Hot wheels

Well folks meet my 2005 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom.

Strom

I picked her up late last summer with the intent of using her, yes bikes are always female just as ships are, to help get me places that my trusty Honda simply won’t. For those of you not familiar with these things the Strom is what is referred to as an Adventure Touring bike. It’s essentially a street bike with the engine and suspension set up to be able to go off road. Some Adventure bikes are more dirt oriented in their set up and others are more street. The Strom is more street which is fine for me. Think of it as a hot Subaru with a lift kit, skid plates and sorta knobby tires: reliable as heck and rather comfy for long hauls on the interstate but if you need to go down a hundred miles of very rough, muddy, rutted and rocky roads it will also do just dandy. Not gonna take her on tight and highly technical trails though. That’s more “Jeep” territory whereby they are just the ticket for crawling along impossible terrain but are horrible on the highway.  Other bikes are more designed for the seriously rough stuff. The Strom is the right balance for me.

All that stuff on her? Well that’s my trial load out for my big trip up to Montana that I will be doing in a few weeks. The shot above was done about two weeks ago when I was finishing up two days on the bike doing some work in the lower part of the state around Pueblo. The big trip will be two weeks on the road following essentially the spine of the northern Rocky Mountains doing some work but mostly a set of portraits for a project of mine. I needed some way to get me up there into what could be sorta rough territory with ease. Thus the Adventure Bike.

Squashing all my necessary gear into the limited space that a bike gives has been and interesting challenge. I’ll have a whole post on just what I’m taking and how I’m making it all work.

Stay tuned!

Why? … Science!

The other day I heard that an artist’s style is what you do all the time as well as what you don’t do often. These are usually the product of how you learned your craft; often due to the slavish following of a teacher/schools method or ones singular devotion to and the intentional imitation of an artistic idol. Some develop style intentionally and others stumble upon it. In my case it’s a product of some influences that you might guess and others not.

For instance I realized that my largest influence upon what I choose to photograph and how isn’t related to any artist in existence. It is not because of a teacher since I didn’t have one. It’s because of the fact that I never planned on becoming a photographer or any other sort of professional artist. Nope. I was going to be a scientist. First going into physics, then bio chemistry then eventually going to have a psychology major and a philosophy minor before realizing that I was going to make my living doing something that didn’t require a college degree to give me the gateway to my career.

Ya see, an artist is largely interested in their personal experience. How something makes them feel or think. It motivates them to communicate things through their media that are highly personal in a very public way. Each work that an artist does is saying “This is important to me. Pay attention!”

A scientist is largely interested in the word that is outside themselves and often in a world that is beyond what they could personally define as experience-able. The extremely small word within cells, the vastness of space, the hidden workings of the universe, that sort of stuff. Scientists want to know why and how. They devote their lives to making sense of things that didn’t make sense before. They say “This is real and I can prove it”.

They are both after truth: one is their subjective truth and the other an objective truth. So as a result I often am asking myself “why is it that way?” before I ask “how is it that way for someone?”. Not that I’m a an overly logical dude.

My wife once told me that I am the blend of the Star Trek characters Worf, the passionate Klingon, and Data, the inquisitive android. That really thrilled me. As Lyle Lovett’s song says “Nobody knows me … like my baby …”

Back on point: I tend to start projects with my logical self and then tell that human calculator to go take a hike and I then let my inner six year old run loose. I often tell people that when I’m making photos that I try not to think that the brain gets in the way. And it does. When I don’t need it. But when I do need that brain he’s there to figure it all out and then go away so that my kid can continue to wander around giddy at how neat-o the world is.

When I was on assignment to do images for a story about a company that does super rigorous testing of electronics and was shown their room that is a total RF-proof cage to test radio antennas. My scientist brain was fascinated by the idea of it. But what to do? It was just a big white room with all these radio wave absorbing tiles. Then it hit me: radio waves are ripples of energy and that means that they are a form of pattern wherein the subtle changes in the pattern produces the signal that we can use to transmit information. “Hey kid … patterns!”

And thus:

ECM

Stranger than fiction

Two things came up lately that has prompted me to make this confession. First off I came across an interesting opinion piece on PetaPixel where the photog who wrote it talks about how heavily modern commercial and PR photography relies on digital image manipulation. I won’t call it “retouching” as reconstruction is more like it. The reliance is so great that in many ways the industry depends as much or more on PhotoShop than the photographers who supply the base images for the manipulation.

We know what we are talking about: composites where the final image is made up of 30+ separate shots, bodies of famous people being reshaped, skin being rendered into that which resembles a rubber mask devoid of texture … all that rot. Images that look impossible because they are. They are fantasy. Illusions. Somebodies preconceived notion of what things, and people!, are supposed to look like.

As a result we have a populace who feels inadequate with their appearance, “I must be ugly. Look at how perfect her skin is in that ad!”. They feel like failures because their lives are pale and hollow in comparison to the dream like worlds that their favorite celebrity seems to live in. They believe what they are shown even though what they see is a lie being told in the name of commerce.

The second is that I made a new friend the other day who is a professor of political science at UC Davis who’s research focuses on the media and how what it does effects our society: policy and discourse. We got to talking about her work and the reality that people are misinformed constantly by the media. Not that it’s a huge conspiracy, it’s just the way it works. That and the fact that the media is owned largely by only 6 or so companies so there is very much a unity of voice in the news world.

Since the bulk of the media is based on things other than factual “news” reporting, things like (fashion, sports, entertainment) most people form their opinions about what is important from as much commercial/advertising imagery as they do from supposedly unbiased reporting because they consume so much of it all. Yet when you look at how when one bit of misinformation gets through the news fact checking filter it becomes very hard to remove it from people’s minds. Fact becomes fiction. Moon landing anyone?

When you add it all together it’s amazing that anyone knows which way is up anymore. Maybe we don’t.

I try. It may be futile but I’m going to give it my best go and always. I was thinking about all this and it hit me that I am a visual non-fiction storyteller. I don’t retouch. The clone tool is to remove dust spots not blemishes. I don’t/won’t try to create imaginary worlds for my subjects to be superimposed upon. Every image that I show in my folio and to my clients is a real moment. No fakery. No “I’m so clever” going on here. If I were to do so it would, to me, mean that I am more important than my subjects. Than I can create reality better, whatever that means!, than the most splendid thing that actually exists. Mostly though, if I am a fiction photographer, what purpose do I serve? What is the intent of my work other than to make money and aggrandize myself?

No, that wouldn’t do. Let me instead elevate the common. To show the strength, nobility and decency that lies not just within us but around us as it quietly goes about its humble work. Yes, let’s do that. I promise to show you the truth as I see it in all its imperfect glory.

