We’re introducing a new feature today, folks—it’s called “Five Questions for an Art Buyer.” From time to time, we’ll get in touch with an art buyer at a major client—magazines, corporations, ad agencies, and all the rest—and ask a set of five questions to get inside their heads. (Or at least close to their desks.) Readers on the creative end will have a chance to see how their colleagues work and think, and photographers can get a glimpse at the business on the other side.
That’s like asking what makes someone beautiful. It’s often an intangible element that elevates an image from the pack. It can be a gesture, the perfect light, an amazing composition, the right moment caught at the right time—you name it. A great photograph is one that connects with people and becomes memorable. The ones that cut through all the noise of the millions of images we’re bombarded with and manage to stay with us sometimes even for years.
Does the image make you angry, sad, envious, happy, inspired, awestruck, sentimental? Then it’s a great photo. If it’s mysterious and evocative or it’s a summation of all your preconceived notions it’s a great photo. If you want to stare at it, think about it for a while, rush to your coworker and talk about it—then it’s a great photo.
When I actually get to do my job without all the cooks in the kitchen. Rare, but cherished.
I had been working in magazine publishing since I left college but on the edit side. I earned my stripes at a lot of publications including New York Magazine and Entertainment Weekly. I got my master’s in photography from NYU/ICP and started freelancing as a photographer, photo assistant, assistant photo editor—unsure if I wanted to be a shooter or work in a photo department. Then I saw the ad for Outside posted on Media Bistro. I applied and got it! And then I worked my butt off to get to the top position.
The best way to get my attention is to make great work and get it in front of me. You can do that by postcard promos, epromos, websites, disks, portfolios etc. I really do look at all of that stuff. I look everywhere for new and interesting photographers. If you catch my attention, I’m going to want to know who you are.
The hard part is, you have to be patient and persistent. I might ignore your epromo five times before I have time to look at it. Or I might have looked at it right away and loved it but don’t have a place for you yet. But if I see your work and like it, I make a note of it. When I see work I really love—I try to shoot an email to let that person know—but I don’t always. I would love to have the time to talk to everyone about their work. I would love to give a critique of every portfolio I see. It’s just impossible.
Do not call me. If I don’t know you and you’re some photographer calling me because you’re dying to show me your work—don’t expect me to call you back. I’m not trying to be mean or power-trippy, it’s just completely unrealistic to expect me to take time out of an extremely busy day to call a random stranger, who’s work I have not seen, to chat about why they need to be shooting for me. Also, if you send me an email with your promo or website, don’t keep asking me if I’ve seen it. Like I said before, I simply don’t have the time to respond to everyone. I can get a hundred emails a day from photographers who want my attention—it’s just not feasible.
Also, if you are shooting for me, don’t send 700 images. If I’m sending you on an assignment, part of the job is editing your work. So often these days I get what looks like an animation flip book because each gesture varies slightly from the one before it. I don’t want to sit there and weed through 100 frames of some guy’s finger pointing in slightly different directions. You are the photographer. You are the one who was there. You tell me what’s important to you. I certainly don’t mind a broad edit, in fact, I prefer it, but hundreds even thousands of images handed to me like it’s a gift just isn’t cool.
There are many others, but these two are on my mind the most at the moment.