Personal Projects are crucial in showing potential buyers how you think creatively on your own. I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or show something I have never seen before. In this revised column, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: projects are found and submissions are not accepted.
Today’s featured artist: Vincent Dixon
In 2011/12 I took a year off to travel around South East Asia and South America with my wife and four children.
We had been on the road three months when we crossed the border from Nepal to India. I was nervous, I didn’t really know what to expect but had heard from other travelers that India was pretty chaotic. Just crossing the border conformed that. The station wasn’t much better, finding which platform our train was using wasn’t easy. We had been warned that people will always give you an opinion whether they know the answer or not. The 10 pm train was delayed, first for an hour, then two, it finally came to the station four hours late having apparently switched platforms several times. We boarded to find a family asleep in our bunks, gently woken they moved and I took a wet wipe to the top bunk, one swipe and the imprint of my hand was black, Ainlay my wife distracted the kids as I cleaned all the beds, we put our sneakers on top of the old electric fans as we saw everyone else do, used our backpacks as pillows and got a few hours sleep. When I woke up I took some photos.
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s. After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty. Follow her at @SuzanneSease.
February issue of National Geographic magazine cover story available here, Our 9,000-Year Love Affair with Booze.
© Brian Finke / National Geographic
A Chinese newlywed toasts her guests with a traditional cup of rice wine. The drink has been consumed in China for at least 9,000 years; a chemical residue found in a jar of that age is the oldest proof of a deliberately fermented beverage. But the influence of alcohol probably extends even deeper into prehistory.
Grapes are snacked on by a Roman soldier (left), and pressed with a massive oak-tree trunk. The juice is then fermented in open clay jars. The Romans flavored it with surprising ingredients: One of Durand’s wines contains fenugreek, iris, and seawater.
Since it began in 1810 as a wedding celebration for the Bavarian crown prince, Munich’s Oktoberfest has grown into one of the world’s largest festivals, with more than six million visitors crowding its tents each year to drain one-liter mugs of beer. Bavaria has had a big impact on beermaking: Its Reinheitsgebot, or Beer Purity Law, passed in 1516, ushered in a global trend toward uniformity by restricting brewers to water, hops, and malt (and later yeast, after it was discovered). These days some craft brewers are pushing back, experimenting with ancient additives and unusual yeasts.
Senior Photo Editor: Todd James
Photographer: Brian Finke
Brian: I got a call from Todd James, Senior Photo Editor at National Geographic asking if it’d be into shooting alcohol around the world. I said, “Hell Yea!” Todd and I had worked on three previous features for the magazine, I was psyched for our fourth story together. My first story with Todd was photographing “Meat in Texas”, a story about America’s obsession with meat. That job came about from my Instagram when I was posting tons of my backyard BBQ photos, the editors were familiar with my work but seeing also my obsession with meat landed me the story, along with my career of personal and editorial work.
How much do you use Instagram as a conscious promotional tool, or is it really self expression for you?
It’s a platform for trying new things, promoting, keeping people updated on latest work, it’s an immediate outlet for sharing everything.
What advice do you have for photographers using Instagram?
Always put out personal work because that’s where the best assignments come from.
What type of specific direction did you get from the magazine? What made this assignment different?
What makes National Geographic stories different is all the research before hand; the photo editor and photographer really build the story, then of course it’s the amount of time that’s dedicated. I shot on and off for four months for this story.
Did you travel with the writer?
No just myself and my assistant
It looks like you traveled extensively for this project, did you send in images as you traveled?
I traveled all over the place going to various birth places of booze around the world, started in Peru, then South of France, Republic of Georgia, Germany, China and a few paces around the U.S. Throughout shooting I’d send in photos, discuss the project and building the story with my editor.
Shooting for National Geographic is quite an honor (and it was a cover story) if you had any internal pressure, how did you deal with it?
I’m always a little nervous but mostly excited. It’s really amazing, it’s always something new, with so many new experiences.
Is Havas hiring influencers at all and if so, how do they find them? How many followers does someone need to have in order to be considered an influencer?
We are hiring a lot of influencers! Our creatives find them directly on Instagram, sometimes they give me the person’s Instagram handle and I have to dig to find contact info or a website. I’ve seen influencers with anywhere from 50k-500k followers, it depends on if we’re paying for their influence or just hiring them as a photographer. Lately, I’ve been suggesting that photographers increase their following and post their work on Instagram. They should be using Instagram as just another portfolio tool, it’s a great way to show a cohesive body of work. Start a separate personal account for dog and kid pics.
Do you think this trend is going to continue or so you see signs of it evolving?