Loving

P.S. For those of you in the fiction creation world: no offense intended. I’m pretty sure that you live at a pay scale that guys like me will never touch. Must be nice. But my heart just can’t let me live happily on those terms.

 

1,000 words …

The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds true in many ways that we don’t often think about. I had a revelation the other day about this phrase and said it in this manner: “A photo is worth a thousand words but most of them are only true to the photographer”. Wha? Yeah. Let me explain.

We know that in that “decisive moment” there are lots of big conscious choices that the photographer makes among which are: lens selection, how to render  depth of field, how much time to show in the image, the angle/perspective that the image is take from and quite importantly – what moment was captured. But think of all the other decisions that went into the process such as the choice of subject matter, time of day, possible interaction with the subject on behalf of the photographer which in large or small influenced the events before the lens … lots of editing goes on before the all important “CLICK!” ya know.

Then there all the things that the photographer decided NOT to photograph and show us. More and more I am aware of what I don’t photograph. I mean think of it: the whole visible world around us is filled with possible subjects and images and yet we only focus, ha!, our lenses upon the most tiny fraction of what we could make interesting images of. Just as out mistake/opps!/not quite there images say something about what we committed our shutters to and from that our decision process in the creation of our images so does the stuff that we don’t even bother to shoot.

I remember the story about when Ansel Adams and Dorthea Lange were working on the Richmond project. Lange was going to photograph the people and Adams the scenery but as soon as they arrived Adams was running around shooting portraits and Lange was fascinated with the landscape. Wha? True nuff.

So picture a given scene, let’s call it a restaurant, and you are to make photos at that location. What do you choose and why? You could focus on the lovely architecture of the building, the industrial design of the equipment, do still lives of the table settings, tight shots of the perfectly composed food, documentary images of the staff working, abstract images of the interplay of the lights on walls/floors/objects, portraits of the owners, lifestyle images of the happy patrons … blah, blah, blah … you get it. What do you choose? What do you exclude? Why?

I love seeing the whole take of other photographers not so much for the great images that they create but also for their sketches – the ones that didn’t bear fruit. From that I see their mental working process and also, in the periphery of their discarded frames, what they didn’t spend any time on. Sometimes I see real possibilities in the corners of those forgotten moments and wonder what might have come from them if they were investigated. Could be cool, could be crap. Who knows?

I do know that the images that we show to people are because of all this subtle editing and choosing along the way of getting to that keeper of a shot the photographer has decided what for them is real, important, is true and needs to be seen. That makes each image very, very personal and as a result highly opinionated. Not in a bad way but in an understandably exclusionary way.  When we show an image we are in effect saying “I believe that this is the most important thing for you to see and only this tiny part of what I witnessed is, to me, worthy of your consideration”. When you think about it, that’s a pretty arrogant thing to do but that’s how it works folks don’t come cryin’ to me about it.

Thus I will expect you to look at this here image and wonder what has gone wrong with the boy. I honestly was about to have dinner one night and looked up and made this image before my clams got cold. No intent, no fuss, just something that looked interesting and for this, it’s enough.

Orb

Staying in the digital underground

I often say that illusions are important to maintain. We all keep a certain amount of fantasy, healthy delusion, mystery and in some cases outright subterfuge in our lives to get by. Generally there is not only nothing wrong with it but in fact it’s both normal and necessary. Heck sometimes it gets us out of bed just so that we can be productive “I gotta go to work, can’t let the team down”. Especially when you know that you could go absent and it wouldn’t really effect productivity.

The main illusion that I maintain is that I am unbiased and unaffiliated. I am biased and I have some pseudo-affiliations but I do my best to keep all that to myself.  This isn’t easy when we live in the era of instant information. Keeping your “digital fingerprint” clean and undetected requires a bit of work.

Shortly after Google became, well Google, I tried out the new search engine by seeing what came up in searches for a variety of things including friends and family. This was before people widely did this and the results were for the time shocking to me. I mostly found almost nothing on the people that I knew but I found one result that changed my life. I got a link to a PDF of a petition that my mother signed stating her support for some local issue or whatnot. There it was, her name, address and signature online for all to see. Now the petition wasn’t anything damning at all but the ability to so quickly acquire a link between my mother and some politically motivated action on her behalf floored me.

Fast forward to today and many of us, because of Facebook alone, have come to realize that when you post that embarrassing photo of yourself it can come up to haunt you. People have lost their friends and even their jobs because they forgot that when you post something to the net it is essentially on display for the whole world and forever.

As an independent journalist I can’t afford to appear to be in any way unprofessional or be perceived to be actively working for any sociopolitical outcome. Thus I speak my mind in person to people who I know and trust but to all others, especially the internet, I keep my opinions to myself. I am not a member of any organization that is potentially politically active or takes any overt political stances. I don’t sign petitions and don’t write checks for donations to the cause. I keep my politics quiet and my professionalism above board.

Otherwise I could be denied access to any person or group who decides that upon doing a quick search to see who this guy is that wants to do a story on them isn’t going to be fair because they found this and that on the web that displays, to them, my bias. Ever tried to get the Secret Service to let you photograph a head of state or powerful member of the government? They do a lot more than a simple Google search on you. But all modern gate keepers know to see who you are and verify if they want you to have time with their important person. So if I was to, say, get an assignment to photograph the president of the big regional power company and their PR department found that I signed a petition just last month giving my support to a state measure to fund wind power, they might tell me that the president was “unavailable at this time to be photographed.”  Boom!, the door is shut. It happens.

So I keep it all professional. I realize that because of what I do everything is “on the record” and reflects upon me as a professional. That information can/will be used against me and I may never know it when it happens. If publications are denied access because of their printed bias then I can be denied because of my digital bias. As a good friend of mine says “that vigorously inhales!”

 

On a lighter note: here is a funky out take from a shoot that I did the other day. Always shoot what is interesting even if it doesn’t “fit the story”.

The kid

 

I love being self employed …

Some of you know that I firmly believe that regardless of how driven you are in your art and or business you need to have something that resembles a personal and satisfying life. I am blessed beyond belief that I have a: wife, lover, girlfriend, sandbox playmate, adventure buddy, best friend, confidante and good time gun shootin’ and beer drinking dude all wrapped into the same person. Makes things a whole lot easier! (Fewer lies to tell that’s fer sure!)

