What niche do you see this publication fulfilling?
I had been toying with the idea of this magazine for a couple of years, and when my daughter was born last year, I knew I finally had to do something. Its really concerning that we put unrealistic beauty expectations on our young women through ridiculous levels of retouching and body warping, so I wanted to start a fashion magazine to help change that. EDWARD features all natural, un-retouched models in raw, beautiful editorials. It highlights amazing styles and gives our daughters something to aspire to that is actually obtainable.
All black and white and no retouching? tell us about that– what type of photographic statement are you trying to make.
The aesthetic is all centered around creating a publication that is true and aspirational. Simplicity. Something that blurs the line between art and commerce. Retouching has gotten so out of control that models in fashion magazines barely resemble people. Just google “liquify in photoshop”, and you can see what I mean. This publication will be the opposite of mainstream fashion magazines in every way. We plan to have advertising, but only as native, sponsored stories, so as not to detract from the overall feel of the piece.
How much harder are the photos to take now that you’re not retouching?
Its really not difficult to make a beautiful woman in stylish clothes look amazing on film. Choice of lighting, posing, hair, makeup, and clothing make all the difference. We didn’t have these photoshop tools decades ago, and our idea of realistic body image was much more realistic and healthy. Our contributors see it as a challenge, and I agree. If you cannot make beautiful art without creating it all in the computer, you are not a true artist in my mind.
So you retouching NONE of the images, correct?
Correct. Only basic light adjustments like brightness and contrast are allowed. No skin retouching, cloning, or body warping of any kind are allowed.
How does the casting go down?
Casting is a collaborative process with our artists. The photographers produce the shoots, and we simply ask for sign-off on the major players before the shoot date arrives. We hate to intervene in the creative process, so we rarely change anything, unless it is something that really needs remedying.
Are you shooting the bulk of the images?
I plan to shoot one editorial per issue. We have dozens of photographers from around the world, along with amazing stylists, models, and other crew who are all contributing their time to this project.
What’s the business idea behind this and are you seeking any funding?
We are actively seeking investors and subscribers. We know this project can be very viable as an art book style quarterly or monthly publication. In addition to the publication itself, we are working on other products such as art prints that can help better compensate the artists we work with in the longer term.
What was the catalyst for this idea? I know you recently had a daughter, are you trying to send out the right messages to men and women?
Yes I have been disgusted with the state of retouching in commercial photography for a while now. Having a daughter last year finally made me want to do something about it. We need to be creating a world where people are happy about themselves and their bodies. And while I do think it is important to eat well, exercise, pay attention to ones appearance, it is impossible for people to live up to models that have been warped and manipulated into something unobtainable. Women in American culture unfortunately have more unrealistic expectations to live up to, so that is why EDWARD focuses on them.
Do you think as society ( most female beauty images ) we are prone to not believe photography any longer? Are you trying to give us hope?
I think that most intelligent people are well aware that mainstream imagery in magazines is far from truthful. But even if people know that intellectually, it is easy to forget when looking at an individual image. I am not trying to give anyone hope, I am simply trying to steer the industry in a more truthful direction.
How much longer does it take to finding the correct angles to mitigate the need for retouching?
A good photographer should be finding those angles already, so for me it was not much of an adaptation. I think the lighting, and paying close attention to hair and makeup is the most important part. Softer, moodier lighting tends to be come conducive to creating the right mood for EDWARD.
Why did you call it Edward?
EDWARD is my middle name. For me, it brings up the image of a proper British gentleman, reliant on logic and truth. He appreciates the finer things in life, and values honesty and character above all else. He loves women, and more importantly, respects them.
What’s the best way for people to reach out to you?
They should email us at email@example.com
Associate Photo Editor/Editor: Jenna Garrett
Writer: Jakob Schiller
Read the online piece here
Photographer: Ethan Pines
Heidi: How did you find out about the Science Fair?
Ethan: A close friend of mine is one of the directors of judging, and every year he tells me that I need to come and shoot — that it’s full of quirky, imaginative kids with inventive projects and large personalities. And it’s never been covered well. This year I finally decided to do it.
What about the fair appealed to you? Had you seen an image/student that compelled you to take it on as a personal project?
I’d seen a few snapshots on the Science Fair website from past years, but until I arrived at the Fair I hadn’t seen anything conveying the spirit of the kids, the uniqueness of their projects and the atmosphere of the day. And I think it’s all these elements that appealed to me. I was a bit of a geek as a kid, but I always wanted to be one of the cool kids. And I think that was a mistake. What I admire and love about the kids at the Science Fair is, they absolutely believe in themselves and their visions. They’re not there to win or to get famous, but because they’re proud of what they’ve done and are excited to show it off.
It’s also the kind of portrait series that, if you choose the right kids, almost can’t go wrong. It’s easy to focus on gear and lighting and technique, but photography is really about the subjects and the content, and it doesn’t get better than this. It was amazing — over 900 kids and projects, all of whom won regionally or locally to get here, all of whom converge on the California Science Center in downtown L.A. with their ill-fitting suits, their adolescent awkwardness, their earnest enthusiasm, their fairly mind-blowing projects.
I’m also a longtime fan of science fiction, and ultimately that’s what many of these projects are — new ways of thinking about problems, imaginative forays into the future.
Did you set out to have it published? or was this purely a creative exercise for you?
I always hoped to publish it somewhere but didn’t get much interest beforehand. So I thought I’d go and shoot something good, then send it out afterwards. I wanted to make photo editors’ jobs as easy as possible — get something in front of them practically ready to go. The Science Center was also generous and trusting enough to give me a media pass and full access without a specific editorial assignment, so I wanted to make sure I did right by them. They and the Fair deserve the coverage.
What’s the difference between shooting this type of series and let’s say a client job? How does your creative process or mental process compare?
Of course I can do whatever I want with a personal series, as opposed to a client job with a specific creative mandate. But what I did is exactly what I would have done if a magazine had assigned me the shoot. If an advertising gig sent me to the Fair, there would have been a lot more discussion and preparation beforehand regarding the ultimate purpose and use of the images, the client’s and agency’s creative direction, the message we wanted to convey, what some of our ideal images might be, etc. And I would have put a lot of thought into how to direct the kids, how to dramatize the client’s goal and agency’s ideas, what moments I’d be looking for, what scenarios I’d want to create, and how to make all that happen. And of course how to light it, what gear I’d need, what crew, what preproduction, and so on.
Since this was a personal series, my preproduction focused on how I wanted it to look, how to light it to get it there, and how to rig a battery-powered, portable strobe setup that my assistant and I could easily move around and manipulate in small areas. There was a lot of coordination beforehand with the Science Center, and I went the day before to scout. I also put some thought into creating a well-rounded photo essay — including details, still-lifes of projects, overviews of the exhibition rooms — rather than just a portrait series. As for directing and the content of the shots, I’ve shot so many portraits by now, I didn’t do much preparation beforehand. Between the kids themselves and the way I shoot, I felt I’d end up with what I was looking for. Too much preparation for something like this, and you can end up focused on a preconceived agenda rather than what’s happening in front of you.
How did you determine who would be shot/made the edit?
Determining whom to shoot was tough. Not because there weren’t enough good subjects, but because there were too many. Nearly 1,000 entrants and projects, and only a four-hour window when the kids are out with their projects for judging. Once we were inside I skimmed the aisles of one main area to find the first few interesting-looking kids with interesting-looking projects, After those, I did it again in the next area. Any one of those hundreds of kids could have been a complete gem to shoot; I just had to choose and run with it. And make it as good as possible once we were shooting.
What did you say to the kids to get them to open up? did anyone turn you down?
I’d simply stop at a kid, tell him/her I was shooting portraits, and ask if I could photograph him/her. It helped to have a media pass on my shirt and be the guy with the strobes flashing at various places around the Science Center. No one turned me down. Most of them seemed eager to share what they had worked on. And if they were a bit embarrassed, that also makes for a good portrait.
Once we were shooting, I watch for good moments, shoot the moments between the poses, talk with them, get them animated and expressive, work with whatever presents itself spontaneously, and make sure I get what I have in my head as well.
Once you saw the body of work, what were the key factors in choosing Wired over let’s say another tech publication?
Choosing Wired was a no-brainer. It’s the highest-profile and lushest tech publication out there. I think it’s one of the best-designed and -edited publications, period, tech or otherwise. I’ve shot for them before, so I thought that my pitch email would at least get read.
What did you pitch consist of? How many images, what was the crux of the text?
I edited down the shoot to a tight 21-image photo essay that I laid out in a .pdf with a title page and simple captions. I emailed it to Wired with a brief explanation of the Science Fair, and let the .pdf speak for itself. Once they accepted it, they asked me for a broader edit. I sent them everything that I’d be happy to see in print / online, and let them create the final series. Their version and mine ended up fairly close, so I felt that they understood the essence of the project.
Sift /A King Arthur Flour Publication
Creative Director: Ruth Perkins/Tamara Dowd
Photographer: Julia Reed
How did the project come about for you? Were they a former client?
I was actually hired at King Arthur Flour as a PR Coordinator in 2013. My background was in film and photography, but I saw an opportunity to bring those skills to King Arthur through PR. I was working as a food and lifestyle photographer in LA before moving back east (I grew up in Vermont) and had planned to continue my business here. I never imagined I’d end up in a marketing department, but King Arthur Flour is a wonderful company, known locally for its charitable giving and status as a founding B Corporation. They aren’t, however, as well known for these things on the national level. I felt like good companies need good storytellers and advocates too, so I took the job. About a year ago, I was officially promoted to Multimedia Producer, where I concentrate on telling our story through photography, writing, and video.
Oh man, everything and anything! I do most of our “lifestyle” photography, for bakeries/people of interest nationally, as well as internally. Many of those shoots end up in Sift, some are for our blog, Flourish. I am a contributor to our instagram feed, and I run our video program, which is still a bit of a one-man show. At the moment I write, produce, shoot, and edit all of our videos.
