I love working with Clay McBride, because it’s fast, he gets it done. If a light needs to be moved he grabs it himself, he’s pleasant to the people he works with hes nice of course he takes great pictures or he wouldn’t be here. Once I find a good thing I kind of stick with it. They’re always trying to get me to work with different people at every level and I’m like if somethings not broke we don’t got to reinvent the wheel here. I love Clays pictures, he’s take a lot of great shots for me throughout the years album covers, magazines and other sorts of stuff, he’s just a pleasant person to be around. I consider him a friend and we work well together.
When I first saw Massimo Gammacurta’s Lollipop project I knew he had a hit on his hands. 2 years later I wanted to know how a great personal project translates into paying jobs.
APE: Ok, take me back to the beginning. When did you create the lollipop project and what was the process for creating and photographing them?
Massimo: Two years ago I had this idea about making some lollipops shaped like fashion logos. I was intrigued by the possibility of “eating fashion”. When you eat food it goes into your blood, into your system and I felt that it would have been intriguing to make an edible Gucci or a Chanel lollipop. Also, the other idea was about oral fixation, “suck fashion” or it could have easily been…”fashion sucks”. Once I had the idea, then I had to deal with the process of making it. I had to learn how to make hardball candy from scratch and also how to make the molds. It wasn’t easy at all but I felt like I had to do it myself.
Can you tell me more about the process for making the candy and molds? You don’t have to give me any secrets.
I never made hard candy and it is a very volatile media. I had to heat the sugar at 300 degrees and it becomes as hot as lava, is very dangerous and it dries very fast. What makes this pieces unique is the fact that are “sloppy”. All the details work that happens after the base mold is done is what makes them interesting. I played with humidity, double dipping splashing it and ever chill blasting this pieces so they can crack internally. Believe it or not the hardest thing to do was to carry them into the studio. They are lollipop size and they are extremely fragile and i lost many just by carrying them into the studio.
What did you think would happen once you started promoting the project?
I didn’t promote it at all. I just uploaded on my site and I forgot about it for like 2 or 3 days,
Then what happened?
Someone must have seen the images on my site and started tweeting and blogging about them. I woke up one morning and I had 5000 entries on my website in one night and I couldn’t understand why. So I googled my name and the lollipops were all over the internet. Basically it started a chain reaction and I was all over the web.
Tell me about the brands you used, there was some negative reaction at first wasn’t there?
Actually the 1st email I got about this was from a store in Tokyo that wanted to order 5000 lollipops, they wanted to sell them for 12 dollars a piece. Also, I had a lot of legal firms from all over the world checking my site out but nothing really happened apart from a letter from a big fashion group that advised me to stop using their logo. We later talked to them and once I explained that it wasn’t my intention to mass produce these candies and they stop bothering me.
Tell me about the book. How did that come about and what was the result of that?
I really loved the 4 original lollipops I made and I thought it would have been cool if I could make a lollipop book of all the logos I liked. It took me a year but in the end I made and shot 50 pieces and started to send it to publishing houses until I found one (BIS publishing) that gave me a book deal and printed my book.
Now, tell me about the payoff, what jobs came because of it?
The Lolli-Pop project made a lot of noise on the internet and helped me tremendously in promoting my photography business. I shot a candy number story for Wired Magazine, started to shoot major catalogues and editorials and recently I just shot a campaign in which I used all my fine arts techniques and ideas in a commercial shoot.
Was’t there a point when you wondered if it would just make noise on the internet and not result in any paying jobs? How long was it between when you first created the project and the jobs came in because of it?
Yes it took more than a year. I think that many people thought that these were either photoshop or CGI generated. Also some were under the impression that i bought it somewhere and asked where to find them or even thought i was some kind of candy factory producing these myself. It became hysterical and frustrating at the same time. I think when Wired commissioned me the candy numbers is when people started to take notice. After that i would go into meetings with my books and a lot of people in the business knew about the “fashion lollipops”.
And finally I understand Chanel just bought some prints, but wasn’t a lawsuit a possibility at one point?
Yes, but once we explained to them that these were not mass produced pieces but art, they stopped. I’ve already sold a few prints through my gallery in Paris (http://www.visionairsgallery.com), but when Chanel approached me about a month ago to buy 2 prints for their permanent art collection I felt for the first time that this idea had come full circle and the originality of the concept had finally paid off.