Well not only am I a visual explorer of the human experience but in the same manner am a “Bon Vivant”. I prefer not to use other terms such a “gourmand”, “foodie”, “sensualist” or worse yet “hedonist”. Rather I try to enjoy what life has to offer within the reason that a mature yet fun loving and curious person has.  I have long since stopped doing things that would potentially end in carrier ending or at least modifying outcomes. So no more free solo rock climbing, illegal car racing, bar fights, gun running … you know that sort of thing. But folks I gotta tell ya, there are so many ways to get out and enjoy what you have that are simple, wonderful and good for yer soul. A few weeks ago I did a shoot at Upslope Brewing, a local and pretty darned fine brewing establishment not that far from my home, and noted that they had a “Tuesday all day Happy Hour” deal going on.

She-zam! My wife, as mentioned above, had recently made the transition from Creative Director at a local marketing company to doing her own freelance writing deal.  She was rather bothered and confuzzed over the prospect of her spending the rest of her life working from her new office; which is what others would call the space we set up in the library at home. Granted working in your pajamas with the commute to the office being about eleven feet from the bedroom is pretty enticing but then I digress. I had explained to her that, given her skill set, she could go anywhere and if armed with her laptop she was essentially “at the office” and being productive. Now Upslope is one of her favorite local breweries, too many to mention in this area – sorry everyone who doesn’t live here! As a result Tuesdays when I don’t have assignments have become what I would refer to as “Remote Office Day”. With the mobile web and a our laptops we head to the Upslope tap room, grab a pint and one of their artesianal cheese paring plates and take care of biz. Yes it doesn’t suck. Today she was finishing up the editing job of a 300+ page novel and I got some marketing stuff done.

Tomorrow and the next few days will be pretty jammed with shoots and all the stuff that goes with it but today it’s pretty cool to sit here and not be under the gun. Watching the sun set on the Rocky Mountains outside with a darned tasty cold one in muh-hand and the woman of my dreams next to me is more than I would have hoped for when I decided long ago to form my professional life here.  It’s all about balance.

shot_1332887580157

Hello, my name is …

Gawd! I hate name tags. If I am in a situation where I expected to wear a name tag it seems to me that the organizers believe that I and my fellow attendees are not capable of  introducing myself or to have the person that I’m talking to do the same. The stupid ones that come in the package at your local office supply store are the worst and you know the ones that I’m speaking of. I try to be a real sport about it though. So in my usually jaunty manner tend to do things like walk up to someone that I haven’t met and because I’ve looked at their silly name tag I can say “So David Chan, assistant director of product development at CircleSquare.com, what do you think of the stuffed mushrooms they are serving?”

It certainly breaks the ice.

A wholly different situation is where I am expected to wear some kind of ID/credential while I am doing my work. I hate this even more than the “My name is …” tags because it means that I am being watched. I had to jump through some hoop to get in the door, so to speak, and I know that as I wander about doing my job it is not enough that I was scrutinized to get in but my ID is singling me out and everyone in an official capacity is paying more attention to me, who was checked out before hand, than the hundreds of other people who didn’t go through the credentialing process. And yet I am the one that they keep an eye on. Wha?

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It has begun

"Chance favors only the prepared mind." – Louis Pasteur

Sometimes you stumble upon the most wonderful things when you least expect them. That is if you keep an open mind and are willing to take what comes your way as essentially a long string of opportunities. How you either capitalize upon them or pass them up is up to you. I do however believe that every day you can have an encounter that is in some way truly significant. I met my wife through a set of circumstances that are downright convoluted but when I did meet her I had my self in internal and external line to meet her and the rest is romantic history.  I was prepared.

Late last year I through happenstance met a very nice fellow who had a great idea and was quote passionate about it. Now I meet people every so often who wants to get me excited about something that they are doing in such a way as to get me excited enough to be part of their project. Usually I am polite and nod in support and then quietly go my way. You know what I’m talking about. The guy/gal who thinks that we should pool our talents and do a feature length movie that explores the amazing world of toothpick sculpture. Yeah, right! That’s a great idea Edna …

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Pulling a rabbit

I was reading one of my industry blogs the other day and there was a bit about essentially “How can you screw THAT up?” It was in the context of if you have all the gear you could want, as large a crew of top level assistants/wardrobe/hair-makeup/post-production professionals as you want, a bunch of stunningly gorgeous models and a week at an amazing and exotic locale … how can you not make photos that people want to look at? You have it all and frankly pretty easy to boot. Upon reading this commentary I thought, in the squeaky little kids voice of comedian Gabriel Iglacias, “Yeah!”

It’s not jealousy talking here at all. It’s just a statement of fact. Most of us professional photographers don’t get the breaks whereby we get paid big money to hire an army of people to make everything happen “just so”. Most of us have constant conversations with new and old clients alike where we have to say, often, “yeah but if that’s your budget for this project we are going to have to shave something off because we just can’t pull it off for that kind of money.” We have to think on our feet, adapt, improvise and overcome the various obstacles that come with every job that we do. The ones that can do the seemingly impossible stay in business far longer than those who can’t.

If you read the blogs of any solid working pro or watch enough BTS videos you quickly get the sense that not every photographer gets to have things go his way. That’s only in the movies ya know. But some of us have it worse than others and some are used to it more than the rest.

There is a particular kind of let down which occurs when you get to the location of your shoot and you realize that everything you had hoped to find to work with isn’t there. There are a million such scenarios: have to do portraits of a big leader of industry only to find a cube farm or at best yet another of the worlds most boring conference rooms to shoot him in. Or maybe it’s a supposedly big event that should provide lots of energy for exciting images but it turns out to be mostly old dudes sitting around on lawn chairs. Maybe it’s the performer that you admire and are supposed to get interesting and intense images of but the dude is too grumpy/tired/depressed/stoned to do more than slump into a chair. You know, that sort of thing. Hey it happens!

Well I had two of them go down last week but like the ninja that I tell myself that I am, I found a way to elevate the painfully boring to the level of “Hey! That’s not too darned bad!”. I take it in stride because that’s what I’m supposed to do. Failure is not an option. Ever. The best part is that after delivering the goods I got a note from each client to the extent of “Hey I know that conditions of the shoot didn’t turn out to be nearly as cool as we had hoped but you really shot the hell out of it and the images are great, thanks!” Now THAT is cool. Makes me fee all professional inside.

Here is a shot from a similar situation: I was to make photos of the head of a software company for a profile piece. Problem was, they had just moved into a new building that still had the old occupants logos everywhere,  everything was still in boxes, the head guy was only going to be in town for one day and had a ton of phone meetings lined up. I was given ten minutes between calls to make my shots. Luckily my subject turned out to be a super nice dude and was as accommodating as his schedule would allow. I shot the jebus out of it doing three set ups in that time and even with the cluttered mess about me made him look cool, intelligent, professional and personable.

