We've got to do something, America!
As a currently working SAG-AFTRA film and television actor myself, I'm continuously interacting with casting directors and stay well-informed on what they are looking for in actor/talent head shots. I'm also well known and remain recommended by all of the SAG-AFTRA franchised talent agencies in New Mexico for headshot photography for the past 10 years. Most importantly, I make your headshot session about you. I don't do any cookie-cutter type service; I will work with you and your agent to get the results you are looking for in terms of role placement and call-ins. I do very customized work and also know the ins-and-outs of the New Mexico film and television business. Many of my clients have gone on to book roles in major films and TV series' and still use my headshots for their promotion.
Here's a basic break down of what my sessions offer:
- Fully customizable session according to what's most important to you. No amateur/cookie-cutter style photography.
- 2 Hours of either studio or outdoor/natural light photography, your choice.
- 3 looks (clothing changes and background/scene changes).
- Very fast turnaround: Your proofs will be available within 2 business-days of the shoot date via private, online proofing.
- 3 finished and sensibly retouched, fully printable high-res photo files sent to you within one week of proof selection.
- Lifetime license for unlimited use for your promotion as a professional actor.
- My work is guaranteed to meet and most likely will exceed your expectations. I tend to over-deliver.
- Fully tax deductible expense!
If you want to see for yourself a sample of professional actors who've commission me to shoot their head shots on a reoccurring basis, just check out my head shot page and see what roles my clients have played in major film and television productions by clicking on their photo and hovering your mouse over it.
Opening Thursday, November 13th at noon in the Coronado Mall, H&M finally arrives in Albuquerque. The significance of this (to me at least) is that more and more fashionable businesses are starting to find a market in Albuquerque and I for one welcome their ingress. H&M has become a staple in the fashion world by combining the world-class appeal of top fashion supermodels and photographers in it's advertising along with chic and stylish garments with insanely-low prices. It's a perfect storm of image and affordability. At just about any time one can open an issue of Vogue or look up at a giant billboard in Times Square to see a photo of Beyoncè wearing a bikini on an exotic beach with a simple "Bikini: $9.99" inscribed on the ad. Not many labels can combine the advertising firepower of top fashion houses with actual great-looking apparel at prices similar to outlet stores, but H&M have figured out how to do it. They even have top fashion designers such as Versace and Alexander Wang designing garments exclusively for the H&M label. I for one fully support the methodology of this effective advertising and I've seen how it works since I began my career as a fashion photographer.
So I'm happy to welcome H&M to Albuquerque and I'm sure the city will start to look a little more stylish as the months pass. I know I'll be a headed in for some updated wardrobe as the seasons change and who knows, maybe some of their fresh designs will make it onto the pages of the editorials I shoot, as they have in the past. ;-)
*Post script- I wasn't paid by H&M to say any of this but I wish I had been.
Now with handy carrying case to lug the 1700+ pages of fashion along with you! I'm very pleased to see Vogue featuring actual models on the cover; it almost makes up for the Kimye blunder earlier in the year. Inside each issue is a feast for the eyes with the new ads from all the top labels along with the editorial content. I'm also impressed with the new Ralph Lauren line for winter featuring complete white-on-white thick layers with no separation whatsoever. Great photography, great styling, great models. Between all the issues, there's enough content to enjoy a winter hibernation until Spring.
I'm been a believer in the lasting photographer's adage that, "A photographer is only as good as his weakest crew member." True that it is paramount to have the right team when constructing complex images for top-quality fashion and beauty work in an industry where a photographer is only as good as their last photo. To survive is one thing, to succeed is another. Success is a very illusive endeavor that requires both high quality and lots of luck. But if the quality isn't in one's work, one better hope they have a large supply of luck.
I bring attention to one of the key members of any good fashion photography team: the Makeup Artist. I emphasize "artist" because a true "MUA" is so much more than a makeup applicator- the MUA is arguably the most critical team member a photographer should hire for a shoot with possible room for exception for a good first assistant and a great model.