One of the great things about being on panels with art buyers and other creatives is the interesting things you learn from them. On this last panel for APA LA called “Why We Hire You” I kept some notes to share what I found out. I was on the panel with Jigisha Bouverat the Director of Art Production at TBWA\CHIAT\DAY, Los Angeles and Mike Kohlbecker the Associate Creative Director/Art Director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Los Angeles. Jigisha has been with the agency for 22 years and manages a team of Art Producers. Mike has worked on some major campaigns.
Here are the things that I thought were worth noting:
1. Before the event Jigisha told me they have been shooting a ton of campaigns in 2011. More this year than in the last year combined.
3. Several photographers asked the flash vs. html question for websites. Mike said I don’t care. Jigisha said I have no idea what you’re talking about.
4. Mike said he reads most of his email on his android phone and likes it when there’s a mobile version of a site to look at.
5. Mike said on the campaigns he works on, the photographers being considered all are qualified to shoot it, so it comes down to personality as the deciding factor.
6. Jigisha gave an emphatic yes when asked if she likes looking at personal work and said many times the personal work is what they hang on to from marketing material.
7. When asked where she finds new talent Jigisha she’s had good luck with portfolio reviews at the photography schools in LA.
8. Mike and Jigisha agreed that editorial is still a place where they find photographers who are established but haven’t shot advertising before.
9. Mike said he will describe the type of photography he wants for a concept or show moodboards and then Jigisha said she could name 10 photographers off the top of her head that fit any style he could come up with (i was tempted but didn’t test this).
10. Jigisha and her art producers keep internal google docs where they have photographers categorized. She saves links to things she likes to these documents.
11. the advice for the creative call from both of them was:
i. Don’t be the first to speak, gather clues about where this is going from the AD (e.g. it’s going to be bright and happy or it’s going to be dark and moody). If they’ve had other calls before yours you will hear clues on where things are headed.
ii. it’s all about your enthusiasm for the shoot.
iii. it’s easy to tell when you’re faking this.
iv. Mike admitted that sometimes the project has changed and he’s lost his enthusiasm so it’s good if you are enthusiastic about it.
v. Did I mention enthusiasm?
12. When asked if there was anything that happened on a shoot that made them not want to work with a photographer again Jigisha said there was a shoot where the photographer was bad mouthing the Art Director but didn’t know his radio was on. Mike acknowledged he could be a pain in the ass on shoots asking for more coverage of things on the fly.
13. Questions about the triple bid, budgets, pricing and negotiation had Jigisha explaining the Art Producers job is to make sure they get a fair market price for their clients.
This Wednesday, May 18th I will be on a panel with an Art Producer, Creative Director and Art Director at the offices of TBWA-Chiat-Day in LA to help answer the question “why we hire you.” The event is being put on by the LA chapter of APA and Andrea Stern of SternRep. More information can be found (here). I’m excited to talk about the way in which I used to choose and hire photographers and also impart knowledge gained from 3 years of blogging about the subject. The rest of the panel is strictly advertising folks (Jigisha Bouverat, Director of Art Productions TBWA\Chiat\Day; Mike Kohlbecker, Associate Creative Director/Art Director, Crispin Porter + Bogusky; Jake Kahana, Art Director, 72 and Sunny), so it will be interesting to learn about their processes and report back what I find out.
I work with a local magazine to get into the best concerts in exchange for them using my images on their blog for free. My goal was to build my portfolio and market the pictures to the artists publicists in hopes of getting paid. I recently found out that one of the artist took some of my images off the mag’s site and placed it on their website and Facebook. Credit was given but no money. They have since taken the images down from their sites.
I recently photographed a well known artist and used the fact that I was working with the mag to get a photo pass. The publicist is now wanting the link to the pictures on the mag’s site. I have final edit of what I send into the mag and was thinking of keeping the best images for myself and my marketing to publicists and record companies. My question is: Do you think that would rub the publicist the wrong way? (Sending two links 1) the mag link with decent images 2) a protected link with the best images that are watermarked and are only accessible with payment) I am new to concert photography and don’t know how this works. Is it a common practice for publicists to use the photographers images for free?
I appreciate any help you can give. I want to be smart about protecting my work and keeping my music contacts- because I do not have that many.
