Posts by Sarah Lim

Originally from California, Matt Rainwaters moved to Austin 6 years ago to start his career in photography.  From landscapes to reportage, Matt strives to create honest work and talks with ILTP about his recent  experiences photographing in Haiti and Guatemala.

Tell us a little about your background.  How did you get started?  
I’m from the San Fernando Valley, just North of LA.  Photography for me started around age 14 when I bought a video camera– I used to make skate videos with my friends.  Now everyone has a video camera on their phone, but back then it was rare for someone to have their own camera, so I just fell into the role of photographer for my friends. When I wasn’t filming skate boarding, I was filming punk rock. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I bought my first still camera.

When I wasn’t filming skate boarding, I was filming punk rock

Then when I was 21 I left a job working in this crazy special effects shop – a pretty unique job making monsters for horror movies and art films- to go to Brooks.  I focused on black and white printing and landscapes, and I did everything I could to avoid photographing people. My degree is actually in industrial and scientific photography. When I graduated, I was showing black and white landscapes in galleries all over California, but you don’t make much money doing that, so I took a job teaching high school photography.

My buddy Adam Voorhes told me there was lots of opportunity in Austin, so I moved and it’s just kind of worked out from there

After three years, I got concerned I’d never have a professional photography career if I was still teaching, so I quit my job one day in the middle of a teachers meeting.  Then my buddy Adam Voorhes told me there was lots of opportunity in Austin, so I moved and it’s just kind of worked out from there. That was about 6 years ago. Being from California, do you think you need to go to a big city, like LA,to get started?  Did that help you being from there?
Being from LA didn’t really help me.  It’s really about your work and vision.  I moved here with a landscape portfolio and three years of teaching experience now I shoot more portraits than landscapes. 

Who are you influenced or inspired by?
I saw the Richard Avedon documentary, “Darkness and Light,” and the way he dealt with subjects was revolutionary to me.  He could talk to his subjects and direct the entire shoot without them realizing it. It’s a rare skill to be able to disarm people in front of the camera and get an honest photograph. Avedon was a real master at that.

Renee Cervantes is an influence as well. We met in school and have been close friends since.  He’s a phenomenal photographer based in NYC. Renee and I have a similar work style that involves minimal gear, and we talk shop about that kind of thing.

Lou Mora is another influence. Lou amazes me with his natural light photos. He’s been especially inspirational lately as I’m trying to move away from using artificial light and am shooting more natural looking photos.

Lastly, Nadav Kander, is very influential. Nadav can shoot anything and make it look good.

 [Keith Carter] said, “Above all else, always be honest with your work” And that stuck.

How would you describe your visual style?
I think your style is always changing. For me, I want consistently honest work.  I’m not forcing the subject or coaxing them to do something they don’t want to.  I did a phone interview with Keith Carter when I was a student, and at the end I asked if he had any advice for an aspiring photographer.  Keith said, “ Above all else, always be honest with your work” and that stuck. 

I don’t do a lot of conceptual photography because I don’t think it would be honest coming from me; I’d rather just show a person as they are. 

You obviously shoot people now…
I knew if I wanted to make it as an editorial and commercial photographer, I’d need to photograph people.  So I spent a few months before moving to Austin photographing some of my students to build my portfolio.  After moving, I got a break shooting with Austin Monthly and the first thing they had me do was shoot a fashion spread – the last thing that I am is a fashion photographer. I just made it as landscape-y as possible, where the girl was smaller in the frame.

Then I started getting a lot of the assignments that took a reportage twist – a lot of prison and disaster stories… and that stuff takes a mental toll on you.  Right now I’m trying to focus back on lifestyle images, music and punk rock – like Fun Fun Fun Fest and SXSW – to return to the inspiration where it all started.

 It’s a great job where you get to travel, meet people and see new things.  Even though you’re in Guatemala and think you’re going to die…

Most memorable photo shoot?
The most recent one:  I was working for the New Republic on a story about Guatemalan Bus Drivers, which is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the world right now, ahead of industrial logging and deep-sea fishing.  And it’s not because they’re flipping buses off the sides of cliffs – even though  they’re doing that too.

They’re being extorted by MS13 and M18 – the most notorious gangs to come out of Southern California after a huge deportation in the mid-90s. Now the gangs have incredibly sophisticated crime syndicates and their income comes from extortion.  We spent a few days with a bus driver  who was being extorted by one gang and hunted down by another for almost killing one of their members.

At one point our bus broke down and we were in the neighborhood where he beat that guy up who’s trying to hunt him down.  We’re on this bus like sitting ducks, in a neighborhood that we’re not suppose to be in, and I’m photographing him with a huge medium format camera trying not to be obvious.  I really thought we were going to die there a few times.

Haiti was rough too.  I spent 9 days in a hospital without running water for the Texas Medical Association with doctors giving aid to patients post-earthquake.  No one talked about how there’s this overwhelming need for aid in Haiti, beyond the earthquake.

We were outside Port Au Prince by 4 hours, but the infrastructure is just so rough, it’s difficult for them to bring people to the hospital.  So we were helping the local people, but they don’t have basic things like soap.  I saw two horribly infected legs that had to be amputated with handsaws because they just don’t have soap to clean the wounds.

The work is hard for me to look at so I took it down from my site about a year ago. That’s bad stuff, but there’s good stuff too. Overall, it’s a great job where you get to travel, meet people and see new things.  Even though you’re in Guatemala and think you’re going to die, it’s an amazing experience and something most people don’t get to have.  It definetely grounds you.

What’s your favorite thing about shooting in Texas?
The people are really unique; there’s so many interesting stories coming out of Texas.  In California, the really great thing is the landscape – you’ve got the coast, snow in the mountains, and a beautiful desert – you have that same kind of diversity here in Texas, but with the people.

How do you spend your free time?
I grew up skating, and just started doing that again.  I’m also raising a baby and that takes up a lot of time, but she’s a little cutie so it’s worth it.

Do you have a dream assignment?
I feel pretty lucky; I get a nice mix.  I’ve done a good job of not getting pigeonholed, so I still get a range of studio assignments, environmental portraits and travel jobs.  I get a good mix of travel and adventure, doing work that I’m interested in, plus some fluffy stuff that helps pay the bills.

Your book ‘Beard’ started as a personal project.  What was it like getting it published into a book?
The “Beardfolio” project went viral really fast; then over a year later, a friend of mine, Will Bryant, told me to pitch it to an editor at Chronicle Books.  I did, and then two-weeks later, they said they liked it and wanted to print it as a book.  Publishing a book is not a super profitable endeavor, but it’s really fun.  It’s also great marketing piece and really fulfilling to be able to walk into a bookstore and say, “I did that.”