My favorite was the last thing that I shot when he went back to his desk to answer the phone again. I saw the colors and reflections of the buildings outside and simply asked him to look up at me. Four frames later, the phone rang and that was the end of the shoot.

Gorilla

I’d love to be able to just connect the dots: this person here, light it this way, have all my trusty people do their magic and all that but I’m not sure that it would suit me. I’m not a huge fan of walking in an saying to muh-self “Argh! NOW what do I do?” but it makes me feel great when I pull off a magic trick and my clients know it.

 

Insane in the membrane

Shortly after making the last post, about the crushingly not-much-happening protest I had a reflection upon the state of mind of someone who gets excited to make photos of things such as protests. Ya see, news guys and gals aren’t right in the head. We don’t spend our time trying to find the perfect face and find a way to light it angelically to produce an etherial and other worldly image that sells stuff. Nope. We aren’t interested in creating any sort of fantasy. Just the opposite. We are obsessed with showing things that are real and happening underfoot in many cases especially because it’s not pleasant. News-ies want to make you stop and pay attention to things that we think are important.

Paul, one of my news shooter friends, and I decided that there is something completely wrong with us. We aren’t wired normally. He noted some time ago while musing on the patio of a local coffeehouse that if out of the blue someone came running down the street screaming in a panicked voice “Look out! He’s got a gun!” everyone would duck and run away from the source of the danger while he and I would grab our cameras and run towards the maniac in order to get a good image of the chaos. Who with a fully working brain does that?

Back when I was getting started I contacted my local Associated Press office to try and become a stringer for them. The head photog was out on vacation and so I had to wait a few weeks to see him. However the guy I was talking to told me to keep up the good work so to speak. “Oh,” he said, “in the mean time if you get anything good: barricaded gunman, jumper with flames, send that in.” Jumper WITH flames became stuck in my head for years to come. Get a shot of a dude in mid air while jumping from a building? Meh. Shot of a dude in mid air while jumping from a building that is engulfed in fire? Score!

So as a result even when I’m headed to an assignment with the car loaded with lighting gear for a complicated portrait of some head of industry I still have my gas mask stowed away next to the spare tire. You never know when you will need it to get “the shot”.

Ugh, there is something wrong with us!

On a lighter note, here is a shot from the Ferret Cam.

Nap

Innit funny?

Something happened the other day and it took me until about now to understand what really went on. Here's the situation. I was given an assignment to go someplace and make photos for an article. Nothing new here. I pack my bags to get physically ready for what I am to encounter and to render it as the client is anticipating. Load up the car and drive to the location but something is bugging me the whole time. I get those kind of feelings and I learned a long time ago to listen to them.

It's a kind of limbic system awareness that is not always correct but when it is you are thankful. Much like when you are out with a friend late at night and the friend says "Oh, let's cut through here, it's a short cut" and as you look down that dark alley/lonely street/empty park the hairs on your neck stand up and the pit of your stomach starts to tighten. You know that feeling. It's your lizard brain letting you know stuff that our much ballyhooed cerebellum tends to ignore. The feeling isn't good so you convince your buddy to take the long way and it just seems like you saved yourself a lot of getting lost, a flat tire or worse a mugging. Women tend to listen to the quiet little voices in our heads more than men do. While dudes have the same alert network they tend to boldly go on regardless of those nagging "something isn't right here …" notices.

(Meanwhile back at the ranch …) Before I left for the assignment I called the assignment desk to make sure that my info was correct. Yes it's all there just as they sent it to me. Uh, ok. And again as I was driving to the shoot I kept feeling that something was off. None the less I proceeded to get my head screwed on for what I needed to do. Now I don't try to previsualize a shoot as things rarely turn out as we imagine before we arrive. Worse it's not what the client expects having never been "there" and can't see what happens when you are trying to make something out of nothing.

Instead what I do is kind of like a meditation whereby I clear my mind so that I am open to whatever opportunity presents itself to me when I am on location. Sometimes what seems to be a totally worthless situation is actually pretty cool, it's just not what you expected and as a result you are so focused on what is not there you miss what is. Expecting a location with rich saturated colors and strong light but get a socked in overcast day and muted pastels? Make the tone of the image subtle and demure. Why not? Could be cool. Unless your mind is open to all possibilities you will only find what you are looking for rather than what is there. Insert your Zen here.

When I arrive at the location I immediately find out that the information given to me was wrong. The subject that I was supposed to photograph wasn't scheduled for that day at all and there is no way to work around it and therefore nothing to shoot for the client. Made a call back to the desk to explain and headed back home feeling bad. Not for the client, they dropped the ball somewhere and that's that. Not that I was put out, I still got paid for the shoot even if my cameras didn't leave the bag. Instead I was super let down. Granted the shoot wasn't supposed to be anything amazing where the clip would go into my folio or better yet be that "award winner". Ha! No it was just a chance to go and make photographs. Yes I make photos all the time but the bummer of it was that I had gotten into the zone and through the mess up it yanked me back to reality where things go wrong that I can't overcome through either my outright creativity or my ability to work the bad human based situation into a good one.

This scenario has happened many times in my carrier but it took until the other day to finally figure out why when it happens I feel so bad afterwards. Well not bad-bad but more like a real disappointment. I love the fact that I can earn a living doing what I do but that's because I love what I do so much that it is a critical part of who I am. The process of making photos, something I sometimes call "the dance", is almost an out of mind experience and needs to be. Getting psyched up to dance only to have the music stop as you enter the dance hall, man that's just no fun.

So on an up note, I was out the other night and grabbed this very colorful and luminous scene but decided that it was actually moodier than my eyes told me. Ah, artistic lisence!

Stairs

A salute to the troops, all of them

I was sent to do a quick few shots the other day for a little story about a local veteran who recieved the Congressional Gold Medal for his service as a translator during WWII. I got talking to one of the people who works at the retirement community that the guy lives in and was told "Boy, you should talk to some of the other veterans that we have here. The stories they can tell … don't want to loose those!" And she was right, these guys, and gals, who put their lives on the line for their country tend to be very quiet about their experiences and as they get older we are likely to not only loose perspective but even just the stories and history that their great committment produced. Thus I cleared some stuff off my calender and headed down with my video camera to get a few of the guys to sit for me for a few minutes and tell me something about their time during war.

Some saw combat, some didn't. All were changed because of it. All the uncles on my mothers side were in the military and as such I developed a lot of respect for the people in uniform. So here is my little tip of the hat to the vets.

