If you’re a professional photographer who uses assistants, please help out the industry by taking a moment to fill out this ANONYMOUS google survey. The responses will be used to help with assistant training and help to educate everyone in regards to going rates and common practices. The results will be made available at a later date.
It should take less than two minutes and your help is very greatly appreciated. Please share this with your peers!
When you meet Tracey Brown the first thing you’re likely to do is smile. This is probably because she was smiling first and once you see it, you just can’t help but join in yourself. It’s just one of those things. Such was the photo shoot and interview.
¶A commercial and editorial shooter, Tracey photographs people and building equally well, an enviable skill. Her very graphic style is a natural fit for her many corporate, medical and architectural clients, yet it complements, rather than overpowers, the subject’s personality. ¶The shoot took place in her fantastic studio on the third floor of an old factory in Baltimore– one of those with incredibly high ceilings and the old wooden floors that most of us can only dream about calling our own. The space is light and airy with just enough eclectic props to make it feel personable but without the slightest sense of clutter. It’s the kind of place that just makes you want to create images…
Photos and text by Matthew Rakola
Okay, first question. Tell me about Paper Camera. What’s in a name?
I decided on the name Papercamera, as I was looking for a name that fit my business and was memorable. My name is unfortunately very unmemorable! Papercamera to me describes what I do, as I’m working with a camera, but my images get translated into annual reports, brochures, magazines, and the like. It’s also a nod to my background in Studio Art, which is what I studied in college.
So you studied studio art in college – what led to the transition to photography? Do you ever wish you had gone a different route?
I studied everything in college- drawing, photography, painting, ceramics, printmaking. I would say that my twin passions were photography and drawing, but photography made more sense as a career, since I wasn’t interested doing illustration commercially. I don’t have any regrets over the way anything turned out, and I’m happy with the direction of my career.
Do you think that this background has influenced how you shoot? Can you see any similarities, stylistically between how you illustrate and how you shoot? Composition? Color Palette? Lighting?
Yes, I believe it does. In both drawing and photography, I am drawn to the effect of light and contrast, as well as texture in my work. A good image to me is where the light works as a player in the image, setting the scene and creating the feel of the finished image. I think that’s what draws me to architectural and interior work especially, but I try to use it in all of my work.
how did you find work when you were starting out in the business? And, is it different than how you find new clients now?
I’m sure I’m not the poster child of how to run a business!
I found work in unexpected ways when I was starting out. Sometimes, I would get a job referred to me from a photographer I assisted when the job was too small for them. I would also research clients I wanted, ones I thought I would be a good fit for and contact them and try to meet and show them my work. This is so unpredictable though. Sometimes, I would come out with a good feeling and never hear from them. Other times, I would hear from them months later and get a small “tester” job to see if I was a good fit with them. I would also do mailings to keep my work in front of people I was interested in working with.
I definitely think I find clients differently now. This is partly because I’m more experienced at it and understand the business end of things better, and partly because of where I am in my career. I think making connections with people is still critically important, but I think social media is also important because it’s a great way to get seen and keep your work in front of people. It’s definitely still a multi-pronged approach.
So a mysterious benefactor hands you a blank check and tells you to spend two weeks on any project you’d like, what would you shoot?
I’m not sure if I need a blank check to do this, but I would love to photograph the old mills surrounding my studio that aren’t rehabbed yet. I love all of the textures, the light, the history of these places. They definitely have personalities that I like to document, sort of like portraits of places.
[Too bad the blank check couldn’t buy me a building! Or access to places.]
Hey, why not? When we were shooting we talked about how we both loved to have a shooting space to call our own, even if that’s not where we make the majority of our pictures. What kind of building would you buy? And what do you think it says about you?
I would definitely buy an old industrial building, as I love the character of old buildings. There’s just something about the quality of the materials used, and the attention to detail in these older buildings that is missing in so many structures.
So what do you think that says about you?
I think it says that photographers generally enjoy having interesting locations to work with! (laughs)
Seriously though, I think it says that I appreciate the built environment, especially when done well. These spaces often have great light, because the builders wanted to bring in as much daylight as they could to light their space, since artificial lighting wasn’t the best at that time. These spaces tend to be a great combination of wonderful light, great textures, and solid construction. These spaces often have great nooks and crannies that are great to explore. I like exploring and working with what I find.