I thought I’d ask music photographer Jacob Blickenstaff about this because he’s written some good articles about the music photography business over on the photoletariat (here):
There are a lot of issues in here. But to answer the first question directly, I would assume if the publicist wants to see images that they potentially need them for something, usually an image request from another publication. Just because they want to see them doesn’t mean you have any obligation to provide anything for free. As long as you shot for the website and followed through by sending them, you have fulfilled your obligations. The idea of ‘holding back’ the best images may be a mistake, you should always represent yourself publicly with your best work. If you are sending the publication mediocre images, that might hurt your relationship with them. But if you have alternates or do any interesting work backstage or behind the scenes, I think it is fine to hold on to those if it is not needed for the assignment.
Publicists will frequently ask for free images, they work for the bands and labels and their only concern is exposure for their clients, the priority is not making sure the photographer gets paid. The photographer can frequently be put in a tough spot where the publicist needs an image to send to a publication, the publication expects it for free, and then the photographer is pressured to give away the photo to keep everyone happy. This isn’t a great business model for the photographer. The best thing to do in general is to reach out and show the work to the publicist and labels and artists but be clear that if they need use of the images for publicity then there will be a licensing fee involved. Publicists, while good contacts and gatekeepers to the artists, don’t have independent budgets to pay photographers, it’s not their call.
As a general note, I’m not sure who pays for concert photography anymore. There are very few paid assignments for shooting concerts, and the market for current music stock is so saturated that a photographer is lucky to get something picked up for a fee here and there. Getting the photo pass is easy, getting paid anything afterward is hard.
I received an e-promo for a photography networking event hosted by nycfotoworks.com October 28-29th.
The event allows you to pay for “packages” of meetings with some pretty big names.
7 editors $399
6 agents $399
5 art buyers $499
14 editors $699
12 agents $699
14 editors, 5 agents $899
14 editors, 5 art buyers $999
What’s your take on this? Do photographers have to pay to get their book in front of someone now?
First off, let me say something about portfolio reviews. They should always be divided up into critical reviews and showing your work to potential client reviews. Critical reviews, in my opinion, are invaluable. To sit down with someone who hires photographers and get feedback about your work and presentation can really get you moving in the right direction. The more the better as well. You’re bound to get a few duds in there and if you can handle filtering through all the information thrown at you why not get as much as possible.
This NYCFoto Works event is billed as the latter. They claim:
First, photographers must apply and be accepted in order to attend the event. Because of this, reviewers know us as a source of professional talent and come to the event looking for photographers to work with.
Who knows how stringent they are on this. If there are slots to fill and bodies to fill them the level may not be as high as reviewers would like.
The list of reviewers is seriously impressive, to be honest, I wouldn’t mind meeting a couple of those people myself (list_of_attendees). So, what about this idea of paying to show your book? I don’t know about FotoWorks, but the reviews I’ve done in the past were unpaid, so it’s not like you are paying the photo editor, art buyer, gallerist, in some kind of weird kickback way to look at your book and talk to you for 20 minutes. If you already pay to create and ship your book, create and mail promos, then what’s wrong with paying the people who put this event together? I know doing this kind of event is hard work for the reviewers and for the most part they are all there to look at work and meet people. Why not support an organization like this that seeks to make it easier for people hiring photographers to meet a bunch of them at once.
If you’ve got a nice body of work, you’re getting some traction and were planning on making the rounds in NYC, $1000 gets you 14 editors and 5 art buyers in 2 days. Is that a bad deal?
Must be that time of the year/decade, because I can smell the schadenfreude in the air.
Mayhill Fowler is a Huffington Post blogger who claims to have written the “one big story out of the last presidential election to live on.” She understands that the business model for HuffPo is to “provide a platform for 6,000 opinionators to hold forth,” but you see, she did a piece of real journalism and would now like to be paid.
When Mayhill contacted Arianna and founding editor, Roy about making such a deal and was rebuffed she reproduced the email exchange on her blog and proceeded to wax on about citizen journalists getting preyed upon by millionairesses touting new-journalism puffery. Here’s your weekly dose of schadenfreude:
The dignity pay confers upon work. I think this about sums it up. So let this be a warning to you, citizen journalism enthusiasts. In the end, what you are doing really is enhancing somebody else’s bottom line. And think for a minute what it means when you throw yourself into working for a place, as I did, without first walking into the company’s human resources office to sign some paperwork that legally binds you and your employee to a relationship.
There are a couple large membership controlled groups of Art Buyers and Photo Editors that I have access to, so I thought I’d do a small survey to see if that might be a good way to find some answers to questions photographers have. I purposely made the survey short (less than 1 min. to complete) to get the most people participating.
