Friday, August 15, 2008

I need an editor...

Writers have editors, musicians have producers, and directors have writers, editors, and creative producers---and this photographer could use the guidance of a photo editor/art buyer/art director or someone with a keen sense of how the heck I'm going to put my work together for the umpteenth billionth time.

This is what my desktop looks like at the moment.

I've done numerous on numerous versions of my portfolios and shared those with other photographers, photo editors, and a few reps as well. The one thing that is consistent (and you've probably heard this before), if you show your work to 25 different people, you'll get 25 different opinions. That's been the case in my experience thus far. Some like picture X, others like Y, some don't like Z, while others would have me open with it. Unfortunately, when it comes to the reps and the photo editors, I've always had to show a "completed" portfolio. Though, as we all know, the idea of a completed portfolio is a farce anyway since it's an ongoing work. Nevertheless, I was speaking with a fellow photographer yesterday, one who's a bit farther along in the game than I am, and he asked me if I'd ever given my book to an editor. He said he once gave his work over to someone to edit and when it came back to him he couldn't believe the work was his. Everyone sees things differently, and my juxtaposition of two images next to one another may not make sense to you, even though I was sure it was an easy read. I've got a friend who's a VP of Creative at an ad agency here in town who offered to give me a hand so I think that will be my first stop, at least for the advertising savvy stuff. Maybe I'll throw down the extra 3 bills for Mr. Haggert to put in his thoughts when I make my new website this month...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Next Wave

I am aware that this blog has been less frequent lately, but I like to think that's an indication that things are going fairly well. This summer has been busy and I've been shooting quite a bit and traveling too. I just returned from a 5 day trip up into Norcal to do some exploring and camping and a bit of shooting too. The farthest I'd previously been was into Marin, but this trip landed me all the way into the Humboldt Redwoods, which are probably the most magnificent forests I've ever seen. Pretty much drove most of the northern California coast starting at Point Reyes and finishing a bit before Eureka. I love road trips.

Anyways, I'm back home now for what appears to be an open schedule to start taking care of the stacks of papers, empty cupboards, and piles of laundry that have been awaiting my attention. More importantly, I've got a lot of new work to sort through, retouch, and print, a new website to build (looking into the aphotofolio sites), create and mail new promos, and finally get these portfolios filled with new images and to hopefully create some sort of real ad book. I'd like to go back to New York in the fall with something new to show.

Speaking of new work... here's a quick scan straight of the contact sheet from my shoot in Carlinville, Illinois in July.

And yes, Nick (the guy who commissioned the shoot) and his brother Rob really did grow up at this very intersection...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Digital Madness

I prefer to shoot film.

Yes, digital is nice to look at the screen and see my images, and all that stuff, but when it comes down to the very end---after the shoot---I would rather take my film to the lab, wait a few days, pick up the contacts and start my edit. I am currently swamped with somewhere around 30 gigs of RAW files (from the Canon line, not from medium format mind you) that I must edit now and archive and adjust levels and contrast--and it's my least favorite thing about photography. Honestly, give me 40 contact sheets and I can edit them in no time--I'll have it narrowed down to 25 frames of my top picks with ease. On the other hand, if I've got 400 digital frames, I wind up staring at spinning beach balls, magenta skin tones, pixelated jpeg previews, and images that I really have to wait for endless amounts of time in order to check sharpness. Digital just takes way longer than film to edit. And when there's no real post production budget, it's up to yours truly to edit, process, color correct, and post... In these cases, I am the lab. At this level that seems to be the way photography is going. I am happy to be shooting though, I love that part!

I had a couple shoots in the last few days that went pretty well. Now I'm staring at spinning beach balls though... I would like a real budget job again very soon...

One other exciting thing: I made a holga lens for a digital body. That was fun.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Back in Venice

Ah, back to Westside and to a bunch of new work that I am busy going through editing, retouching, and all that good stuff. After a few flights and trains and taxi rides lugging my gear around Illinois for 10 days I've got a few new takes on the logistics of traveling around for a shoot.