You started your business in 2000. If you could text message your younger self, and offer one piece of advice, what would it be?
I think I would tell my younger self to position myself for growth. I became a photographer because I am passionate about the art, not because I’m a business person. In the beginning, I knew less about running a business than I do now, and getting any type of work was a big deal to me. I would text myself the importance of how to price myself, when to start passing on certain jobs to be open to other opportunities, and just the importance of doing what you’re good at and outsourcing other tasks, rather than trying to perform every aspect of my business, so I can focus on the things I am essential for. I think that these things help one do more of the type of work they want to do.
Last one: three words that describe you as a photographer.
One of the most useful ways to start a career in photography is by beginning as an assistant. But, the common problem persists, how do you begin your career as an assistant with no experience as an assistant? APA|DC is offering a 3-Part series on assisting to help interested students and new photographers make the transition. While no amount of workshop instruction can replace on-the-job experience, each session builds on the previous one and covers a comprehensive list of topics, ensuring that participants are introduced to standardized material, appropriate for each level.
* * * * *
Part 1 of the series is a basic introduction to assisting, comprised of a gear demo, presentation on roles and responsibilities, and a panel discussion with veteran photographers and seasoned assistants. It is designed for people who are new to the photography world and have no or little experience on a photography set. We’ll cover the basics– the sorts of things that you need to know whether the project is studio-based, architectural, or location portrait.
Attendees will immediately break into two groups for two 45-minute sessions of cursory- yet very fast-paced- information about the real world of assisting. There will be a lot of ideas, tricks, and know-how packed into these two sessions– attendees will want to take notes.
• The 1st section will give students a look at (and feel for) some of the basic photography gear that they would be likely to encounter on a small photography set, from cameras to lighting gear to grip equipment, courtesy of f8 Rentals. We’ll cover the proper way to wrap a cable, set a light, and secure a set as well as many other fundamental skills.
• The 2nd section consists of a presentation covering the rights, responsibilities, and general etiquette for assistants. We’ll go over an assistant’s tool bag, location etiquette, roles and responsibilities, and some strategies for billing and invoicing.
After the two sections conclude, we’ll all come together for a panel discussion with photographers Renée Comet, Jon Feingersh, and Max Hirshfeld, and several experienced assistants to hear stories, opinions, and thoughts on how it all comes together. Hear firsthand what photographers look for in assistants, what some going rates are, and a few anecdotes from the field.
Thursday, November 20th, 1200 U Street NW, Washington DC. (1/2 block from U Street Metro on the Green & Yellow lines)
5:00 pm Registration Begins
5:30 – 6:15 1st Section
6:15 – 6:30 15 minute break and switch sections
6:45 – 7:30 2nd Section
7:30 – 7:45 15 minute break, gather in auditorium for panel discussion
7:45 – 8:30 Panel Discussion with photographers and assistants
9:00 Must be out of facility.
This will be a very busy evening so all students must plan on arriving on time.
Students/APA contributor and supporter levels $25; General Public $35;
APA Leader, Professional, and Associate levels – FREE
Real Business, Real Estimates, Real Life: Surviving and Thriving as a Working Professional
Join John Harrington, author of the best-selling ‘More Best Business Practices for Photographers’, for an insightful and solutions-oriented presentation on how to generate more revenue from the assignments, through pricing examples and discussion, negotiation strategies, and demystifying licensing of your work.
Unlock the mysteries surrounding how to price your work, and learn ways to negotiate from a position of strength. When it comes to licensing, how do you write a license that gives the client the permissions they paid for, without leaving loopholes you could drive a truck through?
Through a series of actual negotiated assignments, we will break down the negotiation and explain how to plan for the questions you’ll get, and to know the best ways to answer them. When it comes to pricing, there seems to be a world of secrecy around rates. We will discuss solutions for stock and assignment pricing, as well as discuss tools for you to establish your own. When it comes to licensing, we’ll discuss and explain the standardized licensing solution that is the Picture Universal Licensing System (or PLUS), and how to write a license, where to put the licensing language, and what the best format will be. Throughout the program, all of these elements will be integrated into each assignment discussed.
