I’m always grateful to be awarded the honor of inclusion in this year’s Communication Arts Photography Annual. They receive so many entries, from so many wonderful photographers, that I’m a bit amazed that I made it in. The Arctic Vortex was a tribute – sort of – to the miserable, awful winters that were suffered through in the Midwest and East. Cold can be awful, but it can be beautiful as well!
1. Bring a big, really warm coat. When the weather in Chicago gets to -3º, PLUS the windchill, everybody in Chi-town thinks about keeping warm, and not about how fashionable they look. No one wants to become a popsicle, and end up like the icebergs in the Chicago River.
2. Call ahead. My fabulous rep, Heather Elder, helped immensely by contacting tons of people well ahead of my trip, with whom I had some excellent conversations even before I got there. People need time to see how their schedules will play out.
3. Keep it flexible. Even though I had scheduled meetings, I needed to leave free time available. A couple of art buyers didn’t know, until just before we met, when they would be available. Try to be accommodating.
4. Stay right in the middle of it all. I found a hotel right near the Loop, and for a good rate – I mean, it was February in Chicago after all. Getting to all the agencies was easy that way. When the weather is brrrrrrutal like it was, walking was not really an option. Unless I didn’t want to be able to talk when I got to my appointment. Cab rides were short. And warm.
5. Bring baked goods. It’s winter. It’s too damn cold. Everyone is tired of winter. Everyone enjoys a treat. And nobody didn’t like the cupcakes I brought. If you’re wondering, yes, absolutely I bought some extras for myself. They were that good.
6. Don’t waste their time. Everyone is busy as hell. I tried to make sure I knew what they all worked on, and match that with my presentation.
7. Bring a warm hat. Do I need to elaborate?
8. Bring a warm scarf. Any questions?
9. Anytime is a great time to see the Blackhawks play. Even though I am a Red Wings fan, hockey in Chicago is the amazing. The fans are great, and so is the team. Love love love their passion. And, they have two of my all-time favorite players: Jonathan Toews and Marion Hossa. Go Hawks! (but Go Red Wings, first!)
10. I have to follow up. The meetings were great, but they are just the intial step of the effort to connect – and work – with these wonderful art producers. Following up with email (or snail mail) thank you’s was my next step, and then staying with them over time comes next, as I stay in touch.
It took time and a lot of planning, but it was worth it to connect in person, face-to-face. Nothing beats that. It allowed all of us to get to know each other a bit better, and to have relaxed conversations, and ones that are not always just about work. Everyone I met was very happy to make the time to see me and my portfolio, and I’m grateful for that. I may have flown back to (much warmer!) California, but the connections are still there in Chicago. My job now is to strengthen those connections. I’d love to go back and work with all of them. Meanwhile, I’ve got to get them to come out here when it’s so damn cold in Chicago.
It’s true. I do not speak Latvian, but I can say that in Latvian. It was a great way to break the ice at the start of my meeting in LA with a certain Art Buyer at the recent ONE ON ONE CONNECT event in LA that I attended. Her parents are Latvian, as I discovered from her blog. I’ve also discovered that five minutes spent finding something out about the person I’m meeting makes for a much more interesting portfolio review. And it seemed like a fun way to get the conversation started.
Meeting people in person is one of the best ways to introduce someone to yourself and your work. There are hardly any distractions, and it’s possible to really get some insight into what makes someone tick in just a short time and to start building a relationship. However, making appointments to see clients, art directors and art buyers is one of the major challenges for photographers and their reps. It’s like trying to put a marshmallow into a piggy bank – possible, not very easy or quick. Short of setting up your office in the lobby of an agency, events like AtEdge Face-To-Face and ONE ON ONE CONNECT look to be some powerful tools to get to know the people you’d like to work with.
I met more people in two days – just two evenings, really – than I’d be able to meet in a week of traveling and coordinating appointments. This was my approach to each meeting: I made sure to tell each person – both before we started and after we finished – that there were three groups of images of mine I wanted them to remember: 1) Dreams, 2) Kids with power tools, and 3) Apple. I wanted to leave each of them with something very specific to remember me by. Then, during the meeting, I asked questions about them, what they liked about their jobs, what was new in their life. I wanted to get to know them as a person, and not just as an Art Buyer or an Art Director – I already knew what they were working on. And, if I happened to think of something that might be helpful to them, I was very glad to mention it.