First of all, shooting 100% digitally will probably save a lot of carry on space. I tend to carry film cameras and, perhaps, have a bit of camera ADD -- meaning that I am constantly switching cameras. I do this mostly because I like the different effects of different film formats, lenses, looks of film, etc. Some, if not all of those effects can be re-created in the photoshop, but the amount of work required to each image to recreate those effects can cancel out any cost savings digital may create (depending on just how far you want to take your digital image to emulate certain film cameras and film stocks.) However, having one body or two and several lenses and a laptop would certainly be much lighter than an entire bag devoted to multiple cameras, lenses, polaroid backs, film backs, plus the laptop and digital body as well.

Secondly, with the airlines now charging for baggage under the plane, it's pretty important to factor that into the cost of plane ticket. On this last trip I flew United and traveled with a 7B, a bleached white muslin, a c-stand, a light stand, tripod, several softboxes, and some miscellaneous grip---just about the minimal kit I like to travel with into an uncertain shooting situation (except for the muslin, that was for a specific shoot that I wound up doing in Champaign.) United gives you one free bag under the plane, the second bag is $25, and the third is $100. And each bag has to be 50 lbs. or under--no more media rates for bags up to 100 lbs. No more negotiating. In the end, it turned out that shipping back my body bag with the stands and tripods and grip saved quite a bit and kept me from having to lug 5 bags around Chicago.

I guess if you really want to keep costs down, go digital and shoot it all natural light. Unfortunately, that can be a bit limiting, so if you have to bring lighting, look into shipping options for your gear, and also the baggage policies and costs specific to your airline.

The heartland at 70 mph on my Lomo

Monday, June 30, 2008

Carlinville, Illinois

Rob Haggert posted the other day about toy cameras and the Holga--my absolute favorite toy camera of choice. See the post.

As for me, I am currently in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois visiting my mom, who recently moved here. The commissioned shoot for my friend, that brought me out this way in the first place, went well really well. We took the redeye to from LAX to O'Hare on Friday night. Got in just before 6am and drove the 4+ hours to Carlinville, Illinois---population 5700 according to the sign. Carlinville is truly small town America-- and if you take exception to the flora, I think I could have been in just about any small town east of Colorado.

Nick, Rob (his brother and a close friend of mine), their mom, Janet, and I arrived at the house around 11:00 am where their younger sister Katie, and dad, Phil were already there. Nick and I did a walk through of the house and it was immediately apparent that there was plenty of to shoot and any associated stress of wondering just what the heck I was going to shoot immediately disappeared. The house is over 130 years old, sits 2 stories high with 10 foot ceilings---it had plenty of character. Beers were cracked and mimosas poured sometime before noon---and I thought, okay, so this is how it's going to be.

I started my first shot sometime around noon---using my Holga, lomo, RZ, and an old 35mm Mamiya Sekor (the one with the uncoated lenses). Nick is a big fan of my Holga images and asked me to bring that sort of nostalgic feel to these images. He stayed with me throughout the day, breaking away periodically to sit and hang with the family. We continued shooting exteriors as well as a portrait of the family too until about 7 that evening.

Sunday, I got up just past 6 am to check the light on the front of the house. The front of the house faces East, and when we arrived the sun was fairly high overhead. I shot it the first day, but I wanted to try and get a more front lit shot of the house as well. Unfortunately, the morning was socked in with clouds, so instead, I lit for another family portrait on the screened in porch. By 9 am we had finished that shot and Nick and I moved on to set up for an interior portrait of his mom and then a separate one of his dad. The sun busted through the clouds sometime while setting up and we got the front of the house hero shot (with the morning light this time) and also finished both portraits as well.

All in all, I was in Carlinville for about 28 hours, but somehow it felt much longer (in a good way)--and complete. I never felt rushed and we were able to cover more shots than either of us had initially imagined. Most everything I shot was on film, with the exception of the individual portraits of his parents.

Here's a rough jpeg [quickly processed using my laptop -- no real monitor for color/density corrections] from the images of his father---Phil, that I wanted to share...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Checking in...

