Yearly Archives: 2012

The Daily Edit – Wednesday

- - The Daily Edit

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Men’s Fitness

masthead not published this issue, masthead below from post dated 4.24.12

Creative Director: Andy Turnbull
Designer: Joe Suma
Photo Director: Toby Kaufman
Associate Photo Editor: Krystal Atwater 

Photographer: Kenji Toma

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

Pricing & Negotiating: Still Life Shoot for Clothing Retailer

By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine Producer

I was contacted recently by an East Coast photographer to help quote on a project for a well-known clothing retailer. The retailer’s mid-sized ad agency had approached the photographer and shared layouts for a catalog promoting the following season’s clothing line. The catalog would feature a combination of fashion portraits and still life pictures on seamless backgrounds. Our photographer, a still life specialist, was asked to just quote on the still life portion of the project which consisted of 23 pictures. The comps showed shirts, pants, shoes and accessories shot from above, on a flat surface, arranged as an outfit. Along with the layouts, the agency provided a detailed shot list specifying 3 days of shooting at a local studio.

A few days later, the photographer and I dialed into a creative call with the agency to learn more about the project. As with all creative calls, this was a great opportunity for the photographer to show his enthusiasm for the assignment, share creative ideas and convey confidence to the agency. During the conversation, we learned that the catalog was part of a much larger rebranding effort for their client that would help the brand reach a younger demographic. This was our first hint that the project may be a larger production than your typical studio catalog shoot.

Here’s what we discussed on the creative call:

  • We talked about the possibility of shooting variations where the clothes were stacked or organized more abstractly rather than the paper-doll way shown in the comp. We spent a lot of time talking about the look of the pictures. Clearly the styling was very important to the client.
  • The licensing needed to include use of 23 images in the fall catalog and on the company’s website for a period of 3 months.
  • The agency wanted us to deliver the raw files from the shoot – organized, renamed and tweaked. Their in-house retoucher would finish them off.
  • We would plan on a pre-light day so that we could hit the ground running on the first shoot day.
  • Our wardrobe stylist would need to attend a β€œfit-day” to review the clothing with the client and agency. The stylist would also need a prep day to make any necessary alterations prior to the shoot.
  • The client would provide all of the clothing and accessories but we might need to provide some minor props.
  • They couldn’t tell us how big the press run would be but given the client, we knew it would be huge (>1m)

With this information, I could start to put together some numbers. For a typical national catalog shoot, we normally quote $4,000-$6,000 a day for the creative fee including licensing. Catalog use is certainly advertising use (which might otherwise command a higher fee), but unlike other advertising that might show up in magazines or on billboards, catalog use is normally limited to the actual printed piece.Β  And because of the nature of fashion, the images tend to have very short life spans and tend to require a lot of shoot days (both factors providing some downward pressure on the day rate). Some catalog work is so much about volume and so little about skill that rates can be as low as 1000.00 per day. In those cases, the work is usually done directly for the client (rather than through an ad agency)β€”and often using the client’s studio and equipment.

In the mean time, we got another call from the agency explaining that they would like us to quote on broader licensing. In addition to the catalog use, they needed 3 months of paid advertising use and print collateral use. A few hours after that, I received another email saying that they now were planning on a 2-day shoot with licensing for just 12 images and they’d like to make it happen for under $100k.

I checked to see what our pricing guides suggested:

Blinkbid: For catalog, web use and print advertising Blinkbid quoted $11,550-$16,500 per image per year or (arguably) $2,887-$4,125 for 3 months. So in the neighborhood $30k for 12 images (factoring in a bit of a quantity discount).

FotoQuote: Their advertising and marketing pack for 3 months suggested a range of 13,728 and 27,456 for one image.

Getty Images: Using their Flexible Licensing, an Advertising Pack of print, outdoor and web for three months in the U.S. would be $12k per image.

Given such a short licensing duration (3 months), I think it’s unlikely that the agency is going to make ads out of all 12 of those photos. So considering all that (not to mention the budget suggested by the client), I decided to price the first two images at 5,500 each and the remaining 10 at 2,000 each, which brought us to a total photography fee of $31,000.

