On a recent, “beautiful” November day, two of our associate producers, Nadia Kiyatkina and Jemma Dilag, took a leisurely drive down to Washington, D.C. Their task was to carry out four — count ‘em, four — portfolio meetings, with The Atlantic, Smithsonian Magazine, NPR, and Air & Space Magazine. The day was going to be jam-packed, so the pair split up to tackle the first two meetings solo.
Jemma headed to The Atlantic to meet with art director Emily Jan. Handling primarily web content, Emily looks mostly for portraiture, reportage, and conceptual photographers. Diversity plays a significant role in the hiring process at The Atlantic because the company is interested in pulling people from unique backgrounds. They hire photographers often (at least once a week), but also commission illustrators. Emily explained that she uses Instagram to find photographers and was excited to see that some of her favorites from IG are also members with WM, citing Los Angeles-based Liz Kuball and the Minneapolis pair Ackerman & Gruber. She was most engaged with the clever portraiture of Dallas-based Justin Clemons and the versatility of Mexico City-based Lindsay Lauckner Gundlock.
While Jemma parleyed with Emily at The Atlantic, Nadia Kiyatkina made her way over to the offices at Smithsonian Magazine. Here Nadia learned that the editors love to look at portfolios and meet with photographers. They are also fans of personal projects, considering such photos as potential jumping-off points for stories for the publication. The editors at the magazine are very picky about the photographers with whom they work. So much so that the chief editor, Quentin Nardi, rarely has more than three people on a list of potential hires for a project. There are, however, many opportunities for work. Ten issues get released every year (with two double issues), and each one will have around three stories with assigned photography. That’s roughly 30 chances a year for photographers to be hired. The editors gravitated toward the portfolio from Tadd Myers and were familiar with most of the other photographers brought by Nadia.
Reunited, Nadia and Jemma proceeded to the headquarters at NPR. This meeting brought our team’s attention to a relatively hidden gem from NPR, The Picture Show. It is an image-based publication where stories and photographs collide, leading to articles like “Photographer Chronicles 2 Women on 8,000 Mile Journey Migrating From Cuba to U.S.” This online publication is an excellent way for photographers to have their work featured. The folks at NPR strongly encourage photographers to pitch ideas and love keeping up with personal projects, the most intriguing of which have the potential to be written about and published.
NPR varies its hiring practices depending on the project at hand. For example, when working on a piece about the elderly in prison, the company chose a photographer they knew had a depth of experience on the subject. They then decided to fly that person to the location for the shoot. In another instance, a recent story based in Malawi called for the hiring of a local photographer.
A special consideration when working with NPR has to do with the fact that they are primarily audio-focused. Thus, photographers must be wary of fuzzy boom microphones that might get in their way on a shoot. Also, it’s a plus to have silent equipment (sorry, DSLR-ers).
Of the portfolios brought to this meeting, the folks over at NPR were big fans of the earthy, journalistic style from Portland photographer Greta Rybus.
The last stop on our producers’ journey was the Air & Space Magazine. While one might assume that most of the photography necessary for such a publication would be aerial, there is a surprising need for images of air and spacecraft from the ground. A photographer does not need to be prolific in shooting from planes, helicopters, and drones to get published, but could be hired to snap portraits of pilots and astronauts and their aircraft. Continuing a trend that became apparent in the earlier meetings, the editors here are also fans of personal projects — keeping their eyes peeled for photographers who are passionate about aeronautics. For example, the company had already worked with WM photographer Robert Seale and loved his work due to his affinity for aviation. Because of how mundane a picture of an airplane can be, the editors like to see the personality and creativity of photographers shine through their images.
The editors here gave pause to a handful of portfolios, including those of Kevin Brown, Wolfram Schroll, and Tadd Myers. They were particularly interested in Tadd’s project, American Craftsman, due to the consistency on display. Kevin’s portrait work stood out, leaving the editors to wonder more about the backgrounds of those photographed.
Jemma, in consideration of Air & Space’s interest in personal projects, connected the editors with our publicity team (who regularly converse with photographers and write stories about personal projects). We hope connections like these can lead to new, evocative blends of photography and journalistic writing, as well as publicity for our photographers.