Tag: Jeff Stephens

Who: Jeff Stephens

What: D Magazine Home Design Special Issue

Jeff Stephens ©

Jeff Stephens ©

Jeff Stephens ©

Jeff Stephens ©

Wood styled by Jay Evers

Blue Tape was a personal project.

I met Maureen at the first ILTP Dallas happy hour and later had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with her over coffee. She’s full of energy and joy and is a powerhouse at representing some high quality photographers coming out of Dallas.

Mindy Byrd ©

Mindy Byrd ©


What is the Photo Division? How did it start and come to be where it is now?

The Photo Division was really borne out of me wanting to be a champion for creatives. I am the middle person, the connection between art and commerce. The Photo Division represents four amazing photographers that bring such a diversity of insight experience and inspiration: Jeff Stephens, Thom Jackson, Claudia Grassl, and Mindy Byrd. I am fortunate every day to get up and go to work with them.  I started the agency five years ago. The name is a play on an industry term of “divisions,” many other agencies represent other talents: hair and makeup, stylists, etc. – but we focus solely on photographers– hence The Photo Division.
No day is boring and every day is a whole day.  I wake up and hit the ground running .
So four is sort of the most manageable number? 
For me, it is the magic number right now.   Everyone deserves time and attention, I can’t be overextended. They deserve it and should have it. There is also this ripple effect, so that it is never just the photographer I am dealing with — each photographer relationship branches out into another connection of clients and crew , etc. There are definitely days when one photographer needs more than another, but I want to make sure if that photographer calls, I can talk to them.  No day is boring and every day is a whole day.  I wake up and hit the ground running .
Is it easy to keep client connections outside of Dallas?
It’s a matter of staying connected and constantly building new clients. But I have to say, the Dallas market is positively thriving and keeps us quite busy! We have so many great clients here . Sometimes I barely have time to raise my head above the city limits ! But I just came back from three shoots in New York City and client visits there. I met the art buyers at Victoria’s Secret and their building is huge and a bit imposing with security, but when I finally got through, the art buyer greeted me wearing Converse High Tops. I love it! 
Thom Jackson ©

Thom Jackson ©

If you are a photographer looking for an agent, my advice is to play the field a bit before you settle down, you know, date around.
What all do you do?  You represent the photographers but what does that entail?

We take it basically from beginning to end.  We are the ultimate crowd pleasers– trying to keep everyone happy, clients and photographers. It’s like planning a fantastic dinner party, you have to serve the right food, invite the right people and then make sure they are all seated next to the right people– except that it is not an occasional event– we do it every single day! 

If you are a photographer looking for an agent, my advice is to play the field a bit before you settle down, you know, date around. Interview several agents before you choose one. You have to like and trust that person because ideally this will be a long term relationship. They are representing you and your work, so understanding your vision and style is paramount.

Claudia Grassl ©

Claudia Grassl ©

Be genuine and have your own voice. There should be a gravitational pull as to why the client would choose your work other than the 5 other portfolios they are looking at .
Do you have any advice for photographers who want to work commercially or editorially?
Great photographers are like great musicians . Music , art and photography all cross over for us at TPD .  If you are a musician you must know how to play your instrument to create what you intend for people to hear.  If you are a photographer you must also know your craft in such a way that your vision shines through . One is hearing and one is seeing . Show me the way . Be genuine and have your own voice. There should be a gravitational pull as to why the client would choose your work other than the 5 other portfolios they are looking at . Your images need to speak for themselves . You are always going to morph a little bit as you live your life, but figure out a base first and evolve from there.
Jeff Stephens ©

Jeff Stephens ©

Dallas’ Matt Hawthorne chatted with us recently about his transition from from skateboarding to photography, uses of Instagram hashtags, lighting for action shoots and maintaining an upbeat environment on set.

Did you go to school for photography? How’d you get started?
I was a Radio, TV and Film major in school and also a sponsored skateboarder. My sponsors were always asking me for images of myself skating for promotional purposes. Eventually, I asked my dad to show me how to use his old Olympus manual 35mm camera. I would set up the composition on a tripod and have a buddy snap the shot when I was in the air. Eventually, this led to adding a fill flash to illuminate shadows on my face. The next thing I knew, I had four canon flashes on radio slaves and was changing my major to photography.

In the end, skateboarding is what got me into shooting action sports.

