Still Images In Great Advertising – Kevin Griffin

Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.

I reached out Kevin Griffin when I saw this incredible campaign by Chemistry for The Irish Examiner. I liked the diversity of the images and felt they were creatively shot for each concept. I also liked that the way social issues were not hidden but in your face.

Suzanne: I went to your site and you have an excellent body of work. This campaign required you to shoot in different styles. Was that a challenge?

Kevin: The biggest challenge was to show a certain continuity throughout the campaign. This was achieved by good art direction and good grading by the retoucher, iCraft.

Suzanne: This campaign is very political- how were they received by the public?

Kevin: They were very popular, the campaign highlighted underlying problems within Irish society, problems that are usually ignored.

Suzanne: And were you disappointed that Ads of the World did not include “Suicide” and “Mental Health”?

Kevin: No, I was not one bit disappointed. I think the whole campaign is strong. Lürzers Archive included “Mental Health” recently in their magazine.

Suzanne: Did the campaign get to the social issues that are highlighted in the campaign?

Kevin: Yes I think they did, I believe the pictures really do tell the story they are trying to portray.

Suzanne: I noticed in your personal work, you look at the world in a fun and quirky way- has that work helped you in your commissioned career?

Kevin: I love shooting personal work, this work is really for me. Not all my work is fun and quirky, we all see the world from a different perspective and I think this is the interesting part of any visual communication.


Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.

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.


LA Art Producers Discuss Industry Topics At Community Table

- - Art Producer

How cool would it be to get a group of LA Art Producers in a room and pepper them with questions about the business? And, not one of these panels where everyone is on their best behavior, but a cozy room filled with like minded professionals, where you can seriously discuss the state of the industry when it comes to finding and hiring photographers. Well, that’s exactly what Community Table, a series of blog posts based on a lunch Matt Nycz, Kate Chase of Brite Productions; Heather Elder, Lauranne Lospalluto of Heather Elder Represents; and and Alison McCreery of POP Blog put together.

So far there’ve been two installments: Part I: The Appetizer and Part II: The Main Course

Here are a few highlights:

There is a rise in the “pay to play” events where photographers pay a fee or pay into a program that allows them direct access to creatives and or art producers.  The organizers sometimes offer compensation to the reviewers in an effort to elevate the seriousness of the event and show a respect for the reviewer’s time.  What is it about these types of events that are most successful and what do you feel could be improved upon?  Do you see this as a positive trend and if not, why?

Here is how Jigisha got everyone thinking:

“In the past few years I’ve thought about this a lot because I’ve needed to strategize as my role as an art producer in an ad agency and as a department head. With regards to the pay-to-play events, I’ve thought about what is a conflict of interest and what is acceptable.

At first, I would get an offer to come look at and critique portfolios that came with a stipend. I knew the people putting the shows together were also charging the photographers to have their books reviewed, but I would do them. However, in the last couple of years, the books that came to me were photographers who didn’t need my critique, who were already quite successful and could call me and get a showing

Acknowledging that the pay-to-play events present a valuable opportunity to emerging photographers, Jigisha continued, “Then alternatively, there have been other reviews I’ve done for beginner and emerging books where I could be constructive and helpful. In this case, my time was worth it for them, if the photographer uses it as a critique to make their book better.”

Based on an evaluation of how much each side gets out of it, Jigisha now only participates when she feels it is not a conflict of interest. “I made the decision not to participate in events where the caliber of photographer is good enough to come in to my agency and be seen. But I will participate in the ones where I can use my experience to help them and they can maybe do a little more work and see me at my agency the next time and not have to pay.”


But back to eBlasts. “I like them and I don’t like them,” offered Melanie. “A lot of time I have to delete them every morning. But the email trend has helped cut down on the mailed promos. It now takes a week to get what I used to get in a day. I feel better about the impact on the earth.

“I’m the total opposite,” said Kristine, “I love promos and am guilty of not opening every email blast. Promos have always been a favorite part of my job. I just love them.”

And in conclusion, one final bit of advice from Cara.One thing the creatives ask us over and over is how they can make the eblasts stop. The eblasts should be targeted directly to the art producers.”

Make sure you check out both posts and look for future updates.

Has finding a decent photographer become easier or harder in the digital age?