I think hiring influencers as photographers is a trend, the technical ability and production sense that photographers bring to the table is worth so much more. I think it’s going to take a while for clients to see it since a lot of them are just starting to get their feet wet in this medium.
On a technical level, did digital photography increase your output? You’ve said you’ve taken around 2,000 a day average, or something like that.
I actually don’t think I shoot that much, because I’m not a motor drive kinda guy. So everything is kinda single frame. I don’t know even if I had been shooting film this administration that I would have shot any less. I don’t feel that I overshoot because of digital. Sure, you don’t have to stop at frame 36, but that’s the reason why you’d always carry ten rolls of film with you at a time. So I don’t know that that would make that much of a difference for me, at least.
Okay, because we were trying to do the math, adding up the shutter clicks, and wondering how many cameras have you completely ruined?
I don’t know how many cameras I’ve gone through but it’s probably been eight or ten. I never blew a shutter, which I know a lot of photographers occasionally do. I usually try to switch when I can feel like a camera’s about to give out. I always carried a backup camera, especially on foreign trips just in case one went down.
Who printed it?
The newspaper promo was printed by The Newspaper Club, Glasgow, Scotland. I opted for the Digital Tabloid edition.
Who Designed it?
I designed the promo myself. I spent the early part of my career in editorial design and art direction with U.K., Canadian and U.S. magazine and book publishers, so it felt comfortable designing my own material. The switch to photography as a full-time gig is the second act to my career. I absolutely loved designing my promo, I became the dream client, so patient, qualified, willing to listen, and rather easy on the eye*.
Who edited the images?
For this promo, I decided to edit in-house. Obviously this has its pros and cons, but I felt I learned a lot from the experience, especially the big picture stuff. It gave me a bird’s eye view of my recent projects which allows me to focus the direction of my work in 2017. For future promos, I’ll be reaching out for help and opinions. The idea of seeing your portfolio curated from an independent perspective is fascinating. I think this would be a unique process in gaining a honest edit.
How many did you make?
I printed two newspapers, only 20 of each, which in the world of photographer promos is laughable. The promo I sent to aPhotoEditor was a selection of images that simply acted as a gallery showcase and is meant to encourage a visit to my website to view a wider range of work. The second (identical in size and page count) was curated with an editorial narrative, with four double page spreads showcasing a singular photo essay. The biggest factor for such a low print run was the inability for me to attend any kind of press approval. I felt unsure committing to a 500-1000 print run without seeing exactly how the final piece would look. I’m still searching for a printer closer to home, which is Toronto, who could produce such a piece at a competitive price so I could significantly up the number of promos to send out. This decision has nothing to do with the Newspaper Clubs quality of work, it’s just my need to be closer to the actual printing. With each newspaper I included a 5×7 postcard that included all relevant contact details. A postcard is easier to file or post on an studio wall than a tabloid newspaper.
The concept of printing a newspaper is not particularly unique these days, but sure is fun, especially for those of us who enjoyed the heyday of 80’s & 90’s magazine publishing. It was a joy to feel and hold such a large printed piece.
How many times year do you send out a promo?
I like to produce three a year. This particular small batch promo will be sent out in January. I plan to send out at least two more in 2017, perhaps early summer and late fall. I’ve yet to decide if I will produce two more newspaper promos or design and present each portfolio differently. Postcards, small magazine, foldout poster, etc.
*This statement is utterly untrue. The English accent is adorable though.
If you’ve followed Richard Prince and the lawsuits over the years this interview adds another piece to the puzzle.
Source: Time 100 Photos
For the first 15 years we were like tittering schoolboys, viewing every offer, no matter how paltry, as an opportunity for naughtiness and adventure. We unashamedly piggied life on the back of work, and in the process both flourished. Photography’s like a panda; it only eats one thing. Curiosity. Without a constant diet of curiosity, it’s dead. So when you’ve reached the point where venturing away from your living room without a business class ticket seems like a hassle, or extending an assignment in Ulan Bator when nobody’s paying for the hotel doesn’t make sense; you’ve ceased to be a photographer. You might be a high-level technician, but your photographs – no matter how much money tech companies will pay for them – are shit. Because the only thing you are curious about is the day rate.
— Julian Richards
Mass tragedies, as photojournalist James Nachtwey says, happen to individuals. His focus on the individual victims of Somalia’s famine led to the saving of 1.5 million lives.
See more of Time’s 100 Most Influential Images of All Time http://100photos.time.com
Who printed it?
Who designed it?
Who edited the images?
How many did you make?
How many times a year do you send out promos?
Emails: once every 6-8 weeks. Mail promos: about 2-3 times a year.