How did you start doing fitness and sports work?
After finishing school, I started photo assisting Dallas-based fashion shooters and really connected with the studio lighting scenarios. Since I was already shooting with multiple lights for my skateboard photography, that type of lighting made sense to me; working with those guys really helped me push myself with mixing in studio techniques with action photography. In the end, skateboarding is what got me into shooting action sports.

Matt Hawthorne ©

Who were your mentors?
I worked a lot with Jeff Stephens, who has an incredible eye for lighting subjects. With Jeff, I learned a lot about minor or subtle tweaking with lights to make a huge difference. Some professional shooters, whom I have always admired their work and who have been an influence on me from afar, would be photographers: Grant Brittain, Carlos Serrao, Troyt Coburn, Nadav Kander, and of course legends like Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Chuck Close.

What techniques do you like using when lighting a moving subject?
Lighting a moving subject has more parts than can be talked about here, especially if shooting outdoors. However, I mainly use the same light shaping techniques with slightly different strobe equipment. Strobes with higher flash duration are key. I have incredible photo assistants, and we brainstorm together to push technique and are constantly trying new things. I also really love shooting natural light just as much as with strobes.

Matt Hawthorne ©

Describe your dream shoot?
Oh wow, dream job?!! Geez, I feel like I’ve already shot some of my dream jobs! One of those jobs was a week long Gatorade production in Florida at the Gatorade Sports and Science Institute. Another dream job was  getting to photograph my all time favorite artist Barry McGee! When I think about dream jobs, the thoughts are really just getting to work with an awesome team, on cool concepts, at cool locations, with great talent. With that in mind, the specific client doesn’t really matter so much to me, just as long as it’s creative and fun! I just feel blessed to be doing what I’m doing!

A stale and quiet set is much more intimidating and stressful, a fun upbeat environment is better for everyone!

What’s one piece of gear you can’t live without (besides the camera of course)?
Well, obviously if you forget anything it can be a huge disaster, but one tool I hate not having is my music. Thats why I now keep a mini speaker in my camera case at all times. There is a larger boom box that stays with the gear and is the main music source, but music is huge on set. It helps calm people down and relax, even if its upbeat and loud. A stale and quiet set is much more intimidating and stressful, a fun upbeat environment is better for everyone!

Matt Hawthorne ©

What do you like best about using Instagram as a professional photographer?
I’m sure there are some photographers who have landed a job from Instagram, but I have not and dont think I will. I just love having a mobile portfolio of my journey of home and work that is so easy to manage. I also don’t really care about followers, I mainly do it for myself so I can look back at everything I’ve done the past couple years. I started posting on Instagram right around when my son Oliver was born, every post of Oliver has an #OliverWilks (Wilks being his middle name) hashtag, and its so awesome to click on that hashtag and see him grow up from birth to his recent 2nd birthday. Those are aspects of Instagram I love! I also know a lot of creatives like seeing professional photographers personal work, so my Instagram portfolio can fill that need. I have a nice tumblr site that grids all my Instagram images linked from my site and blog.

I started posting on Instagram right around when my son Oliver was born, every post of Oliver has an #OliverWilks hashtag, and its so awesome to click on that hashtag and see him grow up from birth to his recent 2nd birthday.

What’s been a favorite campaign to work on? Why?
LifeTime Fitness has been an incredible client for me, and a huge part of my growth as a fitness / sports shooter. They have an in house agency with some extremely talented creatives who are constantly pushing their brand and me with visuals. We’ve done everything from hanging off rock-walls, to underwater swimmers, to triathletes, to creative fitness. Shooting for LifeTime Fitness for a few years now we’ve done 7 or 8 large production shoots including several Dallas shoots, and shoots in Scottsdale, Miami, Minneapolis, Las Vegas and Chicago. They are an amazing client in that they trust my opinions and really listen and mold their ideas to how I can achieve them best. They are the type of art directors every photographer hopes to get to work with and it has been an amazing experience! They also make my work look good by creating award winning print pieces and designing great ads with the images.

Matt Hawthorne ©

Why have you chosen Dallas as a your home-base?
Family kept me here initially. Then, after considering a move to LA, I realized the market in Dallas was less saturated and would make it easier to be noticed. There are some really great agencies and brands here in Dallas that I’ve gotten to work with on some really cool campaigns including MockingBird Station, Dallas Opera, and several of last years’ JCPenney catalog covers. I do market myself nationally too and have also landed several large clients out of Dallas that either I travel with, or they come to Dallas. I really don’t think where you live is as important as some people think. If you have a style that a client wants, they will figure out how to make it work.

Summer get away spot?
Anywhere I can spend time with my family!

Matt Hawthorne ©