- - Blog News

It’s so much easier. I haven’t called in a book for years.

I also think there are more decent photographers working today than there were 10 years ago. The economy has weeded out the field somewhat. I see a wide variety of photo styles being accepted by clients today, which brings photographers into the commercial fold where previously they wouldn’t have had a market.

Chris Peters, Sr. Art Producer at Colle+McVoy via, Wonderful Machine Blog. thx, Neil

Perhaps Many Photographers Don’t Understand The Value Of Usage

A reader sent me this story, so that it might instill confidence in young photographers like herself. I think you will find that it does that:

I worked with one of the local college’s ex-students on a shoot for a magazine editorial about a year ago. The ex-student lied about having my permission and gave the image to the college, which then used the image on a billboard advertisement that wraps around a 20 story building on a very busy road in the city. It is a recognizable image of mine, and shows the faces of two models from a local agency. It was actually one of the models who spotted it first and I received a very embarrassing phone call from her agent who asked me how that shoot ended up on a billboard.

I went online and researched some suggestions of how I could handle this, but I couldn’t find much available. Crawling through some forums, I found that a few photographers had their images stolen and placed on a billboard, and they charged $500 for the use. The billboard was already up there for 1.5 months and it was supposed to be up there for 3 months total. I called the model agency and they told me that they ended up with $1500 for each girl for a year’s usage. They said that they knew the figure was low, but at least they would receive some pocket money.

I also consulted with a couple of local creative agencies who also offered some advice. They were helpful at first, although once they started talking to the college they decided to back off. I think they probably thought it wasn’t worth it (despite that I offered them the incentive of a commission). They were perhaps scared of losing a potential client over a nobody photographer like me.

So I spoke with the college directly and they asked me to come in to discuss this and negotiate a pay-out. I didn’t want to go in – I couldn’t see a reason to apart from them using this opportunity to intimidate me. They were a little manipulative over the phone, suggesting that my photograph would potentially be featured there for 12 months and it would be great exposure for me if I didn’t charge too much. I offered them $1500 per month, which they thought was ridiculous (I thought what they paid the model agency was ridiculous!). They told me the billboard space was only costing them $2700 per month. So I said I’d seek further advice and come back with a figure. They were desperate to get me to come in.

After much research, I found that it’s tricky to put a price on usage. I found the best advice to be 10 – 30% of the marketing budget (from small to large scale). In this scenario, they hadn’t commissioned this shoot and it wasn’t just about using my image, it was also the humiliation I went through explaining to my team members (particularly the model agency) how the image got into the advertiser’s hands. It also concerns the disassociation of my image to me (now known as the face of that college and it impacts my professionalism – even the creative agency that I sought advice from assumed I stupidly gave the files to the college (I had given them to the ex-student to use for his portfolio).

So I went with my gut instinct, and ended up charging them a figure that I thought was fair. I wrote them a letter a week later, explaining my situation, the inconvenience this has caused me, my humiliation to those involved, and that I thought after all this the figure was fair. I stuck with this:
2.5 months and they take the image down – $1500 per month = $3750
3 months – $1500 per month, $4500
12 months – $1250 per month, $15000

In the end, they decided they wanted my image for 12 months. After a few emails back and forth, I ended up settling on $9000. That’s ok, it’s a little less than what I was asking for but it’s a little more than 30% of their budget for the billboard space, I didn’t want to pursue this any further so I was happy to settle on that. They even offered me the incentive for future work with them.

After a google search, it seems like this problem occurs often and perhaps many photographers don’t understand the value of usage.

Confessions of a Veteran Spring Training Photographer

- - Blog News

Are things better now than there were 21 years go? Has technology made my job shooting spring training easier? Yes. Being able to look at my pictures on the screen on the back of my cameras during a game allows me to know if I have a certain image in the can so I can move on to the next subject. The image quality is terrific and the ease of delivering the files back to the office is a dream.

I’m glad I’ve been around long enough to work through all of these changes.