A deep appreciation for food is in my blood. My father was a chef and my mother was a baker; they met while working for the same restaurant. Growing up, everything we ate was made from scratch, and often from the garden. I never saw store-bought bread in the house, and we never went out to eat. Bones and vegetable scraps were saved, for building rich stocks that simmered on the woodstove all winter long. I vividly remember visiting my aunt in Boston when I was 13. She asked if I liked frozen waffles and I was SO excited to try them, because I had never had them before! I was seriously disappointed. We didn’t have much money when I was growing up, but my parents knew how to transform even the cheapest ingredients into rich and flavorful meals. I took my first job in a restaurant at 14 washing dishes, and worked my way up to waitress, and later, cook. I went to college in my early 20s, as a way to escape the restaurant industry – which is somewhat ironic in retrospect. In LA I started going to farmer’s markets – at first as a way to reduce my carbon footprint, but later because of my love for the people who grew my food. I felt such a strong connection with the farmers I’d see every week – their stories and personalities connected me to the land in such a real and tangible way. The experience brought me back to my roots, and eventually inspired my move back to New England. I started taking photos for farmers to use in their marketing efforts – it was my way of helping the community and people that meant so much to me. I started a short-lived blog, and began getting solicited for more food-oriented jobs. At King Arthur, I get to merge my two favorite styles – food and lifestyle. The bakers I work with remind me a lot of the farmers I knew in LA. The best ones have enormous passion for what they do, and an indefatigable drive to better their craft. Everyone comes to the table from a different direction, and for a different reason. When I photograph bakers for Sift, I always want to know what moves them to bake. Baked goods are as unique to their bakers as fingerprints are to people, and I like to photograph them as though I was taking a portrait of the maker themselves.
The biggest challenge for me personally was the timeline. We moved fast on this project, so I found myself rushing to meet deadlines for the premier issue, while simultaneously trying to collect images that we might want for future issues (fall foliage for instance – it happens without regard for your schedule!) As a team, we wanted to make sure that we weren’t just putting another food magazine into a saturated (and some say declining) market. Authenticity is what makes our company what it is, and we wanted that to come through in the magazine – I think it did. Our creative director Ruth Perkins, and our Editor Susan Reid worked hard to weave stories from many writers and photographers into one cohesive set. With the help of our agency HZDG, they put together a magazine we are all incredibly proud to have our name on. Also, it’s SO soft! Have you touched the cover? It just feels so luxurious and inviting, I couldn’t be more honored to have been a part of this team.
– Samples and/or link to your published work, please also include a list of where you have been published
Ventura Blvd Magazine
Editor-in-Chief: Linda Grasso
Creative Director: Ajay Peckham
Graphic Designer: Elena Lacey, Michelle Villas
Photographer: Michael Becker
Heidi: Tell us about your commercial photography as a second career. What caused you to make the switch?
Michael: I was drawn to both music and photography from an early age. When I was 11 my grandfather, who was a professional photographer in Manhattan, gave me his beautiful old 1950’s Rolleiflex. I was immediately hooked. When I hit my teens, I became increasingly interested in music, particularly blues and jazz. I started playing guitar and ended up going to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. After graduating I moved to Los Angeles and spent the next 15 years in the studio making music.
Several things happened that ultimately led me back to photography. In the year 2000 there was a commercial actors strike that had a dramatic effect on some of my clients and my business as a composer/producer. Shortly after that, both my parents became very ill. I decided to move back to New York to help take care of them and to deal with the difficult transitions. It was then that I rediscovered my grandfather’s old Rolleiflex. Taking photos of my parents and the town where I grew up became both an escape and a way of documenting what my family was going through. There was something about the immediacy of photography that resonated with me. I was hooked all over again.
I know your first career was as a successful music composer, how do the two interplay, if at all?
They both have the incredible power to move people, and to reflect and comment on social conditions. After years of making music, I found photography refreshing in that I could make a photograph relatively quickly, whereas writing and producing a song can be a rather lengthy process.
My professional experience has been that both require a strong, individual voice or vision, but they are also fertile playgrounds for collaboration. I loved playing in bands and working in the studio with other musicians. Photography is also a great collaboration, starting with the entire creative team, through to the subject interaction with the photographer.
My biggest lesson from music carried forward into photography is to trust the creative process. Don’t set out to make something perfect, set out to make something authentic and then subject it to a heathy dose of scrutiny and refinement.
How did you execute the Mark Jacobson story? I understand you turned over a completely researched idea both editorially and photographically. How long did this process take?
I have been working with a wonderful editor and photography consultant, Lisa Thackaberry. I was interested in doing more editorial work in addition to my entertainment work. My wife, Staness Jonekos, had also done a major career switch from television executive producer to published author. It was Lisa that suggested we find an interesting story to tell and work as a team doing the story and photography. She suggested we pitch magazines directly and thought going in with a complete article might be a viable way to get published. Since staffing and budgets are down in editorial, it made sense to try and create our own opportunity.
My wife immediately remembered our first encounter with Mark when I started working in entertainment and thought it might be an interesting story. I loved the idea and reached out to him to see if he would be open to doing it. After explaining our intentions, he agreed and we set up the first interview. It wasn’t until we sat down with him that we realized what a rich history there was with him and his father Irving. Irving had quite a remarkable career prior to inventing the first camera sound blimp. From the time I first called Mark to when the article was published this month, took almost a year.
What compelled you to share this story and why this magazine?
To our surprise, there had been almost nothing written about the sound blimp. Just Mark’s web site and a couple of mentions in users’ blogs. Such an obscure thing, surely there must be an interesting story. It’s been a part of film and television publicity and marketing for decades. Many film marketing one-sheets are made from the unit stills shot by the onset photographer. Shots that could never have been captured with a noisy camera snapping away during an actual take.
Once again it was Lisa Thackaberry that suggested we pitch it to Ventura Blvd Magazine (VB). She thought the local business angle was a great fit since his shop is in Studio City. VB does fantastic stories on local businesses and they still dedicate a luxurious amount of space to photographs.
Were you surprised that this story hadn’t been told as it’s such an important part of photo history?
We were definitely surprised at how little information was out there. In general, on set photographers are there for the publicity and marketing teams, not as part of the actual production. The very nature of the job requires a certain amount of stealth, thus I think it gets somewhat overlooked.
What compelled you to ask about the family history?
We were aware that it was Mark’s father who originally invented the first blimp. We were just curious what prompted him to design such a seemingly proprietary piece of gear. What kind of demand could there possibly have been at the time other than a few one-offs. Now blimps are used everywhere, from television and film sets to theater productions, golf tournaments, etc. Any place the clicking of a camera is a distraction to the action.
Was Mark surprised that the story made the cover? ( ie…not a publishers idea of a sexy subject )
He was completely blown away that he made the cover. We all were! Linda Grasso, Editor-in-Chief, and the amazing design team at VB literally picked our favorite photograph from the whole shoot to use on the cover. We couldn’t have been happier with the layout.
I think there’s great value in local publications and being connected to community, is that why you pitched this to Ventura Blvd?
Yes, it just seemed like a great fit given the proximity and the fact that VB is still prominently featuring photography. Plus we live in the hills above Studio City so it felt like it was relevant to us as both members of the community, and also the industry.
I know you shot Nancy Cartwright for the magazine, did you ask her to do her Bart Simson for you?
I did not, but I know she’s all too happy to oblige when someone asks.
What were you trying to capture when you photographed her and was it hard to separate her from that iconic voice?
Nancy is an incredibly talented voice over artist and an explosive bundle of energy. I simply tried to capture the exuberance she has for her new passion with sculpting. Clearly Bart is an inseparable part of her that she embraces and is protective of. I completely enjoyed the time the three of us spent together!
Los Angeles Magazine
Creative Director: Steven Banks
Art Director: Carly Hebert
Photo Editor: Amy Feitelberg
Photographer: Nicole LaMotte
Heidi: I know your astrology sign is cancer, how much to you think that plays into your love of shooting home/interiors and your philanthropic work?
Nicole: I definitely think my astrology sign plays into my love of interiors…cancers are home bodies at heart, always needing a home to call their own. Even as a child, I was always aware of my sense of home, rearranging furniture in my room to create a different feeling (or maybe just trying to get a better pov for camera ;)) As an undergrad I studied photojournalism at Columbia College in Chicago and without realizing it until later was the very first books I bought were interiors. I bought the “Family Houses by the Sea” by Alexandra D’Arnoux and then Isle Crawford’s “The Sensual Home”. I am drawn to the feelings that a curated space can provide. The philanthropic work really helps to balance me out. As a cancer, I am definitely sensitive and not just about my own feelings. The first time I traveled to Haiti and saw the looks in the the eyes of the orphans, I had a visceral reaction that compelled me to go back and find ways to help. One way was through my pictures, but I also recruited an artist friend, Rebecca Farr, to come along and bring the gift of art and self-expression to the children.
You were also a photo editor, where you always shooting and editing?
I have been shooting most of my life, it just has not always been my livelihood. In my twenties I had a career in the corporate travel world which not only gave me a great business background but also afforded some amazing travel benefits…and that is when I would do most of my shooting–while on my travels. I would love coming back from a trip and editing the pictures and making a book (the old fashioned way, with prints and albums). But, when I turned 30, I decided it was time to get back to photography which is when I transitioned into the magazine world. My photo editing career started at Santa Barbara Magazine and then ended at C Magazine. I worked with Margot Frankel at both places, she brought me down to LA to help launch C Magazine.
Is it hard to edit your own work? What’s your process?
Depending on what I am editing, the process can be very difficult. Shooting a story tethered is relatively easy, with the exception of portraits, as you are able to watch the story develop. When not shooting tethered, I will usually do a first pass edit with one rating and then wait as long as I can (depending on assignment due date) and take a second pass which usually consists of looking at the rated ones and knocking some down. Sometimes I find it helpful to look at a shoot in the “proof shoot” view, again going back to my photojournalism training, and looking at images smaller to see what grabs me. When editing for a show or my website, I always need an outside perspective as I cannot easily separate myself from my work.
When did you decided dedicated yourself to photography only?
After spending about six years as a photo editor, I decided that it was really time to go out on my own. Producing shoots became less fulfilling and I needed to focus on my passions.
What was your big break?
My big break really came from a dear friend, Andrea Stanford, who had come from the magazine world and was launching a new division at One Kings Lane. She needed a photographer to shoot the leading interior design tastemakers for online sales. I helped her to establish the processes and then began shooting regularly which allowed me to support myself. It was an incredible feeling to have such a supporter – someone that believes in you completely. I ultimately started working at the company full time, and did so for 2 years, which granted me incredible access to the interior design world. And I loved meeting all of the interesting people and shooting such a range of spaces from super layered to incredibly streamlined.
You have a strong understanding of the narrative arc, does that stem from your magazine editing work?
As a photo editor, I worked closely alongside an incredibly talented creative director, Margot Frankel. I would sit with her while she laid out stories, so I really did gain an incredible understanding of how images can tell a story and the need for scale changes; she has an incredible way of laying out images that is unexpected and fluid. Being on shoots as the photo editor also allowed me to observe the process of developing the story arc.
How often do you work for LA Magazine?