You’re bearded now, but have you always had a beard?
I didn’t always have a beard but I kind of feel like I had to be a bearded ambassador after printing the book. One of the guys in the book said, you can’t really know your face without seeing it with a beard.  I just prefer the way I look with a beard now.  And my wife likes it, so that makes her a keeper.

Best career decision so far?
The faith to invest time and money in personal projects and using those to promote your work instead of tear sheets.

It’s really about your work and vision.

So just like you asked Keith Carter, do you have any advice for a young, aspiring photographers?

You really have to enjoy what you shoot.  That’s kind of a no-brainer.  Make sure you love photography before you decide to dedicate your life to it… because that’s what you have to do to make a career out of it.  And be honest with your work… Keith said it best so it’s worth repeating.


Favorite Taco:  I love tacos! I can talk passionately about tacos, maybe more so than photography.  In Austin, best taco joint, world-class, one of my top three favorite anywhere, is Piedras Negras, but we lovingly call it “Not Dos Hermanos,” because the trailer is on the foundation of a leveled Mexican restaurant named Dos Hermanos… the sign is even still there.

Favorite BBQ:   Kreutz Market’s ribs.  I love that its dry rub… it’s truly an art to make BBQ that good without sauce.

Favorite Beverage:  Beer: Hops and Grain’s Pale Dog  Coffee: Non fat latte from Jo’s on South Congress  Water: Whole Foods’ brand sparkling mineral water in the giant green bottle

Favorite Texas Weekend getaway spot:  My backyard… cruise over we’ll smoke ribs and play Bocce


Leslie Baldwin is one of the most sought after photo editors in Texas.   She shares her insights, favorite TM covers, and advice on approaching photo editors.  “You have to be totally passionate and dedicated or you’re going to get steam-rolled. Next comes perseverance and patience. Oh, and be nice!  That’s very, very important.”

 

How did you get started in photo editing?
It was quite an indirect route, which I think is common for a lot of photography editors. I received a BFA from UT, which is great, but it doesn’t quite prepare you for the real world. After I graduated, I had enough sense to know that photography had the most real-world application — as opposed to painting or print-making which I did quite a lot of in school. And if I wanted to avoid working for the IRS or Allstate I needed to learn fast how to make a living with photography.

I started out taking pictures of kids, but struggled to make ends meet. I had a lot to learn about the trade. I moved to New York in 1995 and landed a job as a studio manager. I didn’t even know what a studio manager was at first! That job was basically boot camp into the photo industry. I went on to manage the studio for Matt Mahurin whose work I admired so much. That was a fantastic job. I learned all aspects of producing shoots and dealing with magazines. Matt was doing a ton of editorial work at that time. It was through this job that I developed an interest in becoming a photo editor, so when Matt shut down his Greenwich Village studio and moved to Long Island I transitioned over to working at magazines.

My first full-time magazine position was working with Arthur Hochstein, the Creative Director at Time magazine. I helped coordinate covers at Time for four years. I had been in New York for 8 years and was becoming homesick right at the same time a staff change was happening at Texas Monthly. I jumped at the chance to come home and come on board at Texas Monthly. I interviewed with Scott Dadich and, fortunately, I got the job. Here I am nine years later.

  Be talented.  And be nice.

 

Texas Monthly is one of the most desirable publications to shoot for in the country; how can one make an impression with you if you’re inundated with emails and promos.
That’s a really good question because I am totally inundated! Show your best work and keep it simple. And as counter-intuitive as this might sound, don’t expect a reply. Just keep sending the occasional e-mail or promo. If your work is good and relevant to our publication, we know you’re out there and will come to you when the time is right.

I still love old-school promos too, btw. I get a stack of mail everyday, and while 95% of it might go in the trash if there’s that one promo I like I put it on my stack of promos on the shelf (see below). It might be nine or ten months later, but I’ll remember the work and will go look for the promo if we want to consider hiring that person.

Be talented.  And be nice.

Since you mentioned what to do, what are things NOT to do when contacting you or any other photo editor?
Do not call or email and ask what type of photography I want. It is the photographer’s job to know what type of work a magazine publishes. There’s not a photo editor in the world who has time to call someone and explain what type of images they run.

Being persistent is a good thing, but there is a fine line when it switches over to being annoying. It’s very difficult for me to be able to give individual feedback about someone’s work. There’s just no time. I get multiple e-mails a day asking for that one-on-one attention. I wish I had more time, but, the hard truth is that I don’t.

Unless I’m your best friend, do not IM me on Facebook.

Tell us about a shoot that went horribly wrong.
Honestly, we haven’t had a total catastrophe. My struggles have been more with celebrities and their egos!

Navigating the Tommy Lee Jones shoot was quite difficult (ok, I cried that night). He’s known for being a tough character, so I don’t think I’m speaking out of line here: we flew in Kurt Markus from Montana and we all caravanned out to Tommy’s ranch. After 5 minutes, TLJ said it was time to shut it down. That was tough, because it was supposed to be our cover, and I just knew we didn’t have it.

So when something like that happens with Tommy Lee and it’s a cover shoot, what happens?

Our Editor had to call his publicist – he had a movie coming out – and we had to inform them that we barely got any images. They did allow us to come shoot him again, and we got a few more frames, but it wasn’t much different than before. It was just a difficult shoot. The images ended up running on the inside of the magazine. In the end, I really like the way the portraits came out. Tommy Lee kind of looks like hell, but hey…

Do you get to go on shoots often?
Rarely. We’ll go to cover shoots if they’re nearby. It’s too bad, because that’s the most fun part of my job, when I’m able to get away from the desk and go.

You’d mentioned hiring a photographer from Montana for the Tommy Lee shoot and you sometimes hire out of town photographers. Does that get the goat of Texas photographers? Do they give you a hard time?

Some of our contributors who have a long history with Texas Monthly will give me a hard time if we use another photographer too much or fly someone in from out of state – but it’s always in a friendly way. I think in general photographers are a competitive group of folks, so it gets their goat when anyone is hired besides them! Doesn’t matter if it’s here locally or out-of-state.

Sometimes I try to explain to them (and to staffers too who will sometimes ask) that even though the bulk of our photographers are here locally, we still love and are excited that we’re occasionally able to bring in photographers that aren’t based here – whose work we love and we think would be fitting for a particular story (Todd Hido, for example).

