Focus. Agitate. Develop.
These are the verbs that, to me, best describe the process of creating a new website. A functional and attractive website plays a significant role in the acquisition of new clients and collaborators. I am always taking photographs of the world around me. I truly love my work and would be glad to do this everyday. Still, when a client offers to put me into a situation that is unfamiliar, I try not to shy away. I relish in the opportunity to appreciate a new universe. No matter the project it is my duty and frankly my pleasure as an artist to immerse myself. When a photographer does their job well, the photograph is a reflection of personal style though the subject matter may take he or she in a new direction. The issue then when creating a targeted representation of what we do as artists is realizing which images reflect both personal style and the artist's ability to bring client ideas to fruition. Now, if I had it my way I'd leave the editing to the editors most of the time. I do not relish this undertaking. For me, going back through recent work and deciding which pieces to include in my portfolio is the worst kind of torture. It may sound mundane but for me its like picking a favorite child. People often say to remove yourself from the experience of the photograph but that's easier said than done when that experience is something you've chosen to build a life and career around. So, with this edit I decided to delegate. After hearing her interviewed on The Sprouting Photographer Podcast, I reached out to marketing specialist Alex Ostebo at Creative Picnic and chatted her up about who I was and what I hoped to do in 2017. Alex helped build a team of creative professionals who were each eager to get more familiar with my work and help carry the weight of my portfolio rebuild.As Alex put it "The images you include in your portfolio make up your photographic identity and determine the kind of clients that will hire you." Over the course of a couple of months we traced lines around the clearest representation of my aesthetic and we shaded out all of the surrounding clutter.
This is not just a phrase that is rapidly replacing 'you're welcome' in the everyday vernacular. This is a destination we all strive to reach. Art directors and art buyers are human. (I'm almost certain.) In much the same vein as all of us are short on time, they are under the pressure of deadlines and need to begin production yesterday. You're website needs to be focused and clean so that they can find out who they plan on hiring without spending too much time and energy learning to navigate it. In Alex's words " You're website is perhaps the most vital marketing tool you have...Making it as easy as possible for clients to find your website and navigate could be the difference between someone hiring you or closing the page". Having recently worked with brand builder Melissa Yeager to build her own site, Alex suggested I do the same. Melissa got what I was going for immediately. Feeling as though my current logo still worked, my goal was simply an attractive and easily navigated site that put more emphasis on my images than the art of website construction. I didn't want to have to worry that my site might freeze up or display images incorrectly on someones phone or tablet. I wanted it to be as easy as opening an actual book and turning the pages. Since Melissa's style is generally minimal, and she was naturally easy to talk to, it was a no brainer that I work with her as well. In a couple easy Skype sessions we chose a minimal Square Space template. She asked me some questions about where this would live and how that should be controlled and it was done. It was nice and it was smooth just as I had hoped the final product would eventually be.
Fair and Bias
Like many photographers, the images I appreciate most are not always the images that go to press. Alex also introduced me to picture editor Sean Stone at Wonderful Machine who helped me distinguish which images would be most relevant to prospective new clients, which projects stood out, and which collections would better be accessed through unlisted links. Allowing others to evaluate your work is not a terrible thing. In fact it happens whether you let t or not. We want to be in control. We want our vision apparent. We want to connect with the people we photograph but we also want to be sure that we are connecting with the third person; the audience. I've got many colleagues that I'm sure would give me a brutally honest critique should I ask them for it straight up but its not always a certainty that they aren't a bit bias. Throughout this process I became extremely appreciative of having an unbiased perspective on hand. When I'm working with new clients I'm feeling them out, I'm learning about their process, and I'm helping portray them in the right light. This team made being the one in front of the light refreshing. This site not only gives me a new look, but with the blog I've got a new outlet. In the same way that its important for a photo editor to recognize your aesthetic quickly, its also important that they learn about you as a person and see what working with you may be like before they decide to pick up the phone.
This Isn't Everything
A portfolio and a website are both ways to show people what you create but its also important that people know why you create. For years people have been asking me about the work I do: how a certain subject acted during a session, where i was when the shot was taken, what kind of light I was using. These things are definitely topics i'll discuss here and they can be really interesting but they aren't everything. A friend and fellow photographer once told me his mantra "substance over style, always". Sure, it's nice to take a picture that is exposed correctly but a photograph that exposes something beneath the surface can be a revelation. This blog is not about the best gear or unboxing new equipment though those things are a part of my life. I don't have all of the answers but I have my experience. Photography has brought me to a lot of fascinating places and will continue to be the thing that keeps me focusing on the next adventure. And this blog will be a place to recap experiences and discover why images developed the way they did. This website will be the place where I return to make sense of my experiences and you, my friend, are always welcome.