 

Voices in my head, voices of my past

I got into a conversation the other day about my background and influences. It was interesting for me to realize that most of the photographers who influenced me have basically nothing to do with the kind of work that I do. And yet they are still very much a part of my photographic self.

As with my post about learning from other photographers who are not necessarily in your niche, I’ve tried to learn from or be outright be influenced by every photographer and even some individual photographs that I encounter. I wanted to be a sponge and from what stays absorbed in my porous head becomes my approach. I think that when you learn one way of doing anything it’s very easy to come out of the process as compartmentalized as your learning method.

We’ve all seen the results: “Ah, you went to (insert important name here) school. I can tell.” Or “Who did you assist for? … yeah I can see the influence”. It’s important to have a style, approach or whatever to your work but it needs to be your own and when you are learning an art form it’s very easy to spend a lot of formative time attempting to duplicate the work of the one artist you most look up to. Then it becomes hard to break that down and rebuild yourself into you.

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Where have you been you old goat?

First off, I have been remiss in keeping up with this here blog thing so I humbly beg your forgiveness. There has been lots going on in JC world and while some is exciting a lot is boring but the kind of boring that nicely pays the bills. The problem with being a working photographer is that you are in fact working. As in the kind that wears out shoes.

 

Second there are some big things brewing in JC land; some of which I’m not yet willing to divulge because as silly as it seems I don’t want to jinx it. But I will say that I am writing a grant proposal that could very well change the course of my career and the knowledge that I’m the only one applying for said grant makes me pretty giddy. I should have the ability to talk about that project in a few weeks and when it comes through I may not need to blog about it because I will be shrieking like a little girl and everyone will know far and wide. (Wow that was overly dramatic huh?)

 

So I’m currently having a cuppa-joe before heading out on a quick assignment for a regular client of mine and then once that is transmitted I’m packing my bags to head to Utah for a few days.

 

Utah? Yep.  I like Utah. It’s like another world and no that’s not a poke at the Mormons, they are nice people, I’m talking about the freakishly beautiful landscape. I fell in love with Utah when I was in high school because as I’ve said I kinda wanted to be a landscape photographer. Thus my father and I would roam about the 4 Corners district a lot on summer vacations. I would pretend that my Minolta 35mm SLR was the worlds smallest view camera. Seriously! If you take the time to squeek every bit of sharpness possible out of small format cameras it’s impressive what you can get out of them. That’s when I developed, no pun there, my love of using tripods and remote releases. That’s the only way to get usable big-ish prints out of the little bits of film which resides in 35mm cameras.

 

Side note, I’ve been using my tripod again for portraits because I can set up my composition to be exactly what I want and use the remote to trigger everything. Thus I can have both hands and eyes to engage my subject to elicit the mood or expression that I want from them. It doesn’t work for every assignment but I never leave home without a tripod. Ever.

 

Where was I? Oh yes Utah! (Thanks!) So I’m going to the Moab area to shoot a gathering of Jeep enthusiasts for a few days. Why? Because I can. I don’t often do “personal work” that requires travel simply because 75% of my work gives me less than 48 hours notice. Thus it’s the total suck to be 700 miles away from your home base only to find that you missed out on a nice assignment because you can’t get a quick and cheap enough flight back to make the assignment worth while. But in this case it’s a holiday weekend, not much is going down that I have to worry about, and I can drive home in about 6 hours. Huh, what’s that in the back? Yes you in the fedora … oh good question, why the heck am I going? Well to have an excuse to hve some fun and maybe even make some photos.

 

Ya see, a buddy of mine who lives near D.C. was the one who told me about the gathering and being the nosey photographer that I am I invited muh-self to come along. I mean come on! Dudes and dudettes in the glory of southern Utah camping in the spring with Jeeps!

 

Will post pix upon my return.

To whom does the lens point?

 “The camera always points both ways. In expressing your subject, you also express yourself.” Freeman Patterson

I’ve always loved this quote. I’m pretty sure that Freeman didn’t invent it but he’s been such a great philosophic educator of photography and has meant a lot to me over the years that I’ll give him full credit for it anyhoo. But I will expand the quote thus: “What an artist shows in their art is nothing less than their self”

I was sent to do a little story on a local city that does a big coordinated gallery walk every holiday season. Kinda boring story with kinda boring visuals – people standing around. Joy! (Read as a challenge!)

Well I was looking about at the first gallery and was struck by the stark differences between the work of the featured artists all of whom were painters. The four of them had very different styles and subject matter. One was obviously deeply religious, one was fascinated by the mystical power of animals, one was focused on Aspen trees and the other did very impressionistic still life.

My impression of each of them was pretty clear from looking at their work. The tree gal deals with personal isolation and sees the world as being rather clearly defined as her beautifully painted trees are devoid of not only animals but also importantly people and the trees themselves are filled with tiny details importantly the myriad of growth scars that appear as black slashes against their stark white bark. The impressionist is all about very warm soft light and he uses a lot of paint layering for texture and the impression of detail where his bold brush strokes show only shape.

I got to chatting with the tree lady and the dude with the still lives and found them to be very nice people. I also nailed their personalities and in describing their work/personal outlook that I got from looking at their work they were both astounded at my accuracy. Yep, he’s a classic romantic and she had a hard childhood.

Now while all this looking and chatting was going on I was figuring out how the heck to show something interesting from a packed room full of people in coats having snacks and occasionally noticing the art that is all around them. Any news-y who has covered these kind of things knows how dreadful this kind of assignment can be. There are a lot of cliché images that can be made but I hate that kind of thing so I didn’t tread in that territory. But I was looking at everything through my eyes and all which that means.

Which … got me thinking about my self and style with a parallel: my music. I’ve been a musician almost as long as I’ve been making photographs; they are my two artistic passions. I realized that night that both share a similar style, one visual and one auditory but very much the product of me and how I see the world.

I see things in a dark and mysterious manner but one that isn’t contrived to be heavy handed. I see our experience as a place of multiple dimensions where not everything is as we seem yet is totally “real”. I love texture, complex rhythm and not really knowing what is going to happen next. Things that are slightly disjointed isn’t jarring but rather happily surprising. Isn’t life like that?

Also I’m not the product of any school or teacher. I figured out things by myself with the intent of being inspired by but not molded by any known “master of the art”. In fact I made a lot of effort to know what the standard material is and to not learn it. Learning technique is one thing and I spent a lot of time developing and continue to practice/learn but I didn’t want to be able to play/shoot like everyone else. Why?