I've been fortunate enough to work with and around some top-level MUA's including my roommate in New York who is the Creative Director for Kevyn Aucoin Cosmetics, Kevin Hees. I've also had the pleasure of working on numerous shoots with Conrad Sanchez who spent nine years with Chanel and I quickly learned the difference between a true makeup artist and someone who just applies the makeup. A true makeup artist can interpret a mood board, understand the creative direction that the photographer and CD or AD wish to achieve and correlate that to the model's particular facial structure and features. A talented MUA can cover all the bases; from light, beautifully clean makeup to complex, powerful, hard-edge and near-theatrical editorial looks. A great MUA will contribute a refined, professional statement with the makeup in the photograph rather than an obtrusive, amateur design and tacky application. A photographer needs to know they can rely on their makeup artist to deliver the makeup design that best fits the creative direction. For me, it's such a great feeling when the model comes out of hair and makeup looking better than what I had in mind. Makeup artists with talent and vision are true artists and rightfully deserve their title.
There are sometimes elements on any given shoot that may not look right according to plan and the team can figure out ways to work around it. Stylists can strategically clip clothes that are too big for the model, assistants can adjust light to favor the scene, photographers can even trick an inexperienced model into getting a "lucky shot" when they can't model at all. But there's no workaround for bad makeup. Bad makeup will ruin the shoot, period. The only possible way to save the shoot is to fix the makeup in Photoshop- but that's an enormous hassle to retouch bad makeup in post. It's a far better action to hire the right MUA for the job in the first place.
TRAITS OF A VALUABLE COMMERCIAL & EDITORIAL MAKEUP ARTIST:
- Valid work experience. A professional MUA can show a work history of being booked for diverse print jobs with high-quality photographers. A good MUA will have a strong book, even if it's mostly test shoots. The level of photography a makeup artist displays in their book is a good indicator of who wants to work with them. When their work is displayed in great photos, it shows what level they are on in terms of their career as well as the level of creative professonals who hire them. It shows they can do the job and that high-quality professionals rely on them. A MUA who's experience is limited to only having done tons of weddings or only regularly work with amateur/hobbyist photographers isn't really up to par for the skilled nature of real fashion/editorial print work. They inadvertently show they don't have the drive to be successful.
- They bring all their own equipment. I love it when I'm shooting on location and the MUA arrives with their own makeup chair and whatever they need to do their job. There's been a few times when an MUA showed up with only a makeup bag and began asking me for tools such as a makeup chair, a mirror, a table, lights, extension cords, even a hair straightener. I felt like asking the MUA if they brought some strobe lights I could use. It's the same thing. Photographers bring photo gear, MUA's bring makeup gear, period. Really pro MUA's will have an assistant or intern to help them carry and setup their gear. This is very intuitive since it's imprudent to expect the photographer's assistants to lug the MUA's gear. The best makeup artists bring everything they may need and look after it themselves.
- They pay close attention on set. A real MUA knows that the most critical time to watch the makeup is during the shoot. Smudge fixes, hairs sticking to lips or minor touchups are always something needing to be addressed while the shoot is in progress. A makeup artist that applies the makeup then stands around playing with their phone during the shoot is one of the most obvious signs of an amateur. A good MUA is present on set to correct unwanted flaws or to make adjustments during shooting. This saves the photographer from shooting the next hundred frames only to find out later that those shots are unusable due to some problem that went unnoticed while shooting. Believe me, it happens all the time.
- Models (and everyone else) speak highly of them. Great MUA's take proper care of the models by being careful around their eyes, making sure the model's aren't allergic to the products and by generally being pleasant and fun to work with. Pro MUA's treat models and everyone as people, not as objects. They want to be an integral part of the team and do their best to have the shoot go well.
- They can approach anything asked of them with optimism and honest feedback. The best MUA's not only know how to do perfect work, they can change it if asked to without taking it personal or getting upset. They also can be a great creative asset by informing the photographer if a certain makeup look requested may not work with the model's facial features. A good MUA won't falsely assure a photographer that a look will work if it may not, which can result in wasted time and a lot of frustration. It's a team effort and the makeup artist is expected to be the expert advisor on the makeup while at the same time working toward the creative goal.
- They stick to the creative plan. This is possibly the most important factor in a makeup artist being invited back. A MUA who agrees to apply a certain makeup look according to the creative direction, then goes off-script and applies something different is a detriment to the entire shoot. There's nothing worse than setting up a shoot, agreeing to a mood board and then having the model come out of makeup looking nothing like what was expected and agreed upon. There's probably no worse of a way to waste everyone's time, other than being late to the shoot.
- They never, ever, show up late. It should go without saying, but the best of the best MUA's are absolute professionals and will be at the appointed location prior to call time. Many even arrive early so they can take their time to set up. Great MUA's do what they can to make the day go easier for everyone else, so they can ensure that they will be invited back again and earn a great reputation.
