The Greek Magazine Delood kindly did an interview with me. It was published this past week. I repost it here for all of you that may not be Greek and therefore may never see it. It is in English. I hope you enjoy!
The wonderful documentary by filmmaker Patrick Creadon about Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller of Studio H and the Windsor Super just premiered at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina on Saturday.
Here is a link to Architectural Record’s review of this wonderful film.
I hope you have a chance to see it for yourself!
All the Best,
I was once in a business partnership where my partner said, “I will always sell the shiny side of the garbage can”. He was a marketer and was always focused on appearances. My response was, “I will always sell the whole garbage can. The buyer may buy their 1st garbage can from you but when they realize that the garbage can is not entirely shiny, they will come to me for their 2nd garbage can and I will sell them every garbage can thereafter. Why? Because I was upfront and honest with them from the beginning”. Needless to say, that partnership only lasted a year and it was many moons ago.
Often, one may find them self is a situation where as potential client asks you if you have done something before or do you feel comfortable doing something. Be upfront and honest. The client will respect you more for you honesty than if you get on location unprepared and unable to perform.
In this era of Social Media, project a REAL picture of who you are, exception all your pimples, scars and shortfallings. Ultimately, you will be respected far or for it than creating a fake impression until they see who is REALLY behind the curtain. None of us are perfect and your client will understand that and will appreciate your honesty.
All the Best,
Another wonderful post I came across, courtesy of Rob Haggart at Photoeditor.com is this blog post by Chris Council, who is the chief photographer at the Aspen Daily News. Chris is primarily an editorial photographer but I think his words pertain to almost any area of photography, or business for that matter. As Ben Franklin said, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” With Chris’ kind permission, I give you, “It Only Takes One”.
The photography business, especially in the editorial realm, has become a race to the bottom. The only way the industry will stabilize is for photographers to band together, stand up, and say “enough.” Photo credits don’t pay the rent, and neither do below-market fees. Sometimes it’s hard to say no to a job, even a low-paying one, but everyone needs to decide their own personal breaking point when it comes to accepting a job.
To put this in context, here’s an example of a recent “job” that I turned down. I put the word job in quotes, because it didn’t pay anything. The USA Pro Cycling Challenge rolled through Aspen last week, and I was contacted by a representative of the local chamber of commerce to photograph the event. The pay – nothing, zero, nada, zip.
But I was told it would be an “incredible opportunity to ride on the back of a motorcycle to photograph the event.” All I had to do was drive 3 hours to the next town over the night before, spend the day on the back of a donorcycle without falling off, use $12,000 of my own equipment, provide the images to the chamber of commerce (where they could be used however they wanted, as long as they wanted), and oh yeah, somehow find a way back to my car after the event which would entail another 6 hours in the car round-trip. No thanks.
I was berated by the agency and made to feel that I wasn’t contributing to the community, since everyone else was pitching in. Ironically, the agency was being paid handsomely by the city, which spent $258,000 the prior year on the event, including $50,000 spent by the chamber of commerce. You would think they could come up at least a nominal day rate to pay a photographer.
Aspen is a small town, and the photo community here is small and fairly tight-knit. I was first in line for the job, and after I turned down the “job” the other local photographers gave the same response as me, except one, who accepted.
Which brings me to my main point, which is that it only takes one person to drive down rates and lower the bar. So instead of the chamber of commerce budgeting properly for this event next year, they will once again assume they can get free images.
There may be times when it makes sense to do a job for free, although I’m hard pressed to think of any. Perhaps it’s any opportunity for access you could never get otherwise, and you think there’s a way to sell the images as stock afterwards. Or perhaps you are trying to break into a new specialty and need the practice and exposure.
But if you take a photography job without pay, or below market rates, you had better have your reasons, and they had better be damn good. And make sure you think long and hard about how your actions affect the industry as a whole, as well as the other photographers in your community.
In case you haven’t seen this flowchart yet, it’s worth checking out: http://shouldiworkforfree.com/
I watched a great movie a bit back that translates greatly to our profession, or any profession, as the lessons within are universal.
The movie was “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and is the story of 85-year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef.
A few quotes from the film will make you understand why I liked it so much.
Jiro Ono – “Once you decide on your occupation you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love w/your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success.”
Yoshikazu Ono on what is father taught him, – “Always look beyond and above yourself. Always try to improve upon yourself. Always try to elevate your craft.”
A Fish Vendor, who sells to Jiro – “We are picky about who we sell to. We want customers who appreciate good fish. That’s the way I do business. It is not about the money. These days young people want an easy job. They want lots of free time and lots of money. But they aren’t concerned with building their skills. When you work at a place called Jiro’s, you are committed to a trade for life. Most people can’t keep up with the hard work and they quit.”
Whether photography or sushi, the lessons are the same. There are many great lessons to be learned within as the tenants to greatness, regardless of the field of study, are the same. I hope you have an opportunity to watch it.
I also believe it is available on Netflix Streaming.
