Mary Virginia Swanson, Executive Director of the LOOK3 Festival

 

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Jonathan Blaustein: Full disclosure. I’ve known you for years, as a client and a friend. I am on the record in multiple places as being a huge fan of you as a person, and the work that you do.

Mary Virginia Swanson: Yes. Thank you.

JB: You’re welcome. I’m may not be impartial here, but I also have some inside knowledge as to how you operate, and why so many people think highly of you.

MVS: Thank you. I absolutely think that you are a fan of my teaching, and the way I think about the industry.

JB: Right.

MVS: So I’m really happy to have this opportunity to tell you about my latest venture.

JB: Honestly, our readers at APE know me for the 21st Century Hustle, and there are clearly elements of that philosophy that I’ve cribbed from working with you. So in that regard, I apologize if I’ve ever stolen too brazenly.

MVS: No, that’s a compliment. You know when your teachings get carried out into the world that’s a compliment.

JB: Fair enough. I’ll take that as apology accepted. So many people know of your reputation, and that you’ve had a really long career in the industry. You’ve done so many different things- you ran a stock agency, you’ve done consulting, you’ve published books, but the big news is that you recently accepted the position as the Executive Director of the LOOK3 Festival in Charlottesville, Virginia.

MVS: Correct.

JB: And this was in September of 2015. Is that right?

MVS: That is correct. The festival is always in June, and in hiatus for the summer months afterwards. We’ll to be working into the beginning of July, but then we go quiet for a couple of months. It was during that period in 2015 after the close of the ’15 festival that I got a call from Nick Nichols, who is a longtime friend of mine, and one of the founders of LOOK3.

He asked if I would be interested in taking on the leadership of LOOK3. So we embarked on a period of time where I was being interviewed, my husband and I came here to Charlottesville to meet the board, meet staff and just check everything out. I think it was September 8th, we announced that I was accepting the position, and we had a board meeting a week later and began to start to plan this year’s festival. And now we’re just under two months out. We’re ready to roll.

JB: You say it so casually, but was that phone call out of the blue? Did you have any inkling that they were thinking about you? Had you put out little feelers? Walk us through how this happens, because it seems like a big deal.

MVS: Well it is a big deal, and I should say that I’ve been aware of the festival of course throughout its life.

JB: Of course.

MVS: It is a long ways from home. As you know, I often teach at the Santa Fe workshops in the summertime, and some years it just wasn’t on my calendar that I could make it. Other years it fell smack on my birthday and I travel so much that that’s one time that I try to be home with my family.

It was in 2013 that Nick and his team called to ask me, or 2012 I should say, to be part of the 2013 festival. I was thrilled to be able to do that, and I helped them organize some panels, and taught a seminar myself on sustaining your long-term personal projects. That happened to be the seminar that I was giving.

The education was held at the front end, and I remember Nick came by to visit my classroom and say hello, and we had lunch and he said, “Take a good look around at this festival because someday I’d like to have you a lot more involved.”

JB: That was a big ‘ol hint dropped right in your lap.

MVS: Yeah, it was a big hint, and it gave me a chance, to be in the audience for all the talks, and see all the exhibits and the other components. It was wonderful, and we actually did embark on some pretty heavy conversations about my taking over the festival at that time in ’13…

JB: At that time.

MVS: But my family life is in Tucson, and I wasn’t willing to move permanently to Charlottesville. The board wasn’t willing to take that on at that point. They did hire someone who was willing to move, and then they came back to me again when that person had resigned.

At the end of the ’15 festival, we opened the conversation again. At that point, they made it clear from the get-go that if we came to an agreement, that I would not have to move. So we built my contract based on me being able to stay in Tucson; to stay visible in the field which of course is a plus for LOOK3 as well and here we are.

I did agree to be in Charlottesville for just about three months leading up to the festival, and obviously I’ve been here periodically throughout the year meeting local stakeholders, and working closely with my colleague Lisa Draine, long time Festival Director. It’s a fantastic community.

UVA is an extraordinary presence in this town, and it’s a really cultured environment that embraces photography in our world so I couldn’t be happier.

JB: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. I had a hard time imagining somebody like you, who’s so methodical in the way you’ve built your own career, and the way you teach people, that it would have been a random thing.

MVS: And I should say going backwards that when I was first out of graduate school at ASU in Tempe, my first full time job was at the Friends of Photography in Carmel as you know, Jonathan.

JB: Working with Ansel Adams.

MVS: I coordinated education programs there as a young person in the field, and one of the workshops that we did was called “The Photograph as Document,” and there were five faculty members on it: Burk Uzzle, Danny Lyon, Morrie Camhi, Louis Carlos Bernal and a young woman named Mary Ellen Mark.

One of my students in that workshop was a young photographer named Michael K. Nichols. So Nick and I have known each other since 1983. The following year, when Ansel passed away, I moved to New York to work for Magnum, and Nick and Eli Reed were the two Magnum nominees that year.

So we went into next phase of our lives together, and Nick ended up making a big decision, which was wonderful for him, to become staff at National Geographic, and do the extraordinary natural history work that he’s done all of his career.

We stayed in touch as best we could through those years, and our relationship has really been rooted in teaching. When I got to Magnum, I organized the first all-Magnum faculty workshops as well that Nick participated in. To be fair, we really had this strong link to education all the way back to the earliest points in our career.

JB: That’s a perfect little segue. I was so curious personally, and as a proxy for our audience, as to how Swanee becomes the head of a historic and important festival. So after the first question, how did you get the job, I wanted to hit you with something broader.

Why do you love photography so much?

MVS: Photography for me has always been a connector. I think people that are involved in music and performing arts, we all feel that if there’s something in our life that draws us together; that gives us a conversation, and challenges us, and causes us to love things more. It’s a wonderful thing.

I grew up in a family that was the household that everybody hung out at. And my parents were both very involved professionally in gatherings. My father organized conferences in his industry, and in junior high and in high school, I used to go with him conferences that he was running. My mom was very much a community leader. So we all had our thing and for me, it was specifically photography.

I’ll tell you one thing that really rocked my world as a young person was my hometown curator in Minneapolis was named Ted Hartwell, and he did the first big Richard Avedon show of his private portraiture. It was an extraordinary, wild, crazy installation with images that were of the “Chicago Seven” that were pasted on canvas that was fraying on the edges that was the size of the walls.

He and Marvin Israel, the designer, and Diane Arbus came in to install the show and they painted the floors and the ceilings and everything was wild and it was completely different than growing up with Life Magazine and National Geographic and all and it just made me realize that it could be a completely different kind of communication tool.

JB: Sounds wild.

MVS: I’d seen a lot of how photographs had landed in the artists of the ‘60’s Rauschenberg, etc, because the Walker Arts Center is also in Minneapolis. It’s a contemporary museum, but there was something about that Avedon show, and seeing how different it was presented in the printed age, that made me feel like there was a lot more that we could communicate to each other with.

I never forgot that as I was doing my studies, and learning more about the history of photography. Understanding how important that whole notion of personal work was to Avedon, at the time. As soon as I got into college, I was organizing student art shows, and worked at our museum. I also became the student director of our photography gallery, and it just became this great point of contact for me. For my family, it was other things that drew people together. For me it was photography.

Jonathan: And you got a degree as a practitioner, I believe?

Mary Virginia: Yeah, I have an MFA. I had done my undergraduate, in fact, at ASU in ceramics. I was always interested in art history, and in museum and gallery work, having worked as an undergrad at our university art museum. Those were my three areas.

As I took more and more photography and history of photography classes from Bill Jay, everything came together for me with photography. The museum and gallery aspect of it, the art history aspect of it, and the making work– all three came together, and it was like this explosion.

I often find myself saying this to students, that when you find the thing that you love the most, it will seem like there’s a thousand times more energy that comes out of you that you never knew you had.

Just everything connected for me around photography, and it was at that time that I started my involvement in Society for Photographic Education as a volunteer. We organized a regional conference during my graduate studies there, and I really came to know that we were a community.

JB: OK.

MVS: I’ll tell you another kind of funny thing that happened. At the end of my undergraduate studies, there was an NPPA conference that was coming to Phoenix. It takes different form right now, but in those days, it was called the Flying Short Course. It would a five or six city thing, with five or six different people on this tour.

There was always an artist, and sometimes a curator and a photo editor. I went down to this conference-style hotel for the NPPA Flying Short Course, and the person that stood out to me the most was Mary Ellen Mark. She was just back from her Fulbright in Turkey, and had just started Ward 81. I thought, “My god! This is a much broader world of photography than I’d ever imagined! And she was so courageous. I just was so impressed with her work, and her bravery. Everything about what she was engaging in, and that too really combined for me to feel like this is a community that I want to be a part of…

JB: I had to break in for a second, because I did want to ask you a pointed question. From shortly after you got your degree, you joined the business side of the career, and you’ve been involved in so many different areas of photography that way. But do you still make work? Was there a point in which you made time for your own practice, or did your sort of immersion in the photo-community-at-large satisfy your creative yearnings?

MVS: I made pictures on the way home from work today. I make pictures constantly. What I’m not doing as much of as I would like to is printing work, and that’s sort of just the nature of the beast now, isn’t it, that we’re able to make pictures constantly and still be satisfied by them.

When I was working for the Friends of Photography in Carmel, I started shooting color neg for the first time. I still yearn for the darkroom, of course, but I make pictures constantly. Thousands of pictures all the time. I love my Instagram feed. That’s where people see things most.

JB: Right, well that’s where I know you shoot, but I think you understood the spirit of the question. You haven’t pursued it as art, or there were phases where you have or —

MVS: When I finished up my undergraduate degree, I was completely torn, because I was already applying to graduate schools in ceramics, but by then the photography bug and the art history bug and the museum studies all had wrapped around photography. And so Bill Jay helped me out, and he got me an internship.

I had a really good friend that had moved to London, and Bill got me an internship at the Royal Photographic Society, and also I worked four days a week for something called the Half Moon Photography Workshop. At the time, it was the largest grant the arts council had ever given to photography. I made work for that year before I applied to graduate school, because obviously I had to have a portfolio for graduate school.

JB: Of course.

MVS: And then when I got into graduate school I started spending summers and Christmases interning for Ted Harwell back in my home town museum (Minneapolis Institute of Art). What I came to learn in that period of time, and also running the student gallery on campus, was that I love working with photographs, and I loved working with photographers.

I did do my thesis show, I got all through that, I’m really proud of the work that I did, but when I finished up my degree, I really did not have the bug to be a commercial photographer, a fine art photographer or a full-time teacher.

I wanted to work with photographs and with photographers. I looked for a place that I could work that would give me exposure to lots of different types of things in the field, because we didn’t really have jobs that would be defined like that. I think there’s a lot more opportunities to do that now with online magazines, with all different kinds of collections collecting photography that hadn’t before, and agencies, it’s just a different world.

But at that time, I applied for the job at the Friends of Photography in Carmel because they had workshops, they gave grants, we had an exhibition space and we published photobooks. So those four initiatives were things I knew I could learn from, and I wanted to just sink myself into an experience that touched on all those things.

It’s where I really came to love all those things, which are still part of my practice and my teachings. With publishing, and being on top of helping all of the artists understand how to sustain their long term projects, whether it’s grant writing, or corporate funding. All those things that project from the “Friends of Photography” are still part of what I’m engaged in today.

JB: Your message may have been honed in the 80’s, but it resonates quite a bit in the 21st Century.

MVS: The things I talk about in my lectures with students today are what I learned from different mentors along the way. I certainly learned about community working with Ansel at the Friends of Photography. There’s no question about it. But when Ansel passed away, and I went to work for Magnum, that was a step into a completely different business role.

Yes, I knew about the gallery world, I had worked for Janet Borden at the Robert Freidus Gallery.

But I had no idea what I was walking into at Magnum. I was there to do book projects and exhibitions, so I was still working in my area, but overhearing a new language of business was a mind blower to me. When I stepped into Magnum, I realized that there was a completely different world that we hadn’t had any idea about. You can get all the way through an MFA program, and never hear the word licensing, or certainly not hear stock photography.

But when I got there, I realized that the world was much bigger than I had imagined, in terms of photography, and the power of communication with excellent photographs.

From that point forward, I became an agent, and stepped into wearing many, many more hats, which you know from knowing my teaching, is really all rolled up into one. It’s all part of being a responsible professional in the industry, and my strong encouragement for photographers to understand as many possible outlets for their work, and that each one has a different vocabulary.

Each one has a different deliverable, each one has a different contract, and that to me was like a crash course when I stepped into that role at Magnum, and realized that of course their business model involved all of those.

Jonathan: You were still in maybe your late 20’s, it sounds like?

Mary Virginia: Yeah late 20’s, early 30’s my years in New York. Very, very interesting time in the industry. I’ll never forget this. The very first day that I was at Magnum, I was there to create books and exhibitions from their archive.

Mind you I’d worked in museums, I’d worked in galleries. To me an archive looked a certain way, had a certain filing system. I walked into Magnum, and it was a sea of four-drawer filing cabinets stacked high. You open the file drawer, and everyone’s work was smashed together in these brown manila folders, under headings like “Sibling Rivalry” or “Paris Skyline” or “South of France”, or an emotion like “Cooperation.”

I could not believe my eyes. It was a totally different way of thinking of filing images, or certainly there’s a different language of finding them. I remember Bruce Davidson saying to me that very first day, “Swanee, this is how we’ve been making a living all these years.”

And if you looked hard in the files you’d see that under “Sibling Rivalry” there would be some of his “East 100 Street” work or some of Susan Mieselas’ work with the children in the Americas, or in the dogs category of course it would be Elliot Erwitt. Everything made sense, but what I realized was they were inverting, or taking apart personal projects, and filing them in all these different categories. Cross referencing like mad.