John will be selling signed copies of his newly released second edition of ‘More Best Practices for Photographers’ at the event.
September 25th, time 6:30pm – 8:30pm
The Torpedo Factory
105 N. Union St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Closest METROs: King St. Metro Station (Yellow line) Then connect to the King Street Trolley
APA/ASMP/ASPP/NPPA/WPOW member + students : $10 online/$15 at the door.
General Public: $20 online/$25 at the door
APA Members always pay $10. Join APA at the event and get in for free!
Ken Cedeno is an editorial photographer based in Washington, DC. With over 20 years of experience and a variety of clients that include The New York Times, The Ad Council, Central American Medical Outreach, Corbis, and Weber Shandwick, he keeps busy. His images have appeared in National Geographic Magazine and National Geographic Traveler, Newsweek, TIME, Paris Match, and many more. We met up recently to make some studio portraits and talk shop.
Let’s start with the basics: When and why did you decide to become a photographer?
It all began in high school–ninth grade actually. As a young boy, cool sounds were always interesting. One of them was the sound of a motor drive. I started thinking, “hmmm, photography.” I was always drawn to photojournalism–I grew up on LIFE, LOOK and National Geographic magazines.
So it started with the sound of a motor drive, huh? Have you ever pursued music?
Would you count playing the clarinet in 5th grade? In the early 80’s, I was a radio DJ at KWHL in Anchorage, Alaska for 4 years (I was an Air Force brat so I moved around a lot as a kid) and got to go back stage for a lot of concerts. So, to answer your question—no.
So you went to school at Brooks but only stayed a year. What happened then?
I moved to Chicago for four years and assisted many different kinds of photographers, honing what I really liked to do. And quickly became aware of what I never want to do again.
I assisted in a catalog house and on industrial shoots, and assisted photographers with table top products, cars, corporate, fashion and Playboy. I then moved to Washington, DC where I was a lab tech with AFP (Agency France-Presse) and also got to shoot some assignments, covering the White House and Capitol Hill. After AFP, I started freelancing, which I’ve been doing for the last 20 years. And while I’ve really enjoyed covering politics in DC, I’m starting to focus more on travel and stories. Capitol Hill can get a little dry–people standing at a podium, two men shaking hands, or people testifying at a hearing. About five years ago, a vacation to Costa Rica led to an assignment for a travel book. There were no stiff politicians, no jockeying with 15 other photographers for the same photo, and no pressing deadlines. That got me away from the Hill and to places like Haiti, North Dakota, Honduras, Alaska which opened up some opportunities for me to refocus my work.
You’ve pretty much run the gauntlet in the photo world– how do you think that affects how you approach your current editorial work?
Perhaps subconsciously that range of experience kicks in to develop a new look when shooting editorial. I’ll look at a situation and try different angles, locations, and lighting situations and play with it. I’m sure everyone applies their past experiences to solve a present problem—photographers are no different.
Speaking of which, what have you been shooting lately?
In April, I was in Israel and got to photograph Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the West Bank. I send everything worthwhile to my photo agency, Corbis Images, in New York City. The Israel trip provided some incredible images especially because we were there during both Easter and Passover. The religious history goes way back, and the ongoing issues between the Jews and the Palestinians is ever present in the West Bank. Last fall I was in North Dakota for a self assignment covering the rich oil boom and the massive increase in population as well as the ongoing need to increase its infrastructure.
And later this month, I’ll be returning to Honduras to cover CAMO (Central American Medical Outreach), an organization of dedicated U.S. doctors who provide primary medical care and other important surgeries for the local community. Through a friend of a friend, I was asked to help them improve their visual storytelling and the images on their website to help them raise awareness about their mission and work. And while there, I also stumbled on another story of destitute families who pick through these massive piles of garbage—the dump—to earn literally a few dollars a day.
I always ask photographers, “What makes you want to make pictures for a living?” In other words, why do you want to do this for a living as opposed to a hobby– what motivates you to shoot?
I love what I do and never considered photography a hobby. I’m attracted to the involvement of breaking news, and of sharing it. People, places and moments are what motivate me to shoot. Whether it’s a simple portrait, a wedding, covering a protest in Greece or a clinic in Honduras, I like to capture the moment and people’s emotions.