Things have been pretty busy recently, which is great. I know when my office is messy, clean laundry sits on my bed for days on end, and I'm generally out of the many different staples in my pantry that life is probably on a bit of an upswing. I had 2 shoots last week that took up a lot of my time. And I've been trying to knock out a new portfolio to bring with me when I head out of town for about 2 weeks -- leaving on the redeye tomorrow night. In fact, if Samy's were open right now, I'd probably be absorbed in printing and cutting down new images for my book, but I've got another 45 minutes or so to go.

On Wednesday I shot an up-and-coming pop/club/dance/ singer on Interscope records -- Lady Gaga. It was for a small, no budget magazine, but I own the rights to the images, so I figured it was worth the gamble for syndication purposes. I had a great team of hair, makeup, and a great assistant and we powered through four setups in about 90 mins including some makeup and wardrobe changes. I'm pretty stoked on the images and will probably use a couple in my portfolio once they are touched up and printed. Saturday was a shoot for a small catalog that I've been shooting for just under a year and this seemed to be our best shoot yet, so that was nice too.

As for my upcoming trip, I'm pretty stoked on it. A friend of mine has commissioned me to go to his lifelong childhood home and photograph the house before it is sold. He's a painter and a bit of a sentimentalist and he asked me to shoot it for him and his family. It's a great chance to get out of LA for a bit to do some shooting and to have it paid for, which is even better. So, we leave tomorrow and head to Carlinville, Illinois for a couple days. Serendipitously, my mom just moved to another part of Illinois about five months ago, so I'll spend a week with her, and then head to Chicago for the 4th to see friends and hopefully put together some meetings with ad agencies in Chi-town before I come back to LA.

Before I get out of here to go pick up more ink and paper and immerse myself in photoshop for the rest of the day I wanted to address something mentioned on Shawn Records Blog a little bit ago. In this post he says

"• band photography: is there a way to photograph a group of painfully self-aware 20 somethings in their hipster finest and not have it reek? Please, let's talk about band photography- show/share. My favorite band photo of all time is the inside jungle hippie photo from an old Three Dog Night album, but I can't find it online. I just remember it had a pregnant woman and a watermelon in it and, in a sense, is somewhat reminiscent of Justine Kurland's contemporary work."

I commented on his blog and figured I'd address it on my own. I've spent a good amount of time working with one particular band here in Los Angeles including going out on a couple tours with them for weeks on end. I think in the reportage sense of photography there's a lot of great work out there. Look at Jim Marshall for a real historical viewpoint. And, more recently, Christopher Wray-McCann has also created some great images. I'll even post a few of my own shots from being on the road with some "painfully self-aware 20 somethings in their hipster finest," and contend that it doesn't reek. Yes, I know, I'm putting my own work out there and saying it doesn't suck, but hey, if I thought it sucked, I wouldn't show it off anyways...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Interview with Heidi Volpe

Several weeks ago I asked Heidi Volpe, Art Director of the Los Angeles Times Magazine, if I could interview her for this blog. I sent her the questions and she went over them and then we made plans to get together in person. Last Thursday we got together (yes, Rob Haggart beat me to it) and went over the interview and I also got a chance to share new work with her. That Thursday things were pretty uncertain as to the future of the magazine, but we really didn't know exactly what was coming. On Tuesday of this week it was made public in the New York Times:
"The Los Angeles Times has made plans to transfer control of its monthly magazine from its newsroom to its business operations and to replace the magazine’s entire editorial staff, according to two executives at the newspaper."
Most of the interview took place before I knew about any of this, but Heidi took the time to go back over and elaborate on some of the questions after everything came to light.

Thanks Heidi.

(At the bottom of the interview are tears of jobs that Heidi and I have done together.)

Here it is...

Heidi Volpe is the Art Director at the Los Angeles Times Magazine and was the former Traveler Art Director at Outside Magazine. She has managed to turn the Los Angeles Times Magazine into a beautiful photo driven publication and was the first person in Los Angeles to hire me with some sort of frequency. She's also a kick ass mountain biker and a way cool woman to boot...

