The Art of the Personal Project: Billy Childress

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Billy Childress

This photographic series originated with my exploration of my grandmother’s siblings, a project that unfolded within the confines of the family homestead. Nestled on 8 acres in rural North Carolina, this ancestral compound was comprised of four houses where each sibling resided at the time.

My grandmother, a pivotal figure in my life, epitomized strength in a way that continues to resonate with me today. Spending countless formative years by her side, I absorbed a wealth of life lessons from her. Above all, her unwavering faith stood as the cornerstone of her existence. Together with my grandfather, they built their home behind the family church where she was raised—a place that now echoes with the memories of raising children of my own.

The path of her life took an unexpected turn when my grandfather sustained a gunshot wound to the head in his forties, leaving him blind and brain-dead. From that fateful day onward, my grandmother devoted herself to his care until his last breath. The love they shared and the grace she exhibited were immeasurable, a demonstration of the resilience that faith and family can inspire.

Following the loss of my grandfather, my grandmother drew strength not only from her unwavering faith but also from the familial bonds that surrounded her. She had a unique camaraderie with her siblings. Each one of them navigated their individual struggles with illnesses—ranging from cancer to dementia and the challenges of old age. With the loss of their significant others, they found solace and support in one another. Witnessing this interdependence among siblings underscored the profound importance of family, especially when faced with loss and sorrow.

Throughout this period, I was lured by the power of portraiture. A person’s face can reveal so much—capturing not just their present state but also glimpses of their past. This project compelled me to document them in the very homes they built and, on the land, where their shared history unfolded. The resulting portraits tell stories of resilience, familial bonds, and the enduring beauty of capturing moments in time.

To see more of this project, click here

Instagram

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 advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

Pricing & Negotiating: Lifestyle Images For An Athletic Brand

By Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Each month, we pick one of our recent estimates to write about in a Pricing & Negotiating article. Helping photographers build estimates is one of the primary functions of our producers. Redacting the names of the photographer and client allows us to share valuable and educational information that would otherwise be confidential.

Concept: Images of athletes wearing branded apparel playing a sport
Licensing: Unlimited use of up to 16 images in perpetuity
Photographer: Portraiture specialist
Client: Athletic brand

Summary

I recently helped a photographer build an estimate for an athletic brand. From the start, we knew there was a discrepancy between the client’s requested use and their intended use. They asked for unlimited use of 16 images in perpetuity. However, based on the concept and creative brief, it was very clear that the campaign had a shelf life of one year.

Fees

The photographer had an excellent working relationship with this client. We took this into consideration and decided to price their fee more in line with the value of their intended usage duration despite granting them their requested perpetual duration. I initially based the fee on $750/image for 16 images and added $3,000 as a creative fee for the photographer which totaled $15,000. We knew, based on our previous experiences with the client, that this number would be generally palatable.

Crew

We included an appropriate number of helping hands for the photographer in the budget. We would need a producer, who would travel in for the production, two production assistants, a digital tech, and two assistants, who were all hired at rates appropriate for this market. The multiple days for the first assistant and production assistants would cover their pre-production time leading up to the shoot day.

Styling

For this production, we’d be creating an athletic scenario with professional talent. In order to pull this off, we’d need a dream team of stylists to make everyone and everything look awesome. We included a hair/makeup stylist with their assistant for the shoot day to cover five talent. We also budgeted for appropriate shopping, shooting and wrap time for a wardrobe stylist along with their assistant. In total, we anticipated $2,500 in wardrobe to outfit all five subjects. Although we’d primarily be working with the materials at the location, we included a prop stylist to source supplemental items to enhance what we would find on site. We included a $1,500 budget for those items. We also included miscellaneous expenses to cover kit fees, mileage, and extra items related to sourcing the wardrobe and props.

Casting and Talent

In order to find the appropriate talent for the production we knew we would work with a local casting agent. We included their anticipated fee to coordinate both video and still submissions of professional talent, based on specific demographics provided by the client, who also happened to be athletes. The talent session fees were separated from their usage fees, and included appropriate rates for the market as discussed with our casting director.

We capped the usage for the talent at 3 years for two reasons. First, it was necessary to keep the budget in check. Second, many talent agents won’t accept perpetual usage terms. It’s not uncommon for there to be a difference between the usage granted by the photographer, and the more limited usage being granted for the talent in an effort to keep the bottom line reasonable. Oftentimes, however, this detail requires some explanation to clients who don’t understand the nuances of the photography industry.

Locations

We included five days for our location scout to help find the perfect spot. Our location scout would join us on both the tech/scout day and shoot day, where they would manage the relationship between our production and the property owners. This fee was initially appropriate to find an athletic facility that supported the creative brief.

Equipment

We included expenses for cameras, grip, and lighting, as well as a digital tech workstation and production supplies, such as coolers, tents, tables, walkies, etc., based on the going rates from a local equipment company.

Vehicles

While it was possible that the location might have a staging area, we didn’t want to risk it, so we included an RV to ensure we had air conditioning and a private styling area. We also included a van rental to help with picking up and returning equipment and/or personnel.

Meals

I based this on $75 per person.

Miscellaneous

We included a few thousand dollars to cover any unforeseen expenses that might arise, and to account for the insurance coverage the photographer would be providing.

Post Production

We included $500 for the photographer to do an initial rough edit for the client to review and then included $450/image for 16 images for the retouching.

Feedback

After reviewing our estimate, the client told us that they needed to get the bottom line closer to $100k, and we jumped on a call to discuss concessions they’d be willing to make in order to lower the bottom line. I learned they could lower the talent count from five to four, they’d be willing to provide just about all of the wardrobe, they could reduce the image count from 16 to 14, and they’d be willing to limit the usage duration (for both the images and talent) to one year instead of perpetual use.

However, we also found out that the client had one particular location in mind, which happened to come with a significant fee and would require some overtime for the crew to drive there and back in a single day. We made the appropriate revisions based on those notes, while tightening the screws on other items as well to get as close to $100k as we could, and submitted this estimate:

Results

The photographer was awarded the project.

Follow our Consultants @wonderful_at_work.

The Art of the Personal Project: Ellen Jantzen

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

 

Today’s featured artist:  Ellen Jantzen

The place of one’s birth greatly influences who they are but through moving, new landscapes await to reshape their very being.

Here I am blending photos from my years in the Midwest (Missouri and Illinois) with current photos I’ve taken while living in New Mexico. During these times of COVID- 19, travel is restricted so this gives me the opportunity of revisiting past photo shoots and creating new combinations, new work.

The landscape looks as if it were moving as though one was quickly driving past, but the clouds seem heavy and still. There is so much of life racing past us these days while our heads are in the clouds. Are we moving or remaining still as abstract land meets the real sky? We are reshaped by our circumstances. We become, in essence, a blending of all former homelands with the present.

To see more of this project, click here

Instagram

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 advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

Pricing & Negotiating: Event Photos For A Luxury Fashion Brand

By Andrew Souders, Wonderful Machine

Each month, we pick a recent estimate to write about in a Pricing & Negotiating article. Redacting the names of the photographer and client allows us to share valuable and educational information that would otherwise be confidential.

Concept: One-day stills shoot documenting a high-profile fashion event.
Licensing: Publicity and Collateral use of up to 50 images for 2 years.
Photographer: Documentary and Portraiture Specialist.
Client: High-End European Fashion Brand.

Summary

I recently helped a photographer build an estimate for a well-known European luxury fashion client. The creative brief entailed covering the brand’s event at a location in the southwestern U.S. The images needed to showcase the brand’s products and apparel in a runway show as well as other participants and guests in attendance. The intended use of the images would be primarily for internal Collateral needs, but also Publicity use, servicing the publications covering the event — including print and digital stories in a handful of editorial fashion/lifestyle publications, with a usage duration of 2 years.

We were informed by our client contact that airfare/transportation would be arranged for the photographer, but that we should budget for travel and scout day fees in the estimate. In addition, we were asked to provide up to 50 selects from the event, along with a request for rush delivery of up to 20 images on the same day of the shoot, with the remainder being finalized and delivered the following week.

We included a note that the client must handle airfare, car rental/local transportation, locations, and location coordination. Additionally, the client was responsible for providing the subjects to be photographed and any necessary subject/talent coordination, hair/makeup/wardrobe styling, meals, and any photo releases.

Fees

Typical corporate event coverage might go for around $2,500/day. But, given the prominence of the event and the client, we expected a higher level of expectation placed on the photographer and the photos would likely see wider use. Because of this, I placed the fee at $4,000 and felt this was a reasonable ask even for the narrow use.

Anticipating the need for brief air travel, we budgeted the estimate to include 2 travel days at $500 each. We might normally see a client anticipate a combined travel/scout day here, but in this scenario, they requested a dedicated tech/scout day at the venue so I included an additional $500 for it.

Crew

Since the event photography needs were relatively straightforward and wouldn’t require much in the way of lighting or other equipment management, the photographer was fine with excluding the need for any crew in this scenario.

Equipment

We included a $350 expense for the photographer to travel with his kit of cameras, lenses, and a digital workstation, knowing that he wanted to remain light and mobile during the event without the need to haul around too much equipment. We also included a TBD line item for the purchase of any hard drives/file storage anticipating the possibility of handing over a drive of selects to the client at the end of the shoot day.

Travel

The client informed us that they would cover the photographer’s airfare, baggage fees, and any necessary ground transportation for the trip to the venue. Beyond that, we chose to include $1,050 for 3 lodging stays near the venue, taking into consideration slightly higher rates during this time of year at the shoot location.

Miscellaneous

We decided to absorb the insurance costs for the shoot but included $150 for miscellaneous needs like expendables and supplies, or any parking, tolls, etc.