As a result if you ask me to bring my guitar over for a jam I will likely decline because I intentionally don’t know a bunch of well known tunes. I mostly only know my own compositions. I never photographed figure studies or classical still life – boring! I find tight studio portraits to be almost pointless unless there is an invoice involved. It’s not that I can’t do those things if I wanted to it’s that they don’t have my voice involved. As a result I don’t and won’t play blues. I like blues alright but it’s not my way of speaking. Just as I don’t like putting people in a studio only to use huge and soft light on them – my way is to be more dramatic and soft light is clean to the point of sterile. To me the world isn’t that way because seamless light without character is, well, without character. I don’t like “nice”.

So life is like jazz is that we all have a basic chart of what we might expect in the song we are playing but we are expected to improvise our parts while everyone around us improvises too. However being a metal guy I think that life is not all sweetness and light. It’s often dark, powerful, nebulous and menacing. To me there is a beauty in the maelstrom if you care to look at it.

Oh yeah, I was a Philosophy minor in college. Can ya tell?

Art

A toast to those looking after me

I have a confession to make: I wish that I had the benefit of having more strong editors influence and support me in my developing years. It’s not that I didn’t get to work with a few who took me under their wing. Jay Quadracci when he was at the Greeley Tribune gave me loads of support along with the excellent advice to “go have fun and the pictures will be there”. A big nod goes to Paul Aiken at The Boulder Daily Camera who always told me to “shoot the shit out of it”. Those guys were and are important to me and I can never thank them enough.

Because I didn’t go through the typical P-J school system, didn’t have internships and essentially have made, read as faked, my way from the “get go” some things took quite a while to filter their way to my head. One of which was the critical importance of a good editor. Now this is mostly because looking back at it I realize how many bad editors I had to deal with in the beginning. I think that they didn’t really know what they were supposed to do and acted as naively as I did in my own right.

I think that the issue was that I thought I was supposed to roam free, like the lone wolf, cowboy, rogue agent or something equally romantic, unencumbered by either convention or pesky people at the head office who coincidently are paying me for my photographic jaunt! On the other side of the assignment desk the editor most likely saw themselves as simply management: get things done, fill out the paperwork necessary – keep things clean and tidy.

We didn’t realize how much collaboration our work really is. Not in the sense that we are working together but that we are working for each other. The editor is not just the one who tells me to “go here and shoot this” but rather is my champion at the publication who is there to support me both in the field and in the office. To do my job well, not just properly, I need to have the time, access, information and supplies necessary. Much of that comes from the editor. Short notice, no real idea of what I’m supposed to see once I arrive at a vaguely described locale with a subject who may not be willing to cooperate and not having the critical something necessary to make the shot happen is a recipe for photographic disaster. Even if I apply the “go have fun” and then “shoot the hell out of it” principles the photos will likely be poor at best. Unfortunately I had way too many manager types and all too few who would make sure that I had what I needed to enable me to produce the coverage that the client honestly wanted. Too many times I had no more than an address and time with the instructions as fleshed out as “Need a shot of Dr. Pence. Vertical”.

As a news guy I learned to embrace being a tough intellectual loner to thus cope and figure things out as I went. Sometimes I had nothing more to go on than my instinct and work ethic. That’s when I started researching subjects in earnest so that I could have ideas to work with once I got there and found that I had little to work with. Unfortunately I had to do that so often that I tended to think of all editors as paper shufflers who were put in charge of professionals whose work they neither understood nor cared to have much interest in. I had the chance to shoot for very well known publications whose editor I was working for couldn’t fathom what it was like to have to make photographs in the real world.

Editor: We have a problem with some of the photos you took.

Me: Oh, what’s the issue?

Editor: Well the photos you took of her, (the subject of the story) when she was on stage are really red.

Me: Yeah. They had her in that deep red light pretty much the whole time. I couldn’t use flash while she was giving the presentation so that’s what we had to work with.

Editor: Ok, but they are really red.

Me: I used a tungsten white balance but that red has such a narrow spectrum that didn’t do much to clean it up.

Editor: I don’t like them – they are all red!

 

Then there is the:

Editor: How did it go? (after a three day travel story shoot)

Me: Great. I’m pretty stoked. I got excellent access, the weather was fine and there were lots of things happening.

Editor: Cool. I can’t wait to go through your shots.

Me: So that you know about 2/3 rds the way through there is a series with a couple on a bench with the big bridge in the background – the sun was going down behind them so I shot them as silhouettes. So you don’t think I botched my exposure! (laugh)

Editor: (confused) Silhouettes? Why in the world would you shoot something as a silhouette?

Me: Uh, well the colors in the sky behind them were lovely and the graphics of them on the bench with the tree on the other side of the frame with the arch of the bridge … Could make a good cover shot.

Editor: (shaking her head in wonder)

 

And the inexplicable:

Me: Wow. What a great time. I totally fell in love with that family – I hope they adopt me. Moments just happened in front of me effortlessly. We got horrible weather but it made for amazing light and their eyes and faces were just glowing from it.

Editor: Excellent. Did you get the cover shot we wanted?

Me: Not quite. As I said the weather was terrible so I had to find other options for that.  We did three different locations just for the cover and I’m pretty happy with them.

Editor: But we told you we wanted a vertical of the family in front of their house for the cover!

Me: I know but it rained both days I was there. There was no way to do the shot when it was pouring down. Take a look at my images. I have plenty of options for the cover.  Frankly their house is pretty boring looking so even if I did the outside shot with good weather it wouldn’t be that good as a cover.

Editor: No, no, no. You had specific instructions to shoot them outside their house …

(The editor was telling me this from 1500 miles away from the shoot location and had never even seen what their home or neighborhood looked like.)

Those kind ofexperiences gave me a very bad and totally unnecessary image of editors. As a result I think I became prejudiced against them fearing that the next one I dealt with would be clueless as to what I needed as a working professional. I did learn my lesson and as a result try to search out clients that understand and support their photographers. When you get a good editor you find that they are totally golden and you will bust your last nut for them as they will for you.

So here’s to the editors! You are not just looking through my images for “the good ones” you are doing all that you can for me/us so that I will in fact bring back “the good ones”.

Huzzah!

Pic of the day: A little interplay of light and shape that I grabbed on my way to a shoot in downtown Denver.

Denver light

I have a confession to make: I wish that I had the benefit of having more strong editors influence and support me in my developing years. It’s not that I didn’t get to work with a few who took me under their wing. Jay Quadracci when he was at the Greeley Tribune gave me loads of support along with the excellent advice to “go have fun and the pictures will be there”. A big nod goes to Paul Aiken at The Boulder Daily Camera who always told me to “shoot the shit out of it”. Those guys were and are important to me and I can never thank them enough.