We included the rates for an assistant and a digital tech for both shoot days as well as the pre-light day, and included a second assistant for just the shoot days. The photographer had a producer that he worked with regularly, and at his suggestion, we budgeted 7 days to account for his time to hire the crew, attend the shoot and manage all the post-shoot paperwork. (This seemed a little fat to me given the project.) I also included (at the request of the producer) a production assistant (also a little excessive). I budgeted 1200.00 for the photographer for the pre-light day (which in retrospect, might be a little thin.)

The stylist was just as important to the agency as the photographer, so we included rates for a seasoned soft goods stylist who would also be shopping for the supplemental props. The quote we received from the stylist broke out separate fees for their shoot days and prep days, and we included them as separate lines in the estimate. The stylist would be bringing their assistant and a tailor/seamstress to alter the clothing. We budgeted 4 prep days for the stylist – 2 to get props and 2 in the studio to prepare the clothes, make any necessary alterations, and set up at least the first couple of shots. The stylist assistant would handle the returns.

While the props were originally supposed to be minimal, the agency ended up sending over a few sample images of nice travel accessories and other items that they wanted to have on hand. For those props, we budgeted 2000.00. We included costs for seamless paper and foam core for the stylists to lay out the clothing on and pin it to if needed.

We would need the studio for the two shoot days, a pre-light day, and the additional wardrobe stylist prep day. The photographer also specified 5000.00/day for equipment rental. That might sound like a lot at first glance, but it would allow us to run 2 sets at a time so the stylists could be setting up one shot while we were shooting another.

I tend to include a nominal amount of crew overtime charges as a matter of course to avoid any surprises later. It also gives us some wiggle room in the budget in case other unexpected costs arise.

We also included a post-production day for the photographer to organize and do final tweaks, then deliver the raw files on a hard drive. (The ad agency would be handling the retouching themselves.)

I chose to add a line-item for insurance. It’s customary on motion picture projects and increasingly on bigger still projects to add 1-2% to cover the cost of equipment insurance, liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance.

I budgeted 1250.00 for mileage, parking, messengers, etc. for all the little things that add up when running around town looking for props, picking up equipment, etc.

I always put β€œplus applicable sales tax.” That covers me in all cases and it doesn’t unnecessarily inflate my bottom line when we do have to charge it. I always spell out items that the client is going to provide (I forgot to mention that the client was going to do the retouching). And we normally expect to get at least half of the production expenses up front.

The whole project came in at $92k.

You can view the estimate here:

I heard a few days later that the client chose another photographer. But I wasn’t able to get any more information than that.

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, contactΒ Wonderful Machine.

If You Don’t Get Rejected Every Now And Then You Are Really Doing Something Wrong

- - Blog News

There is no end to rejection in art (or I suppose in life), no matter how β€œsuccessful” a person might seem. I had a heck of a last year. Lost of prizes, lots of shows. Β I’m sure from the outside it might look like I’m on top of the world…. and to some degree I am. Hard work paying off feels great. But the part I don’t advertise as much is that there is still, and I am certain always will be, plenty of getting rejected. They way I see if you don’t get rejected every now and then you are really doing something wrong. Your art must be boring. Or you have become complacent and aren’t trying to push things. I figure the best goal is to keep one upping your rejection. Try to get rejected from increasingly impressive things, grants, publications, institutions, people, etc.


You think you are a photographer because Instagram does the work for you

- - Blog News

So now that you’re a professional photographer, you need to capture the simpler things in life. All of them. It is your duty as an artist, after all. And there is nothing simpler than your pretentious foodie excursions. You posted an Instagram-ed picture of a handful of blueberries the other day. What would your day have been without those blueberries? Would you have felt a little less connected to the earth and, ultimately, yourself? Would you have felt guilty about letting all of nature’s candy go to waste? Or perhaps the real question is this: how disappointed would you have felt if your beautiful, plump blueberries got less than 15 likes? It would have made blueberry picking pretty pointless, right? But no, you are popular and people like to feel earthy and spontaneous by livng vicariously through you and your blueberry-picking adventure.

via McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: An Open Letter to People Who Take Pictures of Food With Instagram..

