Austin

Tiger Woods

Interview by John Davidson

Darren Carroll has been a professional photographer for 20 years, primarily shooting sports, lifestyle and documentary images for clients as diverse as Sports Illustrated, ESPN Sports, and Hyatt. Darren grew-up in New York City, and studied at Georgetown University and The University of Texas. He lives in Austin with his wife, Jessica Foster (who manages the Department of Photography for Major League Baseball), and his 11-year-old son.

Q: Do you recall the first time you held a camera, or began experimenting with one?
A: My junior year in high school and I was home, sick. It was one of those days when you feel better in the afternoon. I was alone in the house and I don’t know why I did it, but I walked into my dad’s study and grabbed his camera. I put a roll of film in it, and started walking around taking pictures, like it might be a fun thing to do.

Q: Did it seem in any way momentous at the time?
A: It didn’t really register. What really got me hooked on it was the darkroom. I went to a Jesuit private high school in New York City. You used to be able to smoke in the cafeteria. I started smoking when I was fifteen. By my junior year they had cut out smoking in the cafeteria, and so the smoking lounge was the darkroom of the yearbook office. I didn’t have a photographic connection with the guy who ran it, but I knew him, and so on our lunch break I would pop-in. One day somebody was making a print, and I’m watching this thing happen, and I’m thinking Wow, that’s really cool. And the guy says, ‘I can teach you that. Do you have a camera? Take a roll of black & white film and bring it in.’
From then on, it was more about the process for me than an artistic thing. I just loved the idea of being able to create this thing, the negative. I kept shooting pictures, – I had no idea- and I kept reading books. Eventually I bought my own camera – a Canon AE-1, same as my dad’s – and that was it. So the pivotal moment wasn’t picking up the camera. It was learning how to develop images.
2015 U.S. Open

Q: At what point did you think you might want to pursue it as a career?
A: In college. When I quote, unquote ‘joined the newspaper’ at Georgetown, by the third week of my freshman year I was in the darkroom until two-thirty or three o’clock in the morning five nights a week, developing other people’s film, developing my film, printing, whatever. I never considered it as something I could do other than as a hobby until I shot my first Georgetown basketball game.. Then I saw all these other photographers sitting on the baseline, with these big 400mm lenses, and I thought, “This is cool”. This might be something I want to think about doing. And so I completely immersed myself in it, in the craft of the thing.

Q: How did you go about pursuing it as a career?
A: I was shooting the games, and so I met the guy who was the photographer for the Georgetown team. Georgetown played in a professional arena, so he was also the photographer for the Bullets (who are now the Wizards) in the NBA, and for the Capitals, the hockey team. And I just started to get to know him, offering to help and eventually I started assisting him. As part of my compensation he would let me shoot. I’d come to a hockey game and I would go upstairs and turn the strobes on ahead of time, they’d be up in the rafters, and we’d have to climb up in the catwalks and turn everything on, drop the synclines, and all that took time. So I started practicing, building a portfolio, and that was it.
But ever since that time, I’ve been adamant with everybody I’ve talked to that the way to start out is by assisting. It’s absolutely the best way to learn things, to meet people – and you get paid to do it. What could be better?

Q: You moved to Texas to study journalism?
A: I applied to UT for the Masters journalism program, and I got in. It was a journalism program with a photo concentration. And once I moved down here, that’s where a lot of the assisting work came in. Sports Illustrated started hiring me to assist photographers in San Antonio, and Dallas, and Houston, because they knew from what I’d done in Washington that I knew how to work the arena lighting systems and all of that.
My last year in Washington there was a NCAA first or second round tournament at The Capital Center, and Sports Illustrated sent a staff photographer to shoot it. I was recommended to rig the lighting, and then once I moved to Texas, I sent the SI staff guy a note saying ‘Hey, I’m down here,’ and it got around the office. Because at that time, they were flying someone to San Antonio every time there was a basketball game.

Q: And it was through that that you started shooting other sports as well?
A: It was a foot in the door. I’d go back to New York because I had family there, and I would go into the (Sports Illustrated) office because the editors there were the ones who were hiring the assistants – somebody who did basketball, somebody who did baseball, etc, and eventually they started giving me some front of the book spots when they didn’t want to fly anybody in to do them.

Justin Upton

Q: Tell me about the role you played in covering Mark McGwire’s pursuit of the Major League Baseball home-run record, back in 1998.
A: Both Sammy Sosa (Chicago Cubs) and Mark McGwire (St Louis Cardinals) were neck-and-neck in a race to break Roger Maris’ single season home run record. By September it was blatantly obvious that one, if not both of them were going to do it. It was just a question of when.
So SI pulled out all the stops. They had five photographers covering every game they played. I was the assistant (on the McGwire games). The only assistant. My job was to change the film in all the remote cameras set-up around the stadium. You had one photographer in the outfield, four photographers on the infield. I don’t remember the actual count of remote cameras, but we had at least ten around the stadium. And I had to change the film in all of them after Mark McGwire hit. And not only that, but I was responsible for triggering all of them. I had a pocket wizard in my hand, and all the cameras were all set to the same channel. As soon as Mark McGwire looked like he was going to swing, I had to hit that button.