Post-Production

We included a first edit to allow the client to review and make selects from, bundling in a rush delivery fee for up to 20 same-day selects for $500. Additionally, we added $1,000 for the photographer to provide color correction and basic file cleanup for the images, as well as delivery of the remainder of the selects after the photographer returned home.

Results

The photographer was awarded the project, and reported back later to let us know that the shoot went great!

Follow our Consultants @wonderful_at_work.

The Daily Edit – Emily Sullivan: High Country News


High Country News

Photographer: Emily Sullivan
Photo Editor: Bear Guerra

Heidi: How has your experience as a backcountry guide informed your photography
career, were you an athlete first and then a photographer? No doubt being a
guide took to you some magical places.
Emily: I was a photographer first—I got my BFA at VCU Arts in Richmond, Virginia, where I
fostered a longstanding love of photography and film through large-scale installation
pieces. Much of my time in art school was spent creating imagery that integrated
sculpture into landscapes and vice-versa. I grew up as a city kid, but my passion for
chasing light and landscapes later inspired me to seek out hiking, backcountry skiing,
and other forms of wilderness travel. Working in the outdoor industry as a guide helped
me to develop hard skills that allow me to now travel deeper into the mountains and
other remote locations with my camera.

You’re originally from the South East, what drew you to the vastness and wilds of
Alaska and how long have you been there?
I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and lived there until I was 22 years old. In my teens, I
was drawn to Alaska with photography in mind—I wanted to experience and document
the unique landscapes that Alaska had to offer. I first came here in early 2010. I didn’t
know a single soul, but I wanted to learn more about the place and experience the land.
I spent the first nine summers guiding hikes and working seasonal jobs in Denali
National Park, then I moved full-time to Anchorage in 2019.

How did you weave your way into the community in AK and eventually, retrace
the (some) steps of the famed naturalist and conservationist, Mandy Murie, a
voice in helping create the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?
My relationship with the Alaskan landscape eventually inspired me to direct my energy
towards conservation issues. This is how I became more deeply entwined in
community—once I began working on land protections with environmental non-profits, I
became invested and involved with others doing similar work.
I was originally inspired to travel through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge following
Mardy Murie’s steps to raise awareness for the importance of protecting the
Refuge’s coastal plain from oil and gas development. It wasn’t until later that I began to
understand how integral Indigenous land protectors have been to these issues, though
conservationists like the Muries are more widely celebrated. I also began to learn about
some of the harms of conservation—how designated Wilderness can prevent
Indigenous communities from accessing or hunting in their ancestral homelands.
Since then, I’ve turned my attention and efforts toward uplifting Indigenous knowledge
and stories in conservation work. My last four visits to the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge has been with Indigenous land protectors involved in a project called the
Imago Initiative, who have taught me so much about the importance of ancestral
reciprocity with lands and waters.

Tell us how you met Deenaalee Chase-Hodgdon and learn about their Smoke
House Collective.
Deenaalee and I met when we both worked seasonal jobs in Denali National Park about
ten years ago. We got to know each other better in recent years—Deenaalee is deeply
invested in land and water protections, so our work would sometimes overlap. Alaska is
a huge state with a small population, so our community is relatively tight-knit.
I learned about the Smokehouse Collective when Deenaalee shared an early fundraiser
to help the Collective purchase a commercial fishing permit. I loved what Ruth and
Deenaalee were aiming to do—reclaim cultural practices while redistributing fish,
berries, and other foods to communities that are experiencing food insecurity due to
colonization and the climate crisis. I wanted to support this work in any way possible.

How many days did you spend with her and what was the conversation in
between photo moments?
I spent a few days with Deenaalee in Interior Alaska, one day with their co-founder Ruth
in Anchorage, and then six more days in Dillingham with Deenaalee. We hadn’t planned
to shoot in such a concentrated manner, but plans changed a few times due to illness
and travel commitments. I was very appreciative of the trust Deenaalee showed me by
inviting me to join them in Dillingham. Shooting in small communities in Alaska requires
trust from the community and awareness of cultural norms and consent.
Deenaalee had established relationships in Dillingham from their time there as a
fisherman, but had just moved there full-time after a long period of nomadic movement
throughout Alaska. Between photo moments, Deenaalee was not only trying to get their
new home set up, but they were attending meetings with funders and partner
organizations, connecting with community members over Smokehouse initiatives, and
doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work of getting the Collective up and running.
This made for interesting reporting as I got to learn a lot of the background of the nuts-
and-bolts of establishing a grassroots non-profit like the Smokehouse Collective.
Deenaalee and I even attended a local meeting of the federal Subsistence Advisory Council in Dillingham. These “down moments” added a lot of context to the story the
photo essay would tell. The on-the-ground reporting inspired us to run the image
captions in long form, adding nuance to the wonderful written intro by Joaqlin Estus.

How did this project come about and what is the Climate Futures Fund?
In August, I received a call for pitches for a photo grant offered by High Country News,
specifically seeking to tell stories of climate resilience. HCN offers such grants a few
times a year to support assignment-based photo essays for their special issues. The
Climate Futures Special Issue was focused on sharing the message that “it’s not too
late to create a better climate future,” and I thought Smokehouse was a great example
of boots-on-the-ground work towards creating climate resilience in Alaska. I reached out
to Deenaalee for a pre-interview, and then I wrote a 500-word pitch explaining my approach.
In September, I was awarded the grant. The final edit was due in November. HCN and I
agreed that the story would benefit from an Alaska Native writer, and the magazine
assigned the intro text to Tlingit journalist Joaqlin Estus.

What type of direction did you get from the HCN, most notably from the photo
editor Bear Guerra.
I met with photo editor Bear Guerra and issue editor Emily Benson a couple of times
before beginning my reporting, and then I met with Bear several times throughout the
assignment. He prompted me to consider how we could visualize the early phases of
Smokehouse’s resource distribution (Deenaalee jarring salmon), encouraged me to
show the behind-the-scenes work of establishing the Collective (Deenaalee and Ruth
meet on video calls), and helped me think through a number of challenges that arose
during my reporting.
A few of the scenes I hoped to capture were just not possible, so Bear provided
encouragement and was a great thought partner in pivoting towards what was possible.
I came back from Dillingham with more images and scenes than we could use
in the story, so Bear gave me an opportunity to cull and choose my own favorite images
before he curated the final set. I’m really happy with the set of images Bear ultimately
selected, and his input as a photo editor was vital to telling a cohesive story.

The Art of the Personal Project: Stuart Miller

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

 

Today’s featured artist:  Stuart Miller

Blood Generation is a collaborative exhibition between contemporary photographer Stuart Miler, and Artist Taloi Havini. Taloi invited Stuart to come and photograph a series of portraits dedicated to a tribe of young people known as the “Blood Generation”.

This is the name that was given to those children who were born into war, triggered from external interests in mining and sustained by acts of local political self-determination.” In 1990, the people of Bougainville lived under air, sea, and military blockade for ten-years with a reported loss of twenty thousand lives. Bougainville’s Indigenous landowners remain disheartened, displaced, and dissatisfied. The issue remains unresolved, and we ask ourselves – who is responsible for the “Blood Generation”

To see more of this project, click here

Instagram

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 advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

The Daily Edit – Daniel Beltra: El Pais

December 2, 2023, Chernihiv, Ukraine. Lukashivka village suffered serious damage during the Russian invasion in March 2022.
November 18, 2023, Kyiv region, Ukraine. Homes were damaged in Gostomel during the beginning of the Russian invasion in February 2022.
November 19, 2023, Kyiv region, Ukraine. Buildings damaged by the Russian invasion in Borodyanka.
November 30, 2023, Kyiv, Ukraine. What’s left of Russian military equipment used during the invasion.
The Hostomel airport is owned by and named after the Antonov aircraft manufacturing company and operated by its subsidiary Antonov Airlines. The destroyed Mriya (the largest plane in the world-An-225) was based here. At the beginning of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the airport became the site of an intense battle. It was temporarily held by Russian forces and sustained heavy damage to facilities and aircraft.
November 30, 2023, Kyiv, Ukraine. Parts of the destroyed Mriya (largest plane in the world-An-225). The Hostomel airport is owned by and named after the Antonov aircraft manufacturing company and operated by its subsidiary Antonov Airlines.
November 30, 2023, Kyiv, Ukraine. What’s left of an Antonov AN-26 destroyed during the Russian invasion.
December 2, 2023, Chernihiv, Ukraine. Lukashivka village suffered serious damage during the Russian invasion in March 2022.
December 4, 2023, Sumy, Ukraine. Apartments damaged by a Russian Shahed drone on July 2023.
December 5, 2023,
Kharkiv, Ukraine.
The neighborhood of North Saltivka was badly damaged by Russian shelling in March 2022.
Before the war it had 400,000 inhabitants. Around 70% of the houses suffered damage.
December 6th, 2023, Izium, Ukraine. The Pischanka forest near Izium was partly burned during the Russian invasion. An unexploded rocket amongst reforested pine trees (Pinus sylvestris).
December 7, 2023, Nikopol, Ukraine. Bus stop in Dnipro, across a building damaged during the Russian invasion.
December 8, 2023, Gogoleve, Poltava Oblast, Ukraine. On the night of 28 August 2023, Russian Federation forces launched a missile attack on the company Garant (they produce oil and export grains), Two Bulava missiles hit the factory killing 4 employees that were working the night shift. Reconstruction work is well underway with over 1000 trucks of scraped metal taken from the site.156 employees used to work there. In the picture some corn left after the attack in one of the storage silos.
December 13, 2023, Sergiivka, Odessa OblastUkraine. On July 1st 2022, three X-59 missiles were launched from aircraft into Sergiivka, a summer sea side location. They impacted different locations producing a total of 21 casualties. In the picture, the Primoria Spa was also affected

El Pais

Photographer: Daniel Beltra
Photo Editor: Gorka Lejarcegi

Heidi: Your work balances a line between environmental beauty and catastrophe with a focus on
aerial photography. How difficult was it to work from the ground, I know you had planned to fly a drone.