When we first met it was actually on the set of another photographer, great guy that he is, who had called me down to the studio to meet you. He told me not to even bring my portfolio, but instead to bring a personal project I'd been working on called Honk and also to bring some promos to leave with you. I think you and I spoke for about 5 minutes, as you were in the middle of shooting a cover. A week or two later I got a call from your office to shoot a story and I was pretty shocked considering you hadn't actually seen my book. Do you find that personal work or a personal project may indicate something about a photographer that you might not have otherwise seen?

Oh yes, we were on set with Art Streiber shooting our power issue, that was an intense day with no extra time. You see, I totally trust Art’s judgment. He has great respect for his crew he surrounds himself with quality people. I would do anything Art asked, if he asked me to jump off a bridge I’d at least consider it. Yes I think personal projects indicate somethings indeed. It shows initiative, drive. You are essentially showing me your craft your voice and how you visually story tell, not what someone asked you to do. It’s a good window into your eye. PLUS A big part of personal projects is having the ability to make something happen. Ideas are easy, making it happen is a whole new skill set, that and the follow through are huge indicators to me that someone has a vision and is commited.

How do you like to find new photographers? (promos? e-promos? recommendations by colleagues? contests? websites?)
All of the above are great resources. My favorite is when a photographer or a fellow art director or photo editor recommends an assistant as an emerging image maker...........

Any preferences or pet peeves when it comes to websites?

I hate fishing around how to navigate the site. Make it easy and clear. Sometimes I think sites can be over designed, take to long to load. There is nothing worse than the dead space between the site loading and your editor standing there after you had to this great build up and sales pitch to why this photographer is perfect for the job. I never try to talk after the close so that dead space seems endless.

With the emerging photographers group, do you prefer to meet with them before you would give them an assignment, or is that not really necessary?

Meeting them is good. Esp if it’s a portrait I like to see their social skills.

One of the things that is exciting for us here in Los Angeles is that, for the most part, you have drawn on a talent pool of LA / Socal based shooters. Is this done with deliberation or is it also based on budget constraints?

Deliberation. I want to support the community out here and debunk the gripe about all the good photographers being in NYC.

Speaking of budgets, originally the magazine was a weekly and then it switched to a monthly. Has that affected the choices you make when hiring photographers?

Yes, I have a little more time to think through assignments. Weeklies are high speed, always on to the next one. It was a love hate, b/c you had to be decisive, monthlies you can second guess yourself for while which can be slightly maddening as well.

Are you less likely to take a chance on a newer shooter simply because there are 1/4 of the amount opportunities that there were when you originally came to magazine?

Shooter. I hate that word, it’s sounds like you are gamesmen. You should say photographer. I still would take chances maybe not on bigger projects thou. I would start off with FOB then move them to features.

Are there major differences with what photographers can do in the post production arena when they are working for The Los Angeles Times Magazine (part of the Los Angeles Times Newspaper) as opposed to a magazine like Outside? Have you had any issues (problems) with photographers who might want to push those boundaries?

Yes. The line is very bright here. NO POST PRODUCTION. Period. End of story but since it’s the end of the magazine, and it’s going to the business side, I would think they would allow it because we don’t share the same ethics or integrity.

Your former colleague at Outside, Rob Haggart (, writes a lot on his blog about where he thinks the magazine and photo industry might be heading. Any thoughts on the future of the biz?

Do you have all afternoon? That’s a huge question to answer... Well I think what has happened here at the Times is a sign of the future. Profit is paramount and journalistic integrity is being shoved aside. Another surprise has been fuel costs. They are driving paper costs through the roof. It’s not only the distribution, it’s the fuel costs to run the manufacturing equipment. That cost is not being passed along to consumer, it’s absorbed by the company. Cuts ensue, unrealistic demands are made, it’s a vicious cycle.

Any books, movies, music, blogs, websites, environmental suggestions, or anything else you want to recommend to the readers?

When you are on a shoot, mark your water bottle, we are choking on plastic bottles. Use ftps, Usendit instead of messengers + fed ex if you can. Ride your bike more, drive less.