The other evening, I saw this amazing piece on 60 minutes about Architect Antoni Gaudi’s vision for the Sagrada Familia. It was so incredible, I felt I had to share it on my blog. Here it is for your enjoyment.
All the Best,
Nic Granleese, the Wonderful Australian Architectural Photographer and Terrific Blogger, asked me to guest post for his wonderful blog and I repost it here so those who might not see Nic’s blog might enjoy, as well.
There are many good architectural photographers out there but the difference between the good photographer and the great photographers is something that I will call The Three M’s. The three M’s are Meaning, Moment and Method.
It is important to take beautiful imagery but beautiful imagery alone is not good enough. Yes, everyday I go out to create beautiful imagery but that is only the beginning. Everyone has created beautiful images in the career but what do they really mean? After spending the last 25 years doing architectural photography, this become so second nature that one does not even know what you are doing, you just do it. This became very evident on three shoots this past year when clients explained to me what I was doing when I didn’t know what I was doing myself. After walking the project and starting to select shots, I started asking a host of questions regarding the design concepts involved and why certain decision were made in the design process. At that point my client turned to me, “This is why we work with you, Brad. Unlike other photographers, you are interested in the meaning behind the design and how might your photographs best convey that meaning. We know your photos will be beautiful and others can create pretty pictures for us but, you are the only one who can merge the two and create something of beauty that also helps us tell the design story”. I was touched. Looking for meaning to my images was something I had been doing all along but did not cognitively realize it until it was put right there in front of me. This is what I am talking about when I refer to Meaning. It is fine to create a pretty picture but, if you are going to, why not have it have great meaning and know the story your beautiful image is to tell.
Now that I have explained Meaning, what do I mean by Moment. Not unlike the seminal photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and his “Decisive Moment”, Architectural Photography also has its decisive moments. I remember hearing a story about the great Japanese Architectural Photographer Yasuhiro Ishimoto who did much of the photography for the wonderful Japanese Architect, Arata Isosaki. I was told that Yasuhiro would set up his camera and wait hours for the perfect shot and if things did not pan out to his satisfaction, he would return another day until it was perfect. This too was spelled out to me by a client who said to me, “When we were discussing this shoot, we simply were thinking of the time we “thought” it would take to document the building but, as I work with you, I realize that you are looking for moments and moments don’t always fit into a perfect time constraint. You want that beautiful moment when the planets align and that person moves perfectly into that single shaft of light. Now I get it” This is what I mean by Moment and it sometimes requires the educating of a client so that you may do your best work for them.
Finally, Method. Why do you take the approach you do? There are many ways to do many things and sometimes lighting is required and sometimes it is not. I have lit environments to suit a client’s tastes but prefer the look on a none overtly lit environment. This brings me to my final story and it is not about me. I was on a shoot and discussing with a client about approach and what I had seen other photographers do from time to time and he relayed the words of the great great Architectural Photographer, Peter Aaron. He said he was working with Peter, who was working rather simply and another photographer passed with several assistants and carts of lights and Peter turned and said, “The more equipment, the less of a photographer”. I am not saying that to make a good image you can’t use equipment or that the less equipment you use the better a photographer you are but, it all comes down to the eye of the photographer. If you know your subject matter well, know composition and know what you are attempting to do, the Method you choose will be obvious to you.
So, there you have it. The 3 M’s. Meaning, Moment and Method. Now, go out there and use these three to make better images.
We were recently asked to put together an RFQ for a potential job. To those of you outside the A/E/C world, an RFQ is a Request for Qualifications. Architects are asked for RFQs all the time and also RFPs (Request for Proposals) and therefore, indirectly, I know what a major undertaking they can be. I had been asked for RFQs before but, they typically consisted of a 3 to 4 page document and a portfolio of work or website link. This RFQ was DIFFERENT. The request was a major university who was doing a national search to find a photographer or organization who would serve all their architectural photography needs over the next 3 years. The client took the same format that they would use to select and architect and applied it to architectural photography and thus, it was quite the undertaking. Apart from the run of the mill info: “How many years have you been in business?”, “Do you have ample insurance?”, “Do you have pending lawsuits against you?”, the meat and potatoes of the RFQ was How many national awards have the projects you have shot won? and How many times have your projects been published nationally? Well, one might believe we might readily know this information but, after a shoot happens, we are often not informed when these things happen and it required a bit of sleuthing. We reached out to clients, inquired and round up quite a list. In the process we learned that 45 Projects we had shot had racked up 90 not only National but, International Design Awards and if you threw in the State and Local AIA Awards, that number was closely approaching 200! We also found that our work had been published in either a Nationally or Internationally distributed publication 124 times! That is a bunch of published work.