Brad Mangin via Raw File |

The Daily Edit – Tuesday

- - The Daily Edit

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Creative Director: Adam  Glassman
Photo Director: Katherine Schad
Art Director: Jaspal Riyait
Deputy Photo Director: Christina Weber

Photographer: Todd Marshard

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted

Michael Grecco Combats Illegal Downloads With The Electronic Version

- - copyright

I heard from Michael Grecco about his new ebook on lighting and wanted to know more about finding the original book on torrent sites and how that spurred him on to create an electronic version. Here’s what he had to say:

In 2006, I released a book that grew from a very well received lecture series called “Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait” that I gave at the Photo Plus Expo. The goal of the book was to describe what I had learned about lighting over the course of my career. In writing the book I made the decision to hold nothing back. The book went on to be a best seller, briefly hitting number 291 on Amazon (out of the millions of books they have). We sold over 30,000 copies worldwide. I was thrilled with the results and, to this day, the book continues to sell

A few years ago a friend recommended that I start a “Google Alert” for my name and projects. Google will send you an email anytime you are mentioned on the Internet, which is an amazingly useful tool to monitor the Internet coverage of yourself and your projects. I discovered that “Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait” was very popular on torrent download and share sites. At the time, I just smiled and thought there was little to do about it; I guess it was just nice to be popular.

Then I thought, why not offer the book digitally? My book agent checked the contract and we both agreed that I had retained the electronic rights. When the book was first published by Watson Guptill (great publishing house- they did a fantastic job!), no one understood the value of digital rights, so the issue never made it into the contract. I consulted, my 19 year-old son, Dakota, who is into game design, to see if this was something he could program. Dakota did the coding of the book; we worked together on optimizing the images in size and resolution so that they looked great. We also re-did the lighting diagrams, taking them up a notch by giving them more details and making them read better on the device. Then we added a bonus chapter for purchasers of the eBook.

In retrospect, I understand that the torrents were infringing my book, but as we investigated, some sites actually did not have the book available- they were just using the name to entice people to subscribe to their torrent site. Researching who actually had the book, and who did not, was a huge undertaking. But what I realized was that these sharing sites were telling me that there was an unfulfilled demand for a serious photography book, in an electronic format, about lighting. We expect, with the eBook release of “Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait,” for the electronic theft to disappear as photographers find the original–and superior–version available at an affordable price.

If the book continues to be successful, we are looking to provide other photographers with our publishing and marketing infrastructure to help them publish their books electronically through our newly formed company, Naked Editions. I am curious to learn what your readers think.

The Daily Edit – Monday

- - The Daily Edit

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Runner’s World

Design Director: Kory Kennedy
Deputy Art Director: Marc Kauffman
Photo Editor: Andrea Maurio
Associate Photo Editor: Renee Keith

Photographer: Adam Voorhes

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted

This Week In Photography Books – Karianne Bueno, “Haiiro”

by Jonathan Blaustein

It’s either ironic or pathetic, (depending upon your POV,) but I didn’t consider myself a photo book expert before I began writing this column last September. Sure, I love photography, and have devoted the last fifteen years of my life to its practice, but I viewed books as a by-product of the process. A result, if you will. Clearly, my thinking has evolved since then.

It seems that every photographer on Earth wants a photo book these days, though many wouldn’t be able to explain why. We did a guest post on the subject by Joanna Hurley of Radius books six months ago, but people are no less obsessed with the subject now. So I thought I’d use this week’s musings to delve deep into the meaning of Why?

Closing my eyes, I can easily recall the first time I pulled a photo book off the shelf in the UNM Fine Arts library back in 1997. Two months into my studies, I was bored, and stalked the aisles of the library with nothing better to do. I stopped, for no good reason, and pulled out “España Oculta,” a book of photographs by Cristina Garcia Rodero. She documented the surreal insanity of Spanish cultural rituals for fifteen years, and the magical book was the result. As good as the pictures were, (and they are brilliant,) the idea of that kind of dedication, over time, was what most impacted me.

Flash forward to the insanity of our present, and many photographers see a photo book as a marketing object. (Drop mad cash with a publisher, never recoup your investment directly, but hope to reap the rewards in the long run.) Recently, I bumped into a photographer, whose book I reviewed, who admitted to spending nearly $30,000 on his project. He felt it was worth it, as the book opened new doors for his business, and enabled him to be taken more seriously. Another photographer, with whom I spoke the same week, also told me he had to raise significant funds with the same publisher, and viewed his book in a similar light.