We have a lot of photographers that grew up in Texas that have moved, either to LA or NY, and so we have great pre-existing relationships with a lot of folks who are no longer here but who come back on occasion — people like Peter Yang and Van Ditthavong.

So it sounds like there’s a story and you hire based on who’s best suited for the story?
Definitely. We try hard to match up the right photographer with the right story. Some photographers will be fine wandering around a ranch all day, while others might find that terrifying and prefer a studio environment – which I totally understand. For covers, sometimes we know we’ll need to do a lot of comping and post-production. Someone like Randal Ford is a master of that. He managed to photograph a chimpanzee in Las Vegas and put it in the same frame as a shoot we did here in Austin – it appeared as if it was all in-frame. That type of shoot is not for every photographer!

Since you’re talking about covers, do you have a really controversial cover and a favorite cover, or is it like your kids and you can’t pick a favorite?
I tried to pick a favorite, but I couldn’t. On the one hand, you have the classic Texas Monthly covers – cowgirls, cowboys, small towns , etc. — that are cliches on some level, yet I never tire of them because I think we do them so well (I should specifically point out our Creative Director, TJ Tucker, who designs and art directs them so well). On the other hand I love the big production shoots we frequently do with photographers like Randal Ford. His 2011 cover for Best and Worst legislators (which was a remake of a cover we did in 1977) was so much fun to do — as was our How To Raise A Texan cover, though it was almost the death of me. Lots and lots of work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One that was really controversial more than the others?
Dick Cheney as our Bum Steer of the year was probably the most controversial . You might recall in 2007 Dick Cheney, unfortunately, shot his friend in the face on a hunting expedition.  We did a spoof of the National Lampoon magazine cover where it says “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog (below).”

 

 

Darren Braun created this spot-on photo-illustration and we thought it was perfect, but a lot of our readers were really, really offended.  One reader was so offended they took their shotgun to the issue and mailed it to our editor (below).  But, I totally love that cover and thought it was perfectly executed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should photographers pitch story ideas to you? Is it worth the effort? Say you like the idea, what happens next behind the scenes?
Yes, it’s worth the effort. If it’s a good idea, it’ll stick in my brain and we’ll offer it up at our monthly ideas meeting. Or present it to out editor directly. But, be patient, it might be something that we can’t explore until a year or two down the road.

 

If your work is good and relevant to our publication, we know you’re out there and will come to you when the time is right.

What do you think about instagram? Other magazines have started hiring instagrammers, and I noticed Texas Monthly just recently got an account and had some images from Allison V. Smith from Marfa.

I think instagram is fine, but, for me, it doesn’t beat seeing a 10-page photo spread in a magazine.

Allison V. Smith asked if she could send some stuff from Marfa for the web and our instagram account. It was the first time we’d hired someone specifically for social media. Her work came out beautiful. No denying that.

Since the Texas Photo Roundup reviews are just around the corner, do you prefer print or iPad portfolios?
I’m open either way. I love iPad portfolios but still enjoy the physical books as well. Photographers sometimes present their work then apologize, which photographers should never do! They should feel confident in the way they’ve chosen to introduce themselves.

While it’s rare, I might still get the occasional set of loose prints that are disorganized, etc. – I’d avoid that for sure.

Any final thoughts or advice for any up and coming photographers?
First and foremost, you have to have talent. I know that’s hard to define, but you have to be totally passionate and dedicated or you’re going to get steam-rolled. Next comes perseverance and patience. Oh, and be nice! That’s very, very important.

I know in this digital age, it’s harder and harder to have the personality and vision of the photographer shine through. While it’s impossible to define talent and what being original means, just do what you want to do, and not what you think someone expects or is the trend.

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Favorite BBQ:

I’m a Smitty’s girl. Just love the brisket and that open fire pit that greets you when you first walk in.

Favorite Beverage:

Water, of course. Next up: Vodka + anything.

Favorite Weekend Getaway Spot in Texas:

It’s been a couple years but there are some rental cabins out on the Rio Frio that I just love. It’s a notch up from camping for sure, but still pretty rustic. And enough of a drive where there aren’t too many floating drunks.

The ladies of Em Dash Custom Publishers, Creative Directors Erin Mayes and Kate Iltis, do everything from magazine design, art buying, and art direction.  ILTP chatted with this award-winning duo in their East Austin office over sandwiches from Gourmands.

How did Em Dash get started? 

Erin: The honest story – I worked at Pentagram with DJ Stout for 5 years, and there was a period where he thought about moving to join the San Francisco office.   It was the wake up call of “ok, what are you going to do next.”  When I was in NY, and decided to move to Austin, I knew I would have limited work options here unless I decided to do something really different.

Kate and I met at Pentagram. We knew we had a similar design sensibility, and spoke the same language, but she had moved to NY.

Kate:  I  got to work with Erin for about a split second before I was transferred to another team within the office. We hit it off immediately and so we found an excuse to work together designing posters for poets for free in our spare time. Huge money maker! Anyway my passion was magazine design so I knew I had to move to New York to do it. She acted as a mentor during that time and we stayed in touch. When she told me she was going to go out on her own I definitely had in the back of mind that I would want to join her some day. I remembered how fun it was to create work with her and admired what a great designer she is. About 2 years into it, she was doing really well, and I asked her if she needed help.  So, I quit my responsible job at Outside magazine, and took a chance on the idea that you could still do good magazine design and not have to work for a large magazine. Plus it was a great excuse to come back to Austin. We partnered two years ago and now are just trying to make good work on our own terms.  Somehow in the land where print is dying, we have been able to survive a recession, stay in business and still make work we are really proud of.

[We] believe you hire talented people and let them do the work you’ve hired them to do.

Since you guys kind of do everything from art buying, to photo editing, you’re designers, sometimes stylists – related to photography, how does that whole creative process work?  

Erin:  It all starts with a story. We try to figure out how to tell the visual part of the story in a way that’s a little bit compelling and unusual.  If we think it’s best to be told with photography, then next we decide if it’s conceptual or a portrait or something documentary. The style is developed by the tone of the story. Then we try to match up photographers with the story and pitch it to our clients.  For example, if there’s some serious photojournalism element to it, we try to find a documentary photographer, who would be interested or who would have a unique take on the subject…see the story in some special way.

