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 Buyer: I nominate Jennifer Whalen because I saw an old soul within an emerging talent. Jennifer has the eye, the skill and the production chops of a much more experienced shooter but has the fresh approach of someone seeing things with a new viewpoint. She absorbs information like a sponge and applies it to her work. She’s got what it takes to go the distance.
How many years have you been in business?
I have been pursuing commercial photography and video for about 2 years.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I have a degree in both Journalism and Fine Art, but I am a self-taught photographer and videographer.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
I don’t find myself having one specific source of inspiration, but I’m always inspired by people who create something out of nothing. For example, my dad is a carpenter, so I grew up helping him and seeing his ideas develop into something tangible. It was a good foundation that helped me to realize, with heart and soul, I can turn my ideas into something rewarding and profitable.
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 don’t shoot to get noticed or hired; I shoot for myself and I am constantly searching for that special thing, that weird little moment of simplicity in movement or expression that speaks honesty and truth. I am always trying to be attentive and develop my sensitivity to the world when shooting. After doing that over-and-over again, I end up with a body of work that is constantly evolving. I have an all-or-nothing personality, which pushes me to take risks and put my whole self into my work. Taking risks is about reaching my fullest potential and never staying in my comfort zone. It means never being afraid to try a new idea. If it doesn’t work out in the end, that’s fine, at least I tried. For example, exploring video has made me a stronger still image storyteller and has strengthened my overall artistic vision. When I am shooting personal work, it’s all about leaving expectations at the door. That attitude gives me an open mind and allows me to build off of what I am seeing around me and appreciate the idiosyncrasies of the people I am photographing or filming. Just like with playing music, it’s about tuning into the rhythm of other people.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
There will always be times when the images that you and the AD love won’t make the final edit, whether it is due to composition of the photo or the overall satisfaction of everyone involved. When it happens, I don’t spend my energy on being angry or disappointed about that. The client chooses images based on what’s appropriate for their audience. It’s not about me; it’s about collaborating to get what is best for the client.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I send personal emails, mailers and set-up meetings. A relationship can’t begin until you meet with people in person, so I am a big fan of getting myself in front of people.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
When I first started pursuing advertising, I spent a year building my commercial portfolio before pitching it. When I started testing, I was under the impression that creatives wanted to see a portfolio that looked like finished ads, so I took photos that resembled what I was seeing in the media. The problem was that it wasn’t my voice. I was creating work based on what I thought potential clients wanted to see. I was trying too hard to make something that had already been done before. Creatives don’t want to see a portfolio that looks like ads. I wished someone told me that earlier. Creatives want to see your unique vision and perspective of the world. I ended up eliminating about 90% of my portfolio and added a new set of images that showcased my voice and my point of view. At that moment, my work started to get noticed more and I was happier with what I was showing. My advice is to not worry about what you think others want to see. Make work that you like and showcase that with confidence.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
I am always shooting for myself, and if I’m not shooting, I’m thinking about how I want to shoot my next personal project. There will never be a point in my life when I stop shooting.
How often are you shooting new work?
I shoot a new project once a month, maybe more if time allows.
I’m a lifestyle photographer / videographer residing in Los Angeles. My approach is to capture life in motion – a feeling of realism. I live for storytelling, and my work embraces the world for its humor, spontaneity, and adventure. Whether it is trekking through a frozen waterfall or following adventurers into the heart of a rain forest, new experiences excite me. My passion toward collaboration fuels my momentum for each project. I stay inspired by my subjects’ charisma, idiosyncrasies, and the ability to connect with them in an authentic way. I have a degree in Journalism & Fine Art from the University of Minnesota, and have been a full time creative ever since. When I am not photographing, you may find me at my neighborhood’s diner enjoying pancakes for dinner.
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.