Portfolio Events: Science Magazine and AARP

Oct 22, 2019
Portfolio Events

Fall is my favorite time of the year: the leaves change color, the air gets cooler, and nothing beats sweater weather. So when the opportunity appeared for a DC trip at the beginning of October, I was stoked — except for the 90-degree forecast on the day of our journey (so much for the sweater). With pumpkin spiced latte in hand and spirit, we took a pleasant drive down to our nation’s capital to meet with Science magazine and AARP.

Associate producer, Jemma Dilag, sorts portfolios before meeting.

Our first stop was at Science, where we met with Photography Managing Director Bill Douthitt and Photo Editor Emily Petersen. Upon arrival, Bill gave us a quick tour of the office, and we got to learn a little bit more about the magazine.

Science is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a non-profit dedicated to supporting and promoting science education. They print weekly, totaling up to 51 issues per year with one feature article per issue. Their website churns out even more content daily on top of hosting their entire 130-year-old archive.

Science’s needs for photography depend entirely on the content of the article, with budgets factoring into the equation as well. Only about half of the issues they publish use photography, with half of that number being commissioned and the rest sourced through stock or scientific researchers and organizations. To show us an example, Bill brought us to one of their conference rooms. Pages and spreads for their upcoming issue lined the wall — prepped, organized, and sequenced for print. Most of the pages, he pointed out, were not photo heavy. Instead, they relied on graphic design and illustration. This helped us get a better idea of how the editors consider the visual content for their articles.

It was tricky to gather the right portfolios for this meeting because of the diversity of styles in science and technology photography. We wanted to bring a variety and ended up with a batch of still life, reportage, portraiture, and industrial specialties.

For this meeting, we wanted to present a diversity of photographers by location. Within our 600+ members, we also have photographers from 44 countries internationally, so photographers like Australia-based Mark Lehn and Japan-based Ben Weller were great additions. As Bill and Emily looked through the portfolios, they slowed down when they got to Ben’s. His photos capture stories about life and culture in Japan, from fish markets and sumo wrestlers to skateboarders and surfers. Having traveled to Japan for work a few times, Bill especially connected with Ben’s work — and even recognized some of the locations in the images!

They also seemed to take an interest in New Jersey-based John Kuczala, who specializes in conceptual still life photography. His work’s illustrative quality is great for magazines that use imagery to represent abstract concepts (think business journals or healthcare). His playful and witty style incited a few laughs as soon as Bill and Emily opened the book. With his unique personality and skillset, it seemed he’d be a good fit for Science if they needed some abstract imagery.

Photo editors from Science Magazine looking through portfolio of sill lives.

While there, we told them about our stock request tool and chatted about drones and the photography industry in general. Though it seemed like they don’t hire photographers too often, it was great to get a chance to meet them and learn more about the publication.

Next, we went down to AARP, where we met with almost the entire photo editing team: Deputy Photo Director Caitlin DeFlaviis, Director of Photography Michael Wichita, and Photo Editor Katrina Zook. Anticipating that we would be meeting with the whole team and knowing that AARP had connected with us in the past, Bryan and I picked up some cupcakes from a local bakery as gifts. The atmosphere of the office was friendly and welcoming, so it was easy for us to ease into the meeting and become familiar with one another.

Before the meeting, I was sent on a quest (not really) to find photographers that would fit the Gen X project for their Instagram. As I found out later in the meeting, this project focuses on two main concepts: highlighting noteworthy Gen Xers and throwing events that are nostalgic to their generation, like a Big Lebowski fest. Hoping not to disappoint, I went through their social media to get a better sense of what they’re looking for. I knew they mainly hired portraiture photographers and noticed that each photograph brought a different sense of personality as I browsed through a number of their stories. I wanted to make sure I brought portfolios that could capture that sense of character, authenticity, humor, and diversity.

Editors from AARP sit down with Wonderful Machine photographers' portfolios.

For this meeting, I wasn’t as concerned with each photographer’s specialty but paid close attention to style and voice. The portfolios I brought included photographers like Miami-based Mary Beth Koeth, Minneapolis-based Ackerman & Gruber, Brooklyn-based Josh Andrus, and New York-based Will Strawser. AARP had even worked with Mary Beth and Ackerman & Gruber before, which was encouraging to hear!

Of the photographers they weren’t familiar with, they enjoyed the portfolios from Portland-based Erin Little, Cleveland-based Angelo Merendino, and Vancouver-based Jens Kristian Balle. Each photographer has a distinctive style and set of specialties, making it intriguing to see what the team gravitated toward. Jens’ portfolio was unique as he was the only photographer who also showed still life in his portfolio.

On top of the Magazine and the Bulletin, AARP publishes a variety of newsletters: Sisters, for African-American women over 40; The Girlfriend, for women over 40; and Disrupt Aging, for men and women over 40; with about four to five articles per issue. Through these newsletters, Generation X can share their stories and connect on varying topics like health, relationships, and money.

These various forms of media allow them to work with fun, creative, and talented photographers to capture their stories. It also means they need to sort through a lot of content every week. Throughout the meeting, we told them about our Stock Request Tool and our Find Crew page, which they were excited to hear about! They often use our directory but maybe haven’t had a chance to use our other tools.

Wonderful Machine Stock Request tool.

We ended the meeting by giving them Wonderful Machine t-shirts, mugs, and photographer promo cards as a big thank you for their time.

If you’d like to learn more about our portfolio events, stock request tool, or have any questions in general, please reach out or give us a call at 610 260 0200.