 

Because I didn’t go through the typical P-J school system, didn’t have internships and essentially have made, read as faked, my way from the “get go” some things took quite a while to filter their way to my head. One of which was the critical importance of a good editor. Now this is mostly because looking back at it I realize how many bad editors I had to deal with in the beginning. I think that they didn’t really know what they were supposed to do and acted as naively as I did in my own right.

 

I think that the issue was that I thought I was supposed to roam free, like the lone wolf, cowboy, rogue agent or something equally romantic, unencumbered by either convention or pesky people at the head office who coincidently are paying me for my photographic jaunt! On the other side of the assignment desk the editor most likely saw themselves as simply management: get things done, fill out the paperwork necessary – keep things clean and tidy.

 

We didn’t realize how much collaboration our work really is. Not in the sense that we are working together but that we are working for each other. The editor is not just the one who tells me to “go here and shoot this” but rather is my champion at the publication who is there to support me both in the field and in the office. To do my job well, not just properly, I need to have the time, access, information and supplies necessary. Much of that comes from the editor. Short notice, no real idea of what I’m supposed to see once I arrive at a vaguely described locale with a subject who may not be willing to cooperate and not having the critical something necessary to make the shot happen is a recipe for photographic disaster. Even if I apply the “go have fun” and then “shoot the hell out of it” principles the photos will likely be poor at best. Unfortunately I had way too many manager types and all too few who would make sure that I had what I needed to enable me to produce the coverage that the client honestly wanted. Too many times I had no more than an address and time with the instructions as fleshed out as “Need a shot of Dr. Pence. Vertical”.

 

As a news guy I learned to embrace being a tough intellectual loner to thus cope and figure things out as I went. Sometimes I had nothing more to go on than my instinct and work ethic. That’s when I started researching subjects in earnest so that I could have ideas to work with once I got there and found that I had little to work with. Unfortunately I had to do that so often that I tended to think of all editors as paper shufflers who were put in charge of professionals whose work they neither understood nor cared to have much interest in. I had the chance to shoot for very well known publications whose editor I was working for couldn’t fathom what it was like to have to make photographs in the real world.

 

Editor: We have a problem with some of the photos you took.

Me: Oh, what’s the issue?

Editor: Well the photos you took of her, (the subject of the story) when she was on stage are really red.

Me: Yeah. They had her in that deep red light pretty much the whole time. I couldn’t use flash while she was giving the presentation so that’s what we had to work with.

Editor: Ok, but they are really red.

Me: I used a tungsten white balance but that red has such a narrow spectrum that didn’t do much to clean it up.

Editor: I don’t like them – they are all red!

 

Then there is the:

Editor: How did it go? (after a three day travel story shoot)

Me: Great. I’m pretty stoked. I got excellent access, the weather was fine and there were lots of things happening.

Editor: Cool. I can’t wait to go through your shots.

Me: So that you know about 2/3 rds the way through there is a series with a couple on a bench with the big bridge in the background – the sun was going down behind them so I shot them as silhouettes. So you don’t think I botched my exposure! (laugh)

Editor: (confused) Silhouettes? Why in the world would you shoot something as a silhouette?

Me: Uh, well the colors in the sky behind them were lovely and the graphics of them on the bench with the tree on the other side of the frame with the arch of the bridge … Could make a good cover shot.

Editor: (shaking her head in wonder)

 

And the inexplicable:

Me: Wow. What a great time. I totally fell in love with that family – I hope they adopt me. Moments just happened in front of me effortlessly. We got horrible weather but it made for amazing light and their eyes and faces were just glowing from it.

Editor: Excellent. Did you get the cover shot we wanted?

Me: Not quite. As I said the weather was terrible so I had to find other options for that.  We did three different locations just for the cover and I’m pretty happy with them.

Editor: But we told you we wanted a vertical of the family in front of their house for the cover!

Me: I know but it rained both days I was there. There was no way to do the shot when it was pouring down. Take a look at my images. I have plenty of options for the cover.  Frankly their house is pretty boring looking so even if I did the outside shot with good weather it wouldn’t be that good as a cover.

Editor: No, no, no. You had specific instructions to shoot them outside their house …

(The editor was telling me this from 1500 miles away from the shoot location and had never even seen what their home or neighborhood looked like.)

 

Those kind ofexperiences gave me a very bad and totally unnecessary image of editors. As a result I think I became prejudiced against them fearing that the next one I dealt with would be clueless as to what I needed as a working professional. I did learn my lesson and as a result try to search out clients that understand and support their photographers. When you get a good editor you find that they are totally golden and you will bust your last nut for them as they will for you.

 

So here’s to the editors! You are not just looking through my images for “the good ones” you are doing all that you can for me/us so that I will in fact bring back “the good ones”.

 

Huzzah!

With feet come eyes

I made an appointment to get some work done on my car and that got me thinking. Not about the car as I have an amazing mechanic in Boulder – Hoshi Motors (shameless plug). No I got thinking about what to do with the time that my car was in the shop. I didn’t schedule any assignments so I pretty much had the day to muh-self. I figured that I’d put some gear into my small backpack and take a walk about until the car was done. This came from a recollection of my week in NYC where I walked or took the bus everywhere that I went.

When I was in NYC I made plans to meet up with a buddy of mine who lives in the area. My phone rings and it’s a local number and thus I get hopeful that it was an editor who wanted to meet me. I answer and it’s my friend Doug and he asks me “What are you doing?” I tell him that I’m on a bus headed to an appointment with an editor. “Bus? What the heck are you doing on a bus? Take a cab man!” Well I had to explain that I had plenty of time and taking the bus was to me preferable to a cab because I get to be next to other people and I might learn something. That didn’t seem to make much sense but the fact that I actually wanted to walk everywhere really went past him. I did walk most of the time in NYC, at least six miles a day, as it enabled me to learn the city and be inspired by it rather than to sit in a padded seat in air conditioning and maybe watch things through the window. No, I want to stop and linger if the moment strikes me.

That’s when it dawned on me: you drive everywhere here in Denver. Partly because the mass transit is pretty much a joke compared to all the major cities in the US and partly because things are soooo far away. We spend a fair amount of time at highway speeds here so walking isn’t going to happen unless you are headed to the end of the block. Also when I am going to an assignment I often have way too much gear to just walk around with it. Yeah I’ve a small camera bag but also a case with lights and a case with stands and modifiers. Not the kind of load you want to walk around with for more than a few feet. Thus I rarely just walk around. A pity.