Q: Was this bulk loaded film?
A: No, these were all 36 exposures – with two exceptions. We had these Hulcher cameras set-up. They were custom built cameras with Nikon lenses, that could shoot… well we had a 40 second per frame camera and an 80 second per frame camera. They were on tripods, one with a 600mm lens, the other with a 800mm lens, and they took hundred-foot bulk roll. You could load them in broad daylight – so you lost the first ten feet of film. Imagine how that looks – you’re standing in center field, there are twenty photographers lined up next to you, and here I come with my backpack. I pull out a tin with this one hundred-foot film in it, and I just open it up – on a Sunday afternoon. Some of these guys are freaking out, because they’d never seen it done before.
But this takes a bit of time, so I was running. And then there’s the three or four game series where the Cubs played the Cardinals, and I had to do this for both players. It was a rush – all adrenaline at this point. The best part about it was, they also let me have at it with a camera. We’d tested it out, and the best place to make sure all the cameras received the signals was in the mezzanine at first base, just above the Cardinals dug out. And when McGwire hit his seventieth, his last home run – we were still going because we had to get the last home run, whatever number that was – he did this little fist bump or whatever on the way back to the dugout, where I was stationed…
So the next evening, I’m sitting at home, and I get a phone call from Maureen Grise (now Cavanagh), the sports editor: ‘I just want to tell you, it’s been a great month. Thank you for all your hard work. Oh by the way – you have the cover.’ My first Sports Illustrated cover.

Carroll2

 

Q: Has it been in any way helpful that you came to sports photography, not as someone who aspired to be an athlete or with of a passion for sports specifically. Did it allow for fewer preconceived notions, perhaps, for how you might go about portraying the action?
A: I was not a sports fan or an athlete myself. I played golf and tennis, but…yes. I’ve shot a lot of golf over the years, and I’ve had to catch myself occasionally because the more you do it, the more you start to run the risk of believing all the hype that people ascribe to these people.

Q: That said, is there an athlete or sportsman you’ve felt especially privileged to work with?
A: Oh, the ultimate is Byron Nelson. I’ve photographed him two or three times – the man was in his nineties – always so genuine and nice, engaging. I never had the feeling that he was looking at his watch.

Q: Given your long history with Sport’s Illustrated, I’m sure you must have strong feelings about the recent decision to release the last of their six staff photographers – probably people you know?

A: Yes. I know all of them. And this isn’t the first big purge they’ve done. I believe there were seventeen (photographers) on staff at one point. Obviously I don’t agree with it. I don’t think the Director of Photography, who had to break the news, was behind it. The decisions were made at a much, much higher level. And at that level, it all comes down to individual page views online, things like that. The appreciation for the craft of it, and of what these guys were capable of, doesn’t matter.
I did an interview with, I think, The New Republic online, when the news came out. The interview was with a guy who worked on a story with me on rodeo cowboys, and I think he nailed it when he referenced the Wayne Gretzky quote, ‘You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.’ We’re all going to look at SI each week, and we’re going to see very nice sports pictures from Getty or AP or whatever; but what we’re not going to see is the picture that could have been taken. I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with these SI guys and with a bunch of other photographers, and shot the same thing they have, and they’ve gotten something that we’ve all looked at and said, ‘How did they do that?’ We didn’t see it. We were all looking at it, we didn’t frame it that way, use that lens… you’re not going to see that anymore – but you’re not going to know it.

Coleadero

Q: Since we’re talking a little about the business of photography here, tell me about your marketing strategy. Who you are marketing to?
A: I’m marketing to advertising agencies, and to sports related companies – not necessarily as a sports photographer, but as someone with a sports background. I want to point out my abilities to use portrait lights, do documentary, all sorts of stuff. I have a couple of commercial clients that I work with regularly, and I’m looking to work with more. But I also like shooting those portraits, and documentary work, so I’m promoting that editorially.

Q: Emails, Mailers, or both?
A: I kind of gave up on mass emails, I used to do it religiously, but I don’t think people look at or see them. I can think of maybe one person who called me from an email over six years.
For print campaigns I have a mailing list of about 250 people. I send out 125 mailers every month. Say, if there are two art buyers at ESPN, one of them gets the card this month, the other one gets it next month. That way they’re not getting the same card – they’re floating around the office – but I’m not flooding them with stuff. So I send pieces out bi-monthly.

Q: Do you work with a graphic designer on your promo pieces?
A: I’m thinking about doing that. I can see the benefits. I have a portfolio online with ASMP, and I’ve gotten work from that, and also another portfolio site and I’ve gotten work from those. I’ve also taken out ads in Workbook, but I ‘m not sure about that as an advertising model at this point.
I don’t like to be overbearing, whether it’s writing about myself, or making calls. I need to get better at that.

Q: Do you have a rep?
A: I do. We’ve been working together for about three years. It’s been good to have someone help with negotiations, that side of things. You really need somebody who knows the type of work that you do, and the business that you’re catering to. And I need someone who knows how to work with those people.
Still, I need to be able to find those people myself. I don’t mean this as a criticism, but I think some photographers believe that once they have a rep, they don’t have to do any of that stuff. It’s not true. You have to stay grounded in your own business. And if I do get something, then I’m going to give it to him (the rep), because he is going to take care of the negotiating, the production, that side of things. Quite frankly, when it comes to advertising, and the amount of money that can be involved, you don’t want creative people having that conversation. You want money people having those conversations.