This Week In Photography Books – Kehinde Wiley

by Jonathan Blaustein

“Thank You,” and “I’m sorry” are among the most powerful phrases in any language. (As words are only ideas encoded in sounds, fortunately, the concepts are universal.) In my day-to-day business, I’m constantly surprised that so many people are unaware of the import of appreciation and contrition.

Taken together, those twin values synthesize into Respect. Which is, in my opinion, the key to happiness and success. If you don’t respect yourself, you cannot possibly respect others. And unless you’re a super-talented, pathological narcissist, you’re unlikely to make it far in this world without a healthy dose of Respect.

I mention this, today, because I’d like to temporarily tackle an issue that’s been consistently bugging me for my two-year tenure here at APE. Yes, I’m going to directly address the cadre of knuckleheads and d-bags that leave nasty, heartless, and comically un-self-aware comments at the end of these articles. Lest you think me a simpleton, I do know that these words you’re reading ensure we’ll see more such comments below.

That’s right. It’s time to speak to our gallery of fools; the short-tempered, know-it-all, sadsacks who hide behind the veil of anonymity. Here’s the truth: you make yourself look really bad every time you drop the hatred on our heads. Secretly, deep down, you know this to be true. If not, you’d add your name and email address to each post. But you don’t.

When you disrespect me, (and Rob,) with your petty, childish zingers, you disrespect the rest our the enormous audience that follows this blog. They know better than to admire your thoughtlessness. Ultimately, you disrespect yourself. Your shame spiral all but guarantees that you’ll do it again, here or somewhere else. There is no bucket of Ben and Jerry’s big enough to drown your self-hatred. (Clearly, I’m differentiating between hating, and constructive criticism. The latter is beneficial, as I’ve said many times.)

If you are one such person, gathering your thoughts to trash me at the end of reading this, how about you try something else today? Stop reading, here, now, and go do something else. Take a walk. Lift some weights. Read a book. Even better, grab your camera, and go make some Art. Channel your anger into something more productive. Because if your goal is to hurt my feelings, or get me fired, it won’t work.

However, if this community, (and the Internet in general,) were to lose that mindless hatred, we might just have ourselves some interesting, intellectually challenging debates. I’m certain there are countless readers who never, ever write in because they’re afraid of being embarrassed by one of the few people to whom I’m speaking now. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what those people have to say?

Yes, Respect is the word of the day. It was the keyword for the recently completed European Football Championships too. (Plastered all over those Polish and Ukrainian stadiums.) It’s also a word you hear a lot in inner cities. Minority and low-income communities are constantly decrying the lack of respect they feel from the police, the powers-that-be, and from the rich folks who live a neighborhood or two away.

One way to combat a dearth of Respect is to challenge people’s pre-conceptions and bedrock assumptions. It’s the reason that I wrote those incendiary paragraphs above. It’s also the reason that Kehinde Wiley has had such a remarkably successful career in a short span of time.

Mr. Wiley, the SFAI and Yale trained painter, has made a living off of placing not-quite-sterotypical visions of contemporary African-American men into the traditional, art historical painting context. (At present, he’s also working with Non-African-American-Men-Of-Color.) I say not-quite, because, despite the clothing and bling, there is a vulnerability to his subjects, and sometimes almost a sexual ambiguity, that defies easy stereotypes.

I missed his show at the Jewish Museum when I was ever-so-briefly in NYC late last month, mostly because of a lack of time. Additionally, I knew I had his book in my pile. Big mistake. If you live anywhere near NYC, go check it out. The book has stoked the embers of my curiosity. But now I’m back in my horse pasture. Oh well.

