Marketing & Self-Promotion – Part Two

Posted on: May 24th, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

This series provides answers to questions that every photographer has about marketing themselves and their work to ad agencies. Each part in the series is an interview with a different art buyer or art producer about how they find photographers and what works and what doesn’t when it comes to marketing and self-promotion. Their answers are completely candid and oftentimes surprising.

If you read the whole series you’ll find tons of useful nuggets plus some interesting differences in opinion on what many (myself included) may have assumed to have been clear cut issues. Read part one here.

Part two of this series is my conversation with Sandy Boss Febbo, a fourteen year ad industry veteran who works as an Executive Art Producer at Carmichael Lynch.


Seckler: Please take met through your general process for finding a photographer once you receive a layout for a potential job.

Boss Febbo: I don’t think there is necessarily a general process. You know, I’m constantly on the prowl for talent. It’s a daily thing of looking at stuff that comes in via e-mail and promos to searching out some favorite sites and blogs and keeping a pulse on what’s going on out there. The hopeful intent in making it a daily task is that when we’re working with our creatives as they’re developing concepts they’re already starting to put artists against it – which is ideal. There are definitely some jobs where we’re retrofitting a concept, where something will hit our desk and we need to figure out who would be best suited to execute the idea. I think it’s a better collaboration if you can get ahead of it and commission artists that will have more of an opportunity to do what they do to elevate a campaign. The hopeful goal is that the work that somebody’s shooting will inspire part of that campaign.

Seckler: So tell me a bit more about how you find the talent that might shape a campaign.

Boss Febbo: What happens is I’ll fall in love with somebody’s work, and either by bookmarking them and going back to their site and seeing new work, or contacting an agent if they have one, or putting something that they’ve shot up on my wall, it kind of becomes a wish list. And then you’re hoping that a campaign’s going to come through where that work’s going to make a really good fit. And it happens at times, even in other genres that we produce within art production, if it’s typography or illustration or design. I’ll have someone on that list for a number of years before I find the right collaboration. And then when you do it’s kind of like ‘score!’ I finally get to call this person and work with them. You know, I just discovered in a couple other conversations I’ve had on a similar topic that it can be that this artist may not even know that I’m looking at their work. Because until I have the right project I may not be calling in a portfolios, because it’s kind of expensive to do that. I don’t really make that move until it’s a live project that they’re suited for.

Seckler: And you may not want to get their hopes up too much, if ultimately nothing does come through for them.

Boss Febbo: Yeah, exactly. That’s kind of the way I think about it, but I get mixed comments on that. That maybe it’s really rewarding and adds some hope to know that people like your work. To know I’m looking at it and trying to find a good project for you. But it can take a while, and maybe that’s discouraging.

Seckler: Do you ever use sourcebooks?

Boss Febbo: Not as much as I did earlier on in my career. I think sourcebooks aren’t always the best way to find talent. The talent in a certain sourcebook might not be of a consistent caliber or what I’m looking for. And honestly I’m just not satisfied having five known places that I go to look. I always want to know what else is out there, and take the path that might not be the clear one for commercial commissions.

Seckler: Are you interested in working with emerging artists?

Boss Febbo: I’m definitely interested. I won’t say I’m more interested, I’m just equally interested. It’s really rewarding…chasing down who’s shooting what, in different publications, just finding a really great editorial shooter and then seeing that they’ve got the right pieces for us. [But] I know I will need to have a conversation with them about production, because for a commercial job it’s often sadly kind of a dog and pony show. If I need to be a little bit more involved in the process to make sure the production value is what it needs to be, or make a recommendation for a line producer that the photographer could work with, to me that’s an easy part to resolve.

Seckler: Let’s talk about promos.

Boss Febbo: I get absolutely bombed with them, but I don’t mind. I would rather have an opportunity to see somebody’s work than have them hold back or not send it.

Seckler: Do you look at all of them?

Boss Febbo: I do look at all of them. I was just out on a production for a couple of weeks, and when out on the road they absolutely stack up. But I still look at all of them.