Q: I recently switched my website hosting to Photoshelter, which I know is where you’ve been hosted for sometime. You’re especially partial to the back-end capabilities of the site – such as the e-commerce, for example. Have you sold a lot from your archive that way?
A: Not a whole lot. I should probably market that a little better, though I’ve had some commercial sales. But yes, there are a lot of portfolio sites, and I don’t know anywhere else you can store thousands upon thousands of high-resolution images, sell them through the site, integrate directly with your blog, share with clients. And all I have to do is slide images from one gallery to another.
Q: What’s your take on Instagram now? Initially your line was similar to ASMP’s first public stance, which was, ‘Why are we giving our work away?’
A: Every time I put something on Instagram, I cringe, honestly. But…you have to do it. My epiphany was on assignment for ESPN, and there were four or five editors on site. I walked into the press room – it was after a football game – and every single editor was checking their Instagram feed to see what their favorite photographers were up to. You’ve got to do it. But, I watermark important images, and I still feel that the day is going to come when we’re going to say, ‘Wait – they said they weren’t going to do that!’

Q: Let’s talk about personal work. You wrote a very impassioned piece on your blog about purchasing a Leica M240 and how it had really informed your work, inspired you to see things anew. Was buying the camera directly responsible for the beautiful Charreada project you’ve undertaken?
A: It was. I put off doing it until I got the Leica. I’d had the idea for about a year, put it off and put it off, and when I finally decided to go all in and buy the camera, I said, Now I’m gonna do it.

Q: The Charreada project is clearly a book. It has to be.
A: My problem that I have with it is that I presented it to Sports Illustrated, because they were interested in running it. At the time I’d only done a couple of reports, but they encouraged me to continue with it. Then a month later they gave me a different rodeo assignment that ran nine pages in the magazine and the way they work, one rodeo story a year is all you’re gonna get. So I felt kind of bad that I no longer had a hook anymore, and I don’t know how to market something as a book. I have a couple of ideas, a couple of different strains of the project, but I don’t know how to bring that (a book) about.

Q: Your work seems to be diversifying over the past year or two. Certainly, you’re shooting more portraits outside of sports – extensive work with musician Robert Earl Keen, for example. You have a wedding coming up, and you have a young son – Are you looking to move away from sports photography in part to pursue a less itinerant lifestyle?
A: I’m not leaving sports photography, but I do want to pursue other things. Part of it is at the point of a bayonet because the business is changing. Sports photography is not what it was. The days of getting a call saying ‘Hey, there’s a game in Arlington today. Go see if you can take a pretty picture…’ those opportunities have gone, across the board. Sporting News is out of business; Sports Illustrated isn’t hiring or flying people all over the country anymore; ESPN doesn’t cover games on a week-to-week basis. Getty has staff photographers, they don’t hire freelancers. You can’t make a living shooting sports for newspapers.
So, you have to adapt. You find commercial, advertising outlets for the skill-set you’ve got. I can shoot golf, really well, so let me go out and find corporations or advertisers or whatever who need someone who can shoot golf. And part of that hopefully means getting paid more so that I can work less, be closer to home, be with family more. Right now, I haven’t been on a plane in three weeks. I don’t remember the last time that happened. But also, hopefully it means that I can pursue more editorial work that I enjoy doing, work that allows creative freedom.
I think it can be done. I’ve spent the last month driving to jobs! And there’s such a vibrant photo community here in Austin – and I need to get more involved.

Kennerlygrid

Pulitzer prize winning photographer David Hume Kennerly will show his work and talk about his career as a photo journalist and White House photographer in Austin on November 5th. Kennerly has photographed celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, Robert Kennedy, Mile Davis, the Rolling Stones, Ansel Adams, and Queen Elizabeth and events such as the Vietnam War, the Guiana Massacre, the Ali-Frazier Fight, and many, many more. He was the personal White House photographer for President Gerald Ford. His collection is housed in the University of Texas Briscoe Center for American History.

Kennerly is a Canon Explorer of Light and Canon is sponsoring the program along with Precision Camera & Video and the American Society of Media Photographers Austin/ San Antonio Chapter.

The event is FREE! Seating is limited so come early and enjoy some great photography!

When:
Wednesday November 5, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Where:
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin
4700 Grover Ave, Austin, TX 78756

DHKDavid Hume Kennerly won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for his photos of the Vietnam War when he was 25 years old, one of the youngest to ever receive that honor. Two years later he was appointed President Gerald R. Ford’s personal White House photographer. He was recently named, “One of the Most 100 Most Important People in Photography” by American Photo Magazine. He was a contributing editor for Newsweek, and a contributing photographer for Time and Life magazines. Kennerly has published several books of his work, Shooter, Photo Op, Seinoff: The Final Days of Seinfeld, Photo du Jour, Extraordinary Circumstances: The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford, and most recently David Hume Kennerly On the iPhone. He was a producer and one of the principle photographers of, Barack Obama: The Official Inaugural Book. Kennerly produced “The Presidents’ Gatekeepers,” a four-hour documentary about White House chiefs of staff that ran on The Discovery Channel in 2013, and is currently working on other documentary film projects. Kennerly is on the Board of Trustees of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation, and the Atlanta Board of Visitors of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). His archive is housed at the Center for American History at the University of Texas, Austin. David Hume Kennerly is a Canon Explorer of Light, an elite group of professional photographers who strongly believe that Canon cameras are essential to their work.

MatthewSlimmer-01

Matthew Slimmer is an Austin-based producer whose clients include Target, Toyota, American Express and Bank of America. He shared a bit about his production business with ILTP:

“13 years experience as Producer & Production Coordinator for Still + Motion Photography. Working as a local in Austin, Dallas, Houston TX and Minneapolis MN. I manage workflow and schedules for several sequential and simultaneous contract jobs. I truly enjoy coordinating and planning.

