Marketing & Self-Promotion — Part Three

Posted on: June 29th, 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 and part two here.

Part three of this series is my conversation with Wini Alcorn, an art producer who’s worked at McCann Erickson for ten years . Our interview took place in her New York office back in April. Since the interview she’s changed positions within McCann Erickson and will be working in their broadcast department.

Photograph by Patrick Demarchelier. Art produced by Wini Alcorn.

Seckler: What’s your typical process like for finding a photographer?

Alcorn: Typically I just get on my computer and start going through my bookmarks. Hopefully when I see a layout a photographer comes to mind. And then if none of those people fit what I’m looking for, then I really just go through my bookmarked websites. I definitely start off on the Internet and I also use my coworkers as a resource. Especially if I’m not coming up with anything that fits. If my own website searching and [coworkers] doesn’t really come to anything, then I usually will look at At-Edge. I also look at Le Book [and]

Seckler: Are Le Book, Workbook and At-Edge the three sourcebooks you go to?

Alcorn: For photography those pretty much are the ones I go to. Sometimes I’ll look at Altpick and I know I’ve also done the APA [website] recently.

Sometimes it’s easy if you’re shooting in New York or L.A., but if you need to shoot in Ohio or in Kansas, [the websitses] have a nice feature where you can type in locale. I also did do a search recently for aerial photographers, which I know nothing about, and typed in ‘aerial photography’ and it gave me a whole list of photographers.

Seckler: So, it’s good for the specialized and non-primary market based searches.

Alcorn: Right.

Seckler: When you are using sourcebooks do you tend to look at the print editions or do you look at them online?

Alcorn: Now I look online. If I have the print edition, I don’t even know. You see, I have a bookcase there, full of books and rarely do I get up and go look at them (Laughs).

Because online I feel like it’s more current. I think if there’s a change in an artist’s rep, it’s going to be online. [When] you’re looking in a [printed] sourcebook it’s already outdated.

Seckler: What about photographers who do one or two page ads in Archive or Communication Arts…does that have an impact on you?

Alcorn: I don’t look through those books as much. It’s not my thought to look there when I’m looking for photographers. If I’m looking at those books it’s because someone was like, ‘you should read this article about this photographer’ or ‘look at this cool ad.’ And then I get the book and I look at it but it’s not something that I think of as a resource. They don’t have to buy a $10,000 page in a sourcebook. They can just send me an e-mail and I’ll probably see it and then I’ll bookmark it.

Seckler: Are you open to working with emerging talent?

Alcorn: We want to work with the best photographer out there. But I do think there’s always some nerves in terms of production. Because I do think when you work with someone more established, you know that they’ve had the experience working with the big agency, they’ve had the experience working with the client, or they have a team who knows how to handle all the drama that comes with the big agency and the big client. So I think there’s some security [in using established photographers] but I would say, certainly if it’s the right photographer for the job, it would just be one of those conversations like ‘this may be your first or second big job, but we think you’re right.’

But there’s always the clients ‘oh, can we work with Annie Leibovitz?’ So they have these big names in their head, and it’s like, ‘there’s more photographers than that and she’s not even the right photographer for your project!’ I think sometimes clients fall in love with the idea of working with a famous photographer. But I think in this day and age, budgets are so tight, there’s more of a chance for the younger photographers because the bigger photographers may not be willing to bring their fees down.

Seckler: Has print work started to pick up a little bit recently?

Alcorn: I think it’s definitely busier here. Last year was not a great year. Everyone was very nervous. Seeing the closing of a lot of those magazines was scary. I think it’s picking back up. But I think it’s kind of this unknown. Where is this going? Where is media going? I think everyday I see more photographers sending an e-mail [with a link to] their website and they have video! I think really it’s all about digital and interactive. I think it’s all about knowing how to bring it all together. It seems to me like everyone is talking about behind-the-scenes video for the Internet. So we need to shoot the print, but we need to shoot some video, and wouldn’t it be great if the photographer knew how to do both.

Seckler: Have you or your colleagues hired photographers to do both stills and the motion?

Alcorn: I don’t know if we have here. I do know that I recently did something where there was a director that was hired. And there was discussion about having the director shoot the video, and then pulling the stills from the video. And then the more we talked about it, the more we felt that, perhaps we should also shoot some stills. The more we talked about it, we said maybe it would be better to shoot from a still camera. And the director actually shot the stills with the still camera.