- They have awesome personalities. This is important for anyone, but everyone loves a makeup artist that had their own identity and is fun to spend all day on set with or even hours on the road with when driving to a location. For example, sometimes early morning call times can be a drag (especially for the models), but a makeup artist with a great personality can get the day started off right since they are often the first ones to start work. Personality + performance is always in high demand.
Makeup artists are mission-critical to a successful outcome; they can make or break your shoot. Don't be complacent when considering one- it matters. Great MUA's are not a dime a dozen, so when you find one, keep them happy and they'll do the same for you. They are worth every penny of their day rate.
I recently spearheaded a new business endeavor that I felt was truly needed in the New Mexico fashion market. I'm proud to be a part of the newest and most sincere New Mexico modeling agency and I'm very proud to be working with these wonderful and incredibly positive-sprited people. These are the faces of the newest and most professionally dedicated New Mexico fashion models. Please welcome to the New Mexico fashion market as well as the fashion industry, MTM Model Management.
It's always nice when you're flipping through the first few pages of a magazine like ELLE Italia and you come across a double page GUESS ad with a model you know and have photographed before. "Hey, that looks like Samantha Hoopes!" I thought, so I had to send her a quick message and receive her bubbly and excited reply confirming it. Samantha has been featured in both the new GUESS Spring/Summer 2014 campaigns as well as their lingerie campaigns. By her smoldering gaze she brings to their gorgeous photography, I'd say she's a perfect fit for the iconic brand. She's still currently in my portfolio in the beauty, commercial and swim/lingerie categories. I also booked her for the Gertrude Zachary 2012-13 holiday billboards that ran last year. I was happy to hear from her that our photos we did together in New York are still used in her book that she carries with Elite LA and Select Management in London. I requested her from Major Models New York and was very impressed with her when she first walked into my apartment in Manhattan to meet up for our shoot. I'm even more impressed now. It's evident that she's really making a strong presence and a definite connection in the industry judging by these new GUESS ads. Rumor has it she's one of the new rookies in the upcoming 50th Anniversary Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. I suppose we'll find out on February 18th when the much-anticipated issue hits the stands worldwide. Samantha was really fun and easy to work with and I look forward to another opportunity to work with her again.
So please join me in congratulating Samantha Hoopes on her new venture to the forefront. She's well on her way toward stunning the whole world with her all-American bombshell looks as well as her lovable personality and can-do work ethic. Here's a few of my favorite outtakes and snapshots from us working together in New York. Cheers, Sam!
Just a quick shout-out to Max Factor for publishing what I think is a proper-looking cosmetic skin care cream ad. Featuring beautiful model Candice Swanepoel, the ad reflects a more natural-looking photo to promote what the skin cream does, rather than what Photoshop does. As a digital artist myself and a fan of post-production poetic license, I'm also aware of the impossibilities that are being presented to mostly women and young girls showing beauty in advertising that is simply unachievable. When I recently flipped through the pages of a current fashion magazine (I think it was British 'Elle'), I was pleasantly surprised to see a cosmetic ad with a gorgeous face, sans the usual amount of computer pixel replacement. Kudos to Max Factor for a realistic and plausible image displaying what their skin care cream does and not leaving it up to the Photoshop artist. This turn in the direction of truth in advertising makes me want to go out and buy the product myself, though I doubt it would help me get a date with Candice. :-)
I recently finished editing one of my first videos that we shot in NYC. It's sort of a vibe just showing the nightlife and some behind-the-scenes of the fashion shoots I do. I edited the whole thing as well as wrote and recorded the music. If you click on the outward-facing arrows at the bottom of the viewer it will display in sharp 720 HD. Let me know what you think! http://vimeo.com/71536277
Shout out to this guy (on the left) and some of the coolest/ hardest working/ best-looking people NYC has to call their own. To Emily, Marian, Steph-bomb and Ryan, pleasure working with you ladies and gents. Thank you for the experience and knowledge, I promise to use it wisely. Looking forward to discovering yet another unguarded beer tap with you.
For those who aren't familiar with this ruggedly handsome photographer and this team's genius work (also available for weddings and bar mitzvahs!), please grab a cup of tea and sit back...