Advertising is where I’ve made my path and I love being a part of this industry. I organize all the details of your shoot, for both small or large scale productions. I problem solve and streamline responsibilities of my crew. My favorite part of the job is making sure the photographer / director is open to make creative choices while I see that every shoot runs smoothly and efficiently.”

"Wind" by Lesley Nowlin from Being a Twin: Elements
"Wind" by Lesley Nowlin from Being a Twin: Elements

“Wind” by Lesley Nowlin from Being a Twin: Elements

 

Austin fine art photographer Lesley Nowlin was chosen as one of four artists for the upcoming exhibition: Face Value opening September 6th at Davis Gallery. Lesley will be showing images from her series in progress: Being a Twin.

Lesley, a twin herself, has been exploring that relationship through her photographic work using traditional, modern, and alternative photographic processes. Lesley shared this intimate project with my twin and me when she photographed us a few months ago.

How did you get started in photography?

My dad played around with photography when I was young, as well as my grandfather and great grandmother.  When I was about 14 I remember my dad teaching me how to read a light meter on a Leica rangefinder.  After that I started photographing sports and yearbook events during high school.  I learned how to develop and print silver gelatin in a tiny darkroom at Westwood High School.  After going to the Maine Photographic Workshop during my junior year of high school I then chose to attend the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford.  That was when I fell in love with art.

 

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Tell me about your interest and education in alternative processes.
During my time at HAS we were required as art majors to learn all the mediums.  I really enjoyed printmaking and drawing, although I was never really good at it.  Back in my college years we were on the brink of transitioning into digital, but everything we did was still very much produced in the darkroom.  I loved getting my hands dirty and watching the image appear on the paper.  Creating something from scratch and the printing process itself is the true art quality I love so much.  However, that being said, I’ve turned to digital shooting, yet stuck with printing platinum and silver.  With the format I’m creating in this current work the digital image is much easier to work with.  I still love film for documentary and street photography, but I’m not currently working in that environment.
I loved getting my hands dirty and watching the image appear on the paper.
After opening a photography gallery in 2009-2011 I realized everything I fell in love with from other photographers was created with the alternative process,  whether it was silver gelatin, salt, cyanotype, or platinum.  After closing the gallery I decided to pursue the alternative process for myself and studied at Maine Media Workshop with Brenton Hamilton.  He taught me how to print platinum, as well as other processes, using digital negatives.  I’ve been working on it for the last 2 years on my own trying to master the craft, although I have a long way to go.
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How long have you been working on the twin series and how has the meaning evolved since you started working on it?

I started the series actually when attending the Maine Media Workshop back in 2002 (for the second time). I had an instructor, Stella Johnson, who helped me create a project for myself.  We had to plan shooting our subject(s) before we got there.  I wanted to work on something for that week that was closely related to me.  Up until that point I was more of a street photographer, and liked to travel and “shoot what I saw” on my international adventures. At the beginning of the “Being a Twin” project I was trying to connect in my own relationship with my twin by studying the connections of other twins and how they related to each other. I learned a lot with my 10 years of photographing twins.  About two years ago I drew on the fact that I loved art so much, and wanted to start making more narrative and composed pieces. I’m drawn to painters like Gustav Klimt and John Waterhouse, and photographers like Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison and Luis Gonzales de Palma.  Their ability to create a surreal environment with the human subject, very spiritual and ethereal, really drew me in.  I wanted to incorporate that direction in my own work, while still making it mine.  I’m photographing the twins (mostly female) in environments of nature to show their spiritual connection, as well as a tension and ease between the two.  Then, I’m printing platinum on vellum and lining it with composition gold, silver or copper leaf.  Printing the negatives separately and then putting it back together creates a broken and mosaic like quality.  It’s very fun to do, as well as time consuming.  No pieces will be the same, and that’s what I enjoy most about it.  I’ve also been learning a lot as I continue to make different pieces.  My process has been getting more precise as I go along.
I was trying to connect with my own relationship with my twin by studying the connections of other twins and how they related to each other.
How did you come to be a part of the Face Value exhibition at Davis Gallery?

Bill Davis is a very kind person who I’ve known for a while.  I knew the curator of the show, Christina Martell, who left shortly after, and Susannah Morgan took over.  They were putting together a show of different portraiture work, and asked me to participate.  At first I was going to make individual platinum prints of my original “Being a Twin” work.  But then I grabbed the opportunity to show my new vision of where I wanted this work to go, and that’s when “Being a Twin: Elements” was created.  Ultimately, I’m very happy I’m able to have a show with a group.  It gave me the chance to start this new work at a slower pace.
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What are your future plans for photography? Do you have any other photo projects that you are working on?

My goal is to create 15-20 pieces for a solo show somewhere.  The most challenging part of owning a photography gallery in Austin, for me, was that I didn’t know how to create clients.  I had a ton of photographers asking to show their work, and I didn’t have enough time or finances to do it.  After about a year I realized owning a gallery was not the career for me.  Creating my own work was more important.   It would be wonderful to have a photography gallery in Austin, but I don’t feel there’s a market here for it, which is unfortunate.  There are many great photographers in Austin and only a few places to exhibit.  Davis Gallery is kind enough to have a show specifically for photography and mixed media, but most art galleries in Austin view the medium of photography as an entirely different art form, and maybe aren’t willing to go out of their comfort zone to learn more about it.  More than likely I’ll have to go outside of my hometown to find an exhibition space for “Being a Twin: Elements”.  Really hoping someone will want to show it!