Jonathan: It was like analog tagging.

Mary Virginia: All analog tagging at the time. It made me realize for artists, the best thing that could happen would be to have an exhibition. Even better if it traveled, and even better if it had a catalog, but ultimately in our fine art world, when a body of work was done and the tour was on, we kind of thought of that as old work.

People moved on to the next body of work, and it didn’t have a second life, like the licensing world was affording. For me, it was a super-interesting time in the power of photography.

We were finding that there was a generation of people coming into the decision-making chairs, be they photo editors, or graphic designers or art directors, who’d grown up with cameras and had a different perspective. The metaphor could be king.

Things didn’t have to be quite so literal as they had been in the past, but there wasn’t really an agency bringing that quality of work together.

So at that point I called all my friends that owned galleries and said, “Listen, you’re missing this market for your artists. There’s a whole other world of people who can use the images, and it can help support their personal work. People like gallery owner Terry Etherton were saying, “Oh Swan you should do that. We don’t know anything about that, you should do that.”

I just kept paying attention to all that, and more and more often friends were calling and saying, “Hey I don’t know how to read this contract that I just got from somebody. Can you read this for me? Can you call them?” So I’d call people up and say, “Oh by the way, how did you find Sally Gall?” And they’d say, “We subscribe to Aperture. We subscribe to this.”

Or, “We saw their exhibition.” It made me realize that decision-making group is really in a situation now where they can use great work, and that it can help photographers by functioning, not as a primary market, but rather as a second market. That helped me to become confident in starting something called Swanstock, with Gordon Stettinius (of Candela Books & Gallery in Richmond) as my right hand person all those years, we were learning about all these other opportunities that of course continue on in all of our practice today.

JB: So let’s jump forward for a second then. Listening to you talk, even despite my glowing intro, people can hear the depth of your experience. But at this point in your career, you travel all the time, you’re super established, you teach, you have private clients. Just because LOOK3 offered you the job and said you didn’t have to move, you didn’t have to take it. Why did you decide that this was something you wanted to do at this point in your life?

Why did you say yes?

MVS: I have to tell you, I was so moved by the Festival in ’13. The education was rock solid, the lineup of photographers was so interesting, and so much of it was a surprise. I felt like if I could have a hand in making this festival happen every year, I could in fact impact more people than I could on my own.

I looked at that potential for growing education, and it was really was something that the board and I came together on. They were very interested in me from that perspective, I could bring relevant education to the table. I think that’s where the match was really made and happened was the education component.

JB: So how does an education program at a festival differ from a school or a workshop business? How do you guys differentiate it, or what do you try to offer your community that they might not be getting elsewhere?

MVS: Well first of all, I know from teaching at exceptional places like Santa Fe Workshops and Anderson Ranch and Aperture that there are many places that do their kind of education really, really well. I would never want LOOK3 to be those places. There are lots of organizations to go and spend a week with a photographer.

There are not a lot of places to go and have education and inspiration for photographers at levels of accomplishment, and at all ages.

I feel like our industry is changing so fast, and I get just as many questions from photographers that have been successful in one thing all their life that now are wanting to expand.

Maybe they’ve never talked to a gallery before, or a fine art photographer that’s never had an opportunity to talk to an advertising art director before, or someone hasn’t had any licensing experience but in fact they have unique work that could make a difference in communication.

So that’s the perspective that I brought to it. I feel like it’s just as important a time, frankly, for teachers – an essential time for teachers to be completely current on where this industry is going, as best as we can predict it at this time. That’s been my mission behind putting together education for this year, and my hope is that our education stays incredibly relevant. That it changes out every year to be what people need. And that’s what excites me the most. That’s what I’ve built for this year for LOOK3 in terms of education. We’ve also added a lot of community engagement.

JB: What are some of the programs this year?

MVS: The first thing that we’ve got, I’m hoping that people will travel in on the Tuesday which is the 14th –

JB: Of June.

MVS: Because that night, Tuesday night, we’re hosting the PDN 30 Emerging Photographers panel. I reached out to PDN about this, because I feel like it’s the perfect way to begin to think about the education that’s happening in the next two days after that. To start to focus on what is that path?

How does a photographer set out in the world today? What are the marketing paths that have worked and haven’t worked for them? Where do they find their inspiration?

I don’t know if you’ve had the opportunity to hear Holly Hughes moderate that panel, but it’s not to be missed. I love it. Everywhere I’ve ever seen it, it’s been completely engaging. Then, the next morning, we have two seminar days back-to-back on Wednesday and Thursday.

I’ve designed it to be such that the Wednesday is all about your work, and the Thursday is all about your audience. On Wednesday, I wanted to have a day that would be an overview of all the different tools that we use, in terms of technology to be creative. Not just how we make work, but how we publish work, how we deliver work, how we share work, how technology impacts everything. I call that day creativity meets technology.

I asked Jim Estrin from the Lens Blog to moderate that day, he and Andrew Mendelson from CUNY have helped me shape the day and will both participate. We thought a lot about what people need to know now.

We’ll start with the beginning, Andrew is going to do a kind of crash course on 1839 to the present with technology. Some of the pieces people may already know and be using, like Instagram, and the power of that tool. Other people may not know some of the other things we want to bring to the table, like understanding how we measure success in terms of sharing, the metrics of that.

We’re closing that day, for example, with Jenna Pirog who is the producer and editor of the Virtual-Reality Projects for the New York Times Magazine, so we’ll sort of end with the future.

JB: Sounds exciting.

MVS: And then Brian Storm, and we have Julie Winokur and Ed Kashi taking one of their Talking Eyes Media products apart to show us that path to finding your intention with your project. Who’s the audience for that, where do you seek funding, where do you push it out.

We’ve got the photographers from the Black Box Cooperative coming to talk about a new kind of engagement as a team, quite different than the traditional agency world, but a great example of the younger cooperatives that we see today. Lots of different things like that.

Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill from the “Everyday Africa” projects are coming to talk about the power of communication through using Instagram. Dan Milnor is going to talk about atypical publishing.

So I see that day as the kind of day where there’s something for everyone in it. It’s of great value for people who have not been in an education environment for a few years, because many of these things they may not have been experiencing before.

I love the fact that we have some young people teaching, that have been out experiencing it in the world, and I think it’s an awesome day for educators to come and have this crash course on that.

JB: What else can you tell us about?

MVS: The second day is called “Artists Meet Your Markets.” That morning is going to be a really interesting, where I have 10, probably 11 different individuals talking almost on script about what their market is, what their product is, who they’re talking to, how they deliver it, how you the artist can make a strong first impression to them.

If they choose to reach out to you to license your images for illustration, in whatever case they work in, they’ll share with you what the deliverables would be and what the contract would be.

I have people like Catherine Edelman coming and saying, I’m a Gallerist: Our audience is high-end collectors of limited edition art work. We deliver to our audience, from our store-front gallery in Chicago, and attending international art fairs. If you want to make a strong first impression, study our website, come and see what we put on the walls, read the captions, the labels, edition numbers, etc.

If we do business together, we represent you. This is what the contract will look like. The deliverables for us is that we need you to invest in an inventory for us.

The next person might be Molly Roberts from Smithsonian Magazine. She is a director of photography at a magazine. Their product delivers informational articles that are richly illustrated in American History, art, culture and science. They deliver it through their print magazine and their online presence. This is how she would say you could make a strong first impression.

This is what she would say about what the contract terms would be and the deliverables. The next person might be an art buyer at an ad agency or someone at a licensing company or someone at a media company like CNN that wants to commission new work.

My goal is that through that morning, one professional after another explains how they engage with photography and hire photographers, what their terms are, how you deliver so that the artists in the audience realize there are other opportunities for you, but each one has its own vocabulary.

Each one has its own deliverables and each market has its own contracts. If you can manage to understand all that, and speak in these different languages and understand these different terms, you have that many more opportunities to make a living with your camera.

JB: For years, you’ve been talking to photographers, and trying to educate them and open their eyes about the ways their images can cross over into other markets, and how they can introduce themselves to new audiences. To me, that sounds like you’re bringing your pure core precepts into the LOOK3 umbrella.

MVS: I agree, and I have to say it came really out of my stepping out of the fine art market only, and stepping into Magnum and realizing “Oh my god, there’s all these other markets that can help photographers support their project.”

JB: And that was Ansel Adams’ philosophy as well. I did an extensive research project about Ansel, and I got to know his business manager Bill Turnage a little bit. If people want to understand your philosophy, and they want to get a detailed message delivered by professionals across the board, they can come hear this kind of thing at LOOK3.

MVS: Exactly. But I want to tell you what happens the rest of that afternoon.

So imagine that we’ve had this morning that’s opened everybody’s eyes and minds to all these other opportunities. That afternoon we have an opportunity for people that have registered for the morning, and been through that training, essentially, to show their work to not just those ten or 11 professionals but I’ve expanded it.

I’ve added more gallerists, more publishers, more magazine editors, more advertising people, more corporate art consultants. We’re filling out this room with what would look to you and to everyone else like a typical portfolio review. But here’s the catch.

JB: BUT! There’s always a but.

MVS: But you the photographer, in this case at LOOK3, do not pick the reviewer. We call this afternoon LOOK3PITCH.

The reviewers, industry professionals, choose who they want to have a meeting with, not a critique, not a portfolio review. I want LOOK3 to be the place where all of you come and have the chance to meet people, and gain confidence in your work and confidence in that language to other markets.

Come to LOOK3 and have a chance to have proper meetings. I want you prepared. If Catherine Edelman says that she wants to see you, you better be prepared, because she considers it a meeting.

Not a critique or portfolio review but a meeting. So it’s a twist on that, and the reviewers that I’ve engaged to come are thrilled with this kind of switching out to where they get to choose. Normally what happens is what just happened at FotoFest. I’d sit down and every morning there would be my schedule.

JB: Right. I think our readers are pretty familiar with the portfolio review format, so it’s interesting to hear you flip the script. I want to pivot again briefly.

MVS: Yes.

JB: The philosophy that you espouse, that you teach, and that you encourage, it’s been around a while. We can date it back to Ansel, and your own experiences. In my opinion, you’ve had a track record of being ahead of the curve, as far as understanding industry trends.

So I would be remiss if I didn’t put you on the hot seat. You’ve been telling people they had to spread out, they had to diversify their income streams, they had to try new things.

You’ve been talking about this for years, and now everybody knows it’s true. I know you’re thinking ahead.

What’s next? Where is everything headed? We’ve seen most of the places that are going to go out of business maybe go out of business. Now, I’m starting to hear that the gallery industry, maybe, is heading towards a huge shake up? How do you see these things playing out on a five year time horizon? What do you imagine is coming down the pike?

MVS: I have to tell you, I think we are at a huge change right now. More so than we’ve seen in our professional lifetimes, with the growth of online-only, and the fact that the online presence in many cases are more important than the print presence.

It’s certainly reaching a lot more people, and now there are all these places that never intend to have print. My concerns of course are rights and fees paid, and the fact that we need all the photographers to make a living. We have a whole generation coming in now that will be photo editors that maybe never worked in print, and everyone’s on such a high learning curve it’s wild.

I’d like to think that in terms of the fine art print world, that we’re growing the diversification of our collecting audience to be much, much more broad. We see it in corporate art, we see it in some of the huge empires in the hospital world commissioning work and really engaging in that way.

The magazines we see getting smaller, the online presence getting larger. I’m very concerned about the pressure on photographers about what they can release when, because then if they say yes to one magazine then they may never get the one they really want because they’ll say it’s already out.

We are in a time of real upheaval, and I want all of those next-generation of photo editors to be at the tables with those that are sage. Those that have been in the business for years, and hopefully not only influence their capabilities, but influence their understanding of the needs for photographers to keep their rights, to be paid fairly, all of those things.

So I’m cautiously optimistic in terms of the online world. I’m more optimistic than ever in terms of the print world, the collecting world, but we’ve got to all juggle things. Everyone has to understand all of the language, so that they can dabble in all of it and see what’s going to click for them body of work by body of work. That’s not been the way we’ve been thinking before.

JB: It seems like a lot of money flooded out of the system in general. Certainly as content became free, and companies weren’t able to stay in business just selling online advertising, so there’s been an outflow of capital in some ways, but a massive in-flow of interest.

When I do these interviews, inevitably we discuss this overwhelming demand for photography. With the smart phone revolution, with Instagram, we’re looking at billions of people who now have a passion, where the overall community used to be a fraction of that.

I feel like a lot of people see this extreme interest in photography as an eventual lead-in to maybe a new phase where capital comes back in to the industry. Where people make money in different ways.

Do you feel like the growth of global interest will ultimately be commodified, or do you think it might stay discreet from the capital flow?

MVS: Tell you what gives me optimism about the capital coming back in. More and more photographers I talk to are actually challenging the rights. They’ll write someone and say ‘no, I’m not going to take this for the cover; this is the price you offered for the inside,’ or on page 1… the home page is going to cost more.

Photographers are starting to understand how to leverage the value of their brand, and actually speaking up about it. You know me well enough to know I’ve been preaching that, I preach registration and copyright, keeping a paper trail, all of those obvious things, but I’m empowered lately by the fact that I’m hearing more and more younger people rise to that.

I’ll share with you that at Photoville this year, when I had just taken the job about a week before, I ran into Jake Naughton and his colleagues at the Black Box Cooperative. And I said to them, I said, “Let me turn the tables to you. How can we help you at LOOK3? What do you need at LOOK3 edu this year?”

Jake looked at his colleagues and he said, “Well.” And he looked back at me and he said, “None of us has a job, and we’re starting to realize that we probably never will. That the entire role of a staff photographer is out of existence. There are no jobs in the industry shooting that’s a full time job.”

