell me how you became known by Photo Editors and Art Directors as the cow with wall photographer and has it helped or hindered your career to be remembered so well for that one image?
I think it has been a great help. Its important to be remembered for something, right ? You know I didn’t realize this shot’s hidden potential early on, sometimes you are so close you don’t see what you really have. I didn’t think it had much of an edge but editors and art directors all started to react to it when I started showing the book around. I had it hidden down the back but then it quickly made its way to the front especially after PDN used it on the cover of the 30 issue in 2003. I used the image as part of a mailer that year and I still see it up on editors bulletin boards from time to time.
FYI, I am also refered to as the guy who photographs drunk Irish folk, barf, women’s bums, bloody noses, you know the funny quirky gross guy.
2. I’m sure it wasn’t a “eureka” moment but can you describe the chain of events that lead to you becoming a top editorial photographer?
My Dad was a lighting camera man (cinematographer) we were surrounded by gear growing up
I had no interest in moving pictures
Hated being in front of the camera which we often were
With my Dads encouragement I started dabbling with his Pentax slr
Joined the school camera club
Began to shoot the sports at school
Got to go to all the rugby games and be on the sideline
Got to all the parties too, score
Had a darkroom in my bedroom
Processed film in the bathroom
Discovered reticulation by accident !!
Had to decide what I wanted to do when I left school
Wasn’t terribly academic during my teens
Was more interested in music, fashion and my hair
Was accepted to Art School; a 1 year course in Commercial Photography
Didn’t learn much. It was the first time this school offered the curriculum
so it was a bit mickey mouse
Assisted photographers in Dublin
Began shooting on my own, fashion mostly
Did alright for a while
Got as far as I could go
Needed to figure out where I was going with my life
Got a green card in a lottery
Moved to New york, gave myself a year to see what happened
Was exposed to tons of amazing people and experiences who all had a profound effect on me and my photography
Fell in love
Started shooting again, mostly fashion
Did alright for a while
Realised I wasn’t going to be Steven Miesel
Got as far as I could go
Lost the passion for the fashion
Started to concentrate on what really excited me, environmental portraiture
Got a big break and was chosen for PDN 30 2003
Got the cover, yes the cow
Started to get really cool work with really cool people
Not taking any of it for granted
3. I’ve always had you on my list of photographers as someone who can take banal situations, make them interesting and also make a complete story out of it, not just one portrait. Can you tell me how you arrived at this style of photography? Also, does it bother you to be called to shoot subjects I think are dull?
Well Rob you never called so I guess there wasn’t much need for dull banality at Outside or Mens Journal. [SNAP! -Rob]
When I started out shooting in New York I always used a ton of gear, different cameras and lighting packages. I was all over the shop. As an assistant I had worked with so many different types of photographers that it took me a while to shake all their influences and hone my own style. At the time my personal work was more straightforward and as I transitioned from the fashion into portraiture I was looking for a way to shake my previous work habits; to be mobile, to be able to shoot indoors and outdoors at a moments notice, to be able to take advantage of whatever opportunity presented itself. Ambient light isn’t my thing, flash is, so I also wanted to keep that quick and simple too. I like a bit of quality though and amn’t a huge 35mm fan so in a nutshell I try for point and shoot mobility with a lit medium format aesthetic. I think this really frees me up (when there are no major assignment restraints) so I am not locked in to one or two set ups. I also wanted to be able to create the same quality of image whether I am on my own or whether I have one, two or three assistants. I love it when I get called to do a gig that calls for a set up portrait combined with elements of reportage.
Dull that doesn’t bother me at all and hey if there’s any travel involved I am down. To be honest I love pulling up in front of someone’s place in bum fuck no where, you never know whats waiting behind the door. Most of by favorite stuff is as a result of being out there somewhere; it may never make the magazine edit or even have anything to do with the assignment but one mans dull is another’s life altering experience. It can certainly be a bit hairy at times and the magic is not always a given but I do enjoy the challenge.
4. Are there any career choices you that you either regret or were the best decision you ever made?
I think the best decision I ever made was to start shooting for myself, to start doing what I wanted to do the way I wanted to do it, and not to worry about satisfying anyone else but myself.
No major career regrets to be honest, its usually the more obvious regret; when a shoot doesn’t work out as well as one had hoped or I miss a shot. Just makes me try even harder the next time.
5. If you were an insect what kind would you be and why?
I would be ‘grasshopper’
“Yet it is eyes which blind the man”…”Because a man can see, he does not look.”
– Master Po.
I still have so much to learn
As a follow up to the Clay Stang consultation I decided to talk with Derek Shapton from Toronto who’s not only on my list as the “go to” for that town but has transcended the local market to become a photographer people will fly to them.
1. I first discovered you in the American Photography annual. How do the awards and publications you’ve gotten help you market your work?
I think awards and annuals are as effective, if not more effective, than any other type of marketing out there. Mailers and bulk email tend to be thrown away or deleted, but awards annuals and juried books are very special in that they’re the only promotional vehicle that’s actually anticipated and even sought out by potential clients. Nobody looks forward to another stupid mailer, but everyone looks forward to the CA Photography Annual! The downside is that they’re unpredictable. I’ve served as a judge for a several awards shows and I can attest to the fact that brilliant work can sometimes be left out of the final selection for very strange reasons. You can’t always count on being included, so it’s hard to carefully plan an annual
marketing campaign around them. I think they work best as a supplement to more traditional promotion — although I know several photographers for whom awards are the only promotional venture they bother with, and they seem to do quite well by them.