Daniel: Working from the ground was complicated, security is understandably tightened, and lots of different permits needed to be secured. There are also many military checkpoints all over the country.
The main difficulty for me was to wrap my head around the fact that the project I had planned and trained for most of the year (I had never flown drones before) was gone and I needed to get in gear and do what was possible.

Heidi: What foiled those plans and how hard was it to pivot? What was the lesson there?

Daniel: Even though my initial project using drones was supported by the Ukrainian authorities, things changed once I arrived in Kiev. A total ban on any civilian flying was implemented with no exceptions made. For a while, we tried to get special permission without any luck.
Flexibility would be the lesson, I had to adapt. I was concerned and had doubts, but I always told myself that the only way to take photographs was to go out and take them. Too much thinking or worrying is counterproductive. I just had to start working and get a feel for it. Now, almost three months after my return, I’m happy with the results.

Heidi: There’s an abundance of imagery covering the destruction in Ukraine, what drew you there?

Daniel: There are so many talented photographers showing the direct and brutal impact of the war.
The project I was trying to execute was different: documenting the war’s environmental impact from the air had not been done, at least not on a larger scale.
As horrible as the consequences of this terrible war were for Ukrainians, I wanted to show that there were other long-term consequences.

Heidi: Tell us about the planning and what support you had going into this trip.

Daniel: My project was sponsored by the Embassy of Spain in Ukraine and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID). I also got a couple of private donors to help.
Organizing a project like this remotely is challenging. The team at the Embassy in Kiev was crucial to get the planning going. It was them who made all the connections with the Ukrainian Ministry for the Environment. I also consulted with Greenpeace (I have a very long relationship with them) and they helped suggest locations to photograph. Between all these parties we came up with a list of locations that we thought were interesting. We then had to get the permits to be able to access them. Many were not available due to their proximity to combat zones.

Heidi: You mentioned working with the military who was juggling 100s of journalists’ requests a day – how did you hope your imagery would stand out?
Daniel: As I previously mentioned, the ecocide (environmental impact of the war) had not been covered extensively. I am not a war photographer, in fact, for this project, I had no access to the current front lines.
The final set of images diverted from that original goal. They show some of the scars the war is leaving in the country.

Heidi: Your images are haunting and absent of the human element – but indicate humanity, was that always the plan?
Daniel: That was part of the original plan. A lot of my work is done from the air. This unique perspective helps emphasize the impact we are having on the environment.
That was not an option in Ukraine. More artistic and abstract images helped give a different perspective, less harsh than pure photojournalism but also efficient to convey the ongoing tragedy.

Heidi: Knowing your work and plans for this project,  I thought the first image was land scars shot from above – I was wrong. Tell us about the image.

Daniel: I like images that can be confusing on a first approach, where the viewer needs to go an extra step to understand what’s on the frame. Through that tension, I hope to inspire some reflection. This particular photograph shows the snow-covered, bullet-ridden windshield of a van damaged during the battle in the small village of Lukashivka. I shot the image from the inside of the vehicle, what happened to the occupants? It’s a haunting frame.

Heidi: Do you have plans to return?
Daniel: Hopefully before this summer, working on that right now.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine began in 2022, what were your observations on how daily life has adapted since then?
We just passed the second anniversary of the invasion. I was amazed by the Ukrainian’s resilience, despite the daily missile and drone strikes and the endless air raid alarms.
Most of the nights I was there the alarms were going off, even on multiple occasions on a single night. One day a Ukrainian friend asked me if I went to the refuge during the air raid.  When I answered I stayed in bed, and she replied you are Ukrainian now.  It made me reflect on how tough it is to be living constantly under threat and how humans manage to adapt to almost anything.

The Art of the Personal Project: Suzanne Saroff

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

 

Today’s featured artist:  Suzanne Saroff

‘‘Perspective’ is a two-part series. The original photos I titled “Perspective.” Then I titled the photos that came after “Perspective Revisited.”

These pieces were a deeply personal experience for me to create. Creating my artwork is a transformative, meditative experience. That was especially so in creating my Perspective series. I was in my early twenties when I started this series. I had been working on other still-life photography series involving these props – the glassware, the fruits, and the flowers – but that earlier series was about the shadows they made. While photographing that earlier series, I saw that the orange I had been photographing had taken a completely new shape behind the water glass. This phenomenon in art – distortion through lenses of all types, even when the lens is not attached to the camera – has always interested me. From Irving Penn’s work on the concept, to my carrying around a crystal ball when I was a kid, photographing my hand holding the crystal while the world flipped upside down behind it.

At that moment, seeing the distorted orange at an unexpected angle brought me back to my childhood, where photography was a discovery of the hidden obvious. Right then, I became obsessed, which turned into a journey of exploration that has led me deeper into what I can try to capture and communicate with my photography.

Something so simple – water, a background, and an object- being transformed with the right light and “Perspective.”

The second part of this series was revisiting what I had started. In this second part of the Perspective series, I dove deeper into the folds and dimensions of communicating with color and texture. I hope that these captured images share some of the ripeness of emotion and feeling that I had then, and how what I was able to see helped to unravel tangled knots that are so common in all of us.

Through the years, I continue to revisit this work, each time with a new perspective. As I have grown up in this career in New York, I find comfort in the feeling of the challenge of discovering something new in the obvious. I chase that feeling, obsessively working through new ideas. As I balance my commercial projects with my own personal work, I have continued to revisit this “Perspective” concept, as each visit brings me joy and comfort, and the most exciting visits do bring me something new.

To see more of this project, click here

Instagram

Artist Bio

Suzanne Saroff is a photographer and video artist based in NYC. Her body of work is still-life focused, with a multimedia approach. She has always been an observer – noticing small details. As a child, this meant falling behind on hikes to look at unnoticed bugs and flowers, and as an adult, she continues to notice the often unseen. She uses still-life photography as a way to communicate feelings and ideas. Her work is feminine, bold, and nuanced. She loves to explore objects, textures, and colors and how they can add layers of energy and meaning.

Central to her approach is experimentation and new ways to work with light and composition. In her studio, she likes to build technical sets and then break all of the creative “rules”. This process is cathartic and is where new ideas emerge. She likes to examine, take apart, or combine flowers and objects, searching for new ways of looking at them to create and communicate feelings and emotions.

In addition to her ever growing body of personal work, Suzanne has shot for many clients, including Glossier, Gucci, NARS, Prada, and her photography has been published in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, and many other publications.

 

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 advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

The Art of the Personal Project: Claire Harbage

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Joanna Kakissis , Claire Harbage

The Cossacks’ traditions live on near the front lines in Ukraine

(featured in NPR The Picture Show)

KHORTYTSIA, Ukraine — This lush, wild island, the largest on the Dnipro River, is just outside the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, not far from the front line where Ukrainian soldiers are trying to reclaim occupied land.

It includes a nature reserve, where horses run free, and was once a headquarters for the Zaporizhzhian Cossacks, 17th century warriors revered in Ukraine for their insistence on freedom and self-governance.

“They are my ancestors,” says Yuriy Kopishynskyi, a tall grandfather with a shaved head, twirled mustache and linebacker’s build. “They are also part of the Ukrainian story today.”

You can find likenesses of Zaporizhzhian Cossacks everywhere in Ukraine — on T-shirts and coffee mugs, in paintings in government offices, on statues big and small. Their hairstyle — shaved, except for a ponytail on top of their heads — is also popular with Ukrainian men and even a few women.

“Legend says that when a Cossack dies,” Kopishynskyi says, “God reaches out for that ponytail to pull the Cossack to heaven.”

Kopishinskyi sits in a thatched hut surrounded by five protective ducks, near an animal refuge and a horse-riding school run by his daughter. He explains that the world often associates Cossacks with Russia, because some became loyal servants to the czars. But the Zaporizhzhian Cossacks fought invading Muscovite princes.

“They were de facto border guards, protecting their sacred land,” he says.

For the last 20 years, Kopishynskyi has trained locals and foreigners to fight like Zaporizhzhian Cossacks — with swords, maces and their bare hands. One of his best students is Andrii Lozovyi, a cheery hulk with a drooping mustache and long oseledets, which he calls “the haircut of champions.”

“Every adult, every child wants a hairstyle like that so we can look like our heroes,” he says.

Before the war, Lozovyi and Kopishinskyi practiced their combat techniques inside a fenced-in complex lined with weathered wooden houses. This is the reconstruction of a Cossack sich, or a military administrative center. It includes homes, a church and a museum.

Lozovyi disappears into the museum and returns with weapons, including a heavy sword and two axes. He takes off his shirt and expertly swings the sword around.

“I can also do this while riding a horse,” he says. “Whether we use horses and swords or howitzers and HIMARS, it all goes back to the same Cossack spirit to defend our land.”

Lozovyi says he’s been rejected from military service because of multiple bone fractures he suffered falling off horses. Kopishinskyi’s other student warriors are all on the front line, and they’re fighting other Cossacks who live in Russia and support Moscow. Kopishynskyi bristles.

“The Russian Cossacks were nothing but servants, and all they ever did was submit to the czar. The Zaporizhzhian Cossacks never submitted to anybody.”

Except this one time, he says, and there were terrible mistakes. Between 1648 and 1657, the Zaporizhzhian Cossacks rebelled against the Polish Commonwealth but also massacred local Jews and Roman Catholics. Then, in 1654, the Cossacks signed the Pereyaslav Agreement with the Russian czars for military protection. The Russian empire grew and punished those who didn’t submit. The Zaporizhzhian Cossacks held out until Catherine the Great, one of the Russian empire’s most formidable leaders, disbanded them in 1775.