Alternatively, I have a cousin and an uncle who are passionate amateur photographers. Each time I visit, they corral me to view their vacation exploits, expertly printed and bound, through the wonders of Blurb’s online publishing interface. What would once have been the realm of scotch tape and plastic sheathing is now bound together in a hard-cover book. “Daytona Beach Spring Break 2012” sits on the shelf next to Diane Arbus. (How’s that for Post-Modern?) So forgive me if I was a tad cynical about the publishing process when Rob tapped me to write this column last Summer.

Earlier this month, as you might have guessed from all the hints I dropped, Rob sent me to London to check out the scene. It was beyond fantastic, and I promise to share the visions of splendor before too long. (After I get back from FotoFest, if you can wait a little longer.) Luckily for you bibliophiles, I was able to interview two of the world’s best book publishers on consecutive days.

On a Thursday, late in the day I arrived, I met Aron Mörel of Mörel Books at a street side cafe in West London. I turned up late and flustered, as I couldn’t find the place, despite ascending from the Underground a mere 5 blocks away. Being British, he was gracious about the whole thing, and the interview was blissfully casual.

Though young, and relatively new to the publishing world, Mr. Mörel has worked with some of the best artists and photographers in the business, including Thomas Ruff, Ryan McGinley and Boris Mikhailov. He’s also published books by fashion photographers Craig McDean and Terry Richardson. Big names, yes, but surprisingly small books. Mostly soft cover, from what I’ve seen, and each project is tightly bound together by a concept.

What knowledge bombs did I solicit? Well, according to Mr. Mörel, a great book is a work of art. Not only that, but an affordable one. Who has the ducats to buy a print by Thomas Ruff? Next to no one. But many, if not most of us, can scrounge together $40 or $50 to buy a book. He sees the book itself, not only the images within, is the art object.

Back home now, 5000 miles away from that chilly London sidewalk, I’d have to say I agree. We chatted for a while about how Mr. Mörel got into the business, (a love of photography and poetry,) and my burgeoning theory that boobs sell books. (He agreed.) He also opened up a bit about his DIY style. Once the shipments arrive from his printer in Istanbul, he sometimes puts the books together himself, at home. (He once hand-folded several thousand covers in two days.) As a final thought, he said he looks at every submission that comes in, and encouraged photographers to send him an email, as he loves to see new things.

The next morning, jet-lagged, hung over, and not-yet-showered, (how’s that for TMI?) I had a meeting at MACK books, the new-ish imprint that released Taryn Simon’s huge book, and Gerry Johansson’s “Pontiac.” (With imminent publications by Thomas Demand and Paul Graham.) If you suspect I was a tad intimidated, you’d be correct. Fortunately, after they buzzed me into the building, the stairwell smelled of a strand of funk and mold not found in the United States. (I suppose an old city has old odors.) The stench, added to strewn boxes everywhere, grounded me, and helped me cross the threshold into one of the new bastions of the publishing world.

I stepped into the medium-sized office, flooded with natural light, and interrupted a staff of six, hard at work. I’d arranged for the visit with Poppy, the gracious PR person, who met me at the door and introduced me around. Then she led me in, offered me a “fake” espresso, and sat down for a little chat. Not intimidating in the least. How refreshing.

Shockingly, after I asked my very first question of Poppy, Michael Mack, the man himself, gracefully spun around in his swivel-chair to answer my query. Just like that. Had I intended to get a personal interview? Of course not. It just happened.

To start off, I asked Mr. Mack about Mr. Mörel’s theory, from the previous day, about a book being a work of art. He concurred, without a second thought. (But he hastened to add “I don’t think fashion photographers have the capacity to make a work of art.” Have fun debating that one in the comments below.)

Mr. Mack went on to explain that, to him, a great book has to be a unique, and equally important, expression of an artist’s work. It’s not just one more branded object to be commodified. (Which he likened to a product line: “Screen. Book. Wall. Magazine. Newspaper. Which is absolute crap.”) That’s the wrong way to go about it, he said. To further make the point, he held up a rainbow-colored copy of Paul Graham’s multi-book project, “A Shimmer of Possibility.” This, he said, was “a conceptual art piece in the form of a book.”