Seckler: Right. So it happened, but instead of hiring a still photographer you hired a director…

Alcorn: A director, and he did both. I don’t know if we’ve hired a photographer yet and actually asked him to do video. Certainly I meet a lot of photographers who come in, and they show that. When they’re showing me their portfolio, they say ‘I shot this after we wrapped the shoot, I decided to do this for myself and the client really liked it, and they went and threw it up on their website.’ So I think that’s smart. I think that that’s the next thing, if you can learn to do it. It’s also kind of learning what’s good and what’s not good. For me it’s also a new aesthetic. I think it’s just a new language for all of us print people to look at.

Seckler: Circling back to the topic of promotion…does winning the major awards have an impact on if you’re considering a photographer for a job?

Alcorn: I would say no. If anything I like the PDN 30. Of the magazines that’s one I look at. And I use that magazine when I’m trying to read about new technology and photographers and what the trends are, and I think that’s a good source.

Seckler: What about the annual competitions like Communication Arts Photo Annual or the Lucie Awards?

Alcorn: I think, if anything, because they’ll do promotions for who won I’ll see it. It’s good in that sense, that if you’ve won, I’ll probably get an e-mail, and your name will be on it, and there’ll be a photo. And then I might go look at it, whereas before I might not have been drawn to you. But in terms of if I’m hiring for a job it’s still more about does it fit the concept? Is it in my budget? Does the art director feel like this photographer’s going to bring the right sensibility to the ad? Yeah, I don’t think the award trumps any of that. More, it might just be a way for them to get in front of me.

Seckler: Now, you mentioned using bookmarks a lot, about how many photographer bookmarks do you have?

Alcorn: I used to try to alphabetize them so here, let’s start at “A” and just keep going… (scrolling down for several seconds).

Seckler: That’s a lot (Laughs).

Alcorn: That’s a lot.

Seckler: How many photographers do you recommend to an art director once they’ve given you a layout?

Alcorn: I’ll look through my bookmarks for a couple hours. I usually try to narrow it down ten. And if that’s too much, five. Because I think art directors — it gets overwhelming.

Seckler: Do you like to see a very specialized look in photographers’ websites or does it throw you off if they have a few different categories?

Alcorn:: I think it’s good [to have variety], it doesn’t throw me off. I think it can throw clients off, and people who aren’t as creative. It’s confusing if you’re in a meeting and your portfolio has every other picture’s as a different style. Then people are going to be concerned about hiring you. But I think art directors like to see it because I think it gives a better impression of the artist’s vision. Either way, when I look at portfolios I think it’s nice to have two portfolios. ‘Here’s my landscape book and here’s my portrait book.’ I think it depends on your audience and how you’re trying to sell yourself.

Seckler: Do you like e-mail promos or do you find them overwhelming?

Alcorn: I find them a little overwhelming. I definitely get a lot. And honestly, it depends on how busy I am, and my mood…whether I’m going to look at them or not. I think the best e-mails have in the subject line something [specific] that makes sense. Not something vague and not something too clever. Just tell me what it is. I don’t have time to read [lots of text], if I’m interested, if I like what you send as a visual, I’ll go to your website. So you don’t need to give me all the backstory in the e-mail. Just send me a photo, and a link. But as I said, sometimes I’m busy, and I don’t open them. I’ll just delete them.

Seckler: Right.

Alcorn: Which I don’t like to admit to but occasionally I will if there’s a lot. I personally like mail promos. If I like them, I keep them. I hang them on my wall, I put them up. On my door I have magnets where I hang up the ones I like the most. Some people like e-mail blasts, some people don’t. You’re never going to find the answer. I think everyone likes something different. So I would just do what you feel is your best way to show your work.

Seckler: Any pearls of wisdom for photographers out there who are looking to get in touch with the right potential clients? Advice for maybe a unique promotional idea or something?

Alcorn: The fun promos are cool, but I don’t know if they really help you get the job. People who do the theme promos, where it’s a box and there’s stuff in it. Where they spend a lot of money. Maybe that leads to work, but I don’t know if I’ve ever hired someone where I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that cool promo!’

And if you’re going to call and set up an appointment do your homework. If you want to shoot food, go to the agency that handles the food account. Don’t go to that agency and try to sell fashion and beauty. If you’re smart and say, ‘I’m going to be in town, and I know you guys handle these accounts, and I work on this kind of stuff. Would you be willing to meet with me?’ I’ll think most people are willing to meet with people.