I hope you find this useful. Click to see them larger.
Other (respondents can list a source used that is not on the list of answers) :
The latest version of the Slideluck Potshow website (here) has the work of 2000 artists from 100 shows in over 40 cities around the world.
Seems like it will be a great resource for people who hire photographers for a living to find new talent and get inspired. Direct links to all the photographers websites makes it super handy if you’re in a hurry.
Look I have a question that might be interesting for the other photographers following your blog.
The other day I was on on 6th ave when I saw smoke coming out of a building. I pointed my G9 to it to zoom in to see better, and BOOM, big explosion which lasted about 2 seconds. I got one shot of the actual explosion.
I immediately phoned a contact at the NYTimes and they said they wanted the low res for the website + the high res for the newspaper the next day. Because I had been talking with them for a while, we agreed on me giving them exclusivity on the pics and them signing me in as freelance. This was all done 15 minutes after the explosion.
In the following minutes, many newspapers and TV stations who had seen my picture on the NYTimes website starting going through every media they could (even my husband’s facebook) to reach me to buy it. Of course I had signed with the NYTimes so I went along the lines of the exclusivity agreement.
Should I have reacted differently?
What do you do in this kind of situation when time is precious? Who do you call? Can you impose your price and non exclusivity on the NYTimes and others?
People told me I could have made an awful lot of money with this and it’s not that I regret but I’d like to know what the reality is.
I emailed David Burnett to gather his thoughts on the situation and here’s what he had to say:
There was certainly a time when New York, with its many daily papers, and many more magazines, would have offered the enterprising photographer a reasonable sum for their photographs. As competition narrowed, so did the chances of having your picture bid up by interested parties, and reflecting a greater value for the picture.
There certainly is a chance that some major (i.e. catastrophic) event could fetch something extraordinary but these days the big money seems to be paid for celebrity coverage far more than what was once considered “news.” That said, it’s generally not a good idea to simply make a deal with one publication, as you thereby immediately close off other opportunities. The excitement and panache of that “page one on the Times” picture wears off quickly, if you have sacrificed future earning power of the photo for an exclusive deal as you mentioned. In a city like New York you should expect to be paid more for the exclusivity, and if that additional money isn’t forthcoming, there is nothing to be gained by giving up those rights.
The one exception to that would be an iron-clad deal which enabled you to let the first company syndicate the work on your behalf, and that your share of secondary sales would be at minimum, 50% of the gross of each sale (not the “net.”) Truthfully, if you are not experienced in these matters you’re better off making a deal with–-my real first recommendation–-an agency which would syndicate the work. There are fewer agencies than ever, and the overall atmosphere is far less fulsome that it once was for ‘scoops’ but for the right picture at the right time, money will come in. And you need someone to guide you, or take over that work. Again, 50% or so from the gross would be reasonable. Both sides, the agency and the photographer are in the deal together at 50-50 and if there is money to be made both will have the incentive to push the work. Once other outlets see something published in a major publication (i.e. the NY Times) there would naturally be a rush to get that image for themselves.
I have been a founder/partner for 34 years with Contact Press Images, and we often take special cases like this-–scoops which essentially come in off the street. The advantage to an agency (Contact, Polaris, Redux… etc.) is that their main business is in syndicating material, and you would do better than merely getting a small check and having your material tied up. TO be sure, most pictures do not fall into the category of ‘scoop’ but when you find one, do not just give it away.
The first installment to the excellent What Is England? project curated by Stuart Pilkington is up (here). The project is the sister of the 50 states project (here) both are intended to paint a picture of a country and its states through photography. Both are excellent sources for finding photographers to hire and represent the kinds of things the internet is awesome for.
I had several conversations last week with photographers about perception. The people doing the hiring arrive at an initial decision about you by factoring in something they think will happen based on their perception of you. I have no real insights into creating a perception about yourself other than there are many factors that go into it and the traditional marketing methods exist not only to reach potential clients but also to build the perception of who you are. The reason I’m bringing it up is because 3 examples of perception were brought to my attention suddenly and I wanted to share them.
Seth Goodin has a new name and forward to an old book of his now called, “All Marketers Are Liars Tell Stories” (here). In the new forward he states:
“You believe things that aren’t true.
Let me say that a different way: many things that are true are true because you believe them.