“The way I see it, the Pereyaslav Agreement helped create the Russian Empire,” Kopishynskyi said, “and the Russia we know today.”

Now, he says, Ukraine and Poland are close allies, and Ukraine has a Jewish president, whom Kopishynshki calls a brave Cossack. They are defending their land from Russia.

“My own daughter is so strong,” he says. “She could fight five Russians.”

Anastatasiya Kopishynska, a champion equestrian, is tall and athletic like her father. Back at her riding school, she helps two twin toddler girls onto one of her horses.

“They’re not scared,” the girls’ grandmother says. “They must be Cossacks.”

Kopishynska’s own young children have been in Ireland since the war, living with her mother. Her husband is fighting on the front line.

“I told my husband, ‘Look, be careful out there, because if something happens to you, I will have to head to the front line myself to avenge you,'” she says.

“That’s what a Cossack does,” she says. And in today’s Ukraine, the Zaporizhzhian Cossacks are fighting again.

The story as featured in NPR The Picture

Photographs by Claire Harbage

 

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 advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

Shifting Perspectives: Kenny Hurtado Walks Away From Professional Photography

by Angie Smith

Angie Smith: When did you start taking pictures? And how did it turn into a profession?

Kenny Hurtado: I grew up as a surfer. When I graduated from High School, I bought a camera to document the surf when it was good.

It became very natural to me, so I took a couple of classes at a Junior College. From there, I interned for Surfing Magazine. They would give me free film, critique me and give me lessons.

Within a month of interning there, I started getting some really good pictures, and right away, they started publishing my work. They took me under their wing, and I interned there for seven months until one day they said, ‘Let’s test you out’– so they sent me to Mexico for two months. I did a road trip through Baja and Mainland Mexico and when I came back, I had shot sixty rolls of slide film. It ended up being a feature-length story in print. I was put on a retainer and lived a true dirtbag vagabond lifestyle, traveling the globe with an endless film budget. It was a dream come true. I stayed with the magazine for about 2 years until the recession started to hit. Budgets dropped, and I was let go.

I moved to San Francisco and studied the fine art side of photography at The San Francisco Art Institute. I knew nothing about fine art photography but found it exciting.

I crashed and burned a ton of times during my art school years. I spent that time just experimenting with different cameras and subject matter.

I moved back to Los Angeles, and from 2010-2013, I went back to shooting some ocean scape and surf portraits, trying to approach it from a fine art angle.

In 2013, a couple of surf brands started seeing my work, and I was put on retainer for companies to shoot their campaigns.

It was a great gig, but it didn’t pay well. With rent, my car payment, and insurance, I was barely scraping by. I felt so pigeonholed, and I didn’t really want to be a surf photographer anymore. At the same time, I was developing my own work outside of the surfing world. I was conflicted and knew it was time to move on.

In 2018, my partner Lindsay was offered a job in San Francisco. I put the word out that I was looking to move back to the Bay. A few days later, someone reached out and said AirBnB was hiring and wanted to offer me an interview for an in-house photo editor. I needed the income to live in the Bay Area, and I had some debts to clear. I ended up dropping my brand retainers in Southern California, and we both moved North to Sonoma County.

I was offered the AirBnB job, and at the same time, I was picked up by a photo agent based in LA the day before I left town. I joined the agency but wasn’t very active.

I slowed down my photography practice so I could focus on work while I had this consistent tech money coming in. After I got settled in and freed myself of debt, I started shooting again. I had a couple of projects that were catching on and from there, I started working for clients like the New York Times, The New Yorker, Outside, and NatGeo – people I really want to shoot for.

After about 1 year in the AirBnB offices, my contract was pulled. I said to myself: ‘OK, I’m going all in on freelance.’ I started to line up jobs back to back and felt I was finally on the path I wanted to be on – until March 2020 came around. I was back to being broke again.

A few months later, in May of 2020, I found out I was going to be a father. I was like: ‘Woah, woah, woah.’ I was scared as shit but very excited at the same time.

The whole time Lindsey was pregnant, I was still trying to find my way as a freelancer, which was going nowhere. Lindsay had a good job, enough to pay our rent in the Bay Area. I felt so bad because I was 37, an expectant dad, and had no means of income. I did the classic Covid lockdown fitness thing and got super into running. I guess I was truly running away from my worries.

I had to stop and think: ‘I’m gonna be dad, dude, what are you doing? You spend all day running, not bringing any income. You need to figure something out.’

A good photo job would pop up and make me really excited. I’d think: ‘This is gonna help me out for a couple months.’ Then it would disappear. That would happen again and again.

It was a month before Sage was born, and I literally had zero money in my bank account. I knew that I needed something that was gonna be stable and fast.

I was just pushing 40, and I thought: ‘I have a baby now. I don’t have a family that’s gonna bail me out. I have no backup plan; I have no savings. What am I going to do?’

I spent the first 9-10 months as a stay-at-home dad but felt worthless since I was not helping out at all financially.

In 2021, out of nowhere, Lindsey said: ‘Let’s move back to my hometown.’ She’s from Springfield, Missouri. I was like: ‘No freaking way, I’m not moving to Missouri.’ I’d always lived on the coast my entire life. I hated the idea of moving inland. Eventually, it just made sense because her whole family is here. And the cost of living is insanely affordable.

So we moved to Missouri, and I said: ‘I want to make a fresh start.’

Once we moved and settled, I took all my camera gear, and I stuck it in the back closet of my son’s room. In the very, very back. I said to myself: ‘I’m just not going to think about this; I’m not going to stress about it. I’m not gonna even touch my camera for one year.’

Right away, I enrolled in a local Community College, got into an EMT course, and knocked out my training. Then got a job at an EMS agency working the ambulance in rural America– talk about a culture shock.

I told myself: ‘I’m gonna go all in for one year and see where I end up.’

About six months into it, I almost sold all of my camera gear. I thought: ‘I don’t want to be a photographer anymore. I want to be done.’

I thought about that pretty seriously.

Self Portrait. Peru for Surfing Magazine. 2004
Peru for Surfing magazine. 2004
Mainland Mexico for Surfing Magazine 2003
John John, Hawaii for Outside magazine 2020
Shark attack victim. New York Times 2020

Kenny Hurtado: Maybe nine to ten months into my first year in EMS, I started bringing the camera back out. I went back to the 4×5 camera. It’s so healing for me to spend a full day in the forest and a rushing river under a dark cloth with ground glass – it puts me into a very meditative state.

Now that running is in my life and adding 4×5 landscape, my mindset is so relaxed now. I’m so calm.

Angie Smith: Did you struggle with grief around letting go of your old freelance life?

Kenny Hurtado: Yes, I really struggled with it, especially six months into committing to working on the ambulance. It was a lot of time away from my son and very low-paying– a bigger sacrifice than I had intended. Working in EMS is a very selfless job. First Responders don’t make that much money, but it pays in other ways. There were a few times where I would drive home from work and think: ‘I actually did something today. I was involved in saving a person’s life.’

Being a photographer my whole life was a selfish endeavor. It was just all about me, all the time. I struggled with being so self-involved and constantly worried about work. I had turned my mindset away from trying to be a working photographer. Before, I would think: ‘If I do this kind of work, it might get me this kind of job.’ But now I’m literally just shooting 4×5 pictures of rivers and streams. It’s so therapeutic for me.

Angie Smith: I saw that you started a YouTube channel about you shooting in nature. Tell me more about that.

Kenny Hurtado: Growing up as a surfer, we would always watch surf videos to get excited and motivated to go out and surf. I’d feel the same thing watching photographers on YouTube. During Covid, I’d watch videos of photographers shooting in the field and think: this is actually interesting. About 6 months ago, I started creating videos to show a day life of shooting landscape work in the Ozarks. My thought was: ‘Maybe someone will see this and go outside and get creative.” And it’s fun.

Angie Smith: Do you have FOMO when you look at Instagram and see other photographers on shoots?

Kenny Hurtado: Yes, definitely. Besides being a father, the best times in my life were being on the road, just stamping passports, and being creative. I lost my creative outlet when I stashed my camera away. It started to really bug me after a while.

In my heart, what makes me happiest is being in the field with photography. The other day, I spent 10 hours in the woods taking pictures. Obviously, I would like this to be my life, and I would love to still be doing commissions. But I love what I’m doing now, and I’m proud of myself for making that decision. Since I’m almost a year and a half into this process as an EMT/Paramedic in training, I’m asking myself: ‘Do I want to do this for the next 25 years?’ I don’t know the answer.

Angie Smith: So even though you’ve done the pivot, it’s not a clean break? Do you ask yourself if it was the right decision?

Kenny Hurtado: Yes, every day. As photographers, we spend so much time and energy doing the things that we do. It’s so hard to make the decision to pivot away entirely. I thought long and hard about it.

I had times where I said to myself: I just gave up on my path. I never thought I’d give up. Is what I’m doing NOW worth it?

Angie Smith: Did you talk to your agent about it?

Kenny Hurtado: Yes. I told her I was gonna go off and try to do the paramedic thing. She wants me to be out making fun portraits and lifestyle stuff, but I’ve just been out shooting leaves and streams. I’ve just been doing therapeutic photography.

Angie Smith: Yeah. Wow, that’s an amazing concept– therapeutic photography. That’s a whole new genre.

Kenny Hurtado: Yeah, it’s just all about being in nature. It’s just an excuse for me to spend an entire day in the woods. Yesterday, I was in the woods from sunrise until sunset.

