December 20, 2013

I finally set up a proofing site using Instaproofs. My whole year-end outlook could've been much different had I taken the time to do this a long time ago, but I finally felt ready and I'm happy it's in the bag. I launched the site with 300 password-accessible images from the President's visit to the Campion residence a few weeks ago. I wasn't sure if the DNC would prefer distributing the images to their donors themselves, so I sought to make letting me be the middleman as convenient as possible. The rates for digital and print sales were very low, and I've still made enough to cover multiple dentist appointments. Instaproofs needs to hire me as a spokesperson - all month I've been bragging to everyone about its ease of use and how great of a service it is. Such a great feeling randomly hearing your phone go 'ding!', checking what's up and seeing that a new Instaproofs order has come in. With only a $50 annual storage fee, 15 percent service fees and quality consumer printing through Richard Photo Lab out of San Fransicsco, it's a game-changer for my business.

Get on it, photographers!

December 13, 2013

So here's an exchange I had with Instinct Magazine. Generally I appreciate exposure and enjoy working with editors who are interested in my work. However, Instinct Magazine repeatedly poaches the work of others without first seeking permission, so I thought it'd be an interesting exercise to call them on it. In retrospect, I'm not proud of the tone I took in my follow-up letter and would reign it in the next time, but judging from Instinct's executive online editor's response, it seems to have hit its mark in lieu of having a team of lawyers to send threatening letters on my behalf. We'll see if that small check winds up in the mail. Otherwise, to be continued!...

My initial email...

The editor's response...

My response to his response...

The editor's last reply...

December 4, 2013

So one week ago I had the unique opportunity of being the sole photographer in the room with the President of the United States of America - probably a once-in-a lifetime thing. Pete Souza, the White House's chief photographer, came along, but he didn't appear that interested and left the room after about two snaps. The timing was interesting for me because, during this administration, press photographers have routinely been denied access (as well as angles), and instead Souza and his team's images of the President performing his official duties (as well as occasions deemed private) are distributed for use.

It was interesting and reassuring to hear the Leader of the Free World for almost an hour speak so candidly about everything; he gets it. He looked tired and was harder to photograph than I'd imagined he would be, but stayed and answered questions longer than he was scheduled to. He spoke with a very small group in a tight space- interestingly, a mix of successful businessmen, their wives, and representatives from the region's Native American nations who had each ponied up at least $16K a person to be there. Amazingly, I was allowed to roam and do as I pleased the entire time, and was even able to stand right behind and to the side of the President for angles I'm not sure I can ever recall photographers ever getting (besides Pete). Though I didn't think I was overly nervous, I noticed my hands had a shake to them for the first 15 minutes or so, and afterwards I had a headache, which the White House's logistics guy said was a result of the adrenaline comedown. The scariest part of the night was when it was all over and I went and slumped down onto the floor to review the evening's images on the back of my camera: none would display. Luckily, they uploaded to the Mac just fine when I got back to the studio, but the cards themselves remain unusable.

As he was headed out, I got a photo of the President with the catering team, and his demeanor noticeably changed after leaving the room of donors and getting to meet the people who'd had no expectation of even catching a glimpse of him. I asked for a photo, and he insisted on fixing my jacket collar, saying, "First, let me help make you look good." I think he got a kick out of my popped collar, and it would've been a great shot, but the one we ended up getting, I didn't get close to that kind of smile from him all evening.

Mr Photographer with Mr President. More photos coming soon...

November 27, 2013

All this editing definitely feels like payback for my surreal weekend, and I hope to and am anxious to share a few images sometime next week, after the holiday weekend.

Other than that, this week's been pretty alright. Had my first dentist appointment in three years (with more to come!); met up and had a really good time at Linda's with a Mr Jonathan Vanderwelt, who's new to Seattle from Boulder, CO, and has been having a good amount of success making inroads with the photo community here after just two months in town (god, it's fun to talk about photography with good people); and got a call from The Seattle Times for a feature about the economic impacts of same-sex marriage. In talking to them, I was afraid of coming off wrong, because whether or not I've benefited from marriage equality is secondary to the fact that it's about people's civil rights and not just some moneymaker, and I was fortunate to be able to play a visible part in that effort last year.

Anyway, in the meantime, here are two Instagrams from Sunday :)

Box of M&M's

In muh first suit!