[…]We believe what we want to believe, and once we believe something, it becomes a self-fulfilling truth.”
Last month a bombshell dropped in the wine world (here) when taste maker (and vineyard maker or breaker) Robert Parker blind tasted a group of wines he had previously ranked and said the lowest ranked wine was his favorite (before finding out what it was).
Jonah Lehrer, a contributing editor at Wired and author of “How We Decide” weighs in on this remarkable turn of events:
When we take a sip of wine, we don’t taste the wine first, and the cheapness or redness second. We taste everything all at once, in a single gulp of thiswineisred, or thiswineisexpensive. As a result, the wine “experts” sincerely believed that the white wine was red, or that Lafite was actually Troplong-Mondot. Such mistakes are inevitable: Our brain has been designed to believe itself, wired so that our prejudices feel like facts, our opinions indistinguishable from the actual sensation. If we think a wine is cheap, it will taste cheap. And if we think we are tasting a grand cru, then we will taste a grand cru.
The Wall Street Journal takes the story further (here) with this article on the wine-rating system:
[Mr. Hodgson] obtained the complete records of wine competitions, listing not only which wines won medals, but which did not. Mr. Hodgson told me that when he started playing with the data he “noticed that the probability that a wine which won a gold medal in one competition would win nothing in others was high.” The medals seemed to be spread around at random, with each wine having about a 9% chance of winning a gold medal in any given competition.
[…]The distribution of medals, he wrote, “mirrors what might be expected should a gold medal be awarded by chance alone.”
Finally, Lise Varrette sent me this old story from the Washington Post:
On a cold January morning in a Washington, DC Metro Station, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time about two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
[…]In the end, only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money, but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32. When he finished playing, no one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell had sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
[…]It’s an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?
We’ll go with Kant, because he’s obviously right, and because he brings us pretty directly to Joshua Bell, sitting there in a hotel restaurant, picking at his breakfast, wryly trying to figure out what the hell had just happened back there at the Metro.
“Let’s say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It’s a $5 million painting. And it’s one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: ‘Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.'”
Leithauser’s point is that we shouldn’t be too ready to label the Metro passersby unsophisticated boobs. Context matters.
Kant said the same thing. He took beauty seriously: In his Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, Kant argued that one’s ability to appreciate beauty is related to one’s ability to make moral judgments. But there was a caveat. Paul Guyer of the University of Pennsylvania, one of America’s most prominent Kantian scholars, says the 18th-century German philosopher felt that to properly appreciate beauty, the viewing conditions must be optimal.
I received this note from a photographer whose work I enjoy and who you might say is a few years past emerging:
Work has still been pretty good this year. it’s strange because it’s slowing down, but the jobs I’ve been getting this year and the last 2 are bigger paying ones so that means the luxury of more days off to work on strategizing my business. I’m getting ready to go to press with an elaborate promo I had designed that will probably be mailed out at the beginning of the year. I went back and forth about the fear of whether or not promos were a waste and just end up in the recycling bin, but I decided to go ahead and do it. Your interview with Selina confirmed my intuitions about promotion and the business so thanks for that.
I went out to New York twice this year to meet with reps and get a feel for their interest in my work. I haven’t had a rep for the last few years and it gets to be too much to handle at times, but all in all it’s worked out fine. I’m finding now, especially since I’m also doing more fashion and would like to pursue fashion advertising, that it would help to have a rep that has a good foothold in the fashion world and the ad work as well. I have my heart set on going with a bigger established agency so I’m holding out until I get with one of my top 3 choices. What the hell, live the dream, right?
I wanted to let you know since you asked that I have directly gotten work as a result of PDN 30. The biggest job was an ad campaign for a [redacted] company at the beginning of this year. The ad agency found me because of PDN. So yes it was great publicity. My book was called in for ad jobs from art buyers I never met.
It was very interesting to hit the pavement in New York in May of this year, for the first time since 2007 (i know, i know). I was there for 2 weeks showing my book to reps, art buyers, and a few magazines. I couldn’t believe how difficult it had become to get someone on the phone or get an email reply. I’ve been showing my book in NY 1 – 2 times a year since 2000, and on the last trip, I still had a rep calling to make those appointments, but this time around, even the people that I usually would meet with in the past were seldom returning my emails. It was depressing and is what everyone talks about, no one has time to do their job and answer phones and meet with people.