He said, “We were not trained to be entrepreneurs in college, and we’ve got to learn to be.” That’s really where pitch came from.

That next morning, I was at Ed O’Keefe’s office at CNN and I shared with them this experience. It really helped me to shape what I wanted to do with edu, and he said, “You know, I bet they don’t realize that they could come in here and pitch me on a story.”

I said to Ed, “Not only do I think they don’t know that, but I don’t know that they’ve ever had that chance. I don’t think they have the experience to do that.”

I remember back when Darius and I did a seminar on portfolio reviews at PhotoPlus Expo, and we did a role play…

JB: Darius Himes.

MVS: Yeah, my co-author Darius Himes. We did a role-playing thing in front of the audience, and it was a lot of fun. But it made some serious points to people, and that’s really what I want to happen on that pitch day. I want people to have the opportunity to get more confident, and more comfortable with that language, and with that experience. To be ready to handle tough questions from people.

I think it’s just as important for us to be teaching not just the pitch, but the contract terms and the understanding of the rights. You know I’m constantly sending people to ASMP.org and to join their local branches, and to learn from those that have experience managing their own careers. Those who’ve been entrepreneurial for all of these years.

It’s part of why I want teachers to come. We’ve got to help this generation, and the next generation of photographers, be entrepreneurs, be young business people. The same with photographers that have had their whole life in one aspect of the career, where now they want to test other waters. They’ve got to learn from scratch too. When it comes back to the individual photographer, and they can manage those relationships well, then everybody is going to win.

JB: Here’s another big question then. LOOK3, which at least according to lore began as a projection in —

MVS: Nick’s backyard.

JB: Right, Nick Nichols back yard.

You’re a big, bold, ambitious person. But it’s still a festival model, and is built on this idea that there’s a get-together, a big community event that everybody flows in for and then, things ramp down, scale down on staff, save money, then ramp up again.

I’ve been to many festivals, and our readers have heard my experiences at Filter, Medium, PhotoNOLA, FotoFest and Review Santa Fe.

There are organizations around the country and around the world, but certainly we’re blessed here in the United States. Can you imagine something like LOOK3 expanding to the point where it’s not about the one big weekend? Can organizations like yours grow in ways that move beyond the tent-pole event? Or do you think the festival model stays rooted in a week a year?

MVS: LOOK3 has a community that gathers every year. It’s just like some of us that have been around certain things like PhotoNOLA since the beginning. We look forward to seeing our friends, our colleagues, the local gallerists, the local museum curators, the local NPPA photographers.

Everybody is one big community when we hit town, and there’s no question it feels that way at LOOK3. Even Jake Naughton from Black Box shared that he’d come every year since college. People come back to that place where it began, and certainly the city of Charlottesville is so proud to host it that I can’t imagine us not having something here. But I will tell you…

JB: I didn’t mean not having it each year. I meant, having more than one? Or having year-round programming so that the festival only becomes a part of the organization’s identity?

MVS: Right. Well, remember my roots in the Flying Short Course. I can’t tell you how important it is, I think, to roll things out to other communities. Whether we can pull together an economic model that will work to do that? But it’s certainly something that I talked about while speaking with my board about taking this job.

LOOK3 does a really excellent job regionally, where people can drive to it, but I don’t believe that we’re reaching everybody even in the US, and I would love to have us do some sort of remote work. I’m also really interested in where we’re going with the capabilities of live streaming, and I would love to have us connect with other festivals and do some live sharing of things that are going on around the world at festival time.

Next year is our tenth LOOK3. I really want to change it up and do some different things. Obviously I’ve got two months of programming to get out ahead, but believe me, we’re thinking long and hard about what kind of statement we can make.

You know, it’s wonderful watching other festival directors come every year to LOOK3. The head of Visa pour l’Image comes and the head of World Press plans to come. People that are engaged in a very global audience love coming to Charlottesville to LOOK3.

I’ve got to see what we can all put together, but I can tell you that I’ve had festival directors from all over the world reach out, and I would love to figure out a way that we could connect in that way as well as connecting regionally. Anything is possible at this point.

I’m really optimistic that we’re going to have a great year this year, and people will embrace the kind of change that I brought in, and we’ll get feedback from people about what else they’d like.

There was a section on our website leading up to this festival, where I reached out to the public and said what are your education needs now and what work inspires you? It went straight to a Google doc that we could share with our board of what everybody was asking for.

It was incredibly informative for me, particularly the education needs, because it kind of underscored my hunch of what was not being delivered either through colleges or through professional associations to photographers today.

But, I’m all for the biggest community that we can have, and sharing as economically so we can all continue to be physically present, but be able to reach people abroad. Have you had that experience Jonathan, that you’ve seen some live streaming from festivals that’s been engaging for you?

JB: Well, since you’re putting me on the spot, I will answer honestly, which is no. Not yet. But I do have painfully slow Internet out here in my horse pasture, so perhaps that might have something to do with it.

Listen, we’ve talked so much about LOOK3, and we’re getting to that point in the interviews where they start to wind down a little bit, so sometimes I like to be proactive. One of the things that I think that has amazed me about you is that you’re based in Tucson, with massive saguaro cactus’ in your yard, but you travel constantly.

I thought we’d kind of pivot a second and just have a little fun, and then I’ll let you get back to your evening. I know you’re not the type of person who would ever pick favorites, or what you like best, so I’m not going to ask the question that way.

But, if you knew that tonight was your last night on Earth, and you could have one slice of pizza, or one plate of food from that one little joint that you love in Chicago or L.A. What’s your go-to if you only got to have one plate of food from anywhere you’ve been, what would it be?

MVS: Oh my god.

JB: I’m totally putting you on the spot.

MVS: Oh you are. I’m really stumped.

JB: I know, I know. Maybe a couple of your favorites? What do you love?

MVS: I love being in New Mexico. I love being in New Orleans and of course I love being in New York. I never get enough time in San Francisco, it’s so damn expensive even just to fly there let alone get a hotel room anymore. It’s hard to engage, and we all want to be at Pier 24 as often as we can, right.

JB: The place is pretty great, though I haven’t been back in a while. But come on. You can say a big slice of New York pizza off the street, but I don’t know if that’s true. Is it a bowl of gumbo in some little back-alley joint in New Orleans?

MVS: Yeah, it’s posole, of course. I love my posole at Tomasita’s in Santa Fe…

JB: All right, there’s one.

MVS: One of the neighborhood joints.

JB: OK.

MVS: I rarely am in Tucson, so I love some of the food in Tucson too. We have a very different style of food from South of the Border. There’s a little Vietnamese place I love in New York. My favorite bagel shop of course is New York. Things like that.

JB: You gave us something. We always talk about photography. I love food, so I wanted to see what you brought to the table. You gave the shout out to New Mexico.

MVS: Yes.

JB: Do you give yourself a set amount of time that you’re going to devote to LOOK3, or do you literally just take it one day at a time?

MVS: Oh yeah, I need to get through a year of this, because I need to learn the system, and I need to understand every venue, and all of our partners and their needs and our sponsors and their needs. Our program this year has a much more diverse range, not just in nationalities and race and types of work, but it’s different generations.

We have the youngest speaker ever on the stage this year, Olivia Bee. It’s a big mash up, and a wonderful, wonderful experience. We’re testing a lot of new venues this year that we haven’t used before. I want to focus hard on this one year and get through this cycle, and then see what needs to be tweaked. That’s more my style, to run it where it has been, make tweaks as I can as it goes along. Tomorrow we’re doing our second round of testing on the big screen at the Paramount Theatre with new projectors. I’m getting involved in all those little aspects that are key.

JB: And you love it.

MVS: I love it. I love it. My personality, the way my brain works, has always been sort of the producer’s mindset, whether I was running a comprehensive workshop program or education program or in a school or putting together book projects, it’s production. It’s something that has a beginning, a middle and an end. Not a lot of routine. That excites me.

I want to make sure that LOOK3 is offering the most relevant education that we can each year, according to what the needs are in the industry, and what the needs of the photographers are. I want to make sure that we bring completely engaging work to the stage.

We want to bring as many exhibitions as possible. We’ve changed up the way the evening projections are, the outside projections by inviting guest curators to put those together, and so there’s a lot of room for growth. But I want to get through the full cycle before we see where we can improve, obviously. And I think we’re bringing a lot of new audiences to LOOK 3 this year, so it will be interesting to hear what a first timer has to say about the experience. All of those things are incredibly exciting to me. I hope you’ll come Jonathan.

JB: You’re kind of talking me into it. I’ll see what I can do. We’ll also say to all the people out there reading it, if you go, drop Swanee an email. You’ll become data. She’ll take your opinion seriously, right?

MVS: Oh, absolutely. Without any question. We totally do.

JB: Any last thoughts, before we go?

MVS: One thing that’s a little bit tricky– all of your readers should know— is that Charlottesville is a small town. Most people connect through D.C. to make their way down. I’m an Amtrak girl, and now I take Amtrak all the time up and down the coast. But it’s not a massive town for a lot of housing options, so don’t wait too long.

Gang your friends, rent a house together, something like that. Call us if you’re stuck, because we always kind of know… a lot of people will tell us that they’ve just booked somewhere, and they’ve got six rooms left there, or they’ve got one left over here, and someone heard about a new bed and breakfast that wasn’t on our list, so we add that up on the list. We want to make sure everybody has a place to stay, so they can make the most of their week in Charlottesville.

JB: Which means Airbnb will be a sponsored partner for 2017.

MVS: You know I have this dream actually.

JB: Of course you do.

MVS: I have this dream that we will get all of the owners of AirBnB houses within like a 10 square block area or something. Can you imagine the portfolio walk we can do if everybody is in their own houses and we go through a neighborhood? Wouldn’t that be awesome? ☺

JB: I knew you were imagining it. [laughs] I really wish you well with the new venture. But it sounds like you guys are doing really interesting things, so hopefully some of our audience will go check it out. And now they know they can drop you a note when they’re done.

MVS: Absolutely! And they can drop me a note beforehand. We are really looking forward to hosting all of you in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Daily Edit – Angie Smith: Stronger Shines the Light Inside

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Angie SmithStronger Shines the Light Inside

How do you see this work helping the refugees?
This work will be presented as an large scale, outdoor public exhibition that will be installed in 3 locations in downtown Boise for two months. My hope is anyone who stops to even read one story will walk away feeling like they have learned something new. The word “refugee” is so overused in our society right now because that’s the only word we have to describe people in this situation. But every single refugee living in Boise has such a different life journey. I want to help present these pictures and stories of refugees just as people, who happen to have been born into a situation that they eventually had to flee from, they all happened to end up in Idaho and they all have unique dreams they want to fulfill. Refugees aren’t just the images we see in the news of people in camps or migrating into Europe. Refugees are in the U.S. and they have been for many years, opening businesses, going to college, everyday they are surmounting tremendous obstacles. And beyond that, they are contributing so much to our communities. We just need take them time to connect with them. The more they are integrated into the communities where they resettle, the more they will succeed and be able to contribute to that community and the more we will all benefit. Boise stands out as one of the 5 most welcoming cities in America for refugees.

How did you find your subjects and what was the selection process?
I began with Rita and she is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Then I went to a church in Boise where the majority of the congregation is from the Congo. I offered to take pictures of families in the church, to offer them something that would be valuable, but it would also allow me to start making contacts with people. The first 8 shoots were to experiment and get comfortable and see if people were willing to participate. I made the most contacts within the Congolese community, which also makes up about 30% of the refugee population in Boise. I consistently went to the church services and brought back prints so that people got to know me. All of my contacts just grew from there. People would invite me to their birthday parties, weddings, soccer games and baptisms. I am trying to represent as many different countries as possible in this project, so I had to go through the same process with each different community whether it was the Iraqis, Eritreans or Somali Bantus- I had to build trust.

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How long did you spend with each person and what tools did you use to get them to open up to you?
I try to have an initial meeting with each person, without a camera. I find that it goes a long way to just spend time with people, without an agenda. Many people are coming from cultures where there was a lot more time in the day to simply talk with another person. I think it’s difficult for refugees to adjust to this American lifestyle of constantly working and being busy.  I try to ask them questions and get a sense of the situation they have fled, what their life is like in Idaho and what they spend their time doing. This helps me visualize the picture I want to take of them. The more time I spend with the person and the more I create the space to connect with them, the more trust is built and the more they open up to me. It’s really about putting the time and effort in to get to know them. Many of my subjects I have become great friends with and we spend time together without taking any pictures.

I usually spend about 2-3 hours with each person. For some people, I do several interviews because as I get to know them, they open up more or say profound things as time goes on that I want to include in the project. The less pressure I put on people to talk about something, the more they open up when they are ready. Some of the interviews I have done in collaboration with a writer, Hanne Steen, who has a similar interview style. However, she speaks French and grew up in Kenya, Rwanda and the Central African Republic, so having that shared experience with some of our subjects definitely helps.

How difficult was the editing process and were you the only one editing?
The exhibition will install on September 1st, so I am still shooting and gathering interviews. I can tell  the edit is going to be challenging because I have so many pictures and people from this project that I love. I want them all to be in it. But that’s why some of my goals for this work reach beyond this exhibition. I want to publish a book; start making films have this exhibit travel around the world. The more exposure it gets, the more opportunities I have to share these stories and impact people’s perceptions.

 I will most likely ask for editing help from a friend and amazing photography consultant Meredith Marlay for some visual consultation. I will also go through the same process with Hanne, my writing partner to discuss the stories and how to edit the stories.

The edit will reflect each person’s story to represent a different aspect of this experience. I am always listening for someone to make a point or talk about something that hasn’t been talked about by another refugee.