Is there one specific moment in your career that you wish you had made a different decision? Or, the opposite– can you think of one definitive decision that has shaped your career for the better?
Hmmmm. This one I regret: I wish I had listened to my heart and gone to a photojournalism school rather than to Brooks Institute. Brooks is a really great place for commercial photography, but it wasn’t for me, and I went for the wrong reasons. Had I taken the time to research more, I might have found the Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia or RIT in NY. Either one probably would have been a better fit for me. I sometimes wonder where I’d be with my photojournalism today if I had gone to one of the other schools.
Follow your passions harder people!
Dream client and assignment?
Well that would be the commonly and often mentioned National Geographic Magazine, who most people would love to work with. There are other admired organizations like the Pulitzer Center, who shed spotlights on stories and issues that are under reported and ignored. There can be many great stories the Pulitzer Center can help push through. As far as assignments, there are many. I think covering the Arctic Circle or the Antarctic would be a fantastic opportunity. Or any location where people just don’t go. You could also throw a dart at the globe and I’d do my best to make the most of that spot and get the best images possible. We’ve all heard the saying that our own backyard has thousands of opportunities …
Thanks for taking the time to do this. I have one last question. I always associate you with eyeglasses? How many pairs do you have? Do you think of it as part of your personal and/or professional branding, or are they simply utilitarian?
I have many pairs and styles and divided into two different strengths. One is used for shooting. I look at the images on the back of the camera rather close to my eyes. The other pair is for editing. The distance of my eyes to the laptop is a little further away. I don’t like the standard glasses for men. They’re very boring. I actually buy women’s glasses. Nothing too feminine– no diamonds and flared corners but a good fancy design is great. I often get great compliments on them with the occasional, “Really?” or “You look gay” comment. I really don’t give a shit if I do. I’m fine with it. I think it’s developed into sort of branding both personal and professional.
I just ran into a great friend and colleague, Melina Mara who’s shoots for the Washington Post. We both have the same pair. [Editor’s note: awkward.]
While the summer was nice and we here at APA|DC enjoyed it from various places around the world, it’s refreshing to feel the weather changing and we’re all ready to get back to work– enjoying another Magic Hour|Happy Hour, that is!
Yes, let’s meet up and recount the beautiful days of summer– sharing our experiences and coming up with photography schemes for the cooler months. It’s time to meet your fellow shooter (and editor, and art buyer) and plan for things to come!
This September we’ll be back in the Board Room in Dupont Circle. There will be the usual assortment of drinks and food and an added bonus– board games, if we’re feeling oddly competitive.
Reconnect with old friends and meet the area’s newest transplants.
This month APA|DC is pleased to introduce you to one of our favorite Assistant-level members, Erika Nizborski. Erika earned a BFA in photojournalism from the Corcoran College of Art + Design in 2010 and has been cutting her chops assisting area commercial shooters and shooting weddings and events since leaving the photo retail space a little over a year ago. (You might recognize her from the rental department at Penn Camera.) Find out what makes Erika tick, below:
What are your earliest memories of photography? Do you remember a specific photograph or the work of someone in particular? Or did you grow up in a family that took a lot of photos?
My earliest memories of photography are when I was about nine years old. I started constructing still life’s with dolls and action figures in my parents basement. When I was in high school I took my first photography class, my teacher introduced me to the work of Diane Arbus, Duane Michaels, and Ralph Meatyard- just to name a few. I was instantly hooked and began collecting antique cameras and searching out rare nearly obsolete films to shoot them with. I stated taking college darkroom classes my junior year of high school because my high school only taught digital photography. Growing up my family took lots of snap-shots and family movies. My father loves technology and I remember the day he came home with an early Kodak digital camera, it was 1.5 mega pixels. The photos it produced were terrible, that’s pretty much when the family photos stopped being taken.
We met when you worked at the rental counter at the former Penn Camera (RIP). I was new to the industry and you were extremely helpful and taught me something new every time I came in it seemed. How much did YOU learn from working there either from your colleagues or customers? And did many of the regulars share their experience or knowledge?