I would also say do your homework and be considerate. And don’t inundate people with e-mails. Lots of times I’ll get the e-mails like, ‘I’m just following up to see if you got my e-mail, dot-da-da-da-da-da.’ And it’s like, I’m sure I got it. But do I remember it? I don’t know. And then you get the phone call, like, ‘I’m just calling to see…’ and it’s like, oh my God! It’s just too much. (Laughs)

You got to have some faith that it reached me. And if not, do another one in three months. We probably get thirty e-mails a day and it’s a lot. Sometimes I only remember the ones that really are applicable to what I’m working on. So it’s not because your image sucked. It’s just not pertinent to what I’m doing.

Ask Maven: Mail Promos

Posted on: June 17th, 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

I came across this amazing promo the other day from Shawn Michienzi, a photographer whose work I have always dug. He sent out a mini magazine of sorts called “Taken” (great name) with cool images, great simple design, and some captioning about each campaign or image he shot. In particular,   I am in love with these  Southern Comfort photos — particularly as I was recently looking for images of ass kicking Americana the past few days. That’s how it works, folks — for direct mail, anyway. I will toss everything in my path if it does not speak to something I am working on or think I may be working on in the future. So yes, it’s a bit like some version of postal Russian Roulette. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it — it’s more luck.  Of course there is the 3 times rule — don’t blow your savings on one promo because you generally need to send your stuff 3 times before there is some sort of recall or response.

But the bottom line is targeting your audience and sending them stuff that will hopefully spark a call to your iPhone and make your dang day. I do love to get things in the mail to look at, but I would say keep the size of them less than indulgent (not a fan of enormous promos, remember most art buyers and creatives don’t have enormous offices, so we have nowhere to put your Ten Commandment sized promotion). And I really love a handwritten note to accompany the piece that has my name and a little piece on why this image of sexy school girls in Paris is being sent my way. The personal touch should not be underestimated — even if you can hand write notes to ten of your most favorite and coveted agency folk, do it.

Another thought I had today was this: you are all extraordinarily lucky to be doing something you LOVE for a living. I would say the majority of you would not prefer office work or some other such drudgery. So take a deep breath, even in these changing and challenging times for our industry, and simply remember why you are here. You really love taking pictures, and you are super lucky to do what you love for a living. Remember that when racking your brain over promos, tough estimates, or crazy art directors. It’s all worth it. Oh, and send me your questions, please. Would love to hear from all of you.

The Maven

Tough Predictions for Print Media & Advertising

Posted on: June 15th, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

The NY Times is reporting that according to the 11th annual entertainment and media outlook report that was released today there is going to be a .5% drop in ad spending this year compared with 2009. This is actually an improvement from 2009 when ad spending dropped 15.2% compared with 2008. But according to the article there is more tough news to swallow:

“Although ad spending will increase in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, the report forecasts, the total in 2014 will still be 9 percent less than it was in 2007.

By 2014, ad spending in categories like the Internet, television and radio is expected to exceed the spending levels of 2009, according to the report, while ad spending in categories like consumer magazines, trade magazines, newspapers and directories is projected to be lower than it was in 2009.

Newspaper ad spending is under pressure to the point, the report says, that the total amount of ad spending online will surpass the amount spent in newspapers this year.”

Congrats to Px3 Winners

Posted on: June 10th, 2010 by: Zack Seckler

Winners of the Prix de la Photographie Paris competition or Px3 were announced today.

Howard Shatz won the Photographer of the Year title for his Boxers series and Stefano Orazzini won the title of Best New Talent for his Night Terraces series.

The first place winners of each category are:

Advertising – Szymon Brodziak for Noti Girls

Photojournalism – Howard Shatz for Boxers

Book – Eric Lusito for After the Wall

Fine Art – Euro Rotelli for The Body and the Soul

Nature – Mitch Dobrowner for Storms

Portraiture – Phillip Toledano for A New Kind of Beauty

There are dozens and dozens of other winners in the sub-categories…check out all the work here.

Ask Maven: Art & Advertising

Posted on: June 3rd, 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:

Tim.O. asks:

Does shooting fine art photography make a photographer more or less attractive to the advertising industry? It seems like lots of ad shooters don’t do much fine art but the ad industry at it’s best likes to showcase artistic work. Why the disconnect Maven?