November 11, 2013

This past weekend I was humbled to be presenting at the Society of Photographic Education's northwest regional conference held at The Art Institute of Seattle, where I enroll in a course each quarter. It was the first artist talk I've given, and all in all a really positive experience.

I spoke about my work for an hour to an audience of about two dozen. I began with 30 portfolio images, in color and in black-and-white, introducing how I landed in photography almost three years ago. The visual image captures all the nuances of people and their lives that had been so difficult to express in writing. I have always had an interest in the news and culture, and thought the field of journalism would be where I'd find a career. In the process of getting a degree at Indiana University and working as a copy editor at newspapers, I was continually drawn to the power of photography to tell a story about people and their lives. It expresses the contrast between their outward differences and inward similarities.

I told of how, upon moving to Seattle and after first working as a preschool teacher, that through an odd set of circumstances I was hired as the photographer for the Seattle Gay News at the beginning of 2011, right as I got a camera. The paper gave me credibility and access to Seattle's LGBTQ scene at the height of Washington state's marriage equality movement. Since, I've contributed imagery of 725+ events, from drag pageant fundraisers to civil rights marches to historic weddings. It's been a privilege to document people's lives and their aspirations for equal footing in American culture.

As a straight ally, I couldn't have found a better niche in the Seattle Gay News: I've been afforded access, exposure, a reason to be taking pictures, and a big one for me, or any photographer - a real sense of community. The lecture and slideshow encompassed the importance of photography in defining and bridging Seattle's many LGBTQ communities. I shared nearly 300 images from 2011 and 2012, telling stories of how each was made. Because the edits were rough and to hide the fact that no color correction work had been done, they were shown in black-and-white. As well as the audience's, it was my first time seeing the images in this way.

Afterwards I asked Ric Petersen, the head of AIS' photo department and also a friend, his thoughts. What he said was pretty great. He admitted he's been to a lot of these, a lot of artist talks, and that I showed, "What? 300 images? That's 240 more than I've seen any other photographer present. Good job." And then he gave a thumbs up. While the subjects and environments in my images have become normal and everyday for me, he did note that some people may not see things with those kinds of eyes (three individuals walked out after less than five minutes), and that I may want to address that the next time. He appreciated my candor about how I went about making the images, and got a kick out of the disconnect between what I was saying and what the audience was seeing, "which were just great images," he said.

Here are four selects from the never-before-shown set:

November 4, 2013

Woo! So the winners' galleries for the 8th Annual Black & White Spider Awards are now posted, and I was surprised to receive two of the 132 awards for professionals. A total of 256 honors were doled out in 14 categories, of 9,456 entries from 75 countries.

In one year's time, I've been fortunate to receive recognition in American Photography 28 (with one of the book's few one-photo, two-page spreads), in Photo District News' The Scene contest with both series and select winners, the PDN Photo Annual for student work, PDNedu for fashion/portraiture, twice as Vogue Italia's Pic of the Day, and as Prix de la Photographie, Paris' poster image for its Top 20 exhibit, as well as an honorable mention.

I can't say that exposure from this attention has directly translated into paid work. Still, clients do hint that it definitely doesn't hurt - that their confidence in my work is not only based on what they see and perceive but is also reassured by these industry endorsements. Having your images held up by editors from institutions such as The New York Times, National Geographic, and Vogue is a very good thing, and has shaped my brand as someone who's up-and-coming. It's been a tough year, and the intermittent validations via competitions have helped to keep me going.

Again, I encourage everyone to check out these galleries - impressive collections of work.

Two Spider Awards!

October 31, 2013

Halloween 2004.

I think this may've been the first image I ever toned. It's interesting to me that I favored vibrant colors even then. It has that "pop" that I go for today with all my parade and nightlife snaps.

About the photo above - that's me with my college roommates Ant, Matt, and Felipe, and our friend Erin. Gah!, that night in Bloomington was seriously the craziest of our lives. It's a good thing camera phone culture hadn't caught on yet - otherwise there'd be one too many incriminating pictures out there of the scarecrow, 15 beers in and nursing another, in a pile of leaves. The night concluded with everyone losing track of everyone and me yelling for my friend "Frodo! Frodo!" in a crowded basement. I didn't find him, but a Good Samaritan offered a lift home. The good old days.

I'm taking photos at the club later tonight, but other than that it's been a pretty tame Halloween working on edits and homework.