Kate:  Creative process wise, we either have an idea, or we’re going to a photographer that’s known for a certain thing, and let them do their thing.  Budget sometimes plays a role in that.  We try to be helpful when it’s not in the budget – we take on role of producer, stylist, prop-getter – only because we can’t afford it.  With a small team, you have to divide and conquer. We’re really only on set when there’s a lot of heavy lifting; we art direct when we there’s a specific concept.  We have a mixture of photographers who both like and hate having an art-director on set.  It’s a relationship; so you work to make sure the photographer is excited about their day’s work so they can focus on shooting.

Erin and I both believe that you hire talented people and let them do the work you’ve hired them to do.

Erin:  We are very aware of trying to make sure there’s a well-rounded mix of art throughout the magazine, so it’s not just documentary or conceptual photos or illustration.  We really love working with alumni magazines because they aren’t ultimately selling ads. Often with alumni magazines, they tell stories through one (usually) professor’s or VIP’s news…it ends with how they gave money to some department, and there’s a portrait of a professor holding their research or a donor holding a big check. But when the stories are good and there’s an actual story there, there’s a huge opportunity to do something a bit more challenging.

Their readership – by the time they open their alumni magazine – is already in the collegiate mindset. Academia made these readers conditioned to ask questions and to be challenged by ideas (hopefully). So that’s the mindset that we try to appeal to graphically. They’re already open to being challenged, so we need to take advantage of that.

I know you talked a little bit about working with photographers, but how do you find them?  Do you find them through email promos or print promos? 

Kate:  It’s rare that a promo gets me to hire a photographer.  I don’t know if that means that I’m on the wrong lists and I don’t get the good stuff, but even when I worked in national magazines we received so much mail that it was hard to go thru and see the good stuff.  I do definitely, however, pay attention to what other magazines are doing If I see a shot that I like, I always look at the credit and check out that person’s work. We also pay attention to the community here in Austin.  I think we’ve had local clients that have opened us up to photographers that we wouldn’t have known about on our own.  We’ve gotten access to some up and coming photographers because, although the budgets can be tiny, people are excited about the stories and will do work for their portfolio work.  And that’s led us down a rabbit hole of different people. And definitely for documentary work, we attend things like Slideluck Potshow and it helps us see who’s out there.

A personal email gets my attention a lot quicker…sometimes great people fall off our radar only because we are really busy.

Erin:  I actually do look at the email promos. But there are so many from NY and LA, that I’ll just bookmark the interesting ones from the rest of the country.

Kate:  I glance at them but I haven’t hired from them very often. A personal email gets my attention a lot quicker mainly when its showing something cool you have just done. I ask a lot of photographers to keep me in the loop on new stuff so they stay in my head when I am looking for something specific. Since its just Erin and I, sometimes great people fall off our radar only because we are really busy.

Erin:  We also use PDN a lot, especially if we’re looking for someone outside of Austin.  Or we ask other photo editors or other art directors. If we have the budget, we’ll go through a photo reps, but that doesn’t happen very often.

Kate:  We also call up on people we know in national magazine land to help us when we are hiring outside of Austin. The community is not very large so its easy to pick up the phone and see who other people have been using.

How much of the design is based on the art?  Or is it vice-versa?  Do you guys have a design in mind and hire based on that, or do you do it the other way around?  Is it a little bit of both? 

Kate:  The concept is what drives it.  Design wise, we always react to the art that’s provided. We can’t make a call on design until we have a good idea of the art.

Erin:  Half the design work is in choosing the photographer or illustrator. Most of the time, the art does the heavy lifting in terms of getting people to pay attention to the story.

Kate: It’s easier if we’ve done our homework on the front end in the hiring, then our design just supports the concept – and we’re not putting lipstick on a pig.

If someone takes one of our magazines into the toilet with them to read, then we’ve done our job.

You guys have had some insanely creative ideas, that can push the boundaries, like your cover for the Texas Observer that went viral;   Do you have a favorite or memorable photo shoot?

Erin: I really love the ones where we were a big part of the production and have more pride in the ones where we got our hands dirty. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Barry Cooper/800-lb pig story we did for the Texas Observer, because it’s a good story and it was the first big dumb-ass idea that we pulled off nicely.  I was behind-the-scenes on that one, but still feel incredibly proud of to have been a part of it.

Kate:  The most fun photo shoots in general are the ones where the idea is crazier than the ability to accomplish it.  One of our rules in brainstorming is we don’t get to ask “How are we gonna find this?” or “How are we gonna do this?” That photo idea was inspired by the George Lois’s Esquire Cover “Pigs Vs. Kids.”

It’s a long story, but basically Barry Cooper used to be a corrupt cop who reformed and decided to make it his mission to catch other corrupt cops, and to educate people through a DVD series on how to not get busted. Anyway, we wanted to take the nod to the George Louis cover, and the idea was to have our guy face-to-face fighting a pig.  So first we had to track down this animal, which in Texas, you wouldn’t think would be so hard.

So we found an 800lb-er and with the help of a very patient photographer, Matt Wright Steel, we took the shoot into the pig pen. Mud, shit and all.  It was about to rain and Matt, rightfully so, was worried about his equipment.  We had to orchestrate this giant pig to walk around and stand in front of a backdrop for one second before he moved on.  Then there were 10 other pigs roaming the pen, so the owners were helping us keep the other pigs away.Pigs are like 3 year olds and super curious, so we would turn our backs for a second and they would be getting into something else.

I was holding a light, our designer, Joanna Wojtkowiak was holding the backdrop because the other pigs kept knocking it over, and we were waiting for the owner to coax the pig, with a bottle of milk, into position just long enough for Barry to get into a fighting stance.

It was one of those things that, at the time, was so stressful, but when you look at the photo you go, “Hell yea! We nailed it!”  It’s one of the things I love about photography.  It’s amazing what’d you see if you could un-crop the cover and see everything that’s going on to capture that image.

It’s ultimately why I love this work—magazine design allows for some crazy collaborations. Whereas advertising doesn’t let you so much, where you have a bunch of other people in the room signing off on a photo.

Erin.  The “Politics Gets Personal” cover for The Texas Observer is another favorite one. It is so fabulously creepy and wince-inducing.

Kate: It was so crazy that it went viral.  It made a lot of people uncomfortable which for this story and what it was trying to communicate meant we were successful.

We have a joke in the office that if someone takes one of our magazines into the toilet with them to read, then we’ve done our job. We work in this little pocket of small circulation magazines, so to actually have it hit something close to 20,000 likes and to have that many people see the photo when the circulation of the Observer is only 8,000, was a big deal.