My incredibly talented riding partner

Scott Tedro the force behind Team Sho-Air



Ride safely!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Updates and what's up with the Los Angeles Times Magazine?

It's been pretty busy lately. I spent all of last week and some of the week before preparing images for re-working my portfolios for a couple of meetings I had. One of the things I do is to print everything 4x6 or 3x4 to scale (correct crop and all) and then I put those images on magnets and use magnet boards to work on layout. This might sound like a lot of work, and some of you might ask, why not do it on a computer screen, but since the images in a book are tangible prints, I find the most accurate way to see how the book is going to feel is to make smaller prints. I pick them up, move them around, and it feels very natural. Trying to get a feel for a 50 page portfolio on a computer screen doesn't really simulate the book feel, in my opinion. I finished preparing almost everything and actually swapped out about 15 prints in my portfolio in time for my Thursday meeting. Also had a shoot scheduled for Monday, cancelled, rescheduled Tuesday, cancelled, and now rescheduled again---so we'll see about that one.

In other news it looks like the Los Angeles Times Magazine (one of my most consistent clients) has been completely overhauled.
See stories here and here.

Two images I found while going through the archives in search of anything that might be usable.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Snapshots and photo albums

Been pretty busy (stoked on that) working on estimates, scanning, prepping images for upcoming meetings, and getting a couple of interviews ready for this blog. So, I'll keep this one short.

One thing I've noticed as I've been scouring through all of my film and shoots over the years (trying to see what images I might have missed--that might actually be worth re-visiting) is that I have a lot of photo albums. Well, it seems like a lot to me--I'm not really sure if it's a lot or not. Looking through the bookshelf in my closet I counted 17 albums (of 200 or 300 pages each) for the last 12 years. And I try to keep them in chronological order---like an edited down timeline of my life. Most of the snapshots could probably be broken down into a few categories---shots from traveling (either work or personal travel), shooting my girlfriend, hanging with friends or my little sisters, or shots from going out and partying. It's pretty much been that way since I was in my last year of high school when I first started taking photos with an Olympus Stylus Epic (with the fixed lens)---I'm now on my 4th Olympus---after a few thefts and occasionally leaving the camera behind somewhere. Though at this point, I think most people would probably leave it be even if it was laying out on the street---it's a pretty basic film camera.

I still don't have a digital point-and-shoot. I did start looking at them, but I haven't found one that I like just yet. It's gotta have RAW, be good at iso 400 (minimum), be fairly compact, and I like an eyepiece too. So I am open to the digital point-and-shoot thing, at least for shooting certain types of things, but I think I'll always keep my Olympus for the photo albums---I'm pretty sure of that.

Here are a few snapshots from the archives that caught my eye today. (I am aware that some are scratched, etc.)


March 1999

December 2000

March 1998

Decmeber 1998

August 2001

December 2007

October 2004

October 1999

December 2007

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Feeling Inspired?

In the "Why did I start this blog" post last week I talked about how I had felt stagnant and didn't know what I wanted to shoot at one point not too too long ago. Today, I'd like to offer some ideas about how to get out of that rut. It's kinda like the Waiting place, in Dr. Seuss' book Oh, the Places You'll Go! You might be there momentarily, but you'll move past it. And if you need some inspiration...

  • Take a trip---- Any trip will probably do, but for me, changing my surroundings to something a bit foreign has always, and continually does, make me want to take photos. They may or may not be for the portfolio, that's irrelevant. What is important, is to feel a bit of inspiration when behind the lens.
  • Carry a camera in your car (if you live in NYC, your bag will do)---- You don't need a big medium format monster or some slr--a fine point and shoot, holga/diana/lomo, Fuji GX645, or anything else small and lightweight will suffice. Then when you're going around and you see that really amazing shot and think, "if I only had my camera," you'll have a camera and the rest is up to you.
  • Start a personal project---- I chose old American cars from the late 60's to early 80's to get me started. I still shoot em, cause they just look so cool.
  • Go to an Art Museum---- Be it photos or paintings or sculpture, find something that moves you.
  • Read books.
  • Visit family---- Often leads into some of the most interesting and amazing and intimate photos.
  • Get a hobby---- Having a life outside of photography is a great thing.

