Last September, Jess and I found ourselves in the lovely Hearst Building for a portfolio review at Country Living Magazine. Once through the elevator doors, we were greeted by the super friendly face of Country Living assistant photo editor, Will Morel. Will is a big Wonderful Machine fan (possibly because we share initials?) and told us that his life has been made easier since finding us. He even said he’s on the site almost everyday, searching for photographers around the country. It’s not just lip service either, Will has recently worked with a number of WM photographers including Jody Horton, Jesse Rieser, Andy Reynolds, Hollis Bennett, Sara Rubinstein and Beall+Thomas. This week, Will was nice enough to squeeze time into his busy schedule to answer a few interview questions for me. Thank you, Will!
How did you end up in your current role at Country Living?
I’ve been at Country Living for about a year. Going into photography was not my plan—my background is in international finance. When I was a senior in college, I had a yearning to do something more creative than sitting at a desk crunching numbers all day. Luckily, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to work as a 2nd photo assistant on a still life job. I’d always had a strong interest in photography, but working on set for the first time made me consider a change in direction. After that job was up I just started looking for more freelance jobs. I eventually took a full-time assisting job with the photographer Keate Barker. After some time with him, I felt like I needed to move on to something on the client side. There was an opening at Studio D, an in-house photography studio for Hearst. After working at Studio D as the photo editor for a little over a year, I heard about an opening at Country Living—a Hearst publication—and decided to go over to the magazine world.
What makes a photo great to you?
What makes a great photo to me? Great question. I don’t think there is any particular all-encompassing attribute for a great photograph. If I had to choose, I think it would be the details. If a photo has great details, I am drawn to it! I need to be able to see that great effort was put into the composition of the photo. I look for that one pop of color that my eye is drawn to or the sun being dappled on water. Any photo can be great. It’s the little details that ushers the photo to life.
What kind of photos do you look for at Country Living?
Above all, we look for beautiful and real images. Nothing is too staged because we really want a sense of life in each photograph.
Andy Reynolds for Country Living
What’s the best way to get your attention?
The best way is to have an interesting personal project. An excellent example would be Jesse Rieser. He has two personal projects, Christmas in America and Class of 99 turns 30. Christmas in America really captures the essence of Christmas and tells the story about its over commercialization. It’s a little dark with those great artificial plastic pops of color. Class of 99 turns 30 tells the story of how his classmates’ lives turned out. Everyone went down different paths. As soon as I saw this story, it made me think; how have the lives of all the people that I graduated with turned out? This personal connection with his stories is what lead me to hire Jesse.
How does Country Living source photography? Has finding decent photographers become easier or harder in the digital age?
We have a roster of our favorite photographers that we use on our feature stories. We have many little shoots all over the country that we hire local photographers for. Sometimes we will use stock, but we don’t like it to look too “stocky.”
Well, I can’t say if it is harder or easier because I am a product of the digital age. So I really can’t compare them. One thing I can say is that having every photographer’s website at my fingertips is wonderful. We have many shoots all around the country in small towns. The Internet is the only hope I have in finding photographers in these areas of the country. There’s also nothing that impresses me more than when I meet with a photographer to review his or her book and an iPad is pulled out. It just makes viewing a photographer’s work so much easier and it shows that the photographer likes to keep things simple. Digital has definitely made my life easier.
Hollis Bennett for Country Living – Hatch Show Print
What annoys you the most?
Without a doubt, the answer is slow websites. The photographer can have great work, but if his or her site is too slow, I will move on. A photographer’s site is in many ways their best resource to procure work. If it’s too slow, then they are losing out!
What’s the most satisfying part of your day?
The most satisfying part of my day is when I am able to write an email to the art department stating that hi res is in. It means that the story is done and ready to be put to bed.
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