This was my first time working for LA Magazine. They had seen my other story on Lulu and wanted to house so there was not a ton of direction on the story. The writer was on set for this one so we were able to collaborate on the important elements of the house/story as it unfolded. It is always nice when you can get tidbits of the interview to help inform the richer part of the story; I find you can uncover a lot layers this way, like maybe a collection that isn’t full on display or pieces of art that are significant. The magazine asked for coverage and gave me a template of the house layouts to use as a loose reference. They wanted to be sure I covered as much as possible in both a horizontal and vertical format to help with the layout and maximizing the images for a four page story.
What are some key tips for shooting people in their environments?
When shooting someone in their environment I like to have conversations with them about their house and what spaces they use the most so that they are comfortable in the environment. Lulu is use to being photographed so I didn’t need to worry as much with her. Sometimes it is nice to have the homeowner in a space that otherwise might not feel complete, in the case of Lulu, I loved the front entrance with the rug down and the assortment of jars but felt like it would be much livelier with her in it (and to avoid a dark whole which the door would be).
What happens on a cloudy day when you have a job? Do you try and simulate sunlight?
Cloudy days are actually good, except when you are shooting people as it brings down the overall light. I try to avoid the harsh light when shooting interiors and move around the house accordingly. I really like the feel of natural light. The challenge is when I have to light someone and making it feel cohesive with the rest of the story which is natural light. So I work from my ambient and then add just a pop to to give a little direction without looking too lit.
Editor-in-Chief: Eric Celeste
Designer: Caleb Bennett
Creative Director: Samuel Solomon
Editor-in-Chief: Eric Celeste
Heidi: How did this job come about for you?
Samuel: Years ago, I worked with Genome’s founding Editorial Director, Eric Celeste, while at American Airlines’ inflight, American Way. We always had a great working relationship during our time there, so he reached out about the Creative Director position when things were first getting off the ground.I jumped at the opportunity because I felt like it would be a chance to build something meaningful from the ground up, and had a lot of potential to become a great product.
Did you choose healthcare consciously as an editorial pursuit? It seems as though that would be a very solid career path. Smart.
Not healthcare specifically, but I’ve always had a personal interest in science, and looking back I’ve often gravitated towards projects which had a philanthropic element or could contribute something of real value for the audience. Not to draw a comparison to Tibor Kalman, but I always admired the editorial work he was able to do at Colors, and that sort of social consciousness has always been very appealing. There is a lot of promise in the field of genomics and personalized medicine for helping people with chronic diseases, so to be able to work on a magazine that can have real impact is great. The bonus is that from a design perspective, science and medicine have such a huge visual vocabulary to draw from.
Who publishes it and how many times a year does it come out?
Genome is a quarterly published by Big Science Media, and is the core product around which the media company is built. All of our content lives in both the print edition and online at genomemag.com. We’re in the process of closing our fifth issue (Summer 2015) right now.
How big is your staff?
Well, I am the entire art department if that says anything. It helps that we publish quarterly, and I occasionally bring on some outside help when needed. So yeah, we are a pretty lean operation — 5 in our Dallas office, our Editor-in-Chief in the Bay area, and we are growing our sales staff outside the Dallas area.
Are you also the Photo Director?
More or less. I do all of the research, assigning, editing and color work.I’d say the vast majority of our imagery is conceptual in nature, so there’s also a good deal of illustration in the book.
Medicine can a dry subject, what is your creative mantra to combat that?
Well, our writers and editors are great at making these topics accessible for a broad audience, which in turn makes my job a lot easier.If you look at the existing visual vernacular of genomics, you see a ton of glowing 3-d helixes, walls of ACGT text, scientists hard at work in the lab. My challenge is to try to avoid the clichés, and find a fresh way to speak to these topics.For the first issue, I wanted to see if we could do an entire issue without a single helix. We came close — I think there was exactly one. But it was a super smart solution by the Milan-based illustrator, Alessandro Gottardo.
How did the idea of the suit come about for the disease story?
We work out which story will be featured on the cover for each issue during editorial meetings. Usually it’s something with broad appeal — topics that affect everyone like family, technology, food, etc.
For this particular cover, I had to find a way to communicate disease inheritance that would be really immediate for the reader. The idea came up to bring something that’s usually hidden inside the body to the outside, so we ended up using clothing as the metaphor for inherited genetic traits, with the genetic mutation represented in orange. There’s this sort of anxiety around the idea of an inherited disease, because it’s lurking away inside your genetics, and the jarring patterns help to reinforce that anxiety.
I reached out to Randal Ford, because I knew he could execute the concept and bring something extra of his own to the project. A concept like this could go south pretty fast if it wasn’t executed really well. Randal brought on Gigantic Squid to help with the retouch and creating the patterns, and in the end, everyone did an awesome job of making a pretty weird idea come to life.
What’s the creative direction for the brand?
Our overarching goal is making complex science understandable and compelling for the lay audience. I’d say the creative direction is idea-driven and bold, sometimes a little experimental or whimsical but always approachable. Someone with an existing health condition doesn’t need to fight against the design in order to get to information that could potentially change their life.
Are you hamstrung at all by newsstand sales?
Genome is actually not on newsstands, and goes primarily to subscribers and point-of-care settings: doctor’s offices, hospitals, personalized medicine facilities. Anyone that’s interested can subscribe for free at genomemag.com/subscribe.
Who is your competition?
We were the first producer of content centered around genomics and personalized medicine, so we have a leg up in that sense, but a few more have come along recently. Front Line publishes a genomics magazine, and Cure is a cancer publication which occasionally touches on personalized medicine. Ultimately, our competition is any publication in the point-of-care setting, so everything from medical journals to newsweeklies.
If a photographer wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way?
A simple email or printed promo piece works just fine and we look at everything that comes through our door, digital or print. Submissions, messages, criticisms, whatever can be sent to art(at)genomemag.com.
Creative Director: Elizabeth Spiridakis Olson
Director of Photography: Tara Guertin
Photographer: Jeffery Cross
Heidi: Where did you get all that candy?
Jeffery: AFAR’s art department collected iconic and oddball candy (from staff members who had traveled recently, from online sources, and from local shops), based on visually interesting packaging, as well as geographic range. The Mix department runs in the magazine in every issue, and always tackles one object, from all around the world. The candy came from Sweden, Germany, Mexico, Russia, Japan, Colombia, Iceland, and beyond.
What is your process for setting up those graphic shots?
AFAR’s art director Jason Seldon mocked up the candy in the San Francisco office before we shot it in my Oakland studio. The products were all bright, colorful, and pop-y, and Jason wanted to play up that aspect. He’d also wanted to use that crazy pink background for some time, and this seemed like a good opportunity to do so. First step was to level the set and camera, waned the shot to be as rectilinear as possible. To help with the arduous task of getting the candy lined up in some sort of grid two we employed two special pieces of equipment: the first being a laser square…always fun to play with lasers, and the second being a 24” x 36” vacuum easel, this gave us a totally flat surface and held each piece of candy in place…magic!..The only downside was the noise. A vacuum easel should come with a great stereo… or noise canceling headphones.
How many options did you have and how long did it take to set up that spread?
For this spread we took the slow and steady approach to end up with one version built piece by piece, evaluate then modified until it looks finished. According to the metadata the shoot took aprox 4hrs from start to finish.
Did you try any of the candy?
We did! Unfortunately… I tried almost all the candy. It was all good in its own way. It was cool to see how each country approaches its sweets, all super different than our candy here in the states. Lucky for me that there were two families with children on my loading dock after the shoot… Being the stranger with the candy I doled out as much of the candy as they would take. The kids went crazy over the McCraw’s Taffy… its crazy big.
How big was that piece of candy for the opener?
McCraw’s taffy, which is made in Denver, comes in nearly foot-long strips, and has been in production since 1908! I am sure it would have other practical uses much like duct tape. It’s a fun product
Photo Director: Nadia Vellam
Photo Editor: Caroline Hirsch
Photographer: Emiliano Granado
You can read the T Magazine article here
Heidi: I know this was your first time shooting with T Mag, how was it they had you on their radar? Had you been sending promos?
Emiliano: To be honest, I don’t know! I do send them promos, but I don’t think I was sending Caroline promos.
What were you doing in Argentina already? Do you often send notes to clients if you are traveling internationally
I was shooting a commercial job for 72andSunny. If I foresee having an extra day or two, I will definitely send a travel notice. Luckily, I’ve been busy enough lately that I don’t really have too many extra days.
What sort of direction did you get from the magazine?
They wanted photos of the artist at her studio and at her home. Details of both place and portraits of her in both places.
ARG/USA- Founder, Director of Photography, Social Media: Emiliano Granado
USA – Founder, Photographer, Writer: Daniel Wakefield Pasley
Tell us about Manual for Speed’s Photo Annual, I know Manual for Speed started out as a personal project and PND covered your story last year.
The photo annual is a big deal for us! We’re finally putting digital pixels into the analog world, and it makes it feel real, all of a sudden. For the last four years, it’s felt like a digital side project. But it’s starting to feel more and more like a media property. We’re collaborating with artists, with designers, etc. We’re taking retail sales seriously. We’ve got plans for more printed material. It’s just getting bigger and bigger.
With that said, personal projects are great forms of marketing. And self-publishing is a great way to get those projects out. The most memorable images of my career are from projects that were self-initiated or where I invested more than the necessary to complete the job. If you can create emotional connections with your images, people will notice you. When things are slow, you have to create work for yourself. If you’re not constantly creating work, then you’re failing.
When you first started doing MFS as a daily. What was the hardest aspect of publishing MFS?
Just the logistics of posting every day is gnarly. Photo edit, words, structure, quality, spelling errors. All that becomes gargantuan tasks when you’ve been running around all day and you have to wake up early the next morning.
Did you simply figure it out how to produce MFS as you went along ( publishing daily ) or did you have any prior experience?
Definitely no experience! We got a ‘publisher’ that receives all the images and words and puts it together neatly and creatively. That was by far the best thing we did.
Describe that moment when you realized this was about to get real.
There was never ONE absolute breakthrough moment. Instead, many small ones. A certain pro rider would tweet at us. They’d give us their personal phone number to get a hold of them. We’d get offers from strangers to sleep at their homes. We’d get recognized by strangers at races. People would send us loving emails out of the blue. Traffic would spike. Sales would spike. Major media people would say what a great job we’re doing, etc etc. Lots of little victories here and there.
What do you think was the single most important aspect to MFS’s success and what type of advice can you share for others wanting to pursue a personal project?
MFS has a unique voice. No one else is doing anything similar. A personal project should be exactly that – personal. Make it yours. Own it. Don’t do what you think the world wants to see. Just do you.