 

You’ll definitely want to see these pieces in person. Face Value closes October 18th, 2014.

SEO bootcamp for photographers

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art and science of getting your company to the top of Google and Bing. It’s no secret that both businesses and consumers often go first to search engines when searching for photographers and photography services. But how do you get to the top? Join SEO expert Jason McDonald in this hands-on, practical workshop for photographers. Learn the “rules of the game,” including both how to set up your website and how to create inbound links, and get reviews on sites like Yelp and Google+ Local.

This workshop will be in Houston September 19th and Austin September 20th.

SEO Basics Section 1

~ What IS SEO / getting to the top of Google / BING – why it matters SO much ~ Page Tags / on page optimization: keywords, tags, content ~ Off page / links, freshness, social mentions ~ Metrics – rank checking, Google Analytics

SEO Local Section 2

~ LOCAL seo – localization of SEO ~ LOCAL link building ~ Google+ / YELP and local review issues (how to claim, optimize, leverage) ~ Review marketing: how to get reviews, deal with the hard-to-deal with REVIEW ecosystem

Image Optimization Section 3

~ leveraging images for image search / image optimization ~ shareable images on social media networks ~ leveraging some “free” image giveaways to HELP your SEO

The workshop will teach you the rules of the game, and leave you with a practical to-do list of how to get your company to the top of Google and Bing. Plus it will be a heck of a lot of fun! 

When:

Houston workshop: Friday, September 19, 2014 8:30AM to 4:30PM at TexCam 1323 N 1st St, Bellaire, TX 77401 See Map

Austin workshop: Saturday, September 20, 2014 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM at Precision Camera & Video, 2438 W Anderson Ln, Austin TX See Map

Cost:
$50 off Labor Day Sale!
200.00 — ASMP Members FULL DAY
250.00 — Non-Members FULL DAY
125.00 — ASMP member- Image Optimization ONLY
150.00 — Non-member Image Optimization ONLY

Houston- Friday September 19, 2014 REGISTER HERE

Austin- Saturday September 20, 2014 REGISTER HERE

SEO workshop

Jason McDonald is a recognized SEO expert, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Besides teaching classes in Internet marketing at Stanford Continuing Studies, the Bay Area Video Academy, and AcademyX, Jason works as an SEO consultant. He helps companies large and small dominate Google, and his methodology is hands-on, practical and fun – designed to teach clients how to play the game of SEO, and how to win. He has a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from Harvard University. Since 1994, he has been active in journalism and Internet marketing, working first in the technology sector and branching out in 2009 to focus on SEO, Social Media Marketing, and AdWords training. He is the author of several popular books on Amazon, including popular toolbooks of free SEO and social media tools. To learn more, simply Google Jason McDonald.

 

From being an activist, an artist, a teacher and worldly traveler, Nine Francois has definitely lived a fascinating life to say the least. I was recently lucky enough to talk, laugh and live her adventures through her stories.

 

Where did you grow up?

My family emigrated from the French West Indies to Thibodaux, Louisiana. Before that we’d lived in Martinique and Puerto Rico but the chunk of my young life was in Louisiana.

Are you close with your family?

My Mom lives in Louisiana and my Dad lives in France so half of my family is on a different continent. The distance puts some stress on the relationship but I take my kids back as often as I can.

What/Who would you say were your biggest influence?

My brother attended Tulane University on an architectural scholarship and he was also a marvelous painter who hung out with that crowd. The people I met through him were very inspirational. I wanted to pursue art at Tulane but my parents told me that there couldn’t be two artists in one family. My second love was traveling so I thought, I’ll be a diplomat or something of that nature, so I got a degree in political science thinking I would travel the world. I got a job at the Louisiana’s World Fair working as a liaison between the city and the fair. I worked with lots of city officials and politicos including Governor Edwin Edwards and his entourage. This really opened my eyes and I learned a lot about myself, like that I really don’t like politics. I was frustrated at the time because here I have a degree in politics and I didn’t want to do anything with it! So, I left and moved to New York for two years with a boyfriend. He was an amazing illustrator. At the time, I was also into drawing, in a very photo-realistic style, but he was so good at it and so much more creative, that I decide to do something completely different, so I chose photography. I think that this boyfriend really influenced me as he introduced me to Jazz and cool avant-garde art.  It fed the part of me that I had to cut off when I was choosing my major in Tulane and it got me back to where I started, which was art.

What inspires your current work?

My aesthetic is clean lines and it’s in everything I do. It might have to do with the years that I studied graphic design and worked in Advertising. There’s just something about clean lines and well-defined space that inspires me.

What other careers were you involved in before committing to photography?

Lots! There was politics and that morphed into civic action. I’m an activist at heart but I put that aside when I moved to New York. I worked in advertising for a couple of years and learned that it was too cut throat for me. When we left New York, we moved to Austin because we heard it was great and I wanted to go back to school to study journalism. During school, I worked at an outdoor store called Wilderness Supply. We’d go rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking — I’ve always liked the outdoors so this felt really right, especially after working in advertising which was absolutely stressful. The nature part was very healing to me.

Were there any professors in school that influenced you?

Absolutely. Mark Goodman at The University of Texas at Austin was a big influence for me. I’ve been told that I’m good at critiquing and understanding photographs and if I’m good at that it’s because if him. He’s amazing. He has a way of getting inside a photograph and finding out exactly what’s it’s about. He not only inspired me with what he did but he also allowed me to teach with him as a TA and it was magic. When we’d critique work from undergraduate students I remembered thinking what a great experience it was and students would say that about his critiques as well.