As this is the longest column I’ve written yet, (and I haven’t even gotten to a book review yet,) allow me to tie this back to the beginning. A book can be a family album. It can also be a marketing object. But, if you’ve set your aspirations as high as possible, a great photo book becomes the thing itself. It’s the opposite of what I foolishly used to think. The book is not the artifact of the process, the vessel that contains great photographs. It can be the ultimate expression of an artist’s vision, one that is as difficult to nail as a great film. (So much collaboration…)

Taken to the extreme, a great book might not even need to contain great photographs. Even a slightly-less-than-genius vision, if codified perfectly, can make a great book. Like “Haiiro,” a small, beautiful new offering by Karianne Bueno, recently published by Schaden. Yes, there was always a point to this column. Even if you lost faith five paragraphs ago.

“Haiiro” arrived in my book pile recently, and I was immediately drawn to it. It’s a small book, cloth-bound, with an image of the rooftops of a small Japanese village on the cover. The spine is covered by a thin piece of black elastic, like something off of my Mom’s phone book, circa 1986. The book is delicate and alluring, straight away.

Open it up, and it’s a vertical orientation, as the pages spill out accordion style. Green trees, a rice paddy, some girls by the stream, the Tokyo skyline, orange carp battling in a river, some more trees and water and buildings. No words. Then, a photograph of a trove of waterlogged documents, letters and such, depicted above an image of an empty apartment. Boom. The Tsunami reference sneaks up on you like a black-pajama-clad Ninja.

After that, an excellent, short, written narrative closes out the production. It’s inviting, so you read it. The tone and energy match the photographs, providing a glimmer of context for the artist’s travels, and then it’s done. Barely 15 pictures, and a page of words. You open it up again, test out the fold technique, and realize that it does stretch out like a screen. Better yet, it’s unattached. So you carefully, slowly, put it back together, and set it back on the shelf.

This book is as close to the expression of a poem as I’ve seen. It’s neither linear nor literal. It’s beautiful, remarkable, and the type of thing one would definitely pick up from time to time, just to recapture the mood. But the pictures are not terribly unique, and the printing is not the best I’ve seen. I’m not sure I’ll remember the photographer, but I’ll definitely remember the book.

Bottom Line: A perfect little visual poem

To purchase “Haiiro” visit Photo-Eye

Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.

The Daily Edit – Friday

- - The Daily Edit

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Harper’s Bazzar

Creative Director: Stephen Gan
Design Director: Elizabeth Hummer
Photography + Bookings Editor: Zoe Bruns
Associate Art Director: Gary Ponzo
Senior Photo + Bookings Editor: Barbara Tomassi

Photographer: Liu Bolin, making of (here).


Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted

I quit the mass mailing habit cold turkey in 2007

- - Blog News

I think it’s safe to say that in most cases, mailing out promos offers pretty much the same return on investment as giving your money to the printer and paying him to set it on fire for you.

Granted, whenever I visit a client or creative, there are usually a few mailers stuck to the wall or sitting on their desks — but there are generally a lot more of them in the garbage. And often as not, the stuff pinned up is either from photographers they’ve worked with before, or shooters who’ve recently won awards or garnered some attention elsewhere and are therefore already on their radar.

via planet shapton.

Still Images In Great Advertising – Claudio Napolitano

Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.

Claudio Napolitano is someone I see constantly on these creative ad website. He has been featured 8 times on Ads of the World. This latest campaign was done for an agency in Venezuela, while he is based out of Miami, Florida. I love the way foreign agencies create a campaign for a Jeep with images that don’t show a vehicle!

Suzanne: This is a very clever campaign. How did you get involved? Have you worked with this agency before?

Claudio: yes, it was a really clever campaign by Leo Burnett at the Caracas office. I have been working with them for few years with some of their other local and international clients. It all started just after that successful shoot. We recently did another shoot for Heinz baby food with some beautiful images too . I’ll keep you posted about this. To be involved on this you need keep producing images constantly and sharing them with all the art directors that you work with or would like to work.

Suzanne: Your work has been featured on Ads of the World many times. Has that helped your career?

Claudio: yes definitely it helps day by day and we need to keep in mind than each posting is like a brick that helps build your image. The Changing a bulb was finalist or bronze in the Clio awards.

Suzanne: Where were these photographed? And tell me a little about the process?

