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.email@example.com
Anonymous Art Buyer: I nominate Eli Meir Kaplan because we love his editorial style of shooting. And from a producers standpoint, he is so easy to work with, gets along great and totally connects with our art directors, clients love him, and he can make something out of nothing.
How many years have you been in business?
I’ve been in business for six years.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I studied photography at the International Center of Photography and the University of Texas at Austin. Of course I’ve grown a lot since then, but those courses and teachers like Donna DeCesare and Eli Reed helped me discover my vision and produce strong work.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
I started out as a documentary photographer. I was blown away when I saw Bruce Davidson’s East 100th Street. Through different experiences in life I had been really drawn to meeting people who came from different backgrounds than myself. I was already interested in photography. When I stumbled on East 100th Street at The Strand in NYC, I was like “Wow, this is what I want to do.”
Then I took a documentary course with Andre Lambertson at the International Center of Photography and he gave me the courage to pursue this field.
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 one of the best motivators for me has been going to portfolio reviews and getting feedback that helps me further refine the focus of my work. From those reviews I’ve seen what people respond to and what they don’t.
I talk to people, I read, I keep a long list of projects that I’d like to do, I look at a lot of photography, go to museums, and I shoot as much as I can.
I’ve also found that some of my best shoots have been situations that I was fairly uncomfortable in.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
If that happens, it’s extremely rare. I really love to collaborate and create images that are my interpretation of what an art director, creative director, or photo editor has described. That being said, not all work ends up going in my portfolio.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I meet in person often, I send eblasts and printed mailers, enter contests, I’m on Behance, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, portals, Wonderful Machine, and in Workbook. I also work on larger personal projects that I often try to circulate on blogs.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
It doesn’t work. I’ve certainly tried it and haven’t been successful. That being said, as a communicator, I’m making an attempt to create work that connects with my audience.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Yes, I do test shoots, photograph portraits and short projects, and I work on longer term projects. I’m currently photographing an ongoing portrait series of Washington, DC soul musicians, called Soul51.
How often are you shooting new work?
I shoot for myself as often as I can between client work. It usually ends up being a few times a month.
Eli Meir Kaplan is a commercial and editorial photographer in Washington, DC. He became interested in visual media when his parents brought home an early black and white video camera. Always passionate about storytelling and beautiful images, Eli found that his purpose as a photographer was to capture genuine and intimate moments from the human experience.
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.