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Dallas-based Jonah Gilmore recently shared a bit about his background and business with us:

Internationally-published photographer Jonah Gilmore grew up in the northwest, and has been shooting professionally since 2002. One of his first endeavors was starting a portrait and wedding studio in rural Eastern Washington State. From Washington he moved to Southern California in 2007, where he expanded his portfolio to include fashion, editorial, lifestyle, and advertising.

In 2011 Jonah moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where he currently resides, shooting lifestyle, advertising and a variety of commercial projects. Over the last 3 years he has been shooting an increasing number of commercial video projects as well under his company Studio Rocket Science.

Jonah’s creativity and flexibility of style in photography generates business in a wide variety of projects. He enjoys shooting everything from fashion & lifestyle to fine art and events. Jonah tailors his work to best suit the style of each of his clients to meet their needs. If he has to label his style he calls it “A.D.D. style” with a chuckle. A style that cannot be boxed into any given type, but rather is molded to every specific project.

He has also recently launched a new lifestyle photography brand in DFW called “Be+You”. Be+You is all about self-expression, having passion, and loving life.

Be+You, Defining Lifestyle Photography in Dallas Texas. Lifestyle & Editorial Photography by www.facebook.com/studiorocketscience Be+You, Defining Lifestyle Photography in Dallas Texas. Lifestyle & Editorial Photography by www.facebook.com/studiorocketscience

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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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©WyattMcspaddenCowboy

For the past year I’ve had the pleasure of knowing one of my favorite photographers working today. Wyatt McSpadden is enormously talented and also down to earth.  We met for eggs, coffee, and biscuits one morning and in his Texas accent, Wyatt told me stories of his career.

How did you get your start in photography?
I started out working for an eccentric millionaire in Amarillo, a guy by the name of Stanley Marsh 3.  It was 1971 and I was just one of the hippies that worked out on his ranch estate mowing lawns and doing odd jobs. He always had a photographer around too. I had a Minolta SRT 71 camera and I didn’t know what I was doing but there was all this crazy stuff going on around Amarillo.

In 1974, when the art collective Ant Farm started burying Cadillacs in the ground out on Interstate 40, I was documenting that. Every time the design of the tail fin changed, they buried a new Cadillac.  Who ever saw people burying cars in the ground?

This is what I was around and I had a camera and Stanley was buying the film so I was just taking pictures.  I had no agenda.  Through the years the Cadillac Ranch became kind of a phenomenon.  I met famous photographers who flew there to do fashion spreads.

It was really my first documentary photography.  I didn’t think of it like that at the time, but it turns out that’s what it was.

Talk about your longtime collaboration with Texas Monthly.
In 1978 Nancy McMillen, the associate art director of Texas Monthly, called Stanley’s office and asked about shooting him and she wanted a recommendation for a photographer. How could any of us have known just what a fateful call this was? That’s how I met her.  She worked there for 23 years.

Nancy contacted me and of course I was thrilled. All my work had been for local clients, printers, feed yards, small ad agencies – certainly nothing so grand as Texas Monthly. I set up my white background and had Stanley model hats from the enormous collection in his cavernous closet.  And there it was, I had my first pictures in Texas Monthly. A full page! I’ve dragged this old yellowed tear sheet around for 35 years. What a great subject.  He was willing to do anything.

Nancy and I married in 1992, the luckiest day of my life and I’ve somehow managed to keep that Texas Monthly connection alive and well.  That was the first thing I ever did for them, so it has great significance to me. I wouldn’t have had a career if it weren’t for Texas Monthly. At least not the career I’ve had. I’ve been very lucky.

 I wouldn’t have had a career if it weren’t for Texas Monthly.  At least not the career I’ve had.  I’ve been very lucky.

I did marry into the art department, but in a real way it made me step up my game. Nancy is a very discerning art director and photo editor and if I came walking in there with some junk she’d have tossed me out!  I’m sure people talked about it but it really was a situation where you don’t bring your B game!

You probably had more to prove.
And it’s still that way.  It’s amazing to have a relationship with a magazine for 35 years and still be just as eager.

How did it come full circle recently?
Stanley Marsh had been implicated in inappropriate conduct with young boys.  This story came out and Texas Monthly elected to do a major piece about it.  I had photographed Marsh dozens of times, and I had lots and lots of pictures of him in my files.  Some I hadn’t paid much attention to, but I found one that was shockingly appropriate of him for the story, that I’d taken 25 years ago in 1989.

I was looking through my files trying to find pictures of Stanley that Texas Monthly might want to use and there was one that had been published before but it wasn’t the right feel for the story. On the bottom of that strip of four two and a quarter negatives was a negative that looked sort of interesting so I went to Holland to get it scanned. When it came back I thought THIS is the picture that they should run.  But I didn’t show it to them then; I sent the other image thinking that would be piling it on. I didn’t want Stanley to come off looking too bad. As if I had anything to do with that…the article told the tale.

Texas Monthly sent me to Houston to photograph the lawyer who had sued him on behalf of 10 boys.  This guy’s name is Anthony “The Shark” Buzbee and his office is on the 73rd floor of a 75 floor building.  The tallest building in Texas located in downtown Houston, and he’s got half the floor.

My assistant Will Phillips and I left Austin at 6:30 in the morning and drove to Houston, went to his huge office arriving to find the conference rooms full, so we set up a 9’ seamless in his office.  The space was so big we never disturbed him.

Buzbee is super slick and extremely aware of his image. We were in his office for 2 ½ hours but all I was getting out of him was this “I’m Tony Buzbee, I’m fighting for the little guy” expression.  While we were getting set up in his office he was out front talking to his secretary when I overheard a woman say to him, “You look just like Gerard Butler!”

I had spotted a possible setting out front and thought, when we finish in Buzbee’s office I’ll get one more shot, but by the time we were done, I was just beat.  My assistant Will said, “Don’t you want to do this other shot?’ so I set up and was on the ground in his secretary’s office with him standing between the doors.  I’m getting nothing out of him until it suddenly came to me and I said, “Oh Tony, you look just like Gerard Butler!” And this is what I got, which is perfect!

We shot something like 300 pictures and the 297thone was the only one I liked. When I saw that image I thought, I’ll let Texas Monthly use the other picture of Stanley because this pair of images makes them both look notorious. I was very lucky to have Will along with me because even though I was done, he pushed me to do more. That’s part of the photographer-assistant relationship I’m certainly glad to have.

I had these feelings of regret about what had become of Mr. Marsh as well as curiosity about the guy who helped bring him down.  It’s kind of an amazing story for me and it pivots around being in the photography business for a long time. Texas Monthly used an image I took 25 years ago and one I took just 3 weeks ago to support it.  It’s a very rare thing to have a relationship like that with a magazine.

What’s another memorable Texas Monthly story you’ve done?
This was the Bandidos, a motor cycle gang and an important member had passed away so they kept him on ice for longer than they normally would so they could have the funeral for him on Memorial Day weekend and all these Bandidos came in from all over the country.  We set up white seamless at the funeral home in one of the viewing rooms that wasn’t being used. Skip Hollingsworth the writer and I would go out and ask people if we could do a portrait of them.  This was 2-3:00 in the afternoon with all these bad ass bikers and their scary girlfriends or wives. Everything was going fine but as the day went on they started drinking in the funeral home parking lot.  Then the whole vibe changed. By about sun down it was like, let’s get out of here while we still can in one piece!

The next day they had the procession.  I was desperate to find a place to photograph.  It was a Saturday morning on the 410 loop around San Antonio.  Will was with me and across the road there was what looked like a junkyard with a cherry picker with a sign on it that said “Rent Me.”  We woke this guy up and said “I have to have this thing in 20 minutes!”  We paid him $200, and got me up on the cherry picker.  I was shooting medium format film and three minutes later, here they come. What an amazing situation to get into.

Film.  Loading backs.  12 frames.  That’s how you did it.  That’s how I did it.

Besides bikers and eccentric millionaires, you’re also quite known for your love of and documentation of the Texas barbecue culture. When you started out photographing BBQ, did you plan to put the images into a book or did that just happen organically?
When Kreuz moved in 1999 out of what is now the Smitty’s building, my buddies and I were so crushed and sad. I went every day for a week and just shot black and whites.  So that was probably the foundation for the barbecue book.  There were assignments throughout the years where I had probably 1/3 of the pictures for the book before we had a book deal.  It was great fun and it wasn’t like being on assignment where you have to get something.  Nancy did the design so it was a real collaboration for us.

Last week I stumbled upon an old negative of Louie Muellers BBQ (legendary Texas barbecue joint) that I shot when I was still living in Amarillo. It was 1980 and a seed company salesman took us to there for lunch.  I didn’t know anything about Louie Muellers, I didn’t know anything about real barbecue but walked in there and wow, look at this place! This negative has great meaning to me because barbecue has become such a part of my work life.  It makes me glad I haven’t thrown anything away.

Do you still shoot film for your commercial and editorial work?
I don’t unless it’s a personal project. There’s just no demand for it anymore.  Everything needs to happen so fast, plus it’s more expensive.  The BBQ book I did a few years ago was all film shot with RZ67, but I was paying for that out of my own pocket.  It made me very selective about what I shot, unlike shooting digital, where you just shoot too much.  Cause why not?  The problem with that approach is you pay for it in front of the computer.  Another thing about digital is you would shoot a Polaroid and stop but with digital you’re working all your shit out in the camera.  You got 10 frames but it took 70 to get where you wanted to be and you still have to look at it all one way or another.