Is there a backstory to this image?
This image recently placed first in this year’s APA awards in the Emerging category, so I saw to it that it got distributed as widely as possible online (with a blog post, social media announcements and an email promo), and a mail promo to a selected list of editors and art buyers that I would like to work with.
The image is part of an ongoing series, ‘Edible Beauty’, featuring DIY beauty products made with edible ingredients and was developed in collaboration with food stylist Zoe Armbruster. Having created food images for the past six years, I was looking for new, unique ways to visually present food and produce. Changing my frame of reference – food as beauty product vs food to eat – inspired a new perspective on the subject. Where I’ve often opted for shooting in natural light, I created all the images in this series with the ProFoto B2. Instead of a prop-filled set, we kept accessories to a minimum, allowing us to experiment with different formats of presenting the finished product. In retrospect, this series represents an intentional departure from my previous approaches to food photography, and it has invigorated my creative vision.
Looking at his photos reminds me that photography cannot be too controlled. It cannot be predictable. It should have life and energy and risk. Sometimes that gets messy.
Tim Tadder is an internationally acclaimed photographic artist. Most recognized for his highly inventive conceptual advertising photography Tadder has been ranked in the top 200 photographers worldwide by the prestigious Luezer Archive Magazine 8 years running. In 2015 Epson, the world leader in photographic printing technology recognized Tadder as one of the top influential photographers, producing a TV commercial and worldwide ad campaign featuring Tadder and his work.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer? I grew up on the set of a commercial photographer in Baltimore, Maryland. I knew that I was fascinated with photography from an early age when I saw my father developing images for the first time in the darkroom. He had a black-and-white and a color darkroom in a small studio in Baltimore, and I used to watch him print pictures using an enlarger and chemicals. That was magical to me. I always thought it was amazing that you could re-create life from a camera and paper.
What was your path to becoming a professional photographer? I have a unique path to becoming a professional photographer. I was a high school teacher for five years, and during the summers I did mountaineering adventures. During those climbs, I would make images and host slideshows. People were really interested, and through the slideshows, I found that people liked the images that I created. I found I wasn’t a great teacher but that I really loved photography and so I decided to give it a try. I moved from South America where I was teaching and climbing to Baltimore where I grew up and had connections in the photography world. I decided I would see if I could make it for a year, mostly because that’s all the money I had saved. I worked out of my father’s studio in Baltimore but mostly for the local newspaper doing journalism while I was trying to learn the craft
What formal schooling or training did you have in photography? After two years in Baltimore, I was really in love with photojournalism, so I decided to pursue a Masters Degree in photojournalism from the Ohio University School of Visual Communication. That program is amazing, and I highly recommend it. I learned so much in the short time that I was there not only about photojournalism but also about creating images that were capable of telling stories. I learned so much about visual communications while there. Truly so much of what we do in photography is at its very essence visual communication. Before I was aware of that, I was just making images that I thought looked interesting, but after the program, I started to make images that spoke and told stories. The resulting images were much more intelligent images, so to speak, and that process really helped me become a better photographer in a short period
Were your parents supportive of your desire to be an artist? Ironically my parents were not very supportive me at all. I think that my father was concerned I did not have the talent to make it as a photographer. I also think that he never really made a lot of money and I think he felt that money equated to success, and in some ways, he felt that I did not have tremendous talent, and thus would not “be successful”. There was a lot of clashing as to what I felt was a good photographer and what he saw as good or great. I can remember my mother delivering me the Help Wanted section with jobs that she thought I would like even though I was making great strides in photography. She continued to show me job openings that she thought would be great careers. I can remember her distinctly telling me that that there wasn’t any money in photography and that you couldn’t make a living as a photographer anymore but I didn’t care. I just wanted to make images, and I wasn’t concerned about money. I was working for peanuts as a photojournalist, and I was really in love with photography. I will say, though, that my father is super proud of me at this point and I think that he honestly just wanted the best for me and realized how competitive and how difficult it is to succeed in this industry. The reality is, that if you love something and that you are passionate about it I think in America you can succeed
Do you remember your first published image and how it felt when it first appeared? Not really, I don’t think that I was all that enamored with having a published image define me as a photographer. Ink on paper does not a photographer make. But rather the communicative value of the image. I can remember the first image I made that truly moved people and how that made me feel. I think that was always more important to me, making an image that people reacted to. I can remember getting many emails from viewers responding to how much the image moved them. From all over the world it was a powerful image, and I knew at that point in time I had important skills.
