Photographer Don Flood came in to show me his portfolio which was a bit of a surprise because we’re a men’s magazine and Don mostly shoots women. I usually try and avoid these live portfolio showings unless it’s someone I know I’m interested in because they can be a bit awkward when you’re not sure if you can ever give the guy any work or even worse when the work sucks. Anyway, Don’s portfolio viewing was easily one of the best I’ve ever had because he’s super nice, talented and quickly ended the meeting and left. The ending can be the worst part because that’s where there’s sometimes a little extra selling on the photographer’s part but usually all I’m thinking about is all the shit I’ve got to do at the moment and furthest from my mind is future assignments. Don quickly wrapped it up and got the hell out because he probably knows like I do that it’s all about the photography and if that doesn’t pass the test everything else doesn’t matter. I hope I can find an assignment for him.
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i’ve never understood this thing with photo editors – “he only shoots women so why would he work or my men’s magazine?” – i mean aren’t both subjects homo sapiens? – on one hand there is this attitude and then on the other hand you have people like kathy ryan who pride themselves on using fine art photographers and having them shoot something totally out of their milieu. it’s very human to try and compartmentalize people and certainly one wants to play to people’s strengths – but it all seems so reductive doesn’t it? Either extreme, I mean.
Yes, all photo editors employ the technique where you take photographers out of their milieu (some with more success than others) but it’s very rare to take someone who specializes in shooting women, especially beauty shots and have them shoot men with guaranteed great results, unless… you want your men to look all beautiful. There are always exceptions to this rule but I think you will find that most photo editors will make the first assignment to a new photographer based on what’s in their portfolio.
We’re all adults here… if you don’t like the work just say so. I’d rather hear that than a line of crap. It also saves us from wasting our time on you. I’ve never understood why people are so damn sensitive. Not everyone is going to like your work.
I have to jump on the wagon with susana. Years ago I got a new commercial client shooting detailed studio shots of desktop microscopes. How did I get the client? A portfolio sample the client saw- a location portrait of a Dr. standing in front of a room sized microscope the hospital wanted featured in their annual report. Not that I was complaining, it worked in reverse this time, but it never made sense to me. While I also like the “describing light” series by Ayuson you mentioned earlier in the blog, I don’t see magazines assigning that type of work.
Regarding the comment from ‘A Photo Editor’ – there is a phrase/idiom that, from a male perspective, would go something like; when I photograph men, I am a photographer – when I photograph women, I am a man…..which sums up my work I feel.
I try to represent the person as opposed to the sexuality but this is a constant battle.
When photographing a man, I accentuate their ‘character (read ruggedness) and when in the same situation with a woman I try to deccentuate it, without trying to imply a patronising aspect.
I also photograph derelict buildings as a ‘hobby’ and find myself imparting the same techniques…. dependent on the ‘sexuality’ or gender that I feel in a specific place.
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Thanks for the info about Portfolio Review!
I appreciate the insights you give here. I understand that photo editors and art directors need to know what they’re going to get out of a photographer style-wise.
But at the same time, I really hate the way a somewhat diverse portfolio is such a curse. I can shoot women, men, white, African -American, tall people, short people, etc.
Wouldn’t a good photographer be expected to shoot any type of person?
@ 8, I agree with you, I think a photographer is a photographer and art directors try and pigeon hole them. I enjoy shooting Still-Life and children, but that doesn’t say that I cannot point my camera in the direction of a building to shoot it! I am just about to start assisting, and hopefully will soon find out how some photographers think about being pigeon holed! When a buyer goes to Nadav Kander for a shot, I think he/she is going to him because they know he can shoot anything, and will give the picture his own vision. I love it when a photographer shoots everything, and anything. As Irving Penn does, and Albert Watson does.