Interview With Ethan Pines

I was one of the authors of a book published a few years back, the ASMP Guide To New Markets In Photography. My contribution was a series of oral-history interviews with thirty-two photographers, totaling 21,000 words. The editor, the late Susan Carr, asked me to speak with successful women and men whose age and specialties ranged widely: fine art, editorial, and commercial.

Photographers are in business, just like musicians, writers, stained-glass makers, and other creative entrepreneurs. Successful ones never cease to be preoccupied with keeping their careers and work fresh and engaged. We wanted to find out how they managed it.

Most of the interviews have never appeared outside the book. I am publishing a few of them here, appearing exactly as they are in the book.  Other than the introduction, the words are the photographer’s.


ETHAN PINES   www.ethanpines.com

Started career in 2002

Career Summary: After photography school, worked for a few years as an assistant but quickly became an editorial and advertising photographer.   Portraits, conceptual, lifestyle, fine art.


Production Value
I’ve been putting together a higher level of production value into my testing – and even into my editorial shoots – to create more portfolio images that hopefully stand above the crowd.  The only way to avoid bidding wars and the ensuing race to the bottom is to offer something that’s not easily replaced by another photographer.  You want the client to hire you for the way your shoot, not for your pricing.  From what I’m seeing right now, clients are starting to commission more new shoots than they were over the last one or two years.

I’ve also worked on bringing in more revenue from stock.  Clients are commissioning fewer unique shots than they used to, due to decreased marketing budgets and the cheapness and availability of microstock and royalty-free stock.  I make sure to only do shoots at a high-quality level that are viable for rights-managed stock, and I’ve had some good stock sales.

Night Trees Project
I’ve always shot a ton of personal work that I felt had a fine art bent to it, but if you want to have a gallery show, you really need to have a body of work that’s long-term, a cohesive body of work.  The Night Trees project started very spontaneously. I was in Las Vegas for a two-day shoot.  I had my 4×5 with me, and I didn’t use it at all on this shoot, but at one point I was just driving through this neighborhood and I just saw this bare tree above a house.  Both things just looked like they were out of the late ‘60s, just weathered and vintage.  No chain link fences around, no new hardware or windows or doors.  No billboards around, nothing like that.  It looked like it could be from any era and this tree was just perfectly centered in front of the house and towering over it like a lollipop.  I just loved it and it looked great at night under the lights.  I  just loved the way it came out and felt there’s something about it that speaks to me I haven’t seen it before so I just continued this Night Trees project.

How do you separate yourself from other photographers or get some recognition.  Many times it’s just beautiful personal work that really resonates with people.  You have to do whatever it takes to stand out a little bit above the crowd because there are so many photographers now and so many good ones.  And that being said.  I’m shooting this because I want to.  Maybe it’ll bring in some clients maybe not.

Relationships
Faced with increased competition and my own inner drive to continually improve, I’ve made my product – my images – more compelling and more sophisticated over time. And my marketing has changed. With the increased competition that exists now, I have to market more than ever, via more avenues than ever. It’s so easy for photographers and would-be photographers to promote themselves that it’s far more difficult to stand out above the din and clutter. It used to be you could have a website and a spread in Workbook and be all right. Now, there’s the website, sourcebooks, online portals, email blasts, social media, blogs, getting on to other blogs, photo competitions…the list goes on. You have to do it all.

Relationships are very important.  I have good relationships with my clients.  Having more personal meetings is something that is part of my marketing plan for this year. It’s more about fewer clients, but having real relationships with them. I do an e-mail blast about once every two months.  I get some good responses, some people actually write back from design firms and agencies and say thanks, we really like your work.  I get a few opt outs but not many. Over the last four years I’ve either been in Archive or AtEdge consistently. I do contests.  Which can be, if you get in, really good.

The Trees were in the Communication Arts Photo Annual in 2010 and then actually last year in The International Photography Awards.  Which was cool.  It’s nice exposure and it gives you something to send out in an e-mail.

Personal Work
My website doesn’t distinguish between…it’s just portrait, lifestyle, and animal.  There is a section that says Personal, but there’s nothing that says the stuff in my portrait, lifestyle, and animal sections can’t come from a shoot that I set up myself.  I feel if it’s in a section on your website, it should have a consistent feel because it’s just too jarring for people to be going through and suddenly something’s completely different.

The biggest thing that you can offer that distinguishes you from other photographers is your imagination, your mind. That’s the tool you’ve got that will really take it to the next level.  Equipment is great.  It’s fun and it’s exciting, but the most important things at the shoot are you and the subject.  The people in front of the camera.

A Few Links For Illumination, Elucidation & Enjoyability

The Young Leonardo, Pitti Palace, Florence, Italy.

The Young Leonardo, Pitti Palace, Florence, Italy. Photo by Barry Schwartz

Here’s a collection of pieces I’ve come across recently that apply, are useful for, may be of interest to anyone who creates or appreciates other people’s creativity.



Copyright is an issue of concern to writers as much as to photographers. While writers may incorporate other creator’s work in perfectly legal ways, they have a very specific set of restrictions that photographers can learn from and keep in mind for their own careers. The Authors Alliance is giving away a comprehensive guide: Fair Use For Nonfiction Authors, which provides a terrific overview of the legalities of using other people’s work in your own.