MFS’s coverage of the 2013 Giro d’italia drew your biggest traffic numbers to date and was the first time you guys started getting more mainstream attention. Were you surprised how much traction you got?
Yes. We had been doing MFS for a few years already and it wasn’t getting the attention we thought it should. The Giro was definitely the first big POP.
Had you ever published content on a daily basis? I gained a new found respect for daily online content. ( I had recently worked for Red Bull’s Sound Select division on 30 days in LA and got up at 5:00 am for a month to edit and post, it was tremendously rewarding and relentless )
As I write this, I’m in a hotel room with two other MFS guys. We’re editing photos and concepting ideas and figuring out how best to execute tomorrows post. We won’t be done for a few hours. And then we’ll tweak the post in the morning while we’re in the car chasing the race around. It’s grueling and gnarly to publish daily. It is extremely rewarding though.
Where does your love of riding come from and how often do you ride?
It started as a means of transportation, but turned into an athletic endeavor. Riding is incredibly rewarding – you put in a physical effort and all of a sudden you’re going 25-30mph on two wheels. Its a great feeling. You can go as fast or as slow as you want, but it’s always fun to watch the landscape roll by. Unfortunately, I don’t have that much time to ride anymore. I commute everywhere on bike, but I’ve only been going on longer rides once a week if I’m lucky.
How did the merchandising come about? Are you enjoying any success with it?
Merchandise was always a way to help pay the bills. Recently, we’re approaching merchandise as “retail as content.” That means everything we make has to be original artwork, thought out ideas, and it has to deliver on MFS’ worldview somehow. Slapping a logo on a tshirt is bullshit. We don’t want to make bullshit.
Aside from the photo annual, what’s next for MFS?
We’d like to continue publishing books. Smaller typology studies. Maybe some newsprint editions. Definitely a Photo Annual for 2015. More merchandise – lots of original jerseys and apparel coming this summer. Print sales. Interesting media partnerships with non-cycling media, etc.
For those of us with some serious bike lust, check this out, custom bikes
John Hryniuk: Celebrity Impersonators
Heidi: Where did this idea come from considering you don’t live near Hollywood?
John: The idea of photographing impersonators came from doing one on one portraits with real celebrities at the Toronto International Film Festival. Unfortunately you get about 3 minutes in a boring hotel room. You can’t really be very creative in that amount of time.
How much time do you typically get with them?
About five years ago I though it would be really interesting to photograph impersonators because they give you all the time you need. I thought if I had the real person in front of me how would I photograph them? The other great thing with impersonators is there usually are no cranky egos to deal with. They are pretty much willing to do anything you’d like except something that would portray the celebrity they’re impersonating in a bad light.
Are you shooting these while on other jobs?
No, every year I take time off to travel and shoot the projects I want to work on. There isn’t any pressure or expectations from art directors or clients. Its about having fun. I call it a working vacation. I discovered its really important as a professional photographer to work on your own personal projects. You have to make the time to shoot things for yourself otherwise you will burn out.
How do you choose the characters and where do you find them?
In terms of casting its easiest to attend their yearly conventions in Las Vegas and Florida etc. I usually choose the most realistic looking ones, here some of the places I’ve found people.
How long has this series been in play?
The series is still an ongoing project. I think I will probably search out individuals and attend a few more meetings before it will be complete. The impersonators all do this part time or full time for a living. Which makes it even more interesting for me. I don’t only love photographing people but also finding out all about them when I do. There is also something about photographing in the United States that find unique than any other place in the world. The culture lends itself well to this kind of project. It is very different from Toronto, Canada where I live as its much more conservative.
Creative Director: Elizabeth Spiridakis Olson
Director of Photography: Tara Guertin
Photographer: Kyle Johnson
How did you get those amazing aerial shots?
I ended up taking a helicopter tour of Kauai, knowing it would be the most amazing way to see and photograph the island from a unique perspective. I specifically found a company that offered a doorless chopper to get the best photos I could. The experience was incredible and terrifying at the same time. I honestly found that looking through my lens made it feel less “real” but every time I would set my camera down I started freaking out. The pilot gets down within the canyons and directly over the rocky cliffs or huge ocean swells. Its really a surreal way see the crazy diverse mix of landscapes on such a small island.
What was your approach to this shoot, did you have a shot list?
I approached this shoot similar to any editorial project I shoot. I definitely come in excited with some initial ideas and knowing the magazines specific needs. I always leave room however for exploration and spontaneous shots as well…Always turn down every road that looks interesting, dont hesitate to talk with locals, etc…
With this being a big feature, we definitely talked about the shoot a lot before hand and went into it with a Shot List. I had never been to Kauai previously. Being brand new to an area is always a great advantage for me photography wise. Everything is new and exciting and none of the little details get missed or overlooked. With a place this incredible I know there is bound to be almost too many good small details. I did try to stay within the vein of the story though. With it being a story for their Food Issue, the specific dishes had to be chosen and bringing any necessary lighting/plates/etc.. was also planned ahead of time. Shooting food at night almost always needs to be lit. I wanted to light it yet have it still feeling fitting to the story that was mostly shot outdoors & natural.
Did you know the writer on this project?
I have yet to meet Chris personally however he also wrote the one other travel story I have shot for AFAR earlier last year. After that story (about Oregon Coastal foragers) he reached out to me via email expressing he loved how the story turned out. We have corresponded a few times and I hope to collaborate with him again. I think my aesthetic is a good fit for his stories and we definitely have a mutual respect. I was stoked to find out he was writing the Kauai piece.
What sort of direction did you get from the magazine?
The creative director Elizabeth Spiridakis Olson & Photo Director Tara Guertin are both amazing people. AFAR does a great job of planning, producing and scheduling yet also letting the photographer find your own vision and tell the story as you see it and experience it. They both had great ideas going into the shoot on locations, aesthetic, and other details. Elizabeth actually joined me during the food shoots and helped with specific plate styling. Its great to collaborate with people who are just as passionate and whose aesthetics and curation I respect.
Whose idea was it to ride a bike off the pier?
Technically Jim was only diving off the pier…not riding a bike off of it but he did have damn good form. I might of mis-worded that about the bike. He rode his cruiser bike onto the pier and then dove off a few times for us. I was taking some more classic environmental
How was the food at Bar Acuda?
The food we had was awesome! You can really tell Jim uses the best local ingredients possible. Weekly trips to the farmers market/fish markets and sourcing as many things as he can that way. The islands climate can grow almost anything. As simple as it was the Local North Shore honeycomb with Humboldt Fog goat cheese and apple was one of my favorite things we tried. That honey smells and tastes like the islands flowers. I also have only good things to say about any of the sea food they serve. Seared Ono was especially memorable.
What made this story different from your other travel assignments?
This was a dream job! 100 percent. I have shot a lot of travel related stories around the Northwest where I live but I had never yet traveled somewhere so exotic and breathtaking for travel work. I think knowing it was a big feature and a huge opportunity pushed me to work harder than ever before. I was up before sunrise every day and really made the most of every minute on the island. Without sounding super cheesy, it really affirmed how much I love my job. Its a ton of work on a travel story. Running around hitting so many places but its always the most fun and exciting. Especially being somewhere you have never been and knowing the photos are going to accompany a great travel writers story. I don’t think I have ever been more excited to get home and scan through film/files than on this story.
How many shots did you get of the ocean before you got that beautiful opener?
Surprisingly not many. It was only our first morning of shooting..(we arrived the previous afternoon). My assistant Ron Harroll & I got up before dawn and just started driving around looking for interesting views and landscapes in the morning light. It wasn’t even a particularly scenic beach but we noticed the waves/water looked good in that light and we pulled over for a few quick shots. It ended up making a great opener.
I had the good fortune of sitting down with legendary creative Douglas Busch who has an inspirational punch list of achievements. Doug is well known for his large BW photographic work shot with a cameras he designed and built under de Golden Busch banner : the finale being the world’s largest portable camera, “The SuperLarge™.” His photographic Silver Chloride and Amidol contact print work ranges from 8×10 to 40×60 presenting an imperfect world with the most graceful and honest eye. He still mixes his own chemistry from the 1900’s.
Little Rocky Glenn, PA 1982
You were an assistant to Al Weber, Morley Baer, and Ansel Adams, looking back what their biggest impact on you as a creative?
Al Weber taught me the basics from the Zone System, exposing film to the finished mounted photograph. Ansel taught me to see the beauty in all things, and Morley taught me about architectural photography and equipment. Al also taught me how to be a descent human being; to give all you have to help and teach people.
While working with those three you had developed a patent for a print washer only using a cup of water an hour, tell us about that.
This was the beginning of my concern for preserving and not wasting water. The planet will run out of water if we continue down the path we are on.
How much of a catalyst was The Mono Lake project for your sustainability work? I know the book was celebrated with a grand exhibition in 1979 that shared awareness about the water diversions to LA.
I saw that Mono Lake was being drained by LA, and I saw an opportunity to have an impact as a water advocate, a photographer and then later in my life as an architect Designer. Mono Lake lead me down the path to sustainability, healthy housing and draught tolerant landscaping. I am now working on a self watering vertical hydroponic herb and vegetable growing system for the home; www.theFarminaBox.com
Your architecture firm recently presented a solar panel project to Malibu City Council which would be the first artful construction of a functional and sustainable building, is that right?
Yes, the project has a promising outlook to convert ugly solar into ART. The design and structural skeleton for these very cool new panels from Switzerland seem to oscillate as you move past the building and then curve up like a wave and turn into awnings for the windows giving the feeling of the rolling movement of the waves because the panels are tilted up at various angles to create a wave-like effect. The panels seem to move like the rhythm of the ocean. This is as much an ART piece as it is a functional net zero building. This approach to Solar has never been done before…ART and solar functionality…net zero.
How did this idea develop?
I’ve been in several meeting in that building and noticed the windows were hot to the touch, about 120 degrees and most offices had their blinds drawn to avoid the heat. This seemed like a great opportunity for Malibu to be a maverick in sustainability and forward thinking architectural design. “Malibu” as a brand has always tried to stay in the forefront of a wonderful living environment for their population while protecting the ocean and land. The hope being, Schools and other communities would come to see it as a work of art producing power, and protecting the environment choosing to go down an aesthetic path rather than most solar panel projects which are incredibly ugly and a blight on the environment. The solar system will reduce air conditioning costs and energy usage by protecting the façade from the heat of the sun. It will also be an educational tool for students to participate and see how the futurecan and should be for them through monitors showing the production and use of the sun’s power by us (including waste and vampire energy consumption).
One of the many things that stood out for me was the clarity and remarkable detail of just your proofs for the Zuma and Dark Zuma personal photographic project. Are you using one of your own SuperLarge™ lenses?