At what moment did you know you wanted to become a professional photographer?

Before I entered the Masters of Art degree program I took an undergraduate photography course with Mark Goodman. It was towards the end of the semester during finals when

…I found this incredible special in the newspaper that said: Flight to and from Caracas – Seven Nights in a Hotel – $300.

I remember very clearly going to his office. He was sitting at his desk, I spread a newspaper out for him to see which advertised round trip tickets and 7 nights in a hotel in Caracas, Venezuela for only $300. I looked at Mark and asked what he would do.  He looked at it and said, “I would take some really good pictures to make a dynamite final portfolio for this class.” So that’s what I did. My first picture ever published came from that trip and that’s where it started.

What is your thought process when combining travel and photography?

I’ve been traveling a lot since working on the Animalia series so I make sure to research where I’m going and what it can offer in terms of photographs for this series. This usually leads me on the coolest adventures. I went to Costa Rica recently where there was this reclusive woman who used to be a high powered corporate executive in Ohio. She came to Costa Rica some time ago and started an animal sanctuary that you can only get to by boat. Besides a few people that work for her she lives by herself where she has about ninety animals that she takes care of. When you get to her place, you go on a boat and dock at this beach and you can’t even see the entrance to her property because it’s just jungle. You walk through it, get to her compound and you’ll see that she’s living with these monkeys that she’s raised and panthers and other different animals. I went there to photograph a sloth and we spent the whole day with her and it was out-of-control cool. So, whenever I go somewhere I dig around to see what I can find.

 

How long have you been teaching? What classes do you teach?

I’ve been teaching at Austin Community College since nineteen ninety-five but in between that time I’ve also taught at Texas StateUT Austin and Southwestern University in Georgetown. Right now I’m part-time at ACC where I teach Introductory to Photography and another class that I love very much called Expressive Photography. In this class we collectively pick a theme and do all kinds of research on what that theme might means to us. Each student works all semester long on a portfolio trying to develop that idea and at the end they have an exhibit.

 

What was the story or thought process when creating the Composites series?

Sometimes the story is the first step and then you build the work to follow the idea but sometimes the story comes after you build the work. For the Composites series, it was the latter. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what to do so I hung a big piece of white cloth right by the entrance of my door and in front of that was a chair and then my 4×5 camera. When anybody came into my house, I’d ask if they’d sit for a portrait. Then, all of a sudden, I had all of these pictures of people that I captured on Polaroid type 55 and each was its own object. At some point, I got into using the photographs as material and I started cutting, then sewing and stapling and pinching. Then, I began to see these objects as material that I could manipulate. From there, I created a different series that recombined faces, sometimes with people that were completely disconnected, sometimes with other family members or with different photos of the same person. I don’t know what it means but they looked really good together. That started another series I did called, Family AlbumMy favorite piece from that is at Nicholls State University in Louisiana where my mother taught for 30 years. It’s a 4×6 foot grid of individual photo tiles and each tile is comprised of glass, a photograph, masonite board and then a rod that sticks it off the wall. Each rod is one inch, two inches or three inches long so the tiles are undulating. I photographed portraits of myself, my mother and my grandmother and found other photographs of us in albums from all the different stages of our lives and I meshed them together. I created these composite portraits on regular photographic paper but they’re backed up against an MDF board which is full of pollutants. So you have this portrait that’s a combination of three generations of women and the images are bleeding and fading. Some come forward while the others recede. It’s a living portrait. I love what happens with time and the chemistry in the photographs that I can’t control.

 

 

Family Album from left: Passage, Heritage-1

Family Album from left: Passage, Heritage-1

What keeps you motivated to continually create a unique body of work?

I think the most beneficial motivator for me would be to take off and do a residency because what I’m lacking in my life is an extended period of time when I can just concentrate on creating. You need time to create. It takes a lot of open time to think and explore.

My consistent advice to my students who are about to graduate is – Sell everything! Leave now!

One of the things I remember as a kid is that you don’t have a sense of perspective because you live so much in the moment and think that it’s going to be like this forever. Sometimes you don’t realize that it takes one thing like marriage or a trauma or children or a job that changes the whole balance of your time. So, I tell my students that if they have the option to defer their student loans for a couple of years, they should just sell everything and get out of here! As someone who is bicultural I think that getting out and exploring the world is something that really needs to be pushed in our society for so many reasons. For people to become tolerant and for people to become more inspired. When you leave your country , your safely zone, and go somewhere else, you see things so differently.

What’s your favorite part of creating a new body of work?

The discovery. When you have an idea that’s turning in your head and you’re trying to make it work, then take that one seminal photograph that goes click. It says yes, this is the path to take; this is how you’re going to talk about this. The idea and the technique to me really have to work together. For the Animalia series, the giraffe picture was the very first one that I took. The story behind that happened when I had finished graduate school. I was so burnt out I didn’t know what to do so one day I took up a toy camera – a little plastic camera with a plastic lens – and went to a friend’s wedding in Louisiana. It was outdoors on a farm and I got side tracked by this rooster that was parading around. I slipped out of the wedding party and started stalking it, so while my friends were getting married I was chasing this one rooster down. I captured a photograph with these streaks of colors of the bird as it ran. When I saw the image I cut it out and put it in my journal. Years later, I went back and saw it and thought, well this could be something. I started going to farms and taking pictures where I photographed light colored animals against a dark background which developed into a series of work called The Farm. I kept that process going until one day I drove past the Exotic Sunrise B&B off of Ranch Road 12. They had zebras, giraffes and ostriches and other types of animals. When I saw the giraffe I realized I had to change everything. I switched it around and started photographing animals against the sun so the animals became dark and the background blew out white. That started the whole aesthetic for that project.