Seckler: And what percent of them do you find to be relevant to the accounts that you work on?

Boss Febbo: Relevant to the specific accounts that I’m working on, maybe 25%? But that’s okay by me. My primary account right now is Subaru, and then I’m also fairly dialed into what’s going on with Harley-Davidson. And we have a number of other clients that don’t produce the volume of those two. But I don’t want to receive promos from people who just think “I’m a car photographer” or “I’m great with bikes and lifestyle so I should contact CL.” I want to see all of them, because you never know what’s going to bubble up in a campaign or what creative need is going to come through.

Seckler: Do you prefer print or mail promos? Are they equally effective for you?

Boss Febbo: I think they’re equally effective. I don’t have a strong preference. If I have a strong preference for either one, it would be to see a single really solid image. You know, it’s about the image before anything else. And if it’s a really compelling image, I’m going to want to go to the website, or I’m going to want to hang onto that piece and watch for the next one to come through. You’d be amazed with the number of e-mails I get that just kind of announce like ‘Hey, I have this new thing, and you should go to my website to check it out.” And the e-mail doesn’t have an image. There should be a teaser, something that my eyes are going to go, ‘Oh, yeah!’

Seckler: What about award and competition annuals? Do you look at the major ones like Communication Arts and so on?

Boss Febbo: I do look at all of those.

Seckler: And does that make an impression on you? If you go to a photographer’s site and you see that somebody’s got a long list of big awards, versus if someone’s got good work but they don’t have any?

Boss Febbo: No.

Seckler: Doesn’t matter?

Boss Febbo: No, honestly it doesn’t. I think it’s a really great nod from the industry, to get an award and to be in that company. But if I’m looking at somebody’s work, and they don’t have any awards, but their work is amazing, it doesn’t matter to me that they haven’t won an award yet. Because I just figure that hopefully when we collaborate it might lead to something great.

Seckler: Does whether or not a photographer have representation matter to you?

Boss Febbo: It doesn’t. No, we’ve commissioned photographers over the years that don’t have reps. It might be their first project commercially or it might be that we’ve commissioned their first project in the States if they’re an overseas shooter and they don’t have U.S. representation. I think it’s a more telling thing to have a creative call to see if there’s a nice rapport in the conversation and if they could be potentially really cool to work with. You also learn a lot when you estimate a project. So much comes through when you figure out how they would approach it and what kind of thought they put into the process to deliver the image. That says volumes. I think reps can be really helpful, for sure. I know there are some that I’ve worked with that I have vast amounts of respect for, and I think that they’ve done a lot to further their artists’ careers, but it’s not a requirement.

Seckler: You mentioned hiring photographers where it may have been their first commercial job. Has it ever been difficult to convince the client to work with someone that hasn’t done a big commercial or high production job?

Boss Febbo: It hasn’t been difficult to sell it through. We’ve awarded full campaigns for large clients to shooters who’ve never done a commercial project before. And sometimes the point of selling that through is that the photographer might be so firmly tied to the work that they’re shooting and the lifestyle that they’re capturing that it gives credibility to the campaign. We would never do it just to do it, to say that we’re the first ones to shoot with somebody. But when it’s the right project, it’s right. And usually we’re successful in selling that through.

Seckler: Have you had occasions when you’ve had to find somebody who shoots stills and motion?

Boss Febbo: We have. We’ve done that a few times, some with more success than others. It depends on what needs to be captured. Like if we’re doing a still campaign and then adding an online video. An online video definitely carries less weight than doing a broadcast spot. Some things are really going to have a higher level of finish in the work. Last year we did a mix where we shot still work and then did product video on motorcycles. The intent was to do something that was much more rough in feel, so we had a mix of high-def video and super 8, just to give it the effect we were looking for. Which worked really well, and was already evident in this particular photographer’s portfolio. That kind of capture had already happened, and it wasn’t something that we were forcing. Personally, I think that still imagery and motion capture are two different mindsets, and to have someone who does both really well is kind of a rare instance. When it works, it’s really great. But we have, fortunately, an agency that’s nicely committed to making sure that we have the right talent for what the material’s needs are.