Claudio: we shot in my studio in caracas and miami, we decided to shoot the talent in studio to have the same illumination values and the locations were shoot between both cities and the postproduction was handled in house to keep the control over the final result . But the truth is there are no big secrets in terms of technique because as always in all our shoots we try to keep it simple to reduce over photoshopping.

Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.

Claudio has been a professional photographer since 1992, shooting quality images for countless advertising clients. He was awarded Hasselblad Masters 2009 for portraiture, J&J James E. Burke Global Marketing Award 2009 and 2010 and the Cannes Lion National diploma for three years in a row for his work in advertising. He is based out of Miami, Florida and represented by Mollie Jannasch of

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.


The Daily Edit – Thursday

- - The Daily Edit

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Real Simple

Creative Director: Janet Froelich
Art Director: Joele Cuyler
Photo Director: Casey Tierney
Photo Editor: Lauren Reichbach Epstein
Associate Photo Editor: Brain Madigan

Photographer: Nigel Cox

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted

Andrew Southam’s Personal Way Of Seeing

- - Photographers

I worked with Andrew Southam quite a bit in the past, so when he told me about a personal journey he recently underwent, I asked to publish an account of it on the blog. I think you will find his honest and humble account of what happened to him inspiring.

APE: Briefly tell me about your background in photography, how you came to it and when you found success?

Andrew Southam: I started out in Sydney, Australia in the early 80’s.  I was incredibly fortunate to find a job assisting a photographer named Grant Matthews who became my mentor and great friend. I arrived in NYC in 1986 with a decent book and just got on the phone to all the magazines. A lot of people met with me and I dropped my book off everywhere else. I got assigned portraits for Rolling Stone and Vogue, some small fashion pieces for Conde Nast magazines and that began my career in America. A year later Sassy Magazine was started by an Australian publisher and art director I had worked with in Sydney, another piece of incredible luck. I started working solidly for them doing everything from covers and fashion stories to photo essays about teen suicide and a girl on death row in Indiana.

Would you call what happened next a midlife crisis or is it the result of a shitty economy and shrinking photo industry?

When you’re young and new in this industry you have a kind of allure you don’t know you have, I certainly didn’t. I had a lot of success early on which I took for granted. I just assumed it would be all up and up. I went along like that for about 15 years. Of course I had flat spots but I was what you’d call a working photographer with a good reputation. What happened next was really a kind of burn out. I started out taking very personal pictures, shooting very much my own way. This had as much to do with not having the technical skill to do it anyone else’s way as any artistic ideals! But of course over time you learn technique and wind up doing work that you have less personal investment in, money jobs. What happened to me was I lost my sense of ownership of my work, was less invested in it. Inevitably the assignments I was getting reflected this, less exciting work, not being hired to bring any point of view to the job. More being hired as a good technician who could get all the shots finished on time, run a crew, answer a budget, work with talent. All that’s great but I was feeling steadily more unhappy with myself and my career. I can’t blame the economy or changes in the industry. Of course I’ve felt the changes like everyone. But finally I wasn’t feeling inspired and it caught up with me.

What did you do to break out of the funk?

I was feeling pretty desperate. I never cared that much about the money. In the midst of this period I had some good years. But I was really unhappy with the work I was getting and doing. Finally, all credit to my wife who said “just go and stop talking about it!” I went off on a week long road trip from LA to San Francisco. The first day on the road I felt a real panic that I couldn’t take a picture without a client, an assignment, a deadline.  I’d spent so many years shooting actresses, models, portraits of people for magazines, I didn’t even see the scenery at first. But after a day I slowed down and started seeing the world and then looking at it through the camera. Then the huge pleasure of just looking through the viewfinder, composing in that rectangle, paying attention to the light returned to me and I got really excited again. It sounds so simple but it really felt like a kind of rebirth at the time.

Tell me more about the dream project you dreamt up?