In my experience of it, I've produced my most interesting work when I've felt inspired---which brings me back to why I got into photography in the first place. It's win-win.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Family Ties

About a month ago I went home to see my dad and sisters and stepmom and my 92 year old grandfather happened to be there too. I hadn't seen my grandfather in several years and at 92, it's hard to say how much longer he'll be here. I had privately hoped to shoot portraits of my grandfather (his name is Harry just like all of my uncles--and all of them are pretty much bald) but I wanted to make sure that the shots would be great portraits, not just snapshots of grandpa. After a little scouting I found a great area in a new garage my father had just finished building. I asked all of my family (Dad, stepmom, both sisters, and my grandfather) if I could shoot their portraits.

My grandfather said that he'd never had his portrait taken. I put on Sinatra and we shot for about 20 minutes or so. I'm pretty stoked on 'em.

My youngest sister, well, she's just darn good in front of the camera...

I'd like to see them more--we live 2663 miles apart.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why did I start this blog and the realities of where I'm at...

Since the surf is super flat this morning, I figured I'd take the time to write, rather than just post some pics with a little bit of explanation...

I'll admit, I read Rob Haggert's blog (a photo editor) on a regular basis and through reading his blog I started exploring the photo blogosphere. There was definitely some inspiration through all of this intake, but for me there's more to it other than the fact that everyone else is starting to do it.

The short of it (relatively speaking), goes something like this...

The factors leading up to my blog:
  • I was an assistant and pretty tied into the photo scene (who's shooting what and for whom, etc.) Super motivated, always working on my portfolio. Spent every free moment (except for the time I was in the water) working on photography.
  • Stopped assisting and started shooting, but with little predictability.
  • Fell out of the whole photo scene, no real clue who was doing what, nor did I want to think about it, since I wasn't shooting all that much---and thinking about what everyone else was doing kinda bummed me out a bit on top it.
  • Went on the road with a band to shoot for a few weeks (to be written about in a future post.) Also went back to my former university as a visiting artist and did a photo show (also for future content.)
  • Came back from the road. Got really slow. Couldn't really think of anything I wanted to shoot. Wasn't really sure what the hell I was doing. Things were stagnant. Felt pretty bummed out about where I was in my career.
  • Started focusing on a lot of other things outside of photography (very important for my own personal happiness). A friend sent me the dvd The Secret (very very cheesy in presentation--no doubt, but it reintroduced me to those concepts, which I had lost contact with). Started reading books again. Started taking a Spanish class. Got a whole new take on career and commitment to a positive outlook on life.

  • Started reading a lot more photo blogs.
  • I have always liked to write.
  • I have the free time.
  • I'd love to do something that may help out others in a similar situation to my own.
  • I have a whole heck of a lot of work that doesn't necessarily fit in with the confines of my website.
  • I have been looking for new ways to share my work and promote myself.
  • I have new reasons to contact photo editors---(hold tight for an upcoming interview with a photo editor--probably about a week and half away or so...)
  • It is one of the best motivating factors I can think of to keep me shooting. Already started shooting a new personal project.
So, that's pretty much it. I'm a blogger now, and it's pretty darn fun.

An RV convention? Ok, but what's the story...

(to see the published story, click on the post title)

(images posted are some of my favorites that didn't run)

One of the first real jobs I got after my initial New York trip was from Popular Mechanics. The assignment: we want you to go to Salem, Oregon to shoot an RV convention. Though I was shooting the story that particular summer, it wasn't slated to run until the following summer. The convention meets once a year and in order to have the story for next year, they needed to have it shot the year before. I was told by the photo editor that it was like a "Pimp My Ride" for RV's; and that is what she was told by her editor.

