You know how we’re all trying to entrench ourselves in social media? Here’s an easy way. APA|DC members, give us a follow on social media and we’ll make sure to follow you back. Instant connectedness. We’ll be #Bff ‘s before you know it!
Our NEWMember’s Only facebook group. This is where you will find people looking for advice, crew recommendations, used gear, or simply a way to vent. Remember, these are your peers so keep it supportive!
Our public facing facebook page. This is where we’ll share member news, repost interesting articles about the photo world in general, and generally keep you in the loop about what’s going on around town.
Twitter. Follow @apadc 2 c articles and find out what ur missing #doitnow #apanational #dcphotoevent
Instagram. We’ll feature behind the scenes images from events, graphics for upcoming events, and we promise to <3 all of your pics.
Earlier this month, APA|DC member Yacouba Tanou sat down with one of the chapter’s up and coming shooters, contributor level member Zach Miller to talk about music, inspiration, and what it takes to make it in today’s photographic landscape.
Interview and images by Yacouba Tanou
Who is Zach Miller?
I was born in Olney, MD and raised in Gaithersburg, MD. My favorite color is blue. Seafood is my favorite food. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and Meridian Hill park is one of my favorite places in D.C.
That’s awesome Zach. How long have been shooting professionally?
I have been a professional photographer for 4 years now.
Why photography?I was always a shy person and this type of art gave me an outer body type experience. Photography broke me out of my comfort zone and forced me to go meet people. Photographs are moments in time, capturing life. A picture is forever caught, showing our amazing world. This craft allows us to slow down time to gather and collect beauty.Can you recommend any book that helped you along your journey?
I am not really a book person, but I do believe that you are only as big as whom you surround yourself with. The internet is an open book for us to see who is around and see what’s trending. I love portraits and fashion, so my quest was to find who the best photographers in the area were at the time when I started. I wanted to learn what they were doing and to find a mentor to model myself after.
What inspired you to become a Photographer?I studied Business Management at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 2008, I moved back home to Maryland in pursuit of a music career. In my spare time, I was always traveling and taking pictures. Wow, that’s pretty impressive. Are you still performing music? What’s your Musician name?Yes, I am in a band called G2O. We’re a funk, soul, and rock band. A while back, one of the band members said that I should take a couple of photography classes. Little did I know that those couple of classes would turn into a year of photography classes at the Art Institute of Washington. Who and what inspires your photography?
I find myself shooting a lot of landscape and street photography in my downtime. My inspiration comes from Ansel Adam whose work I find very uplifting.
Will you share with us how you have penetrated the market and what advice you have for the photography community?I had a day time job for a while, and realized how hard it would be to become a professional photographer if I did not take the leap of faith and follow my passion. So, I had to get my name out there, and I did so using social media. Get out and shoot as much as you can, and you will get into a flow of growth.That’s beautiful Zach. How would you describe your photographic style? And where do you see yourself 5 years from now?We are starting to view D.C. as a colorful city with a sense of style. Our city is becoming a place to be, and the rest of the nation is starting to see that. To be honest, I am still trying to find my niche, but in 5 years time, I would like to travel and tell stories that will inspire people.What’s your happiest memory as a Photographer?Well, this is a little personal. My Father always wanted to take a road trip, traveling across country on Route 50, so last October on his 60th birthday we crossed that off the bucket list. For 16 days we drove across the country, witnessing stunning views and open county. Utah was by far my favorite part of trip because before leaving the state, we ventured off to the Arches National Park. It was a photographer’s paradise. There is so much beauty in the American landscape, from California to Colorado. Plenty of “wow” factor going on out there. It was on that trip, I decided to be a travel and portrait photographer.
Eli Meir Kaplan became interested in visual media after his parents brought home an early black and white video camera. Eli’s first of many videos on the camera was a stop-motion battle between He-Man and Skeletor, which he made when he was four years old.
Always passionate about storytelling and beautiful imagery, Eli found that his purpose as a photographer was to capture genuine and intimate moments from the human experience. Clients include: AARP, Bank of America, Dwell, Essence, Good Housekeeping, Pentagram, and The Wall Street Journal to name a few.
photos and interview by Matthew Rakola
. . .
Starting with a pair of softball questions: where are you from and how did you learn photography?