Mr. Wiley has a new monograph of his work, published by Rizzoli, and I’ve given it a good look. Fantastic stuff. The artist photographs his subjects, and places them in ornate, painted compositions that are often titled to reflect their art historical origins. As so many photographers wish they could paint, including the brilliant HCB, this book is worth checking out. The transformation from person to photo to canvas is symbolic of the entirety of Art practice.

Furthermore, there are a suite of photographic images included in the book. The style is the same as the painted images, but they lack the magic, spark, genius…whatever it is, they lack something. Definitely not as good, but still interesting. I only mention it, because I believe it behooves all of us to be proficient in more than one medium, but of course that’s much easier said than done.

Bottom Line: Very cool book, probably not something you’ve seen before

To purchase “Kehinde Wiley” 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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Creative Director: Stephen Scoble
Director of Photography: Fredrika Stjarne
Art Director: Courtney Waddell Eckersley
Associate Photo Editor: Sara Parks

Photographer: Ken Kochey

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

Still Images in Great Advertising- Stephen Wilkes

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

I have been in this business for many years and I been familiar with Stephen Wilkes for years, okay decades. Β And I have had the pleasure of working with the agents of Bernstein & Andriulli on many assignments when I was with Martin Agency and Kaplan-Thaler. Β Stephen is known for his incredible landscape work. I can think of so many campaigns he won many accolades for his special signature style.


Suzanne: Β This campaign is so perfect for you and allowed you to create graphic images and more conventional images. Β When I see the editorial work from Fortune, I wonder if this campaign influenced the work for this campaign or vice versa?

Stephen: This campaign was an extraordinary experience on many levels. First and foremost I was able to collaborate with a super talented creative team at Ogilvy, who allowed me to express my vision through their concepts. I was fortunate enough to be brought in to the project early, enabling me to be part of the conceptual process. We were all on the same page from the very beginning. In order to bring a campaign like this to life you need a client who is willing to trust the creative team. Our client at SAP created an atmosphere that truly inspired great work.

The breadth and scale of these images was inspired by my β€œDay to Night” series. I began exploring the concept of making wide epic scale images in my China work done in 2005. I combined my love of powerful graphic images that captured the scope of China with a sense of humanity. Editorial projects followed, shooting a major story on the architecture in Beijing during the Olympics for Vanity Fair, and then I took this concept into interior spaces with the editorial work I did for Fortune. β€œThe Big Picture”, section of the magazine has been a wonderful showcase, allowing me to continue to explore my fascination with scale. The Walmart image that I created for Fortune has certainly inspired other projects.

Suzanne: Β Please tell me about your Ellis Island work? Β This work speaks volumes about life that has been “left behind” and we can picture our ancestors walking those halls. Β You did this project in 1999 but it still is important today especially with the current NBC show with “Who Do You Think You Are”. Β Maybe this body of work was the inspiration?

Stephen:Β The passing of time has always been a theme in much of my work. I’ve always been fascinated by history and forgotten places. What I discovered through my work on Ellis was that the documentary photograph could inspire change. The work became a benchmark for the type of photography I wanted to explore. I believe it was a unique time, as large format color documentary work was not yet being fully embraced as art. Ellis sort of redefined that concept. Using the power of color, texture and light, you can’t help but be drawn into these rooms. But the real subtext to all my Ellis Island images was the palpable sense of humanity that I felt within these empty spaces. In regard to Ancestry.comβ€˜s β€œWho Do You Think You Are”, I believe the core magic of Ellis Island is that there’s a piece of it in all of us. All of our collective DNA has some trace of that island in it. Anything that brings attention to the story of immigration and in particular bringing attention to saving the south side of Ellis Island, I’m thrilled about. Bringing focus to the β€œforgotten side” was the essence of my work. I hope β€œWho Do You Think You Are” inspires people to support organizations like β€œSave Ellis Island” so that the history of the island can continue to inspire future generations.

Suzanne: Please tell us your secrets. Β How do you combine several decades with fine art and commercial work?