I'm always passively looking around to see if there's any good subjects to photograph, and it's pretty rare when I approach someone to do so, especially guys. We guys are, well, always on alert for anyone who walks up and starts talking about photos or modeling to try to scam us. Needless to say, I don't do it often. Chase is a good guy, so we met up and did some test shots. Turns out to be a pretty good skater! No experience, very good results. Could see him shooting a variety of ads. Stay tuned for more..
Working with familiar new face Sofia on some simple clean shots for her book. I like to work with different methods, sometimes complex setups with lights, crew and tons of hoopla and sometimes just myself, a camera, the sun and the subject. Although I go against the grain and remain an avid proponent for high-tech gear, I still also support the fact that one can get great shots with no extra equipment. Enter the simple side of photography. I've taken the opportunity to just go out with the camera and work with what there is. Sometimes in conditions that aren't the best for photography (sun angle, wind, blowing sand, cold temps, etc) . Rather than just shoot slot-machine style and hope for the best (otherwise known as "spray and pray" where one just randomly shoots a ton of frames and comes up with a few lucky winners), I set a short time frame and try to find a groove that works where I only need to shoot a few frames to get the shot. Models are always surprised when I only shoot for a minute then say, " Cool, we got it. Lets move on".
It's always a good experience shooting with Sofia, because she listens to direction and gets it quick. In this instance, we only had a very short time frame to get something, and we ended up with a bunch of different looks. Keep an eye out for this one, she's getting better and better! So here's some examples of simple techniques with just sunlight to work with. My thanks to Sofia, supportive mom Ophelia and Shastity Moreno for the great makeup work with the black dress.
'Tis the holiday season and I'm proud to have shot and designed the 2012 Holiday billboard ad campaign for Gertrude Zachary Jewelry. They have a newer jewelry line (or at least new to me) called "Drusy" which has an iridescent quality to it where the colors and intensity of the metal changes at different angles. Very sparkly and engaging, much like a champaign. To launch this during the holiday season, I designed the concept of a gorgeous lady wearing the jewelry pieces, possibly preparing for a holiday party and gazing out a window as snow softly falls upon pine trees. Her reflection an afterthought of warm holiday wishes and occasions yet to come.
This board is with the Red Coral Inlay jewelry. Another brightly textured and polished design with embedded silver. The concept for this billboard was more of a "Got what I wanted!" theme with a beautiful warm/gold environment and some matching red holiday light sparkle in the background. Holidays are the times for parties, and what better place to wear your new jewelry than at parties?
Special thanks to our model, Samantha from Major Model Managment/MGMT New York, Makeup artist extrordinaire Juston Paul and my assistant Max. I hope everyone enjoys the new boards, and have a very happy holiday season!
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I, like many, have been a fan of Kate since she started as a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit rookie 2 years ago. I've supported her in the fashion arena not only for the obvious reasons such as great looks and an infections personality, but also because she represents a significant step forward in the march towards a healthy body image for young women and especially aspiring models.
One after another, Kate has landed covers and ad campaigns for various high profile clients, and has served as a perfect example for me to reference when speaking to hopeful models who are worried or discouraged about their body type. So when she was not only booked for a spread in the November issue of Vogue, but also Vogue Italia as well as landing the cover (shot by none other than Steven Meisel himself), I was standing and applauding both Kate and the Vogue editors for their decision. If anything will put a definite end to the treacherous notion that one has to be a stick figure to be a successful model in fashion, this will. I'll also note that Kate's beauty cover shot for Vogue Italia was shot in bright sunlight, and is normally considered poor technique, albeit highly discouraged in photography. I love to see rules broken.
In May 2012, Vogue released it's new Health Initiative, a six point pledge agreed upon by all 19 Vogue editors-in-cheif which includes doctrines such as not working with models who appear to have eating disorders, are underage and for fashion designers to not use unrealistically small sample sizes in their clothing to be photographed. It's not to suggest that naturally thin models will be discriminated against, rather average-sized models will not have to feel pressured to become thin and therefore unhealthy for their natural body type in order to get work. Including Kate for the November issues is proof-positive that the initiative is being invoked and that a normal, healthy body image is not only beautiful, but achievable.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard from models that they "weren't skinny enough" or "they said I needed to lose more weight" to a girl who is already a size 2. Now, with the efforts of the CDFA, Britain's British Fashion Council, more publications following suit and even the country of Israel passing a law to ban underweight models, we hopefully won't be hearing those discouraging comments from models much longer. As a photographer in the fashion field, I've often said there is a job out there for all body types, and even been the voice of reason many times to girls asking me my opinion of their physique. Now, I can just pick up the finest fashion magazines off the shelf, and say, "Here, see for yourself. She's a size 6.". I hope that this industry-wide push for a healthy body image will encourage more model-hopefuls to pursue their ambitions, if they so choose. Now, if the industry can just work on that height-thing...