I worked at Penn in the rental department for almost 3 years. Jim, I think you were one of my favorite customers! I majored in photojournalism in college so, I had only taken a few lighting classes. While working at Penn I learned an exponential amount about studio lighting and grip. Mostly I learned techniques from my colleagues Anthony Herfort, Ken Hipkins, and the late Harrison Thomas. Those guys really took me under their wing and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today with out them. The customers also provided me with a wealth of knowledge. I got to see trends in rental reservations, I learned what the commercial photographers were using to produce their work, and I saw what the freelance wedding and event photographers where keeping in their bag.
You recently completed your first year as a full time freelance photographer. How did school (Corcoran School of Art) and then your experience at Penn prepare you to go out on your own? And how much have you learned on-the-job (if that’s even possible to quantify)?
The Corcoran College of Art + Design prepared me to think quickly in any situation; it was there that I learned how to be a photojournalist- a storyteller. However, it was my first college The Delaware College of Art + Design where I learned my craft, developed a strong work ethic, and where my passion for photography blossomed. Working at Penn gave me insight into the real world and business of photography. Now that I have been out on my own for a year I have found that I am still learning something new everyday. I believe that it is important that we continue to learn in this industry because it is ever changing. It is hard to quantify how much I have learned, but I still hear the lessons of my first photography professor playing over in my mind on a daily basis.
In your own personal experience how would describe the differences in your approach and/or thoughts and feelings toward photography as a profession and as an art form?
There are few people in this world that get to turn their passion into a career. I have seen photographers that have lost their passion for photography and just go through the motions, this for me is when it is no longer is an art form- it’s just a paycheck. I hope I never lose my passion for photography. I see no reason why professional photography shouldn’t be considered art. If the drive to create the work is there and the images convey something to the audience why wouldn’t that be art?
As a young person in an industry that’s highly influenced or motivated by technology and all things megapixels you are known to shoot and develop your own medium format film. Where does that desire/passion come from?
My first “real” camera was digital. I am fascinated with history and learning how we got to where we are today. When I was 16 I began getting into film photography because I saw it as a challenge. I wanted to learn why I was using certain tools in Photoshop. In elementary school I learned that I have dyslexia, I was constantly told I was doing things wrong. The one class I never got told I was doing anything wrong in was art class. When I got into the darkroom and began using a manual camera numbers made sense to me. It was like everything just clicked and numbers suddenly had a purpose. Working in the darkroom helped me overcome my learning difference and gave me confidence.
Is there a style of photography that you admire and would like to try but haven’t yet? (Sports, wildlife, high end fashion, commercial…)
I have assisted a lot of studio photographers. I feel confident in lighting and much of what goes into it yet, I have done very little of it myself. I would like to someday shoot more in the studio setting whether it is product, food, commercial, or portrait photography is fine with me. I find it all fascinating.
The first thing you might notice is that we’ve moved the site over to a .org, where it belongs. This reflects our status as a 501(c)6 professional organization with a mission to help support professional photographers. With a completely new interface, this modern design is much easier to read and find out what APA is doing across all of our chapters. News, events, articles and more now appear in a tiled format to make browsing much faster. (We’re visual people, after all.)
It’s now easier than ever to find and take advantage of all your professional discounts and member benefits. Additionally, we have simplified and condensed our membership levels to make joining easier and to give our members the benefits that are right for them.
Another highlight of the new apanational.org will be new a partnership with Behance to host enhanced photographer profiles. This will complement, but not replace, our valuable “Find a Member” feature and makes it easier for clients to find YOU.
But, as we all know from Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.” All of these great new changes will require a teeny bit of work from you. If you’re a current member, you’ll have to log-in and update all of your information again. Think of it as some spring cleaning.
To do this, visit: http://email@example.com, follow the instructions, and if you’re on the monthly plan, re-enter your billing info. (Need a little incentive? The monthly payment will now actually be cheaperthan before!)
If you’re not already a member, now is the absolute best time to join. We’re offering a 20% discount for anyone who joins by May 16th! That means that the most basic level starts at $40 for the first year. That’s about the same as a large fancy latte at Starbucks. (Without tip, of course.)
As with any website launch, there might be a few bumps in the road. Please be patient with us as we work to make your membership a more valuable asset to your career. Feel free to email matt [at] apadc.com if you need any help and let us know what you think.