In the end, our RFQ was 44 pages long! We sadly were not short listed but, I didn’t feel bad. The of the three firms that were shortlisted, two were local to the project and the third was a collaborative of photographers so, they could mix and match talents to the respective projects. I am not a stable of photographers nor could I make myself local so I felt good about the effort we put forth. More importantly, I learned a great deal about the work I had done and now can walk into a meeting with the knowledge that a significant amount of the projects I have shot have either won a design award on the National or International stage or have been published on those levels as well, and few can say the same. We have served out clients well and some GREAT clients they are!
I graduated from Cornell in the Spring of 1986 and moved to New York City. I shared an apartment at 30th & 3rd with a college roommate for two years through the summer of 1988. At that time I wanted to go to grad school to get my MFA so I might end up teaching so, applied to MFA programs at Yale, RISD and NYU. I wanted to go to Yale or Rhode Island School of Design but, they largely accepting those whom had been working on their thesis for 5-10 years and my commercial work experiences were largely looked down upon. I got into NYU but felt I needed some more grass, trees and fresh air so, I moved back to Ohio. My time in New York City was incredible and it certainly made its mark upon me but, life has a way of taking you where you need to be (An Architectural Photographer). I am very happy I ended up where I am, as opposed to where I thought I wanted to be (A Collegiate Professor). Maybe I didn’t end up teaching but, I still regard myself a teacher. Instead of teaching to a class, I merely take on one student at a time and their education tends to be 2-3 years (and they even get paid). They are known as my assistants, past & present, and I care for them deeply.
Assistant’s are often the behind the scenes, uncelebrated and under appreciated team members that help a shoot come together. The assistant allows the photographer to focus on their vision, while they lug equipment, set up lights, cameras and computers and through and through, keep a shoot running smoothly. I wanted to take a few moments to give some acknowledgement to some of my assistants, past & present, in chronological order, put faces to the faceless and let the world see some of the truly GREAT work they are doing!
Stuart Hart was my assistant many years ago. Stuart was a wonderful assistant and very talented. With my encouragement to go work with the best, Stuart moved to New York City to try assisting in the big city and there, Stuart got smart. Stuart saw two people on set, doing virtually the same job. There was “the Assistant” who was facilitating things but was getting very little respect and also very little compensation and then there was this other guy called “the Producer” who was facilitating things and was getting total respect and, in turn, was getting compensated with big bucks so, Stuart became a producer. He is now one of the Owners of TNC Productions, one of New York City’s top production companies and now works on some amazing campaigns, as you can well see below.
Then there is Jason Meyer who followed Stuart and, after 5 years of assisting, became my Associate. Jason does wonderful work in both Architectural and Rock & Roll arena. Jason has been my right arm for more than a decade and I will forever be indebted to him for all of his diligence and hard work. He has been shooting live Music for more years than he has been with me (which is about 15) and his work is some of the best out there. Please take a moment to check out the Rock & Roll stuff as it will knock you off your feet (as shown below, WOW!).
Following Jason was the fantastic Andrew Frasz. Andrew, like Stuart, moved to New York City and has assisted some great great photographers, certainly greater than I. Andrew is like a sponge and I see him sucking up all the wonderful experiences he has had and then turning all his immense knowledge to create images that are uniquely his own. Every time I go to Andrew’s website I am simply blown away. His work has so much sensitivity, openness, heart and grace that I am always in impressed by how far he has come and know that the sky is the limit as far as how far he will go. It is definitely worthy of your time to take a look as what you will see is special on every account.
Next came Dustin Halleck. Dustin after working with me moved to Chicago, with his now wife while she pursues her medical degree. Dustin’s vision is unique and he is fascinated by the world both great and small. I found myself on many shoots, would be setting up and would look around only to find Dustin on his hands and knees photographing a flower or insect. His investigations into the micro worlds of flowers and insects is awe inspiring. I am perpetually amazed by his work.
Last but certainly not least is the fantastic work of my current assistant, Lauren Davis. She is certainly no slouch and amazes me daily with her work and creativity. She may be at the
beginning of her photographic journey but her enthusiasm, talent and vision will take her far. She will undoubtedly have a very long a fruitful career (if I ever let her leave assisting me). Definitely worthy of a look and her absolutely wonderful work.
If I leave this world and all I have to show is the fact that I have helped these fine men and women along their journey, the great work that all of them are producing will be enough. Each has impacted on me and ceaselessly inspire me. I hope I have, in some small way, helped them along their journey and the time they spent here with me was valuable.
Photography is not always easy. The hours can be long, the travel can be grueling and the attrition rate is aggressive at best. I just read in Resource Magazine that after 3 years ONLY 15% have endured. A staggering 85% turnover rate. So, as I look back over my past 25 years in the business, I am blessed. Blessed to have worked for the likes of Avedon, Mapplethorpe, Newman, Horst and Tenneson, blessed by the wonderful clientele I have and the wonderful projects I get to shoot and blessed by the incredible opportunities to travel and see the world around me but, most of all, I am blessed by an incredible wife and two wonderful boys. I am very fortunate.
I hope that you, too, are equally blessed in this world and I wish my family a very happy and healthy Valentine’s Day with Lots of Love from Me.