Angie Smith: If there are people who are reading this interview and they were facing the same question, what advice would you give them?

Kenny Hurtado: To really think it through. Because if you put in 5, 10, 15, 20 years into pursuing photography, it’s so hard to get the courage to walk away from it. The identity part was the hardest for me. Everyone knew me as a vagabond photographer. That’s all I did from 21 until 36, and to just drop it was a really hard decision.

Think about your current situation– how are your bills stacking up? Are you falling behind? Do you have kids now? What’s changing in your life? Just think it through and pick a direction you actually might enjoy.

But you don’t have to walk away from it; you can still go off and pursue a different angle than what you were before. There are amazing photographers who have made a switch because they are now fathers or mothers– or their life circumstances have changed. Now, they’re practicing photography for love and making amazing work without the stress of this HAS to feed my family. If it wasn’t for me becoming a father, I probably would have stuck with it. Shit, kids really do change things.

Now, I’m back to working on photography. It’s all I can think about, and I am doing it because I love it. I have more peace in my heart.

I don’t feel stressed about my career and where it was or where it went. I’m not afraid to start over at 40.

If someone hears this and they’re 42, 43, or 50 even– and have pursued a creative life–you can always say fuck it and start over. Don’t be scared.

4×5 personal Landscape photography. Ozarks 2023
Personal landscape work. 2021
4×5 personal landscape work 2024

The Art of the Personal Project: Glen McClure

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

 

Today’s featured artist:  Glen McClure

Photography, for me, is an adventure. I’m always searching for what’s next: the next human face with great character or the next incredible natural wonder. As I travel across Virginia, or to Ireland, France, and Italy, I strive to make the finest portraits of the people and places that I encounter.

My “street portraits” reveal people in their natural habitats. Through my lens I try to capture the nuances of my subjects’ expressions, attire, and surroundings that tell their stories or inspire the viewer to want to learn more. A face, an attitude, a gesture can resonate so much. The right photograph can search out the complexities of person’s character, and through my images, I strive to forge a connection between the person in the portrait and the viewer.

My landscapes are studies in the mysteries and patterns of nature. I am fascinated by weather and atmosphere—light, shadow, rain, clouds, lightning—that set a tone or mood through which to view lakes and oceans, mountains and sand, meadows or forests from new perspectives.

I work in black and white, and in color; the scale of my work varies from large too small. I always let my subjects determine my approach to convey new insights into them. Love of detail and texture define my work—hair, beard, eyes, skin, fabric, mist, leaves of trees, grain of wood—infinite ingredients and subtleties that inform the composition. And, ultimately, fine quality is what I seek—from the click of the shutter to the final carefully crafted print—to serve my subjects as well as I can.

Paul Strand, the pioneer of 20th-century American photography, said it best: “the material of the artist…lies in the world around him.”  My photographs offer the viewer an opportunity to take the time to notice, to look closely, and to see.

To see more of this project, click here

To purchase this book

The Gallery Show runs from Feb. 3-March 30, 2024 (Norfolk, VA)

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 advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

The Daily Edit – Chad Unger: Fire Barked at Eternity

 

  

Chad Unger

Chad Unger (b. 1993) is a Deaf-Gay artist originally from Maryland, currently based in Los Angeles. Growing up with a deaf family, actively involved with the deaf community, and primarily communicating through American Sign Language, Chad’s experiences shaped him into an observer with a deep appreciation of stories with strong visual elements. Chad started his career by merging his passion for capturing stories and snowboarding in Utah. His low-key athleticism matches his photographic style, curious, and intentional. We connected for a ride in Ojai, and within minutes he disappeared up the road, floating on the pedals. Once I caught up to him he was taking in both the moment and the vista.

You moved from New York to LA, how has that influenced your creative process? You mentioned NY having a different pace, how are you finding the pace in LA?
Moving from New York to Los Angeles has significantly influenced my creative process. Living in New York, where I primarily worked as a photo assistant or production assistant, I felt a lack of community and struggled with the fast-paced environment. However, since relocating to Los Angeles and discovering the deaf gay community, my personal growth and creative process have flourished. The pace in LA is undoubtedly much slower, which has been a positive change. This slower pace allows me to sit with my thoughts, fostering a more effortless creative environment.

The ambient energy of NYC keeps one moving quickly, your analog work feels more intimate, and has softer tones, was that hard to balance?
Yes, the energy of NYC, with its rapid pace and limited access to the outdoors, did make it challenging to balance. The quick pace of the city affected my ability to connect with nature, which I later realized was crucial for me. After moving to LA, I’ve noticed a significant improvement in the creativity of my work. The change in environment allowed me to strike a better balance and bring a new, more relaxed energy to my creative process.
 
How has your love of nature, snowboarding, and now your new love of gravel cycling informed your work?
My love for nature, snowboarding, and now bike riding has influenced my work. Being active in the outdoors allows me to process ideas and thoughts seamlessly. The experiences gained through snowboarding and bike riding contribute to my creative process. Moreover, as someone who manages a good amount of anxiety, immersing myself in nature, whether through snowboarding or bike riding, serves as a therapeutic outlet, impacting my overall well-being and, consequently, enhancing the quality of my work.
How have you refined your photographic practices for taking portraits?
I make an effort to browse through the work of other photographers, drawing inspiration from different styles and techniques. This helps me have diverse approaches to portrait photography. Also, I spend time doing many test shoots where I try different lighting, poses, and compositions. This helps me improve my skills and figure out what works best for me.

Tell me about 20,310 feet: why was this trip important to you and your sister?
The 20,310 trip, climbing Denali with my sister was really important for us. It wasn’t just about reaching a high place; it showed how determined and close we are as siblings. Climbing at high altitudes was tough, needing both physical strength and mental toughness due to unpredictable weather conditions, complex terrain, and the slow, deliberate pace. This experience taught me the value of patience, not just in climbing but also in life. It also helped my sister start her career as a mountaineer. The climb inspired her to follow her passion, and I am a proud brother.


What projects are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a project with Deaf LGBT+ elders who lived through the AIDS crisis. I have been listening to and capturing their stories. I aim to inspire both the Deaf and Queer communities, encouraging them not only to appreciate the wisdom of these elders but also the communities that they forged to sustain hope for future generations.

The need for “slow art” and embracing patience comes alive in your use of film and your latest zine, Fire Barked at Eternity. What was the creative intent? You weave in and out of urban and abstract quiet respites in nature.
I had no specific goal or intention behind ‘Fire Barked at Eternity.’ It was simply a reflection of what I observed during my travels in Morocco. As you can see, it’s evident how I move back and forth between outdoor and city settings even in my travels.

 

The Art of the Personal Project: The Rathkopfs

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  The Rathkopfs

 

JESSE AND THE RED BALLOON by Anna, Jordan and Jesse Rathkopf

“Jesse and the Red Balloon” is a collaboration with our son Jesse that delves into the profound impact of isolation on the mental well-being of young children during the pandemic. This photographic journey explores a child’s perspective on a rapidly changing world and delves into how parents can create a sense of security amid uncertainty.

Inspired by the timeless tale of The Red Balloon/Le Ballon Rouge by Albert Lamorisse, our project pays homage to the original narrative. Unbeknownst to us initially, the little boy in the story was Albert’s son, adding a poignant layer to our exploration.

To tailor our story to Jesse’s emotions, who felt sad by the bullied child in the original The Red Balloon/La Ballon Rouge, we co-created our narrative, focusing on places he wanted to visit and showcasing a world where “the child” is accompanied by his “Red Balloon” friend in search of fun and exploration despite the harrowing circumstances.

Navigating the desolate streets of NYC during the COVID-19 crisis, we couldn’t shield Jesse from the trauma unfolding around us – neighbors in masks on food lines, closed establishments, and, in one of the most densely populated cities, Jesse often stood as the sole child in sight. Yet, instead of shielding him, our collaboration became a source of strength. The resulting images encapsulate the interplay between internal psychological dynamics and external realities. They navigate a spectrum, alternating between moments of playfulness and the poignant solitude portrayed in each photograph.

To see more of this project, click here

Instagram

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 advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

Pricing & Negotiating: Product Photos/Video For Hair Care Brand

By Bryan Sheffield, Wonderful Machine

Concept: Stylized Still Life photography and videography, as well as images of the product being used.
Licensing: 2 years of E-Commerce and Web Collateral of all content captured.
Photographer: Product specialist.
Agency: Medium-sized US-based agency.
Client: Specialized hair care product manufacturing client.

Summary

I recently helped a Photographer/Director build an estimate, along with navigating and negotiating a project with a marketing/advertising agency seeking stills and video for a campaign they were creating for their specialized hair care product client.

The creative brief from the agency described the still-life content of a new product. They wanted the images/video to feature the product being used on set. The idea for the settings consisted of colorful and minimalistic bathroom and bedroom mirrors. The content needed to feature talent applying the product to their hair. The final use of the content was described as web and social placements, as well as “eComm” use on the client’s and select retailer’s websites.

Our creative calls with the agency left us feeling like this project was not yet greenlit by the client. This was because they had so few details to share. Instead of quoting on an actual project, it seemed as though the agency was asking us for a quote which they would then present to their client as they were proposing the work to be created.

I was clear with the photographer that I have seen cases like this become a game of revisions and sometimes “how low can we get the costs while still maintaining the creative needs.” The Photographer/Director was on board and we put our heads together to formulate a production plan. It included 1 pre-light day, 2 shoot days, the needed crew, and production support. We submitted our 1st estimate based on the initial ask.