Seckler: Can you give specific examples of blogs, websites or editorial media where you find your photographers?

Boss Febbo: Here’s a very partial list of photography links I have bookmarked – can’t give up the whole story though!

http://www.featureshoot.com

http://wvs.topleftpixel.com

http://www.photoeye.com

http://www.eyecurious.com

http://lapuravidagallery.com/blog

http://www.worldpressphoto.org

http://www.whatsthejackanory.com

http://www.layflat.org

http://growing–up.blogspot.com

http://markings.tumblr.com

http://ypu.org

http://www.filemagazine.com

http://www.chambrenoire.com

Ask Maven: The Art of Diplomacy

Posted on: May 19th, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

Ask Maven is a new column created to answer your questions about anything related to advertising photography. Questions about self-promotion, production, estimates…you name it and Maven can help. Maven has fifteen plus years of experience in the advertising world and for the last six years has been an art buyer at a highly esteemed international ad agency.


Email Maven your questions: maven (at) thefstopmag (dot) com

Really having fun taking your questions – keep them coming. This week I thought I’d share my thoughts on what makes a photographer great- not in terms of imagery, but in terms of personality and collaborative spirit. In the commercial world, those of us in agency life are in a state of perpetual stress- never enough time, never enough money, and sometimes we have to deal with people that are sort of Type A gone wild-  so it’s important we work with folks that have not only gobs of photographic talent, but also a certain hubris to put up with us.

I have taught photography students about the art of problem solving when dealing with commercial types. I would say it’s top of mind for most of us in the business, especially when “print” continues to be redefined and reconfigured to meet the needs of a digital age. What I mean is we are looking for true collaborators and not just for a photographer to show up, set up some lights, and carry on. The people I call again and again to work with are those I know are going to offer me solutions to my sometimes impossible requests. For instance the “N” word (as in NO) is not really allowed. Of course you can say no, but you better be ready to offer up some other alternatives if what is asked of you feels impossible or completely devoid of reason. If we can’t shoot an elephant tromping through Sardinia, give us some options of where elephant tromping is embraced, allowed, and even regaled. That’s the name of the game, folks.

Also never underestimate that first call you do with creative types, otherwise known as the creative call. This is your time to wow us. And you’d better. If you’re yawning the whole time, stammering through the call, or interrupting the art director or design type, you ain’t gonna look good.  You have to really LISTEN.  And you have to understand what it takes for these guys to sell through a concept- between the hierarchy of approvals from creative directors and the client, we’re talking about a substantial amount of time spent fighting for good ideas to survive. Once they do, you need to help the team make them the best they can be- it’s a big leap of faith for the creatives to trust that as a producer I can find them the right person to collaborate and execute their vision, and you’ve got to instill confidence in us that you’re the man or woman for the job. How do you do that?

* Be Positive and Enthusiastic about the job

* Come up with a cool POV on how to shoot the image

* Be a miracle worker in terms of the budget you’re given, but also manage expectations when the idea exceeds the budget

* Hire an amazing producer. This one deserves it’s own paragraph…

The production of the job once you’ve got your purchase order in hand is beyond important. Ad folks know that everything is in the details, we are wired to think that way. If you have a production that is crap, we won’t hire you again. What makes a production great? A producer that is simply super on point- answers our calls, takes our requests, and LISTENS. For instance, if the art director mentions he can’t function without Mountain Dew, please have a stack of Mountain Dew on set at all times, cause you don’t want to know what will happen if ya don’t. And never underestimate the catering, folks. The way to our hearts is surely through our tummies. Nobody is talking about hiring Morimoto, but make sure the catering is of a high level. It’s important to realize you are creating not only imagery, but an EXPERIENCE. You are talking about those of us that are cooped up in offices most of the time- this is the part of our job we love- making shit. Make it a great experience all around. Order Pinkberry at 3 pm for everyone. Play great music.. And hire a killer crew that likes to have fun and keeps the onset chemistry bubbling over with love. We are all here to have fun, and the fun is what makes the stress worth it. This is the part we love more than anything- making the ideas come to life. It shouldn’t feel like root canal or a really bad date.