2. Can you tell me how you managed to transcend just being the go to guy in Toronto, Canada to become a top North American editorial and commercial photographer?
I think there were numerous factors that came together at around the same time. My entry into the American market was coincident with the rise of the Internet as a communication medium — it really has made the world a smaller place and opened people’s eyes to the richness of talent in geographic areas they might not otherwise have been aware of. The buildup to the dotcom bubble of the late 90’s meant that there was a lot of speculative money being invested in all kinds of bizarre ways — companies nobody had ever heard of were suddenly spending a lot on advertising and marketing, and there were seemingly hundreds of magazines starting up — in North America, at least, it made for a major spike in demand for commissioned photography. Th Canadian dollar was approaching an all-time low in relation to the US dollar, and it was suddenly very economical to work with talented artists outside of the US. And last but not least, the kind of work I gravitated towards — a naturalistic, quasi-documentary, “low-impact”
approach — suddenly became quite popular, possibly as a reaction to some of the more egregious, gimmicky excesses of the mid-90’s (cross processing? Hosemaster? Anyone remember the Hosemaster?). It was a combination of hard work and effort combined with a certain amount of right-place-at-the-right-time.
3. I’ve always had you on my list of photographers as someone with a dry sense of humor, vibrant colors and strong documentary skills. Can you tell me how you arrived at this somewhat odd combination of styles?
I’m very interested in many different kinds of photography, but I’m a terrible mimic. I’m always trying to figure out how other people do things, but it never really works out the way I expect, and so I guess I eventually arrived at something of a hybrid look — definitely influenced and informed by certain types of approaches but not quite nailing any of them on the head. I also think that the way I work — a minimal, “documentary” approach, for lack of a better term — kind of leaves a lot of things out there for the world to see; my feelings about my subjects, for example, tend to come across quite clearly, and I’d like to think that this makes for a certain
emotional content and sense of empathy that’s perhaps a bit lacking in other people’s work. As for the bright colors, I’m not sure what’s going on there. Maybe somethings wrong with my monitors?
4. Are there any career choices you that you either regret or were the best decision you ever made?
Biting the bullet when I wasn’t sure it was worth it and going to the time, effort, and expense of getting a US work visa is something I’m really glad I did. Buying a PC instead of a Mac as my very first computer was probably a mistake.
5. If you were an insect what kind would you be and why?
I’m tempted to say dung beetle, because I sometimes feel (particularly when I’m retouching) that I spend much of my time aimlessly pushing crap around, but I think I’ll pick a Monarch butterfly because they migrate 3000 miles twice a year, and I really like traveling.
Michael Lewis has been on my list of photographers for a long time (He must be on everyone’s list because I see his credit all over the place). Click on the list to see proof.
He’s hard working, low maintenance, subjects enjoy him and he has a distinct style I can rely on. I posed 5 question I thought you might like to hear the answer to:
1. I really enjoy the email promos you send out from recent photoshoots that show you in the scene you’ve just shot sometimes standing next to celebrities. How did you get started with that and what has the response been?
It started as a way of collecting an ‘autograph’ from the celebrity shoots I did. Instead of a signature, or a picture of me simply standing next to who I was photographing; I decided it would be fun if I incorporated myself into the shot which I had composed. Soon, I wanted a souvenir from all the places I found myself, and all the people I was meeting in my shoots; so every shoot became fair game.
The reaction has been terrific! People seem to dig it. It has provided me a way to give my friends (both in, and out of the business) a chuckle, while keeping everyone up-to-date on my photo-excursions.
2. I’m sure it wasn’t a “eureka” moment but can you describe the chain of events lead to you becoming a top editorial photographer?
Dad bought a Nikon camera while in Vietnam (while my mom was pregnant with me) >
I was always into ‘arts and crafts’ >
Started college >
Parents sat me down; asked me some big ‘life’ questions >
Transferred to art school :>
Dad gave me that old nikon >
Found photography came very naturally to me >
Assisted in Philadelphia >
Grad school (MFA) >
Was selected to be in a book ’25 and Under’ >
Doors opened >
I kept my foot lodged so that those doors didn’t close >
Always treated every shoot as if it was the most important photograph I was ever to take.
3. In my mind you have a very unique style of photography so, your name is on the top of my list of environmental portraitists who can make pictures with a lot of depth and a bit of humor in them. How did you arrive at this style?
Coming from a fine art background; my interests were in what a picture suggests and the tone that they convey. I studied photography as a means of personal expression; and less as a way of documenting. With an interest in narrative film and mise-en-scene,I didn’t see photography from the journalistic philosophy. Instead, I felt it was tool to construct and suggest reality; rather than a commitment to capture it. When I began being commissioned to photograph people whom I had never met; I always handled my subjects as equals. I photograph celebrities, ‘real’ people, and myself all with the same eye.
4. Are there any career choices you that you either regret or turned out to be the best decision you ever made?
I still wonder if leaving LA (where i got started commercially) and moving to New York City helped, or hindered, my career.
5. If you were an insect what kind would you be and why?
A king bee.
it’s good to be king.
Here’s a Recent Promo.
These are from his Website.