Did you shoot anyone but not include them in the body of work?
Yes, I have actually shot several people that have expressed some level of hesitation about being on the internet. An example is a transgender woman from Iran, who has been persecuted, beaten and raped throughout her life. She was very open about her experiences wanted to talk about what she has been though. After the photo shoot, she expressed some fear around her identity being revealed. We re-shot her in a way that didn’t show her face. With her, I know there is a high probability she will decide not to be in the project, and that’s okay.  Even if I don’t get a picture that I can use, if the experience made them feel happy, that’s enough for me.

Are you following up with the subjects? Giving prints?
Yes, I follow up with everyone, but it takes a lot of effort to track people down and give them prints. I go to parties and weddings and I photograph a lot of people who I don’t exchange information with because it would just take too long. At the end of the project, I will be allocating the time necessary to track people down. Luckily, it’s a fairly small community and everyone knows everyone, so I can usually find out fairly easily a person’s name and phone number just by asking around. Giving prints to people is really important as a gesture. But it’s funny because with the teenagers, they don’t really want prints. They want you to text them the photos so they can post them on facebook. It’s difficult to communicate to them why I can’t do that sometimes, because I need to keep the pictures close until the exhibition launches.

For more information about the project:
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The Daily Promo: Carlos Serrao

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Carlos Serrao

Who printed it?
AWLITHO. Anthony, the owner, has done the past four promos with me.  He’s great because he will work with different vendors for the production. In this case, we had to go to two different printing facilities, since the outside of this one was traditional newsprint (37lb Text stock), the first few pages had to be done at a web press, and the inside pages were coated stock on a sheet fed (50lb coated stock).

Who designed it?
A great designer: Michael Spolgaric. He likes to have fun with it.

Who edited the images?
Just Michael and I.

How many did you make?
5000 copies; 3000 went to my US agent and 2000 to my European agent.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
Ideally once a year, but last year got away from us.

Tell us why you chose a sport theme?
We wanted a sport driven one this year because of the Summer Olympics, because so many other clients besides the usual sport brands will be showing athletes. The web press was stressing out the printer because they we warning us the quality of photos on the newsprint stock would not be great, so we had to keep assuring them that’s what we were going for for the first few pages, in fact we added a little fading and yellowing tone to the newsprint to give it an aged look. Naturally, they should be how we want them in about a year, but we couldn’t wait that long!

Impressions From Texas

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by Jonathan Blaustein

When I came home and announced I like Texas, my father looked as if I’d declared myself Nazi. The shock was real, even if the anger was feigned.

Negative impressions of Texas run deep here in New Mexico, as we encounter the flashier, private-tour-bus-driving Texan tourists each summer. Like any bias, my own personal prejudices were hard to maintain, once I started visiting the state a few years ago.

This time I wanted to check out Dallas, since even Texans like to mock the place. I figured if Houston, Marfa and Austin were cool, maybe Dallas was too, in an under-the-radar kind of way.

Can’t exactly report I found the city charming; all concrete and highway onramps. But I was shown some pretty fantastic hospitality, by photographer Debora Hunter, and met friendly and smart members of the local art community as well. (Which made the detour worth it.)

And big shout out to the Austin Photo Crew, ably led by Sol Neelman. A heap of photographers came out on a Sunday night to drink beer, eat pizza, and catch up. They assured me it was nothing special, as their group, rolling 50 deep, meets up each month to drink, talk shop, and play skeeball in town.

I’ve already extolled the virtues of Ft. Worth, with the Kimbell and Amon Carter Museums being free all the time. (And the Modern on Sundays.) But why were they so great?

As you know, I love to be surprised. To be blown away by things I’ve never seen before. The Kimbell, with its top-shelf collection of global masterpieces, let me revisit many artists I love dearly. (Cezanne, Mondrian, Picasso.)

But there’s one art piece I’m still thinking about today. Can’t stop talking about it, really, because I’ve never seen anything like it, and doubt I will again.

“Christ the Redeemer,” by Tullio Lombardo, a Venetian, was dated between 1500-20. It’s a stunning, white-marble, profile sculpture of Jesus, in half-relief. A genuine Renaissance masterpiece, one of only two of his sculptures in the United States.

The object’s orbit drew me in with haste, like the smell of fresh baked pizza. The detail work! Incising stone like that! Into hair! Creating those types of repetitive patterns?

Unfathomable!

The technique, the mastery of the process, allows the piece to take on energy. The vibrations from the patterning, the solidity of the stone, and beauty of the color, it all comes together to create a calm, visceral energy in the immediate vicinity.

I must have stayed there 5 minutes, but it could have been an hour. I simply lost myself in wonder.

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That’s why tens of millions of people continue to go back to art museums every year. It’s easy to lose yourself in a movie. The sound, the scale, the visuals, they combine to build an immersive experience. Video games too.

But a sculpture sits still in space.
People bump into you.

The security guard asks you to please step back. Reality is all around, in 3 dimensions.

The best paintings, sculptures, photographs, they work so well that they allow us to jump the mundane turnstiles of regular life. It’s a big ask, I know, but that’s why I think we should always take the opportunity to visit with genius, when we can.

There was a Martin Puryear sculpture at the Modern that was equally brilliant, in its own way. I first found it from above, as it occupies multiple stories, and couldn’t believe the way it fit the gallery. Slowly receding up into space, diverging with its multiple shadows.

No wall card meant I had to ask around, and was told the artist info was down below, on the first floor. So I sprinted through the museum, (or at least power-walked, elbows pumping,) until I found its point of origin.

Breathtaking.
Beautiful.
Totemic.

Someone told me, later in my trip, that the piece had been designed for the space.

I believe it.

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Days later, I’d find the same phenomenon at the Menil Collection in Houston. (My second favorite art space in the US.) It was an insanely excellent, 60 foot long painting by Cy Twombly, in the mini-museum they have of his work. When I asked the security guard how it could fit so snugly, she said the building had been designed around the painting.

Why is that relevant?

Maybe it’s not, but it seems like a part of the Texas Zeitgeist. Exorbitant amounts of money, an important if fairly recent history, and a culture that’s trying to catch up with global mega-cities that have hundreds of years of head starts. (There were cranes everywhere in Dallas. Always a sign of growth and ambition.)

By the time I got to FotoFest, half-way into my trip, I was pretty worn out. This was not going to be one of those events where I got to drink, party, and chat all night long.

No sir.

I stayed off-site from the event, in a little Airbnb studio that smelled like wet dog. (But thankfully came with an electric air freshener.) I made sure to get a good night’s sleep each evening, which I recommend, and took walks each day, to counteract the effects of all that recycled, conference-room air.

Normally, I’d have a slate of articles about the best work I saw. But as I was showing my own work, I didn’t have the same time to look at other people’s portfolios. Nor did a lot of projects jump out at me during my brief tour of the portfolio walk.

There are always a few people that have the “it” vibe at an event like this. Always happens. This time, Mahtab Hussain, from England, had the work people raved about, with his series “You Get Me?” I saw his pictures on the wall of one of the attendant FotoFest exhibitions, and was sucked in immediately.

He photographs young members of the disaffected Muslim community in England, where he grew up. These are the type of razor-sharp, incisive, taut, personal portraits that give photography a good name. Beyond that, of course, they’re as topical as Molenbeek, so Mahtab has that going for him as well.

Meghann Riepenhoff, another exhibiting artist, also had the buzz. She works with cyanotypes, which are having a moment, and makes pictures in the hand-made, of-the-Earth style embraced by her fellow West Coast photographers Matthew Brandt, John Chiara, and Chris McCaw.

Her installation, which I also saw on the wall, was pretty excellent. Furthermore, it didn’t look like other peoples’ pictures.

What’s the lesson here?

If you can get your photographs to a place where they are technically excellent, aesthetically pleasing, speaking to ideas that are important to you, relatively original, and relevant to contemporary issues: you might blow up at FotoFest.

I was also pretty impressed by Peter DiCampo’s new work, which he showed me one day. Peter runs an Instagram feed called Everyday Africa, of which you might have heard. The way he spoke about his project, built on the back of his own experience in the Peace Corps in Africa, reflected a fatalistic but humorous cynicism. He’s genuinely conflicted about the role of Western Aid in Africa, and it gave the pictures, as well as the narrative, a more nuanced take on do-gooding than I’m used to hearing.

Priya Kambli, of whom I’ve written before, also showed me some pictures that stuck in my brain. She’s always worked with historical, family imagery in her practice, but this time, she had images in which she had clearly “destroyed” or altered the source material, which then became her work. (Mostly by stippling little pin holes through old photos)

She admitted to me, and a couple of people who were looking, that she hadn’t scanned the originals before she attacked them. The others were mortified.

How could she not scan them first?
You can’t do that!
It’s sacrilegious!

I disagreed. There was a real tension to the pictures, and I thought part of that was due to the way Priya was out there without training wheels. She committed to the work, risked destroying important parts of her history, in order to make something better.

Something new.

Which is why I left for this big Texas road-trip in the first place. To see new things. To meet new people. To bring some fresh energy into my little Taos bubble.

Mission accomplished.

Art Producers Speak: Jay Reilly

We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.sease@verizon.net

Anonymous Art Producer: I nominate Jay Reilly. He embodies the SoCal aesthetic not only in his photography, but also his personality; laid back, easy going, always smiling. This shines through in his interactions with his talent and consequently his photographs. His use of color and light capture the eternal glow of California and all it represents.

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How many years have you been in business?
I have been a professional photographer for about 13 years.  Before that, I was involved in tech marketing/advertising.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a major in Administration of Justice, then attended 1 year of law school before realizing I am  more of a creative person than a litigator. I am self-taught in photography.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
After law school I worked for technology companies in the marketing world and spent many hours looking through stock photography sites for images that we needed for our projects. Rather than specific photographers that were personally inspiring, were the quality and variety of images that fascinated me. More than merely appropriate for the project I was working on, the content was great, the composition was strong, the life in the images was real. I just felt very connected to certain stock agencies and knew that I could create these images as well, maybe even better with my own style, technique and creativity. I was inspired by the ability to create something beautiful and inspiring that also has commercial application. My photography from day one is intended to sell.

How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?
I am constantly creating new images, and I consider it  a labor of love to continually feed my portfolio with new work. Shooting tends to come in waves. For a stretch I will be busy working for clients, and then in between such jobs,  I can fill my portfolio with what I want to shoot. Once the clients call again I can focus on making their images, but it is especially rewarding when clients see something I have shot for myself and say – exactly!  Interplay between clients and photographer is an important part of the process. What I shoot for the clients comes from my images as well as the client’s vision.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
First and foremost I am shooting to serve the clients. I tend to get hired because someone saw an image I shot and it resonated with them for a certain project the client had in mind. But then after time and discussion that image that they love becomes something else and something of its own. I like to take direction from creatives and clients. If I feel strongly about an idea or a position, I will communicate that position or try to shoot it for myself, time permitting.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
Overall my approach is much more modest and guerrilla in nature, but that has been successful for me. I am unrepresented and therefore I do most of my own marketing and horn tooting.  I try to keep my cost and initiatives modest while implementing effective yet practical means to have creatives see what I am shooting. Using social media has been successful. I try at first to develop potential client relationships casually online, but ultimately what is important is to ask for a meeting or a real face-to-face connection. Shooting great content is only half of the equation. These images need to be seen by the right people.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
Well, I have to remind myself all the time that my images do not need to be perfect. There is this adorable trend of honest snapshots in advertising that looks perfectly imperfect. But what it’s about is the authentic moments that happen in life. The moments in-between the big moments that mean a lot. I am always reminding myself to look for and capture these split seconds. Don’t worry about the untamed imperfections; just keep shooting.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
I am always shooting new images. In addition to creating new work, I am looking to collaborate and create with others. The many types of photography I shoot I can produce successfully on my own. This might include travel, documentary, certain lifestyle imagery, sports, surfing photography to name a few. But to grow other areas of my portfolio, it is desirable that I collaborate with others to create something compelling and unique. These areas may include  fashion, portrait, and larger production lifestyle work. I would welcome association with a magazine, a producer or a fashion stylist. So some of these collaborations become artistic endeavors and are very similar to shooting for a client or focusing on a project.

How often are you shooting new work?
Depends on how busy I am. I love shooting new material but if the clients are calling then I am shooting for clients. But as soon as these jobs wind down, I immediately dig in to focus on new work. Sometimes it takes a little momentum and energy to make that happen. But in many ways it’s like surfing (another one of my passions); sometimes it’s no fun to put on a cold wetsuit and brave the winter water.. but once I catch that first wave, I am energized.  From then on I can  paddle and surf all day! The same is true for my reaction to  new work. It takes a little manufactured energy to get to that first shoot, but from then on, I am riding the energy wave and excitement which carries me to the next shoot!

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Clients and agencies hire Jay Reilly, acknowledging his ability to produce and create authentic imagery that supports, communicates and propels the brand or organization into the future and toward the desired goals. Jay Reilly has a team of creative professionals ready to mobilize and meet your creative needs. Producer, stylist, location scouts and casting professionals provide the right mix of talent and skill, and they look forward to making your vision a reality.

A partial list of Jay Reilly’s satisfied clients include: Nike, Sony, TD Ameritrade, Tate&Lyle, Splenda, Chandon Domaine, Bristol Myers, Cal-Poly State University, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Parade, Design Bureau, O’Leary, Gyro, Pollinate, Private Clubs, Riviera, San Diego Magazine and many more.

Jay Reilly is based in Carlsbad, California between Los Angeles and San Diego California and shoots wherever needed. He can be found anywhere from San Francisco to New York. Jay Reilly works unrepresented and determines his own budget and cost for a shoot. Call at 760.525.5172 to discuss a project.