I’ve got thousands of negatives, many of them pictures of my kids, pictures of my now wife, my ex wife.  And I wonder… but I don’t know, I’ll be dead and gone but those negatives somehow seem more permanent to me than pictures that are stored on a computer or on a cloud.  Somebody will probably look through my negatives- my kids, my wife, but I don’t know who’s going to look through my digital files just as a matter of history and family history.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about Facebook as silly as it is, is that I can put up things you wouldn’t normally see.  Whether it’s old stuff or outtakes or quirky stuff or something from a story.  I’ve got all kinds of pictures, just throw them out there and people can like them or not.  Facebook has sort of changed the meaning of the word “friend” and the meaning of the word “like”.  But still, I love it when people like my photos.  It’s just how needy we are.

You read there have been more pictures taken last year than in the whole history of photography…but where are they?

I still get the same tingle when I see a picture in print that I did when I first saw a picture- something of mine

For almost a year of my life the future was very uncertain.  Of course it still is…but for other reasons.  I’m back in a place where I’m going to pretend I’m gonna live forever like we all do.  It’s also like okay…I’m 60…how did I get here?  What am I going to do?  And I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.  Try to stay healthy.  Photography’s a physical business, but I still love doing it and I think that’s the bottom line for me that I still get the same tingle when I see a picture in print that I did when I first saw a picture, something of mine.

When you were diagnosed with life threatening cancer the Austin photo community and Dan Winters rallied around you with a print auction to raise money to help with your medical bills.  Can you talk about that?  Did you know Dan before the event?
That was probably the most magical night of my life. Nancy and I had been down for the first week of radiation treatments, then drove back to Austin on a Friday, went home and changed clothes and went down to Charla Woods’ studio.  We were absolutely blown away.  It was astonishing.  I had met Dan before, I wouldn’t say that I knew him but I knew his work.  He’s one of those I-wish-I-had-shot-that guys. The work he had donated, the people who participated, it was an astonishing collection of great, great photography.  Perfectly hung like everything that Dan does.  He’s someone who achieves a certain level of perfection in everything that he does, whether it’s minor or major.  But this…it was totally unexpected and an unbelievable night.  They sold everything on the wall.  It was a very meaningful experience and we still have this deep feeling of gratitude for what he did and for all the people who came and participated.

A friend of ours, Kathy Marcus, had started letting people know about my cancer.  If  you’re self employed, health insurance is a real challenge.  We were insured but with a $10,000 deductable and expenses unknown.  So Kathy got the ball rolling and Dan got wind of it and he started putting it together.  He didn’t ask us if we wanted him to, he just started putting it together and Nancy and I talked about it, gosh, is this right?  And then we thought, don’t be crazy!  If Dan Winters wants to do this, by God who’s going to stop him!  It was truly one of the most magical experiences of my life and in the midst of the crummiest of times it really was an amazing thing.

I’m going to stick around so I can use this damn camera, whatever it takes!

Do you have a favorite item in your camera bag or anything unusual?
I do love the D800.  I’m a real late adopter in the digital stuff and I waited until Nikon came out with a full sized chip.  Last year I shot that Willie Nelson cover for Texas Monthly so I rented the D800 and the files were so amazing that I thought well …what the hell.  Plus at the time I was six months out of treatment and I thought I’m going to get this camera because I’m going to stick around.  I’m going to stick around so I can use this damn camera, whatever it takes!  I do love that camera and a lot of time it’s overkill file size, so I don’t use it for everything, but when something really great happens it’s so fun to have it on that camera.

In a way it means I’m sort of pre-judging a job.  Is this worthy of the D800 for the full treatment? And there’s a practical side to that too.  If it’s not going to go that big then why shoot a 36MP 104MP TIFF file so you get extra churn time on the computer.  But if it’s something really great…I did this story for Texas Monthly back in September and I took my son Stuart with me to assist and to shoot too (cowboy stuff) so I had my D800 and I rented a D800.  We stumbled upon this (sky and riders) and this image will go up the size of a billboard.  You can shoot these in the dark.

What have you learned from being in this business for so long?
You’re scrambling around trying to find work and it’s not any different for me.  Part of the learning curve whether your 60 or 30, we’re all scrapping for the same gigs in one way or another.  When I was 30 I thought, “When I’m 60 it will be different.  I’ll have this reputation and this stable of clients.” But that’s not how it is.  The scramble never stops.

Really?
I don’t think so.  It certainly does for some people. I don’t have a rep, I’ve never had a rep. I never thought my work was the kind that a rep would handle. I don’t know why that is.  My work is kind of quirky and doesn’t fit into a hard category. But that’s just how it is. You can think of a couple photographers in town that don’t have to scramble and then you can think of a thousand that do. So that’s where most of us are.

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JoAnn Santangelo is an Austin based photographer whose work documents hidden and marginalized communities. Her bodies of work include Proud to Serve, documenting LGBT veterans, Austin Faces AIDS, images of HIV positive Austin residents, and Austin Seen, showing daily life in Austin communities.  JoAnn works from Falcon 5, her container art space which she encourages people to take advantage of and build a community with. Falcon 5′s first pin-up print swap will be Tuesday, September 17th at 7pm. It is a casual BYOB meetup where people can bring prints for feedback or just to meet other like minded folks. Prints will be swapped at the end of the meeting!

How did you get your start in photography?
I grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Boston, and I was one of those kids that was always running around the neighborhood. Perhaps photography was an escape because I was really shy. I hid behind the camera, like a lot of photographers do.

I never thought photo could be a career, so I went to business school but hated it and dropped out. Eventually, I found a camera repair shop that was hiring. I got the job and was working on repairs but in the same building was a photo studio. I would go watch these big photo shoots and think, “this is really cool.” Inspired by these big fashion shoots, I started to assist. I assisted for four years and worked my way up but wasn’t happy. Fashion shoots were fun but not that kind of photography I wanted to be doing, but at the time I didn’t know photojournalism existed.

PERHAPS PHOTOGRAPHY WAS AN ESCAPE BECAUSE I WAS REALLY SHY. I HID BEHIND THE CAMERA, LIKE A LOT OF PHOTOGRAPHERS DO.

Then, I met a woman in my neighborhood who called herself a documentary photographer and had all these photo books by people like Eugene Richards and Diane Arbus. I was like, “That’s It!’ That’s what I love.”

Around that time, I came to visit Austin and fell in love with the city and decided to move from Boston. Once in Austin, I just started riding my bike and taking portraits in the street. I did that for about a year and people started saying they were really good. I just thought “yup, this is what I want to do.”

 

You mentioned discovering Eugene Richards’ photo book, and I know you ended up working with him. How did that come about?
Yup, I did, while I was attending ICP (the International Center of Photography). Working for Eugene was a dream came true. Once that friend showed me Eugene’s book I just became a huge fan. When I was shooting in Austin, I would email Eugene. He didn’t know me, but I emailed him to say that I really admired his work. In the emails, I asked if he’d ever take a look at my work and let me know what he thought. He never responded.

When I moved to New York and went to ICP I saw that Eugene was on the board of directors, so I emailed him again but got no response. However, my shooting class at ICP was with Brian Young who happened to be good friends with Eugene. Young actually printed for Eugene for around 25 years. Eventually, I went up to Young and talked about how much I loved Eugene’s work. So we talk, and Young asked if I’d like to meet Eugene. Literally that next morning… guess who’s standing there! Brian didn’t introduce him to anyone but me. He made Eugene come to ICP to pick up a print.

Eugene had a show the weekend after I met him, so I go and it was packed. I was standing next to him at the coat check and he said, “yeah, you emailed me,” and I said “yeah…” He asked what he could do for me. I asked if he would need an intern, but he said he stopped taking interns a while ago. He ended up saying I should email him and his wife (who works very closely with him) and try to meet up for lunch. So I did, and sure enough we both lived in Brooklyn. We all ended up talking for almost two hours at this dinner, and they explained how they had bad experiences with interns. He eventually said he didn’t have that much work for me, but if I wanted to give it a try he would be willing to take me as an intern. Never did I think when I was writing those emails in Austin that they would have led to that!

 I love NY and Boston but my heart was in Austin

So if you were working with one of your idols and mentors, what brought you back to Austin?
Well, the internship ended after school, and I continued for a month but eventually went on my own. I stayed in NY for a year and a half, but my wife and I left Austin with the intention of coming back. I love NY and Boston but my heart was in Austin. I love the creativity in Austin, and that I can have Falcon 5 (JoAnn’s container gallery space). I consider myself a documentary photojournalist, and you can do that anywhere.

What was the first project you started after collage?
I started with Proud to Serve, documenting gay veterans. I started it in school but continued the project after graduating. It lasted about 2 years.

Was this the project you received funding for through Kickstarter?
I did. It ended up funding a road trip. What happened was I started the project in college, and when I graduated I had documented about 13 veterans. It was hard at first to get the project started; I didn’t know how to find the subjects. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was in the news but not as commonly known as it became. The news took it on about 4 months after I started which made it easier to find people at the rallies. At first I went to DC for a Lift the Ban rally where I met the first four people.

That helped get me connected with people to photograph, but I was in school and had no money to travel. My initial subjects would say, “you have to meet my friend to photograph… but they live in California.” Sometimes they would be closer, like Maryland, so I would borrow cars and drive up and down the East coast.

Then my images from the series got published in The Advocate. I was mentally done with the project by that point, but the article made me feel like I really had to continue this. About a year into the project, I had finished photographing about 25 people.

After some time, I was contacted by the LGB center in NY about my Walking the Block series that they wanted to exhibit during gay pride. They wanted 30 portraits for the exhibit but at that point I had about 16 or 17. It was getting closer to the exhibit and I had all these people who I had contact information of but they were all over the country.