Fees

Based on the client, agency creative description, and shot list of 6 setups we intended to use, I felt that $14,000 would be in the mid-to-high range of what the client might be expecting to see. Depending on the brand, I have seen similar use license projects range between $4,000 and $14,000/day for all content captured. Because this shoot was for a single, limited audience product, $7,000/day was appropriate here, given the market and the client’s desire to work with this particular Photographer/Director. I added 4 pre-pro days at $1,000 each for the Director/Photographer for client and crew creative meetings, creative planning, as well as a pre-light day.

Crew

We added a DP/Camera Op at $2,000/day to run video capture while the photography was happening. We added 2 pre-pro days for the DP/Camera Op at $750/day. First and Second Assistants were included to help with lighting and camera equipment management. They would be needed on the pre-light day as well. We added a Digital Tech/Media Manager at $800/day to manage and display the content as it was being created. We added a Producer at $1,000/day, and a Production Assistant at $350/day. These fees were consistent with previous rates the Director/Photographer had paid their team on past productions in this city.

Equipment

We included $5,200 for cameras, lighting, and grip rentals. The Director/Photographer would bring their own still and video cameras, lenses, and lighting. They also intended to rent some supplemental continuous lighting, c-stands, and sandbags from a local rental house. $750/day was added for the Digital Tech’s workstation rental. We also included $850 for 3 large hard drives and $1,800 for TBD needed production supplies. This included production book printing, table/chair rental, heaters, wardrobe steamers, racks, etc.

Casting & Talent

We added usage fees and 2 daily session fees for two talent. Based on the limited info, but our assumed talent specs, we felt confident in a rate of $2,200 plus a 20% agency fee. We added $2,000 as a fee to cast the two talent. We also added 23% for talent payroll needs within the bottom line.

Styling Crew

We added a combo Hair/Makeup Stylist at $950/day. For our anticipated wardrobe styling needs we added a Wardrobe Stylist at $1,100/day, and an assistant for $500/day. We added $1,600 for the assumed 2 unique outfits per talent and marked this as TBD pending final creative direction. We added a Nail Stylist for both shoot days at $1,200/day. Based on our understanding of the set design and prop needs, we added a Prop Stylist at $1,200/day, as well as an assistant at $500/day. Props & Materials was estimated at $8,500 and marked with a TBD pending final creative needs.

Location/Studio

We included 3 days at a rented studio at $1,800/day.

Meals

We included $70/day per person for meals and craft services. Additionally, we added $500 for meals/craft services on the pre-light day.

Misc.

We included $1,800 for insurance and $1,600 for additional meals, expendables, and miscellaneous expenses.

Post Production

We added $750 for the Director/Photographer to perform a First Edit for Client Review and costs for retouching an estimated 30 images at $125/hour.

Providing a Second Estimate

The client stated that the estimate and treatment were received and that they would like to see a 2nd estimate without production support and with the agency handling all talent and styling. We submitted a revised estimate the same day and then heard that they would circle back after reviewing it with their client. This estimating process then became quite involved as the agency team presented the project to the client and came back to us multiple times for revisions. Together we ended up creating 8 estimates for the project over 6 weeks. While a client requesting multiple estimate revisions is not unique, what made this process arduous was each new estimate requested was to be based on revised shot lists or agency-suggested ways to slim the bottom line. Our requests for budget parameters were never answered.

An Overview of Estimates

While it would be quite complicated to include each of the multiple estimates within this article, below is a high-level overview of each to demonstrate the project scope and cost changes:

1st estimate above.

2nd estimate — Client requested: No production support, talent and all styling would be handled by the agency. Our estimate was the above with the noted items removed and came out to $50,550.

Five weeks later, a 3rd estimate was requested — Client requested: All production, 2 talent over 2 shoot days, all styling, adjusted shot list with retouching for 26 images. Our estimate was $111,870.00.

One day after the 3rd estimate, we were asked for a 4th estimate — Client requested: All included within 3rdestimate, but no DP, no producer, the agency handling all art & props. This estimate was $75,270.

Two days later, 2 additional estimates were requested:

5th estimate — Client requested: A 1-day shoot with no talent, no DP, no producer, agency handling art & props, a VERY revised shot list, and only 3 final images retouched. This estimate was $20,640.

6th estimate — Client requested: A 2-day shoot with 2 talent on only 1 day, no DP, no producer, agency handling art & props, 12 images retouched. This estimate was $56,750.

The 7th estimate request came three days later — Client requested: Increased shot list, 2 unidentifiable hand model talent, 1 pre-light, 2-day shoot, no DP, no producer, agency handling all art & props, and 30 images retouched. This estimate was $66,450.

The Final Estimate

The 8th estimate (final) was sent the following day — Another revised shot list, 2 unidentifiable hand model talent, 1 pre-light day, 1-day shoot, no DP, no producer, agency handling all hair/makeup/props styling, and any video editing, 4 images retouched. In this instance, the agency did let us know that the project needed to be completed by a specific date that was about 2 weeks out. I let the agency know that to hit that date we would need approval and advance payment within 3 days and in order to expedite the process I requested a budget (again).

The agency let me know that they had $40k approved. We submitted an estimate of $40,658.40. While our estimate was a little above the agency-stated budget, our gut told us they would approve the costs since the estimate contained exactly what they requested and the pressure of a short window until the work was needed in hand.

Fees

Based on the work to be created and the noted project budget, $8,500 was an appropriate fee. I added 5 pre-pro days at $1,000 each for the Director/Photographer. This was not only to manage client and crew creative meetings and planning but to source and book all crew and studio needs, as well as their pre-light day fee.

Crew

We included First and Second Assistants for the pre-light days and a Digital Tech/Media Manager at $800/day. We added a Production Assistant at $350/day to help the Director/Photographer with bookings, equipment prep, shoot day catering/craft services, trash, and logistics.

Equipment

We included $3,100 for cameras, lighting, and grip rentals. The Director/Photographer would bring their own still and video cameras, lenses, and lighting. They also intended to rent some supplemental continuous lighting, stands, and sandbags from a local rental house. Moreover, $750/day was added for the Digital Tech’s workstation rental. Additionally, we included $850 for 3 large hard drives and $800 for TBD needed production supplies such as production book printing, table/chair rental, heaters, wardrobe steamers, racks, etc.

Casting & Talent

We added usage fees at $1,200 and $500 1-day session fees. Plus 20% agency fees for 2 non-recognizable hand model talent. Additionally, $1,500 was set as a fee to cast the two talent. The Director/Photographer and Production Assistant would do the casting. We added talent payroll fees within the bottom line at 23% of the total talent fees.

Styling Crew

The agency/client was to provide all hair/makeup/wardrobe styling. However, it was requested that we source and hire a Prop Assistant to aid them. So we quoted this at $500/day. We included $250 per talent as a stipend to get manicures prior to the shoot. Because there were so many estimates created, we made sure to clearly note the Styling Crew lines as “Agency Provided.”

Location/Studio

We included 2 days at a rented studio at $3,600/day and noted that this would include the anticipated cyclorama painting and cleaning fees.

Meals

We included $70/day per person for meals and craft services, as well as $200 for meals/craft services on the pre-light day. Moreover, our client/agency headcount increased by 1 person as well.

Misc.

We included $1,100 for insurance and $1,200 for additional meals, expendables, and miscellaneous expenses.

Post Production

We added $500 for the Director/Photographer to perform a First Edit for Client Review and costs for retouching up to 4 images at $125/hour.

Results

The Photographer/Director was awarded the project and the shoot was a success! The client was on set and loved the work being created. As we all can imagine, the on-set creative requests from the client kept coming on the shoot day. The Photographer/Director called me during the shoot and mentioned that, due to the client’s additional requests (and delays), they were anticipating 2 hours of overtime for the crew and studio. I worked to get these costs approved by the agency during the shoot and we included the overages in the balance invoice. After reviewing the content, the client loved the work and contracted the photographer to retouch an additional 21 images for $3,150 (1 hour per image x $150/hr).

Expanding & Extending Usage

About 2 weeks after final image delivery the agency reached out for costs to expand the 2-year use of the content. They requested usage for in-store POP and web/print advertising purposes (we called this Unlimited use excluding Broadcast), as well as cost estimates for both extending the previous eComm and Web Collateral use and the new request of Unlimited use excluding Broadcast in perpetuity. These new uses would entail new fees and agreements with our 2 talent. We negotiated fees with the talent agents and submitted the below cost estimates to the agency:

eComm and Web Collateral use in perpetuity. Additional fees:
$8,500 licensing fee
$2,880 Talent 1 use fee ($2,400 +20%)
$2,880 Talent 2 use fee ($2,400 +20%)

Unlimited use in perpetuity. Additional fees:
$14,000 licensing fee
$5,760 Talent 1 use fee ($4,800 +20%)
$5,760 Talent 2 use fee ($4,800 +20%)

Note

In our experience, it is tough to get talent agencies to agree to perpetual use. Especially for Unlimited perpetual use without a very high rate. Agencies do this to protect their clients from a company using their likeness years in the future when that client might be very recognizable if they become the next Cameron Diaz etc. Agents also limit the use duration often. This occurs for fear that their clients might not get booked for projects with competitor brands. In this case, neither of those scenarios was a factor since the talent was hand/hair models without recognizable faces.

With my advice, the Director/Photographer agreed to present a lower Unlimited use rate for themselves with the goal of selling that through to the client over the limited use in perpetuity. As of the writing of this article we have yet to hear back from the client/agency on their decision to expand or extend the use.

Follow our Consultants @wonderful_at_work.

The Daily Edit – ESPN: Hugh Kretschmer



ESPN

Photographer: Hugh Kretschmer
Photo Editors: Kaitlin A. Marron and Robert H. Booth

Heidi: How did this moving portrait series idea come about?
Hugh: The idea for the portrait series originated while I was capturing moments of a longtime friend and her daughter as a special gift. Although we explored various concepts that day, the “layering” concept held the utmost significance for me. Initially, I had planned to craft a unique artwork by creating a combined portrait through a practical collage. My original idea involved producing large prints of their individual portraits, cutting them into strips, and intricately weaving them together.