Basically, we’re super demanding about what we’re looking for and we know it. It’s not only important that you are a huge talent, but it’s almost equally important that your diplomacy skills rival those of Kissinger. Just know that it’s really challenging to get an idea approved- and we want you to take it and make it sing. But we also want you to be excited, engaged, enthused, passionate, and fun. After all, we’re not saving lives, but we are the lucky ones who get to work in a cool environment surrounded by gifted people coming up with cool ideas. If you are an effective and confident communicator and understand the art of the 3 pm yogurt or latte run, then you’re golden, my friend. It may seem trivial, but it’s all about point of difference- there are heaps of talented photographers, but the ones I remember are those that have a great personality and make us feel welcome and happy. That’s what it’s all about, kids. And please keep the questions coming. Would love to answer any you may have.

Love,
The Maven

HeArt for Haiti

Posted on: May 18th, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

The media coverage has moved on from the disastrous earthquake in Haiti but overwhelming pain and suffering still remain. There are more than 1 million displaced homeless people living in Haiti today.

The photo community has come together to raise money for relief efforts by creating HeArt for Haiti an online auction of prints with all proceeds going to Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières to benefit relief efforts in Haiti. The organization is spearheaded by Heart Art (co-founded by Celeste Holt-Walters, Senior Art Producer at McCann Erickson, and Audrie Lawrence, agent at Redux Pictures), Sascha and Stephen Mallon, Red Run Creative and Agmac.HeArt for Haiti

Prints were donated by over 100 world renowned photographers including several F STOP photographers (Darran Rees, James Day, Stephen Wilkes, Erik Almas, Phillip Toledano) and yours truly.

The auction will take place online starting May 19th, and will be active for one month. There will also be a one night gallery opening where potential buyers will be taken through how to register for the site and will have the opportunity to view the work they want to bid on in person.

Behind-the-Scenes with Martin Schoeller

Posted on: May 7th, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

A behind-the-scenes video showing master portrait photographer Martin Schoeller as he engages with and directs talent during a photo shoot.




Found it on A Photography Blog

Ask Maven: Can I Be a Jack of All Trades?

Posted on: May 5th, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

Ask Maven is a new column created to answer your questions about anything related to advertising photography. Questions about self-promotion, production, estimates…you name it and Maven can help. Maven has fifteen plus years of experience in the advertising world and for the last six years has been an art buyer at a highly esteemed international ad agency. 

Email Maven your questions: maven (at) thefstopmag (dot) com

Now, onto our question:

Hi Maven,

Should I feature all my areas of photography [on] my site? Some clients like to pigeonhole their photographers. A photographer can be good (if not great) at multiple kinds of photography, yes? So why do so many people suggest that a focused portfolio is best?

Thanks ,
Keshav

Dear Keshav,

Thanks for your question. And it’s a good one. PS: of course photographers can be great at many different types of image making- but showing everything you shoot can get you into trouble, unless you have some serious unity in your style and point of view. To simplify – if you shoot animals, people, and your vintage salt and pepper shaker collection, you need to make sure that the images are unified by a style or view point – the danger of showing all your different disciplines is that one can look like a photographer whose work is all over the place, style wise. That’s not good when going after commercial work. Of course, you can solve this a bit by having one tab that says “commercial work” and one that is “fine art” but I would still make sure they have a similar take or you will confuse the potential hirer of your services.