I finally decided to buckle down and go on a road trip to meet these people I’d been in contact with for over a year at that point. Kickstarter had just come out, and I said screw it, I’ll try Kickstarter and got an amazing response.

People in the military were super supportive. This one woman was active military and tweeting it like crazy. The project was funded, and I left for a 30 day road trip. I drove 10,000 miles and photographed 46 veterans. I came back with 65 images and they gave me more space.

The timing was great. The exhibit went up on Veteran’s Day. I edited and printed the images and, a month and a half later, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed. It ended up getting picked up by Redux and published all over the world. I also self-published a book because when I was on the road in Alabama, people couldn’t see the exhibit beyond the internet. I knew the basics of InDesign and someone hooked me up with a publisher in Hoboken. I literally designed this thing and the day before the exhibit I picked up 100 books. I sold there but also gave some to the veterans. What was so cool is, they had a panel with all these bigwig Don’t Ask Don’t Tell people. They said Obama needs to see this and so I went up to a woman on the panel and introduced myself. I said I wanted to send a book to Obama. I wanted to make sure he actually got it. So she asked to send two copies to her and she sent me a check and made sure it got into his hands. A few months passed and I emailed her. She said she sorry that  she hadn’t told yet but she personally handed it to Obama and he was very moved by it. And then a month later I got a thank you note from him.

I am sure that’s hung up somewhere!
It’s tacked up on the wall! But yeah, it was a positive experience.

What I do is for social change.

I didn’t realize you self published. I love how you have a trailer space, you self-publish, you use Kickstarter. You are using DIY methods to make it happen.
My whole thing is to make it accessible. What I do is for social change. It is to show people things they see every day, whether they choose not to see it or haven’t been exposed to it. The way to do that is not conventional work. It would have been harder to get this type of thing published. Yes, I could have done it that way, but not in the time frame it had to be done. You’re not going to make any money this way, but that’s not why I do this job! I do this for accessibility and social change.

The reason why I got this trailer was I moved back to Austin after the Proud to Serve project and was a little burnt out. I was also trying to figure out what I was going to do next. So, I contact Aids Services in Austin because I had done volunteer work before and I like the organization. I emailed them and asked if they would be interested in a multimedia project about people in Austin who are HIV positive. They said yes and that it was what they have wanted to do but didn’t know how to do it.

It happened that fast. I spent a year working on that project. We wanted to exhibit it but I thought it would be hard to find a space. Also, they wanted it to open on December 1 for World Aids Day. I thought, “well, why don’t I try to put on a show in an abandoned store front. They used to pop up all over Manhattan.” I spend 2 months contacting spaces that were for rent that didn’t seem to be moving fast. Meanwhile, people were offering spaces for me to use but they were so out of the way. I really wanted it to be central. I needed to be where people could stumble upon it.

Then, I was walking on Town Lake, and I saw the Falcon container. I figured, why not put the show in a container. I contacted them and talked to them about my plans. I asked about donations for sponsorship and they were up for it. I just needed a place to put it.  Then, this other woman had a space over near where progress coffee is. Another subject knew her and put us in contact. I was hesitant because I found this container and I really liked that idea. During the meeting she was saying I could put the work here but I couldn’t play video during certain times. But that was the whole point of the project, for people to hear the voice. I mentioned the container and said I just need a place to put it and she took me out to where an unsuccessful food trailer lot was out front. It had electrical boxes already and she explained she owned this lot and offered me to put Falcon 5 there. I was like, “No Way!” It was exactly what I wanted. She said I could stay there as long as I wanted.

A lot of people came. People would stumble across with no idea what it was and it really opened their eyes. A lot of responses were that they never thought about it but they realized they probably knew someone with HIV.

Do you think the audience views the work differently depending on the space?
The container brings different groups of people. A traditional gallery can be a bit of a highbrow scene. I had a lot of older people come in to the container and viewed the work as more rugged.  One lady said, “you go to a lot of seedy places.” I’ve never had anyone tell me that before. Definitely not when it was at the gallery. Maybe the container takes the posh off it.

How do you like working in multimedia and how does it differ from your still work?
Doing just still imagery, it is quieter, in every sense of the word. You get to view it at your own pace. I like the pure imagery of it. I don’t think adding sound should be a necessary thing. I think the work should stand well on its own. Sound can accent it. I think it is a way to enhance, bring things to life…. my main thing is bring in their voices.

Now I do video because, ASA wanted it. So I figured it out. For the last year, I worked for the Sustainable Food Center. I started adding B roll, interviews with the farmers, but also visit them on the farm to just document what they do. That’s a whole new arena. It enhances and adds a new level both as project and work wise. I don’t want to be a film maker but this really is a short documentary. But still, what I learned is I will need an assistant and postproduction. You’re adding more and giving more but as an artist it adds a lot. I do prefer still work for my personal projects. I still shoot film… someone said, “woah, you still shoot film” and response was, “I shoot film for my heart and digital for money.”

What film camera do you shoot with?
The Nikon F11. It’s the first professional camera I’ve ever had. I bought it in 1999 when I worked at the camera store. I was leaving that job soon and I just had to buy it. The night I bought it, I just put it with my pillow and I said to my, then partner, “where are you sleeping tonight?” It was my baby, it is still my baby. I still have the same 28mm lens I used when I rode my bike every day when I first moved here.

Anything you really wanted to speak about that I didn’t cover?
What I would want people to know is I have a vision with this gallery space. That’s why the next show is going to be a group show. I am meeting with another photographer to make this more of a community space. After I graduated, we would have meetings because we missed the critiques from school. It’s such a loner career. You spend a lot of time by yourself and its hard to get your work out there, especially in the physical sense. That’s the other thing, everyone keeps their work on there computer. We want to print them out and, maybe monthly, tack them up on the wall and get some feedback and bring on some conversations. Bring a bottle of wine and then trade prints. If someone has an idea for a show to curate, come and talk to me. The only thing is, if it’s your show, you’re in charge of it. It’s your space. If you sell something, it’s yours. I’m not going to take a percentage.

So how should people who are interested contact you?
We have a website for Falcon 5 that will launch by September which is when our first group show will go up. After that it is just going to be open. The meetings should happen before then though!

 

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O. Rufus Lovett, Part 1: Early Days, Texas Monthly and Beauty in Long Term Projects

This is part 1 of a 2-part interview by guest contributor Matt Valentine. 

When I reach O. Rufus Lovett by phone, I warn that I’ve just had oral surgery and might have difficulty speaking clearly. “I might talk a little funny,” I say, “because I’ve got this mouth full of stitches.”

“Well I talk funny because I’ve lived in East Texas a long time,” he says.

His voice is just one component of Lovett’s disarming southern charm—he speaks slowly but with a quick wit, like the narrator in a Mark Twain story. No doubt that charisma has ingratiated him to the many communities he’s documented throughout Texas and the southern United States, on magazine and newspaper assignments, and for personal projects that have so far produced three books.

Lovett’s photography has been widely published and exhibited, and is in the permanent collections at the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin, the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the Birmingham Museum of Art. His documentary work for Texas Monthly has been recognized by the Alfred Eisenstaedt Awards, administered by Columbia University. For more than three decades, Lovett has taught photography at Kilgore College, a two-year school in East Texas. In 2005, the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation of San Antonio honored his work as a photo educator, naming him a Piper Professor.

What’s the “O” for in O. Rufus Lovett?

My first name is an initial. It’s just O, period. My mother was named Opal. My Dad was also named Opal. They named my older sister Opal when she was born. And then they gave me just the O initial instead of the name Opal.

When did you first start taking photos? Or were you too young to remember?

My high school was actually on a university campus, so we had student teachers and so forth. My dad just worked up the hill, in his office at the university. My mom taught there in the English Department. And so everybody kind of knew everybody—you know, small town, Jacksonville, Alabama. I was approached by the English teacher — who was the sponsor of the newspaper — and another lady who sponsored the yearbook. I was asked if I would like to do photographs for those publications. And I thought — yeah, that’d be cool, you know. They thought they had a perfect “in,” because my dad had a ways and a means of getting the work done, since his photography studio was just up the hill at the university. And so that’s kind of where I began getting serious about photography, because I was doing production work from the get-go, and printing with my dad at the university was a major start and major influence on what I was doing.

Left: Opal Lovett. Right: O. Rufus Lovett, age 16.

You included one of your father’s photographs as a frontispiece in your first book, Weeping Mary, and your own photographs seem to share some of the same mood. Do you think your father’s photography influenced your work in other ways, in other projects?

Yeah, quite a bit. He was a portrait photographer as well, and photographed events, and I would go along with him and assist. I used to carry the old blue flashbulbs along, back when he was shooting a Crown Graphic, and I would collect the spent flashbulbs. Or I would stand on a chair or table somewhere with an auxiliary flash to fill in light. So he taught me at the beginning how to master lighting techniques, as guidelines. I learned a great deal from him in terms of good basic fundamental things.

Also, you know, his work was very applied photographic work. It was meant to sell and send out for Associated Press news releases for the university. But occasionally, he would go out and photograph on his own, and those are the photographs I admire most of his work. But he didn’t do that as often—he was consumed with his work at the university and he loved every bit of it. So that work that he did as an applied photographer was his personal work as well. And so it meant a lot to him, and I did learn so much from those early experiences as a child. And watching him print in the darkroom. I can remember sitting on a stool, just barely able to look over the sink, watching the prints come up in the developer, which was always fascinating as a child.

 Your photographs in Weeping Mary are a very intimate portrayal of an insular community, a tiny town that is almost entirely African American. As a pretty conspicuous outsider, how did you approach that project?