I’m from Teaneck, New Jersey. I took a few classes at the International Center of Photography. One of them was a documentary photography course with Andre Lambertson that got me thinking about a career seriously. Then I studied photojournalism as a grad student at The University of Texas at Austin. I started shooting professionally in 2009.
I have to admit– I’ve been trying to come up with a witty little line that describes the huge range of work you in a single sentence. It’s just not possible. You’ve photographed everyone from farmers to restauranteurs to city kids, with an additional helping of soul musicians, athletes, and tradespeople. And, let’s not forget the CEOS, architecture, and your lifestyle images. You’ve raised the idea of being a generalist to a whole new level. Was this intentional?
Thank so much for the very kind words. Of course not! I think I have such a broad range of subjects because I’m indecisive and there are so many subjects out there I want to explore. I’m also always eager to challenge myself and expand my skills. I got into the field purely through documentary photography. I was initially focused on the art world. I went to photojournalism school, but I quickly realized that I didn’t like the assignments I was getting and I started to explore other subject matter and clients. At first I wanted to completely change the type of photographer I was and I tried a bunch of different shoots that didn’t fit my style, but I eventually found that I couldn’t leave my documentary background behind entirely and be somebody else. So in the end the decision was made for me! It’s weird because I still have the urge to do something completely different sometimes but that’s gotten less and less.
So do you consider yourself more of an artist or a communicator?
Definitely more of a communicator. That’s the business I’m in. Any time I try to be artsy it doesn’t work.
Ha! I can relate. So what kind of research do you do on a subject before you make a portrait of the person or shoot a photo story? I’ve talked to photographers who don’t want to know what the person looks like prior to the shoot because they are afraid that it will affect their own images, and I’ve met others who sill spend hours researching how others have photographed a person or shot a similar story. Where do you fall?
Good question! I definitely don’t like to see how others have photographed the person, but I do at least read a bio so I have something to talk about. Sometimes I watch a video clip if there’s one available—I read that somewhere.
How do you motivate yourself on those mornings when it’s just hard to get out of bed?
Good question. I think about prospects in the future that I’m excited about. Projects, relationships that I want to build.
Any pre-assignment rituals?
Bring anything I think I could possibly need. Charge all my batteries. Look up the person I’m photographing. Double check the address. Print out any instructions and highlight them. Load mood boards on my iPhone or iPad.
Making a portrait of a person can occasionally create a very unique bond with them– you’ve literally pixel-peeped at the pores on their nose. Have you ever developed an ongoing friendship with a subject because of a shoot?
Yes! I actually met two of my greatest friends through an assignment for The Wall Street Journal. It was just a couple hours but I thought they were pretty cool. I went back to photograph a portrait of them on my own and ended up hanging out. Actually, they introduced Takoma Park to my wife and I (where we live) and have really become our extended family. Never thought that would happen in a million years.
Did you have a single assignment or event that you would describe as being “your big break”?
Yes, as a photojournalism grad student at The University of Texas at Austin, my master’s thesis was a documentary project about a boy with autism and his caregiver. I aggressively pitched it to a lot of publications and ultimately it appeared on Time.com, which has since been replaced by Time Lightbox. It also appeared on the Reportage by Getty Images Emerging Talent website. Having the story in the spotlight on those two sites was my foot in the door of the editorial market.
What is some advice you’d give to your younger self?
Just get started earlier. I definitely took my time. I think my brain wasn’t fully developed yet.
At the end of the your photography career, at your induction into the Photographer’s Hall of Fame, how would you like to be described, and who would you like to give the presentation?
I definitely would like to be recognized for projects that had a greater purpose than just the advancement of my career and I would like my images to be described in some way as capturing authentic moments from the human experience. It would be cool if one of my future children gave the presentation. This is all hypothetical of course.
We here at APA|DC never like to sit still. We like to mix it up and try new things. Having said that, we’re trying out a new event that involves… well… sitting around and talking. In addition to our regular happy hours, we’re going to occassionally organize an afternoon coffee break to give all of you a chance to stretch your legs, look at the world from a slightly different perspective, and talk about a topic that is relevant to what we do as self-employed photographers.
On January 13th, please join us at the Kogod Courtyard (that’s the awesome covered space between the Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum) for some coffee and a very casual discussion about your new year’s goals and resolutions. We’ll talk about some organizational, emotional and creative strategies and figure out how we can help each other succeed. Afterwards anyone interested can go see the very cool Richard Estes exhibit at the Art museum as a group.
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.