It's always a thrill to see someone that I've previously worked with find their way to landing a job that is a dream come true for them. Meghan Wiggins is one of those people. Four years ago I met Meghan when we were both just getting started in the world of fashion. I photographed her first modeling test shots at a local agency in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and she was one of the first models I shot for an agency. At age 14, she was just a pup (and still is) who was both nervous and excited for her first shoot. Now, it's no secret that all girls like having their picture taken, but Meghan really enjoyed being in front of the camera.
I remember that shoot as one of those having an extra positive and fun energy to it, like when the subject/model really wants to be there. Meghan was having a blast shooting and we could tell that she had been looking forward to her shoot for some time. She followed direction well, we turned on the fan and let her hair blow around and just shot frame after frame of her blissful face and undisguised giddiness brightening the room. She even had little ideas of what might look good, and I was happy to try them. Looking back at these pictures now, I never think of models as being "cute", but one has to admit- especially after seeing the prowess of her work lately- that her first test/comp card shots are pretty cute photos.
A year ago Meghan was cast in a new reality show called "Remodeled". Esteemed model manager Paul Fisher picked Meghan up at a casting and she was immediately being sent to far-off destinations to shoot stills and film the show. I saw her walk in the Custo Barcelona show during fashion week in New York, but I didn't know they were filming her for "Remodeled". I then visited Albuquerque in January of this year and Meghan's original agent asked if I would be able to shoot some new work for her book. I was happy to work with Meghan again regardless that I admittedly hadn't seen the show since I just don't spend any time in front of the TV. Wow. What a difference only 3 1/2 years makes. We set up a simple shoot downtown on what was supposed to be a warm day, but- as New Mexico weather goes- turned out to be freezing. This was to be a true test of Meghan's newly acquired skill set as we gave her a bikini and poured water all over her to set the scene of a hot and sunny day at the beach. This was also to be my test of how close I came to being mauled to death by a very (understandably) freezing cold model! Meghan prevailed and held it together long enough in the biting cold to get the shot. Hypothermia? What Hypothermia? Ah, what we do for fashion.
Not long after, Meghan was booked for a new Guess campaign shot by my one of my all-time favorite photographers, Yu Tsai. The results are making the rounds in various current issues of Elle, Teen Vogue, etc and it just thrills me to see such a great kid that I met four years ago book a large campaign like that. I've loved Guess ads since the 80's and Paul Marciano is an inspirational man himself, with one of my favorite quotes by him leading off my portfolio book. "People who aren't passionate about something should do something else."
So I just want to congratulate Meghan and wish her all the best for many more dream jobs to come. She never forgets nor downplays her New Mexico roots, is loyal to her family and friends, and overall does a great job as a professional and role model who loves her work. Congrats Meghan, you've come a long way in a short time from being that excited kid in the studio to a confident and refined working model. Here's to many more jobs and dreams fulfilled, especially the one with the big 'secret'. Shhhhh.... :-)
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I recently had the rare honor of spending time at the studio of one of my favorite photographers and philanthropists, Russell James. I have followed his work ever since I got into photographing people. For anyone unfamiliar, he's the photographer who shoots all those iconic Victoria's Secret images we've come to know and love, as well as countless magazine covers and the whole lot. Here and there over the past few years he's seen and sometimes evaluated my own work online through his photo contests as well as engaged in conversations regarding charitable efforts. It was he that inspired me to actively participate in whatever way I could find myself useful toward helping organizations that help others.
I was at the studio one day and met him passing by. Expecting a normal friendly hello, I was surprised by his marked enthusiasm. I greeted him with, "Hey Russell, I'm Matt Timmons, it's an honor to finally meet you." His face lit up with a big surprised smile once recognizing me and his response was, "The honor is mine! Do you have a few minutes? Can you come into the studio and take a few photos with me?". Again, I was blown away by his kindness and generosity. He and the team were shooting the 2012 Victoria's Secret Valentine's Day ad campaign (yes, six months in advance) and he was inviting me in to take a few pictures as well as meet the folks that make all that beauty so perfect.