Folks suggest a focused portfolio is best for a reason – when we’re talking about the large commercial markets like New York and LA, there are simply too many specialists that just shoot liquid, models on white seamless, or dogs with their mouths open. If you are showing work that feels disconnected, you are sending a message that you are more of a Jack or Jill of all trades, and master, of well, none. I know this is a bit of tough love, but when art directors or art buyers are looking to invest in you, they are looking for not only just a unique style or strong view point, but also your BEST images online – and that perhaps, is the biggest point of all. Just as back in the day when all photographers had to show was the hard portfolio book, it still applies that you should only put your best images online, full stop. I know with web portfolios the instinct is to show as much as possible (because you can), but still know that the best stuff is the only stuff that should live there.  When putting together your web portfolio, it takes a laser focus to choose the best images as well as the disciplines you will focus on. Again, you can show different categories but they must have a similar feel. If I may call somebody out who does this well, it’s Jonathan Kantor. (http://www.jonathankantor.com) To me, all of his portfolios he shows have a similar look, feel, and style – and they’re all great.  Whether still life, food, beauty, or people, the work is all gorgeous and feels united in aesthetic. I hope this helps as you sort through the maze and mental torture that is putting together a website. Remember this mantra:

ONLY THE BEST OF MY WORK WILL DO.
ONLY THE IMAGES THAT SUPPORT MY POINT OF VIEW WILL DO.
ONLY BAGELS FROM NEW YORK ARE ANY GOOD REALLY. (THIS ONE’S A NO BRAINER. TRUST ME I KNOW)

With those tips in mind, you should have a better idea of why folks say a unified presentation is the way to go, and why when I visit New York I carbo load like a a crazy person. In all seriousness, you can show as much as you want, but make it your best and make sure it sends a single message of sorts about your style.

All the best and until next time,
The Maven

Chris Gordaneer

Posted on: May 1st, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

Written by Zack Seckler
Edited by Joann Jovinelly

Canadian photographer Chris Gordaneer is well-known for bringing a soft color palate and a painterly touch to his advertising imagery. Regardless of the subject matter — a herd of horses galloping straight towards his camera or a woman calmly sitting beneath a tree — there’s always a sense of quiet drama in his photographs. This signature look has been very fruitful; he’s won over 100 awards in the past twelve years.

It’s more than just his mantelpiece that’s impressive though, Gordaneer tackles a seemingly endless variety of subject matter and consistently comes away with beautiful images. From automotive, to sports, to lifestyle, portraiture, landscape, sports…you name it and he’s probably shot it. There’s certainly a lot to learn from Chris Gordaneer’s photographic journey.

We begin our interview discussing a deceiving image of what appears to simply be a polluted city. The reality, and how the image was created, turns out to be far from simple. We then talk about the evolution of his look and how he achieves it in Photoshop. Our discussion finishes on the topic of motion. Gordaneer has much to say about where he and the photographers of Westside Studio are taking the new medium and about how it compares psychologically to shooting still images.Featured image by Chris Gordaneer

Seckler: Let’s discuss our featured image, the cityscape image.

Gordaneer: The client was Bosch Appliances. The idea was floating around for six, seven months before I got the job, but when I went to a couple of art directors in Toronto, they didn’t think that it could be achieved photographically. They were considering 3-D renderings and illustrations. I convinced them to shoot it using scale models of refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers.

Seckler: Can you describe the layout?Behind-the-scenes on Chris Gordaneer’s shoot

Gordaneer: It was more of a paper drawing. I had references of how they wanted the image to feel like it was a polluted city. The idea of the ad is that Bosch has green appliances that use less energy than older appliances and I wanted to make the photograph look like a dense, overpopulated cityscape with lots of pollution.

Seckler: How did you execute it?

Gordaneer: We had 150 appliances made to 1/10-scale that were then arranged by myself, my producer Tom, and a prop person. We had them made in roughly two weeks for about $12,000 dollars. They were largely plastic with wooden parts for handles and they looked very authentic. They were all distressed and made to look old.Behind-the-scenes on Chris Gordaneer’s shoot

We had tubes going around the background attached to smoke machines that gave that effect of smoke rising from some of the “buildings.” We ended up shooting from two distinct angles. We shot 150 mini appliances on one side and then moved them around to the other side because we didn’t have enough models to totally fill the space. So we moved them back and then digitally it made it feel like they went on and on forever.