Stephen:Β I’ll let you in on the secret, its been passed on to me by several extraordinary photographers. PASSION & HARD WORK. Equal parts of both, that’s it! Talent is just 5% of the equation. My philosophy has always been that if I’m feeling comfortable, I’m DEFINITELY not working hard enough. I’ve been fortunate to have a symbiotic relationship with both worlds. I’ve found that when I do my own work, it’s always about what’s in my heart and soul. As a result the work is pure and original. When you create work that’s personal, it can inspire ideas. When I’m hired to execute a commercial campaign I think about what work attracted my clients to me. Its almost always derivative of something I’ve photographed for myself. I bring the same passion, energy and attention to detail to both arenas. I’ve always lived by the motto β€œyou’re only as good as your last shot”.

Suzanne: What advice can you give to the photographer just started out? Β How has this business changed?

Stephen:Β Young photographers enter an industry that’s going through a tectonic shift. My advice to a developing photographer would be; shoot what you LOVE to photograph, not the images you think will get you work. It’s only through developing a personal vision that enables you to find a singular voice within this extraordinarily crowded field. Innovate and embrace change, don’t get to comfortable, and focus on competing with yourself and no one else. Gain your inspiration by doing the work.

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

Stephen Wilkes has been widely recognized for his fine art and commercial photography. Wilkes has won numerous awards and honors, and continues to exhibit his work in both galleries and museums. He is represented by Peter Fetterman Gallery, Los Angeles, and The Monroe Gallery of Photography, Santa Fe.

APE contributorΒ 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..

Why Vimeo Is the Web Video Platform to Watch

- - Blog News

A small production company called Stillmotion led a workshop, β€œProactive Storytelling Instead of Reactive Coverage,” with tips and advice for documentary filmmakers, but their backstory was its own lesson. They started out shooting wedding videos (sometimes considered a just day job by snobbish filmmakers) with basic tools and a small team. Their vignettes caught the eye of ESPN, who hired them to film The Season, a TV series about the NFL. Now, they’re producing a feature-length documentary, A Game of Honor, about the Army-Navy football rivalry, for CBS. And they’re still making wedding videos.

via Why Vimeo Is the Web Video Platform to Watch.

The Daily Edit – Thursday

- - The Daily Edit

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Vanity Fair

Design Director: Chris Dixon
Photography Director: Judith Puckett-Rinella
Art Director: Julie Weiss, Chris Mueller
Senior Photography Editors: Sasha Erwitt, Susan Phear

Photographer: Craig McDean

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

A Sign Of The Times – Blogs Looking For Photo Editors

- - The Future

A logical trajectory for blogs is that they start out free and prove there’s an audience for the content, then they slowly improve the design, photography and writing so that they can improve their audience numbers and create an environment that’s conductive for advertising. The higher quality the content the higher quality of advertising you can attract and potentially you can charge a subscription as well. This is no different than the origins of Rolling Stone and Outside Magazine (as examples only because I know the history quite well), although I would argue that their content had to start out at a higher level because the cost of printing and distribution meant that you couldn’t easily correct mistakes or quickly roll out new content as the audience reacts.

So, I was not surprised to see Mashable, a blog with 20 million unique vistors per month and 4 million social media followers, advertising for a Photo Editor to “help take its on-site images to the next level.” (here) There are rumors that CNN is interested in buying the property for $200 million (here), so maybe it’s more to do with that than anything else. Regardless, I believe we are headed to a new era online where the quality of content becomes more important (unless you only want t-shirt advertising) and blogs battle it out for advertisers. It only remains to be seen if the quality will reach the heights that Rolling Stone aspired to when they realized they were onto something.

Photographers Thinking Like A Software Engineer

- - Blog News

Seeing Houck’sΒ show and subsequently investigating aΒ number ofΒ other emerging photographers working in similar ways has convinced me that this “thinking like a software engineer” is aΒ big white space that stands open for artistic exploration.Β As an approach, itΒ applies a wholly original conceptual framework to the medium of photography, while still allowing for connections to traditional ways of seeing. I was intellectually and visually impressed by Houck’s projects; while I think the Aggregates are the meaningfully stronger of the two, I can’t remember seeing a set of underlying first show ideas that felt so promising.