I saw a couple of familiar faces that I had met before, and met a few new ones. Alex, his first assistant, is one of the first people I met upon moving to New York and is always ready with a genuine huge smile and sincerity in his handshake. I was soon surrounded by crew members all shaking my hand and gathering around for pictures. His digital tech Andrea was there. She's so sweet and so very skilled at managing thousands of those all-important photos that in a few months will be gracing the catalog covers and huge store displays around the world. I also got to meet and have my picture taken by the legendary Muz, the Aussie assistant who operates those uber-expensive Briese lighting systems as well as handles countless other responsibilities. I have to admit, it was incredibly cool to have my picture taken on the same set with the same lighting and the same camera that was being used for the shots with professional model and VS Angel, Lais. Although I somehow don't think that my shots are going to turn out as good as hers, but we'll see in February. ;-) These folks are all so nice and they love talking to anyone who appreciates their work, plus they all get along so well. Alex described them as, "We are all just like a family." We chatted for a little bit about photography as well as Russell's personal project Nomad Two Worlds, and then Russell had to shoot the next look with VS Angel Miranda Kerr. He invited me to hang out and leave when I was ready.
I can attest to the level of responsibility that it takes to work in this environment by observing the crew first hand. Russell will tell you himself that he's only one factor in the equation of these shoots, and after observing these folks at work you can really understand why. When it's time to shoot they are busy in an instant. The sets are pre-readied, the lighting is perfected, everything is metered and ready to rock. When the model steps onto the set, there's no waiting around- she walks onto her mark and the show starts. These folks are and have to be so on top of what they are doing because millions of dollars are being invested to get the results of these shots. They have to have their job done right, slack delays can cost tens of thousands of dollars per hour. The studio is enormous, more like a movie sound stage. The sets are constructed specifically for each campaign with multiple sets made for all kinds of different shots. The being the Valentine's Day campaign, there were lots of giant red hearts, huge fluffy 'lip' shaped couches, and general 'love' themed sets. The crew works long hours, and can work over 25 days in a row with no days off. However, the environment is conducive for long days with gourmet catered meals, lots of relaxation areas and a frequent amounts of down time to catch a break. All in all there's about 25 people performing specific tasks each day. It was eye-opening to see such professionalism, and I'm thankful to have been asked in. Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, yes the models are absolutely gorgeous in person. Tall, in perfect shape and of course look incredible in those bras and panties. I think everyone would agree that their part is the easiest to set up- they just put on the garments, a little hair and makeup and voila, they're perfect.
That's the typical scene in the Victoria's Secret studio. It's comprised of some great artful set construction and some of the most skilled and professional people you can ever meet, as well as being so welcoming. My warmest thanks to the entire crew for being so nice, to Andrea for taking the time to send me these pictures, Alex for all his helpfulness and advice, and of course to Russell who's kindness and generosity (as well as quick humor) is known by so many and now known by yet another. It was a great day and I'm thankful for the hospitality.
October 23rd, 2011 You might have seen my earlier post about watching the Express Holiday 2011 Ad campaign being shot in Times Square. I just saw the November issue of Vogue and the ads are finally starting to run. I thought it would be fun to show what it looked like from my perspective. So here's the official ad shot by Greg Kadel, and my shot from the sidelines. Express holiday store window displays always get me in the Christmas spirit, and it's funny to me now seeing these ads come out knowing that it was over 100 degrees outside and something like 90% humidity when these were shot. I remember how the models were baking in those clothes!
January 2009. I had just finished having lunch at the Olive Garden when one of the employees caught my attention. Blonde super curly hair, high cheekbones, graceful face and neckline. I always hate walking up to women and asking if they would be interested in trying modeling because it seems like such a schmuck thing to do, but when you are trying to build a fashion and beauty portfolio in Albuquerque, NM you have to seize any opportunity to find subjects that have "the look". Amy was very nice, with the standard amount of apprehensiveness that any smart young woman should have when a guy walks up and asks if she would be interested doing a photo shoot. I gave her my contact info and she called me a few days later with interest in shooting. She was still cautious, waiting for the part where I either bushwhack a way to charge her money or some other "catch". But there was no catch. I just had this idea for a shot where a model is holding the moon and Amy really had a great, very unique face that I thought would capture well. From there she didn't need experience, just the ability to follow direction.