I shoot everything from 35mm to 12×20. This project has been going on for years. I started with the “Silent Waves” in the early 2000’s. Then in the last several years photographing Zuma as I walk my dogs on Zuma/Broad Beach.
Silent Waves Project
At some point you mentioned losing your visual eye and gravitated towards architecture, sustainability, healthy detoxing housing, and organic vertical gardening. What’s your best advice for anyone who feels they are in that same position?
I was making the same photographs. Different subjects but the same metaphor. I moved to Malibu to push my vision going from black and white contact prints to Color. The Silent Waves series has been shown and sold all over the world. They are the complete opposite of my prior 35 years of work. Color and a purposeful lack of detail, a 180 degree turn, just color as emotion. It did free up the vision but on my terms not what is popular and/or hip. I still tend to photograph very subtle images, not beat the viewer over the head; bringing them into a more intimate serene place.
You have an interesting idea for the printing of this book, tell us about it.
The idea for Zuma and Dark Zuma is to have some of the images in color, and then some of them in black and white using a blue filter. They take on an abstract nature when shot in black and white and become wonderful organic solitary personal images.
What’s the difference between your eye for photography and your eye for 3D architectural or sculptural work?
With photography you making decisions about what to include in the frame and what not to include in the frame, it’s all right there for you, with architecture and 3D design, it’s all begins visually in your head, goes to paper, then is built. It is a very rewarding process. Add in the sustainable net zero and detoxing healthy elements it is the way the future housing should be for all.
Is it hard to edit you own work?
Well there’s the editing part and then the sequencing. I like to put my work up on a wall and begin to make my selects, walking by daily and removing images as they no longer affect me emotionally. My friend Sally Mann says it best, “location, location, location” in Real Estate holds the same meaning in photography– edit edit, edit. I also have some curators who often assist me in my editing and see other paths the imagery can go. Once I finish that process I may revisit some of the images I’ve pulled out simply to bridging images in a sequence for a show or book.
How hard is it for you to divide your eye between observational architectural work and fine art?
It’s fairly easy because I’m looking at things differently. My own design work calls on my architectural skills looking at details, traffic patterns, space volumns, and structure. Did I mention DETAILS. It’s invisioned as a holistic space and then I deconstruct it to every detail and then reassemble it, while the fine art is more of an expression of daily life and the found environment and the feelings that are aroused when I feel the place .
Car & Pepsi Machine 1986
Imperial Highway 1993
Propane Tank 1987
Denver I love you this much 1986
Black Forest 1981
Your book “In Plain Sight” is a wonderful early career retrospective of your work and exquisitely printed with a Japanese linen embossed cover, tri-tone printing and a dull and gloss varnish.
Yes. The book was designed by the talented book designer, Bill Sosin in Chicago and won the “Best book of the year from a small publisher” and each image had a gloss varnish in the blacks, along with a dull varnish surrounding the image which gives the white separation from the page. The images hold their integrity down to the finest detail.
One of the many wonderful things about my chats with Douglas is his true sincerity and his quite creative force that shines but never boasts; he simply shares what’s right in front of all us through his talented eye. His new book could include a collaboration with an lovely 87 years young female poet whose never expressed herself via images before. His architecture project is moving forward to next level meetings and hopefully will be approved by next month.
What it is about your style of working that has you with a steady client base?
My overall approach and why my regular clients hire me for specific subjects is that I shoot very fast (good for people who have zero time), I try to maximize that time with multiple / simultaneous set ups and I’m extremely resourceful. Besides creating a fun and collaborative set, I believe I’ve gained a good reputation with both client and talent representatives. Sometimes I’ve had to put my creative motives aside to get job done, but always put my best efforts to fulfill both the job and my own desires on making a great image.
You’re all over the newsstand right now, tell us about some of your projects and how they evolved.
Director of Photography: Jennifer Laski
Deputy Director of Photography: Jenny Sargent
Creative Director: Shanti Marlar
Photo Editor: Amelia Halverson
Photo Editor: Samantha Xu
For this issue, I had two assignments in the feature portfolio which included Ice Cube & Andy Samberg. The premise of the portfolio are subjects who are both actors and musicians. With Andy, it was collaborative, we chatted with him about my concepts (we had four set ups ready to go, but we had to narrow it down to two for time). He was honest on what he didn’t feel would have the best comic effect but was enthusiastic for having fun with my other ideas. He actually mentioned to the editor he wanted to pose with a bunch of mics, but I designed one of the sets to be more random with mics and he had ran with it thankfully. He loved the variety of mics that I had our prop stylist pull. For our second set up, I gave him a choice of different stickers and he went for the kittens, which I secretly hoped he would.
With Ice Cube, I felt there was so much gravity in keeping the balance between his distinct music and acting persona. I’ve have always been a huge fan and so excited about his directorial project about his days in NWA. I had to shoot at a location near his studio and I found a bar near by that had limited options, but could allow me to experiment to make the location take on completely different look. I wound up shooting four set ups in 20 minutes with him, quickly jumping between each set up. In these situations, my in camera or lightening risks usually pay off, which I feel was a great fit for his character.
This assignment was a cover and feature with Kendrick Lamar. I had the opportunity to work with him last year and had grown to understand him more as an artist rather then a musician. I’m a fan of all his projects and was able to learn what path he was setting up for his upcoming (now out) album. I also really wanted to experiment with color and light on this one since most images I had seen of him where very dark or moody (which is a great fit for him but I wanted to see him in color) We had a small budget to work with to build a partial set that I could get a few different looks with; I also brought some elements to play with in-camera effects. He was super excited to see the images as worked through the day which is always is so flattering when the subject appreciates your interpretation of themselves.
Photo Editor: John Gara
I’ve had some fun assignments with BuzzFeed, but this one was a little unusual with Nick Kroll. The story was about his current projects but apparently the entire interview was done over a long day of hiking. Due to his love of the outdoors we thought it would be fun to get him dressed up and shoot him on location as if we were on a hike. He was filming in Ojai so we found a location via AirBnB that was on a beautiful plot of land and had an RV for us to base camp. We had about 40 minutes to squeeze in about five different set ups I planned for us to tackle which I think we wound up doing six to seven different set ups with one look. I got him up in a tree, rolling around in the grass and getting close with nature without him breaking out of character.
The Hollywood Reporter/40 Anniversary SNL Issue
Director of Photography: Jennifer Laski
Creative Director: Shanti Marlar
Deputy Director of Photography: Carrie Smith
Photo Editor: Michelle Stark
It was such an honor to be working with such amazing talent on this one; we got to shoot pairs of SNL alumnus from different eras including Maya Rudolf with Garrett Morris, Molly Shannon with Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig with Larane Newman. Each shoot was done at different locations or in studio. Andy and Molly had worked with each other in the past, so they immediately had a good time on set. We did three set ups with two changes within 30 minutes. One set up required some special effects including squirting flower and a vintage taxi cab smoking up. Luckily they had amazing team work and we got all the shots we hoped to get. Kristen Wiig and Larane Newman met on set for the first time and it was magic to see these amazing performers bounce off each other. I had five set ups ready to go but was limited on time so we had to sacrifice the last one. Maya Rudolf and Garrett Morris had the most amazing chemistry, it was actually kind of a challenge to interrupt their amazing conversations since everyone on set was so engulfed in their stories and rapport. With them, I loved these in-between shots that captured the essences of how much fun they where having on set.
Creative Director: Mac Lewis
Director of Photography: Rebecca Black
* the pick up was done via August Syndication
I actually shot him for his PR and it wound up getting picked up by Playboy the same week. I just got to shoot him again a few weeks ago for Bust Magazine. He has an amazingly animated face and we had such a great conversation throughout out the whole shoot we had to keep taking breaks to Stop laughing the entire time.
The Red Bulletin
Creative Director: Erik Turek
Art Director: Kasimir Renmann
Head of Photography: Fritz Schuster
Associate Photo Editor: Rudolf Uebelhoer
Photo Editor: Marion Batty
Contributing Photo Editor US: Heidi Volpe
We had worked together on The Red Bulletin shoot with Aaron Bruno, so I know you have this wonderful way of engaging talent with your special effects and the ability to move from set up to set up quickly. Have there been situations where you’ve prepared set ups and not gotten to them?
Time always a major factor in most of the celebrity shoots and I always feel I need to have as many set ups as possible (within budget or logistical reason) so I’m prepared for surprises, good or bad. There might be factors like delays, weather / (natural) light /location, wardrobe issues, talent issues that might change my plans but I know that by giving myself as many options possible, it allows me more flexibility for the whole shoot. Because there are so many X factors to contend with, specially on a less controlled set, I try not to fall in love (so to speak) with any of the set ups Just from the experience that things can change in an instant. There have been numerous times I haven’t been able to get every set up I hoped to get, but I’ve learned (and still learning) how to best manage my time and prepare my set to allow me to seamless transitions between sets.
Is it typical to have so many set ups for you? Do you have a hit list for your style of shooting and then bend that towards the unique assignment?
Depending on the budget and logistics I’ll layout as many options I can squeeze out within the given time frame, while keeping things fun on set. I think I have a specific style but strive to evolve within what is currently inspiring to me. An assignment may allow me to experiment based on the subject, the logistics and what the client would like to achieve. I’ll customize an assignment with the client as the priority and if there is options to do secondary set ups, I’ll take the opportunity to try things outside of the main scope, usually resulting In images both the client and myself are happy with. It’s moments like this on set that keep me inspired and remind myself to constantly aim to elevate my work.
Photographer: Mark Hanauer
Heidi: What sparked your interest in submitting to We Transfer?
Mark: I had been using We Transfer for some time. It’s a great service for sending large files to clients and colleagues over the web. I enjoyed a lot of the graphics that they used on their site and one day I decided to send them a series of images that I thought were appropriate for their format.
Which images did you send and how many where sent/accepted?
Basically the images are horizontal with a lot of free space. To my delight they have used a handful of them. All of the images that I sent to We Transfer have been personal images from my travels, three from India and one from Central California. I don’t recall how many images that I sent to them, but I am very happy with what they have used. And they are appreciative as well, nice credit on the page and they share the contribution on Twitter and Facebook.
You’ve been drawn to photographing artists, why is this?
My first job assisting a commercial photographer was for Malcolm Lubliner. He had a studio on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood that adjoined Gemini GEL. 95% of what Malcolm did was for Gemini. I recall my first day at work Malcolm giving me a tour of Gemini and I was mesmerized. The produce fine art lithography and silkscreen printing, very old-world style. Gemini would invite artists to print at their press, the likes of Frank Stella, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Ellsworth Kelly, the list is amazing and I was instantly drawn to the work that was created there. We photographed every print that Gemini produced. I learned more about photographic technique there than anywhere I have studied or worked. It was also a great intro for me into the fine art world, something that was very new to me.