The Daily Edit – Wednesday

- - The Daily Edit

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Design Director: Fred Woodward
Creative Director: Jim Moore
Director of Photography: Dora Somosi
Senior Photo Editor: Krista Prestek
Art Director: Chelsea Cardinal

Photographer: Paola Kudacki

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

Andrew Southam – The Fashion Portrait

- - Workshops

Known for a mix of celebrity and lifestyle portraiture, Australian Andrew Southam maintains a very honest and revealing blog for a working photographer. July 22-27, he’ll be teaching a course at the Santa Fe workshops called β€œThe Fashion Portrait.” Among the techniques he uses to keep his work fresh, Southam regularly shoots on the streets of his adopted home of Los Angeles. He treats the exercise as a kind of sketch book to look for new ideas that he might try to recreate on a set when there’s no time for experimentation. Grayson Schaffer spoke with Southam about his upcoming workshop and how he keeps searching to reinvent himself.

Grayson: Have you fully embraced American culture? I think it’s sort of ironic that some of the best work of an Australian photographer is quintessential Americana.
Andrew: In Australia we’re sort of colonized by American popular cultureβ€”film and television. So if you’re a moderately sensitive kid you’re absorbing all of these American notions of masculinity, beauty, and heroism. It’s all pretty profound if you’re destined to be a photographer. Then I married an American girl. I have an American son who’s eight, so I’m deep into the sports world with him. I never played basketball as a kid, but I’m at all of his games and practices.

Grayson: With your workshop, are you focusing on portraiture or this kind of lifestyle? Is that seamless for you?
Andrew: Here’s how a I came up with that. They asked me if I would teach a fashion workshop, and I’ve always felt like a little bit of an imposter in that worldβ€”fashion. Fashion photography is a narrow cul de sac. If you’re going to be serious about it, I think you need to live in NY or Paris and eat, drink, and sleep it. I was never that fascinated by it. I began as a portrait photographer in Australia, and it was tough to make a living, because when you’re assigned a portrait you might get one or two pages. So I kind of drifted into fashion as a parallel career because then could get an eight-to-ten page story and the cover. Then the celebrity culture sort of blew up and that felt like a really natural place for me because I was always more interested in the person than the clothes . But you still have to have hair and makeup and a stylist, and you have to know something about how it all fits together. So when Santa Fe asked me to do a fashion workshop I had to explain to them that I really honestly wasn’t a pure fashion photographer but that I would feel comfortable teaching something called A Fashion Portrait, which is largely what I do. They’re portraits that have some sort of fashion knowhow with elements of hair and makeup. The clothes matter a lot in those pictures. That’s how I came to that. It felt like that was something I could teach and something I knew about.

Grayson: Is the styling part of the course
Andrew: Yeah, they get a local guy who’s great and he works really hard for us. With a dozen people in the course, that’s a lot of girls to do hair and makeup on. He worked in New York and Paris before he kind of drifted out to Santa Fe. It’s great for people doing the workshop to use talented stylists. Even if they’re not destined to become professionals they will leave the workshop knowing more than they would.

Grayson: About how a photograph is really a collaboration among everyone who’s on set?
Andrew: Yeah that American Dream series I did was with a stylist named Kelly Hill who worked for J. Crew and was a creative director for a long time. Just as a presence on the set, a stylist will have so many good ideas. There were shots in that series that she saw and I didn’t. Her contribution was irreplaceable on that particular project.

Grayson: Do you have any strong opinions on whether the styling should be sort of obvious or subtle?
Andrew: Well I think it really matters what your picture is and what you’re doing. For me it has to be subtle. If there’s any element of style in the photograph that announces itself overtly, then the photograph fails. If you think, Look at that hair or that crazy lighting, then, to me, that sort of defeats the image which is meant to be more of a feeling. In that American Dream series it sort of accrues picture by picture and adds up to something. But it’s never about, β€œWow those jeans are so great on him.”