I’ve got two more of these on my calendar in the next two months, and I can’t wait to go to them. And in the meanwhile, I’ll start brushing up on my Latvian.
I had to shoot an elephant, in the middle of a street in Los Angeles. I needed to shoot across the street in order to see a nice house behind the elephant. And the best place to shoot from was the front lawn of the house across the street. My producer left a note in that owner’s mailbox, explaining things like the timing, who would be there, the fee we would pay, etc. This is LA, people are used to things like this. No problem. But, days go by and no response at all. Another nice note is left. A visit to the home is made. No response. More days go by, and now we are getting close to the shoot date, and there is still no response from the owner of the home, whose front lawn we would VERY MUCH like to shoot from. My producer is getting very antsy. No response is not usual. This was definitely the best spot – really the only spot to shoot from – and nothing was getting the owner’s attention.
My producer and I huddle up on the phone and try to think of what to do. We can’t just show up and shoot on her front lawn, obviously. “Try some baked goods,” I said. “I mean, who doesn’t like baked goods, right?” So, the producer goes to a bakery, gets some cookies and such, and drops them off in the mailbox with yet another nice note. The next day we get a call from the owner and everything turns out fine. A great chocolate chip cookie can always brighten your day, or your whole shoot.
It helped me, without a doubt. At the time, I was working at a full-time assisting job in NYC. The photographer, who shall remain nameless, was a very successful fashion and beauty shooter. And, as I learned soon enough, had a reputation as a screamer. He was always, it seemed, yelling for me, or anyone, to get this lens or that body or that filter or that reflector or whatever. Who knew what he was going to want next? Not me, that was certain. And yet, his yelling and screaming did help me as an assistant, and later as a photographer.
Strictly for self-preservation, I would try to guess all the things that he might need at any moment. And if I could, I would have them in my hands. It didn’t stop his yelling, but it made it a lot shorter in duration. Made me calmer, too, as a result. What I learned was to try and see the scene, the job, the moment, through his eyes and not mine. When I concentrated on doing that, I had a much better sense of what was going on in his head and what he might need. It even allowed me – discreetly, because he was a indeed a screamer – to make suggestions that might help him. I still don’t remember the yelling fondly, but I certainly do value it as a learning moment.
It was really a great time, and I can’t wait to go to the next one. There were a ton of photographers, reps and others at the AtEdge Face-to-Face in NY last Tuesday. Held at the penthouse of 230 Fifth, the event filled the evening with opportunities to meet new people, have some great conversations with them, and really, to at least start to build a relationship. Ya gotta start somewhere, and these get togethers are a good place. And the talking was not just between AB’s/CD’s and photographers, either, but also with the photographers talking with each other. Kind of a rare opportunity to talk with shooters you may know in name only. Great to be able to put a face with a name, whether you’ve talked on the phone with someone or not.
The views were wonderful…it had been a perfect fall day in the city. The penthouse got pretty dark after sunset, but as long as you had enough light on your portfolio, it seemed all right. Worked for me.
I think that down the line, this will be one of the few ways that photographers will be able to meet AB’s/CD’s face to face. There are also several “Pay to play” arrangements, and I have a feeling that they will grow in popularity, perhaps in importance as well. Nothing beats meeting someone in person, to get an idea of what that person might be like to work with.
It’s a simple request. If a photographer asked you to come to a photo shoot with your favorite clothing, what would you choose? Honestly, I’m not sure what I would wear to a shoot, given the choice. Most definitely NOT the Speedo. I know, though, that people do put a lot of thought into it. And, I wanted to find out what they would decide. I knew that if they were asked to consider it, then they would choose something that made them look (or feel) good, or reminded them of something, someone. I wanted to see their story.
Sometimes the cover does reveal a lot of what’s inside.