Art Producers Speak: Chris Sembrot

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.sease@verizon.net

Anonymous Art Buyer: I nominate Chris Sembrot. I love him not only as an artist, but as a person. He has a unique style and was great to work with.

Personal work and having fun with a new underwater housing.

Personal work and having fun with a new underwater housing.

Part of an ongoing personal project on androgyny.

Part of an ongoing personal project on androgyny.

Personal work from a mid-summer tri in Asbury Park, NJ 2013.

Personal work from a mid-summer tri in Asbury Park, NJ 2013.

Personal work from a mid-summer tri in Asbury Park, NJ 2013.

Personal work from a mid-summer tri in Asbury Park, NJ 2013.

I love shooting friends especially on the first warm day after a long Winter.

I love shooting friends especially on the first warm day after a long Winter.

Cover assignment featuring Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and David Byrne for the Guardian Guide. Was shot on location in David Byrne's studio in NYC.

Cover assignment featuring Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and David Byrne for the Guardian Guide. Was shot on location in David Byrne’s studio in NYC.

Music feature assignment for Billboard Magazine with DJ Martin Garrix, shot in Atlantic City, NJ.

Music feature assignment for Billboard Magazine with DJ Martin Garrix, shot in Atlantic City, NJ.

Ad campaign for Mississippi Gulf Tourism. We shot 14 locations and activities over the course of 4 days.

Ad campaign for Mississippi Gulf Tourism. We shot 14 locations and activities over the course of 4 days.

Ad campaign for Mississippi Gulf Tourism. We shot 14 locations and activities over the course of 4 days.

Ad campaign for Mississippi Gulf Tourism. We shot 14 locations and activities over the course of 4 days.

Cover assignment featuring the band Phoenix. Shot on location at the East Village Standard hotel in NYC.

Cover assignment featuring the band Phoenix. Shot on location at the East Village Standard hotel in NYC.

Cover assignment featuring the band Phoenix. Shot on location at the East Village Standard hotel in NYC.

Cover assignment featuring the band Phoenix. Shot on location at the East Village Standard hotel in NYC.

Part of an ongoing personal project on androgyny.

Part of an ongoing personal project on androgyny.

Cover assignment featuring Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and David Byrne for the Guardian Guide. Was shot on location in David Byrne's studio in NYC

Cover assignment featuring Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and David Byrne for the Guardian Guide. Was shot on location in David Byrne’s studio in NYC

Feature for Running Times highlighting an elite women's high school cross country team in Pennsylvania.

Feature for Running Times highlighting an elite women’s high school cross country team in Pennsylvania.

Feature for Running Times highlighting an elite women's high school cross country team in Pennsylvania.

Feature for Running Times highlighting an elite women’s high school cross country team in Pennsylvania.

Personal work and having fun with a new underwater housing.

Personal work and having fun with a new underwater housing.

Part of my ongoing personal project titled "Urban Surfers." Each portrait was shot around sunrise (the coldest months reserved for only those dedicated to Winter surfing), and within a 2 block radious of the subject's home.

Part of my ongoing personal project titled “Urban Surfers.” Each portrait was shot around sunrise (the coldest months reserved for only those dedicated to Winter surfing), and within a 2 block radious of the subject’s home.

Part of my ongoing personal project titled "Urban Surfers." Each portrait was shot around sunrise (the coldest months reserved for only those dedicated to Winter surfing), and within a 2 block radious of the subject's home.

Part of my ongoing personal project titled “Urban Surfers.” Each portrait was shot around sunrise (the coldest months reserved for only those dedicated to Winter surfing), and within a 2 block radious of the subject’s home.

Part of my ongoing personal project titled "Urban Surfers." Each portrait was shot around sunrise (the coldest months reserved for only those dedicated to Winter surfing), and within a 2 block radious of the subject's home.

Part of my ongoing personal project titled “Urban Surfers.” Each portrait was shot around sunrise (the coldest months reserved for only those dedicated to Winter surfing), and within a 2 block radious of the subject’s home.

How many years have you been in business?
I’ve been on my own professionally for the past four years.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
A combination of both. But, the best part of my education came after I left school. Working as an art buyer for five years really allowed me to learn the business of commercial photography from the inside out. Plus it gave me direct access to art/creative directors on a daily basis. It helped forge relationships with people I work with today.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
It had to be my mom. When we were growing up, she’s the one who always had a camera in her hand, capturing whatever moments she could. When referring to my eye, she always says, “You got that from me.” Hearing her say that always makes me smile!

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 try and shoot personal projects that have a different look and feel than my “normal” work. My biggest goal whenever I concept a project idea is to somehow bring out my personality. I stay in the moment and enjoy the freedom of capturing something that strikes me on that day, hour, minute. I don’t shoot nearly as many tests shoots as I do personal projects, because I want my personal work to stand on its own.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
I think the honest answer is sometimes, yes. However, recently (more often than not) I have had the good fortune of creative freedom. Working with creative and account teams who trust that my creative vision will ultimately fill the needs of our client makes all the difference in a shoot. It’s not always easy but when you communicate with each other and collaborate as a team, it makes all the difference.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
When I’m not sending out my quarterly mailers, and personal emails, I’m meeting face to face. If I’m given 15 minutes of a busy art producer’s time, you better believe I’m giving it my all. Social media is also huge. I blog 2-3 times a month and am consistently reaching out on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
Don’t. Show what moves you – what you’re proud of. Show work that is inspiring for a creative to see and hopefully he/she can envision it in a campaign or editorial spread. Be bold and show what you’re passionate about.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
I am always keeping notes on ideas when they strike. I cull through them constantly and pursue the ideas that keep me inspired. I think many of my Facebook or Instagram friends would agree that I like to utilize both as creative outlets.

How often are you shooting new work?
I’m shooting every week. And when I’m not shooting, I’m thinking about it. New ideas fill my head constantly.

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Chris first cut his teeth in the commercial photography world while working as an agency art buyer and producer. He consciously chose the agency route because it offered him experience on the business side and allowed him to shoot and build his first professional portfolio.

Chris now works and lives in his hometown of Philadelphia where he is channeling his love for photojournalism into commercial work. His work has been featured in Communication Arts, Graphis, PDN, American Photography and OneEyeland. His clients include Converse, Reebok, Fuse Network, Guardian Guide, Red Bull Majestic Athletic and Nylon Magazine.

In his spare time, Chris enjoys surfing, building furniture, brewing beer and developing ideas for his next adventure.

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.

Suzanne Sease

There Are 3 Comments On This Article.

  1. Thank you for another inspiring post! I´ve been so busy assisting this year that I have not been able to shoot enough of my own work. This gave me a kick in the butt to get started on a personal project I´ve been waiting to do for a long time!

  2. Beautiful photography. I love how Chris was able to keep his relationships that were acquired while working as an art buyer. Networking is crucial. Great article.