I lit this using four Profoto heads each with zoom reflectors attached to two Acute 2400 WS power packs. These were mounted about three feet above a large full stop silk that was stretched out over the props. We put 4’ x 8’ sheets of white foamcore along the sides of the set to reflect light back in. We also painted the back wall grey so there would be less fill from what would have otherwise been a very light reflective white background. I shot using a Phase One P45 Plus back attached to a Mamiya 645AFD III with a 35mm lens. The exposure was 1/125th of a second at f/11 and100 ISO. We combined sixSky used in final composite on Chris Gordaneer’s shoot separate shots in post to create the final image. The shoot took about three days total to complete.

Seckler: What about the sky?

Gordaneer: The sky was actually a sky I shot separately. This particular sky was shot in Switzerland, I think. I toned it differently and then saturated it to give it a kind of smoky tobacco feel.

Seckler: Tell me about the retouching process for this image.

Gordaneer: The retouching was difficult. Because I didn’t have enough space in the studio to give the image the feeling of depth I desired—where the buildings in the background appear to go back until they are out of focus—so I had those drawn in. I also added more smoke in the background so it feels like they fall into nothing – an endless city of appliances.

Seckler: It’s a fantastic image. How did the client respond?

Gordaneer: They were quite impressed by it. The art director, Paul Wallace, was impressed with it because he couldn’t see it happening in a photograph [without CGI]. They trusted me when I was telling them about it, but Wallace didn’t think it was going to work.

Seckler: So why do you think they ended up listening to you and doing all of this in camera as opposed to CGI?

Gordaneer: They wanted it to feel real. The image could have looked so different. It could have looked hokey. When people see this image, they give it a second look. First, they look at the polluted city, and then they think, ‘What the hell? It’s refrigerators and stoves!’

Seckler: Most of your work is location based, are you interested in pursuing more studio work?An image from Chris Gordaneer’s portfolio

Gordaneer: No. I am not crazy about working in a studio. You’re definitely trapped inside for days. That particular shoot was a lot of fun. It was like building a big puzzle, and you know, it was quite challenging. I liked that aspect of it.

Seckler: How did you first get interested in photography?

Gordaneer: I was 18 and working at a lumberyard outside of Toronto and didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I took off to Europe. I had always been into music and painting, but I couldn’t do either, so I thought I should try photography. I went to school for photography when I returned, but I quit during my second year to work as an intern at Westside, the largest studio in Canada. In the beginning I assisted, and then I became an associate, and now I’m a partner.

Seckler: You have a very distinct style. Tell me how that evolved…

Gordaneer: In the beginning, photographers generally emulate the photographers with whom they work. You work with them so much that your own style tends to go in the same direction. But that’s a big mistake. Photographers should work on their own books. I’ve always loved softer color palettes. I don’t like hard, contrasting colors. I like color that’s a little saturated, like crunchy blacks. My style has a very surreal feeling. I also think that it’s softer. People tend to gravitate toward softer color palettes.An image from Chris Gordaneer’s portfolio

Seckler: When did you discover that you liked softer colors?

Gordaneer: I’ve liked them all my life. In paintings, I gravitated toward Goya for his darker, moody stuff, and Monet, for his soft colors. Even in photography, I have always been a fan of black and white images. My favorite photographers are war journalists.

Seckler: How did you get your first jobs?

Gordaneer: I was 24 when I started shooting in 1992. At that time, clients were looking for a fresh look. In the beginning my images were high contrast—very bright, very bold—and edgy. One of the first ads I did was for a company called Manager Jeans; it was my big break.  I became very busy. I knew a lot of art directors, which was key. If you know people, and they know you’re confident and willing to take a risk, they’ll hire you.

Seckler: How did you come to know those art directors?

Gordaneer: I met many art directors by assisting photographers. When I first started I pounded the pavement and called art directors and asked to come by and show them my book. I also did mailers and entered contests. Direct mail is massive. Advertise. Advertise. Advertise.