In August I decided to try a different strategy, referrals. I had producers, art directors and photo editors contact people that I wanted to meet and make an introduction. It helped dramatically, People need some sort of filter and I don’t blame them. I get emails from assistants all the time and chances are I’m not going to hire them unless someone I know and trust can vouch for that person being a good assistant.
I remember my first trip to NY in the fall of 2000. I was halfway through school, wide eyed and optimistic, sitting in Starbucks on my phone, cold calling and people were answering their phones saying “come on over.” I scored 35 meetings that week including my first editorial gig.
Because the market is changing and there seems to be more photographers out there, things may be more difficult now than they were years ago, but (I’m sure this has been said on your blog) this will just force people to be more creative to figure out how to rise above the rest. There’s no formula for this one, it’s going to be a different path for each photographer.
Heather Morton Art buyer blog seems to be in full swing again and she’s talking about Behind-the-Scenes-Videos today (here). Basically an Art Buyer was asking the rest of the art buyer group if they all liked it when photographers had behind the scenes videos and they all were enthusiastically endorsing them as a great way to gain a little insight into the personality of the photographer and how they behave on set. It seems like we’ve come a long way in this regard because I remember sitting on a panel in San Francisco, not long after I quit photo editing, endorsing all the great tools available to photographers and talking about all the other parts of a website that I used to check out when making a hiring decision and next to me was the photo editor from a locally based National Magazine who not only didn’t look at photographers websites but didn’t read any marketing emails. On the other side of me was a locally based Art Buyer for a National Advertising Company who regarded anything but the portfolio section of the website as a complete waste of time. Needless to say that was a huge reality check for me as I realize many people don’t view the web with as much enthusiasm as I do. It’s good to see thats changed a bit.
Now, I’m sure there’s a group of you who will see this as a sign the apocalypse has arrived, but I do think there are tasteful ways to do behind the scenes videos and subtly suggest you have the skills and temperament to handle big productions. Just don’t be the person who’s better on camera than behind the camera.
Of course it’s always better if your client makes the video:
Miki Johnson who runs the Resolve blog had a nice theme running all week called “after staff” (here). She interviewed and gathered advise from people who’ve either moved on or been laid off from a staff job. As a former staffer myself I can tell you… well, I’m not a good example because I worked with freelance photographers before getting a staff job and couldn’t wait to become a freelancer again some day. One thing that I remember clearly tho is that after many years of having a deadline each and every month, as a freelancer or independent business person you have an unending list of things to get done and no deadlines. That can be somewhat crushing and paralyzing to deal with.
“All of my photographers would be successful without me, but hopefully I make things better– I’m a good collaborator, and I represent where they want to be going and the clients they hope to be in contact with.”
“I’d like to thank you for the Simon Norfolk article that you brought to our attention recently, and your thoughts on him saying that all of us will soon become amateur photographers with other professions. This really hit home for me. In 2007, I graduated from a photography school with very high hopes. The following year, I moved to New York City, and I worked as a photo assistant sparingly, because the pros there weren’t getting enough new work to hire me as often or their current assistants (which they had for years), weren’t moving on to work on their own like they typically would. Towards, the end of ’08, after running out of money and feeling defeated, I moved back home. Earlier this year, I enrolled in school to get a Masters degree in Accountancy.”
“As disappointed as I am, I feel this is the only way to go to have any kind of success for myself in the future. I hope that I can go back to photography in the future once I get my finances together. I understand how the economy may not affect the industry’s best photographers, and they probably won’t have to take such drastic actions, but it’s just really unfortunate that a young photographer such as myself, and my 12 other classmates from photo school, never really had a chance to establish ourselves in the field that we truly love.”
The industry is shrinking right now so getting in on the ground floor has got to be nearly impossible. The pros fight over the scraps now. Is there a path anymore where you can grow and make mistakes and still make a living? I know there’s a strong future for photography but it’s not going to happen until the economy starts growing again. My advice isn’t necessarily to go find a different profession but to find a way to work on your craft and be poised for the comeback. Easy for me to say…
I gave a lecture last week with Heidi Volpe (former Art Director of the LA Times Magazine) at Art Center in Los Angeles and thought I would highlight a couple things we talked about here for anyone who couldn’t attend and of course to open it up if anyone wants to chime in. The best part for me was meeting so many people who are enthusiastic about shooting editorial photography and also the time Heidi and I spent working on the lecture, comparing notes and just sitting around talking about editorial photography. We both love working with photographers and the process of putting a shoot together and seeing the work published on the newsstand. Preparing for a lecture is a good exercise for anybody working in this field because it forces you to analyze the way that you do things and the process behind your actions and I can certainly see how it would it be beneficial working with a staff and in meetings with editors to have it well thought out.