 

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 founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

Pricing and Negotiating: Real Employees for Trade Ads

Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Environmental lifestyle images and portraits of client employees

Licensing: Unlimited use of 36 images for 1 year

Location: Client facilites on the West Coast

Shoot Days: 3

Photographer: Lifestyle and portrait specialist

Agency: Mid-sized agency based in the Midwest

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

Here is the estimate:

Creative/Licensing: Late last year we worked with one of our West Coast-based photographers to estimate and produce a project for one of the largest brands you’ve never heard of, but probably crossed paths with at some point. This is partially due to the nature of their product and the fact that they are trade oriented and don’t deal with consumers directly. The agency was developing a new web presence for the client, along with a number of trade print ads, all of which humanized the brand by highlighting the employees who manage the day to day operations. The concept was relatively straightforward; the photographer would need to capture environmental portraits of client employees at client facilities on the West Coast. Although the locations and talent would be provided, there was still a lengthy shot list, operational locations, and a fair amount of production involved.

This was a somewhat challenging fee to pin down because of the scale/reach of the client, the agency’s requirement of “unlimited” use in spite of the limited intended use, and a shot list that seemed to split the difference between an image-based approach and a library approach. Though the client was expecting to walk away with 36 selects, the shot list only consisted of 12 hero shots (four scenarios/shoot day). The additional 24 images were described as “pickup” variations of the 12 principal images. Because of the straightforward concept and relatively static scenarios, it was difficult to imagine these variations creating much value for the client.

Much as I try to avoid this thinking, I established a ceiling in the back of my mind, due to the “typical” library rate range of 7,500-15,000/day (which generally wouldn’t include a limit on the image count or duration of use). Additionally, we determined the value for the 12 principal images was considerably higher than the 24 variations. Weighted in this manner, we set the fee at 26,500.00 for the first 12 images (1 @ 5000.00, 2-6 @ 2500.00 each, 7-12 @ 1500.00 each) and 15,000.00 for the 24 variations (13-24 @ 750.00 each, 25-36 @ 500.00 each), bringing us to a total of 41,500.00 for the creative and licensing fee for this project. This falls on the higher end of the library ceiling I’d set (particularly considering the limitations), but the photographer has a unique approach and aesthetic favored by the client and agency, so we felt we could start with healthier fees. We were confident that the agency would come back to us to negotiate if our numbers didn’t align with theirs because of the photographer’s preferred position. We must have hit the mark, because the agency approved the bid without a single question or requested revision (which is exceedingly rare).

Client Provisions: We made sure to indicate that the agency and/or client would provide locations, casting and talent, requisite releases and any major set or product props.

Tech/Scout Days: We included a tech/scout day to walk through the three locations the day before the shoot.

Assistants and Tech: We included two killer assistants and a top-notch digital tech. The lighting kit would be minimal, but we’d be moving a lot and wanted to make sure we had enough hands on deck. The tech included a small mobile workstation in her fee.

Producer: We included a producer (including travel fees and expenses) to manage the crew, employee talent, locations, stylists, catering, parking, scheduling, local transportation, and just about any other logistical concerns that may come up throughout pre-production and the shoot.

Equipment: We estimated 1,500.00/day for a pair of DSLR bodies, a number of lenses, portable strobes, walkies and a one-ton grip truck.

Styling: We brought on two stylists (and one stylist assistant) to manage HMU, supplemental wardrobe (the subjects would provide a few of their own outfits and the client would provide necessary uniforms) and supplement personal props like handbags, folios, phones, etc. Major set props would be provided by the client – basically, we would work with existing spaces as is.

Shoot Processing for Client Review: This fee covered time, equipment and costs for the initial import, edit, batch color correction and upload of the images via FTP (or similar) for client review and selection. A digital tech will handle most of this on set, but often the photographer will want to fine tune and finesse the edit a bit before sharing with the client/agency.

Selects Processed for Reproduction: We included basic select processing (color correction and minor cleanup/touchups) as a lump sum (based on 125.00/image in this case), giving us a bit more ground to stand on if the client ultimately selected fewer than 36 images, as they would still be responsible for the full post processing amount.

Travel Expenses: The producer would be travelling in for the shoot so I used Kayak.com to determine reasonable airfare, lodging and car rental costs.

Catering, Insurance and Misc.: We included catering for 23 crew, agency, employee talent and client for each of the three shoot days, insurance to cover necessary workers comp/general liability premiums and a healthy “misc.” line to cover client dinners, local transportation and any other unexpected miscellaneous expenses that may pop up throughout the shoot.

Results: As I mentioned above, the initial estimate was accepted without any revisions. The shoot went as smoothly as it could have and everyone was stoked with the final product.

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

The Daily Promo: Charlie Hess – 20 Over Twenty

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20 Over Twenty

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What made you want to form this collective?
In my day-to-day practice as an editorial art director and photo editor I began to see huge changes in how photography was being used, and compensated.

On the one side, I see the Directors of Marketing and Communication that I work with scrambling for “content” (what we used to call pictures!) With more and more traffic going to sophisticated websites and social media platforms there is an endless need for digital imagery to “feed the beast.” Websites need to be updated often. And social media platforms need to be fed daily. Consequently, these marketing directors jobs get harder and harder. Not only are they scrambling for content, it has to be on brand, high quality and compelling.

I thought we could help.

Meanwhile, all the great editorial photographers that I work with every day are generally getting less work and being paid less for it too. They didn’t forget how to take great pictures! It just became okay to ask for images for free or for smaller fees, with more usage. It’s the constant drip drip of imagery being devalued. In a world where everyone is shooting daily, why not use your iPhone picture instead. It’s “good enough.” And it’s free. I don’t think it’s okay to diminish the value of people’s work. You wouldn’t ask your lawyer to cut his fees because there are lots of other law firms. For the magazines I work with they understand that we don’t have to pay a fortune, but we have to pay fairly for a days work. And, in return, they get stellar work, shot by professionals, and delivered in such a way that they can use it across all platforms.

These trends inspired me to develop a new agency to meet this need. It’s called 20overTwenty.com (like 20/20 — perfect vision.)

I saw a way to merge all these industry sea changes, making it easier for the clients, and create more work for the creatives. We developed a hybrid business model that includes me as art director, working with clients to best tell their stories. I will help them conceptualize and plan the shoots they need over the course of time, and they can build it into their budget. Plus, the clients get the full talent and resources of all our photographers. Between the six photographers we can shoot nearly anything. Most importantly, this takes the pressure off the marketing clients — they’ll get great photos, specific to their needs, and over time build a library of evergreen images for print, web, app and social media. It’s a win-win.

How did you decide what markets to focus on?
I want us to work with clients and causes that are meaningful. In my mind that’s academic and cultural institutions, and nonprofits — museums, schools, good causes, really anyone who needs content and is working towards good, not evil. These entities typically have decent marketing budgets, and working for universities all these years I know how to get a lot of mileage out of editorial photo fees! We’ll make work that we are proud of, collaborate with smart people, and pay the rent too. Besides, we’re never going to compete with the agencies, and wouldn’t want the headaches.

What were the key factors in choosing your line up of photographers?
Simple answer: Grownups. No drama. Great talent. Basically, photographers I’ve worked with for years, who I know will show up on time, and be professional with the clients and subjects. Also each of them has their own aesthetic. I spent a ton of time thinking about the mix. I wanted us to be able to be able handle any assignment without compromising. And, by the way, that also means video shoots too. And copywriting. And animation. And anything else the clients might need. In a rapidly changing industry we need to stay flexible.

Our out-of-the-gate lineup is Mark Hanauer, Rebecca Cabage, Gregg Segal, Carla Richmond Coffing, Ted Catanzaro and Mikal Czerwonka. When you look at the site you’ll see the depth and range of their work — plus passion, intelligence and creativity.

How does someone get in touch with you to be a part of it?
For now, as a start-up, we have plenty of great talent. But hopefully in the future we’ll need more of everything — photographers in all the major cities, and in a perfect world, experience with cutting-edge new media too.

If you’re a Director of Marketing and Communication you can contact us at 20overTwenty@gmail.com

Where do you see this project in 5 years?
We’ll all be on the beach drinking rum cocktails, making art projects out of shells… when we’re not too sunburned or hungover!

The Daily Promo: Jeff Stephens

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 Jeff Stephens

Who printed it?
Minuteman Press

Who designed it?
It was designed in house at my agency, The Photo Division

Who edited the images?
My agent, Maureen Dalton Wolfe

How many did you make?
50 total. This was a very small, specific run. We hand delivered with live Flowers to specific clients locally. But, sent flower seeds to clients nationally.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
1 significant promo a year, in addition to small run promos about each month.

How did the flower idea develop?
We try to come up with unique reasons to send a promo. This year we decided it should be all about new beginnings, something bright and promising for the spring ahead. We chose the yellow flower and Alex Rasi hand illustrated the back art and poem. We wanted to cheer people up and lighten the mood. We hand spray paint all of our envelopes, pick stamps to match and delivered this one with flower seeds and or an orchid.

Jeff Stephens Valentine's Day Promo 2016

We recently sent out a Valentine’s promo that was also well received. It was our grey envelope with our logo hand painted in pink or red spray paint. We sent a mix of lips or “kiss” postcards and chocolate lips or lipstick compact to go with it. We try to do anything we can to help brighten someone’s day and make their day in the office go just a little bit better.

 

Discarded: Anthony Hernandez at the Amon Carter Museum

by Jonathan Blaustein

On my last night in Texas, I stayed with an old friend, outside Austin. Jeff, who’s my age, is one of the few people I’ve known my whole life. (Beyond family, of course.)

We hadn’t seen each other in 12 years, and things have been difficult for him since then. But he handed me a jalapeño margarita soon after I walked in the door, and then we drank some beer, ate wicked Mexican food, watched the NCAA tournament, played video games, and laughed for 6 hours straight.

Jeff had a major heart attack the next day. (Hours after I drove off towards the endless horizon.)

Sometimes, change moves quickly, like a tornado, even though its causes have been building for years.

Think about the way we treat our planet. Some recent sci-fi films, like “Wall-E” and “Interstellar,” suggest we can all pack up and leave one day. Just shoot humanity up into space, and the rest will take care of itself.

Maybe.
I guess.
It’s possible.

But it seems like a bad bet, from where I’m sitting. (Yes, at my white kitchen table.)

That sense of fait accompli, that it’s all just a matter of time- I felt it strongly, the longer I stood in Anthony Hernandez’s photography exhibition “Discarded,” at the Amon Carter Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas.

We’re done here, I kept thinking.
We tried.
We failed.

C’est la vie.

In fairness, he might not have been speaking about all of us.
Just the Californians.

Mr. Hernandez is known in art circles, I’ve gathered, though I hadn’t heard of him until I saw his show. I’d been drawn to the Amon Carter Museum, as I was meant to meet one of their curators at FotoFest, and I wanted to be prepared. (As I’ve written countless times, from the perspective of the reviewer, do your homework. In this case, I visited a city just to check out this person’s curatorial practice.)

The show, however, was more than worth the trip. And it wasn’t even the best art I saw that day. The Kimbell Museum, recommended by my friend Ed, was unbelievably dynamite, and I can’t stress that enough. Both the Kimbell and the Amon Carter Museums are free, as is the adjacent Ft. Worth Modern on Sundays.

As I happened to visit on a Sunday, I got to see terrific art in 3 museums, over 3 hours, without paying a dollar. If you live in DFW, or are visiting that part of Texas, get your ass to Ft. Worth and see what they have going on.

You’ll thank me.

That said, this is meant to be an exhibition review, so let me pivot back to our putative point.

The prints in Anthony Hernandez’s exhibition, made between 2012-15, are all very large, and share a clean, clear California light that I described in my notes as “pitiless.” Cruel might be appropriate as well.

Apparently, Mr. Hernandez is known for his pictures of socialites and street people in LA. He’s an LA guy, it would seem. But for this show, he took his talents to the less glamorous parts of CA. The Inland Empire, the Central Valley, Mojave and the Salton Sea.

I’ve driven through many of those places, and can attest that they lend themselves to an end-of-the-world-type vibe. And I did wonder if there wasn’t a bit of city-snobbery in the way these places are depicted.

But really, it’s hard to lay it on too thick in spots this bleak. (Before you ask, the work does evoke John Divola and Richard Misrach, but I didn’t find it derivative.)

Just last year, everyone was talking about California running out of water. It was in the news cycle for months, this idea that its time was up. One El Niño later, and it’s no longer an issue, if the media is to be trusted.

But things don’t work like that.

The heart attack might strike like a ninja, but its antecedents move slowly, like tectonic plates. (We made our bed, and now we have to lie in it, even though it’s a rank, urine-soaked mattress on the floor of a vacant starter-home.)

There were almost no people in the pictures, but their imprint was everywhere. Abandoned homes with broken doors shoved over gaping window orifices. Purple-ish concrete-block fences that looked like minimalist bracelets. Scattered oranges on a dirt road, reminiscent of Roger Fenton’s cannonballs.

And always, that blazing, unforgiving light.

I made notes like, “When you’re done here, make sure to turn out the lights.” Or, “Has California just given up?”

Defunct, half-built housing projects defeated by the Great Recession connect economics gracefully to environmentalism. A pristine new curb, separating gravel from dirt, in a place where no homes will ever be built. A valley, called Lucerne, which probably gets as much water in a Millennium as its Swiss counterpart gets in a week in Winter.

The end of the world. That’s what this show makes you think about.

Uplifting stuff.

It puts me in mind of a conversation that Jeff and I had, in his suburban apartment off a Texas highway. Though I’ve admitted there’s nothing funny about Donald Trump, we did laugh about the fact Ted Cruz has to be PRETTY FUCKING CRAZY to be the biggest lunatic in the Republican race.