I enjoy a vicarious thrill looking through my camera at people that do extraordinary visual work, painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, dance, sports. I love seeing what artists do and I marvel at the process. Working with Julie Mehretu at her studio in Berlin was a remarkable experience. I spent a week photographing Julie, her staff and the studio for a museum catalogue. To have that kind of time to record her working was amazing. I love to do more in-depth projects like that. Whenever I have time, I try to get together with local artists whose work that I enjoy to create a portrait or something in the moment that gives me joy.
Tell us about your personal project.
My personal project is currently titled, Negative Space. It’s an idea that has been floating in my head for the last two weeks. The idea is based on something that I remember from a painting teacher in elementary school about the parts of a canvas where the subject isn’t. What do yo do with that space where there is nothing? Generally I think of an idea and by the time I pick up the camera, the idea has transformed into something else. We will see what happens….
Art Director: Melanie Prasetyo Fowler
Photo Researcher: Mary Risher
Photographer: Jen Judge
Heidi: How often do you and your husband get hired as a team, are you promoting yourselves that way?
Jen: It’s something of a work in progress. Aaron and I have been working together on and off for about ten years. In the beginning, we found that most editors wanted the freedom and flexibility to hire writers and photographers independently. But as we’ve built relationships with editors over the years, they’ve learned that we produce really good work together (and we’re not just trying to score freebie trips). So we’ve been working together more and more, probably about 30% of the time. With the changing media world, we’re also taking steps to begin formally promoting ourselves as a team.
How did this assignment come about?
This is a story that Aaron has been wanting to write since our first trip to Namibia in 2005, and the country’s investment and dedication to wildlife conservation in the last few years had him looking for timely opportunities. Sometimes it’s just a matter of patience and persistence to get a story placed. So when the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) announced its annual conference in Namibia, we took it as the perfect opportunity, and he pitched the story to Virtuoso Life, a publication we regularly work for as a team and they loved the idea.
What was the biggest obstacle you faced with this project?
This was my first “re-assignment.” I had some anxiety about this trip for a number of reasons.
In 2005, Aaron was working as an editor and staffer at Outside magazine and had a story in Namibia for their travel title, Outside Traveler. At the time, I had a full time job in marketing in Santa Fe but was trying to return to my work in photography. So we convinced Outside to let me go with him and photograph the story. The only caveat, since I was a complete unknown, they wouldn’t assign it but would buy stock if they liked what I shot. Upon my return, they liked the images, but my employer didn’t like the time I’d taken off and fired me. Outside hired me for a Las Vegas feature a few months later, other publications saw my work, and the the rest was history. The idea of going back to a place that was the pivotal moment of my photography career was scary and exciting at the same time. I was curious to see how my vision had changed, but I was also nervous about trying to shoot the same thing over again. The fact that Aaron and I both independently won national magazine awards for this feature means a lot.
Travel assignments are the crown jewel for most photographers, what’s your best advice for someone wanting to break into this market?
Travel. You can’t get travel assignments if your work only show cases “local” travel work. Editors need to know you can handle yourself in foreign countries. Language barriers and local customs can be tough to deal with and can often make or break getting a great shot. Being able to adapt to your surroundings and set locals at ease is key.
How many days were you there traveling? and did you have a guide /driver?
Twelve days including travel to and from Namibia via South Africa. We were nine days on the ground. There was no driver, but a pilot flew us about the country.
How difficult was the edit and how many images do you typically turn in?
Edits are always hard. I love making photographs but I get a little stir crazy sitting in front of my computer for hours. I wouldn’t say this edit was any harder than others. The story and the length of time on the ground usually dictates how many images I shoot for a given story. This story was longer than most, so I shot more, about 5,000 images in total. I only like to turn in images I’m really excited about, so I typically submit about 200 and specifically call out about 50 of my favorites.
Does the job usually cover any type of shots, visas, immunizations?
It depends on the destination. As American citizens, we have a lot of flexibility and relatively easy access to other countries, which helps tremendously. For example, in Namibia visa’s were obtained on arrival and no immunizations were required. By contrast, Senegal required a long list of vaccines, and I’ve actually had to turn down two assignments to Brazil because I couldn’t get a visa in time. So every story and country is different.
With so much beauty and intrigue in front of you, is it hard to put down your camera? You must be constantly shooting since everything appears to be beautiful. How do you decide what to photograph (aside from the magazine’s shot list, if there is one)?
Since I was traveling with my husband (and writer), I didn’t get any shot list. We were creating the shot list as we went. In some ways, it’s harder to shoot in tandem with a writer. It means I have to cover everything we do because it’s all a work in progress and you don’t yet know what will or won’t be in the story. In those cases, I am always on.
Over the years, though, I’ve really had to learn to make myself step back. If I shoot constantly, I get overstimulated and don’t produce my best imagery. So I really work hard to conceptualize a few great shots a day and then go out and get them. It’s my way of being proactive and creating what I want versus running around and making mediocre pictures of a lot of things. Ultimately, I aim for variety and continue to check my image library each night to make sure I’m hitting all the bases. Great landscapes, people, architecture, lifestyle and culture, food, flora and fauna—and all at a variety of focal lengths.
Best local food and drink you enjoyed?
Any wild game is amazing, but in particular I love oryx. It’s the most tender, deep red, lean, and flavorful meat I’ve ever had, and I could eat it daily, washed down with a local brew of Windhoek beer, of course.
( left to right ) Amy Stein, Cait Opperman, Thomas Prior, Trevor Paglan, Jessica Auer, Michael Itkoff, George Underwood
( left to right ) Suzanna Zak and Justin Kaneps
( left to right ) Terry Evans and Carson Gilliland
( left to right ) Nich Hance Mcelroy, Eric Ruby, Mo Castello, McNair Evans
( left to right ) Keith Yahrling, Andrew Bruah, Lisa Kereszi
Founder: Romke Hoogwaerts
Partner: Grace Leigh
Heidi: What brought about Mossless magazine?
Romke: As a kid growing up abroad I had become attached to various online communities, one of which was photography. I loved photography, had wanted to be a photographer but I saw early on how hard of a career path it would be, regardless of talent. I wanted to study cinematography, but I also wanted to work in publishing. Once I realised that it would also be very hard for me to even get my foot in any door in publishing if I were to go down this other path, it struck me that I might as well try to develop my own. So I started a blog and soon interviewed a photographer every two days, preparing for a day where I might print a book of someone else’s photos.
Grace: I joined Romke in Mossless in February of 2012 when we started seeing one another. At first just to help packing and shipping copies of the first issue, which had just been released. I quickly became very interested in the project, being somewhat new to New York and the contemporary photography scene—I was raised by two documentary photographers—and found it to be an incredible crash course in everything from daily scouring the internet for content to book design and binding to handling distribution of our print issues. It’s been an incredible learning experience.
What is the best way for online and print photography to complement each other?
Romke: That’s a great question! A lot of newspapers and magazines would sure love to know the answer. I don’t know if I have it either but I do know that since it’s still hard to monetize web content, one should refrain from putting valuable work on there… unless you have some cunning secret interface that has it figured out. I think it’ll take a bit of a change of perspective on the value of content access across the whole internet before this conundrum is really solved. And who knows, some day soon our access to the internet may no longer need backlit screens, maybe then the internet will look more like it’s on paper, which could make physical books totally redundant!
In your mind, what are the differences between imagery that exits online vs print and what are the benefits to each?
Grace: I find that seeing images online is generally more of a passive act, the images come to you through whatever host you happen to be using (tumblr, Flickr, etc) and can easily get buried or overpowered by the multitude of images moving past your eyes. For that reason in particular I think it’s an excellent place to get acquainted with different trends and movements and for sourcing work to put together collections of images. The appeal of print for me is the tangibility of it and the sort of ritualistic act associated with looking through a book or a magazine. By choosing to leaf through a collection of images you are taking a much more active role in viewing, it’s deliberate. There are so many amazing images online, print just gives them a place to live so they can be revisited again and again.
Romke: It’s a thrill to explore images online, as long as you know where to look to find stuff that will surprise and reveal new things, which isn’t too hard considering how many people across the world take part. With print, it’s a thing of ownership, or belonging and solidarity to a mentality. People buy books so that their contents can become a part of them in some way. It’s a potent feeling that is impossible to have online. Beyond the feeling of ownership and belonging I’d say that main difference is simply in an image’s illumination and resolution. Some images look spectacular backlit, others are best found matte and on paper. Some photos lend well to a calculated sequence, controllable in print, others suit the chaos online. It makes for quite a neat contrast. What really tips the balance, though, is exposure to the public. Books are limited in number, resources and by tangibility. An image online is at once at risk of being seen by no-one and by the whole world.
How many images did each photographer submit for the magazine?
Romke: We didn’t really take submissions, we requested specific photos that we saw on their websites or blogs. We invited them to add any others they thought would be fitting. I think that most photographers sent an average of about six or seven photographs. Some sent just two or three, some sent about twenty.
What was your editing criteria?
Romke: Once we had our huge folder of photos, we printed them all out, labeled them, and tried to organize them by loose categories like commerce, industry, rural, urban, and so on. We used those loose categories as groupings that we could move through and we tried to find ways to connect the different themes in a visual way. We had requested a number of photographs that would fall under “on the road” which we used quite a bit to connect these themes. It was really hard. We created a few rules for ourselves and we broke them frequently in this mad goal of finding some kind of pure sequence.
Overall what was your theme for this issue?
Grace: The theme was photographs taken in the United States over a ten year period, as seen by a chorus of different photographers. It was our goal to create a survey of new american photography so we published a range of works from amateur photographers we found on flickr to professional photographers with already published works, our only strict criteria that it be taken between 2003-2013 and that the work had already been published online.
I know you’re developing a fly-on-the-wall/interview type video, which may be turned into a series, when can we look forward to that and how would we find it?
Grace: Yes! We’re really excited about our new project. We’re currently editing that video, which should go online within the next month. I wish I could say more, but I really shouldn’t!
Art Director: Michael Novak
Photographer: Andy Batt
How often do you have celebrities on the cover? Is this a unique cover story?