Hi Tim,

Thanks for your very good question. I think now more than ever fine art is pervasive in commercial work. The lines are pretty blurry in fact. Obviously it makes a heap of sense to show the commercial clients you have worked on, as well as your work in finished ads (a lot of photographers don’t like to show finished ads in their books, and I’ve never understood why, unless the finished ad is complete crap. But if you’ve shot for Microsoft and it was all over the subway station, show that and then show it again. It has real legs for commercial endeavors).

© Gregory Crewdson, Untitled, Summer 2006But back to the question at hand — many fine art photographers have transitioned into commercial work and vice versa. There are no real rules there except you have to tell a compelling story with your imagery – and that’s the most important thing. That’s what makes a photographer attractive to the commercial industry. And now with web based portfolios you can really show your range – I would encourage that, but will say I would hope your fine art is somehow connected to the commercial work you take on – if there is a huge disconnect, it may feel like a disjointed presentation. For instance, Gregory Crewdson’s commercial work is linked closely to his fine art work. That’s why he is able to market himself commercially – because clients and galleries are all buying into his incredible point of view. There’s a lot of equity there.

In terms of fine art though, it’s totally possible the Midwestern health care client doesn’t want to see pictures of naked chicks or your series of nude bodybuilders that are in your fine art work. It’s totally possible – and provocative work is not right for some clients. If you feel strongly as an artist that your fine art work tells the story you want to spread to the world, then display with pride. If it’s great work, it will take you where you want to go commercially. I think most art directors like an artful approach anyway. That seems to be the trend nowadays as opposed to a straight up commercial photographer. I’ll end this column by saying it seems the reps, not the ad agencies, are the ones most afraid of fine art work- they sometimes don’t get how that will translate to money and marketability, but I beg to differ. A great photograph is a great photograph – fine art or not.

All the best,
The Maven

Image © Gregory Crewdson. Untitled, Summer 2006. Available for purchase at Gagosian Gallery.

Kevin Cooley

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

Written by Zack Seckler
Edited by Joann Jovinelly

Photographer Kevin Cooley isn’t afraid of the dark. In fact, he’s almost like a cat, using the cover of darkness as his opportunity to go out and hunt – for pictures. He’s known for using the night sky like a giant canvass and a plethora of manmade light sources like paintbrushes to create stunning fine art and editorial imagery.

Cooley has used everything from the light of jet engines flying thousands of feet above his lens to flares shot into the depths of cold wintry landscapes to expose his photographs. His inventive techniques and striking aesthetic have brought him much success in the art world. In the past few years he’s landed multiple grants, artist residencies, solo exhibitions, major awards and scores of magazine clients.

We recently had a chance to sit down and discuss his career and craft. Our interview begins with the concept and creation of our featured image “Badlands 2,” a photo from his series At Light’s Edge. We continue on to discuss how Cooley conceptualizes projects, where he finds creative inspiration and his path of becoming a successful artist.

Featured image by Kevin CooleySeckler: Let’s discuss our featured image, one from your series At Light’s Edge.

Cooley: This image was created before dawn on a cold, snowy morning near the small town of Lyman in Southwestern Wyoming. To create the streak in the sky, I used an old military flare.  After a long period of failed experimentation with model rockets, fireworks, and marine flares, I settled on military flares for two reasons. They are very bright and enjoy a nice long hang-time in the air of around 8-10 seconds. Second, I really liked their predictable trajectories, something which I wasn’t getting with the other methods I tested. The flares are all from various militaries in Eastern Europe and date from the late 1970’s and 80’s.   I was surprised to find hardly any duds in the entire gross I used for this project.

Seckler: What was the technical process of creating this image?

Cooley: The camera I used is a Linhof Technikardan 45s with a 135mm Schneider apo-symmar lens.  I remember that at the time, I thought I was shooting with Kodak Portra 160VC at an exposure of four or five minutes at f22. However, when I got back to the hotel, I realized that I accidentally shot Kodak Portra 400NC.   I think this mistake worked out to my advantage in making the flare even brighter. I only had time to shoot 2 frames before I was visited by a state trooper who wanted to know why my car was stopped along the side of the highway so early in the morning. Luckily for me, it did not seem as he had seen two flares we had already shot off. But I thought it best not to take any more chances.

Seckler: Where did you come of with the idea for this series?