We may fear Trump more, but Ted Cruz, as a true Evangelical believer, is anxiously awaiting Armageddon. He’s so excited for Jesus to come back and kill everyone who’s not on his team. ISIS wants the end times, sure, but so do many of our fellow Americans.

So while The Donald is odious, I don’t think he shares Ted Cruz’s desire for the End Days to come sooner, rather than later.

After seeing Anthony Hernandez’s exhibition, I can’t help but wonder if we’re running out of time.

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The Art of the Personal Project: Tyler Stableford

As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects because they are the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director, photo editor, or graphic designer. This new column, “The Art of the Personal Project” will feature the personal projects of photographers using the Yodelist marketing database. You can read their blog at http://yodelist.wordpress.com. Projects are discovered online and submissions are not accepted.

Today’s featured photographer is: Tyler Stableford

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How long have you been shooting?
I’ve been shooting for 22 years.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I’m self-taught, yet I have learned from and been inspired by many workshops and mentors over the years.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
For The Farmers project, my main inspiration was to capture working farmers and ranchers here in my hometown of Carbondale, Colorado — and the project grew to become national in scope.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
I shot the project for a few months before showing the work to Canon’s ad agency Dentsu America – I was hoping that this body of work could convince them to have me shoot a campaign for one of their new cameras. What they proposed instead, which was even more fortuitous, was a campaign for Canon’s ImagePROGRAF large-format printers. In many ways, this was the perfect match for the project, as I had always envisioned this series as a fine-art project. I never wanted the images to look or feel “commercial” — and with the printer campaign, the fine-art style was a perfect fit.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
Ha! It depends — some I have dropped after a single shoot. With The Farmers series, I knew after shooting just a few ranchers here that it had promise. In part this was because I’ve lived here for 19 years and gotten to know many of the ranchers and have shot commercial projects on some of their properties, so I already knew a lot about these men and women, and their families. I knew this project could really come to life in print.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
That’s a good question, yet I think that often personal work is exactly what creative directors and art producers want to see these days. Yes, they need to see commercial work that shows that a photographer can execute a large-production campaign when needed; yet more important is personal spark and an artistic eye. I think that’s what really grabs a viewer’s attention and what may win a commercial project.

Also, I am always excited if my personal images have a different look than my existing portfolio. At this point in my career, I’m not looking to add more depth to, say, my skiing or climbing or workwear images (sure, I can always improve upon what I have, but you get the idea); I’m looking A) to be inspired by capturing unique imagery of larger world and B) to show more diversity on my portfolio.

As a director/photographer living in western Colorado, three hours’ drive from the nearest ad agency, I’m not one who specializes in just one narrow niche, as perhaps a more urban photographer might; I enjoy shooting a wide range of projects!

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
I have!

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
I haven’t seen personal work go viral; I have seen commercial projects and short films gain great interest online That said, until recently I have not invested a lot of time in posting to social media, and that is changing — I just hired a social media and marketing director to help with this!

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yes, absolutely; I have printed my personal projects. I have used Canon’s HD Album books which have beautiful paper and layouts; they go alongside my main portfolio book and it’s nice to have an additional book of work when meeting with agencies.

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Photographer and director Tyler Stableford has earned a worldwide clientele for his print and motion imagery. He is one of Canon’s prestigious Explorers of Light, and Men’s Journal named him “One of the Seven World’s Greatest Adventure Photographers.”

Tyler’s work has won numerous awards from the Art Directors’ Club, Communication Arts, Graphis, AdWeek, the AME awards and many others. His award-winning short films have screened at film festivals around the globe.

Tyler’s passion for storytelling extends beyond commercial work—he volunteers to shoot at least one week per year for nonprofits. Visit www.tylerstableford.com for more.


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 has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information believing that marketing should be driven by a brand and not specialty. Follow her on twitter at SuzanneSease.

The Daily Edit – California Sunday Magazine : Mark Mahaney

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California Sunday Magazine

Design Director: Leo Jung
Photography Director: Jacqueline Bates
Photographer: Mark Mahaney

( For more images visit californiasunday.com )

How did the shoot days unfold and how many days were you there?
On the first day of 2016, my assistant and I flew from San Francisco to Sydney, where we were slated to stay for nine days to document Rene Redzepi, arguably the most famous chef in the world, as he and his main team of chefs busily and scientifically attempted to plan the menu for their 10 – ‘pop-up’ restaurant in Sydney, Australia. The whole concept of the ‘pop-up’ was for Redzepi and his staff to entirely close the doors of Noma, his wildly praised restaurant in Copenhagen and for the entire team to temporarily setup shop in Australia where they’d take a crash course in local ingredients and traditions to put together (from scratch) a menu that is innovative, yet delicious, worthy of its $340 per person price tag. For the 10 week stint there were only 5600 individual seats available and they all sold out in about a half hour with 30,000 people on the waiting list. He and his chefs were under an incredible amount of pressure to make something magical happen from local ingredients most of them were tasting for the first time. When I arrived, they were only three weeks away from their opening night and not only did they not have a single one of their 15 or so final dishes perfected, but the kitchen wasn’t even fully built out. The restaurant itself was an active construction zone. Thomas, one of the two head chefs, would be experimenting with new flavors one minute and installing a sink or the oven’s ventilation system the next minute. It was an intense circumstance for me to walk into. Even though they were all super friendly and surprisingly accommodating, I could tell they would’ve preferred I not be there. If I’d been under the amount of pressure they were under, I wouldn’t have wanted ‘me’ to be there either.

But I was there and I felt pretty fortunate to be there. It’s rare to be able to witness the process of an individual who is deemed among the best in the world in their particular line of expertise. And I was surrounded by six of those individuals; not only by Redzepi, but his five person test kitchen team, each of whom specialized in their own particular facet of the eventual menu.

Even though I was there for nine days, we had no idea what sort of access we’d be granted.  There were however a few things that were made known to us. We were warned Rene disliked being photographed and to make it quick and painless. We were told we’d be working around a documentary film crew while we were in the kitchen. We were told to try not to distract or disrupt the chefs as they were under incredible time constraints. We were told we’d need to be flexible.

Tell us about the shooting in this pop-up kitchen.
We arrived at the kitchen on the first day, completely jet-lagged, and were quickly introduced to a few of the test kitchen chefs. We were allowed to walk through the actual dining room which was full of men and women wearing hard hats while drilling, sawing and trying to make sense of a room that at that time bared zero resemblance to the beautiful room it would eventually become. There was so much work to be done, not only on the menu, but also the physical space itself and instead of being there to document the finished product, which is typically the case on assignment shoots, I was there to photograph the process of this whole effort as it inched toward fruition.

On that first day we had come to introduce ourselves mainly to Rene and had planned on coming in the following day for the only one on one moment with him that I’d have for portraits. We never did see Rene that day, or the next. It turns out Rene’s whole family had the flu and it ended up hitting him as well. So, I dove right into covering whatever was happening in the kitchen while trying to stay out of the documentary crew’s shots. The main star of the show wasn’t there, but because of not knowing what sort of access we’d get over the next few days, I had to make the most of what was there.

Between then and the day Rene was able to return to the kitchen, numerous hiccups happened in the kitchen and Rene hadn’t been there to taste or give input on any of the attempted dishes. As a result, the stress level was peaking for their whole team, including those who were dictating the amount of access we were being given. I think everyone was a bit nervous about how Rene would respond on his first day back to having any press inside the kitchen, so we were all told we had to leave and it was left a bit nebulous as to when we could return and how much access we’d have from there on out. So, at this point, I’ve flown around the other side of the world, had been there for three days already without seeing the main person I was there to photograph and was fairly unsure as to how the rest of my time there would unfold.

You mentioned Rene didn’t enjoy being photographed, how was your first meet up?
The next morning we got there bright and early and the writer hoped that if Rene could meet me that he’d feel comfortable with me and we’d be able to explain our intentions and needs. I’m also a father so my instinct was to start talking to him about parenting and figured it’d be a good place to connect with him on; especially since Rene and I are almost the same age and both have younger people helping us who are not parents, who, for better or worse, do not have that added element to their everyday equation. He couldn’t have been more kind and after I shared with him exactly what I hoped to achieve, he seemed excited and told us we were more than welcome in the kitchen, overruling what we’d been told by others I’ve learned in the 8 or so years I’ve been doing this, and well before during my assisting years, that it often helps to go directly to the top when you’re trying to make something happen. In this case, it worked out in our favor.

Tell us about how the portraits came about, they all share the same emotional thread, so much intention; like Renaissance paintings.
I certainly lucked out on this front. Rene and his five supporting chefs are all quite striking and super photogenic. This is rarely the case. It sounds bad, but normally there’s at least a person or two who you aren’t super jazzed about photographing. But literally everyone, including the people we met on the farms later on in our trip, all of them were pretty easy on the eyes. I had that going in my favor for sure. As for the look of the portraits and images of the chefs, there were two approaches to those photographs. While documenting inside the kitchen, because things were still under construction, they had all the windows blocked so it was quite dark with just the existing artificial lighting overhead. Jacqueline Bates and I had brainstormed over email beforehand and had a few ideas for key imagined pictures that were fairly reliant on me bringing in my own lighting. Although, after feeling out the energy of the whole production, I didn’t dare add any strobes and just decided to embrace the existing light. After taking a few pictures, I was pleasantly surprised to see how they things looked on the back on the camera. There were these really bright overheads that would shine down unto the metal cooking surfaces, creating this incredible bounced glow on the chefs. It was like having a permanent, built-in bounce reflector everywhere you turned. That’s why all the images of the chefs at work in the kitchen have that unified look. I did a decent amount to them in post to take the look a step further. Even though everything looked great, it was still very dark in there. I was shooting mainly handheld since I was constantly following the action, often positioning myself under the lens of the documentary film camera or jockeying for position with the sound guy, etc. I was shooting at slow shutter speeds with the lenses aperture as shallow as they’d go, so I was thankfully able to capture most situations without blur. Some of the main portraits California Sunday chose to publish were taken in this setting.

Where were the portraits taken? kitchens are typically bright.
I tend to always gravitate toward daylight, especially the sort that tends to hang like that in those old dutch paintings. So this is what I did for the second approach to some of the portraits. During very rare slow moments in the kitchen, I asked and the individual chefs were gracious enough to give me 2-3 minutes to photograph each of them. I’m so grateful they gave me this time. 2-3 minutes sounds like nothing much to give, but they were pulling 20 plus hour days on their feet, so to get any of their time felt like a victory. My assistant and I found this little spot that was basically inside of a small closed off area that was under construction. And at a certain point in the afternoon, the light was just right in there. We figured out that if the door going outside was positioned just right, almost closed, but not quite, that a sliver of sunlight would reflect off the building next-door and would bounce perfectly through the small crack in the door. We photographed Beau first this way one day late in the afternoon. The other chefs weren’t available. The following days we were to leave to photograph down at some of the farms. After photographing Beau we were told that whole area we used to shoot his portrait was likely going to be dismantled by the time we returned to Sydney. My assistant and I were so bummed to perhaps have to photograph the rest of the portraits anywhere else because it had been so great. Thankfully, after two days at the farms, we approached the restaurant, my fingers were literally crossed, and was so relieved to see our make-shift studio spot was still standing. We did the remaining 3 portraits there and would eventually get nothing more than a few minutes to do something similar with Rene. Again, I’m so grateful it worked out that way.

Your food still life, looks like a painting, it’s so rich, did that direction come from the magazine?
There were some key pieces of direction given by Jackie, but the main objective was to shoot as many different aspects to illustrate what it takes for a world-renowned chef to build a restaurant and new recipes from scratch. So it was important to get pictures of ingredients from the farms that paired well with recipes the chefs were testing with those same ingredients.  You’ll see this in a few of the final images they selected. In some still life images at the farm, I photographed muntries and lemon aspen being held in the palm of a hand. Those ingredients ended up being the key ingredients of one of the main dishes they came close to finalizing while we were there, which was the ‘Native Fruit Dish.’ Seeing something in the field and then on the plate ended up working out well together.

As for the lighting and approach to the still life food images, I treated them in the same way as the day lit portraits I described above. They were literally taken in the exact same space and lit in the exact same way.  For backdrops, I either used pieces of wood I found in the scrap pile at the construction site or we used the raw, unfinished floor. In the case of the ‘Native Fruit Dish,’ it was on the last day we were there. We begged Thomas Frebel to create something that resembled a final dish to photograph. He obliged. The construction crew had just pulled some of the cardboard up off the floor of the dining room, so we decided to photograph the dish against that newly revealed reddish floor. I’m pretty happy with the lighting on that one. I wish someone had taken a photograph of me and my assistant while during that shot. It would’ve looked like we were nearing the climax of a game of Twister, our bodies contorted in odd ways to either block or bounce light. The majority of that image is lit by subtracting light.

As for the still life images of the ingredients at the farms, it was unrelenting and sort of unflattering sunlight all day long, so in an attempt to bring a bit of continuity between that fairly harsh light condition and what I’d already done at the restaurant, I tried isolating the main hand or ingredient against either a dark backdrop or an area of shadow.
I feel like it nicely works with that sort of glow that happened in the kitchen images.

Working there is executing at the highest level, ALWAYS.
What was it like to experience that and in turn try to capture that?
It was impressive to watch the process of the individual chefs. The setting was quite interesting. Each chef was typically completely engrossed in their own individual world while testing or playing around with a recipe. Often German house style music was blaring as the soundtrack. Pretty funny touch of ambiance.