The first part of the talk we got down into the nuts and bolts of editorial photography and magazine making and I’m not going to rehash the whole thing for you here except for a couple important points that play into the second part of what we talked about.
The office politics and relationship between the DOP, PE, AD, CD, EIC, Publisher and Owner has an effect on the way that photographers are hired and how decisions about photography are made within a magazine. It’s important to realize that there are forces at work inside the publication that can have a weird influence on the photography.
In the very early stages of picking photographers it has as much to do with pacing out the magazine, creating visual variety, making powerful entry points, tackling old stories in new ways, deciding where to spend big and where to save as it does with matching the right photographer and subject.
Everyone keeps a list of photographers that they work off for these decisions and I’ve always organized mine with the front page for every photographer I’ve ever worked with (several columns) then the next page for photographers I want to work with and then several more pages of photographers organized into different categories. Many of these category groups come about because I’m forced to make a list in a category I’m unfamiliar with (cars or beauty) and after spending several days working on a list I want to hang onto it for the next time I need someone in that category. After the lecture I got to peek at another PE’s list who was at the event and saw all the familiar chaos of a list in flux with boxes, stars and highlights and notes running down the side. It’s always a mess till you retype it again.
After getting through the nuts and bolts we settled into a topic I’d like to refine even more if we ever give the talk again that we called “defining your personal style.” Essentially we wanted to get at the things we pickup on in a photographers work that convince us they are the right person for that particular job. It usually boils down to style and/or expertise in the subject matter and of course there are many other little factors that play into pulling the trigger on someone but we wanted to try and connect the dots with the work in the book and the what was published in the magazine. Heidi and I got a good laugh out of a few of our choices because it looks like any monkey could preform the job when someone who shoots swimmers is hired to shoot swimmers. I’m not afraid to poke fun at my profession and always tell photographers to not be surprised when their first assignment is the most obvious choice.
At the lecture Heidi and I whipped though 30 photographers and I think that was a mistake as we really just glossed over them and made it all seem so superficial and next time I would not only drill down into a couple of photographer’s styles (famous and not) but then pick a specific genre and discuss who is on our list for that and why. It really is a good exercise to look at a photographers work and define their style because you find yourself coming up with all kinds of strange words like integrity, crisp, finished and I’m sure it’s different for everyone who does it. So, for someone like Jake Chessum who is a personal favorite of mine I put him at the top of the list for portraits that are unguarded moments. The I would also define him in my head as easy to work with, subjects enjoy him, shoots celebrities, lives in NYC, shoots film, cover, feature, color and B/W. Anyway you get the idea on how it works and we provided 30 examples of photographers and the shoots we gave them. Heidi gleefully pointed out that I had nothing but A-listers in my examples which is hardly a good teaching example, but I had only scanned the A-list tears for my portfolio so that’s what I had to work with. If there’s another chance to do this lecture again I would certainly include more up and comers and unknown photographers.
Heidi had David Drebin as one of her examples and he’s someone who was always on my list of people I would like to work with but never have. His style can be described as shooting lifestyle, caught moments with a produced and or finished look to them (lighting, background, props, hair, makeup, set, casting all feel meticulously done). I would also put him in the category of people who shoot rich and dense color, interiors, lit, lives in NYC, shoots women well. Again you can see where this is going and the kinds of terms we use to describe and categorize photographers.
So, that’s just a quick overview of what we covered and there were a lot of good questions from the audience that we answered as well. Heidi and I really enjoyed the event and it was cool of Everard and Dennis to bring me out for it.
There’s so much great photography out there and sure, if the budget and pages are unlimited and you only answer to god then you can go about your merry way picking from the vast variety of photographers but, under a given set of circumstances where you want a specific genre and someone versed in a particular subject matter and then you throw in any number of limitations with budget, pages, location, time frame and then add to the mix the tastes of your editor, creative director, publisher, owner and the reader… well, the group to choose from can become very small. Sometimes there’s only one who fits the bill.
For many photographers it’s about finding that group of photo editors and art buyers who love your work and enjoy working with you and know you’re a perfect match for the assignments they have to make.