Saturday, February 23, 2008

I want my cake and ....

There has been a lot of interesting discussion on this blog about trying to reconcile the commercial world and art world. I thought it would be good to address it here. (Oh and I love the feedback but would rather you sign your name unless you are saying something terrible in which case Anonymous is hunky dorey.)

I am not interested in being a pure artist nor does just shooting commercial work interest me. I am trying to find a balance. Yes, I want to have my cake and eat it too.

I very much enjoy both worlds. I like the challenge and excitement of putting together an ad job. It is also one of the rare times that I am truly able to colaborate on a project. Also the idea of being a starving artist does not appeal to me. Being broke and single at 25 is a very different animal than being broke and 39 with four children.

On the art side I feel like I am on the right path.While the work is very much in its infancy, I am making images for myself of things that interest me that are devoid of any other commercial concerns.

On the commercial side things are less clear. After a short but successful advertising career I am trying to raise the level of work that I show and hopefully the work that I get. However I am not so naive as to think if I show compelling work then the phone will start ringing off the hook. I need to make it easy for people to hire me. (see earlier cow post) The question is what to show.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Reconciliation Part 1

So how do you reconcile two apparently different styles of shooting?

When you are known as the post-production-people-in-the-landscape guy how do you get people to think of you as something else?

How do you build a bridge between the two kinds work?

Reconciliation Part 2

One way to reconcile two different styles of work is to shoot pictures that act as bridge. In this case I am trying to show a commercialized version of the landscape or a landscape version of the old commercial work.

Reconciliation Part 3

In addition I have created two Blub books and had a slip case made to hold them both. One book shows commercial work and one shows the CTWWWTB.

Reconciliation Part 4

And then sometimes you make photographs and you are not sure what to make of them.

The truth is I am not sure how to make sense of all of this and it feels alot like trying to turn an ocean liner around in a bathtub.

Either this says: Genius! Genius !Genius ! or....

...Hack, hack, hack

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Closer to Broke

CRing on the Sonoma Coast for JWT

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Makes You feel old

I came across this image I shot years ago of Bob Knight on the NYTimes website today. I think I was 19 when I took it and remember being excited the AP picked up the shot.

I was never much of a sports shooter. I would come back from a football game with a bunch of film and out of 20 rolls I may have had 6 images that were sharp and two that were usable. I would look across the light table at what the other guys had and it was usually hundreds of sharp frames and the occasional soft one. I was more the wide angle off moment guy. Not the peak action guy. I guess things don't change.

Friday, February 1, 2008

New Feature: Interview With Art Buyer Jen Small

This is the first in a series of interviews with people at agencies. I hope to do more of these. Art Buyer Jennifer Small is first.


TB:I am a little nervous I don't know why.
JS: You are asking me the questions not the other way around
TB:I want it to go well and I don't want it to be boring
JS:What do u want to talk about?
TB:Well a couple things. You are not like most art buyers and I want to talk about that and then I want to talk about the industry but I don't want it to be boring.
JS:Ok. For it not to be boring people always love haters.
TB:We talk about ....
JS:Oh no we can't can't talk about them. You are recording this I can't talk about that.
TB:I am totally recording this.
JS;We have to move on.
TB:So I get the details right. You studied photography at Parson and got a masters in design at University of Texas. You know the first time we met I was struck by the fact you are not like the typical art buyer. Do you get that alot ?
JS:Not so much because of my education or background but because I know alot about photography and looking at it. What's good and not good.
TB: That struck me for sure- more than your education. Your whole take on photography.
JS Alot of people when they hear me talking they ask why aren’t you a photographer? Why aren't you out making pictures for money?
TB:What's the answer to that?
JS: The answer to that is I am just not interested in making a living out of making pictures. I would rather just make pictures and not have to worry about making money off of it.
TB: How do you think your background and your point of view inform how you do your job and how does it make you different?
JS :I probably spend more time with art directors to find what style they are looking for. A lot of times they throw names at me because names are the currency . So I try not to talk to them in names but in style. Are you looking for something realist , romantic or Spartan? What kind of color do you want? And then sometimes people hand me a picture and they tell me they want it to look like this. And I ask them do you want the people to look that way or the lighting to look that way? So I am able to have a more in depth conversation and am able to work more collaboratively. Which I think they appreciate because young art directors especially, get freaked out about the decision and especially because they are going to have to back their decision up to a creative director who for whatever reason may want to work with some else.
TB; So are you really neutral when you recommend a photographer ? How much selling are you doing?
JS: I have to be neutral. My job is to help get things produced. Secondarily my job is to help art directors find the best photographer for the job. You wish I was more guiding? You wish I said oh my god I hate everybody except these three people and they have to do all the jobs I work on?
TB;No .My concern is that here you have vast body of knowledge and this aesthetic but by staying so neutral you are underselling yourself. You know what I mean?
JS:The art directors I know are not interested in having a photography education. If they did they would be photographers. If they want to know then I am absulelty willing to tell them. The hard and fast truth is , that I done it for so long , that they do not want to hear what I have to say. They just don't. They want to own the whole process because they have to stand and say I made this decision. And they don;t care about my opinion. It would be nieve to think that my opinion is the decisive one. There some people where it is very important (to get my opinion) and there are others who say I want to bid this person. But there are more people who are the latter than the former.
TB:Latter is the second one?
JS:Yeah. Another big part of my job is that alot of people say they want to work with Nadav Kander and I say that's awesome let the client know they are going to a ton of money. So that is a bigger part of my job is to find solutions when we can't afford Nadav or Annie Liebowitz. I am sorry if I took the wind out of your sales because I don;t use much of knowledge at work.