We’re always doing guerrilla type shoots and asking permission where we have to.  It’s all low budget.  Kind of like a school project.

Erin:  I like that though— the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants ideas. There was something really great about starting your school projects where there are endless possibilities to do whatever and no real-world consequences…getting your friends dressed up to act for a photo or layout.  And here we are as grown ups, still doing that.  

Advice for photographers out there?

Erin:  Sounds trite, but do what you love.  You always make better images when you do what you love.  You really have to be obsessive about making photos, and you definitely have to have have the personality, drive, and conviction to be in this profession.

Kate:  As cliche as it might sound it would be don’t give up. Yes the economy sucks. Yes the business ain’t what it used to be. Yes you will never be rich. BUT you do get to tell stories and create beauty for a living.

…do what you love.  You really have to be obsessive about making photos…

Favorite taco:

Kate:  The Al Pastor at Curras

Erin:  I lean toward the Trailer Trash (Trashy) at Torchy’s.  But really, anything in a tortilla.  

Favorite BBQ:

Kate:  I just moved to Lockhart, so I’d have to say Smittys.  Also the chopped beef sandwich at the Chisolm Trail.  It’s $2 and so wrong and so good.

Erin:   This isn’t original, but Franklin’s brisket is my favorite.  

Favorite Beverage:

Kate:  I’ve been really liking a Moscow Mules lately.

Erin:   Lefthand Milk Stout.  Secondarily, Russell’s Reserve Rye with Central Market Prickly Pear soda—it smells amazing.  

Fav weekend getaway spot in Texas:

Erin:  I haven’t been away in 10 years!  In theory, this was my favorite spot: We went to Bastrop State Park with the kids— went swimming and hiking, and spent amazing afternoon. We saw these beautiful WPA-era cabins and we said, this is where we’re gonna go for a weekend at least once a month.  Then as we were leaving the park, we saw a giant cloud of smoke rising in the rearview mirror.  So, if I could go back a few years before the fire, I would totally go there.  The reality answer is that we head to Blue Hole in Wimberly a few times each summer to spend the day. We cap it off with beer and pizza at Brewsters (where we are waited on by 3-year-olds) and a stop off at Callahans in Buda to look at all the taxidermy.

Kate:  Right now, the Havannah Hotel in San Antonio.  It’s a Liz Lambert creation, and it’s just an hour away.

Blake Gordon is a landscape and adventure photographer, who trained as a landscape architect at Auburn University and Design at The University of Texas in Austin.  He takes a modern approach to landscape photography, exploring how people fit into the picture.  He splits his time between Austin, TX and central Colorado when not traveling.

So, how’d you get started in photography?
I started shooting as a way to explore place during site visits for our studio classes in landscape architecture. During my education we spent extended time in a wide variety of places: southern Utah, New York City, the borderlands of southern California among others. Our first larger outing was a 3 week canoe trip to Algonquin Provincial Park north of Toronto after an intense readings class on ecology. I borrowed my mom’s camera for the trip and never gave it back.

Photography can be part of the design process. It facilitates a deeper reading of the site where a design intervention occurs. You’d go back and forth from the studio to the field, but it’s that initial exploration in the field that grabbed me.  That’s when I realized the camera gets you out into the world. And I wanted to explore place, so the camera facilitated that.

The bulk of landscape photography that I initially found is pretty pictures of national parks and while that is appealing, I found it didn’t really fuel me creatively or add much to a cultural dialogue. What is communicated 95% of the time is, “this is beautiful and I wish I was there.” I’ve always been interested in a deeper understanding.

I’m interested in the idea of landscape, how that continues to change, and what that says about culture. Landscape has been described as the meeting point between culture and physical terrain. I find that intersection fascinating.

Do you have any mentors?
I don’t know if I would say that I have any mentors but there are a few photographers I’ve worked with that have been good learning experiences.

Working with James Balog, an amazing National Geographic photographer/artist/conservationist was influential. I helped him design/build some remote time lapse camera systems in 2007 for his Extreme Ice Survey Project. I went to Iceland for the install of the first camera systems. With Jim, it was very much a working relationship but to be with him in the early stages of such an enormous project was very insightful.

I connected with Balog through John Weller, a friend and incredible photographer/conservationist in his own right. He received a Pew Fellowship and has been doing a lot of work for the Pew Foundation as well as continuing to work on a conservation project for the Ross Sea in Antarctica – something that he has been pursuing for 5+ years. We talk a lot about the structure of a journey, learning from the natural world and trying to communicate those profound moments that seem just beyond the boundaries of language.

Brent Humphreys is a friend in Austin who I’ve worked for in Austin and Brent’s work is editorial/commercial oriented. He’s very meticulous and detail oriented as well as constantly pushing to create a better photo. Brent is very design oriented in his thinking and is as interested in project development as much as he is the singular photograph. I find that similar to myself and so enjoy watching how he thinks about photographs.

…the camera gets you out in the world.

What influences and inspires you?
There is a lot of music, art, and ideas out there that inspire me, but experience is the ultimate teacher. I try to keep a creative distance from produced work because I think the best stuff comes out of the process. I do enjoy hearing about how other artists approach their work and work through their process. That is more relevant to me than the work itself.

 You have a wonderful body of work from the Nature Conservancy for the latest issue on The Edward’s Aquifer, in San Antonio.  Tell me more about the project and how you got involved?
The assignment came through Wonderful Machine.  The photo editor, Melissa Ryan, contacted me several months before the shoot.  They liked some previous work I had done, namely the Nightwalks body of work.  We got to talking about doing a little more of a conceptual shoot rather than the typical illustrative editorial images and I spoke about my interest in how people and landscape interact.

The focus of the story is on the Edwards Aquifer and how The Nature Conservancy is protecting land to protect the aquifer. One inherent challenge in photographing that story is that it is an underground body of water, so I started to look for signs of moments in the landscape where culture and the flow of the water intersect – the recharge zones of ranchers, water table signs along the interstate, sinkholes, spring-fed pools, pumps for the city water supply, etc.

It was a great assignment that I shot for about a month.  I stretched it out, but I really enjoy the continued focus and refinement of a longer exploration. I was engaged with the all the way through into the design and layout which is a rare treat. I proposed shooting on medium format square as it would help convey the. We were able to run the images large and on their own page with a consistent pacing which allowed the subtleties and complexities of the situation to come out. The story wasn’t inherently a strong visual one and this really worked well. The layout is beautiful. It looks like a journal.

