We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.firstname.lastname@example.org
Anonymous Art Producer: I nominate: Kyle Alexander.
How many years have you been in business?
Hmmmm…more than a couple…..not an easy answer for that one, after college I moved from Austin, Texas to Hawaii to shoot surfing on the north shore of Oahu which was really fun and amazing but I couldn’t really make a living over there. At that time it was shooting film, you got 36 images and then have to swim in and change film in your waterhousing, go out shoot another roll, swim in and then run to the lab, have it developed and fed-exed overnight to the magazines in Southern California and by that time you were exhausted and broke. I worked crappy side jobs and tried to make it work for a while but never really go ahead.
Then one day I got lucky and got a job on a tv show in Hawaii and worked on that for a couple of years and along the way met some guys who said if you ever get out to LA give us a call. So I looked at my options at that point and said I better move to LA. I was penniless with not much hope of ever making it out there in Hawaii. That was in 2001 and I got lucky again because I hooked up with some steady work on feature films and commercials. It was then I met someone who also produced photo shoots and needed some help so I worked with her for a bit. The first real photo shoot I worked on was a huge budget Tommy Hilfiger shoot, 2 weeks on the Paramount Studios backlot. Patrick Demarchelier was the photographer and it was a amazing and humbling experience to watch him work. This experience inspired me and I began shooting as much as I could when not assisting. However that was not too often, I assisted for about 7 years for dozens of different photographers.
One of the first things I did after I was in LA made a few bucks was buy a computer and because of that someone asked me to do some callsheets and light pre-production work so I ended up producing some editorial stories for Mens Journal and Marie Claire magazine. That introduced me to some photographers who later on hired me to produce some ad shoots, which was great because with all the producing money I could do more test shoots. So my first real break was an ad shoot for Roxy/Quiksilver in 2008. So I did that shoot but then still had to assist and produce and digital tech to make ends meet. So I would get a couple of ad and editorial jobs here and there but not enough to break away.
Finally in 2011 I got enough shooting work that I was able to turn down producing and teching and assisting gigs. So long story short, taking pics- 20+ years, working in the business-10 + years, making my living as a full time photographer- 2+ years.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I have a BA in English literature and minored in photography and film but I felt like everything I really “learned” about photography was by trial and error, happy accidents, shooting tests and by assisting other photographers.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
I have always had a passion for (borderline OCD) documenting and capturing all of the things around me, people, places, things by taking photos. When I first saw Robert Frank’s book, “The Americans”, it blew me away and made me want to make a career out of photography. However I didn’t really know what an advertising photographer was, I just wanted someone to pay me so I could keep doing what I loved doing, capturing organic defining moments.
How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?
I think it’s more about staying inspired yourself and creating work and pictures that you care about. If you create something extraordinary and love what you are doing then that is what counts. If the work is wonderful, and the world sees it, the creatives will seek you out.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
No, In my experience, most of the creatives I have worked with want to push the same direction I am usually going and the client has been appreciative of that.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
Direct personalized faxes, just kidding………reality is probably not enough. That’s the toughest part, and I have had this conversation with a few of my peers, we feel like as photographers we get so busy involved in planning a shoot, shooting, editing or retouching a shoot that there is hardly any hours left in the day to market ourselves, but in reality that should be one of the most important things you do. I try to do meetings whenever I am in NYC or a town that has some agencies or magazines. I did an email blast this year and my Agent VAUGHAN+HANNIGAN has done a few and we do the Le BOOK shows. Working on something now that will go out in the mail soon, hopefully.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
I think you are chasing your own tail in a circle. Buyers will react to work better if you are showing your own distinct personal vision and they connect with it.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Yes, I am constantly shooting personal projects. Currently photographing a series I’m having a lot of fun shooting titled Made in the USA about people that craft and create in America. I feel like there is this really cool resurgence to our grandfather’s generation of people that really made things by hand and care about what they are doing, not just trying to make a buck. I shot a pair of brothers that own a leather bag and belt company in New York, a former ad agency graphic designer turned screen printer/ motorcycle builder in Minnesota and a couple of buddies that created a company that repurposes old wood scrap and industrial age machinery into retail spaces in NYC.
Another personal shoot I really had enjoyed I just did a couple of weeks ago, we were shooting an ad job for a truck company at a crazy 180,000 acre ranch in Texas and our guide was this intriguing man named Dale who was also the county deputy and drove around in a huge red truck with two dogs riding shotgun. This guy was the real deal, Chuck Norris would step aside for this guy. He was very a kind man but you could tell he had seen some tough times. I took a couple of snaps of him during our tech scout and then during lunch of my actual shoot the next day Dale and I jumped in his truck and went up the road and shot for ten minutes, he wanted some photos of his dogs, and I was more than happy to do that. They ended up being some of my favourite photos I have taken for quite some time and when I sent over the pictures later he said he really loved them and would share with his kids. That was just a cool thing to hear and is the magic that happens when you are on the road with an open mind.
How often are you shooting new work?
2 times a month in between jobs
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information. Follow her@SuzanneSease.