So with a few things in my little backpack incase I could use them for a project that I’m starting – that’s for a post to come – I dropped of my car an took it on the hoof. The idea was to just walk around a city that I’ve been connected to for over a dozen years. I know Boulder quite well but there is a difference between knowing a place by driving around it and by walking its’ streets.

 

When walking you know it intimately and you get the chance to stop and look. I recommend that everyone take a walk even around their home town and really get to see it. It changes your perspective; you see things either you didn’t notice before or new subtleties you overlooked or would never see from a vehicle. If it is a new place walking is the gateway to what is actually there.

Along the way which ended up being about a five mile hike I found:

3 restaurants that I intend to take the wife

A park that I never realized existed

4 locations that would work great for impromptu portraits

2 ideas for photo projects

Lots of pretty things

I didn’t ever take the “serious” gear out of my backpack but I did use the Cam-o-Phone to take little sketches as I like to do. The slow pace of walking even on routes that I often drive made those places seem very new and as a result I saw things differently. I would often stop and just look at the weathering on a wall, the pattern of leaves on the sidewalk or the light falling on the rocks of the creek. No real pictures but lovely little moments.

Lines

Ah, the people you meet!

When I was chatting with the editors in New York I told them that I am usually assigned to photograph people who have never been professionally photographed before unless you count their senior portrait or a sitting for Olan Mills. As a result I am working with rather raw subjects and I am very much exploring mentally the subject in the first minute or so to see where they are coming from while the other part of my brain is trying to figure out what the heck I’m going to photograph. Rarely do I get an assignment where I know anything about the subject thus why I try to do whatever research on a subject I can before hand.

So I get an assignment in my e-mail box a bit ago that stopped me in my tracks. The assignment basically said “Boulder based band The Samples are getting back together with the original lineup for a performance at the Mile High Music Fest. Get photos of them rehearsing for our story”.  I just stared at my screen with that kind of head tilt that a dog does when you make a squeaky noise. The Samples? Wha? No way. So I pulled up Wikipedia, don’t we all now?, and lo and behold it’s them. Sha-ZAM!

I drive to their rehearsal space to find a tiny little studio that is lit by a few 60 watt bulbs in the most unflattering position – the floor! So it’s dark, crapily lit and cool. Why? Because it’s moody as heck. Luckily we have these cameras that make lovely ISO3200 files and with f/2.8 or better yet my f/1.4 glass I was able to shoot without strobes and not get in the way of the musicians relearning songs that they haven’t played in almost 18 years.

Here are some of my faves from that.

SAMPLES1

SAMPLES2

SAMPLES3

SAMPLES4

SAMPLES5

Oh there is another reason why this was a cool gig. I love these guys. Way back when I was young and in a band we used to have The Samples on our mix tapes to play during the after show parties at the band house. People used to wonder why we, a heavy metal band, were playing this ska-funk-folky stuff? I would tell them to shut up and listen to it. They would smile and nod along and say “Oh, yeah! Cool jam.” They were/are this fun energy band that is great for partying to. It was great to hear them play, basically for me the only other one there, these tunes that I loved but I had forgotten about from a time so long ago that it seems like a dream. I didn’t know they were from Boulder. We thought they were from L.A. because we didn’t have the Net back then y’all. So after the break while I’m packing up my gear I tell them my story and Sean their main guy asks if he can get me on video telling it for a documentary he’s doing about the band. Wha? SURE! So we go outside and he grabs his vid cam and I tell my tale. First time I’ve been interviewed on assignment by a subject.

Yeah, it’s a cool life.

After action report: New York

It’s been a long time since I was in Manhattan.
Well frankly I haven’t been there since I was a kid. Although the city has
changed considerably, as have I, it’s still the most important city in the
world where everything that you could want is unfortunately sandwiched between
things that you would like to avoid. In my case it is filled with potential
clients, read as: patrons for my art, and was unfortunately blisteringly hot.

Lots more after the jump.

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Dance like no body is watching when you know that they are watching

Well, I’m packing up for a week in NYC to bang on some doors
and hopefully meet some new editors. This trip is a long time coming and I’m
pretty excited. I’ve gotten some great response from my hand made promo dealy –
Whoo-HOO! – and a couple of appointments before I even get on the plane. It’s all
very encouraging. But the process of going and showing your folio isn’t like
going to apply for one of those job things that I hear people talk about. No
sir.

 

Ya see in a job interview you try to dress like you didn’t
need your mommas’ help and hopefully look like you might not freak out the clientele.
 Then you are polite, attentive and show enthusiasm
about the job without seeming desperate for work even if you are. You try to
present yourself on paper through your resume and hope that they don’t notice
that bit you fudged to make the award seem more impressive than it really was.
In essence you try to seem professional and have enough positive experience to
handle the position. Pretty easy overall.

 

But when you are an artist looking for a new patron, wow it’s
different. There is almost never an “opening” that you are trying to fill. Nope
they already have people doing what you do. If anything they really don’t have
the time to see if you are, maybe, a far better guy for the job then the dude
they have been using for years. Maybe that dude isn’t really so hot but they
are comfortable with him. He’s a known quantity where as you, Mr. Hotshot,
could be a very talented but egoistical and artistically inconsistent flake. Even
if you are cutting edge they will often continue to hire their old standby
because he always comes through and is the nicest guy. Nobody takes chances and
certainly not on you.

 

Consider this: your portfolio is your resume and you can’t
very easily fudge that. If your work stinks it’s all right there for everyone
to see. Ok as a photographer there is always the magic of Photoshop to help you
fudge the fact that your exposure on that shot was off but if the image is
boring, then the image is boring regardless of what you did to make it. Did I
mention that they can tell if you “shopped it”? Boy-howdy does that say
something about you as a professional.

 

There on that art directors desk is not just what you’ve
been up to lately, it’s your soul and it’s being scrutinized. Joy! Every image
you put before them and everything that is in that frame says a ton about who
you are as a person and an artist. Your choice of subject matter, your physical
approach to the subject, your tendencies both compositional and technical, how
you relate to your subject and the list goes on. Heck just how you pair images
together says something so the pacing of your book is in itself a small treaty
on you. And you need to sell them on yourself in about a dozen or so images that
they will go through flip-flip-flip … “thanks for coming by!”

 

It is good to know that every meeting to show my folio is
like the “final interview” where they wouldn’t bother to give me ten minutes
unless they were actually considering me for work. There just isn’t the time to
meet with every Guy With Camera out there. Wheat from chaff ya know? For me it’s
a pretty tough experience and I never enjoy going through it. Unless that is if
the person holding my heart in their hands is enthusiastic about my folio and promptly
decides to give me work. That’s the rush that all the pain and suffering is
worth. He likes me! He likes me!