Lauren Smith Ford is the Editor and Creative Director of TRIBEZA, a magazine, covering the arts, fashion, architecture and design, music, community events and cuisine. In her spare time, which is a hot commodity since Lauren is also a mama to a toddler, Lauren keeps busy as a freelance, in-demand stylist (check out her website here).

How did you get started at TRIBEZA? Did you know you wanted to be involved in editorial?
I was a journalism major in college and always knew I wanted to work in magazines. My first post-grad experience in the summer of 2004 was as an intern in the editorial department at Texas Monthly, where I got to work as the research coordinator on the Texas Monthly SHOP guides. Getting to know some of the editors and staff at Texas Monthly was a defining moment in my career. The pulse of the office was invigorating, and it opened up a new world for me. I met so many smart, interesting people and learned something every day, whether it was a great book to add to my reading list or how to be a better a reporter.

Getting to know some of the editors and staff at Texas Monthly was a defining moment in my career

Spending time with some of the greatest journalists in the world made me even more determined to work as hard as I possibly could to build a career in the competitive industry. Texas Monthly Executive Editor Pamela Colloff has been an incredible mentor to me both professionally and personally as a role model of the kind of person I aspire to be (she’s magical); staff writer Katy Vine recommended me that summer for a monthly writing gig for ELLEgirl, giving me my first national magazine byline; senior editor John Spong has been an insightful sounding board for story ideas for TRIBEZA over the years; and I helped photographer Peter Yang with a shoot that summer for the SHOPS guides before he moved to New York. We became friends, staying in touch over the years, and I styled an Esquire cover for him when he was shooting in Texas last year. So many great things came from my time at Texas Monthly.

After that summer, I started freelance writing and got some more bylines for Teen Vogue, Glamour and Modern Bride. I saw my first copy of TRIBEZA when one of my roommates brought it home in December of 2005. I was working full-time as an editorial assistant for Winding Road magazine at that time but contacted TRIBEZA, pitching an article for the February 2006 issue. I wrote a few more pieces for the magazine, and the TRIBEZA founder, Zarghun Dean, asked me to have lunch that April, since we had never met. He hired me at lunch, and I can’t believe it has been almost eight years since that day. George Elliman bought the magazine in 2010, and he is extremely supportive of Austin’s creative community. It has been a real gift to work for him.

Spending time with some of the greatest journalists in the world made me even more determined to work as hard as I possibly could to build a career in the competitive industry

Could you describe what you do at TRIBEZA as creative director? 
We have a tiny staff that works on the editorial and design, with just me, an art director and a part-time editorial assistant, so we all wear many hats. I come up with the concepts for and develop the stories we produce—the idea and how it will be presented visually. I decide which photographer is going to shoot which assignment, how many pages each story will get, the order of which stories appear in the magazine, what will go on the cover. Then, I am involved in making more big picture decisions for the brand in terms of what types of community events we will be involved in, marketing plans, selection of vendors and partners for TRIBEZA-sponsored events, etc.

What is a typical work day like?
One of the best parts of my job is that every day is different. I spend the majority of my time researching potential story ideas and brainstorming ways to keep our content exciting and unexpected for our readers. Other days I spend time producing the bigger photo shoots we do or working with both writers and photographers on details of articles and photo shoots. Some weeks, I go out on interviews to write the stories I am particularly interested in. I also spend time styling and art directing the fashion editorials we do.

What do you look for in photographers? 
Enthusiasm—when someone loves photography and is particularly passionate about the subjects we cover, like art, style, food and music, or is just excited about shooting great portraits, that really makes someone stand out. This, coupled with someone who seems easy to work with, is a great fit for TRIBEZA. We are a niche publication and always hope to give our photographers a lot of creative freedom, so it takes someone who just gets our aesthetic. We love collaborating with the many talented shooters in Austin.

We are a niche publication and always hope to give our photographers a lot of creative freedom

How do you find new photographers? Or do they usually find you?
A lot of photographers contact us, but we get in touch with new ones we come across on blogs or those we discover through other avenues. The photography community in Austin is so encouraging—just the other day a great architecture photographer told me about another shooter we should use for food assignments.

Do you get promos, cold calls, and emails? If so, do you have a preference on how you are contacted?
We get all three. Our favorite print promos often make it up on an office bulletin board, and I always like to get occasional email updates with links to new work.

Any tips for photographers coming in and showing their work? Will an iPad cut it for you or do you want to see their book?

Either one is great.

What are some of your sources for inspiration? 
I find inspiration from the 1950s, T Magazine, Grace Coddington, Juergen Teller, Sam Cook, the wide open spaces of Texas, Big Sur, to name a few, and from many of the creative Austinites we write about in the magazine. I have learned a lot from and am continually inspired by some of the talented designers I have worked with, like Joy Gallagher (who now works for Whole Foods), a true artist with such a beautiful way of looking at the world, Avalon McKenzie who left TRIBEZA to work for Free People (and is now at Whole Foods) but will still brainstorm story ideas with me and never ceases to amaze me with her knowledge, creativity and infectious passion for design and style and Stephen Arevalos (now at Neiman Marcus designing The Book) who taught me that less is actually more and white space is a beautiful thing.

Dan Winters

Dan Winters has also been a huge influence and source of inspiration for me. We first met when I wrote a profile on him for TRIBEZA in April of 2008. We became friends and first collaborated on a 15-image black and white fashion series for TRIBEZA (some of those images made it in to AI-AP). Since then, I have styled some of the shoots he does in his Driftwood studio—from recreating 1950s style advertisements for WIRED Italia to dressing Civil War re-enactors for a story about the role of golf in the Civil War for Golf Digest to a more recent assignment for Real Simple on the history of cleaning products, showing the same model dressed as a retro housewife, a contemporary housewife and a futuristic one. Dan has an incredible attention to detail and work ethic. He would never take the easy way out or cut a corner, and being around him makes me want to do better and always strive for more, never stopping until every detail is right for the best possible result. Getting to spend time with him has inspired me in more ways than I could put into words. He is a kind, tender-hearted soul, and it’s a true honor to collaborate with him.

Dan Winters has also been a huge influence and source of inspiration for me

Jay B. Sauceda

You are a talented stylist as well. Were you doing that before TRIBEZA or was it a role you came into with the magazine?
My very first experience as a stylist was in college when I had a weekly fashion column called “Campus Couture.” I made all my friends be the models. It’s funny to look back at the photos now, but it was a great opportunity to gain experience on my own shoots. I began styling the TRIBEZA editorial shoots soon after I started at the magazine in 2006. It is great fun to come up with a concept and find the right locations, models and outfits and see it all from start to finish.

TRIBEZA has produced some shoots (on small budgets) that I am really proud of. I got to collaborate with Randal Ford on styling some of the images for his Norman Rockwell-inspired series, and I love the Mad Men style shoot we did with Michael Thad Carter. Gradually over time, some photographers started hiring me to style shoots outside of TRIBEZA, and it has now become a second career that I greatly love. My first advertising job was for the DirecTV promotional commercials for the Season Three of Friday Night Lights (one of my favorite shows). I styled my first Texas Monthly cover in February of 2010 and have done quite a few covers since then. I love Texas and being a Texan, so jobs from them are always some of the most fun with getting to dress Willie Nelson as Santa Claus and Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey for the Bernie cover story being two of my favorite shoots so far.

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