You shoot  some amazing landscapes. How does TNC’s latest issue relate to your personal work?
I was excited to put a lot of resources into the assignment as a commissioned work. I have to push personal work to the point where I am tired of dealing with the idea I am exploring or else the questions will continue to lure me. Melissa came to me wanting my personal vision to come through in the assignment. That was a very enjoyable thing but also comes with a burden of having to produce under different circumstances. The constraints of an assignment are very different than with a purely personal exploration.

I’m really interested in the perception of place and the relationship between people and their environments.  This was a great example in that we were looking at how a water system and cultural system interact. I try to step back and think as broadly as possible about those relationships as it lets you look deeply into otherwise mundane things. Part of a photographers is to bring forth wonder. That is easy to do in an exotic location or adventurous moment, but takes bending the mind a little when you’re looking at a water pump or road sign.

The larger focus from a conservation standpoint is to try to make people aware of this water system that there lives depend on. The hard work of public officials and modern engineering has made it so that the general populace doesn’t have to think about all the details when they turn on a water faucet. But that convenient lack of awareness there can put a city, or civilization, on a dead-end path.

In my personal work I also like to step into a realm of thinking that is different from how we ordinarily experience the world. And that is what makes it a valuable exercise.

Do you use a majority of natural light in your work?
Being aware of my surroundings is the first step in my process, so I enjoy finding light wether that is natural or artificial. I will also bring in and use strobes at times – more so with portraiture. I think using found light is important is critical if you are trying to give the viewer an experience of the world as is. I enjoy working with lights but also enjoy a very streamlined process regardless of aesthetic.

I primarily shot natural light until I began the Nightwalks work in which I started shooting urban nightscapes. I found I was more interested in the process of shooting at night than the actual product so I continued to refine how I went about shooting. I went out for a night here and a night there, and realized it’d be a stronger experience if I turned it into a multi-day outing. Waking up and going to bed within the same experience exponentially enriches that experience. I developed it to the point where I was dropped off on the other side of Austin without a phone, money, or ID and gave myself 5 nights (sleeping during the day) to wander back to my house.

It was such a departure from my day to day life.  It also raised interesting questions, like where to sleep.  I did pack all the food that I ate for 5 days and allowed myself to ‘forage’ for water. I’m out there trying to make this aesthetic art thing, but basically living as a street person, which puts me at odds with the majority of people in the city and how they view their surroundings. I realized a different set of rules as to how I can and should operate. My goal was to gain the greatest amount of freedom in order to explore the urban environment in abstract terms of light and space. It was incredibly insightful.

I’m really interested in the perception of place and the relationship between people and their environments.

How did you establish and evolve your personal vision?  
Never being satisfied is certainly one method. Exploring various processes and letting the process speak will also push that envelop. I’m continually playing with a new process or challenging the assumptions of what I take for truth. exploring something else. There’s also a process of self understanding that has to occur too. That just comes with making work. It’s not something that can be forced. Engaging in what you enjoy is a starting point.

Best career move so far?
I went to the Eddie Adams Workshop in 2008, and that has been as pivotal as any career juncture as it immediately put me in touch with a strong photo community and some talented colleagues/friends. I didn’t know any photographers when I first started shooting.

Career development is a pretty slow process though.  I thinking being open to opportunity is helpful.  There’s a fine line between developing something on your own and being open to something that comes along.  I’ve been more focused on what kind of work I’m generating than how much. With freelance work, it’s easy to keep yourself busy chasing to keep the wheels going and you have to be comfortable with the ups and downs of freelance life and balancing art and commerce.

Do you have any hobbies outside of photography? 
Too many. Lots of sports: skiing, climbing, hiking, biking, baseball, basketball, whatever comes along. I swim a lot in Austin, primarily at Barton Springs.  I’m on a sandlot baseball team/social club – The Texas Playboys. I grew up playing baseball and pitched in college. Pitching is one of the most enjoyable things I know. I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and body. During the past two years I’ve been building out a trailer as a autonomous studio space. That is more of a design project than a photographic one.

I always find it enjoyable working on something physical and bringing that into the photographic process.  I think good photography comes out of that.

Favorite thing about shooting in Texas?
I like exploring the Texas mythology and how the idea of Texas and reality of Texas can be quite different. I grew up in Georgia and it took me a couple years to get accustomed to the culture, mythology, and contemporary landscape of Texas, but at this point it’s a part of me. The state has some bravado. It’s a really fascinating and diverse place. I think anything with a really strong culture is rich territory for a photographer.  There’s a rich mythology, and there’s no shortage of interesting people.  There’s also a freedom in Texas where people are continually re-inventing themselves and what Texas can be.  It’s an evolving place.

I think about it now as a lifelong pursuit… Don’t feel like you need to prove your work too quickly…

Advice for anyone just getting started?
It really took me a long time to get my career going, primarily because my background was not in photography. Part of that was my youthful impatience and not understanding what all goes into operating a photo career (as opposed to just taking a photo).  There is a ton of accessible photography out there, but it’s not all professional. I always thought my images were good enough and I should be further along than where I’m at, but I don’t think is a beneficial thought. There was a long gestation period, so I’d say, don’t rush it. One of the speakers at the Eddie Adams Workshop retold a quote (I’d have to dig around quite a bit to find out who first said it): “Do what you can with what you have where you are.”

I think about it now as a lifelong pursuit – photography is something I’ll always practice and it will take different forms. Don’t feel like you need to prove your work too quickly,  The more time you spend with the work and putting your effort into refining your work, will strengthen what the work is. That’s something I still tell myself. If you don’t know what you want to say and why, you’ll get chewed up by the industry.

On the business side, find people you really want to work for. Find clients that you will willingly go beyond what is required to get the job done, because that’s what it takes to make it and to be satisfied creatively. It’s not enough to just get the job done unlike other professions.

Sarah Wilson is an editorial photographer based in her hometown, Austin.  Her approach to environmental portraiture is documentary in nature; focusing on subjects and stories that give a sense of community and culture.

Tell us about your early years in photography.

After high school, I decided to major in photography in college, and pursue it as a career.  I attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Photography and Imaging Department.  In my last two years, I spent semesters interning for several photographers including Mary Ellen Mark, Robert Clark, and Ken Schles. Then I moved out to Marathon, a little town of four hundred people in the middle of the West Texas desert, to do a summer internship with a photographer named James Evans.

