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.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A chilly May afternoon... a litte more about me

  I will take, make, create, and enjoy photos for the rest of my life. I'm pretty sure of that.  I feel fortunate that what I do for a living is also one the of things that I do for fun.  And, somehow, photography also tends to complement most of the other things I do for fun as well--surfing, traveling, hanging with family and friends,the occasional late night of partying, and, in the most general sense, just exploring. In fact, some of the most interesting situations I've wound up in and places that I have been have all revolved around or included shooting photos.  
  I am currently at that stage in my career where I'm actually getting paid for shooting, or,  at least having my expenses covered when I do a shoot (and sometimes in the editorial world, that's a win in of itself.)  But, I was shooting long before I ever got paid for it and I'll continue shooting as much as I can. 
  I think of this blog as a place where I can post new work, photo stories, snapshots, and anything else that grabs me.  Enjoy.