I don’t really start out with a game plan when I’m documenting a group of folks or, in this case, I guess you’d call them subcultures within our culture. In the case of Weeping Mary, it was critical that I visited many times without a camera to get to know the folks before I even got a camera out.

© O Rufus Lovett

It was an interesting situation there, because people want to know “why are you taking our picture?” and often times people in a community of that nature don’t understand the beauty an outsider might see within that community. It’s difficult for anyone who lives there to comprehend that. Not due to ignorance — anyone would feel the same way, like “why would you be photographing me?” There was just a certain beauty there that I wanted to document on many levels.

To introduce myself, I just tried to get to know the folks, being from a small town certainly helped my ability to communicate, get along with the people there. I made great friends there. That was the beginning of that—just getting to know the people. Now, in that situation also, it was kind of unique, because a friend of mine over in Nacogdoches, Texas, which is not far from Weeping Mary, was the editor and publisher of a newspaper, and as a matter of fact, he’s the one who introduced me to Weeping Mary. He mentioned the name of the community, which piqued my interest, and he wanted to do a couple little picture page spreads about the community. So we did one called “Children of Weeping Mary”, and another one, “Christmas at Weeping Mary,” and published that in the newspaper, and then that of course gave me some credibility, because if we’re doing a picture story about the children, or about Christmas at Weeping Mary, you can introduce that as a project, and make a purpose for my being there.

And then I continued for years after that. Continued photographing and visiting, and enjoying that community, and then it developed into the Weeping Mary book.

The photos seem really naturalistic. But some of these were made with a little more sophisticated artificial lighting equipment, right?

It’s always the situation that dictates what you’re going to do about lighting in a photograph. Often times, I would use the existing light of course, and many times a tripod. And other times, depending on the situation, I would use an auxiliary flash, often modified by a small softbox, to soften the quality of the light, but still nice and directional, and marry that light with the ambient light in the environment.

I seem to remember a story about one person you photographed there as a child who wasn’t very happy with that photo as he got older.

There were a couple of cases like that. It might have been the swimmers photograph. Two little boys in their underpants, swimming in a little backyard pool. Later, they were kinda teased at school about that photograph. I mean, it was published in Texas Monthly. The teacher brought it in — not to embarrass them, but to show them that Weeping Mary was published. It kind of embarrassed them a little bit, so as those guys grew a little older, they expressed, uh, a disinterest in that photograph. But nothing ever came of that, other than that they didn’t appreciate it right away, because it kinda embarrassed them when they were in school. I have a feeling they’re fine with it now. They grew up to be rather large football players, and so luckily they didn’t hold it against me too badly.

Your second book, Kilgore Rangerettes, grew out of long photo essay you did for Texas Monthly—an unusually long essay, by contemporary standards. Do you think there are some stories that are really best told with many photographs?

This has a lot to do with the economics often times, you know. Magazines have to support themselves, and they have to make room for advertising, and they have only so much space. It is unusual that so many photographs were used in that particular photo essay. Scott Dadich was the creative designer at that time at Texas Monthly, and I think he did a great job of placing as many photographs as he placed in a relatively small space. I was surprised that they used that many, but using that grid format that they used on some of the pages, he was able to introduce numerous images, which was a good idea I think in this case–to define the project well. There was quite a volume of work over a period of time, a decade or so, I suppose.

© O. Rufus Lovett

But you know, space constraints have a lot to do with that long photo essay occurring in publications these days, which is why it’s so important for a photographer, when he’s out photographing a project, especially for a magazine, to make every picture kind of a stand-alone type of photograph. I teach about this in my photojournalism classes. In a photo essay, each photograph is like a paragraph, and then several paragraphs make up the essay. And so, if each photograph can stand alone as a complete thought, and then when put together with other photographs, makes sense, that allows magazines to complete a photo essay with a brief amount of space. So that’s an important issue and always will be, and yeah, I can remember the old days when Life magazine and Look magazine had these really expensive photo essays. It was beautiful to see them. We don’t see that happen much anymore these days, unfortunately. But I’m sure it’s mostly economics.

You’ve published in many magazines and newspapers, but it seems to me that Texas Monthly has really been the best home for your work. Would you characterize it that way?

Yeah I would say so. And there’s some really interesting human condition kind of work — which is my main emphasis I suppose — with People magazine, of all publications. They’ll do these little features on communities and different folks from time to time and they’re quite nice. They’re usually found in the back of the magazine behind all of the celebrity stuff. I did this really neat story with People one time — it was a 70-year-old man who went back to 1st grade to learn how to read, up in Missouri.

It was a wonderful little photo essay as it turns out. And then I’ve done stuff for Gourmet up in New York. I did this whole thing on Dominican culture and Dominican food. As a matter of fact that’s how we got this barbecue project going — a story I was doing for Gourmet with Robb Walsh (acclaimed food writer). That’s when we first met. Then later we did something for Saveur Magazine on barbecue, and we decided to carry it on and do that BBQ Crossroads book. Magazine editorial work sometimes influences you in a variety of directions—you never know how that’s gonna snowball and what it’s going to bring next. It’s kind of an interesting aspect of my career. The magazine work I’ve been able to do, I’ve been privileged to do it. Starting with Texas Monthly and going from there. People usually just call Texas Monthly to get to me. I don’t even have a website.

One of the things I love about the Kilgore Rangerettes book is that there are several photos of the Rangerettes using cameras. For me, the cameras locate the photographs in time, because the uniforms don’t change that much, and the setting doesn’t change much, and these black and white photos could really be from forty or fifty years ago—except we’re reminded that this is actually contemporary, because we see one of the Rangerettes using a  little point-and-shoot camera or a digital camera. Was that your intention? Including that little detail as sort of a time stamp?

I’ve always been a little fascinated, for some reason, with tourists taking pictures of scenes. When I travelled to Asia I enjoyed photographing the tourists that were photographing the monuments, or their friends in front of the monument. I just found something delightful about photographing photographers photographing what they’re interested in. And so that kind of carried through, because the Rangerettes constantly take pictures of one another, whenever they go to an event or even a rehearsal or whatever the occasion, they’re constantly taking photographs of themselves. I just find an interesting irony in those kind of photographs. But you’re right, that is a key that kind of illustrates a timeline for those photographs. Otherwise they’re pretty much timeless, unless you look real closely at the type of bleachers that are in the stands, or the kind of pavement that’s more contemporary than a 1940s or 50s type pavement, you may not know what decade some of those photographs were made in.

Your new book, Barbecue Crossroads, is a significant departure from the first two. The most immediately obvious technical difference is that these are color photographs, whereas your previous work is predominantly black and white. Can you talk about the decision to use color?

Originally, Rob Walsh the writer — he and I travelled from Texas to the Carolinas and back, including Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, a little bit of Georgia and the Carolinas, and a couple places in Texas as well — and we originally were gonna do the book in black and white. It was gonna be, you know, kind of an edgy black and white kind of thing. But as I started photographing this, the color played such an important role in these little joints, and with the food subjects themselves, so I made the decision to request the change on that and just do the whole thing in color, which I think fit that project well. That was a decision based on the environment and the circumstances, which I felt were best interpreted in color.

However, one other difference between that book and the other two is that I was working with someone else, a wonderful, very knowledgeable food writer, and a lot of those photographs dealt with illustrating his points of view about the places that we went to. My point of view was also teased in there as well, in some of the other maybe more pictorial type images, and some of the documentary work. A lot of auxiliary lighting was used, however not always–I used a lot of window light when it was possible. There’s a lot of variety of techniques that were used in making that photographic documentary on the Barbecue Crossroads book.

I learned this from Mary Ellen Mark years ago, that circumstances dictate everything in terms of how your gonna light it, what medium you’re gonna use. It was all done digitally, instead of film. That played an important role, and the fact that I wanted to use color, so that made some of those difficult circumstances a little more convenient to photograph in, just in terms of the equipment alone. There were a lot of technical influences that dealt with the reasons why we decided to go with color on that.

(Editor’s note: Join us tomorrow when we publish Part 2 of this interview. Lovett talks with Valentine about how teaching photography is changing, and what he sees as the future for his students.)


While completing his MFA in Creative Writing at NYU, Matt Valentine worked full time for the Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts, designing and maintaining their “digital darkroom” facilities. He continues to pursue simultaneous careers in writing and photography. Matt’s short stories have won national awards, including (most recently) the 2012 Montana Prize for Fiction. His portraits of writers have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Men’s Journal, Boston Review, Outside Magazine, O (the Oprah Magazine), and on dozens of book jackets. A Lecturer for the Plan II Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin, he teaches two undergraduate courses: “Writing Narratives” and “Photographic Narratives.”

 

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How did you get started in photography?
I always loved art, and my dad taught me and my sister how to draw when we were little. However, I didn’t really get into photography until high school when I took a black and white film class at a community college. I fell in love with photo, and also thought it would be easier to make a living doing commercial photography then drawing or being a gallery artist. I was one of those weird students that knew exactly what they wanted to do going into college and never changed their mind. I think that might be a little abnormal, but maybe good abnormal? Not sure!

Do you remember your first camera? The first photo you were proud of?
It was a 110 film camera and I think it actually said “My First Camera” on the package. Pretty sure my dad still has that somewhere…I should look for it. I was super proud of some of the images I took in my first black and white film class, and I still really like some of those. You can really fall in love with photos when you are doing everything manually, with care by delicate hand. They are so much more special that way.