The experience in Marathon was a turning point for me.  Within a couple of weeks, I had met nearly everyone in town, which quickly made me feel like I was part of the community.  I realized that Marathon was the perfect place for me start a portrait project, so I borrowed James’s 4 x 5 field camera and I began photographing the locals: the weathered, hunched-over cattle rancher, the Marathon High School six man football team, the constable, the teenaged boys that would hang out on the street corners, and the ninety year old woman that would drive around the 3 squares miles of town in her pickup from sun up to sun down.  Each individual portrait came together to tell the story of the community as a whole.

The Marathon project became my NYU senior thesis show, which I submitted for a grant called the Daniel Rosenberg Traveling Fellowship, and won.  This grant allowed me to complete and exhibit another portrait project one year after graduation about the Cajun community where my mother was born, and where much of my extended family still lives.  With two solid projects under my belt, I had the confidence to dive into another project about the community of Jasper, Texas, where in 1998, three young white men chained an African-American man, James Byrd, Jr., by his ankles and dragged him three miles behind a pickup truck.  It was a hate crime that threatened to fragment this small East Texas town.  Texas Monthly published a selection of this work, which in turn jump-started my editorial career.

I feel fortunate to have had several opportunities to complete and exhibit full bodies of work

I feel fortunate to have had several opportunities to complete and exhibit full bodies of work within a few years after graduation.  This filled out my portfolio and quickly solidified my intentions as a photographer.  Over time I was able to move away from assisting, and began working for myself.  I do however highly recommend that young photographers spend a few years interning and assisting- I learned more about photography as an assistant than I did in four years of college.

Lots of people think you need to move to a bigger market (LA, NYC) in order to make it in this business.  Outside of your education, do you think that living in NYC was helpful or made a difference in starting your career?  

I believe that it’s a good idea to spend some time in either New York, LA, or Chicago if you can.  If these big cities are not in the cards for you, it would be beneficial to attend a few of the portfolio reviews, where art directors, photo editors, curators, and art buyers can take a look at your work.  If they like your work, you can make solid connections very quickly, over the course of a weekend.

Your work can be described as “documentary portraiture.” How did you establish and evolve your personal vision?

I aim to tell the story of a community through portraits of individuals within that community.  For the Jasper, Texas project, I photographed law enforcement officers, family members of both the victims and killers, church leaders, the men convicted of the crime, the prosecutor, the young boy who discovered the body of James Byrd, Jr, and many others.  From an outsider’s perspective, many of us were ready to condemn Jasper as an evil place all together, but I hope these images tell a deeper story than what was seen on the nightly news.

Your award-winning personal project Blind Prom has been published all over the place, including, in Texas Monthly, BLINK, Fraction Magazine, Marie Claire South Africa, NewYorker.com, and several other blogs.   It’s also won the PhotoNOLA Review Prize, a nomination for Santa Fe Prize, and Critical Mass Top 50, and has exhibited in Chelsea at the Foley Gallery and at the Lishui International Photography Festival in China.  Can you talk about your experience in photographing blind teens and working with your boyfriend, Keith Maitland, on the PBS documentary, The Eyes of Me?

In 2005, my boyfriend Keith Maitland and I moved back to Austin from New York to work on a documentary film about four blind teenagers that attended the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin.  Keith directed, edited, and produced the Emmy-nominated, The Eyes of Me, and I was his stills photographer when he needed me.  The film followed one academic year.  We made it a point to cover prom, and since then, I have volunteered as the school’s prom night photographer each spring.

After hair, makeup and final primping in the dorms, the students travel by bus to the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Dinner is served, followed by an eager progression to the dance floor.  With an hour left in the night, prom court crowning begins. The room erupts with applause, as crowns and tiaras are placed upon the heads of that year’s favorites.

 With each new couple or individual that enters, there is a unique set of circumstances

Over the course of the evening, couples leave the dance floor to have their formal portraits made. Each year, I create a painted backdrop appropriate to the prom theme, which often stretches my limited painting skills, but I enjoy the creative problem solving.  In the quiet separation of the portrait room I have the opportunity to interact more directly with the students.  With each new couple or individual that enters, there is a unique set of circumstances.  Some students have a good amount of usable vision, many are completely blind, and still others have additional physical and mental challenges.  But no matter what, on this night, there is pride and joy, and it is my pleasure to share in it.

These images not only memorialize prom night for the attendees and their parents, but I hope they introduce a larger audience to what life might be like as a blind teenager.

How important do you think personal work is?  How important has it been in your development and your style?  

Personal work is very important- it’s an opportunity to hone your style and show prospective clients how you see the world.  A majority of my portfolio consists of personal work mixed with particular assignment work that felt like it could be personal work.

Who or what influences/inspires you?  

I have always loved the portraits of Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, and Dan Winters.  These are my heroes. They show both the greatness and the imperfections within their subjects.  They honor the glowing humanity within people.

How do you stay motivated?

I’m starting to learn how to take things one day at a time.  The life of a free-lancer is very unpredictable.  A job that exists this month may not exist the next.  Once I figured out this fact, the challenge has been to have faith and continue to do work that is fulfilling to me.  I try not to think too far ahead because it’s already been proven that completely unexpected opportunities come my way when I am open to them.

the challenge has been to have faith and continue to do work that is fulfilling to me

What’s the most helpful part of your “education” that wasn’t photo related?

Meditating; reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood; listening to public radio, especially This American Life; and wandering the halls of the European Portrait wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Best career decision so far?

Moving back to Austin has been the best career decision so far.  Working for Texas Monthly has been often as fulfilling as doing personal work, and I have become a satellite photographer for some national magazines, which has been great.  I’ve stayed busy, doing a mix of things, so I can’t say that I’ve been bored.

Favorite thing about shooting in Texas?

There are so many different kinds of people in Texas that are in to all kinds of good, bad, and strange things.  This makes for interesting subject matter.

Do you have a favorite or memorable photo shoot?

Back in 2001, I was photographing one of the church leaders in Jasper.  I could sense that for this man, having his portrait made was real proud moment.  As we talked about his life and his congregation, he suddenly said to me, “Photography is your ministry”.  I would consider myself more of a spiritual person than a religious person, but I took what he said to heart. Through photography, I have the opportunity to serve humanity.

Do you have a current dream assignment?
I would like to follow in the footsteps of the FSA photographers, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, and Walker Evans.  I would move from town to town, photographing the people and places that shape our country.

What else would you want to do if you weren’t a photographer?

If I weren’t a photographer I would want to be a psychologist or a chef.

Any other hobbies or talents outside of photography?

Cooking, hiking, taking my little boat out on Lady Bird Lake.

Weirdest thing in your camera bag?