We scheduled the shoot and she came down along with her Dad for support to the studio I was renting. I remember how nervous but willing to try she was. The shoot went great and she seemed to really enjoy the creative process. She was very easy to work with, had enough confidence and a great look on camera. I was quickly interested in working with her more in kind of a developmental way. The only problem was, she wasn't interested in modeling. Amy was a decorated high school varsity athlete who's scholastic sports career was abruptly ended due to a broken back injury. She's a person who is focused and driven toward goal achievement, with her strongest competitor being herself. You tell Amy she can't do something, you better prepare to be proven wrong. I think she was mostly interested in doing this shoot to test herself to see if she could do it. Even her Dad didn't watch one minute of it and couldn't care less about this silly thing his daughter was dragging him away from Sports Center for. Her sights were set on a useful career in nursing, with no interest in prancing around in front of a camera or on a runway. But that all would change.
A year and a half later I called Amy to see if she would help me update my swimwear portfolio. I didn't think she would be interested in this one iota, but I had to try. To my surprise she was cool with it, as long as it was classy. There was no problem there- if it's not classy and sophisticated, I don't want anything to do with it either. We set up a test shoot to try it out, and again she was able to get past the shyness and produce the expressions that I was directing- just like acting. We set up the real shoot in the Jemez mountains a week later and it went really well. We shot some beautiful island-style looks in the waterfalls, and even when I wanted to have her completely covered in mud, which grossed her out entirely, she allowed it and proceeded to hit some of the most beautiful and perfect looks in my work to date. I could sense that again, she was looking at this task from a challenge point of view, and that's how it was working for her. It may look easy at a temporary glance, but it's not, especially when you are inexperienced. When a photographer casts you to model in his project and needs you to think and feel a certain way so that your eyes and body language can tell a story, it becomes more far difficult than a portrait session. Many hours are spent on getting the right shot, so for Amy, this was a new level to achieve. I discussed with her that I really thought that she had the ability to do this, and that a modeling career is not only a great job but also a great way to pay for the expensive education that the medical field requires. Even if not in fashion, then definitely in swimwear. But again the answer was the same- no interest in modeling.
In December of that year, the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show made it's annual appearance on TV and one can't help but be entranced by it's production value, beauty and positive energy. The very next day, I got a call from you know who. Amy was a re-invented girl on the phone. She was obsessed with becoming a model. She wanted to know where to get started and what to do. I could hear the drive in her voice and it was even inspiring me. "You saw the Victoria's Secret fashion show didn't you- and now you're hooked!" I said, laughing. But you know what? Amy is someone I could see doing it. My standards are high, and if I think she can do it, maybe someone else out there will too. So we took some simple no-makeup test shots for agencies and I helped her with a few online resources of what agencies to contact and how to go about it- and better yet, how not to go about it. Now there was a new problem. At 5'7" and 3/4", Amy is 1/4-inch below most of the the pro/legit agencies' height requirements. That's like trying to get into medical school with a 4.0 average but without a degree- close but not enough. It was going to be hard for her to beat that. During the same time I had a client that I was shooting a jewelry ad campaign for. They didn't have a big budget for pro models and asked if I could recommend two girls from my experience who might be interested in shooting it. I immediately recommended Amy and told them that I believed in her ability to pull off a great shot, plus she could use some good ad tear sheets for her portfolio and as well as experience shooting for a client- something that is more critical than a portfolio shoot.
Again, Amy did quite well and I could see a maturity in her movement, her understanding and her ability in front of the camera- she had been studying modeling. The client was pleased and the ads ran. However, the 1/4 inch was keeping Amy out of agency interest, and therefore her own interest was starting to fade. Growing taller is a goal no one can achieve through any amount of hard work or study, and when girls that are competing for the same job are 5' 11", it's even more bleak. But Amy's key aspect is not her height, it's everything else. Features, fitness, personality and intellect are the first things that come to my mind- and that goes a LONG way with an agent who needs to send over a girl to a big client who's looking for someone new- someone unique. So we talked a few times, and I just encouraged her not to give up. If you want something, you have to pursue it, not wait for it.
