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...

1 comment:

ebony dee cheyne said...

love your work! Great reading, very funny and not to mention totally true!!!!