Last night I went to Rob Haggart and Heidi Volpe’s “Shooting Editorial” lecture at Art Center in Pasadena. For those of you who could not make it, here’s what you missed.
There was a great turnout, and the crowd seemed pretty varied. There were plenty of students, working photographers, photo editors, etc. I was curious if the lecture was going to be geared mostly towards students and/or people just starting their career, but I actually got a lot out of it. Of course there were the ubiquitous “I just got out of school and I’m freaking out” questions…How much is too much to e-mail a photo editor? What kind of e-mail attachment should I send? Jpeg or Pdf?!?!?!
What I enjoyed the most was the part about defining a personal style. You can send e-mails and portfolios and call magazines all you want, but what gets work is being memorable, passionate, and coming through for a photo editor when they need you the most. Heidi talked a little bit about how a photographer’s style can evolve and change over time, and that a photographer should be honest about the fact that they might not be interested in shooting something in a way that they no longer feel is indicative of their current style. This also ties into another part of the lecture where both Rob and Heidi discussed when it’s appropriate to turn down an assignment. I recently wrote a post about this exact topic so it was interesting to hear their take on it. Their stance was that photographers should absolutely turn down assignments they don’t think they can pull off well. They said we should be honest with them and ourselves. It’s better to let the photo editor know you aren’t confident that the circumstances of a shoot will allow you to put your best foot forward, rather than to take the job and royally screw it up. Also, it’s ok to turn down a shoot when it just isn’t something you are interested in shooting. The consensus was that a photo editor can always tell when a photographer wasn’t passionate about a shoot, and it’s insulting to take a job only to go through the motions.
There was a slideshow of some of Heidi and Rob’s favorite photographers and shoots that they worked on with them. They spoke about why working with these photographers was such a great experience, and what these photographers bring to the shoot that sets them apart and makes them special. Although I was already familiar with pretty much all of these peoples’ work, it was interesting to hear what impresses a photo editor. Sometimes, it was as simple as “This person is nice to their subjects and their crew.” Seems obvious, but trust me, not everyone is nice. Some of the photographers they showcased were Martin Schoeller, Peggy Sirota, Jeff Lipksy, Kurt Markus, and James Wojcik.
The evening ended with some excitement as Heidi read aloud a written statement from Jill Greenberg (she was unable to appear in person) regarding the recent John McCain/Atlantic Monthly shoot scandal. Well, as you can imagine this incited some strong opinions from people on both sides of the fence. I never officially tossed my hat into the ring on this one, but I think there are plenty of people who have already, and honestly, I’m kind of done with it.