Share the news on twitter with @apanational or #joinAPA and bask in the glow of an interconnected world.
Are you an APA Professional member with a story to tell? Let us feature you on our website. Email matt [at] apadc.com to find out how.
March 2014’s featured photographer Jim Darling, is one of APA|DC’s newest members. A DC-based portrait, interior and wedding shooter, Jim comes to the photo industry with seventeen years of graphic design experience, including stints on both the board of DC’s AIGA chapter and the Art Director’s Club. Aside from his professional work, he has developed a reputation for his mobile phone photography and is a founding member of the International Mobile Photo Group, InstantDC, and has lectured on the subject locally and at the Apple Store in New York City. Jim sat down with February Featured Member Jon Goell recently to talk about the transition from design to photography and much more.
You got your start in graphic design – Where did you study?
I went to school at SUNY New Paltz in upstate New York and graduated in December of ’91. My sister and her boyfriend had just moved down to Maryland from New York so I followed them down here February of ’92 – just days after the Redskins won their last Super Bowl, actually, so it’s been a long time. But I didn’t get a design job for a couple of months. I basically drove up and down from Gaithersburg to Rockville and Bethesda looking at graphics places and walking in. That’s how I got my first design job but I don’t recommend that as a strategy anymore.
So what led to the switch to photography?
I got a digital SLR in 2008 after joining Flickr in late 2007. I had point-and-shoot for a couple of years before that and I was starting to really fall in love with photography again. I just always had this in my head that I was going to be a graphic designer even though I felt like I really liked photography and I was really good at it. Ever since I first picked up a camera, I was drawn to taking portraits. So, it was always something in the back of my mind, but I think photography changed so much from ’92 to ’08, and I went a long time without even having a camera. But it was 2008 where I started to notice sort of a new passion arising.
When I was laid off at the Mortgage Bankers Association in March of 2008 I started a personal project, shooting street portraits of strangers. I was still working as a designer and had a series of short-term contracts and freelance jobs over the next two years, but all the while my photography was getting better and starting to get noticed within the local community. By the end of 2009 I noticed the imbalance between my passion for design versus photography – and photography was winning. I landed a part-time design job at the start of 2010 which allowed me the flexibility to also pursue work in photography, while still having the stability of a regular paycheck. The job ended last April and since then photography has been my only source of income. The relationships I had built with the design community over many years, as well as some exposure in local gallery exhibits, were integral in getting my foot in the door, especially with the designers that were now hiring me as a photographer.
So your connections came through? How did you build that network?
When I got into graphic design, I joined the local AIGA chapter where I ended up being a Board Member for 5 years. Then I was on the board of the Art Directors Club of Metro Washington, which now, sadly, is defunct. But having those connections in the graphic design community really helped with doing photography and getting jobs by word-of-mouth. But I didn’t really know about APA or ASMP or anything. I joined a social group on Flickr and got to know other photographers, hobbyists and professionals.
You started through Flickr?
I guess you could say that, yeah. I realized very quickly that there was a social aspect to it. I noticed local photographers going out on photo walks, doing happy hours, and putting on shows. I remember, after one of the DCist Exposed photo shows in the spring of ’08, sitting at the computer thinking, “Wow, I wonder if I could do that?” “I wonder how they got into a photo show; that sounds amazing.” Through Flickr I reached out to Kai Harth, one of the photographers I started following early on, and I asked him how I could get involved. He directed me to the ‘DC Social’ group and I went on my first meet-up with them in June of 2008. Some of those people are my best friends to this day.”
And a lot of this was also mobile phone photography…
I didn’t start until 2010, but quickly became involved with the mobile photography/iPhone photography genre when it was first coming up I was asked to join an international collective, the Mobile Photo Group, and I think that Flickr and Twitter got my iPhone work noticed. James Campbell, founder of InstantDC, actually tracked me down on Flickr because I was the only one shooting portraits on my iPhone in the area and that’s how our friendship started We put on a show and through that first show I met Greg Schmigel who was the founder of MPG, (Mobile Photo Group). I’ve been profiled on Mashable and done two talks at the Apple Store in New York City– all on mobile photography.