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Animalia: Giraffe, Zebra-1

What has been your best career decision so far?

I think teaching was an excellent decision. I come from a long line of professors and I never thought that it would be my thing but it’s the right mixture for me of supervision and freedom. When you teach at an institution you have a lot of freedom to run your own class. It’s getting more constricted and institutionalized these days but even within that there’s a lot of space to be creative. I teach part-time now and in the end, it’s really great  because I have time to work on creative projects and my fine art.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Austin?

I really love riding my bicycle during the East Austin Studio Tour. I’ve been living on the east side for over 12 years and I love it here. I feel like I live in a zone of creative people who are always exploring, thinking, stretching, and creating. It’s very inspiring.

What are you favorite restaurants?

Justine’s and the Blue Dahlia. I also like the Hillside Farmacy.

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Wynn Myers is a lifestyle photographer born and raised in Austin. Known for her eye for authentic moments, Wynn loves to capture the beauty and joy in the everyday. Wynn’s love of photography began when a friend introduced her to the high school darkroom.

After attending the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, she relocated to New York City, where she worked for fashion designer, Zac Posen, and attended the International Center of Photography. In 2006, Wynn graduated from the Maine Media Workshops’ Professional Certificate Program. Wynn received her BA in Photocommunications, Summa Cum Laude, from St. Edward’s University in Austin.

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Photo by Kristen Wrzesniewski
Photo by Kristen Wrzesniewski

Photo by Kristen Wrzesniewski

For those of us who started our photo careers in a darkroom 36 frames at a time, it can be daunting trying to navigate digital and social photography as a business model. This is not the case for Kristen Wrzesniewski, a young (but wise beyond her years) photographer based in Austin, Texas. She is simultaneously tackling both social media and medium format film cameras. Kristen owns a beautiful and soulful style that is already recognizable, and she’s only just getting started.

Kristen is not just an excellent photographer, she is also the Marketing Director for Photogroup Austin, an Instagrammer for Lumix, and a blogger for Small Camera Big Picture. She knows where her web traffic comes from and she understands that photography succeeds when it’s about experiences, not just attitude.

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What makes Kristen stand out is how much of what she does feels sincere and very organic. She has over 3000 Instagram followers on her personal account, but she seems concerned only with the creative outlet. She does her double exposures in-camera (“I like to do things the hard way”), and rarely plans out her shoots (“I want to see the soul of the person I’m photographing, show who they are deep inside”). She’s not likely to be out with a crew of stylists in tow, nor is she going to post every frame or even every shoot online.

I want to see the soul of the person I’m photographing, show who they are deep inside.

Kristen is mostly self-taught. She began shooting her friends to relieve summer break boredom in her teens. After high school she put her point-and-shoot aside to study English at Texas State, but eventually came back to photography. She stuck with it despite a film teacher disliking her work enough to discourage her.

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The majority of images in Kristen‘s portfolio (many of which are still of her girlfriends) look like fashion and beauty shots, but she does not identify as fashion photographer. She is not really sure yet how she wants to make her mark, but is resolute that her work has to have meaning.

You mentioned shooting with the Lumix GH3 and GX7. What other cameras or equipment do you work with?

I have also shot with a Nikon D7000 in the past, but am selling it to focus on shooting with smaller cameras. The camera is typically secondary to me. With that said, I’m becoming addicted the GH3. It’s a great tool once you understand how to use it. About 30-40% of my work is film, but I have been shooting mostly digital this year because film can be expensive.

“Texas has a really good feeling to me, everyone is so kind.”

What are your favorite places to shoot in Texas and why?

Anywhere outside! Bastrop State Park is beautiful (and sadly, even more photogenic now). Enchanted Rock is an amazing place to shoot, but anywhere outside will do. I like exploring small Texas towns and talking to people who run small storefronts. Last time I was at Enchanted Rock with a model we went into a small fur and antler shop and the store owner was kind enough to let us shoot with his furs. It was great.

Texas is such a giant vast place, and there are so many different kinds of people and landscapes here. I’d really love to take a road trip all over Texas and just document what I see and the people I meet.

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What is your overall impression of the photography industry/community in Texas as a photographer and studio director?

I think Texans are much more laid back than the rest of the country, in general. (Mostly) everyone I’ve met has been so nice and open. There are a few people who carry an elitist kind of attitude but I don’t let those people get to me because a bad attitude gets you nowhere. I’d like to see more people openly talking about HOW they make their photos – people can be so secretive about this and I don’t know why. I believe even if I tell someone how I did something, they still cannot replicate it because it came from my brain. It’s my vision. I’d like to see more sharing of information in the future but I think that is well on its way. Things are changing in the photography world – we now have so much access to information, and I like it like that.

Who are your mentors?

-Chip Willis (who lives in Ohio) has been a sort of internet mentor to me. I was incredibly inspired by his work for a very long time before we even spoke. He has always been supportive of me, even though sometimes my work looks a lot like his!

-Also, Giulio Sciorio has been a great mentor and teacher. He is a long time pro and an awesome photographer. He specializes in hybrid photography and has shown me the ropes over the past few months. It’s been an amazing learning experience. He’s taught me a lot about the business aspects of photography as well.