This summer I moved to New York City and kept in touch with Amy with small nudges of encouragement so that she would still at least continue to submit to agencies. One night I had a dream that she came to NYC and went running around to all the agencies here. That was a weird dream because when I told her about it, she replied with a plan to actually do it. A couple of weeks later I met her and her Dad again, fresh off the plane in the heart of NYC in the pouring rain- a long way from the Jemez mountains. Over a slice of pizza, her Dad asked me, "Do you really think she has a shot at this?". "Absolutely", I replied. "I wouldn't advise you to have spent a lot of money to come to New York of all places and run around here for a week if I thought it was just a lucky shot. You're going to get turned down by a lot of agents here, but you don't need a lot, you only need one." She did see a lot of agencies, and as it turns out, one of them called her back. They obviously saw more potential than a quarter-inch deficit could affect. After months of trying with no results and only a fading glimmer of hope of ever becoming a working professional model, Amy was signed with Major Model Management in New York City.
That's what believing in yourself applied with an intelligent approach can do. I wished I could have just picked up the phone and told my agent colleagues to make it happen, but I can't. She did it on her own with no help. I think that's really cool, and a testimonial for anyone who doesn't believe in themselves enough to try- you should. Even when you don't necessarily fit the rules, then break the rules.
Now the journey begins. Getting signed is just the first real step, developing a career is the next maze to navigate. But as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quoted, "You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the next step." I have all the confidence in Amy now as I have before to find her way to success. It takes the kind of person that doesn't believe in the odds, only in themselves. Welcome to the next chapter Amy, now show us what new goals you're capable of reaching.
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I should have posted this about a month ago, but in my desperate method of dropping myself in here and hitting the streets to find a place to live, this blog post got moved to the waaay back burner. What I thought would only take a few days to find a place ended up taking a month. I'm a deal shopper and I learned quickly that there aren't a lot of deals to be found on places to live in Manhattan (they're out there, but you have to leave no stone unturned). Basically what you can get for a mortgage payment in New Mexico will get you a closet space here- in an old building with bad water pressure. So I searched and searched until finally two weeks ago I moved in to my new, really cool apartment with a nice view.
A change of venue like this means a change in my productivity as a commercial photographer. One doesn't just show up as the new kid on the block in the most competitive and high-standards photography market in the world and just start taking over photo gigs. It's a world of difference in how things work here, but I knew that coming in. I'm here to learn and reach a higher level as a photographer, and to work with other professionals to create visuals that I could not achieve in New Mexico. I still have my clients that I earned before the move, but now it's more of a commute schedule to work out.
On any given day there are more than 30,000 working photographers here doing photo shoots for various commercial and editorial projects as well as video. Some would see that as a glass half empty, but I see it as a good thing- it means that there are clients here and an economy for good photographers. Just need to jump into the mix and start somewhere. New York is a fashion photographer's playground anyway, so at the very least it's a great place to shoot for portfolio- just ad models, makeup, hair, styling.....wait what's that? Where does one get those people? Well, if you want professionals or at least people who know what they are doing, that indeed is a task in itself. If you want to see what a professional set looks like, see my previous post on the Express label shoot in Times Square that I attended.
Here's a few shots that I've taken along the way during my first few weeks in Manhattan. Some are touristy post card shots, but some took quite a bit of late night subway rides across town to some dodgy areas, and a few with a special photo rig I had to use because tripods aren't allowed on tops of certain buildings.
Here's to new beginnings, cheers.
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July 24th, 2011 Walking down 42nd street the other day I saw a runway show being set up in Times Square for the label 'Express'. I came back for the show, which was in conjunction with a photo shoot for their fall catalog. I love how productions are done in New York. Everything is perfected- the sound, the lighting, everything is made to impress. And that they did. I'm not the most savvy of fashion experts, but I was very pleased to see the effort in designs for the fall season women's line. There was a large crowd, and overall the energy was there; with people clapping and cheering for various different models in styles that hit the mark. I took some shots to show anyone who wasn't there what they can expect to see in the malls in only a couple of months.
The thing is, the summer temperatures that night were around 95 degrees with ample humidity. I mean it was hot. The crowd was wearing shorts and T-shirts and wiping the sweat out of their eyes. Most of the models were wearing coats, wool scarves and basic full winter gear. They were absolutely baking but still kept their cool on the runway (in December there will be another outdoor show with the models wearing skimpy summer clothes in near-freezing temperatures).
Big ups to Express and the production crew for putting on a great show and for allowing the public access to view the set and to take photographs- which is something seldom ever allowed. I'll be looking in the mail for my catalog to see what shots made it in (as well as checking the stores for that 3/4 length mens wool jacket that the model was wearing in the shoot)!
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