I was to meet up with the writer when I got there and go around and scout out things on the first day and shoot the next two days and fly back the next morning.
I took an afternoon flight and got to location late afternoon and met up with the writer, a young enough guy, but it was clear to me that he definitely had done this kind of thing before. We walked around the convention and talked with everyone we could and explored numerous RV's. The thing was, there wasn't really any particular story yet, so I had absolutely no clue what I was going to shoot. Mark, the writer, and I talked about what would make for interesting photos and interesting writing as well. The one thing I can tell you is that this certainly was not "Pimp My Ride" for RV's. Photographically speaking, the RV's weren't all that interesting and Mark felt the same. However, after talking with Mark I came to understand a couple things:

  1. There a bunch of cool buses here, that people have converted into "RV's".
  2. Popular Mechanics readers are very into the D-I-Y thing, and if we found several folks who had converted the buses on their own that would make for a more interesting story.
Now, we had found several folks who had converted or built their own buses. Not only did those buses make for much more interesting photo opportunities, but those people also made for a lot more interesting portraits from my point of view.

That night I emailed the Photo Editor explaining that this convention was not as much "Pimp My Ride" as it was a hot rod show with a lot of DIY folk. And also, that the tricked out details of the RV's were pretty much limited to flatscreen tv's, but the buses, they offered some great and idiosyncratic details. Well, she called her Editor, and that Editor called Mark, and at breakfast, Mark told me we were on to shoot the bus drivers. Mark and I went through our notes, narrowed it down to our four favorite folks and I shot for those next 2 days.

A couple things I'd like to note in case any of you ever find yourself in a situation where the story is not locked down and the original idea you thought you were supposed to shoot isn't happening...

  1. You may feel pretty nervous when, at the end of the first day, you are really not sure what the hell the you're supposed to shoot, but you know you've got to shoot something cause all of the money you've estimated is pretty much already spent. Well, however you feel, when you communicate with your Photo Editor, keep everything positive and offer what / where you think the story might wind up going. The last thing you want to do is freak out the person who just hired you for the first time and is trusting you to pull through or it's their ass. Also, if things have changed from the original idea, if you let your photo editor know, they can let their editor know, then everyone is on the same page.
  2. Be actively involved with the writer. If the story hasn't been written it is actually up to both of you to work together to come up with something interesting, from both a photographic and a written standpoint.
  3. Shoot a lot. I mean a lot. These are open ended stories and the photo editor is trying to create a visual story from your photos. You'll want to get interesting portraits, all of the details, and have a good opener too. With stories like this the magazine really has no clue how it will wind up laying out best, so the more you can provide the better you'll look.

Turns out the story didn't run when I thought it would. Something else I learned---it doesn't mean they don't like the story, just cause it didn't run. These are major magazines, with major advertising interests, and they've got competition from other magazines as well. There are so many reasons why a story may not run (advertisers' interest, current events, someone else just ran a similar story, etc.) and you're best bet is to just to keep in touch with the photo editor. Often, it's said that no news is good news, so if your photo editor tells you that he or she likes the story, that's more than enough to know you did a great job. And, maybe, they'll run story down the line, after you've finally stopped even thinking about if and when it'll ever run--like they did with this story.

Monday, May 12, 2008

New York, New York -- Making the first rounds in the editorial world..

(most images shot in between meetings during my first trip to New York to show my work)

Making the trip to New York (for all of us non New York based photographers) is kinda one of those rite of passage type situations. I have done a few trips to show my work and have wound up getting jobs every time I have made the trip. That's not to say that it is easy---far from it, but in my experience, the best way to get a job from one of those big New York magazines, is to go there and to meet with a photo editor.
...But how might one gain entry into one of those heavily guarded icons of publishing and get their 5, 10, or 15 minutes in front of someone who may, just may, potentially hire them someday in the unidentifiable future? To that question, there is no good answer, but I'll try to lay out a few ideas...
  • If you've got a rep, they'll be first ones to open the doors for you. It's kinda like having the golden ticket---you're almost guaranteed to get one of those little photographic sticker badges that says, "That's right, I'm supposed to be here. Now which elevator do I take?"
(Chances are, if you're reading this, you may, like myself, be your own rep, in which case we'll need to look into other options.)
  • Personal relationships. Often times, it's who you know. Find out who you know that has a good relationship with the photo editors that you want to meet with. This is how I've gotten a majority of my meetings so far. When I was an assistant, I worked for some very great photographers here in Los Angeles and formed close relationships with them. When I made the choice to go to New York to show my work, I contacted those photographers and asked them who they thought I should see. I also straight-up asked them if they knew so-and-so, and if so, would they mind putting in a word for me. Now, this is very tricky because, essentially, I'm asking them for their clients, but at the same time, I coming into a very different level of the game, and these photographers understood that, and are all generally very cool and confident in their work. Ultimately, they helped out whenever they could.
Some photographers will want to look at your work before they contact anyone on your behalf--that's just the way it goes---they're putting they're neck out for you and the last thing they want to do is to jeopardize their relationship with a client because they sent in some kid with a book full of smiley, happy, lifestyle, teeny, bubble gum photos to Entertainment Weekly or Rolling Stone.