However, a pivotal moment shifted my approach away from collage. While shooting tethered and utilizing the overlay feature in Capture One, I was captivated by the results when aligning two captures and adjusting the opacity of the overlaid image to 50%. By reducing the opacity of the overlaid image by 50%, a hybrid of both subjects emerged – a Third Person – becoming the namesake of the entire project.

Has generational transmission of knowledge, passing down stories, and cultural identity helped inform this idea?
No, I comprehend the direction of your question. This project is solely a visual exploration of genetics. I lack a deep familiarity with most of my subjects, preventing me from incorporating elements that authentically convey their stories. The nuances of their gestures, expressions, or body language may serve as the only components beyond facial features that could contribute to a more intricate narrative.

Nevertheless, the initial commission took a different approach, delving into the family’s history and Frank Senior’s remarkable NFL career before progressing to Junior, who is following in his father’s footsteps. I empathize with Junior and the potential challenges he might encounter in living up to his father’s success. 

It resonates with my own experience when I chose to pursue a career in photography, following in my father’s footsteps and facing the pressure to meet a set of expectations, largely my own.

Is this series a response to the layered narratives available in both double exposure and moving images?
Absolutely! I’m incorporating more motion into my work because I find it enjoyable and stimulating. It’s a fun challenge that allows me to expand my problem-solving skills, and this project is a continuation of that exploration. While motion is always a consideration during a shoot, I typically don’t start with a storyboard. Instead, I keep an eye open for opportunities as they arise during the session and proceed from there.

I strive to align the chosen technique with the narrative and vice versa. For instance, the double exposure effect in this series aligns perfectly with the theme of genetics, which is why I used it to depict a family’s heritage through these “double” portraits.

The ideal moment for incorporating motion occurred while photographing Frank Senior, first in his graduation gown and then in his everyday attire. I was struck by how consistently Frank Senior maintained his expression throughout. Remarkably, I found one frame in each set that matched so precisely that there was no discernible change in his expression or head position when I merged the images.

Your parents were fluent but polar opposite creatives; looking back, how has that influenced your work?
My father served as a photo-instrumentation engineer for NASA, imparting to me both photography skills and the art of problem-solving. On the other hand, my mother, who had an artistic influence on the family, acquainted me with 20th-century art movements.

Even after their passing, they remain significant influences on my early work, albeit indirectly. I can still hear my father saying that every problem has a solution, no matter how complex or insurmountable. Under pressure, he would often share a favorite piece of advice: “Getting a man on the moon was just an idea at first.” (It occurred to me much later in life that he might not have known the answer to my question and offered those “words of wisdom” to avoid any embarrassment.)

In contrast, my mother took a gentler approach to my countless questions, sitting with me and delving into every detail of a subject I inquired about. She would retrieve museum catalogs or art history books from her library, opening them up to explain the composition, color choices, and techniques employed by artists to bring elements together uniquely. Thanks to her, my work consistently reflects the art movements she introduced me to, an influence that persists to this day.

ESPN retired its print issue. How has this digital-only context opened up ideas for you creatively?
Certainly, they retired their print issue, and honestly, that’s a disappointment for me. I have an affinity for the printed page and miss the tactile qualities of a finely printed magazine. However, the transition to digital has brought about both opportunities and a few challenges.

Given that ESPN is predominantly viewed on phones now, the magazine requested versions of specific images to be cropped in different aspect ratios, particularly extreme horizontal formats. This information before the shoot allowed us to plan and capture backplates in vertical and horizontal orientations to meet their requirements. 

One notable advantage of digital magazines is the ability to incorporate motion. While not specifically requested for this assignment, I volunteered it as an option. (I’m not sure if they used the motion in the issue, but it provided an opportunity for me to showcase the possibilities to the photo editors.)

Tell us about the creative process for the portrait of  NFL Running back Frank Gore and his oldest son, Frank Gore JR. (is there any crossover with you, living up to a parent’s identity?
Your question is indeed intriguing and resonates with me, as Junior and I share a similar experience. Like Junior, I chose to walk in my father’s footsteps by pursuing photography. However, the stakes seem higher for Frank Junior, considering his father’s immense success and stature. Additionally, his journey mirrors his father’s even more closely, given that he’s playing the same position.

My path diverged somewhat from my father’s. While he was involved in scientific photography at NASA, I ventured into the commercial side of photography. Nevertheless, I, too, grappled with the challenge of meeting his expectations. That’s where our paths differ. Frank Gore Jr. might be striving to uphold his father’s legacy, whereas I was, in a way, seeking my father’s approval.

What were the obstacles of the project, if any, and how did you problem-solve?
The primary challenge we encountered was the exceptionally low ceiling in the hotel conference room where our photo shoot took place. This limitation meant we couldn’t capture the Gores in a standing position, leaving us with no option but to photograph them while seated. To address this, we improvised by using a makeup chair we found in an adjacent room. Surprisingly, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The chair served as a stable anchor, simplifying the alignment of my subjects and facilitating the registration of their facial features during post-production.

Despite this initial hurdle, the remainder of the shoot proceeded seamlessly. We successfully captured all the necessary elements for the nine deliverables within the allocated two-hour time frame.

The Art of the Personal Project: Peter Howard

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Peter Howard

My journey to Ecuador, initially driven by a personal project, took an unexpected turn. The primary purpose was to accompany my family in returning my father-in-law’s ashes to his homeland for a final resting place. Amid the emotional backdrop of this poignant task, I found myself captivated by the breathtaking beauty, vibrancy, and warmth of the Ecuadorian people and the charming towns they inhabited.

In this moment of emotional intensity, being intimately connected to my father-in-law, I felt compelled to document the life unfolding in these cities and towns. Returning to my roots, I chose to embrace a simpler approach to photography – one body, one lens, and an old extended frame camera. In my professional life, I am often surrounded by assistants and a crew, facilitating concepts for clients. However, this personal endeavor allowed me to savor the creative silence that enveloped me on the streets.

The act of photographing became a therapeutic outlet, a means to navigate through the complex emotions surrounding my father-in-law’s passing. Through the lens, I aimed to convey my deep appreciation for the country that held a special place in his heart.

Regrettably, the current challenges facing Ecuador weigh heavily on me and my family. I empathize with the people and the nation as they navigate these troubled times, reflecting on the profound connection I forged with this remarkable country during a time of personal significance.

 Peter Howard, a distinguished photographer hailing from Baltimore, possesses a remarkable talent for capturing the essence of individuals through his lens. Specializing in portraits and lifestyle photography production, Peter’s work transcends conventional boundaries, offering a sincere exploration of human narrative.

With a commitment to showcasing the beauty of individuality, Peter Howard’s photographic journey is a celebration of the human spirit. His portfolio invites viewers to delve into the intricacies of human stories, fostering an earnest connection with the subjects and a deeper appreciation for the art of capturing life’s fleeting moments.

To see more of this project, click here

Instagram

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 advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

The Art of the Personal Project: Survey from Art Producers on why they are important.

Personal Projects have always been my favorite galleries of a photographer’s website as it showcases their creativity.  To get an industry perspective, I have teamed up with Heather Elder to get agency art producers’ opinions on personal projects and why they are so important.

As a former art buyer with decades of viewing websites and portfolios, it is a personal project that many times seals the deal on being hired.  Advertising campaigns are a collaboration of photographer, art director, creative director, account executive, client, and support crew.

In 2016, I started “The Art of the Personal Project” on APE with the vision to showcase a photographer and their personal style.  I search the internet for photographers on websites like Found, Workbook, APA, ASMP, CA, The Picture Show: NPR, photographer representatives and photographers for the work I admire.  For personal projects to showcase, I look for at least 6 to 8 images and a unique subject/story.  I don’t take submissions.

Below are the results of Heather and I reaching out to art producers, and we hope it is enlightening and inspirational.

Ali Berk (Director of Art and Print Production at 72andSunny), Caroline Fahey (Senior Art Producer at Droga5), and Cliff Lewis (Executive Producer and Director of Art Production at Droga5) have generously shared insights into the vital role personal work plays in keeping portfolios fresh, the delicate balance between timeless and outdated, and the art of holding interest in a world marked by fleeting attention. Through the points of view of these industry professionals, we aim to glean insights that not only guide photographers but also illuminate the ever-shifting dynamics of contemporary photography

 

APE/HER Art Producer Questions & Answers:

How crucial is it for photographers to keep their portfolios current with new content, and what are the consequences of failing to do so? Can a portfolio still captivate interest if it showcases older but compelling work?

Ali Berk: I always think that if you are making new work, even if it’s personal work, you are moving your creativity forward. I also believe that new work can attract fresh interest and bring in new clients.  Of course, portfolios can still captivate interest if it showcases compelling work, some work is timeless! But if the work feels stale (sometimes clothing and overall style starts to look dated) it might be time to experiment rotating in new work to see how it performs.

Caroline Fahey: Totally keep older work you feel proud of, and still reflects who you are as an artist. If it feels dated in terms of your style or work, you’d normally take on, I would remove it, as it is also really important your portfolio feels cohesive and has a strong point of view.

Seeing current and new work also allows me to see the kinds of brands you’re working with, ideas you’re generating, and where you want your work to go in the future.

Cliff Lewis: I do think it’s important for photographers and artists to keep their work current and relevant. In today’s fast-moving environment, it’s critical for producers and creatives to see that photographers and artists are at the very least, excited by the world and in the conversation. Remember that media is driving attention spans down, so we have very little time to engage anyone. In the ad world, a great deal of research around photography is done on social media so it’s a great way to have fun, be yourself and share your voice as an artist. Once you generate interest, that often leads to your website. At that point, as well as your current projects, you can share more commercial leaning or older work too.