There were times when it was a bit confusing what the chefs were even doing. Like true scientists in a lab. Like witnessing unbridled creativity. That’s essentially what you taste when you eat food they cook.  Every once in awhile, the chefs would meet up at one of the stations to take a moment to taste what the other has conjured up. I witnessed such focus and optimism and truth in their reactions to the taste tests. So supportive of one another. Like they were fully aware that they strength of the whole unit was greater the sum of their individual strengths. It seemed like an egoless space. Even with Rene, he was clearly the decider, but you could tell how much he respected the input of those working for him. I’m sure there were plenty of heated moments that arose within that kitchen during the 10 weeks, but I certainly didn’t see any of it. It was fascinating to watch the faces of the chefs as Rene tasted what they made. Their expression didn’t really change much whether Rene loved it or disliked it, but energetically a bit of glow appeared if his reaction landed on the side of love.

Did you try any dishes?
Because there weren’t any final dishes created during our time there, we didn’t get to try much of what they made. At one point, Thomas put down a bowl of chunks of something yellow with a green oily substance drizzled over it. He motioned for us to enjoy it. I had no idea what I was eating other than the fact that it was the most dynamic taste I’d ever tasted in my life. I’d spent hours watching them do what they do while thinking to myself, ‘how good could this really be?’ And believe me when I tell you it was absolutely mind-blowing. It turned out to be pineapple (I had no clue at first)with a reduction of oils from certain local plants over it. And that ‘Native Fruit Dish,’ yeah, I ate that and it was insanely good. The lemon aspen in it, which we were popping in our mouths at the farms like one would raspberries off a bush in the US, tasted like tiny explosions of lime sherbet. So good.

How difficult was it to edit your own work for this?
Well, even though there were days we couldn’t shoot or days where we only had access for a few minutes, I was there for nine days, so there were a ton of photos to sort through. That was likely the most overwhelming part. It took a few days to go through once returning back to the states. Beyond that, I don’t recall it being much different from other projects. In post, as I mentioned, I tried my best to bring some continuity to the treatment from photo to photo. It’s not everyday a magazine orders around 40 final images for one article. It was a lot to tackle, but so worth it. It’s also not everyday you get 21 pages of photos in a magazine, including the cover. I have a ton of respect for California Sunday. They’re certainly deserving of all the praise that’s been heralded in their direction. I’ve been trying to be super selective about the work I take on, but Jackie could call me and ask me to take a photo of a tire and I’d run to do it.

How did that experience transcend if at all, into your own pursuit of excellence?
I’m not certain it impacted much. I, like so many photographers am highly critical of my own work. I’m always trying to please and never disappoint, so I’ll keep trying at something, reworking the light, or moving something here or asking the subject to turn their neck ‘just a little bit this way’ and I keep going until I feel like I’ve gotten it right. I just do the best I can do considering the situation and depending how resourceful, calm and creative I happen to be in that moment. I think that’s no different with the chefs. I mean, they’re literally geniuses, in a league above all else, but it seemed like their pursuit to just genuinely do the best they could do was not dissimilar to my own.

The Daily Promo: Andrew Dominguez

- - The Daily Promo

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Andrew Dominguez

Who printed it?
Minuteman Press located in Austin TX.

Who designed it?
To be completely honest in a message, a bottle of Evan Williams.

Who edited the images?
Myself, though I asked for feedback from two friends:  Maja Buck  & Carlos Salazar

How many did you make?
Fifty in total. Twenty of those were sent out to Austin Texas based art directors back in early February. The remaining thirty I’ve been selling while touring across America with punks bands. I have four left.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
Station Wagon Dad was the first zine I’ve put together. I’m planning to have another zine ready to send out in October, which would be a turn around time of about 9 months.(1.5 a year?) Though every month I’ve been sending out postcards that feature images I’ve taken of Goats. (goatmonthly.com)

Tell us how your backseat investment turned out this promo.
I woke up in Birmingham at the end of September, in a house known as ‘God’s Butt.’ I was hungover and looking for a place to sit while charging my laptop. The house was covered in filth, glossy black tile had a layer of grime similar to a stove top after deep frying.  The cold water knob in the shower was buster off and their hot water heater was at a ten. I left the shower feeling more disgusted than the start. The band I was touring with broke up later that day, canceling five days in Florida and driving eleven hours back to Texas.
I’m not investing my time in the back seat of a van so that two hundred images can sit in an untouched dropbox folder for eternity. Touring isn’t providing me stability or funding my retirement account.

A few days prior to Birmingham, we were playing in a basement somewhere in Indianapolis. There I met Grant Lewandowski ,who gave me one of his B&W film zines.
Most of his images are paired with a poem, written by someone he knows via the internet. It was sequenced to become this beautiful short story of youth. Grant’s zine encouraged me to start printing my work again.

Producing Station Wagon Dad (the promo) was a way for me to share my experiences and look back on images that I was stoked on. It’s a wonderful feeling to rid a digital file of keywords and likes; being able to hold a physical album of my youth. I mean, yeah I regularly update my Instagram, but that’s a curated image grid meant to look pretty for someone who’s trying to give half of their attention to a conversation going on in a car.
I’m more interested in hearing about others and sharing experiences face to face. I suppose that’s why I’m sitting in the back seat of a van again. I’m on a Midwest tour until April 22nd; just trying to figure out where I want to be in life.

 

This Week In Photography Books: Brian David Stevens

by Jonathan Blaustein

I live in a bubble. (At least it feels that way.) Taos is an insular place, and it holds on to its own.

It takes a great deal of energy to leave, as the nearest towns are miles and miles in every direction. It feels very much like an island in the middle of the Wild West, equal parts 19th and 21st Centuries.

When you don’t have the perspective of other places and cultures to keep you balanced, you begin to over-invest in the little daily rituals and dramas that play out. Insignificant social interactions take on import they don’t really deserve.

You begin to go a little crazy.

Fortunately, last week, I embarked on a great adventure, driving 2000 miles across the massive state of Texas. I’d been stuck in the Taos orbit for too long, and marshaled my resources to allow for a big art/photo road trip, all the way to Houston.

I was headed to FotoFest, to show my own work for a change, and stopped in Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Austin on the way. As the highway flashbacks are still fresh, I’ll spare you a succession of anecdotes, and err on the side of brevity. (For once.)

My trip was fabulous. It gave me a fresh take on my life, a renewed sense of purpose as an artist, and as a human being in general.

There’s nothing like the open road to clear your head.

I needed to get the hell out of town, because I’d recently found myself standing at the top of our hill, staring out into the desert, wishing I could escape. I felt trapped, surrounded by mountains, desert and volcanoes in all directions.

Now that I’m home, I recognized a similar feeling in “Brighter Later,” a new book from my pile, by Brian David Stevens, recently published by Tartaruga Press in England. To cut to the chase, for once, this is not a brilliant book. It will not change your life.

It will not, singlehandedly, give you new insight into the human experience. It’s simply not that kind of production. (Though the textured cover and sleek vellum text pages do make for a lovely offering.)

The artist, with whom I occasionally trade tweets, visited each county in England, and made diptych images looking out into the sea beyond. (Because he used to close one eye, and then the other, when he was a boy, looking at the sea.) The images resemble many we’ve seen of the horizon before, including the famous project by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

So they fail my self-imposed test of showing us something we haven’t seen before. Still, they’re beautiful. And that counts for something.

I was far more intrigued by the categorical nature of the undertaking. Two images, in each and every county. It made me feel like the artist was living in a world before boats were invented. I imagined him thinking, “There has to be a way off this godforsaken rock in the middle of the ocean! Maybe if I try Carmarthenshire…no good. Or Ceredigion? Damn. What about Ayrshire? No. Argyll & Bute? Not quite.”

I felt the desperation for peace, for beauty, for a visual reminder that things are big out there, on Planet Earth, even if we’re cut off from the action.

I liked that a personality emerged from the pretty ocean shots. Slowly, you begin to think about the artist. What was he searching for? Why did he have to go to every county? There’s a secret buried somewhere in this exploration, if only we can find it.

Right. I’m headed back to drool on myself, and do my taxes. Sometimes, when you do get out into the world, you come home to drudgery. That’s OK, as long as the memories of excitement carry you until the next big adventure.

Bottom Line: Beautiful ocean horizons, and the yearning beneath

To Purchase “Brighter Later” Go Here

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The Art of the Personal Project: Danielle Tsi

- - Personal Project

As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects because they are the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director, photo editor, or graphic designer. This new column, “The Art of the Personal Project” will feature the personal projects of photographers using the Yodelist marketing database. You can read their blog at http://yodelist.wordpress.com. Projects are discovered online and submissions are not accepted.

Today’s featured photographer is: Danielle Tsi

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How long have you been shooting?
I have been actively photographing for the past 15 years. Professionally, for the past 6.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Self-taught mostly, apart from the occasional photography workshop and assisting other photographers.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
A friend and I were invited last summer to attend the inaugural Women’s Meat Camp organized by the Belcampo Meat Company, in exchange for coverage on blogs and social media.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
Each time I create work I seek to make it portfolio-worthy, whether for a client or for myself, so there’s no distinction in that regard. I’m a firm believer that there are a multitude of stories out there waiting to be told, I just have to be in the right space (physically and mentally) to capture it and this is how I approach any assignment. In this case, my goal was to tell the story of the first Women’s Meat Camp by conveying the camaraderie and friendships that were forged among 12 women over a weekend of cocktails, butchery and open-fire cooking.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
Yes, all the time. Instagram is my preferred medium and I really like that it automatically cross-posts to Facebook and Twitter.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
I wouldn’t say my work has gone viral but my blog has had its successes, most notably when it was nominated for Best Food Photography in Saveur Magazine’s Blog Awards a few years ago. That generated a lot of publicity and some fruitful work opportunities.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yes, mostly postcards, though I’d love to put together a mini-zine sometime. Perhaps this is the year to do it!

Statement
The Belcampo Women’s Meat Camp was a four-day all-girls’ extravaganza featuring butchery and open-fire cooking of some fine cuts of meat, accompanied by: copious amounts of rosé, cocktails, yoga on the lawn, hands-on sausage-making, farm walks, hair-braiding, story-telling, grilled peaches and hand-churned ice-cream. Founded in 2012, the Belcampo Meat Company oversees the entire process of raising, butchering, processing and selling sustainable and humanely-raised meat on their farmlands at the foot of Mount Shasta, California.

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Born and raised in Singapore, Danielle Tsi uses photography as a means to understand and experience other ways of looking at the world. With food as her muse, she stumbled into the magic that comes with uncovering the stories that lie beyond the delights of the plate. Translating that fascination into her award-winning blog earned her a nomination for Best Food Photography in Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog Awards. Her work has appeared in various media outlets including, The Kitchn, Design*Sponge, and Saveur. Danielle loves Ashtanga yoga, red wine, cooking for friends, espresso and winter’s soft light. She lives in Silicon Valley with her husband, cat and their vegetable garden.


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 has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information believing that marketing should be driven by a brand and not specialty. Follow her on twitter at SuzanneSease.

There is no better time to grow your team than at the beginning

- - Agents, Working

Guest Post by Cybele Sandy, AUGUST

Defining your aesthetic requires many hours of self-examination, trial and practice. However, once you are somewhat (because it’s continually evolving) where you need to be, your thoughts should turn to the formation of your team, i.e., #squadgoals. The importance of team development as a photographer cannot be over-emphasized. Often, during the evaluation process, Creative and Photo Directors want to know that you and the circle of professionals around you “get it”.

Virtually every top-tier artist has one or more trusted assistants, a preferred wardrobe stylist, hairstylist, makeup artist, and manicurist, without whom he/she will not breach the portals of a set.

As the photographer, you are the general, and the battle plan’s basic structure is your sole province. However, it makes sense to develop a coterie of professionals who clearly understand the plan-of-action and possess the chops to execute it flawlessly. Not a bunch of yes-men, but confident experts who can tweak your thoughts and take them further than you’d originally envisioned. Schedules may sometimes clash, which means that you will sometimes need to substitute one or two members of your core group, but in my experience, artists who maintain a consistent team create consistently impactful imagery.

There is no better time to grow your team than at the beginning stages of your career.

As you gain in experience, a team will also be able to convey the appearance of a well-oiled, business-like machine, adding to your professionalism. Remember that your team is also a marketing tool: they will sing your praises to their clientele as well. I always say “you never know where the next job will come from,” so having 5-6 people constantly in touch makes for close relationships that play out in measurable dividends: actual jobs, recommendations, synergistic partnerships.

In essence, you’re looking for like-minded individuals who, like you, are on the hustle and willing to contribute their talent in exchange for tearsheets.

A good place to start whittling your team is via personal projects. Here I’d like to digress and state that personal projects are absolutely critical to career development: they hone the practical, technical skills and stretch the creative muscle, without the fetters of a Creative Director or nervous Editor hovering over you.

Stretch your net wide: register your interest with SVA or a school with a recognized photography program, which are virtual assembly lines of assistants with sound, basic skills who can grow with you. Many of the terrific beauty brands have apprenticeships/ training programs, and you can post with them for junior stylists. Try the old, faithful Craigslist. Put up a flyer in a trend epicenter: for New Yorkers, Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg or the byways of the Lower East Side are hotbeds of hungry, young artists. Ask if you can leave business cards at the buzzy local coffee shop. When you go to a gallery opening or any similar arts-driven event (here the need to be social again rears its complex head:)), ask those you meet for recommendations. It’ll serve as a wonderful icebreaker in terms of conversation, and the professionals you meet will have on-the-money recommendations.

Once you’ve gotten in touch with a few people who seem promising, work with them on at least three shoots. Ensure that they are distinct enough that the artists you’re auditioning get to show you a fair amount of range: good for-instances would be a series of close-up beauty shots, a fashion story on location and a lifestyle project that unfolds a story of some sort, frame by frame.