While I was driving and shooting, I started to see the journey as a road movie. I imagined a man, a woman, a car of a certain kind, motels, restaurants, the road, all the emotional stuff that happens on a long journey. Maybe it starts out romantically, but at some point you’re just so over being in that car and stuck together, you sort it out, you don’t, you have sex, you argue, on and on. So when I returned home, still with that “my life is at stake” energy, and having unplugged for a week from the whole white noise of our lives now, realizing I could do that and just be a photographer and not an e-mailing machine, I buried myself into using the pictures I’d taken as a story board for a series with the man and woman. I worked with a friend who is a great stylist, Kelly Hill formerly at J.Crew. We found two actors, a real life couple, we found a 1968 Cadillac and talked the guy who was selling it into renting it to us for a few days. I wrote a page and a half treatment for my actors describing the trip, this crisis point in their relationship. It was fantastic because then everyone knew what they were feeling, they sort of lived it and I just shot away as if I was making a documentary about them. Because we were together all day, seriously all day, they stopped noticing me which made the whole thing really intimate. I had no crew except my stylist and my tech who like me is great at becoming invisible. My very large edit was then shaped by designer Matt Taylor at Matt Varnish. He helped me refine the narrative, gave the images a treatment to feel like vintage prints left on a car’s dashboard, designed the book, located and supervised the printing, and was really essential to the project being the success it was.

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And the job that followed, how did that come about?

My agent at that time had the promo book I made of these pictures at LeBook Connections LA 2011. An Art Buyer from M&C Saatchi, Jenn Sellers picked it up and put it in front of their Creative Director James Bray who was just then looking to solve a problem, how to shoot the men’s Uggs campaign? I was called in to meet with him. I’ve now just shot their second campaign in an on going series.

Is there a lesson here? Did the industry change to be more receptive to this type of thing, did you find different clients, or did you change how you take pictures?

The lesson was pretty profound for me. Clients are out there looking for ideas and photographers with ideas, with a particular way of seeing. There are SO many photographers, so many great technicians and digital has only made this easier. What there are less of is photographers with a distinct point of view. You have to really dive into yourself and find out what you have to say or show that is your own take. My friend June Newton, Helmut’s widow says “shoot your desires, shoot your perversions”. Obviously that served Helmut well! I am not the first photographer to shoot a road trip story but I really made it my own. So when clients saw it, it was exciting to them and they recognized something they could use.  So yes, the industry is super receptive to a photographer with a body of work that is their own peculiar, fully expressed take. There is SO much imagery out there now, you can only imagine how they must be scratching their heads in advertising agencies and design companies saying “how do we do this in a different way?!”

I am finding new clients. It’s a process and I feel like I’m just beginning it in lots of ways. Which I’m very grateful for after shooting for 27 years! But I have a handful of great new clients who are asking me very specifically to do my own thing. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

I have changed the way I shoot, or rather I’m evolving. I’m trying to see photographs now in series, like a set of film stills, an unfolding narrative. Rather than trying to get the “perfect moment” I’m trying to be much looser, look for the “mistake” that will make the pictures more exciting. Now I’m arriving prepared with a treatment for the story, a clearer intention of what I want to say.

What does the future look like to you?

It has to come from me. If you look to the industry to see what will come next, it’s too late, it’s already happened. I can’t worry too much about trends, about what other people are doing. I just need to go off alone and think about my take on life and how to express that in photographs. It requires self discipline I have to work on constantly. It’s a muscle you have to develop and that never ends. It’s too easy to sit in my “beautiful cave” as portfolio consultant Beth Taubner calls it, and push around post-its and respond to e-mails.  I have to shoot more often for myself and develop that part of my brain and just keep doing it. My advice to anyone in the funk I was in would be: don’t wait to get assigned your “dream job”, it may never happen. Assign yourself and go and do it. I fully appreciate this can expensive but you have to find a way. I am always asking favors of people and seeing how I can cut corners to save money. Some friends will work for you for free. Your excitement is contagious. But clients are unlikely to assign you work if you can’t show them you’ve already done it. The good idea is hugely important in all this.

The other part is get the help and support you need. I’ve recently teamed up with photo rep Sarah Laird, someone I feel really lucky to know. Sarah’s agency is artist driven; the photographer must be absolutely clear on their point of view before she can represent them. She’s into building a career around that, finding the right audience for each photographer’s work. Sarah directed me to Beth Taubner who I’ve worked closely with and I would recommend to anyone looking to reconnect with their work or deepen it. I’ve been working on portfolio and website redesign with Bryan Fisher at Perfect Holiday who is amazing and definitely lifted my presentation. I feel like I’ve surrounded myself with great people who can help me take my work to another level. After already having had a long career I feel really excited and grateful to be doing this.