This is actually almost unheard of for Portland Monthly. As a city mag, our covers tend to stick to standard tropes such as Best Restaurants, Travel, Schools, Real Estate, etc. Occasionally we experiment with more “newsy” subject matter, but those covers have typically fared poorly on newsstand. And more specifically, our covers almost never feature actual people, except in cases where they’re fairly anonymous, eating in a restaurant or hiking a mountain; our readership responds better to more tried and true reader service. In the 8 years I’ve worked here, we’ve published only three celebrity covers—so it was definitely an experiment to try this approach.
Is this an an annual theme: exceptional Oregon women?
We’ve never done this topic before. The subject was championed by one of our executive editors, Rachel Ritchie, and embraced by our founder, Nicole Vogel, who had experienced plenty of sexism herself in the process of raising capital to start this magazine 12 years ago. Nicole wrote an essay in the issue, about the disrespect she encountered in a city considered a bastion of liberalism.
What makes an exceptional woman for your title?
We chose women across multiple industries and geographies—all of them bravely innovating in their given fields. Our criteria was really just that the women included be doing impressive work that our readers didn’t necessarily know about. We wanted each profile to feel both surprising and inspiring, from the chief of staff for the Governor to a death row investigator to Portland’s first female head brewer.
How did the concept evolve, was it hooked on the idea of these women being pioneers?
The concept was always tied to the pioneering spirit of Oregon women; from a journalist’s perspective, it’s just such a rich subject with so much material to work with. The feature’s evolution was mainly due to our selection of individuals to profile and the format those profiles would take. We could’ve easily made a whole magazine on this subject—we started with a list of more than 100 women to whittle down to 10—so the real challenge was smartly editing our aspirations and limiting the feature to the 13 pages available.
What made you choose Andy Batt for this project?
Andy brings the right skills to the table. He’s worked on many Portland Monthly projects over the years, from shooting a school bus of screaming 7-year olds (never try art directing 7-year olds!) to ballerinas to the March Fourth marching band. He always comes to a project looking to try something new, and though he’ll always execute the client’s ideas, he also brings his own. In the case of the Carrie Brownstein shoot we only had an hour with her, so we had to figure out an approach that was simple enough that we could get options for both the cover and the interior. We had conceived of a Northwest referencial set, with Carrie standing on the stump of a tree with a rough-hewn wooden background. But when I got to the set on the day of the shoot, Andy had commissioned a prop builder to assemble a green background made out of fanned fern leaves, another powerful NW visual. And in the end we went with his fern idea because it just made a better visual.
Do you ever have photographers from out of state shoot for you?
Typically no. Occasionally I’ll have someone from Seattle shoot for me, but honestly our coverage is tightly Oregon-focused and we are blessed with an abundance of local talent so I almost never have to hire from out of state. I often joke that Portland is where photographers come to retire. We seem to have more of them per capita than NY and LA. That’s probably not strictly accurate, but it’s gotta be close!
What’s the best way for photographers to get in touch with you?
The can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creative Director: Rob Vargas
Deputy Creative Director: Tracy Ma
Director of Photography: Clinton Cargill
Photo Editor: Romke Hoogwaerts
Photographer: Angie Smith
Read the story here
Heidi: How did this story idea come about? Why the Gem show?
Angie: The idea began when I went with a writer friend to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. We walked through the Gem and Mineral Hall and became completely mesmerized by all of the incredible minerals on display from the Congo, Afghanistan, Morocco, Brazil, China, Arizona etc. We realized that we had a common mineral obsession and a mutual desire to attend the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, the largest mineral festival in the world. We plotted to pitch a story on it, or if anything, just travel to Tucson and experience it for ourselves. As the festival date drew closer, I began further research wrote drafts of the pitch and carefully decided whom I’d send it to.
My top choices were: Bloomberg Businessweek, The New York Times Magazine and California Sunday. Synchroncity was on my side as right before I sent it to Bloomberg, I received a package in the mail containing a book called Mossless that I had been published in. The man who edited and produced Mossless was Romke Hoogwaerts, who also coincidentally become a photo editor at Bloomberg Businessweek a few months before. I realized that the timing was perfect for me to reach out to him and introduce the story idea. Romke replied immediately, telling me he loved it and he would pass it along to Clinton Cargill, the Photo Director. Over the next 10 plus days I spent my days interviewing significant figures involved in mineral show, gaining a better understanding of how the whole festival worked, identifying who the key players were, making sure I could get the access that I needed – and then communicating that back to Clinton. I found out the story was a go and I was on my way to Tucson within a week.
How did you make the pitch stronger?
After I initially sent the pitch out to a few photo editors, I realized that my timing was a little bit off (this was right between Christmas and New Years) and I knew that I could make the pitch stronger simply with more clarity in my writing and waiting until after the holidays. I worked with my good friend and Photo Consultant Meredith Marlay on the structure of the pitch. She helped me tighten my writing into 3 concise paragraphs describing what The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show was, the story angle for the magazine that I was pitching to, and how I would approach the story aesthetically. Lastly, I included images that I found from Google image search showing what the festival looked like and the types of exotic minerals and people that could be found there.
What direction did the magazine give you?
Clinton and I decided that the best and most interesting way to approach this festival was from a documentary/reportage approach, capturing not only the minerals and the people who attend this festival, but the entire context in which it exists- which is very bizarre. One of the most interesting aspects of this festival is that many of the dealers set up shop in hotel rooms for several weeks at a time. Mattresses were stacked and leaned against the walls to make way for tables and cases displaying rocks of all kinds. Dealers are not only selling from their hotel rooms but they are sleeping in these rooms. With just a peek behind a mineral case, you can see slightly disheveled hotel beds that have recently been slept in and bathrooms full of personal items, its very strange. Many of the high-end mineral dealers would show clients minerals privately – but the only place to do this was in the hotel bathroom. I often found myself and my assistant squeezed into a hotel bathroom photographing a dealer and a client examining a specimen worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. A $500,000 mineral from the Congo would be sitting in a box next to a can of coke, some granola bars and a bunch of travel sized soaps and shampoos from the hotel. It was so strange and incredible to photograph.
After each day of shooting, I would send Clinton screenshots of the key images from that day and we would discuss how the story was shaping up as a whole. It was really helpful to talk with him and get an outsider’s perspective on how clearly I was communicating what it was like to be at this festival.
How long were you in Tucson working on this?
I spent about 9 days shooting the festival, then Bloomberg decided to run it immediately, so I spent a couple of extra days there gathering the caption info and getting the final images retouched and submitted. The story went to press as I drove back to Los Angeles.
Was there any security involved since the gems and minerals were so valuable? Who attended this show?
Most of the shows took place in hotels, convention centers or large tents set up in parking lots. There were security guards at all of the shows- but not as many as I would have expected. People were walking around these hotels with thousands of dollars in cash in their pockets, carrying expensive minerals in boxes. One of the most interesting facets of this shoot was the people who attend- there were geologists, museums curators, miners, dealers, retired “rock hounds” or rock collectors, metaphysical types, traveling hippies- everyone was from all over the world- there were some real characters. A general observation that I made was that all of these mineral enthusiasts, whether high end or low end, all shared a deep passion and appreciation for the aesthetic and raw beauty of minerals that come from the earth. Many of these people have extensive scientific knowledge about the formation of minerals- and they appreciate not only the beauty of these specimens, but have an in depth understanding of how they were formed within the context of the earth’s geologic history.
Design Director: Fred Woodward
Director of Photography: Krista Prestek
Photographer: Michael Friberg
I’d imagine shooting highly produced live performance of a legendary rock band could be anyone’s dream assignment; it’s about the access, up close and personal. What type of obstacles did you run into on this assignment?
I’m too young to really have any real knowledge of Motley Crue other than what I’ve seen on VH1 specials about their legendary debauchery. In highschool I grew up going to punk and hardcore shows in abandoned warehouses and rented storage spaces. Super DIY so this type of thing was totally foreign to me and I was excited for the visual excess that awaited me. I had delusions of grandeur thinking I’m gonna be like Annie Leibovitz with the Rolling Stones or something. Unfortunately the reality was much much worse. Their time and access was over promised and I had to fight tooth and nail to even get the band together for a quick portrait. It was a pretty acrimonious setting, I felt like I was in a real life version of Spinal Tap.
How did you deal with things dissolving around you?
I was definitely stressed out but I try to keep a sense of humor about things. It was my first time working for GQ so I wanted to do a good job. Luckily Krista had been dealing with their people for a while before I had and she was really understanding about how challenging it was. You never want to be the photographer making excuses for why something didn’t work out. The whole situation was so restricted it was comical. On the first night they let me shoot the first song from about 200 feet back from the stage by the sound board and then escorted me backstage. I was sitting side stage watching this insane spectacle of a show. Explosions and dancers and a crazy light show and I didn’t have my cameras. It was killing me. I was kind of panicking because I didn’t have anything so I snuck out and shot some more photos. That didn’t turn out too well but I got some more photos that I needed. I really don’t like being in a position where I’m having to sneak around. I’m a pretty easy going guy and I get along with most people but the assignment was definitely in jeopardy so I felt like I needed to take some drastic measures or else I wasn’t going to have anything. I got busted and the whole thing sort of exploded in my face but it lead to the magazine negotiating better access for the live show the next night so I guess things worked out. I was heavily babysat from there on out though.
Was this your first assignment for GQ and what about your work/situation awarded you the job?
This was my first assignment for GQ. I was pretty surprised to get a call from them because I had always had a really hard time even getting a meeting there. The assignment came from Krista Prestek the director of photography there who I had never had any interaction with. It turns out that in a meeting the photo editor Katy Dunn who was freelancing there had apparently mentioned my name. She actually gave me my first magazine assignment ever when she was freelancing at Businessweek in 2011. You never know where people will end up in this industry.
What drove you to be relentless about getting the shot and what did you learn from this assignment?
I never want to be the photographer that is making excuses for why something didn’t work out. Even if its true, it doesn’t bode well for you. The editor hired you to get the job done and that includes adverse circumstances more often then not. Sometimes you just cant do it but i’m going to bend over backwards to try and figure something out in the mean time. When the photo director at a magazine hires you out of the blue for an assignment that most people would kill for you need to make sure you do a good job one way or another.
How much time did you actually get with the band?
I thought I might have been exaggerating when I was telling people I got 30 seconds with the band but I just look at the time stamp on the first photo of the band and the last photo of the band. 21 seconds. I didn’t have a choice where I shot it. They told me I could shoot the band backstage on the ramp right before they went onstage. I shot two or three frames front lit and then had my assistant Cole run around behind them and backlit a couple frames and we were done.
I know there is interpersonal band tension which makes it hard to shoot them as a group, how did you resolve that?