TB: Ok I want to talk about Antonin Kratochivil. That is a very unconventional choice for that campaign (ray-ban). Its a big production. He doesn't show alot of that. There may have been some concern that he couldn't pull it off.
JS:The creatives were looking for someone who could make a beautiful but unconventional picture so I came up with Antonin. But you are right he is not a commercial photographer. He is an artist with a capital A and that has its own problems with it. Its just different but his pictures are amazing. He is total purist and shoots with a Lieca. You get to look at contact sheets and there are some art directors who don't know what to look at when you show contacts. Its like showing them Greek or something. You got it give him props for pulling it off. It was never an issue because the pictures were so good.
TB: Unintelligible.
JS: I think those questions (whether a photographer can pull of the logistics of a complicated job) are never client questions. They are always agency questions. And they are questions when an Art Buyer has had a bad experience and needs a photographer who she can trust to do the job.
TB:So if it is not a client concern than the assumption from the client's point of view is the agency can do the job and if there is a problem then it is on the agency.


TB :On every job there is a conference call with the photographer and some combination of art buyer and creatives.
JS:Its like American Idol.
TB What function does it serve? How important is it? Have creatives changed there minds about who there favorite is based on the call?
JS:That call is very important especially when the art director has no idea who they want to use. They are kind of like a try out. I have been on calls before when the Art Director is totally convinced they know they want to go with a particular photographer and he get on the phone and it is clear he absolutely could care less. He hasn't really thought about the job and hasn't really looked at the layouts and just pulling stuff out of their ass. And it is a bummer because we love this guy's work and would love to work with him. And it turns out he is an ass. It really impacts the decision. I mean those calls suck.
TB:They totally suck. I have a hard time sounding like a human being.
JS:All photographers hate those calls but they do them because they have to. It is really hard because it boils down to a personality contest. I am sorry but there it is.
TB It has always astounded me that based on a handful of images and a 10 minute conversation that some one is willing to spend a quarter million dollars on someone.
JS But is not based on those two things. It may appear that way but there is a lot of discussion and thought goes into it.


TB : Last question. When ever I work with a new assistant or stylist the conversation always turns to stories of photographers behaving badly and I love to compile these. Without naming names do you have any prima donna experiences with photographers?
JS: Right when I started working in this business I was on a job. The photographer had an assistant , and granted he hadn't taken a day off in a long time and we were shooting in Wyoming. And there is not really a place in Wyoming to get a catered lobster lunch. The producer went out and got sandwiches but it was all very nice. And the assistant comes up to the table and looks at the food and says,”I can’t work like this!!”and stomps off.

About JSMALL-Jennifer Small's art-buying career began in 1996 at Ogilvy Worldwide in New York. She spent three years at GSD&M in Austin Texas, and after moving to the Bay Area in the fall of 2005, she has spent time at Publicis/Hal Riney, TBWA/Chiat Day and is currently at OgilvyOne (