How do you manage the business side of photography? Do you send email blasts and postcards?
I have sent out lots of promo stuff the last few years, and gotten some response, but mainly I get jobs through relationships and people I know, or get introduced to people in the business by way of people I know. If I could go back and tell photography students one thing, it would be to make friends with people in the design program at their school. Those are the people who are going to be hiring you in the future, and those are the relationships you need to make and keep throughout the years.

Personally, I find email blasts annoying, and so I would rather not annoy other people with my own, but postcards and other things are always fun to get in the snail mail, so I will send those out to photo editors and ad agencies. Advertising through blogs and people with lots of social networking followers is a great tool to spread your name out there as well. I got a really awesome job shooting for the University of Minnesota through Twitter of all places, so you never know how people will find you!

 If I could go back and tell photography students one thing, it would be to make friends with people in the design program at their school.

Do you have a rep? Why/why not?
I don’t currently have a rep. I had one for a while a few years ago, and I go back and forth with wanting one and not wanting one. On one hand it would be amazing to not have to deal with invoicing and receipts, but on the other hand I would have to give someone a percentage of jobs. My plan is to just keep doing what I am doing, and if I get a really big job that I am having a hard time handling, I might start looking more seriously for a rep, or if someone approches me, I might think about it.

Do you mainly shoot in digital?
Yes, mostly digital, although, I only had 2 digital classes in college, and shot a lot of film on my Mamiya 645. I still shoot film for fun, but all jobs are usually taken digitally.

What’s your go-to gear?
Those that know me, know that I am the antithesis of a gear head. I am completely content with a only a Canon 5D Mark II and a 50mm 1.2 lens. That’s all I need. As for lighting, just give me the sun. I have always been enamored with natural light, and manipulating what is already available in the scene by way of reflectors and such. I am intrigued by light and watching it play on walls and in spaces throughout the day. I am constantly observing light patterns and reflections…sometimes it’s annoying because I can’t turn that part of my brain off, even when I don’t have a camera in my hand.

Have you spent time living in LA or NYC? Do you think it is crucial?
I lived in NYC the Summer of 2007, and then from 2008-2009, but moved back to Dallas shortly after the economy hit rock bottom up there. I think it is absolutely beneficial to move to LA or NYC, but not necessarily crucial. You are a fish in a MUCH bigger sea, and I have found it easier to establish myself in a smaller pond such as Dallas, where there is still a lot of cool work.The market isn’t as over saturated in Dallas so I am more easily spotted as a photographer. Plus, it is so much cheaper for me to fly to NYC multiple times a year for jobs than to actually live there (clients are usually pay for the flight anyway). However, I do miss it sometimes. NYC is a great city, and I love walking. I’ve been to LA a few times and shot some things, but the traffic makes my whole entity rage and my blood boil (I am not exaggerating). I don’t know how they do it over there. I definitely respect LA dwellers!

Have you spent time assisting other photographers?
When I lived in NYC in 2007, I assisted two photographers and learned so much about how to deal with clients, calculate expense receipts, and just the business side of things in general. It was extremely helpful, and I am still in fairly regular contact with them. However, when I wanted to start shooting on my own I actually found it more helpful to prop style assist. That way I got to meet art directors and people on shoots without being labeled as a photo assistant. Sometimes it is hard for people to see you as a shooter if you meet them while working for another photographer. Plus, you would never ever want to step on the toes of aphotographer you were assisting for or steal their client from them.

So, it’s hard because if you want to say, shoot for Gap, and you photo assist on a Gap photo shoot, it is going to be difficult to escape the photo assistant context in which you met the Gap creative director. Common sense says you should not give your business card to the creative director anyway, because you are working with the photographer. I would never dream of doing that, so it’s almost detrimental to your career to meet clients who you want to work for while being a photo assistant. However, in prop style assisting, I got to meet art directors and sometimes the prop stylist I was working with even promoted me and handed the art director my card. I think photo assisting can be great in lots of ways, but if you want to shoot on your own I wouldn’t recommend doing it for very long.

Sometimes it is hard for people to see you as a shooter if you meet them while working for another photographer.

 

What is your favorite thing about photographing in Texas?
I think Texas is so versatile in look and feel. You have big cities, flat fields, deserts, hill country, and pine trees! Texas is huge, so it’s nice to have the ability to get in your car and drive! The sunsets are so lovely, and I feel like there are so many different locations and backgrounds to use in photographs.

Do you have a dream assignment?
I love shooting look books, and catalogs, so I would love to shoot some things for Fossil, or more for Anthro. I’ve also always wanted to shoot an editorial portrait for W Magazine. The portraits in there are so pretty!!

Do you have any favorite photo books?
I love love love Sally Mann, and her Immediate Family book.Those images of her kids are so lovely; I could stare at them all day. I have also always been a huge William Eggleston fan, so anything from him is super.

What are you inspired by?
Dappled light, fall leaves, building things with my hands, music, punny jokes, documentaries, and good conversations.

How did you end up working with Anthropologie? What about Pinhole Press?
I sent Anthro a promo and they contacted me about doing some promotional stuff for their Push Play music series. It was pretty awesome to shoot Stacy from Eisley and Sucré. I was a huge fan of Eisley in 2004, and if my 2004 self would have known that I was going to get that job 8 years later I would have not believed it! I have been working with Pinhole Press before they even launched as a company. I few years ago they found some images of mine and bought them to use for their products and company launch. We just developed a relationship and I have been working with them ever since! They are hands down some of my favorite people to work with and it’s been fun hanging out with them on our crazy kid filled shoots. The best was spending a couple days shooting in CT at their amazing cabin, while mini golfing and ice cream eating!

Favorite breakfast taco?
Good to Go Taco. In my opinion, breakfast tacos always need to be in the near vicinity of good coffee, and Good to Go and Cultivar Coffee are in the same place, so double win!

Favorite libation?
A salty dog (grapefruit juice, vodka, and a salted rim!) is probably my favorite cocktail. And of course I am always game for a delicious Shiner, yum.

Do you collect anything?
I collect milk glass vases. I guess maybe that is kind of weird, but I love finding them in antique or thrift stores when I am traveling or on vacation. They are small enough to easily take back home, and they look so pretty altogether. So far I have 16. I used to collect stamps though, and go to a stamp club at a library. All part of being homeschooled I guess!

SaraKerens_ILTP__15

Sara Kerens is a fashion and editorial photographer splitting her time between Dallas and New York CIty. Some of her recent clients include Anthropologie and Marie Claire.

Were you always interested in photography? How did you get started?
I started out Pre-Med and wanting to be a cardiovascular surgeon. My parents are still disappointed I’m sure of it. I took an Intro to Photography class in college because it was a hobby. My professor, Cade White, encouraged me to apply for an open position at the newspaper. Within the year I was the Chief Photographer. I kept shooting even after leaving the paper to be involved in student government. I shot engagement pictures in college to make extra money and charged $35. I know. Learning the business side of photography was a bit painful for this Rio Grande Valley girl.

Could you elaborate a little on learning the business side of photography? How do you manage business, marketing and promotion?

the business side of being a freelance photographer is a beast!

Yes, the business side of being a freelance photographer is a beast! I love the creative aspect of photography. I had to learn how to manage the money, the marketing, producing and much much more. Being a freelance photographer without an agent is like having 5 jobs. I sought the advice of many people in photography as well as public relations directors, and marketing gurus. At the end of the day, it falls on me. Social media has been a huge way to get my work out, especially to audiences that I may not already be in contact with. It’s important to present yourself genuinely. Who you are and what you enjoy and are doing. I am a very extroverted and positive person, and you get a feel for that through my tweets and posts.

How are you developing your personal vision?
I have several goals that I desire to accomplish with my career and personal life. My work and life often overlap because of my interest in certain subjects. At this point, I am both shooting and showing my book to a wider audience. This helps see how my style and interests work with a variety of publications and clients. I desire to travel and live in Europe, so that influences the track that I am pursuing and the type of work that I spend my time on, even personal work. My style overall is consistent, but I like to push myself and even challenge myself to try different techniques or subjects. It’s fun and keeps it interesting.

How often do you take photos?
I photograph daily. Even if it is my iphone, I snap at least 5 photos a day. I Instagram consistently because for me, this is such a fun way for me to share my life and work with those who care to look and be a part of it.

Do you mainly use digital?
I shoot mainly digital because that’s generally the most economic route. Clients usually want digital as well, especially with fashion as they can see the images immediately on screen and take home images from the shoot the day of.
I take Polaroids when I am able. I photographed a Dallas band, Fox and the Bird, on tour last summer. I shot over 100 Polaroids in the two weeks I was with them along with video and still shots. A printed piece has been in the works for a while and I’ll let you guys know when it’s finished. Very excited about it.
I have a lot of film cameras that I play around with, and do personal projects with.

I know you go back and forth between Texas and New York, could you discuss your reasons for doing this a bit?
I grew up mainly in Texas and have lived there since graduating college. I first visited NYC two years ago on a last minute trip. There is a huge market here, and I see this city as a place to pursue my foreign interests as directly as I can from the U.S. I have amazing clients in Dallas that I want to continue working with a well, so I found that working in both cities was a great fit for me career wise. There are extremely talented creatives in Dallas and the city’s art culture is really taking off. It is an exciting time to be connected there. There is a strong Texas presence in NYC. I have many friends who have moved here, and several of my favorite stylists and makeup artists are Texas transplants.

There are extremely talented creatives in Dallas and the city’s art culture is really taking off

Do you have someone you look up to in the field?
I have had several teachers and photographers guide me and push me along. Dallas specifically has been an incredible place to learn and grow. I have been very fortunate to work along side extremely talented and kind photographers. People want to help you. You have to remember that.

Do you have a dream assignment?
I have many. I would love to shoot a catalog for Anthropologie and Free People, do a piece on Iceland for National Geographic, as well as document Sufjan Stevens’ next tour. I photographed his Age of Adz tour performances in both Dallas and Brooklyn, and they were both incredible. I would love to join the Cousteau family on a sea adventure and document that as well.
How do you stay motivated?
The girls in my sorority in college joked about never seeing me without a camera. It’s true. I love what I do. It is internal and my desire to express myself through photography is pretty strong.
Was there one project that gave you that “ah ha” moment, where you knew this is where you wanted to take your work?
There was a point that I decided I was going to photograph things of interest to me, even if that meant I was hustling all week and shooting nonstop in my spare time. Once I started doing that and posting it, I began to get requests for similar paid assignments. That process was a huge “ah ha” moment for me. I will continue in that way.

Do you have any favorite photo books?
Can I count Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants as a photo book? Laura Wilson’s Hutterites of Montana is a favorite. She is the photographer that documented Richard Avedon when he was shooting “The American West.” I remember contacting her when I first moved to Dallas because I wanted to meet her and learn from her. About a year after emailing and calling her rep and not getting a response, I realized that she was Luke and Owen Wilson’s mother, and why I never got a response. Laura, if you’re reading this, I would still love to meet you and hear your stories, and I am not after your sons.

What was the most helpful part of your ‘education’ that wasn’t photo related?
Connecting with people is the most important and helpful part of my ‘education’ that was not photo related. Life doesn’t make sense without relationships. I work with people who have stories, and great depth. I connect with the people that I’m photographing. It makes a difference. I learn so much from the people that I come in contact with. Letting your subjects tell their stories will translate through the photos.

Connecting with people is the most important and helpful part of my ‘education’ that was not photo related

What are you inspired by?
Music definitely inspires me. I often have thoughts or ideas of shoots or movement by the particular music I am listening to. I’m also inspired by a variety of people and environments. Wes Anderson’s genius is inspiring as well as Tim Walker, and I think that I have whimsical dream inside me like that.

I like the grit and dirt of life as well, and maybe it’s just my generation, but I am inspired by life as it really is.
I am inspired by people who are passionate about life or passionate about what they do, or actively working to change things for the better, and those that have compassion for people, for the human spirit.

As Jack Kerouac wrote in one of my most favourite books, On the Road, “They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

People inspire me. The human condition inspires me and motivates me. In the depth of depravity there is great hope.

People inspire me. The human condition inspires me and motivates me

How do you define ‘success’ in your own career?
I define success as quality of life. That means relationships and living. My day to day life is enjoyable and challenging. At the end of the day I believe that I am working hard, and I do not think that the work I’m doing is changing the world. I think I express beauty and show the reality of the world.

What’s next? Any exciting projects coming up in 2012?
I moved to NYC in May to pursue more editorial, lifestyle and fashion work. I will be splitting my time shooting in both Texas and NYC. I have been working on a book of some of the subjects that I have photographed. I would like to get that finished this year. I have some projects on the horizon in LA and in Europe.

We all are dying to know, how did you get the Anthropologie gig?


The short and sweet of it is that I was contacted by a scout. Being at the Mothership was certainly a dream. I shot their online merchandise in studio. That was so much fun because I got to see all the beautiful apparel and shoes before anyone else had seen them. I met their copywriter as well who names and describes all the clothing. Fantastic job. I was there for a week shooting and stayed in their bed and breakfast on the Navy Yard – which is completely decorated with Anthropologie bedding, furniture, EVERYTHING. I am looking forward to opportunities to work with the company again.

For more information about the Anthropologie shoot, check out Sara’s blog post.

Favorite fried chicken?

I have two places that are relatively new to Dallas that I have frequented and have photographed both places; Sissy’s and Chicken Scratch. Go there.

Favorite breakfast taco?
Taco Joint. They have my heart. Jalapeno ranch! It’s incredible. Plus everyone that works there is so welcoming and they remember your name.

Favorite libation?
Drink specifically – Anything with gin in it. Place to get drinks depends on the night. School night: Strangeways and the Windmill. Weekend: The Gin Mill, The Londoner (also great fish ‘n chips). Mimosas: Smoke – they make them right and they are bottomless.

Do you collect anything?
Dresses perhaps. I also at one point had 4 copies of Settlers of Catan – all the same 483 Mayfair version. Klaus Teuber has a hold on me. I have since narrowed it down to just one copy with the expansion pack as well.

Any hobbies outside of photography?
I make notes of inefficient traffic areas or lights and make reports to the city. I also collect those paper miniature scale models of iconic city buildings and monuments and never actually put them together, even though I promise that I will. I also love to watch dance movies. I cannot wait until this summer for Step Up 4 Miami: Come for the Sun, Stay for the Heat. Please tell me that MTV contacted you and that I will be spending one day on the set of Missy Elliott’s music video learning the choreography.

 

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Kimberley Davis is an Austin-based photographer specializing in food and interiors. She shares her tips for starting out in food photography, her inspirations and more.

Kimberly, do you have any tips for aspiring food photographers? I know some food photographers use a lot of trickery. How do you make food look so appetizing on a shoot?
Working with a skilled food stylist makes all the difference in making the food look as appetizing as possible. They usually have a range of tools, from tweezers in various sizes, q-tips, make-up sponges, spray bottles, dowels, etc.  I know sometimes food stylists use artificial ingredients to make food look good, but in my case, the food has always been edible-unless it’s a Thanksgiving turkey.

Lighting is absolutely key to shooting food

Lighting is absolutely key to shooting food.  Lighting can create texture in even the most boring dish.  For those just starting out, I would recommend working with someone in culinary school to do some mutual portfolio building.  Also, don’t touch the food! Let the food stylist do that, they don’t pick up your camera!

What are some of the keys to making an interior look beautiful? Do you get decorating envy when you walk into some of these homes?
Definitely!  A prop stylist is always helpful to work with in making a home look inviting.  Even adding flowers can make a big difference.  When I shoot interiors it is usually a focus on the interior design elements, vs the architecture of the space. For me, the beauty is in the details, and that’s why people hire me.

What’s been one of your best career decisions so far?
Working for a magazine publisher gave me a ton of experience.

Best decision since going freelance?
Hands down is joining ASMP! The contacts alone have been an invaluable resource.

Favorite thing about shooting in Texas?
It’s Texas! I am grateful every day to be in Austin, especially after moving out of state for four years.

One of my favorite TX themes to photograph is of course, Texas BBQ. If I only take pictures in BBQ pits for the rest of my life I would be fine with that! I love those sexy smoky walls!  And of course all my gear smells like BBQ for weeks!

One of my favorite TX themes to photograph is of course, Texas BBQ

Do you have a dream assignment?
On one hand I’ve already had my dream assignment. I photographed Paula Deen and her sons for their magazines.  I got to travel with them, photographed other celebrities, more than I ever dreamed of actually.

There are several magazines I would love to photograph stories for, and collaborating with other photographers is on my bucket list too.  I love to work as a team, especially when everyone brings something different to the table.

What was working with Paula Deen like? She is such a character!
Working with Paula Deen was great! She is exactly the same as she is on TV, like the southern aunt who cooks that I never had. I had amazing opportunities shooting her for her magazine, including trips to New York, Key West, South Beach, Cashiers, New Orleans, and several to Savannah of course. Paula even let me try on her amazing and huge diamond ring once! Many great memories there, definitely some of my favorites!

Weirdest thing in my camera bag?
I have a few of those round shiny cardboard take out container tops in my bag because they make great reflectors!  I can fold them and set them on a table, they cost nothing and they’re handy.  Be resourceful!

Latest gear obsession?
I have a little shoe mount bubble level that my friend Andrew Pogue gave me and I love it!

I stay motivated because I really enjoy my work

How do you stay motivated?
I stay motivated because I really enjoy my work and there are busy times and times that aren’t busy, so that keeps me motivated too.

Did you have a big break?
My big break came from Mac Jamieson, the Creative Director at Hoffman Media.  He saw the potential in my work and was patient.  He gave me advice and I took it, built a new portfolio and he saw my dedication.   He taught me a lot and had a lot of faith in me too.  I got a ton of experience there in 4 years working for 8-9 magazines.

How did you develop your personal vision?
My personal vision came with practice really.  It is definitely possible to achieve the same look with different lenses and of course I have a favorite, but lighting is everything.  I use strobes and I use natural light, it depends what it is and what it’s for.  The point is that I am conscious about how I am lighting, even with natural light, I will light the same as if I use strobes.  It has to be a thoughtful process.

Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by Jody Horton (ed. note: read Jody’s ILTP interview here).  Even before I moved to Austin I followed the Farmhouse Table blog and I knew his work from that.  I love Debi Treloar’s work and her book Food for Friends.  Sang An,  Katie Quinn Davies (What Kate Ate) her sort of messy/dark food images are gorgeous, Wyatt McSpadden, Maren Caruso has an inspiring portfolio, I especially love her conceptual food work!

All time favorite photo books?
Most are cookbooks…Food for Friends, Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home, Wyatt McSpadden’s Texas BBQ

How do you define success in your own career? 
Being brave enough to put yourself out there and then making and keeping happy clients is rewarding.

What’s next? Exciting projects in 2012? 
Texas Photo Roundup was pretty exciting!  The first quarter of 2012 has been a good start and hopefully that momentum will keep going throughout the year.  I have a new website, starting email promos, really marketing myself this year.

Advice for someone starting out?
Join ASMP and most important, show up!  Let people know who you are, make friends, and it will make a huge difference.  Assist and you will learn a lot.  Learn the business side, it’s crucial to making it!  Don’t take no answer as a “no” answer.  Just keep trying –respectfully- and don’t give up.  Don’t listen to the nay-sayers, associate yourself with photographers who work hard and have a positive outlook.

Learn the business side, it’s crucial to making it!

Favorite BBQ?
You asked the right person!  Franklin BBQ chopped beef/Tipsy Texan is so good it doesn’t even need sauce!  The pies are really good there too by the way.  My other favorite is Cele Store in Manor.  It’s truly a special place, historic building, as casual as it gets!  They’re only open Thursday and Friday for lunch and Friday nights I think.  The BBQ is great, and you definitely want to get extra white bread for dipping in the sauce.  Yum, I want some now!  I also love Rudy’s.

Favorite breakfast taco?
Dan’s Hamburgers believe it or not!  They make great breakfast tacos!

What do you collect?
I collect notebooks.  I have one for everything…there are five sitting on my desk right now!  One is a large sketchbook I use for making notes about each job.  I love the little notebooks books from Wiley Valentine the most though.  Beautiful paper is one of my favorite things!

Hobbies?
I love to garden, and also love to photograph flowers. It’s not something I usually do for work but I just added a Flora gallery on my website because I think it’s still worth showing.  My once a year hobby is baking Christmas cookies for friends and clients.  I look forward to it and enjoy sharing them.

How do you stay sane?
Who says any of us stay sane? Just make it work, ask for help when you need it, and keep going.

A member of the Battle of Flowers Association judges high school bands as they pass in front of the Alamo during the Fiesta Battle of Flowers Parade, Friday, April 27, 2012. (JENNIFER WHITNEY for the San Antonio Express-News)

Jennifer Whitney is an editorial photographer based in San Antonio. Her love of people, food and the great outdoors inspires her work. Jenn spoke with ILTP over iced coffee on the dog-friendly patio of Spiderhouse in Austin.

Who are your mentors?
I’ve had a lot of incredible mentors… Neal Menschel from the Salt Institute – he always said it’s about imagination, heart, and intention and I’ll never forget that. Rita Reed taught me to be a badass and not put up with anyone’s bullshit basically by osmosis. I look up to Lisa Krantz immensely because she’s not only an awesome photographer but an awesome person. I’m completely in awe of her way of seeing things, her sense of humor, and her incredible patience.

Best career decision?
Sticking to what I believe in and not compromising myself for anything, which led to the decision to go freelance. I never quite fit in at newspapers – too many rules for me and I didn’t like turning work over that quickly all the time because the quality suffers. I have a lot more freedom now to work on projects and the ability to work with clients who expect a higher quality of work. I’ve grown immensely as a businesswoman and have had a lot more space to be creative and find my own groove.

I’ve grown immensely as a businesswoman

Favorite thing about shooting in Texas?
I’m a total sucker for Americana, and I love the quirkiness and the bright, saturated color. Really, its a lot like my home state, Florida, in so many ways but with a bit of a western flair. I love the independent values and progressive thinking that led explorers to the promise of the West, but I’m a true Southern girl at heart. Texas is really the crossroads between the two cultures.

Current Dream Assignment?
Pretty much anything having to do with strong women or wise old people. But I don’t want to limit myself because there are so many things I’m really curious and passionate about. I’m dying to work for Texas Monthly and Garden & Gun.

What’s the weirdest thing in your camera bag?
I try to keep my bag pretty light, but I do carry a purple Leatherman and a tube of Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers, which always brings a little sweetness to a rough day. Also, I carry a stepladder in the back of my truck that was a gift from a good friend. As a small person it comes in handy all the time.

Gear obsessions?
I’m not a gear head. I like to keep it as simple as possible. I couldn’t live without my fixed 50mm lens.

 I couldn’t live without my fixed 50mm lens

How do you stay motivated?
I’m the kind of person who functions best when I’m busy, so I’m always juggling a lot of balls in the air. Making sure I always have at least one story going that I ‘m really passionate about is huge.

What was your first big break?
There are so many ways of looking at it.  Working on the first project I cared about and making the realization that this is what I have to do. As nerdy as it may be to say it out loud, I remember feeling super excited the first time The New York Times called.

I remember feeling super excited the first time The New York Times called

How you established your personal vision?
Through a lot of hard work, experimentation, and finding inspiration outside of photography like in music, film, literature, and other visual media.

Was there one project that gave you that “ah ha” moment, where you knew this is where you wanted to take your work?
At Salt I did a project on two sisters that did beauty pageants in rural northern Maine. They were 8 and 11 when I met them and we still keep in touch. I’m going back to visit them this summer. It was the first time I really fell in love with a subject and realized how powerful the images become when you make yourself vulnerable to people, and what a gift it is when they give you so much access to their lives.  I learned so much from that project, and I’ve pretty much been hooked ever since.

Who are you inspired by?
Erykah Badu, Dolly Parton, Billie Holliday, Yoko Ono, Tina Fey, Kiki Smith, Ann Richards, Alice Waters, Georgia O’ Keefe, Stella McCartney, Annie Oakley, Miranda July, Sofia Coppola, Nina Berman, Lauren Greenfield, Dorothea Lange, Lynsey Addario… I could go on and on…

These are all women, what’s up with that?
I think women have such an important role in society and in our industry and we don’t get enough credit anywhere. There’s such a double standard- we still have to work harder to get what we want. In general, women approach their work with a lot more sensitivity, and that’s important to me

All time fave photo books?
Robert Frank, The Americans

Diane Arbus, Monograph

Donna Ferrato, Living with the Enemy

Sally Mann, At Twelve

Susan Meiselas, Carnival Strippers

Brenda Ann Kenneally, Money Power Respect

Mary Ellen Mark, Ward 81

Alex Webb, Sunshine State

David Alan Harvey – Cuba

Danny Wilcox Frasier- Driftless

 What was the most helpful part of your ‘education’ that wasn’t photo related.
A lot of moving and traveling taught me how to shift my perspective and see things from the outside and how to adjust easily. Also waiting tables for many years taught me a whole lot about people, their habits, and human character in general. Also, I got to try and learn about a lot of amazing food.

How do you define ‘success’ in your own career?
I think with every new project. I try to take it one day at a time and make the most out of everything I do. Being happy in life and finding some semblance of balance is really important to me. Also, I really want to make the people I interact with smile, so I try to be a source of positivity in people’s lives.

Any exciting projects in 2012?
So many great stories, so little time. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Florida exploring how the Gulf Coast commercial fishing industry has changed. Its complicated and exciting to deal with the environment, food, and politics all wrapped up in one package.

Hobbies outside of photography, aka, how do you stay sane?
I’m not: I think its more fun to live a little on the edge and take risks. But I do exercise a lot- I’m a student and teacher of Ron Fletcher pilates which, much like photography, never ceases to challenge me and I need that constantly. Also, I try to spend as much time as possible enjoying the outdoors.

I think its more fun to live a little on the edge and take risks

How do you think you distinguish yourself from the competition?
Relationships. I’m a people person. Being able to make people comfortable and to be present and empathize. Also, exceptional reporting skills and strong intuition: it’s key to being prepared to capture those moments that really push a story above and beyond.

People are thinking of the industry in a very negative way and I think it’s exciting what people are doing, all the possibilities. I feel constantly challenged by my peers and everyone is so dedicated. I’ve never seen it as doom and gloom, I see it as opportunity to make room for new ideas.

Favorite BBQ?
I’m a (mostly) vegetarian, but I do like the occasional bite of great BBQ. Franklin’s in Austin is the best hands down, but I sure miss my side of Southern greens.

Favorite breakfast taco?
Taco Haven in San Antonio – Bean and Cheese with Nopalitos and Avocado. It’s not on the menu- I made it up and its awesome.

Favorite margarita?
Rosario’s in San Antonio – The Mexican Handshake.

Striphouse_2

Where are you based?
I’m based here in Houston, Texas. I don’t have a studio per se because most of my work is on location. I live in Katy, which is sort of outside of everything. But it’s good for family, it’s just a lot of driving.

So why Katy?
It’s really just where I landed when I moved here from New York. My wife’s family all live out there and we have a daughter who is seven now and the family recommended we move there for her. It’s worked out but I think I’d prefer to live closer in.

So you used to live in New York?

It’s been a long road to get to the point where I’m at, but it was fun. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it

I lived in New York for ten years. I went up there to study photography at the International Center of Photography there and then assisted a bunch of people. I never got a degree in photography but as I was working, I would take courses at night here and there as I could while my wife was going to college. It was a very long road. It’s not an easy way to go. But over the years, I’ve amassed the experience to finally go out on my own. At this point, I’ve been shooting freelance for myself for nearly eight years. It’s been a long road to get to the point where I’m at, but it was fun. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Who were some of the people you assisted?
There were a lot. The notable people would be Ben Fink. I was his first assistant consistently for two and a half years and he’s probably the most influential person on my own career. He’s a food and travel photographer, very well-respected. He’s shot a lot of cookbooks, and things like that. He’s really the person that changed the direction of my career. I really wanted to do more photojournalism and documentary work, but that’s how I veered off course. But it’s all worked out, I’m happy with that.

I’ve also assisted Bruce Davidson, a Magnum photographer. I loved his work, I still do. In a distant way, he still influences my work. I really go for honest portraiture and a straightforward approach to my work. I tend to try and capture things in the moment as opposed to directing things much. People seem to like that approach.

If you could synthesize everything you’ve learned from them, how would you sum it up?
The main thing that I learned was that it’s really about your eye and not so much about all the production and you don’t need a whole entourage of people and tons of equipment and unlimited funds. It’s all about opening your eyes and discovering what’s there and making something bigger and better and more beautiful out of it. I think both Bruce Davidson and Ben Fink, both had that sort of effect on me, you know? They just have a very amazing eye. They just see right into a situation and zero in on that thing that’s amazing and beautiful and fascinating and powerful. It’s the kind of thing that stays in the back of my mind in my head while I’m shooting.

it’s really about your eye and not so much about all the production

How long did you assist Bruce Davidson?
[My time with Bruce] was fairly short. I took a class from him at the Jewish Community Center. That’s where we were introduced. He was recommended to me by an instructor at ICP. They saw some similarity to my work and approach to street photography and documentary work and thought that we would gel. So I searched him out and that’s how I found that he was giving this class at the Jewish Community Center. So I went there and started out by being his class assistant and then that led into assisting him on a few jobs. He’s a very special guy. No pretense, no attitude, just a kind, helpful guy, straightforward and giving. He shared a lot with me. It didn’t last long before I landed a full-time job with Ben Fink. I assisted a lot of other people, a lot of fashion and still life and architectural photographers and all kinds of people but not one of them I think back to and look at my own work and say that they had some sort of influence. It’s really only those two.

Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Tougaloo, Mississippi, just outside of Jackson, Mississippi.

How has being from a small town in Mississippi affected your work?
I’m not sure. I think that where I grew up and how I grew up was probably pretty different from most people. It was a college campus and it was a closed environment. I didn’t venture out much to see beyond that. It was a little biosphere environment of it’s own. When I did leave there, I think I had so much to discover and everything was so new that I think that just coming from a small town where your exposure to things is so limited that it’s very easy to find wonder all around you. I think that really helped me as far as going out and exploring finding all these things that to other people are run of the mill or everyday and might pass up. I think I’ve seen quite a bit since then, but I still try and keep that. At my core I think I’m still that person where I’m still amazed by things.

At my core I think I’m still that person where I’m still amazed by things

What was your first big break?
That’s hard to say. I’ve had a lot of little breaks that have led into where I am. One thing I haven’t talked about is how I got into all this to begin with or how I left Mississippi which is probably my biggest break was when I was 16, I was studying ballet. I got a scholarship to leave Mississippi and come to Houston and dance with the Houston Ballet’s academy. Then that eventually took me into being a professional dancer with Houston Ballet. That allowed me to escape that little world I was in and see all this new potential for my life and discover all these new things. That was probably my first big break. Though it had nothing to do with photography, that was the thing that set me on this path to new things.

That didn’t last long – I was  a professional dancer for about two seconds before I injured myself and then that was that. But, it got me out and got me exposure to new things and allowed me to discover photography and put me on this path.

Since then I’ve had lots of small breaks. One of them, when I moved back from New York to Houston, I immediately got picked up by Houston Magazine and they’ve been incredibly generous and loyal. I’ve shot for them now for at least five years. I don’t think I’ve missed an issue. They’ve hired me consistently and allowed me to build my portfolio and get all this access to things. I don’t think I would have had that same break in New York to where I’d have been able to get sort of loyalty and shoot that much for one person.

If I see an opportunity, I’ve learned that you have to grab it

That has led to so many other things. I’ve shot cookbooks as a result of that where I’ve been able to travel to Finland and France. I’ve landed this amazing opportunity with Midway Corporation and City Centre to be their designated photographer which has given me a lot of consistency which, when you’re a freelancer, is hard to come by. It just continues to open up things constantly come my way and fall in my lap to a certain degree.

To a certain degree I’m an opportunist. If I see an opportunity, I’ve learned that you have to grab it. Maybe it’s not necessarily the perfect opportunity but it is an opportunity and you take it and you run with it and you make it something bigger and better. If I’ve had any success, the secret to my success is I take those opportunities and I run with them.

How did you establish your personal vision?
Being in ballet, in theatre, really gave me an appreciation for drama and the theatrics and a love of the dramatic image. I may not always be successful, but I always go for a dramatic, impactful image the same way when I was dancing that was the sort of performance I’d try to put out there – something that had power and resonated. It’s a goal, I don’t know if I ever really accomplished that.

What was your best career decision?
My best career decision was to stop assisting and get out there and work on my own work. I had assisted for nearly four years and it was turning into a situation where I could have been a career assistant. That’s totally great for some people – there are a lot of full-time assistants I really respect – but for myself it just wasn’t satisfying, it wasn’t where I needed to go. So it was just taking that leap and deciding that I was going to be broke for many years and struggle and just get out there and do my own thing. Had I not done that I’d either still be assisting or doing something entirely different.

My best career decision was to stop assisting and get out there and work on my own work

How do you define success in your own career?
It’s cliché, but to me it’s being happy everyday with what you’re doing. I’m not the type to worry too much about finances or getting rich or anything else like that. I didn’t grow up with money.  I don’t feel much need to have it. As long as I’m working and people appreciate what I’m doing, I find what I’m doing fascinating and I’m happy, I feel successful.

How do you stay motivated?
I think a big part of it is my family, my daughter. Her and my wife, they’re both inspiring to me. I want to do well for them. I just want to do something they’d be proud of. That’s a certain motivation there, but I think that I have this innate desire to explore and see things and the idea that I’d ever have to stop and get an office job and at best, I wouldn’t be able to handle that. It’s that desire to be constantly moving and out there and discovering that keeps me motivated, keeps me going.

Do you have a favorite thing about shooting in Texas?
I think I enjoy the access. I think that a lot of places, they’re so many photographers, they’re so jaded towards that it’s a real process into a place with a camera. When I was in New York, there’s all these permits you need to do something on the street. You need permits here, too, but there’s just as intense…you know I could probably call any institution I wanted to and say I want to come in and take pictures and they would be open to that. There’s just a friendlier environment I feel like towards photography and photographers.

Do you have a dream assignment?
I think my dream assignment is more of a travel/documentary assignment. I’ve always been a huge fan of Saveur magazine. I just love their approach. They’re like the National Geographic of food. It’s more about the culture as opposed to…like what I do now is I shoot a lot of restaurant “stuff” – restaurant reviews and things for their website and hotels…it’s all great but it’s missing the culture behind the food as opposed to what a lot of these things are. It’s more surface and selling something. I would really love to get back to what attracted me to photography in the first place which is connecting with people and discovering cultures I wasn’t familiar with before.

What’s the weirdest thing in your camera bag?
Yesterday the weirdest thing in my camera bag, I discovered I had a hammer in there. When I was cleaning up my gallery, I was moving things around and somehow this hammer had fell into my bag. I didn’t even realize because I was in such a hurry, I went off to my shoot and it was so incredibly heavy I was like, “wow, why is my bag so heavy today?” And at the end of the day I’m exhausted and I open up the side back pocket, the one I don’t use that much and I open it up and there’s this big hammer in there and I’m like “oh there you go, that would explain it.”

Do you have a latest gear obsession?
That’s the funny thing about me is that I don’t care much about gear, I’m not that gear-oriented. I’ve had the same three lenses for seven years: a 50mm, a 16-35mm, and a 100mm macro. Those seem to do fine for me, and if I ever need something else, I’ll rent it.

the funny thing about me is that I don’t care much about gear

What are some of your all time favorite photo books?
One that has influenced me quite a bit is Nick Waplington who did “The Wedding.”. That book spoke a lot to me because there’s something very familiar about that whole environment there that is… if you see it, you’ll wonder how I grew up when you look at how strange it’s subjects are there, but there’s something very comfortable and familiar to me about that. It opened my eyes that as unsophisticated I am and my circle is probably that my demographic, my vision has worth and value and I can go out there and shoot the people I love and it’s valuable. It’s weird to say probably if you look at my portfolio because I shoot a lot for Houston Magazine which is very the wealthy and upper class and probably not like anything like where I’m from. That is the thing that impacted me. This is real, this is something familiar to me. I can see the beauty in this even if most people don’t.

What projects are you working on in 2012?
I’m very freelance, so from one day to the next I never know what I’m going to be doing. The big major thing I’m working on that has nothing to do with my own photography, but I’m excited about is this art gallery I’m opening with my partner Luqman Kaka. All these years we’ve wanted to do something together, some project that allowed us to explore some of our ideas that we’ve had. We’re a couple of daydreamers.

We’re constantly coming up with crazy ideas that have no ability or venue to make it actually happen. This opportunity suddenly popped open out of nowhere where I discovered this gallery space was becoming available and I thought this might be an opportunity here. So we’re going to do this gallery that’s focused on photography, but we’ll venture into other mediums occasionally and that’s going to get started July 2. I’m really excited about it. Who knows what will happen or where it’ll go.

What’s the gallery called?
It’s called Be Human Gallery. I’m definitely motivated to get Texas photographers in there.

What’s your favorite barbecue?
I’m a traditionalist. I still really love Goode Company Barbecue. I haven’t found a place I like better than that.

Do you have a favorite breakfast taco?
Cochinita pibil taco at a place called The Bullet in Katy, Texas.

Do you have any hobbies outside of photography?
Yeah, I really like gardening. I’ve always had a secret desire to be a landscape designer. So I mess around with a little bit of that at home. Not that great but I enjoy it. I also enjoy mechanics. I like to work on my car. My wife’s got a Mini Cooper. If you have a Mini Cooper, you know they break down constantly and they’re garbage but I love it because it keeps me busy. I’m always doing something with that car and right now it’s in a million pieces in my garage.

Do you have a favorite Texas getaway?
I really love going to Austin. We have friends out there we visit occasionally.