An image from Kevin Cooley’s portfolioCooley: From an emotional point of view, the series is about feeling lost in my environment and struggling to cope with the human condition. It’s also about feeling like the world can get the best of you and being lonely; it’s very existential. Loneliness is a theme I’ve been exploring for a long time. I often photograph alone; it’s a meditative experience for me. Mentally, I go to strange, sometimes subliminal, places. I guess it says a lot about me as a person, but it also speaks to the universal human condition. We all have to deal with the harshness of the world. Speaking from a literal point of view, the light from the flares is like a distress signal, a call for help, like you’re lost in a stark, unforgiving landscape. I shot those images mostly in Wyoming and Idaho during the depths of winter.

Seckler: Is there a metaphorical element to it?

Cooley: When you look at the pictures, you see a white streak and you might not necessarily know what’s going on. Is the flare coming up, or is it going down? Is it from outer space? Is it lightning? You know, I like to leave the images open to interpretation. I purposefully chose not to use red distress flares to make it more ambiguous.

Seckler: Much of your work is done at night using only ambient light, where did this habit originate from?

An image from Kevin Cooley’s portfolioCooley: The very first project I did at night was a series called Night for Night, which is an industry term. It started when I came across an amazing-looking film set in Red Hook, Brooklyn. They were shooting A Beautiful Mind, and there was a gigantic oil tanker that was lit up. They weren’t even shooting the tanker; it was only a part of the background. I started to think about how light is used in film, and how much of it is not used, and what else is being lit on set. That thread sparked the idea that I should surreptitiously borrow hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide (HMI) lights from different films sets. Before I knew it, I was in Los Angeles for six months following various film productions.

Seckler: Did people ever wonder why you were stalking around film sets?

Cooley: Film crews in New York got to know me well. They offered me craft services, asked me if I was getting what I needed. I almost felt like a part of the productions. In Los Angeles, my reception was less well received. Even though I was blocks away from the set, and not interested in whomever was being shot—meaning that I was clearly not a paparazzo—I was not treated well. Sometimes, the cops that are paid to be on set would get involved. They’d say, “You know, actually, he can shoot here. It’s totally fine. He’s not even bothering the crew.”

Seckler: How did your night shooting progress?An image from Kevin Cooley’s portfolio

Cooley: Each project has been shot at night, but each one also uses a slightly different light source, the first one being the big film HMIs. Next, I did a project in Paris, France, during a six-month artist-in-residency program, where I used the lights from Bateaux-Mouches, tourist boats that travel along the Seine.

Seckler: Is your choice of lighting a matter of convenience or aesthetics?

Cooley: When I first started the Night for Night series I was looking for locations that were lit by massive lights, and I was thinking, what would I do if I had those lights for myself? And I realized that I didn’t know what I would do. It was more about seeking what was lit; the accidental occurrence of the experience intrigued me. When I photograph, I always feel most comfortable reacting to what I see, rather than setting up my own scenario.

Seckler: What originally prompted your interest in photography?

Cooley: I came to New York to go to the School for Visual Arts (SVA) in 1997. But I was shooting before that. Television has always been a major part of my upbringing. My family had televisions in almost every room. My father couldn’t sleep without a television playing. My mom slept in a different room, and she had a television. I had television in my bedroom when I was a kid. Television imagery is how I learned about the world. I think that it’s only natural that I became interested in capturing the world visually.

Seckler: When did you start working professionally?An image from Kevin Cooley’s portfolio

Cooley: In my second year of grad school we had a photographer join us who was a well-connected commercial, editorial photographer in Australia. Before I met him I was thinking only about being an artist. He introduced me to commercial photography. Since graduate school I’ve been trying to navigate between being an editorial photographer, a commercial photographer, and a fine artist. The first few years after I graduated I assisted and then I started doing my own projects, mainly the Night for Night series.

Seckler: Tell me about your work as an editorial and commercial photographer.

Cooley: There are aspects I like about editorial and commercial photography, but I don’t see how I could fully commit to either. I like making personal work, because I do whatever I want, and I can take as much time as I need. But I also like getting an assignment to go somewhere. I love traveling. I love having to go somewhere to find a picture where there’s not an obvious picture—like having the situation be pressured. I appreciate the challenge of representing a story or an editorial point of view.

Seckler: How do you split yourself mentally between commercial or editorial projects and fine art?