You shoot both stills and video. Are you more passionate about one medium over the other? I prefer stills for sure. I like the less is more approach, and with motion, it just takes more people more equipment more blah blah blah…I hate the fat in motion productions. Give me a camera and a lens, and I’ll make it happen, motion you need all kinds of stuff to do commercial work.
After all this time, what still makes you passionate about the visual arts?I think how freaking hard it is to make images that move people. Truly to make a great image, it’s very hard and takes a lot of things to go right. Sure if you are a photojournalist you can get lucky, but normally it takes a huge investment of time, energy, people, etc. Greatness comes from the communicative collaboration of energy revealing itself in the well-crafted moment. That elusive search for perfection makes me passionate. If it was easy, I think I would be over it by now. Knowing that I have not done my bet work yet keeps me grinding. I will not stop until my impact is undeniable and that’s the passion.
You seem to have so much creative energy in all your work. How do come up with the concepts for your projects? I consume imagery, from TV to movies to art and Instagram, I consume and consume, and I get inspired by what I see but more importantly what I do not see. I try to find voids. I try to find things that have not been visualized. Bringing new visuals to life no matter how absurd or different is a great challenge in our world today. It’s hard to have a visual impact with so much noise. So I try to fill the empty spots with something new.
When you go into a shoot do you have a detailed vision for the finished project or does it tend to be a collaboration with the subject to determine the result? Always. I am a great pre-visualizer. I know exactly what I want when I go into every shoot, but often I fall short. It’s one thing to see it in your mind’s eye, but it’s quite another to capture it. That’s the illusive search for perfection. We know what we want, but it is sure hard to get it. That’s search is what keeps me passionate. I can feel though that the more I do this, the more my mind and my visions are aligning…so maybe I am getting closer. I do feel I am much much better than I’ve ever been.
Many photographers take full credit for the finished product from a shoot, but you are quick to point out that without your “team” your success wouldn’t be possible. How large is your team, how did you build the team and how much collaboration is done with this group? I think when you start it’s a very big ego thing. However, as you gain knowledge and wisdom you begin to look around and realize that individually you can only accomplish small things, but collectively you can accomplish great things. True impact comes from people that can harness the collective spirit of passionate individuals and align that energy towards a defined goal. I saw this in the people around me and when I grew up and left my ego behind, I realized that I was only as good as the weakest link on my team. I realized that the people around me love what they were doing and that I needed to embrace not only their passions but honor their contributions. That’s when it all clicked. I can’t do what I do without the support of others. No way. I love them, and I hope they love me because they make everything possible. My core crew is excellent. They are the best, and I will put them up against anyone. My normal team is made up of a first assistant that has been with me for ten years, my producer, our production coordinator, stylist, hair and makeup (sometimes two people) and a gaggle of other freelancers that contribute. The productions swell when needed, by my core is four.
On average, how much of the finished product that we see in images on your website is done in camera versus in CGI or post production? That goes from zero to a lot. There is much of my work that is captured in camera and sometimes quite a lot of post. I would say what you see is 75 percent in camera, truly only what you see in the CGI section of my website is CGI. Yes there are composites here and there, but I find the less time in the post the better the image. Less is more.
How many man hours went into your Tecate Calendar project including the building of props, the shoot, and CGI/post? Now that project was very very CGI and post heavy. But my favorite image in that collection was all captured on camera (The Gemini Twins shot below), so the key is to mix everything so the audience can’t quite put their finger on it..there is a great Behind the Scenes video (www.timtadder.com) on my site that really shows how this was done. That shoot was huge, and I spent weeks in Pre-production on it. The wardrobe was custom stitched, the CGI sets crafted before the shoot, the animals cast, and the cast was pulled from all over the globe. That shoot was a mission…I would say three weeks solid of pre-production and four weeks in post…but it’s unique and quite amazing. Of course, you only see what was selected by the client and how hey wanted it to sell beer, but the images I love are far more subtle, but that does not sell beer.
Of all the athletes you have shot over the years, which one(s) would you say brought the most personality to the shoot? That’s too difficult to answer. There are so many levels of shoot energy, and sometimes the creative requires more personality than others. I will tell you Cam Newton was spectacular as a comedian and told the most jokes. Simone Biles was spectacular and amazing. But there have been so many. I love when I shoot athletes year after year sometimes for the same client sometimes for other clients, but they remember me. Sometimes they greet me with big hugs, and I feel like an old friend. That’s always surprising. I guess they liked the images.