Back then, in the 1990s, I dealt directly with art directors. Now there are more art buyers in Canada, but in the United States, too, Westside has worked mainly with art directors. Either way it’s strange, because the buyers usually have a lot of say and they are the ones you speak with first even before talking with the art directors.An image from Chris Gordaneer’s portfolio

Seckler: Tell me about your post-production process. You mentioned that you shoot skies and then composite them into other photos. How did you arrive at such a specific vision?

Gordaneer: Each shot is different. With location work, you never know what the weather is going to do, or how the light is going to hit your subject at a certain time of day. You can prep for it, but it’s constantly changing.

I always have a game plan. I go out and scout locations myself. I’ll choose them, but the client has the final say. And then I wait for the perfect light and sky. I am still a true photographer in that way. I wait for things to happen, but I always have the images of the skies in my back pocket. I have them on set with me and I just rough them in as I’m shooting. That way I can see exactly what I’m going to get because I haven’t done major retouching on the color. Much of the work is done in camera, maybe dropping in the sky, or exposing differently for the sky than the foreground. It’s the same sky; it’s just that I’m exposing it differently.

Seckler: How do you enhance colors in post-production? Do you use a lot of selective color?

Gordaneer: Yes. I use plug-ins as well. I have plug-ins like Pixel Genius and Photo Kit. They are quick steps, but I use them slightly, not very much. I also use selective color and saturation, just playing with minor adjustments, though not much because the images get too digitized.

Seckler: Tell me about your portraiture work.

Gordaneer: I do a lot of portraits on location, but in the studio, it’s a whole different game. You have to communicate and make people feel relaxed, which is difficult with celebrities. They don’t want to be there; they sit for photographers constantly.An image from Chris Gordaneer’s portfolio

Seckler: Do you have any tricks for getting people to relax?

Gordaneer: I try to make them laugh and goof-off a bit. Everybody is the same on my sets; there’s no hierarchy. When it comes to shooting, I’m the boss, but everybody is encouraged to relax. The atmosphere is very welcoming. The light’s a little low, so it seems warm and inviting as opposed to bright white light.

Seckler: Are the Tanzania images on your website a part of your personal work?

Gordaneer: Yes. Those images are close to my heart. I do a lot of charity work. I went to Tanzania for a three-week safari and shot those. I had a show when I came back and I donated all the proceeds to World Wildlife Fund (WWF). I raised money for them that helped build water purification plants in the Congo.

Seckler: Did you book everything on your own?

Gordaneer: We did research. My producer Tom did most of that work. We actually started off at a fair-trade coffee plantation. The majority of the money that we spent there will stay in the country. It was quite expensive, but we spent three days on the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, basically living on a coffee plantation.

Seckler: So you basically donated your time and money to create images that were then sold for charity?An image from Chris Gordaneer’s portfolio

Gordaneer: Yes. At the end it was about $40,000 dollars with the show, the prints, the framing, and everything that we auctioned off, but I raised about $20,000 dollars from the sales of the prints, so it was worth it.

Seckler: Tell me about your motion work. When did you start shooting?

Gordaneer: Many production companies approach me to direct. I just think that you have to do either still photography or motion work. I am not finished shooting; my love is still photography. The [still photography] jobs are quicker, you can do more, and you can move a lot easier than with motion. But I do see our worlds colliding. As far as still cameras go, and how digital high-def cameras are going to go, I think one day soon they are going to be shooting stills as well. So I am definitely trying to learn more.

Seckler: Do clients come to you for motion work—even though you’re primarily a still photographer—and say, ‘We love Chris’s vision and we want to see him bring that to motion, so we’re going to take a risk.’

Gordaneer: There’s not much difference between motion and stills; it’s just a moving picture. A lot of photographers see that way when they shoot. I definitely do; I see in motion. The main thing is to tell a story in images. With moving pictures, it’s just a longer, more complicated process. I think, especially in motion, more people are involved. You’re not the only creator.An image from Chris Gordaneer’s portfolio

Seckler: Does it seem strange to be a [motion picture] director—to step out of the role of still photographer—and adopt a new role?