In those years, when you were starting to make the switch, did you do any photo workshops or get any training? Or are you mostly self-taught?
I guess you could say self-taught, or left over from high school and college. I learned 35mm and twin lens reflex and shot for my high school and college year books. I also studied some 4×5 view camera in college which I really enjoyed
That’s great. I want to backtrack a little. During any of these years that you were in design, either independently or working for other outfits, did you ever work with outside photographers?
I did. When I was at the Mortgage Bankers Association we had a photographer come in to shoot a stock library for us, using our staff. He did head shots and business lifestyle stuff and he probably shot over three days. Later, I worked with Thomas Arledge on an ad campaign that the MBA was doing. I learned the process of location and talent scouting, and was on the shoots with him and watched him light and art direct. Little did I know that I was going to go down that road. But working with him helped me learn that there was so much more to it than just buying pictures. That was really good. I’ve worked with him since and he remains a friend and mentor.
So, do you feel that your design background has a strong influence on your photography? If so, how?
I see my design influence in the way I compose a photo. Especially with environmental portraits, the space that the person is in and where they are in that space is very important to me. With fine art or landscape photography I’m constantly looking for interesting combinations of shape, color and texture.
Looking at your portraits now, you show a wide diversity of people in your personal work and an underlying feeling of sincerity and trust. How do you go about approaching a stranger on the street to photograph them?
I feel that one of my strengths is my sense of humor and my ability to connect with people, which is why I have always sought out portrait photography. [When approaching someone] I meet on the street, often times there is a brief interaction with the individual where I can quickly assess whether or not they’d be into having their picture taken. Even if there is hesitation in their approval you can usually tell that they are flattered at the same time. I’ll explain to them what it is I see in them that I think would make a great portrait. And I always give them a business card.. When I schedule ahead with the subject, like with corporate clients, they have time to prepare for the shoot mentally and I think that can make a difference. I do my best to explain my vision or scope and how long I think it will take. More creative shots, with people I know, we can be a lot more flexible and we take the time to try new things or just experiment with light, etc. And I can get their feedback while we’re shooting.
Who are some of the photographers, commercial or otherwise, who you admire and why?
I love Noah Kalina’s work. His environmental portraits are moody, mysterious, and beautifully lit. They have a Edward Hopper feel to them but can also evoke a slight sense of humor.
Also NY/San Francisco designer-turned-photographer Michael O’Neal. His work dispels any feeling that Instagram isn’t a place for real photographers.
How has the APA been helpful to you? What have you learned?
It’s been helpful to create relationships. Sometimes just the emotional support that comes with belonging to a group of photographers, even though I am new at this. I’ve learned a lot from different members, because they are open to helping me with questions that I have. I can call Matt Rakola; I can call Jason Hornick. Jason assisted me on a photo shoot with one of the Washington Redskins and that was really good. He was basically my lighting guy and that helped me focus on communicating with the subject. I’ve gone to them with questions about bidding and things like that. I think I learned through my involvement with AIGA and Art Directors Club that by belonging to a club you are supporting your industry, and that’s important to me. I’ve always been an advocate for personal connections. Even though you have followers on Twitter and Facebook, personal connections are still the most valuable to me.
So as you’re developing your own style you have to be thinking, at least a little bit, on where you want to take your photography. So the age-old question- “If you could get paid to shoot anything, anywhere what would it be?”
I would love to get paid travel to new places and spend time with the people that live there and photograph them and their environment. I think I could deliver a nice combination of portraits and landscape photos that tell a story. Basically be sent somewhere and be told, OK, find some street/stranger portraits here and come back in a week. Oh, And I’d like to photograph Tina Fey and come up with something hilarious but beautiful, like her.
This O’March, in celebration of St. Patty’s Day, we’re taking our Magic O’Hour|Happy O’Hour to the quaint olde O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub in Clarendon.
[O’kay, the apostrophes are O’ver.]
For the uninitiated or forgetful, this is a relaxed evening to catch up with peers, meet new people, and figure out this crazy thing called photography. The happy hour starts at 6 pm and the hanging out usually lasts well past 8 pm. New to the area or want to introduce a friend to the community? This is the social event for you.