Your personal projects are amazing. What inspired your Bella Umbrella project? Was that project as messy to shoot as it looks? This project was inspired by things I saw on Instagram. I had been following this LA street artist, and he did all this rad stuff with military smoke bombs. I wanted to do something with him, but he is really dark and quite theatrical. Then I saw this image with smoke and a vintage umbrella in a forest and thought that if I could simplify and elevate the elegance that I would have a beautiful collection of images. The project was a mess and destroyed some expensive vintage clothing. I think it looks easier than it actually was. We took the smoke bombs and taped them to the umbrellas, but when the umbrellas caught fire and the clothes burned, I had to take another approach. So some of these were in camera, and some were composites of smoke plates and the talent. The stylist freaked out and I freaked because I did not want to hurt anyone but we decided we could make happen without any risk.
What piece of camera equipment can you not live without? Hmmm, I don’t really have a piece of camera equipment I can’t live without. I don’t believe the tools make the image I believe that the concept, thought, idea the passion make the image. The camera and lens are no more part of the process than a burner on a stove is to a chef. A chef can make a meal with any type of stove, just as a photographer make can make an image with any type of camera.
From the behind the scenes video’s on your website, it looks like you have fun on the set when shooting. Do you find that keeping things fun puts people at ease and allows them to open up? Always. It’s a blessing and an honor to do what we do. It’s fun, but it’s really important to do a good job because people’s careers are at stake. We really must remember that we are doing something that is amazing, creative and fun. back in the day I used to get all worked up, but that never helped. It never makes a better image, so let’s make it easy and let’s make it fun so that people leave with a good taste in their mouth.
What does the perfect Tim Tadder day look like? Making pancakes for my kids, creating some amazing images that make people go “holy shit”, having dinner with my family and watching the Ravens beat the crap out of the Steelers on Monday Night Football.
What advice do you have for aspiring photographers looking to enter this ultra-competitive industry? You better absolutely love, love, love creating images. You must be willing to work 20 hours a day for years and years. You must be willing to lay it all on the line and never give up. You must have to have a thick skin, a really thick skin, and not be deterred by failure. You have to be willing to make thousands of mistakes and keep making them until you get it right. You have to be willing to produce new work always and you need to be planning your personal work all the time. It’s never ending even for me. You can never take the foot off the gas. If your not willing to do that, then it might not be for you.
If you weren’t a professional photographer what would you be doing? I’d run for President, seems like not a lot of people want that job these days.
Why did you choose Photo Folio for your website? I think the system is simple and presents my work in a clean and clear way. Clients can get right to the point. All I want is for my images to speak to the audience with nothing else getting in the way. The content management system is great and makes creating edits super easy.
Many of the world’s top photographers, like TimTadder, showcase their work with a website from PHOTO FOLIO . Isn’t it time you put the power of PHOTO FOLIO to work for you?
For those that worry that the iPhone-toting hordes will soon overrun photography, Webb’s pictures offer a soothing antidote of high quality craftsmanship. As I passed from image to image, my head was continually nodding, acknowledging the real pleasure that is derived from smartly built photographs.
Creative calls are a crucial part of the process and can shape opinions along the way. I go into each bidding process knowing that we could end up with any of the three shooters. Work alone probably won’t get the award; it’s very much about what you bring to the table on the creative calls & development, and of course how the numbers fall. I don’t think it would be doing anyone any favors to say they’re recommended shooter only to have a job potentially award to one of the other photographers also being considered.
Because photographers are visual, they usually assume two things: that they can design and that they can edit. But they benefit by letting someone else in. It doesn’t matter how well-known a photographer is, the fact is all photographers need a good editor, someone who they can trust checking or proposing picture and sequence decisions. It’s probably the most important part of putting a book together. Often the photographer is too close to the work, or to certain images, and they have a tendency to want to use more images, when they should let some of them go. The reverse can also be true. A photographer can become fixed on particular pictures. I usually want to see a wider edit than the photographer initially has in mind, and quite often between ten and twenty percent of the final picture selection will come in from this broader selection. This doesn’t seem like much, but it can make the difference between the mediocre and the sublime.
Read More: http://aperture.org/blog/design-photobook/
Photography has never been about how many professionals there are, and how or what they charge, where they went to school, how they learned, how hard or easy it is, how smart or stupid the successful ones are, what camera you use, or how many amateurs can look like or claim to be professionals. In every field of art, the people who put difficulty, practice, problem solving, commitment, learning, opportunity and service as the core to making a meaningful life will always find the answer. Looking into the masses of lawyers, accountants, guitarists, painters, plumbers, salespeople, teachers, drummers and photographers, and thinking that there are too many of this or that, or that it is easier to be one thing or another is just plain hysterical reaction to life. It isn’t easy to be alive in this world… it never has been… get over it.
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