Gordaneer: In still photography, you’re a director. You’re directing and basically being a vice president. The [motion] world is not that different. It’s harder to let go of taking the actual picture, but I look at the vice presidents and I’m jealous of them—that’s what I want to do at some point.

Seckler: You mentioned that you see the worlds of still and motion photography colliding. Tell me more about what you expect from that convergence.

Gordaneer: Most clients would love to have a print campaign that is exactly the same as their commercials. I think that the photography world is going to shrink. Most clients will be combining campaigns.

Seckler: Does Westside Studio have a vision to turn their still photographers into motion picture directors?

Gordaneer: We are definitely moving in that direction. We are all playing with the Canon 5D Mark II. Photographers are doing major features on it. There are a lot of still photographers who are very excited about the technology.

Seckler: Is everybody building a reel?

Gordaneer: Everybody is trying to build a reel. We are forming alliances with transfer houses, editing houses. We are meeting with them and they are learning An image from Chris Gordaneer’s portfolioour needs as well. I shot a couple small-budget spots recently and the clients loved them and came back for more.

Seckler: How do you suggest that still photographers build a reel since it is such a different thing then building a typical portfolio?

Gordaneer: Experiment. Go out, and if you’re shooting a job, shoot some video, too. It’s just as if you were building a book for the first time—you have to shoot and shoot. It’s good practice. It doesn’t always have to be your best work. Just make the mistakes. You never know what’s going to happen. I am a firm believer in happy accidents.

Seckler: Is the style of your still photography revealing itself in your motion work?

Gordaneer: Sure. Sometimes I’ll shoot stills and have a camera guy beside me shooting video, shooting exactly what I’m seeing. There is one photograph of a horse bucking—the production team had a separate camera guy with me who just followed me around and shot all my ideas. I think people get nervous when they hear motion, but it’s not much different then shooting stills. In my world I am used to dealing with big productions, so I am not nervous when it comes to making that jump.

Seckler: So even though you want to mostly remain a still photographer, you’re experimenting with motion because you think that’s where things are going…

Gordaneer: Yes. The two worlds are definitely going to merge. I am still young, still shooting, and I don’t want to be left behind. Plus, it’s exciting. When I say I don’t want to be involved in motion as much, I mean that I don’t want to be involved with big production companies. I don’t want to give up photography and concentrate solely on directing. I don’t want to spend a month on a project, I really don’t. You write treatments. You have pre-production, aAn image from Chris Gordaneer’s portfoliond you’re casting actors and scouting locations and you’re not getting paid for that time. You only get paid for the days that you’re on set. And afterward you are usually involved in the transfer and the edit, or you walk away from it and it’s out of your hands, and then you see it on TV and you hate it.

Seckler: Do you see motion as a negative development?

Gordaneer: No, I don’t, but I don’t like having all those people around me. I like having total control. I don’t care for shoots when there are too many hands in the pie. At the end of the day when I hand over an image, I like knowing exactly what it looks like—that it’s my image, my art.

Seckler: Do you think photographers should be concerned if they only want to shoot stills?

Gordaneer: I think the transition will be quick. I think there is always going to be room for print advertising. Art directors love that they can go out and concentrate on one image. I don’t think they are going to be pushing only for duel scenarios.

Seckler: What are you working on now?

Gordaneer: I am very excited about my upcoming charity project that I am working on for the people of Uganda. We are shooting a documentary and I am going to teach photography to underprivileged kids for a week. Afterward, we are going to have a show and hopefully auction off the images. All the kids are going to take shots and we are going to do a combined show with them and then bring it back to Toronto. Hopefully we will do it in New York and London as well. I’m hopeful that it will get some people to give to Ugandan charities. After the wars there, millions of people were displaced. People lost their homes and were living in internment camps. Now they have to rebuild everything.