Grayson: Your first instinct is that it all happened naturally even though it was produced?
Andrew: Totally. That was the lovely thing about doing that project. We did three long days away from home. There’s something to be said about doing things where people are not racing back to their offices and their computers. Checking in with their agent every five minutes. My ambition now is to photograph people in what appears to be their lives and to try and make it as utterly real as I can.

Grayson: When APE spoke with you earlier, you were in the midst of a mid-career crisis and this American Dream project was your escape. Is this still what you’re pursuing?
Andrew: It’s shown me the way forward. It did get me some great work and it got me the biggest ad jobs I’ve ever done. I’m on my fifth shoot for Ugg Boots. (I shoot their men’s campaign.) They let me do my thing, and they really want it. They’ve allowed me to work in the capacity of a creative director, which nobody had ever let me do before. Obviously, I’d done that on my own shoots, but no one had ever paid me to conceive the shoot from the ground up. So now when I shoot I have that as a gold standard. Creativity is really is a muscle, and you have to keep working at it. I’d like it to be second nature but it’s still a bit like going to the gym when I leave the house with my camera.

Grayson: How important is the equipment for your work?
Andrew: I can only speak for the work I do. But I think it’s really about getting out there and taking photographs and deepening my understanding. Light, the way people appearβ€”you need to practice that aside from work. Because when you’re on a set for real, you’re dealing with all these other things like the clock, a publicist, the client, hair and makeup, a stylist, and a lunch that’s late. But I went downtown the other day and took a bunch of street photographs. It’s like a notebook to me now: A guy looking over his shoulder in an interesting way.

Grayson: So you’re thinking, β€œMaybe that’s a look I want to try and recreate on a set at some point?”
Andrew: Absolutely. It’s incredible how the stuff that I find on the street is working its way more and more often into my job. I’m on this campaign to change my approach. If you and I were to go out now and take pictures of each other, it should be pretty effortless and fun. I want to get that feeling into my work. Otherwise it can become worklike. I want it to be like taking a picture of a friend, and I want to be unburdened by questions like, What does this magazine want? Who else shoots for them? What do they like?

Grayson: You mentioned that you’re trying to change the way you shoot. There aren’t many people in your positionβ€”well establishedβ€”who are really shaking things up.
Andrew: Maybe shaking things up is too strong. I’m trying to get better at the things you saw in American Dream. That project was wonderful thingβ€”almost in a way that makes it intimidating to go into the next one. In terms of changing: yes I am deep into my careerβ€”27 yearsβ€”and I’ve found a groove. But I think I got so deep into the groove that it became frustrating and felt like I was doing less than I was capable of.

Grayson: The difference between a groove and a rut?
Andrew: Yes, well said.

Grayson: Can you explain a bit about American Dreams?
Andrew: It was me in that state of frustration dreaming up an assignment that I would love someone to assign me. So in the absence of getting the job that you wish someone would give you, you need to assign yourself. You have to be your first client. I know that’s tough and expensive and time consuming, but there are ways of doing it. You can cut corners. Enthusiasm is an infectious thing.

Grayson: So is that what you did, you leaned on people who you knew from more traditional shoots?
Andrew: The stylist from that shoot was someone I had a long friendship with. So I leaned on her, and she helped me find the talent, and together we found that car. The only other person on that shoot was my tech. I knew I’d be shooting a lot of images, so I wanted to have someone there making sure everything was safe. I paid him something, but certainly not his full rate. And it was a big adventure. The actors didn’t get paid anything; they did it for the pictures.

Grayson: How would you say that project helped you improve? Maybe tuning up your autopilot for when the rest of your brain power is consumed by working on set?
Andrew: Yeah and that autopilot thing, that’s what I’m trying to work towards. An effortless flow. And it’s a life’s work. You achieve it momentarily and then extraneous circumstances will get in the way. But once you know what that feels like, it’s definitely something to aspire to or conspire to make happen.

Note: We’ve partnered with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops to interview several of their instructors for upcoming workshops that we find interesting. If you want to join Andrew in Santa Fe for “The Fashion Portrait” go (here).