What is the threshold at which a piece of work is considered outdated? At what point does older work lose its relevance or value in a portfolio?

Ali Berk: As creative people, we all strive to make something unique. Make beautiful things people have never seen before. In order to make work that is at the forefront of what’s being made, you have to keep making, keep experimenting, keep advancing the medium.

Caroline Fahey: Work is outdated if it no longer applies to what the photographer desires to shoot or accurately reflects their intended/current style.  If that work sticks out like a sore thumb and feels disconnected to everything as a whole, it loses its value.

Cliff Lewis: The threshold for older work is very subjective. I think this really distills down to instinct and your own feelings. Is it still relevant? Who am I showing it to, and did they inquire based on that work? Some pieces are incredible and should be shown but perhaps in a separate space?

Have you noticed a distinct shift in the style or content of photographic work post-pandemic, and in what instances can pre-pandemic imagery detract from a portfolio’s relevance?

Ali Berk: I don’t have a singular answer for this, as I think each genre of photography goes through distinct trends. These shifts in trend aren’t unique to the pandemic, but I think we all taught ourselves new ways to stay self-motivated, which might have led to the formation of smaller, creative teams working together to set new trends.

Caroline Fahey: Hmm, I don’t think I have actually, or perhaps I don’t really see a distinction. More just new trends?! With that said, I don’t think it’s worth crafting your portfolio to a specific trend or moment. Better to build your own unique style that will last you your career.

I also think this new rising generation of photographers are very focused in the celebrity/portraiture world, so it’s always refreshing to find younger photographers who aren’t necessarily in that space.

Cliff Lewis: In terms of pre and post pandemic, I believe that there has been an incredible acceleration in content (I’m not particularly fond of that word) and in particular, user generated content or content captured in that style. Social platforms like Tik Tok are changing the game. That is not to say that we are not still busy with advertising work in the more traditional lanes, but social platforms are starting to redefine the rules in terms of style and content. There are some demographic lines of course but a lot of brand audiences reside on social media so it’s inevitable that the medium is attracting a great deal of attention from brands and agencies.

From your perspective, does the regular creation of personal work correlate with a photographer’s career success, and if so, what are the underlying reasons for this?

Ali Berk: Making personal work, shows you are open to change, open to evolution. Even when you don’t have a project ‘for work’, you are staying curious and keeping your mind busy. I think this just sets you up to have an open mind set. I love looking through a portfolio not being able to distinguish what was made for a client and what wasn’t. There is so much freedom and possibility when you’re making something just for yourself, there’s no doubt that work will eventually bring new connections and people into your life.

Caroline Fahey: I’m not sure if there is a simple yes or no answer to this and it likely depends on the photographer. With that said, certain photographers’ personal projects allow me to bridge the gap between what they love to shoot, and how that can be translated to a hyper specific brief I have on the table for a commercial client.

At the end of the day, we are looking to create imagery that doesn’t feel like an ad. So, seeing how your personal style can translate into a commission is super important.

By simply only showing commissions on your site, it may pigeonhole you into specific projects/asks, whereas your personal projects will allow the ability for new opportunities you may not expect. We often are trying to find photographers that may push the boundary on a specific brief.

Cliff Lewis: A photographer’s personal work is an opportunity to present their voice, be bold and free of any commercial constraints, to showcase ideas in the purest form. And social media provides the platform, so I think there is absolutely a correlation between personal work and success.

What guidance would you offer photographers seeking creative direction for new projects? Are there any themes or concepts that seem oversaturated in today’s market?

Ali Berk: For photographers seeking creative direction, I would suggest trying to put yourself out there and connect with art directors and prop stylists whose work you admire, to see if they would be open to test shooting. I acknowledge it’s a privilege to have access to studios and equipment, so even testing with natural light and an iPhone can help you jam on ideas that might lead to something new!

Whenever there is a theme or concept that seems oversaturated in the market, that’s the sign that there is opportunity in the market to try something new. By the point that everyone is tired of seeing the same-old, for the people who look at work all day, anything new will be exciting! Mess around! Break the mold and try it from a new perspective.

Caroline Fahey: Don’t be afraid of collaborating with other art directors/creative directors/stylists to help concept for personal projects. No need to feel like your personal work must solely come from you, and you only.

If the idea/concept is unique, it will speak for itself and not feel oversaturated. I don’t think there is a reason to avoid creating something you feel compelled to make for the sole reason it may already exist.

Cliff Lewis: Pretty much everything is oversaturated in today’s volume rich media environment. What is scarce are rich ideas and intelligent, thought-provoking work. It is hard to puncture a saturated world. With typically only a short window to capture someone’s imagination, I would say work towards ideas that excite you the artist, that move you, and ones that provide the chance to share your unique point of view. Also remember that today’s social platforms also reward ideas that are imperfect. Of course, craft and execution are important to us but sometimes, viewers are moved by ideas and insight without the need to spend too much.

What implications might a scarcity of recent work have when it comes to engaging with new clients or collaborators?

Ali Berk: I would suggest that no matter how scarce the work, you try to operate with the same mentality. Continue to share your work with new clients and collaborators. You don’t need to spend money making mailers or sending gifts to get attention- emails work. Instagram works. Keep posting your new work and it will catch. Send emails when you have something new to share.

Caroline Fahey: Generally, it does ring some alarm bells. Some thoughts that go into my head (does not mean by any means the below are true – just where my head goes!)

  • If the work they have shot within the past year isn’t work they are proud of showing, it means they probably won’t be happy w/ images they create for my campaign, which is not a good sign.
  • If there is a lack of work, will the photographer be able to confidentially execute the brief on the table?
  • Does this photographers work on their website accurately represent their current style? Can I expect this on my shoot?
  • Is it a risk to show this work to creatives if there is a lack of work as a whole? If creatives want to pursue bidding with this photographer, do I feel confident they can deliver this brief?

How do you view the inclusion of speculative work aimed at specific brands within a photographer’s personal portfolio? 

Ali Berk: I think it’s a good idea to include speculative work if you’re trying to articulate a creative thought! However, I would operate with sensitivity to IP, by keeping that work for 1 on 1 portfolio reviews vs. publishing that work online.

Caroline Fahey: It’s super helpful to see how a photographer’s style can translate into a branded project. When viewing it from the eyes of a producer, it may spark ideas for a brief we have coming up / allow me to see your work in a different perspective.

Cliff Lewis: I love speculative work. In the last two years I know of at least two photographers who approached major clothing brands with speculative work and ideas. Based on thoughtful proposals and clearly a love for the brands, the result was a commission directly with the client and a hugely successful campaign of images. So, if you love a product or a brand, have passion and a vision, I’m sure clients would want to hear from you.

Can you highlight a memorable personal project from a photographer that captured your attention? Did that project lead to job opportunities, and what about it stood out to you?

Ali Berk: A personal project that has remained impactful for me is Daniel Jack Lyons’ project Like A River/ IG.   This long-term endeavor features extraordinary images capturing under-represented communities in the Amazon.  The images are incredibly impactful and really stuck with me.

Cliff Lewis: When I was at BBH in London, the Dazed editorial project “Feel it “ by the photographer, Rankin caught our eye. It was a photo series of couples kissing. We had a creative brief in the agency for a new twisted seam engineered jean from Levi’s and Rankin’s kissing series was just an instinctive fit. The shape, the mood the modernity of it was just perfect. Of course, there is an element of luck with timing but if you are creating and getting your work out there, the chance exists.

The Art of the Personal Project: Todd Antony

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Todd Antony

Each year, in addition to my advertising work, I try to undertake one or two personal projects to keep myself fresh from a creative standpoint. I get to go out and create work purely the way I want to, answering only to myself. These projects have led me down the path of shooting various subcultures and groups around the world. The lesser known the better. I’m fascinated by these small and compelling groups who have a unique perspective on life and the way they approach it.

‘Cholitas Escalators’ and ‘Dekotora’ are both their own series within this larger body of work that spans the past 9 years. The work crosses the globe, seeking out little known groups or subcultures of seemingly ordinary people who lead extraordinary lives in their own way. People that can lift a mirror up to show viewers both our differences and more importantly our similarities. In a time when the world is seemingly becoming more and more polarized, I would like the photography in these projects to hopefully be a bridge of sorts to narrow our differences.  (Note: Dekotora will be featured at a later date)

These ladies are the ‘Climbing Cholitas’ or ‘Cholitas Escaladoras Bolivians’. A group of Aymara indigenous women who are breaking stereotypes and shifting perceptions. In January of 2019 they summited the 22,841ft peak of Mt Aconcagua. The highest mountain outside of Asia. And did so eschewing traditional climbing clothing in favour of their traditional, vibrant, billowing dresses, and using their traditional shawls to carry equipment rather than backpacks.

The word ‘Cholita’ has previously been used as a pejorative term for the indigenous Aymara women of Bolivia. But these women are reclaiming it as a badge of honour.

In the very recent past, as little as 10 years ago, Bolivia’s indigenous Aymara women were socially ostracized and systematically marginalized. Known as ‘cholitas’, these women, easily identified by their wide skirts, braided hair and bowler hats, suffered racial discrimination and could be refused entry to certain restaurants, using public transport and entering certain public spaces such as the capitals central square, Plaza Murillo

While these women have been advocating for their rights since at least the 1960’s, their movement was further invigorated by the 2005 election of Evo Morales. Bolivia’s first Amerindian president. Since then, the majority indigenous population have seen greater recognition and autonomy. 

To see more of this project, click here

Instagram

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 advertising and in-house corporate industry for decades.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram