Still Life

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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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Dallas-based commercial photographer Aaron Doughterty shares some background on his work:

“I was drawn to the photography through my fascination of symmetry. At a young age the 35mm frame became a template to fill. I grew up near Chicago which gave me a surplus of industrial design to aim at, it consumed me.

Photographers Lewis, Baltz Bernd/Hilla Becherand and Harry Callahan’s work influenced me to understand that simple can be stark, beautiful and complex in other ways. Texture and shape are paramount to how I light and frame my compositions.

In my commercial work I love to approach a scene with simplicity in mind and emphasize the subtle to not so subtle details that others passively overlook.”

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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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Visual storytelling encompasses various mediums, from homemade keepsakes to professionally composed photographs, to imagined otherworldly scenes. Peggy Weiss‘ work in digital collage layers these kinds of images to create work that is at once familiar and dreamlike. Weiss uses her own photography as well as the snapshots of friends’ photo albums of yesteryear and new digital collage techniques to create her pieces. Weiss has also begun to add layers of painted details to her collages.

Weiss received her education at the University of Texas and Laguna Gloria Art School in Austin and has remained here, exhibiting her works and expanding her mediums. I  met with Weiss at her studio space in the Canopy building where we discussed her work.

When did you begin photographing and why?
In the days before Photoshop, I hand-colored prints and old photos, using those great Marshall’s Oil Paints. That was when I started collecting vintage photos. I had fun with the paints, but I found it very limiting–I wanted to take the process further. With the advent of computers and Photoshop, I had the tools I needed. I then started photographing images to use in my compositions, along with the old photos.

So, when did you create your first digital collage?
My first collage was in 2004, the year my mom died. I had an old picture of her and my dad that I scanned, and I started playing around with it. I’ve reworked that image over the years, and it’s now one of my pieces in the Harry Ransom Center Photography Collection.

I talked to you a little about how your Friends & Strangers series and know that you used old photos are inspiration. Where did the images that inspired your photos come from?
Old photos have always spoken to me. I started with my family’s old photos, then my friend’s family photographs. When I exhausted those, I scoured junk shops and eBay for more.  The Family, Friends and Strangers series is ongoing, although finding old photos to work with is getting more difficult.

Usually, when I start a piece, I have no preconceived notion of what I’m going to do.

What is the process in making them?
I collect photos, scan them, and put them in a library on the computer. When I find a window of time, I’ll select an image to start working on in Photoshop. I shoot constantly with my Sony Nex 7, and archive these images for backgrounds, skies and other elements to use in a collage. Usually, when I start a piece, I have no preconceived notion of what I’m going to do. The process is very experimental and organic, and just comes out of my crazy head.  I add layer after layer, after layer, sometimes ending with as many as 100 layers in one image.  The beauty of Photoshop is “command z,” the undo command. I can delete anything that doesn’t work and then try something new.

You mentioned that you have started to paint on some of the prints. What does this allow you to do?
Painting on top of the photo is just adding another layer, creating an effect you can’t get on the computer. It enlivens the piece and gives it texture.  I’m getting bolder with this process, and I’m collaborating with a young painter; we’re having fun with it.

What do you think digital collage gives you that just photography cannot?
As a photographer and collage artist, new techniques and technology allow me to fulfill my desire to create stories. I can’t help playing with my pictures. When I look at a photo, I think about how I would alter it, and what other photos would be good to combine with it. One photo might have a person’s expression I like, but the body isn’t working for the scene. So, off with their head, and onto another body. (Growing up with three sisters, we played paper dolls endlessly.)

When you photograph to use your work in your digital collages, do you go out with an idea of what you need for a certain collage or do you use a particular one of your photos to inspire a digital collage?
Some of both. I’m always on the lookout for something appealing to use in a collage…a strange sky, a dog, a long fence. I have a friend with a great collection of mid-century modern furniture and I’ve been to his house several times to photograph his vintage stuff–TV, chairs, lamps, fabric.

As a photographer and collage artist, new techniques and technology allow me to fulfill my desire to create stories

At first glance, I thought My Morning Swim series were photographs because they are less surreal than your other series. Did you take the photos for My Morning Swim? Where did the inspiration for these come from?
My Morning Swim was sort of accidental. I was on my way out the door to swim at Barton Springs, and spotted my son’s GoPro camera on his desk, so I took it. I swam laps with it on my head, not really knowing what images I was getting. The stills from the video were too low res to do anything with, but I loved the underwater images of the other swimmers. I started taking single shots with it, and swam with it 6 or 7 times that summer. I then digitally enhanced the frames selected for the series.

Will you describe your collaboration with your son you have coming up?
We’re starting work on an art video that will be part of an upcoming show at Davis Gallery, Austin.  My son, Aaron, is a film maker, and has agreed to help his mum transfer a vision to video. Characters from my collages will come alive (think Pee Wee’s Playhouse meets David Lynch). It will be about a 5 minute loop.

What do you hope your art will look like in a year? Or five?
I like pursuing new techniques and technologies.

I like taking pictures.

I like transforming an image into something new and unique.

I’m pretty sure I’ll just continue down that road and see where it takes me.

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Cody Hamilton is an Austin-based advertising and editorial photographer specializing in the creation of images with a visual twist and an off-beat humor. His style reflects his love of the great surrealist painters with a modern and clean aesthetic. He is also the founder of the newly-opened Whitebox Studio.

Are you from Austin originally?
I grew up in Wyoming and went to school at the Art Institute in Colorado. I lived in Missouri for a bit then moved to Austin about four years ago.

What inspired you to open a studio space?
It’s something I have always wanted to do. I’ve had the name for the studio in mind for about six years. The time finally came around, and we got the right people together to do it.

Is the main focus of the space to foster collaboration? Or was it to fill a void in the Austin studio scene?
Both. All the members wanted a space to create more community but also offer it as space to rent. More and more studios are closing which makes it harder to find a space to shoot in. So, that was a big motivational factor for me to get everybody together and to get us a space. I wanted something that was nice enough and that we could all afford. Collaboration and community are a big part of what we do.  Also, we’re hoping to do quarterly industry parties as soon as we get settled in a little more and finish building the studio.

Collaboration and community are a big part of what we do

I saw the “Making of” video on your Brew Methods project.  How did you come up with that concept?
Well, I was talking to my dad actually, about trying to come up with ideas on personal projects and he asked me what I was passionate about and of course, he knew that it’s photography and coffee. So that got me thinking of ways to try to showcase coffee that have not been done before and trying to do something that’s not cheesy or the typical coffee related photo. I played around with building some lettering before so that naturally came together. Then, building the words on the different ways of brewing coffee came after. It took a ton of time but it was fun… six pounds of coffee later.

How long did it take to produce from start to finish?
Since it was a personal project that I did on the side, it took about three months because it was done in the evenings in between jobs. The longest thing was gluing all the beans on. My wife helped a little with that but did not like gluing beans as much as I did. Then, the actual cutting of the letters and space structure actually only took a couple of days.

What is the best part of producing a new body of work, from conception to the finished product?
Actually doing it. Having people see the work is fun and hearing that they enjoy looking at it is great but for me my favorite part is the actual process. I started doing more and more constructed pieces to where it’s almost like creating sculptures and then photographing them. That’s probably one of my most favorite things about it because there is the challenge of figuring out how to do that but also how to do it in a way that photographs well. That’s why I’ve done some of the behind the scenes stop motion stuff because I want people to see that’s it’s not CGI. It’s actually being crafted versus being done on the computer. As good as CGI is there’s still this soul that’s missing from it.

What are your views on extreme postproduction in any of your images, advertising or otherwise?
I have nothing against excessive retouching as long as it’s done tastefully.

What is your thought process in set design as far as using props and developing color schemes? Do you have a background in set building?
As a kid, I grew up building different things. When I was in high school my dad and I built a log house. My grandpa was an electrician so he showed me how to wire the house. It was always a part of my life growing up and I like to apply that in my photography. Color scheme is important but I like to let my wife handle that. She’s the color guru.

Is there a new project that you’re working on now? If so, could you tell us about it?
I’m experimenting a lot right now trying to figure out how my style translates into motion. I’ve been avoiding the transition but there appears to be a need in the direction my clients are taking. Not necessarily full on commercialized videos but clips that can be used for additional billboards and things like that. My next project, I’m playing with the idea of that but nothing too specific yet. There will be something soon though.

I’m experimenting a lot right now trying to figure out How my style translates into motion.

 

How did you know you wanted to be an advertising photographer? Was it your first choice?
No, actually. It’s funny because if people were to look at my portfolio when I was in school, they would have had no clue that it was the same person. Everything in it was a lot of editorial portraits. So now if you look at my website you can’t find editorial portraits even though I still shoot them. Advertising just seemed to happen naturally. I always found myself going back towards my digital roots of Photoshop and retouching. Compositing was always a thing I loved doing in high school and it just seemed to rear it’s head up every now and then with whatever I was shooting at the time. After living here for a couple of years and getting a lot of guidance from Adam Voorhes, it definitely steered me in that direction. The same thing happened with The Butler Brothers. I sat down with Marty Butler one day and and asked him to look through my portfolio and give any advise he could muster. He specifically pointed out a lot of my conceptual work and said not many people in Austin can pull this off so perhaps focus there.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to pursue commercial photography?
I think specializing is a smart thing to do. It seems that people tend to generalize their work, but I think if you want to do advertising then specializing is a must because clients are going to come to you with a specific thing and you want to be the person they go to. I think if it’s too general they won’t come. Another is to shoot a ton and just shoot what you love.

I think specializing is a SMART thing to do

What photographers are you inspired by lately?
Simon Duhmal is one. Duhmal has a collaborative studio in Canada called Made of Stills. Duhmal and some of the other guys at Made of Stills do a lot of projects similar to what I do.

I am also drawn to the work of European photographers. I go to the site Ads of the World often, and I’m most drawn to the photographers from European counties like Poland and the Czech Republic. Brussels has a lot of cool work too. That whole area seems to be willing to take more risks in advertising.

Do you have any favorite photography books?
Archives’ 200 Best Advertising Photographers is my favorite thing on earth to flip through.

There are also great blogs out there like, A Photo Editor and No Plastic Sleeves.

What are your favorite places to hang out in Austin?

El Tacorrido Drive-thru and Salvation Pizza are some of my favorites.

I also like hanging out at the dog park with my daughter and dog.

Editor notes:
Whitebox Studio has one more spot open & they’re looking for someone that can fill it. They also want students that are looking for internship possibilities and maybe have collaboration with surroundings schools with that.

+ Get ready! Whitebox Studio will be having Grand Opening party as soon as they finish the last of the construction process.

 

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How did you get into photography? Were you formally trained?
After graduating from college with a degree in Social Work, I moved to Bolivia to help a non profit working with women in prostitution for two years. I came back really burned out and was looking for some kind of new hobby to help take my mind off things. After looking at a Cartier-Bresson book my parents had on their coffee table, I thought I’d try it out.  I ended up building a darkroom in my second bathroom, became infatuated and quit my job 6 months later!

After looking at a Cartier-Bresson book my parents had on their coffee table, I thought I’d try it out

I never took  formal classes, but experimented, made mistakes, asked lots of questions and have tried to always be a learner.

Did you assist or have any mentors along the way? What did you learn from them?
I started working with artist Michael Nye in 2005 on a documentary about Hunger in the United States. We traveled to about 30 different communities across the country over a 4 year period. He shoots black and white film with an 8×10 camera and still prints in the darkroom, so I was learning the whole time–exposure, camera movements, processing film, printing, mounting, framing, exhibition installation, etc. But more than that, Michael and I would talk deeply about all kinds of issues and he constantly encouraged me to explore my curiosities. His support has been invaluable to me and we continue to have breakfast together as much as we can.

In 2007 I started assisting commercially a bit to make some extra money, but I never had the intentions of shooting commercially. I got to work with some incredibly talented people that were always super generous. After I finished the project with Michael in 2009, I started taking on some small assignments and that led to bigger jobs. I now focus on photographing architecture and doing long term book projects with arts organizations. I really enjoy doing what I do.

Did you have a first big break?
I would say a big break came in 2009 when my project, You Are What You Eat, won Director’s Choice in CENTER’s Project Competition. That really helped get me introduced to curators, arts organizations, magazine editors, etc. The project has now traveled to 15 communities and been published in over 20 magazines internationally. I have always found that my personal work helps drive my other assignment-based projects.

I have always found that my personal work helps drive my other assignment-based projects

Any favorite assignments?
A few years ago I got to work with nine artists doing large public art installations along the San Antonio River Walk. We only had access to the river at night, so we would be down there until one or two in the morning (this was before I had kids). Lots of long nights, but so much fun. Getting to document fabrication, installation and final shots of them all really gave me a chance to get to know the artists and their process. I’m still photographing for many of them around the country and the project was published as a book in 2011.

Are you represented by an agency?
I am not, but for a while I was working with Wonderful Machine. I really like them, but as I reevaluated certain aspects of my business, I shifted focus.

How do you go about marketing your work? Do you use social media? Print?
My approach has always been to try and create natural connections with people locally that may be in need of the type of photography I do. I also try really hard to nurture long term relationships with the clients I have. This works really well with my personality and I’m thankful that almost all of my work comes from word of mouth.

I’m not on Facebook and only use Instagram to stay connected with friends.The internet has been good to me though and I’m always grateful to have new work come through my website.

What gets you inspired? Do you have a dream assignment?
I look at a lot of work online, photo books, read the newspaper, listen to NPR, read books, share ideas with friends, play with my sons, listen to what’s going on around me–all of these help inspire.

I really like working on long term, collaborative book projects. These have always been the funnest for me.

Did you spend time in New York or LA getting your career established?
I did not, but I go to New York once a year to try and keep connections going.

What do you love about being a photographer in Texas?
I love working in Texas because it’s home. I can be with my sons and get access to the Fire Department I just photographed or run into a client at dinner in a restaurant they designed. I love passing by places I have photographed–its kind of like that feeling of being a regular somewhere. San Antonio is great! We love it for its diversity, friendliness, affordability, open spaces and tacos. There is a ton of new stuff happening here. We don’t want to be anywhere else!

We love it for its diversity, friendliness, affordability, open spaces and tacos

Whose work inspires you?

Any favorite photo books?
I have been looking at these books a lot the past few weeks:

Any advice for young photographers just getting started?
Try to maintain balance and always work on self-initiated projects.

4_stumptron

Adam Voorhes is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Austin. A few of his many clients include Texas Monthly, ESPN, and Esquire.

As the owner of four dogs, I love your animal portraits. Do people ever hire you to take pictures of their pets?
Although 99% of the photos I take with my phone are of my bulldogs… No. Never.

I did photograph an art director’s Weimaraners in Christmas outfits once. I made him swear to never tell anyone that I took the photos.

I will say, my little buddy bulldog, Catfish, has been in more magazines than most models could ever hope to be in. He’s one handsome little dude.

Were you always interested in photography?
I was interested in illustration until I was about 15 (I still love to draw). A  highschool photo class changed everything. The romance of the darkroom, the science meeting art, the small group of historical figures to look up to–it was just too easy to identify with. As soon as I saw an image I’d captured appear under that red light, I was hooked.

As soon as I saw an image I’d captured appear under that red light, I was hooked

How did you get started?
Student loans and worked my ass off. Same as most people I’d guess?

What made you decide to go to Brooks to study photography? 
I was going to college studying computer science and history. Although that was supposed to be my focus, I managed to take every photo class the school offered in 18 months. I never really understood that I could make a career of this. It was like not knowing the moon exists. I’d never noticed it and no one ever pointed out the blatantly obvious.

One day I went with some fellow photo nerds to Carmel. Carmel is a coastal California village that Clint Eastwood was mayor for some time with phenomenal art galleries. We went to all of the galleries. All of the famous f64 stuff was showing (like Weston, Adams, Bernhard, Sexton, and so on) and the new ones like Michael Kenna. At the show there was a ‘landscape’ of parking meters in fog that struck me because it was a landscape approached like a still life. The composition of the piece was so intentional. At that time I still didn’t know that I was inherently a still life photographer. I asked the gallery curator about the work. She knew I was just some kid and couldn’t buy anything, but she took print after print out of the files, took them out of their sleeves, and let me handle them, ogling over their craftsmanship.

The photographer was Rolfe Horn. He’d gone to Brooks. That day I decided I would too. Lots of student loan forms later I was there. And in my third year I met Rolfe. He was guest lecturing my class, and that night I found myself on a beach with him drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, smoking backwoods cigars and taking 45 minute exposures with my 4×5.

A few weeks later there was a raffle in my class for a print Rolf had made from that night. I remember the look on my instructor’s face when he pulled my name. He swore to me that he did pull my name and showed me the scrap of paper. It was fate.

Hell, I don’t even believe in fate, but how can you deny that?

I love that photo.

Do you think photo school is a necessary foundation for photographers?
No. But things are a lot different now. Things are different every year. What does seem to be constant is that photography is an entrepreneurial venture. And if you can be prepared for that, you will be better off.

What are your go-to cameras or your favorite cameras you have experimented with in the past? 
A view camera is my most comfortable and truest tool (currently using an Arca Swiss 6x9cm with a Phase One P65+). Although it is very time consuming, so I also use a Hasselblad V system when I need to work faster. It is still all manual, but much quicker than a view camera.

I guess I like the old school stuff.

Do you have a mentor in the field?
No. Not like that. I have my wife. She is my collaborator, my inspiration, my director, and in a lot of ways she is pretty much my handler. I would flounder a lot more without her to point me in the right direction.

What has been your best career decision?
When I was starting I built the basic still life portfolio similar to what most of my competition has. Cosmetics, a shiny phone, a few gadgets and fashion accessories. Everyone has a similar portfolio and it gets old pretty quick. After a while I got bored with the assignments I was getting. People hired me to do the dry stuff that was in my portfolio. I started thinking about my work in a new way. I wanted to inspire ideas in art directors and designers. I wanted to make still life that told stories and conveyed concepts. That is now the ultimate goal with my personal work. I’m trying very hard to develop a strong portfolio that shows still life in an atypical way, while staying true to tradition. Since changing my perspective about my work and portfolio, my assignments have gotten much more interesting.

I wanted to make still life that told stories and conveyed concepts

What is your favorite thing about photographing in Texas?
Living in Austin. I have a remarkable quality of life here. When I was living and working in New York I missed things like trees and smiles on people’s faces. The trade off is that very little of my work comes from Texas, so I have to work that much harder to bring work to Austin from cities like New York.

Why would a magazine hire me a thousand miles away where there is someone just as good (or much better) down the street? I have no idea! I’ve managed to trick a few of them into thinking I’m not too bad. I hope I can keep it up because I like it here.

Do you think that living in New York was important to your success and making initial connections?
I learned a lot in New York and gained insight into the industry. Most of my clients are in New York, so having lived there is handy. I would recommend living in New York to anyone. But did I make contacts while living there? No. I had to become known before anyone would want to be my contact. It’s a bit of a puzzle really.

Do you have a dream assignment?
No. I just want to do good work with fun people.

How do you stay motivated?
Staying motivated isn’t an issue. I have a long list of ideas that I’d like to bring to fruition. The hard part is making time. My clients always come first, and my personal work is an after thought.

I have a long list of ideas that I’d like to bring to fruition

What was your first big break?
I had some editorial projects with Shape & a few other magazines right out of school. I also landed Stephen Dweck as a jewelry client after I moved to Brooklyn. However, the one job that really stands out to me is the first GSD&M ad I shot for BMW when I was struggling to get going here in Austin. I’d really been making my living as a camera assistant before moving here, so I was starting at square one. I was struggling to get by, selling old camera gear to pay rent.

I didn’t have strobes, so I used clip lights from the hardware store and foam core to build my light setup. But light is light, as long as you point it in the right direction you can make one hell of an image. And my little career started to grow after completing that job.

How did you establish your personal vision? Was there one project that gave you that “ah ha” moment, where you knew this is where you wanted to take your work?
I don’t think it works like that. You can have an ‘ah ha’ moment where you discover something you want to rip off / emulate, but I think you are who you are. You can express unique ideas from your own perspective, or you copy others.

Do you have any favorite photo books?
Oh yeah. Venenum, Guido Mocafico is the pride of my bookshelf. Gift of the Common Place, Ruth Bernhard was one of my earliest inspirations. Still Life, Irving Penn. A Notebook at Random, Irving Penn. Pretty much any Irving Penn book really. I’m also pretty fond of Blunt, Nigel Parry. And any Yousuf Karsh. I’m very inspired by classic portraiture. And if I can stray from pure photography, I find a lot of joy in the works of Dave Mckean & Mark Ryden.

What was the most helpful part of your ‘education’ that wasn’t photo related?
Marketing. Photography – Marketing = Fail.

Who are you inspired by?
My wife. But if you mean old or dead people? Irving Penn represents everything I aspire to achieve and never will.

How do you define ‘success’ in your own career?
It is complicated. Each achievement is a stepping stone to the next level of possibilities. There isn’t really a final goal to reach. So true success is never reached. We just keep working.

What’s next? Any exciting projects coming up in 2012?
Ha, you’ll have to wait and see.

Favorite bbq?

Franklin’s, isn’t that everyone’s?

Favorite breakfast taco?

Mine. I make them at home with eggs from my backyard chickens.

Favorite libation?

Mine I make at home! I’m a hobby mixologist. I’ll say my favorite starts are gin or bourbon.

Do you collect anything?

I don’t like ‘stuff.’ So my go to answer is no. But I do have a small box filled with vintage Polaroids & one off prints I’ve been collecting for a few years. I like images that tell intimate stories about people’s lives. They document history in a very personal way. It is true Americana at its brightest and darkest.

Any hobbies outside of photography?

I’m a serious gardener. It’s something that requires a level of dedication and can take my mind off of work for a while.

thomdip

Thom Jackson started as a disc jockey but has now worked as a photographer for almost every fashion magazine under the sun.

What was your first camera?
Yashica Twin Lens Reflex

Do you remember the first photo you took that got you “hooked”?
Not the first subject but most significantly the first print that appeared in the developer tray. I’ve never gotten over the magic of that moment. It’s hard to imagine there are photographers shooting today who have never had that experience.

What are your go to cameras?
Canon 5DMarkIII and Nikon D800.

Your favorite cameras you have experimented with in the past? 
Hasselblad CM  and the SX 70 Polaroid.

Once I saw the movie Blow Up I was convinced photography was my next career

How did you get started?
Working as a DJ for a radio station, I photographed every band (press pass!) that came to town. Once I saw the movie Blow Up I was convinced photography was my next career.

Do you always have music going on a photo shoot? Are there any go-to songs?
Yes. The music varies according to the shoot. Recently we’ve played mixes from David Dann, models frequently bring in music from friends’ bands or clients have favorite music. It’s a collaborative thing.

As someone who has recently started working more with models, I am curious as a photographer how you go about the photo shoot and creating a connection. Is there anything you do to make your models feel more comfortable at a shoot?
I talk to them while they are getting hair and make up in order to establish a relationship and a comfort level between the two of us. While shooting I try to create a bond between us that blocks out all the activity in the studio that can be disruptive. It was much easier to accomplish this before digital. The stopping and looking at the screen is often frustrating for both of us. It breaks the flow of shooting and the mood can be lost.

What has been your best career decision?
1st becoming a photographer, 2nd living in and shooting in New York City for 18 years.

Do you think that it is essential to live in New York or LA to “make it” in the fashion world?  New York, yes. Living and working in New York City and Europe is essential for success. It provides the experience and a frame of reference for all things important to photography. I can’t imagine not having that experience.

What is your favorite thing about photographing in Texas?
The positive attitude of the crew. Everyone works hard but we still have fun.

What was your first big break?
The selection of two of my nudes for a fine art book “The Nude In Photography.” My first commercial break
was shooting the Neiman Marcus Fur Book in Germany, Estonia, Scandinavia, and Russia.

How did you establish your personal vision?
Shooting in Italy every summer for Italian Bazaar and Vogue was a huge part of my education. Having the opportunity to photograph top models in the collections as they were introduced was an incredible experience. I hope my personal vision comes through in my current work at Craighead Green Gallery.

Who are you inspired by?
At one time I would have said this photographer or that photographer but in the long run it’s really my family, especially my wife Rebecca.

Do you have any favorite photo books?
I’m currently printing my own platinum/ palladium prints so I’m researching the process and looking at prints.

How do you define ‘success’ in your own career? 
Success comes with the next photograph.

What’s next?
I found I really enjoy doing video. After directing and shooting two Burning Hotels music videos and a fashion video with Lydia Hearst for models.com, I plan to do more.

How did you get involved with the Impossible Project?
Like most great opportunities I fell into it. I submitted some of my Impossible Project Polaroids to them
and they asked me to test some of their new films which led to be included in their current New York show “Momentum.” I was also featured on their blog in December and I will be featured again this week as An Artist in Residence. They really are a great group to work with and the restart of the Polaroid product is an interesting and ambitious story.

Do you have a preference for working with film or digital?
Advantages and disadvantages to both. Honestly, I don’t miss the fear of waiting for clip tests to come back after returning from a two week assignment on an island in the middle of nowhere. It is great to know with digital we have the shot.

 I don’t miss the fear of waiting for clip tests to come back after returning from a two week assignment on an island in the middle of nowhere

How did you get your foot in the door photographing for fashion magazines?
I had a NY rep and also one in Italy. They got me in the door and fortunately the magazines liked my work. It was a great opportunity.

Can you elaborate a little on how you found representation? Do you think it is essential?
In order to get top representation, you have to have existing clients that you bring to the agency. It’s all about who you know and who knows you. It is absolutely essential.

Where do you go to keep up with what is happening in fashion photography? Do you buy fashion magazines? Any favorites?
I study everything. When I was starting out I spent a fortune on foreign fashion magazines like Italian Vogue, French Vogue, Marie Claire and many more. Now it’s mainly online publications, fashion blogs, and gallery and museum websites.

 When I was starting out I spent a fortune on foreign fashion magazines

I saw that you have some videos on your site. Do you think it is important to incorporate video into your portfolio these days as a photographer?
Video is an expensive, consuming, but essential part of the business. You can’t ignore it or avoid it.

Favorite bbq?
Baker’s Ribs

Favorite breakfast taco?
Good 2 Go

Favorite libation?
Gin and Tonic (Sapphire and Tonic actually)

KDavis0015

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.