Perhaps we should talk about what I don’t have in my camera bag.  I don’t have a waterproof housing for my camera or a pelican case for my equipment.  These items would have come in handy on a recent assignment to photograph an afternoon canoe trip.  We went down and so did some of the equipment.  Lesson learned the hard way!

Photo books you love? 
Avedon’s In The American West, the Aperture Monograph of Diane Arbus, Keith Carter’s From Uncertain to Blue, Shelby Lee Adams: Appalachian Lives,Dan Winters: Periodical Photographs, Heber Springs Portraits: Continuity and Change in the World Disfarmer Photographed, and William Eggleston’s Guide.

Do you have any advice for someone just getting started?

 If you narrow your portfolio down to your strongest work, you will direct your clients towards hiring you for what you’re passionate about

Make sure that you only present examples of the style of photography you really want to pursue on your website, in your portfolio, etc.  You don’t have to show that you are capable of being a sports photographer, a wedding photographer, a still life photographer, and a fashion photographer.  If you narrow your portfolio down to your strongest work, you will direct your clients towards hiring you for what you’re passionate about.

Austin based photographer, Blake Gordon’s, cover + 10 page spread for The Nature Conservancy  focuses on creating awareness for the Edward’s Aquifer in San Antonio.

Photo Editor: Melissa Ryan

Website:  http://magazine.nature.org/features/water-works.xml

Video: http://www.youtube.com/v/LPUQFbqNECA

 

George Brainard is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Austin, Texas, and a sixth-generation Texan. Formerly a working musician, George loves people and focuses his work on story telling.

Who or what influences and inspires you?
It’s people and their stories that really inspire me more than any one photographer. For me photography is about telling a story. I like the challenge of trying to tell a person’s story in one photo or a series of photos. But as far as photographers, I’ve been inspired by Wyatt McSpadden and Michael O’Brien. They are friends of mine, I’ve worked with them in the past, and I’ve learned a lot from them.

It’s people and their stories that really inspire me more than any one photographer

You worked as a photo assistant full time prior to going to full-time photographer? How did you make the transition?
I started assisting my senior year of college. I was also a working musician through most of my assisting years. I worked for about eight years as an assistant. I had a choice to make whether to be a musician or a photographer. Once I decided I was going to be a photographer full time, I quit doing everything else. All the time I had invested in promoting the band, I just invested in my photo career.

What was your first big break?
I can’t point to one moment in time where everything changed. I’m hoping that moment’s still to come. The first time I shot for The New York Times was a big deal. Getting hooked up with Getty Images has been big deal. When I first started I shot for Rolling Stone Magazine. Those are ones that stand out from early in my career.

Best career decision so far?
Doing personal work has become really important to me in the last five to six years. I’ve had a tremendous response to my personal work and have even gotten some jobs from it.

One of your larger projects is about hot rod fans? What made you decide to make these portraits?
I have some friends who have a car club, The Kontinentals, and they host two different events each year. For the past 11 years, I’ve been shooting the events for them. Several years ago, these things had gotten popular enough where everyone had a camera and everyone’s out there taking pictures of the cars. I sort of felt that the need to document this event wasn’t as great as it once was. I also realized I was actually more interested in the people than the cars. In 2008 I started taking portraits and have shot around 600 since.

Favorite thing about shooting in Texas?
Texas is my home and always has been. I know Texas well and love Texas. Texas has its own story and it’s a strong and interesting story. Many times the story and culture of Texas bleeds into what I do. It’s also great to shoot here because everyone is so laid back. For the most part people in the business here are cool and nice. That’s more pleasant for me than highly intense situations.

How do you stay motivated?
Hunger. Hah Hah. I just love what I do. I’ve never really done anything else. I’m qualified to deliver pizzas, be a photographer, or a singer. The business side is hard and discouraging. The money roller coaster is hard and discouraging. But I’m always going to be a photographer – no matter what. If I won the lottery I’d still do what I do. It’s not hard for me to be motivated because I love going to work everyday.

I’m always going to be a photographer – no matter what. If I won the lottery I’d still do what I do.

Do you have a favorite or memorable photo shoot?
One that comes to mind was the last book cover I did for Kinky Friedman where I spent a couple days at his beautiful hill country ranch. I spent that evening hanging out, smoking cigars and drinking whiskey with Kinky at his kitchen table. That was a moment I had dreamed about back in college when I first started reading his books. More recently, I shot press photos for Kat Edmonson, who’s this amazing singer. She’s talented and smart, and just magical in front of the camera. One of the best people I’ve ever photographed and one of the best shoots I’ve ever had.

Current dream assignment?
To photograph Willie Nelson.

Being a musician yourself, what’s it like for you to shoot musicians?
Musicians are people too. I love photographing musicians. It’s a nice way for me to keep a foot in that world. I have lots of musician friends and I’ve been a professional musician, so I understand musicians, I know what it’s like. I can relate to them in a way that a lot of photographers cant. Musicians are creative people and it always gives you a chance to flex your own creative muscles working with creative people.

What else would you want to do if you weren’t a photographer?
I’d probably be a writer. Sometimes I have fantasies about being a writer where all you need is a laptop and not a huge truck load of camera/lighting gear. When you’re a writer there’s no camera between you and the subject. It’s a more direct way of storytelling. Most of what I love is meeting people and making beautiful things.

What’s the weirdest thing in your camera bag?
I don’t know. Nothing too weird. Advil, Granola bar, compass, matches

Any other hobbies or talents outside of photography?
I play music: the mandolin, ukulele, and guitar. I also read a lot. I love to swim – or I should say I love to soak and I spend as much time in natural bodies of water as possible. Also spending lots of time with my daughter.

Anything exciting coming up?
My biggest goal right now is to get this hot rod fans book done. I’m spending a lot of time working on it and I’m hoping to get it done in the next year.

Favorite BBQ?
Going to Opie’s (Spicewood) for lunch and soaking at Krause Springs is a perfect Texas Day. Also the brisket from Snows (in Lexington) and the sausage and ribs from Smitty’s (in Lockhart).

Favorite taco?
I have many. For breakfast tacos: The Don Juan at Juan in a Million or the Migas taco at Donn’s BBQ. The Cowboy taco at Taco Deli, and the al Pastor at Curras.

Favorite drink?
Topo chico or bourbon.

Any advice for anyone just starting out?
Shoot as much as you can. Be kind. Shoot what you want to shoot and stay true to your artistic vision. Don’t follow trends. Be yourself.