ANNOUNCING THE AUTHORS ALLIANCE GUIDE TO FAIR USE FOR NONFICTION AUTHORS

https://www.authorsalliance.org/2017/11/29/announcing-the-authors-alliance-guide-to-fair-use-for-nonfiction-authors/



Cecil Beaton, a multi-hyphenate master artist of the twentieth century, was a legendary (and remains) an influential photographer with a wide range of interests who also was a respected film and theatre designer (he won an Oscar for My Fair Lady). There is a new book about him, Love, Cecil, and a documentary, both by Lisa Immordino Vreeland (Diana Vreeland’s granddaughter). By David Schonauer in ProPhotoDaily.

Trending: The Journey of Cecil Beaton, In a New Book and Film

https://www.ai-ap.com/publications/article/22365/trending-the-journey-of-cecil-beaton-in-a-new-bo.html



aPhotoEditor has posted a terrific article about a community exhibit in Mumbai, started by the street artist JR, the St+art Urban Art Festival. The “show” takes place out in the open, involving professionals and the public alike as participants.

St+Art / Sassoon Dock Art Project

http://aphotoeditor.com/2017/12/05/the-daily-edit-sassoon-dock-art-project/



A photographer from the Vietnam War, Catherine Leroy – not well known in large part simply because she was a woman – had a long career as a professional photographer. A slide show of very fine pictures from the war, along with a great article in the New York Times Lens Blog, by Elizabeth Herman.

In Her Own Words, Photographing the Vietnam War

https://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/09/27/in-her-own-words-photographing-the-vietnam-war/



The writer Orhan Pamuk, who won the Nobel Prize in 2006, is an investigator of photographs. “The qualities that preserve a photograph’s relevance to future generations transcend the purposes of those who saw the frame and captured it. The lens sees things the photographer was never looking at, and years later, new generations, people with fresh eyes and novel interests, will find entirely different meaning in these accidental particulars.”

The link will take you to an excerpt of the introduction to Istanbul – Memories And The City, published on the terrific site Literary Hub.

ORHAN PAMUK: TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS IN ISTANBUL

http://lithub.com/orhan-pamuk-taking-photographs-in-istanbul/



Susan Meiselas is often thought of as a war photographer, based on her long-term project in Nicaragua, but she in fact has always had a much larger project in mind, as her other, wide-ranging work confirms. Meiselas does more than simply document what she experiences via photography: “From the outset, the idea of a narrative that extended beyond a single frame lay at the heart of my work”. In The Nation Magazine, by Ratik Asokan.

Susan Meiselas’s Redemptive Time

In her new photo-memoir, the photographer returns to the origin of her career to reflect on all she’s remembered, and why it’s worth remembering.

https://www.thenation.com/article/susan-meiselas-on-the-frontline-redemptive-time/



Alex Soth on the book that made his name, Sleeping By The Mississippi. With photos, on the Magnum photo website (where he is a member), interviewed by Anne Bourgeois-Vignon.

Sleeping By The Mississippi. On the occasion of its fourth reprint, Alec Soth looks back at his career-defining project.

https://www.magnumphotos.com/arts-culture/alec-soth-sleeping-by-the-mississippi/



Peter Krogh, expert in all things digital asset management (he wrote The DAM Book) and a working photographer, has written about the big changes that have just come to Lightroom, why they happened, and – more importantly – where he thinks the software industry is going. As always, a great, informed read on his Dam Book blog.

LIGHTROOM AND THE INNOVATOR’S DILEMMA

http://thedambook.com/lightroom-innovators-dilemma/

Jay Allison’s Five Heretical Sermons

Photo By Barry Schwartz

Jay Allison is an award-winning radio producer, reporter, and writer who, in addition to his own work, has mentored and sponsored countless creatives over decades. He gave the opening keynote at the Third Coast International Audio Festival last year, where some of the best and soon-to-be-best audio producers gather to sustain inventiveness and excellence in themselves and their peers.

His talk was directed at audio professionals, but if you substitute “creator” for “producer”, his detailing how to maintain a career by obeying and breaching rules fully applies to anyone whose job is to create something out of nothing.

Allison called his talk Preaching To Myself: Five Heretical Sermons In Five Minutes. He begins by saying “They’re heretical in that they’re the opposite of a lot of advice, but they’re some of the things I tell myself when I stray from what feels most abidingly important.”

The Sermons are:

1 – Don’t Ask Permission
2 – Be Odd
3 – Stay Home
4 – Don’t Try To Be Cool
5 – Stop Competing

Allison’s talk is on Transom as a stream and a transcript. Transom a great resource for all things audio (and therefore video): equipment reviews and tutorials, interviewing techniques (including interviews with such folks as Ira Glass), how to structure a story, many fine workshops, and much more. And it’s free. More than that, Transom is about how to be a storyteller; and in the end, that’s any creative person’s job.

Check it out:

Preaching To Myself: Five Heretical Sermons In Five Minutes