Aside from photographers, you may know a wardrobe stylist, make up artist, or producer that could put in a word for you--depending on the publication. I had a bit of extra help in the sense that my girlfriend (at the time--we're no longer together) had formed some of her own relationships with photo editors and in house producers (she is the 1st assistant to a very major photographer) and she has helped and continues to help me to get meetings that, otherwise, I may not have gotten.
  • Meetings beget meetings. Often times when you're meeting with a photo editor she or he will ask you who else you've already met with and who else you plan to meet with. Sometimes they'll tell you their former APE is now the PE at such-and-such, or they used to work with so-and-so and she may even make a call on your behalf with you sitting right there. This is the strongest recommendation you can get and usually leads to another meeting you didn't even plan on.
  • Send promos. Email promos. Follow up. Let them know you are coming to New York. Contact them when you're in New York. Remind them of just who the heck you are. Ask for a meeting.
  • Win photo contests. Photo editors will find you.
  • Date a photo editor.

"Call me when you get to New York." That's most likely the response you'll have when you finally do get in contact with a photo editor. My first trip there I didn't even have one meeting set when I landed at JFK. I had been in contact to let people know, "Hey, I'm gonna be in town for the week," but their schedules are busy and hectic and constantly changing, so the best thing you can do as a photographer is be 100% flexible. Call when you're in the city and try to schedule then--and honestly, the sooner the better seems to work best in my experience.

A few other things about going to New York and meetings and the like...

  • The Airtrain runs from JFK to Jamaica Station where you can pick up the subway straight into Manhattan. If it's not too late or during rush hour and you don't have many bags it's a great and cost effective option. Plus, it's great people watching.
  • Hotels are outrageously expensive--if you know anyone in the city that you can crash with, that's your best option, by far.
  • Apparently spring and fall are the best times to go make the rounds. I couldn't say for sure, just what I've heard, but it makes sense---people tend to take vacations in July and August.
  • When it rains, you can buy an umbrella at every newsstand and at almost every corner for about $5--so don't worry about that.
  • Getting a week long subway pass (unlimited rides) is great for getting uptown downtown, and around town to all of your meetings. Taxi it if you're short on time.
  • Bryant Park has free wifi--though sometimes it's a bit spotty. Hotel lobbies can be great places to chill and make phone calls between meetings and occasionally there's free wifi there too.

Some of your meetings will go great, but you might not get a job (I'll save that one for another post.) Some will go terribly and you won't get a job (I'll save this one too.) Some you won't be sure of and you may get a job six months later. It's really hard to ever know what's going to happen. Be nice and hopefully you'll get along and they'll like your work. If you're in a meeting your chances are much higher of getting a job than if you've never actually met in person. It's still all about relationships. After the meetings, when you return home, follow up with a promo, or a thank you card, or something. And, when you have new work to share, send it on--maintaining relationships is the key, that and good timing, but isn't that the key for everything in life...


I went to Coachella a few weeks ago.  I really like the drive out that way from Los Angeles.

On personal trips like this one I often like to use toy cameras.  I brought my Lomo, an Olympus 35mm point-and-shoot, and a Holga.  

It's also nice to have something lightweight and a little bit inconspicuous.

Well, mostly inconspicuous...

One of my favorites from this trip.