And remain aware: you’re not only analyzing expertise, you are auditioning people skills. Are they on-time? Do they need a minimum of resources to operate efficiently or will they fold if there are no sleek amenities? I will always remember the first season of Brooklyn Fashion Week{end}, the non-profit I co-founded. Everything that could go wrong did. Amongst many crises: the guy that we’d rented chairs from still hadn’t delivered at model call time. So our hairstyling/makeup team simply turned over boxes for their equipment and perched the girls on the few tables we had. No one told them to do it. They improvised because that is what professionals do when faced with a problem.

Carefully monitor the way they interact with people on set. Are they yelling to get their way? What about speed/efficiency? Did they get the models on set, beautifully done, with a minimum of time?

There should be a seamless quality to on-set interaction. I’ve always said that the best barometer that things are working is a quiet set. Your team should be so in tune with one another that no words will need to be said- the hairstylist will know when hair should be touched up. The makeup artist should know just where to hover to easily address that bit of shine. Your assistant should anticipate your next move so easily that you won’t even register that he’s already held up the fill card you need. Props should be organized and out of harm’s way if not in use.

A word on clothing stylists: I’ve found that the clothing stylist is often the lynchpin to a good shoot.

He or she, via the choices made, can really tell a story and contribute to the overall impact of the imagery. A good stylist isn’t just someone able to pull great clothes via solid relationships; it’s someone who can creatively utilize disparate elements to achieve an actual, defining look. You shouldn’t look back and say “You know, every model looked like a carbon copy of what the stylist wore that day.”

Most likely you’ll be taking care of production logistics on your own, initially, but as your brand develops, you will want to extend your team to include an organized, level-headed producer.

All this effort needs a showcase, right? In terms of venues, go to the bookstore and take note of all the publications that aren’t produced by major publishing houses. Smaller magazines often welcome spec submissions, just be aware that there is often no fee for this. And review the magazine’s well features to ensure that what you’ll be submitting is an aesthetic fit.

Lastly: get a strong database management system in place. There are many terrific options in this connected world, from workhorse Excel spreadsheets to apps like CircleBack, which will not only convert email signatures into actual contacts and scan business cards, it will also remind you to update older contact information.

No good getting that boss team together if you can’t recall how to get in touch.

And while we’re on the subject, keep in touch, even if you don’t have a current project to staff. Be sure to reach out periodically or better, touch base IRL, so your peeps stay your peeps.

I’m going to take this a bit further: tag this post with emerging stylists/ assistants who are showing promise but need a more weighty portfolio.

Who knows- this bit of networking may help further your own journey.

Guest Post by Cybele Sandy, AUGUST

(I proudly represent Art Streiber and have included, with his permission, images of him & his team on set.)

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The Daily Edit – Brian Bielmann: The Eddie

- - The Daily Edit

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Surfing World

Editor and Photo Editor: Vaughan Blakey
Designer: Corbin Nash
Photographer: Brian Bielmann

Tracks

Editor: Luke Kennedy
Art Director: Mat Macready
Photo Editor: Ben Bugden
Photographer: Brian Bielmann

Tow WAVES in Tahiti/2005

Tow WAVES in Tahiti/2005

Hands down one of my favorite underwater shots ever , picking thru my photos to put this web gallery together was really hard because a lot of my best shots got left behind and I realized how many of my favorite shots were Bruce and Andy

Hands down one of my favorite underwater shots ever, picking through my photos to put this web gallery together was really hard because a lot of my best shots got left behind and I realized how many of my favorite shots were Bruce and Andy

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John John Florence in West Australia

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north shore winter 2014

North Shore Winter 2014

Surf photography has come a long way since you chased down your first big wave on a boogie board. Tell us about the changes and how it’s changed you. 
You were on your own out there. I had a canon all manual camera, which meant you actually had to set exposure yourself; more importantly you had to focus, and you had 36 photos on your roll of film.

I remember paddling out next to another photographer Denjiro Sato of Japan, we made it through the shore break and were almost out to the lineup when one of the surfers wiped out and his board came flying out of control right towards us and hit Sato. I can’t remember where, but he got cut by the surfers fins on his board. After that, Denjiro was done and had to paddle back in.

Think about it, after all the effort to get out and then BAM! you’re on your way back to the beach. I remember trying to make every shot count, but that roll of film went in about an hour. I had stayed to watch the rest of the event, mainly because we were terrified to have to get back in through the shore break. The whole time out there, you were just dreading knowing that you would have to get back through that, sometimes if you didn’t time it right, you would not make it in.

You see, the current would suck you down to the far left inside on the other side of the bay, to the rocks, known as “jump rock” because in the summer, when the surf is flat, everyone jumps off the rocks, but in the winter, it’s the spot you don’t want to get caught in. So you swim your ass off to get back out and as far away from that are as you can, so you would have to paddle back out to the lineup and start swimming in on the right side all over. It could take hours to get in, NIGHTMARE. Fast forward to today, you have jet skis to get you in the lineup, an all-automatic everything camera and it has 2000 photos, not to mention a ski ride back in straight to the beach. It’s actually awesome. Honestly, I would never go back out there if I had to do all that again. That said, compared to how we had it, now all those concerns are gone. The other big difference is all the technology, the limits are being pushed big time. If it was 10 years ago, the Eddie would never have run at this size. One of those closeout sets would have come through and taken everyone out: surfers, photographers, everyone back to the beach and they would have said too big, it’s over. But with the incredible Hawaiian Water Patrol with their skis, the surfers can push their limits. The surfers are the stars; so badass. the ski drivers the rescue team. I think it has to be the most dangerous contest in the sporting world. Just crazy.

Certainly you’ve been in some life threatening situations, now that you’re a seasoned pro, how are your choices different? What gives you pause?
Well, I’m 58 years old, at Pipeline there are about 30-40 photographers out there for each swell. Since there are not many magazines these days and very limited space for photos, it’s mostly the internet that showcases the work.  Most of those photographers careers will begin and end with instagram. I consider things differently now. How long do I want to be out there?how is it breaking? I look at the conditions and decide, if I’m going to swim my ass off through nine waves to shoot one. To me, that’s not worth it. I wait till the days when conditions are good, and the percentage rate is going to be worthwhile; only then I go. I end up looking like I’m out there all the time because I pick the best days! I’m not one of the top dogs out there anymore. There are guys who that’s all they do is shoot out there constantly; I pick the right days and get some gems and that’s good enough for me. Just never imagined at 58 I would still be swimming out at Pipe. It’s funny, there are very, very few guys still out there who were out there when I started, for the most part it’s all the young guns.

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Brain and Craig trying to out run the wall of water. Photo by Clark Little

Chasing down this wall of water was the biggest wave you’ve out-run, tell us about that day at “The Eddie.” 
Thank God I did not turn around to look at that wave, when I saw the picture I think I said a prayer right then thanking God for keeping me safe.  I was nervous the few days leading up to the event knowing I was going to be out on a ski; everyone was saying it might be too big to actually run the event. This meant if it went, it was going to be the biggest Eddie that had ever gone.

I had actually never been out in the water during clean up sets on a big swell before at Waimea Bay. A clean up set is when the waves close out across the entire Bay and there is literally no escape. I’d been out before when it was really big but never this big, so yeah I was nervous. The morning of the event as the sun came up, we could see a lot of closeouts, tensions were high amongst the competitors, jet drivers. It turned out that there were too many photographers that were supposed to be out there and not enough skis. (I actually contemplated taking myself out of the equation and shooting from the point.) The Director of the event, Glen Moncata said, “You shoot whatever you want, you don’t have to go out there.” I don’t know what it was; but something came over me and I ran for my truck, quickly put on my wetsuit, flotation vest, put my camera in my waterhousing, grabbed my fins and ran for the beach. The skis were being put in the water so I hustled down to the corner and waited for the lull with another photographer, Zak Noyle. As soon as there was a small break in the sets, we jumped in the water and swam quickly to the waiting jet ski, jumped on the boogie connected to the ski; as he hauled ass through the surf before we got caught by a set, we were out in no time, thank God.

Had you been with the driver before?
No first time with the driver, Craig Anderson, he goes by the instagram name of @MakahaCraiger. We probably met but never really talked before, but didn’t take long to bond. When you’re on a ski and you’re going over 20 footers, and they are the small ones, you realize instantly that the driver is the guy who is gonna save your life.  You get intimate very quick.  Hearing the water patrol on the beach, Mel Puu starts yelling on the radio to all the water patrol in the water, (8 skis probably, all on the same frequency), “There’s a closeout set, it’s big guys, get moving now! Get everyone out fast! This one is really big! Go! Go! Go!”

You go.

I had a strap on the back of the ski that had been ripped, so it was loosely tied and had a lot of play, kind of like the reins of a horse, so it was hard holding on with one hand and my other hand holding a big camera in a water housing.  We start heading for the horizon, and when we can see the sets, they are huge mountains of water moving at us and we start heading for the shoulder as fast as we can we are riding sideways on this beast waiting for a place on the wave that’s not already feathering. (this is when the wave is already breaking and there is already whitewater at the top of the wave and there is nowhere to get over as it’s really hard for the skis to get over the wave when there is whitewater at the top)  so we continue going full on as far as we can till we are on the far side of the bay, we can’t get over this thing.

” Hold on!” Craig yells, “We gotta ride it in!” We turn at the top of the wave and actually ride this thing all the way to the bottom going as fast as the ski will go. We’re bouncing like hell and Craig is yelling “Hold on! Don’t let go!” I’m holding tight with my arm on the strap, trying to hold on through the bumps and bouncing off the seat, I’ve got my legs as tight on the ski as I can, not even sure how long it took us to get in but I could hear the wave breaking right behind us like a waterfall.

We barely stayed in front of it, just a mountain of whitewater that could overtake us at any moment, about half-way in Craig yells to me, “You may have to jump!” I’m gonna do whatever he tells me, I pause for a second, yell back, “Just tell me when!”

I have no idea what this means, I’m just following orders and hope I survive.

I’m waiting for the word to jump and then a little farther in and he yells, “Wait! Hold On! I think we might make it!”

We literally get 30 feet from the beach and he swings the Ski around hard and we blast right thru a huge shore break wave, we barely make it through, I manage to hold on to the ski strap, but fall backwards off the seat; still holding the strap I manage to pull myself back up, just in time to go through a second one, and the exact same thing: Blast through, fall off but holding the strap and again pulled myself up, and we gun the damn thing side to side getting around the wave on either side, finally we are back outside and realize we made it.

We both start screaming. “We made it! Shit! we made it! AHHHHHHH!!!! Screaming at the top of our lungs, “that’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done my whole life!” I yell. He yells back,”Yes! That was definitely one of the craziest things I have ever done!”

I’m thinking: Wait, Craig’s a water patrol jet ski driver in Hawaii, and he’s a Hollywood stunt man and he’s says this was one of the craziest things he’s ever done. Shit. Thank you God!

We had around 20 more waves come through, almost as big as this and we had to run alongside of, but we were able to find an exit each time. I was out for 3 heats of surfers, almost 1/2 of the contest and we got a call that I had to come in, as there weren’t enough skis and I had to let another photographer have a turn. The jet ski brought me in and I was on the beach, I seriously wanted to kiss the shore.

There were thousands of people lined up as I walked back towards the stands and some of them started applauding me and whistling, one guy came up and took my photo with him.

It’s funny, I think they thought we were all fearless out there but we were not, we had plenty of fear, we just pushed through it and went out there. I got back through this sea of people and was under the shower when I heard the announcer say, look all the skis are coming in being chased by another huge wave, but this time they made sure they were farther in front of the wall of water, and they had no escape on the inside as we did on our wave.

They had to ride the skis right up on to the beach. I looked out and saw how big the sets were and I immediately thought, “What the hell was I doing out there?” and my next thought was “I’m so happy they told me to come in 5 minutes before that set, I did not want to go through that again.”

It was time to finish shooting the second half of the contest from the point.  The nice safe point, the closest spot to the waves you could get, and not a drop of water on me.

How does a surf shot land on L’Uomo Vogue?
Yes , I’ve got a photo on the cover of L’Uomo Vogue magazine right next to Bruce Weber. It’s a shot of John John Florence from a ski in the water during the Quiksilver Eddie Aikau Contest. I’m so stoked! Bruce has been my hero for years as far as a fashion photographer goes, my favorite; and Herbie Fletcher has some shots in there, Dibi Fletcher wrote the story. It’s about The Best Surfer in the World!  doesn’t get any better than that for me. I think I can claim to be the only surf photographer with a shot on the cover of Vogue, it’s a shared cover with Bruce and that’s what makes it awesome! I was on the phone with him while I was shooting the shore break and when I hung up I was so excited to tell everyone, “I was just on the phone with Bruce Weber!” none of the surf photographers knew who he is, luckily Buzzy Kerbox was there, and he is good friends with Bruce. Bruce started Buzzy’s career back in the 80s with his Ralph Lauren Campaign.

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The Daily Promo – Lisa Shin

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Lisa Shin

Who printed it?
Agency Access printed, inserted, sealed and mailed the entire project with considerable customer service.

Who designed it?
The talented Mr. Christopher Lee. Check him out!

Who edited the images?
I did with the feedback of my fabulous agency, Anderson Hopkins.

How many did you make?
2000 were printed and mailed, 200 held for leave behinds.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
This is the first print promo we have done in a while. We aim to send out 3 more mailers by the end of the year.

Who did you decide who to send the promo to?
Our mailing list is comprised of advertising agencies nationally and local editorial. My agency worked to understand who the best audience was given our total numbers. We hope to expand the list in future mailings.