-Robert Bradshaw, my boss at Photogroup, has also been a great mentor. He is a wealth of knowledge, and he hired me on even though I had never shot in a studio before and knew absolutely nothing about studio photography. Over the past year he has taken a lot of time to teach me everything he knows and I am incredibly grateful. 

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Are you shooting more studio work now?

I used to shoot only natural light but have taken up studio light in the past year. I like it because I have more control and can manipulate it and make odd shapes and shadows. Honestly, I love them both, just not together.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I will have to quote Ira Glass on this one: 

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

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When I ask Kristen what inspires her she mentions hip-hop music, old films and Kubric. When I ask about her thoughts on the future, she only mentions plans through May. I think that might just be the secret to her success.

Kristen is represented by Wonderful Machine.

 

 

 

 

 

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Questions for Amy Holmes George, President of the Texas Photographic Society:

When was Texas Photographic Society (TPS) founded and can you tell us how it came to be?
The Austin Photo Co-op was formed in the early 1980s by a small group of photographers who banded together for cooperative film purchasing purposes. They reorganized in 1984 and incorporated under the name of the Texas Photographic Society. Within two years, TPS had acquired over one hundred members, and the Society attained “not-for-profit” status from the IRS. Later, in 1989, the bylaws were amended to provide for a voting Board of Directors and President who would work collectively to formulate and execute TPS programs, services, policies and procedures.

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How is TPS run?
For over twenty years, D. Clarke Evans has served as President of TPS. During this time, he steered the organization, its Board and the membership, while also implementing many significant initiatives. Under his leadership, TPS became a model non-profit organization, garnering the society “State Wide Provider Status” from the Texas Commission on the Arts. After two decades of exceptional contributions, Clarke has decided to retire from this position effective January 2014, when he will assume the meritorious title of “President Emeritus.” I will then transition into the role of President, and Clarke has graciously agreed to assist the Board as it forges ahead.

Naturally, as you can imagine, TPS is now undergoing a critical evolution as we prepare for our future under new leadership. Our Board of Directors will operate as a “working board” with the mission of “shared leadership”. As we embark on this exciting journey, I am thrilled to be in the company of long-standing Board members Jean Caslin (Caslin Gregory & Associates in Houston) and Amanda Smith (A Smith Gallery in Johnson City), who will act as Vice President and Treasurer respectively. We, working in concert with the rest of the Board, aspire to revitalize and reinvent TPS.

What’s your role in TPS?
I currently represent TPS as Vice President of the Board and have held this position since 2010, serving previously as a member of the Board of Directors and the Advisory Council (since 2005). With a BFA in Photography and Graphic Design, I also have recently taken on the task of designing our exhibition catalogs and other printed materials.

My experiences as a member of the National Board of Directors of the Society for Photographic Education have afforded me a broad perspective on the field. With an MFA in photography, and as an exhibiting photographer and educator, I am keenly interested in helping shape the future direction of TPS.

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Chere Pafford

What’s the ultimate goal of TPS?
TPS offers photographers with meaningful resources, exposure, publicity, exhibition opportunities and a community of like-minded artists.

TPS seems to be geared toward the Fine Art Photography community.  Would you say that’s accurate?  And what are your thoughts on appealing to Fine Art Photographers rather than, say, commercial based photographers?
Yes, I would agree that TPS appeals to fine art photographers. TPS does not want to be exclusive, but our programming tends to attract more folks in the fine arts realm. However, many commercial photographers who also produce personal work often seek out TPS to support those activities as well. Ultimately, TPS provides a venue for photographers to share their work with others via our website, newsletter, e-zine, exhibitions and accompanying catalogs. The capacity to network, promote, publish and exhibit is especially valuable for artists, and this kind of exposure is what we offer our members.

There are quite a few “big name” photographers who are TPS members, what do you think it is about Texas Photographic Society that appeals to them?
I think that these photographers believe in our mission, find promise in our future and acknowledge their relationship with TPS as both sustaining and mutually beneficial. Over the years, several of these well established photographers have participated in the Members’ Print Program, led workshops, donated works to our print auction and juried exhibitions for TPS.

TPS offers some great competitions with cash prizes and prestigious judges,  as well as workshops.  Can you elaborate more on that?
The Members’ Only Show and The International Competition are TPS’ signature exhibitions, and we have invited internationally acclaimed experts in the field of photography to jury these annual shows. We have also sponsored themed exhibitions, some of which include: Our Town, Cell Phone Photography, Alternative Processes, Big Bend, Captivar La Luz, Best Shot and Childhood. Most of these shows are installed in a gallery or alternative space; however, we do host virtual exhibitions on our website as well. It has always been important to TPS that we provide professional exhibition venues for our members’ work and award them for their artistic accomplishments.

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How does TPS pick jurors for its exhibitions and instructors for its workshops?
Generally, jurors and instructors are recommended by members of the Board. Although, we also welcome suggestions from our membership.

Would you say the economy has affected some of the things TPS used to be able to offer?
Certainly. And as a result, TPS is currently re-visioning itself. Over time, we aim to re-imagine our present brand and identity, expand our programming in relevant and exciting ways, refresh the vision and functionality of our website, and boost and reactivate our membership. Simply put, new technologies in photography coupled with an overwhelming social media presence have challenged us to thoughtfully reconsider our audience and their ever-changing needs.

During this time of re-visioning, TPS is reaching out to photographers, as we want to hear from them! We would like to better understand what programs and services they want and need from us.

[Writer’s note:  Amy Holmes George can be contacted at: amy@texasphoto.org]