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 Tania Quintanilla. Her style is very classic beauty. She has an excellent command of studio lighting and impeccable retouching skills. On set, she is fun but also very focused, she’s a great leader and she knows what she wants and how to get there. In my opinion, she is the best fashion photographer in central Texas and I feel her career is about to take off in other markets in a big way.
How many years have you been in business?
My Austin studio opened in 2005, but I’ve been doing photography work since the mid 90’s.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
A little of both: I started photographing my friends in makeshift fashion shoots in high school, later one of my teachers encouraged me to go to Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. I picked up a lot of technical skill at Brooks. When I was there digital SLR’s were just coming out, and they were still teaching us on large format film cameras and darkrooms. It was a really wonderful experience. I took some underwater classes where we would scuba dive near the Catalina islands, and every time you went under with all of your gear you could only shoot 36 frames max. It really taught you to slow down. Back then, instead of experimenting with Photoshop, students would mess around with high sensitive film and cross-processing. I would have to wait at least a week to get the results back from the lab. It’s funny to think that was only 15 years ago.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
My early years were heavily influenced by MTV, Vogue magazine, and pop culture generally. My family moved to the U.S. from Monterrey Mexico in the mid 80’s. Whitney Houston and my mom were the center of my fashion universe. Later, my high school photography teacher, Mr. McNichols, showed me how I might make a living from something I seemed good at and enjoyed doing. He was the one who really pushed me to go to photography school.
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 view my work as a team sport. I’m easily inspired and aim to be a great collaborator. I surround myself with talented people and we all bring our own experiences and ideas to the game. My job is to collect ideas and stay flexible; I want to be a conduit for the group energy. There are a lot of trends that are hard to appreciate at first– I stay open-minded. Once we put the shot together, if its not rubbing me the right way I can’t ignore it. When it’s right, it feels really right. Like in your guts right. In the end, staying true to myself is where my talents are tested. I get to bring it all home, bring it all together, and that’s the best part.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
Sometimes. But coming from a fashion background, having too many people with too many opinions is part of the job description. So I’m used to it. Everyone wants that client with a money tree and a vivid imagination. That’s fun! But I can also enjoy the challenge of a small budget and a big idea. I also like to have really clear communication with my clients from the beginning. I try and always get on the same page way before the shooting starts.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I shoot a lot of fashion and beauty editorials. That’s my main outlet. In the last couple of months I have started working with a new magazine in Austin. The art director has really let me shape the direction of its fashion section, so I get to experiment with some new ideas that have been calling to me for a while. Of course, I also send out mailers, and work at keeping my book, website, and social media up to date.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
You’ll never be better at being someone else than you are at being yourself. Shoot who you are, discover and use your voice. When you tap into that inner voice, people naturally want to hear it.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
I work out a lot of my creative angst in my fashion editorial work and with my hair clients. And I love to shoot more abstract work, so I carry a small camera around wherever I go. I’m just fascinated with the human face. I paint too, and it’s always portraits. I can’t get away from portraits. I love retouching my own work. I get really into it. When I shoot for my hair clients, I have to pay such close attention to each strand, it’s like sculpting the image after its been captured.
How often are you shooting new work?
I’m either shooting or working on a photo project in some capacity every day. One of my favorite photography teachers, Ralph Clevenger, once told me after a holiday break from school, “If you’re not shooting or thinking about shooting every day then you’re in the wrong place.” There’s so much work that goes into each shoot, and I love to be a part of every step if I can. I never really stop being a photographer. Even if I had to walk around with my eyes closed I would still be dreaming up something to shoot.
Tania Quintanilla, fashion/advertising photographer and artist, born in Monterrey, Mexico, and now based in Austin, Texas.
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.
Catch Suzanne presenting with Kat Dalager for Market Right 2014 in NYC on Wednesday, October 29th http://yodelist.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/were-proud-to-announce-market-right-2014