Cooley: I used to think I could do it all. I thought, I could go somewhere and shoot an editorial An image from Kevin Cooley’s portfolioportrait in the morning, and then shoot something different in the afternoon and just always have a zillion ideas, but the more refined I got at doing what I wanted to do, the more distracted I felt. I find it really hard to turn one off or turn one on, to immediately switch.

Seckler: Tell me about how you conceptualize an idea for a series.

Cooley: It happens organically. I often go for long periods where I have no ideas. Once I start working on a series I eventually get to a point where I feel like I’ve got it, maybe after 15 or 20 pictures. I probably could push it, shoot for another year or so, but then I lose interest. I also go through short periods where I don’t shoot as much or I try things that don’t work and then I see something that suddenly sparks a new idea.

Seckler: It sounds like a very organic, even serendipitous process.

Cooley: I wish I could sit down with pieces of paper and access what I need, and that process is probably not any easier than what I do, but I certainly like to fantasize about it being easier. I’m not good at brainstorming. I mostly hunt for what I shoot. Last summer I started thinking about fireflies as a light source. I didn’t know how to get a bunch of them together, but I started looking into it and realized that there are fireflies in Cambodia that sync up and flash at the same time. I thought, that could be an idea. At the same time my wife found this place in Vieques, Puerto Rico, that has dinoflagellates in the water that light up at night when you move, so I’m going there to photograph them.An image from Kevin Cooley’s portfolio

Seckler: When you have an idea, like using fireflies as a light source, are you thinking only about something that interests you personally, or are you thinking about an audience that may or may not like the work?

Cooley: I think about making a visually dynamic photograph. I want my work to end up in a gallery or be presented in a magazine, but I try not to work with those goals as my motivation. Where the work ends up, or if it goes anywhere, is not as important.

Seckler: In terms of making a living as a fine artist, is it difficult to rely on galleries to sell your work?

Cooley: My gallery closed in December, so it’s hard. I don’t have gallery representation right now. I don’t think anything in photography is necessarily reliable; it’s all a challenge.

Seckler: How did you get your first solo show?

Cooley: Artist Jen DeNike approached me to be in a group show. About a year later I showed the gallerist some new work and he absolutely hated it and told me if I wanted to be in the art world I should be more consistent. Then he called me on the following Monday and offered me a show. I was shocked. I said, “Really? I thought you hated the work.” And he replied, “Well, I’ve been An image from Kevin Cooley’s portfoliothinking about it all weekend, so I guess I couldn’t hate it that much.” He had such a reaction to it that he spent the whole weekend thinking about it. I guess he felt if it captured his attention, then there must be something there.

Seckler: Is there an overarching theme in your work?

Cooley: The work is an extension of me, of my life, and my perception of the world. I think the world is a lonely, harsh, yet beautiful place, and one full of dualities, inconsistencies, and disasters. But in all of that, there’s beauty that I want to capture.

Seckler: Let’s discuss your motion work. Tell me about those projects.

Cooley: During my airplane series, I spent hours sitting near airports, watching planes take off, listening to birds chirp, watching boats go by, and I always felt like the photographs that represented that time didn’t fully reveal the experience of actually being there, which compelled me to shoot video. In a video you could get closer to the nature, especially near JFK, where there are waterways. There are birds flying, fish jumping, and it’s calm and serene. Then you suddenly hear a roaring jet come through and destroy everything. And then it goes away, and you’re back to nature. By using video I could definitely make my audience understand that there is nature, there is a human-made airplane, and noise. I ended up doing a bunch of videos, some in the same locations as the photographs, and I think they worked very well together.

Seckler: Have the videos been exhibited?An image from Kevin Cooley’s portfolio

Cooley: I showed them at my last gallery show. I think it only made it more dynamic to have both video and photography; it enabled a richer dialog. I feel like video has long been important in the art world, even though it seems like commercial and editorial photographers are just now starting to fully explore HD video.

Seckler: What’s next for you?

Cooley: I’m doing this project in Puerto Rico and then doing something with bioluminescence, with fireflies. I have no idea if it’s going to work; it could be a total failure. Next, I want to go out West and drive around, which really inspires me. In 2011, I plan to sublet my apartment, get a camper, and go away for six months and drive around North America. But while I’m still in New York, I want to do a project about fires. There was a seven-alarm fire in Chinatown several weeks ago, and it got me thinking, so I bought a police scanner and I’ve been listening to it, hoping to find some good stuff.