Changing Things Up
Each December, many of the year-end contests put out their calls for annual competitions. I was going through my Lightroom database and taking stock in what my year looked like through the images I made throughout the year. As many photographers do, and despite having a great year of challenging and fun assignments, I began to wonder what I did this year that would help me move forward in 2012. As well, I have hit a bit of a creative wall, where I feel my portfolios need work, and my website needed updating. Ever get that feeling you are sick of your own work?
Editing your own work is one of the most difficult things photographers face. Many of us can edit each other’s work easily, but the emotional connection we have with our own images prevents our abilities as editors. We think because we were there, outsiders may not understand what makes a particular image so unique. Truth is, if it doesn’t speak out to those who don’t know the story behind the image, then it’s not a successful image. What to do? How can I make things feel fresh, and how can I, in particular, wrangle in my wide variety of work? I have always shot a wide variety of subject matter, and face the constant challenge of presenting one vision despite such a mixture. Some days I am shooting a businessman in an office, the next is a bodybuilder going through a workout in a gym or a ballet shoot in a dance studio, and another the cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore. Of course my lighting should tell the viewer it’s the same photographer, but does it? I change my lighting to fit the story, or the assignment. I believe lighting tells as much of a story as the image itself, so I am rarely repeating the exact set up. Time certainly flies, and telling my current and hopefully future clients what I accomplished this year through this wide variety can be a daunting task. How can I do this? Answer is, I couldn’t. I needed help, and despite the advice of my close circle, which is to a degree helpful, I needed an outsider’s view, because really that’s who I am trying to appeal to, someone who doesn’t know me, and they would have to make their own assessment of my images. Essentially, that’s what I am asking of those potential clients.
Initially, I thought to meet with some people I know and get their advice. I hit up a few agents and producers I know, and whether they do or they don’t like my work, often the message in return, it needs to be edited. Funny thing is, they are not even seeing HALF the work I have shot as I edited out those things I didn’t feel fit in with what I am showing them. I can see in their faces when they “get” me, but really do they? Some do for sure- but I’d like them all to understand me. Not as much from an egotistical point, but more so just so they comprehend who I am as a photographer, whether or not that means they will hire me. I want people to “get” that I am as comfortable in the studio as I am hanging backwards off a cliff to make an image of my subject, to know I can shoot the delicate dancer, the hard nosed businessman, the surreally large bodybuilder, the golf course, the celebrity and so on. I’d been reading a few articles in the trade about the rise of photography consultants, and spoke with a few photographer friends that have been working with consultants, and all have been happy with the results. In part, I have been advised by a few “consultants” in the past, but nothing came of it. Everyone has an opinion about your work, that happens when you put your work out there, but separating the opinion about your work, and actually helping you see how to put your work together in a concise manner is another story.
I found Suzanne Sease (www.suzannesease.com) through a combination of seeing her articles in a few magazines, and reading her column on former Photo Editor Rob Haggart’s website (www.aphotoeditor.com). Suzanne very clearly understood my problems when we first spoke, as she was clicking through my website and talking to me about what she saw. I liked that she understood many of my problems just seeing what was up online, once I sent her a collection of more of my images, she formed a more full opinion of my body of work. When she sent me her edit of my work, I certainly would say I was uncomfortable, how did this image go with that image? Wow, that’s an odd choice… what is going on here? Then I stepped back and looked, all of a sudden things started to make sense. In the portfolios the variety of work is being shown, and in reserve I have the images that can be used in their individual collections, (on my site and on my iPad). I would show the portfolios as a representation of all the work, and yet not throw away the other images that are a part of my body of work, nice!
About a month and a half in now, and my site has been re-launched, and I have two new portfolios. I have just started showing the books at meeting and the response has been positive, the website has also been well received thus far. The proof of course is in the pudding, and assignments will be the proof I need. However, what I can say for sure, is that I do like what I see, and that initial discomfort was a necessary thing, things don’t change if you go through life with blinders.
Please check it out for yourself! www.ianspanier.com