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.firstname.lastname@example.org
Anonymous Art Buyer: I nominate Jonathan Hanson as an established Baltimore portrait and music photographer for this column. He is always keeping it fresh by capturing the essence of the real people and urban culture- the charm- of Charm City. All the while, his images still show glimpses of universal human spirit in the subjects and polish of his portraits.
How many years have you been in business?
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I’m mostly self-taught. I feel fortunate photography is an intuitive process for me. I’ve learned the most through trusting my gut, knowing when to listen to others and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. Facing new challenges is where the real learning takes place for me, that conflict gives life to my work.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
I took a trip to Amsterdam with two close friends around the same time I first became interested in photography. A few days into the trip, we were sitting in the courtyard of a café when I noticed a sunflower craning in the warm evening light. I walked over, carefully composed a photo, and as I hit the shutter, a gust of wind blew the sunflower out of frame. I cursed the wind and shot another frame. A few weeks later when I was looking through the film, my first major lesson in photography was staring back at me. The photo where the wind blew the sunflower was far better than what I had composed. I realized there is a crossroads where preparation, chance and being in the right place at the right time come together to create something special. I’ve been obsessed since.
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 think it’s really important to live in a community that inspires.
Baltimore has been the backbone of my work since moving here six years ago. The creative energy and abundance of eclectic subcultures offer a constant stream of original work I draw inspiration from.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
I tend to get a lot of creative freedom so if issues arise it’s usually with very restrictive editorial contracts that are a fight to get amended or can’t be amended at all. In these instances, I feel held back because the terms are meant to only benefit the hiring company and deny the photographer the opportunity to earn future income.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I’ve had the most success showing a printed portfolio during meetings with creatives. The prints give the presentation life and dimension while encouraging people to linger over the work. Because of the sheer volume of photos online and the speediness we navigate through them, giving someone a print to hold creates a connection to the work that a digital screen can’t offer. I recently shot a series of projects for Johns Hopkins that were the result of passionately discussing my work over coffee and a stack of prints.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
A couple of years ago, I met with an art buyer and I brought my freshly printed book full of new work. She quickly pointed out a few images that honestly did not hold up against the others. On the train ride back, I thought about those images and why I made them. I made them to cater to what I thought a buyer wanted to see.
The personal connection needs to be present in the work to take on an authentic, original voice that will inspire people to hire you. This is a business only the passionate and driven can survive. You have to believe in what you do… otherwise, what’s the point?
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Personal projects are the foundation of my work. I’m currently shooting a street portrait series (These City Streets), a portrait series exploring androgyne and I just wrapped up a music video with musician, Al Rogers Jr. I’ve learned more through personal projects than I would through a formal education in photography. More important, each project is a way to reflect personally and question the way I see the world.
How often are you shooting new work?
I’m shooting new work every week either personal or commissioned.
Jonathan Hanson is a Baltimore based editorial and advertising photographer. Select clients include Adidas, Bank of America, Animal Planet, Der Spiegel ,Ebony Magazine, Essence, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and The Wall Street Journal.
Music, color and culture inspire much of his work. He credits early street photography for seducing him into being a photographer.
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.