I didn’t even really interact with the band. We had negotiated them all being in this place before they went on stage. I don’t even think I introduced myself. When I finished,Nickki sixx said “Fuck yeah! that was quick!” and gave me a fist bump. That is the totality of my interaction with the band on the two day assignment.
What surprised you the most about this assignment?
The flame thrower/bass that Nikki Sixx plays. Its a functioning instrument but it also shoots fire 25 feet in the air. Despite how tough the assignment was logistically, it was pretty awesome to be witness to such a crazy spectacle. Having the opportunity to shoot a bunch of stuff explode while some aging rockstars play “girls girls girls” is a pretty sweet gig no matter what happens.
How has living in Salt Lake City shaped you as a photographer?
I’m originally from West Texas but after high school and one semester of college back home, I decided I needed to get the hell out and get to the Mountains. I didn’t know anything about Salt Lake City, other than that it was the headquarters of the Mormon Church and that its name kept appearing in snowboarding magazines. I went to a small liberal arts college here and snowboarded 4 days a week and occasionally went to class. It was great. Once I got into photography, I thought I needed to get out and get some experience in a big city so I moved to NYC for a year and assisted and starved.I learned a ton but I was running out of money and I wasn’t really shooting any personal work and my girlfriend (now wife) was in graduate school in Salt Lake City so I moved back and licked my wounds. The plan was to move to a big city when she finished school and I would try to freelance but life had different plans. I got a couple random jobs and worked part time, lived with a handful of gross dudes to keep rent cheap and spent all my money on shooting personal work. I always feel like I end up being defensive about living in Salt Lake but I really love it here. Its pretty cheap considering the incredible location. The airport is awesome. Its not really that hard to get a beer despite the rumors. I have the best community and group of friends i’ve ever had here. I slowly started getting regional work and I would go back to NYC and do meetings once or twice a year. I got married in the summer of 2011 and I was still working at a pub part time, shooting part time. I was really lucky that my super gracious wife had a “real” job and it afforded me the space to save up some money and quit the day job and make a run at the freelance thing. A lot of the first assignments I was getting were pretty routine. I was only getting hired because I was a guy with a camera who was capable. The first people who really hired me and encouraged me to do my thing were Businessweek. Specifically David Carthas when he was still there as the director of photography. Early on before anybody else was giving me cool assignments, they were. I am really thankful for that because it helped get the ball rolling and helped me get out of the “regional photographer” rut.
What were the draw backs if any for living in SLC and a smaller market?
I definitely don’t work as much as my peers in big markets. I think everybody assumes everybody is doing better than them but I probably only have 4 or 5 assignments a month. That is totally fine with me because my cost of living is low and I really like to focus on making personal work and having a good quality of life. One drawback of being in a small market where not a ton of stuff is happening is that I end up on the road a lot. It usually goes in spurts. I’ll be home for three weeks and then spend a month bouncing around. There definitely isn’t as big of a creative community as there is in larger cities. Not all of my photo friends live elsewhere but most of them do. I have had a much harder time breaking into the commercial market being here. I think it is a bit harder to be taken seriously when you live in a smaller market. I used to resent that sort of “NY or nowhere” attitude that existed in the editorial world but I definitely think that is changing.
Aside from snowboarding, what brought you to SLC? Were you aiming to start a photography career?
Like I said, I grew up in West Texas where creativity wasn’t exactly flourishing so I had no idea you could even make a living doing something like that. I didn’t discover photography until my sophomore year of college. I wasn’t at a super art heavy school but I pieced together an education between class and the internet and photo books.
How did the lower cost of living, smaller market help you develop your photographic voice?
I think I sort of answered this earlier but I really can’t stress enough how important it is to spend money on your photo projects. Photo projects are expensive. Film, traveling etc etc it all adds up. For a while I would spend money on gear expecting that to solve my problems but my problems weren’t technical. My problem was that I had no vision or voice or experience. Being a snow bum translated well to becoming a photo bum. When I was in college, I would share houses with tons of my friends to keep our rent as cheap as possible to be able to snowboard as much as possible and work as little as possible. When I started trying to make it photographically it was an easy transition. I still had tons of room mates and my rent was around 200 bucks a month. I would shoot personal projects and travel and spend all of my money on film.
You have quite the client list for shooting full time for just short 4 years, how did you get started?
Like everybody else, I would go to NYC a couple times a year, meager portfolio in hand, and do meetings with photo editors. Even when these meetings weren’t getting me much work, It was hugely educational because you see your portfolio a whole different way when somebody else is looking at it on a table. You can also see what people are and aren’t responding to and learn from that. I slowly started getting work and then I got a couple cool assignments that helped me really show my style and voice and that helps immensely when you can show commissioned work to editors rather than just personal work. The gap between shooting editorial and shooting personal projects is huge. Some of the photos might look similar but the process of shooting them is so different its crazy. On a personal project, if the weather or light sucks you just come backtomorrow but on an editorial shoot you can’t come back tomorrow you just have to make something work. I feel incredibly blessed to have been entrusted with the assignments I have been given. I think a lot of photographers feel entitled to cool work but its important to remember that when some editor is hiring you and you are young and untested, that that person is putting their ass on the line for you. I have no idea why some people gave me some of the assignments I have been given. I didn’t have a single celebrity portrait in my portfolio before Sundance last year when Bailey Franklin from Variety called me. How did he know I wouldn’t melt down and blow it in all of the chaos of photographing over 100 people in four days in a tiny improvised studio?
What’s the best advice you have for any photographer starting out?
Spend all your money on personal projects. Have a low standard of living when you are starting out, that way you can work on projects you care about rather than just doing everything for money to survive. When people can really see you in your projects you will get hired to do the same type work. The hardest thing about photography isn’t taking pictures, it’s figuring out how to communicate what you want about a particular subject and executing that. Getting access, planning, logistics, executing ideas, these things are all the things that you learn by trial and error when you are shooting personal work.
What can you say about your generation of photographers, how is it different from the previous generation?
The internet, for all its faults and insanity, has been instrumental in building a creative community for me. People I met through online channels have become mentors, real life friends and collaborators. I can only speak to my personal experience but in my particular peer group in the photo world, it feels much less competitive and cut throat. When I was first trying to get meetings, my friends were not only giving me people’s email addresses but also doing email introductions on my behalf. Some of these people are technically my direct “competition” but I feel like my friends are operating out of an economy of abundance rather than scarcity. Being a freelancer can be terrifying and screw with your head and you can think every job is your last or freak out when the phone doesn’t ring for two weeks but I think being around people like this has helped me have a much healthier attitude about all of it.
Your work has a vast range of reportage, portraits, details, long narrative arcs. How has that range become an asset to your career?
I personally really like shooting a huge range of things. I think sometimes it makes my work seem a bit schizophrenic and all over the place but it keeps things interesting. The trick is being versatile while still finding a way to put your own personal stamp on it. Thing can easily get generic if you don’t find a way to do that. I definitely think I get hired more often to shoot feature essay type stories that need a few different things photographically to illustrate a story. A lot of the time I end up doing a seamless portrait and then also doing reportage in the same day. Ultimately that is my favorite type of photography. Its cliche but telling stories and interacting with people is really why I got into it and figuring out creative ways to do that is always really fun.
By the Olive Trees
Design Director: Fred Woodward
Director of Photography: Krista Prestek
Photographer: Michael Friberg and Ben Rasmussen
Tell me how By the Olive Trees developed and why this was important to you?
I originally got into photography because I thought I wanted to become a photo journalist. After realizing that that particular style of working wasn’t for me, I started doing a sort of documentary/art/editorial hybrid that really seemed to suite my way of seeing well. I had photographed in Africa a couple times and really wasn’t happy with how things had come out. After doing a couple years of editorial work bouncing around and not really working on anything serious, I was reading an article somewhere about Syrian refugees in Jordan. I felt like the photography for these stories didn’t really match what I was reading. For instance: 2/3s of the refugees in Jordan were living in urban settings, not living in a refugee camp but all of the photos I had seen were from the really sensationalistic, highly visual Zaatari refugee camp. I felt like the refugees were sort of being used as props to illustrate a point. Ben Rasmussen and I had been talking about collaborating on something for a long time and we both were interested in working on something more serious than just photographing wacky stories for magazines. I’ve always been interested in social justice issues and this seemed like a way to participate in the conversation. We had no experience at all in this area but we bought two plane tickets to Jordan, found a fixer and headed over. The experience was definitely life changing and really helped solidify the type of work I want to be making. Ben and I really tried to slow down and photograph these refugees like we would shoot a magazine assignment in the US. Ben was shooting 4×5 and I was shooting medium format, lighting some portraits and reportage. We also did long form interviews with the refugees and got them transcribed.
When we got back, we put together the work for a multimedia piece commissioned by Dirk Barnett the creative director of The New Republic at the time. After making that, Dirk offered to design a book for us. Ben and I had been talking about this but we felt like an expensive photo book might not be the best outlet for this type of thing. At best, we could probably afford to make 500 copies and the people who would buy them would be the people who were probably already familiar with the conflict. I had a couple friends who had made newsprint zines and publications and it seemed like a really great way to use the newspaper medium to communicate information cheaply in a different way. the newsprint allowed us to run large chunks of text straight from the refugees mouths. We had self funded the shooting portion of the project and had managed to come close to breaking even after a couple outlets ran the work but we definitely didn’t have the money to do a large print run of the newspapers. The kickstarter was pretty cool to see because people really got behind the idea. We printed 4000 copies of the newspaper and the cost of each one was a little under 3 dollars for an 80 page full color publication. The low cost meant that we could ship three copies to each supporter and they could become distributors for us. People were leaving them in doctors offices, coffee shops and giving them away. It was cool to see where they ended up. We were definitely surprised at how much support we got. We exceeded our original goal which helped us to print more copies. The goal for the newspaper was that they would always be distributed for free. Now you can order copies on BytheOliveTrees.com for just the cost of shipping.
How did you meet Benjamin Rasmussen?
I met Benjamin Rasmussen when I saw his work on tumblr, read his bio on his website and thought we had a lot in common. I emailed him to say hi and we struck up a friendship that has been hugely important for me photographically and personally.
What’s next for this project?
I just returned from Jordan about a month ago where I was working on a project about Iraqi Christian refugees who fled Mosul when ISIS took over. I’m going to be working on a long term project about the country of Jordan and how the influx of refugees is affecting the country. Currently nearly 1/5 of their population is made up of refugees which is a really staggering statistic. If that happened in America people would not be that hospitable. There are refugees from Central America coming even as we speak and people are picketing the buses that are transporting them to detention centers. I’d like to go back to Jordan in May to keep working on this project but I just had a grant proposal rejected so if anybody wants to send me back I’d be grateful…