I went all out this year. (Note: NOT a real cigarette.)

October 25, 2013

I'm excited to learn I was selected as one of three finalists for the Greater Seattle Business Association's New Business of the Year honor for 2014. Photo awards are always great, but to be recognized by GSBA (1,000+ members strong) for contributions to the community is completely humbling. I couldn't be looking forward more to what the next year will bring, as I get transitioned into my new studio and try to reach the point where the business begins working for me, as opposed to vise-versa.

2013 has been about building up my wedding portfolio, purchasing necessary gear and about finding, affording and furnishing a studio space. To do all that, I intentionally overextended my services this past summer at "yes" rates. I accomplished my goals; however, my workflow remains too time-consuming and not nearly assertive enough, resulting in a poor life balance for awhile now. I definitely bit off more than I could chew.

What I'm most excited about, upcoming, is managing a more functional, cohesive web presence, beginning with email-accessed proofing galleries. These will come with the potential to yield mailing lists, digital and consumer print sales, artisan album orders, and written feedback. They'll also help clients feel more involved in the post-production process, which I think could be a good thing.

I did not see it all coming when I moved to Seattle a little over four years ago with really no plans of what I'd end up doing, and even when I got a camera for Christmas two-and-a-half years ago. Hard work, support, confidence, community, a little luck, and a lot of good fortune.

October 17, 2013

Sleepless in a Milkwaukee airport terminal.

I'm stuck overnight at the Milwaukee airport because I missed my connection this afternoon. Sitting here alone, watching one Walking Dead episode after another, feels like a low-low after such an inspiring weekend at the Eddie Adams Workshop in upstate New York. We went hard, and this past week I've slept probably 14 hours total. And while that may be to blame for my missed flight, what surprised me most was how well I managed. After years of being overly cautious about getting enough sleep in, it was a good wake up call.

Each day of the workshop started with breakfast at 7 AM and went until portfolio reviews ended around 2 AM (and after that we drank). My first review was with Mr. John White, the legendary photojournalist who represented the Chicago Sun-Times for 35 years. I was nervous and even shaking at first, which was a surprise. He quickly put me at ease, and we seemed to be on the same page, and I don't think I've ever felt as good about where things are going. He quipped that my image "got Oomph!", that something extra, and that if he were one of these rich editors in the room he'd make sure I left with their card. He also gave me a title for my book project, based on what he saw in the images, and remembered my name when we ran into each other at the bonfire the next evening, something I'm not sure many of the reviewers would've.

 I also met with Ben Lowy, Josh Ritchie, James Estrin of the New York Times, David Griffin of The Washington Post, and Tom Kennedy. Not aware of who he was, just that he wasn't busy with anyone at the moment, I sat down with and ended up hitting it off with Mr. Kennedy. He made it a point to pull out and hand me his card, which made it fun finding out after the fact that he's been an influential editor at the Washington Post as well as National Geographic. But the whole weekend was like that - surrounded by individuals who are brilliant and passionate at what they do.

Met so many wonderful people and was so glad I ended up on the team I did. Team Tan was led by Carolyn Cole of the LA Times, Elissa Curtis of The New Yorker and Melanie McLean, and included Allie Hootnick, Alexis Lambrou, Rahul Dhankani, Bob Houlihan, Adnan Saciragic, Tommaso Protti, Mary Farmilant, Smita Sharma, Ting Shen, and Jason Saul Prupas. It'll be fun keeping in touch and exciting to watch where everyone lands in the next few years. (Update: A week since the workshop ended, students Stephanie Strasburg has led The New York Times' Arts section with a full-page photo and Supranav Dash was selected as a Finalist for the APA / Lucie Foundation Scholarship Award and also for the One Life 2013 Awards.)

With Mr. John H. White, formerly of the Chicago Sun-Times.

October 9, 2013

I wasn't shy about getting right in there when I started out in 2011, but my technique was so awful. Here's my best example of how amazing RAW is, and how important heavy-handed editing was early on in getting people to notice and respond to my work.

On the right is the original RAW file, where at f11, I managed everything in focus - everything but the guy who was two feet in front of me! On the left is my 2011 edit - except I've cropped it in to lose the harsh vignette I'd added, since I was really really REALLY into vignettes back then.

Anyway, after discovering how bad the original file was this evening, I had to share. The point being that, straight out of the camera, some really great captures look like shit! It really is an art, guys.