BUSINESS OF PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP – OCTOBER 29.

I am conducting an all-day, in-person workshop, sponsored by the ASMP L.A. chapter and LACP (Los Angeles Center of Photography) in Los Angeles.

Workshop is based on my 16-week college class, Professional Business Practices For Photographers.

Pricing and negotiating, copyright, industry cultures, contracts, insurance, releases, and art school.

Marketing: Social media, newsletters, blogs, mailers, websites, and SEO.

How to research clients and how to make it easier for clients to find you.

AI is on every creator’s mind these days, and while it’s not a settled topic, it must be addressed.

Soft skills are critical: understanding how clients think, what they expect from different specialties, and communicating what you have to offer.

Digital workflow is central to professional careers, so we cover color and data management, printing, metadata, all to speed your work, keep it safe and keep you sane.

Everyone gets 28 pages of resources, including links to free and paid software, books, and websites. Also, template contracts, releases, spreadsheets for taxes, and more.

There will be a light breakfast before the workshop, and lunch will be provided. Coffee ALL DAY!

Register here:
https://www.asmp.org/losangeles/event/what-it-takes-building-and-maintaining-a-photographic-career/

Interview with Jesse Burke

This article first appeared on Lenscratch as part of the series Photographers On Photographers. The brief included speaking with photojournalists and documentary photographers whose work is exhibited in galleries, museums, and other public displays, as well as in publications and advertising.

Barry Schwartz in Conversation with Jesse Burke on Lenscratch: http://lenscratch.com/2023/06/photographers-on-photographers-barry-schwartz-in-conversation-with-jesse-burke/

The full article, sans photos, follows.

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Jesse Burke is a fine art, editorial, and advertising photographer based in Rhode Island.  After receiving his MFA from RISD (Rhode Island School of Design), he quickly gained gallery representation, which, unusually, led to commercial work.  He has worked on personal projects his entire career, including those with family members, and all are thematically and aesthetically linked to his commercial work.

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Artist Statement and Bio

My Wild & Precious project brings together treasures from a series of road trips traveled with my eldest daughter to explore the natural world and get more in touch with the earth. I use these adventures to encourage a connection between my child and nature and to give her an education that I consider essential—one that develops appreciation, respect, conservation, and self- confidence. Together we document and collect objects from the routes we drive, the landscapes we discover, the creatures we encounter, even the roadside motels where we sleep. Wild & Precious reveals the fragile, complicated relationship that humans share with nature and attempts to strengthen those bonds.

My Intertidal series is an investigation into the delicate balance that exists between the heroic idea of masculinity and the true reality of men. It explores the presence of vulnerability and sensitivity that act as forces against the mythology of male dominance and power.

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Barry Schwartz
You do both editorial and commercial work. The general take on editorial is that it is similar to personal work in that it pays less, but you have more creative freedom. Is that basically been your experience?

Jesse Burke 
Yeah, definitely. I think they’re looking to collaborate. Another difference between editorial and commercial is that along that on commercial projects they have a pretty solid sense of what they’re looking for. In editorial projects, most of the time they’re very open to what you can do, which is where you get to have be creative and do things that you would do for your personal work, because they know they’re not paying you a ton of money. But we like what you do. And we know we’re going to like what you give us. 

You also teach at RISD.

I took some time away from RISD to teach in other places. That’s a scheduling and money combination of things. I love being connected with academia, but I don’t love that it doesn’t pay very much and that it’s very time consuming. It’s a balance, right? I need to be available to travel when the jobs come through. I have taught at RISD, the more or less, since 2005.  It’s fun to get a variety of teaching positions and adjunct positions in different schools. It keeps me on my toes, the kids keep me on my toes.

If you’re going to be a responsible teacher, you actually have to know what you’re talking about, which means you have to keep learning. Keep learning from the students, of course, but bringing in stuff that’s up to date in terms of decent information. In my case, I’m not teaching how to take pictures, I’m teaching about how to make a living.

I think professional practice is the most one of the most important classes. It’s increasingly becoming more popular, but it was just implemented when I was at graduate school.

I’ve always felt that class, of all the classes I’ve ever taken, was the most helpful. Critique classes are great. But in terms of practicality, the professional practice class gave me a little bit of an insight into all this insanity. Henry Hornstein was the teacher. He’s a really amazing guy and has a ton of experience with different elements of photography, which would include commercial, editorial, bookmaking, photo, gallery. I’ve always been very fond of professional practice, as a course, as a visiting artist, which I’ve done countless times.  I just think it’s so crucial.

You studied at RISD also.

My academic path is I took some photo class electives at a community college in Arizona, then I transferred to the University of Arizona in Tucson for my BFA in photography. I went to grad school for my MFA in photography at RISD.

That’s a good school, in Arizona.

Big photo school. The Center for Creative Creative Photography was there. I worked there. The Avedon archive is there, Mary Virginia Swanson is there..

Had you started shooting professionally before you got your Masters?

I always knew I wanted to be involved in commercial photography somehow. When I was in graduate school, I assisted some wedding photographers. I knew that I didn’t want to be a wedding photographer, but it was photography, and it was fun, and it paid a little bit of money. I mean, I made $200 a wedding. But I had a great time.

When I graduated from RISD, through my professional practice class, I decided I’m going to follow the path they’ve laid out. I’m going to make a portfolio, I’m going to start reaching out to people and try to get meetings and go in and show my book, and then maybe they’ll hire me to shoot something. And over time they did. Although it wasn’t terrible, it was very rarely something I wanted to photograph. Slowly, I started to get better gigs. It’s a bit of a snowball that’s always rolling, still rolling.

Currently, I have no gallery and no agent. Those are partially my decision, but it’s always in flux, right? You’re always growing, the snowball is always rolling.

My fine art career came much easier than my commercial career did, which is usually the other way around. You work really hard, you can get some commercial success. The art world thing is out of your hands in the sense that you just make the work you make. You can’t necessarily cater to your clients, which would be like galleries and museums. It’s got to be a natural fit in some ways. I just got lucky that my work was appealing to the right people at the right time. It was harder for me to break through the commercial barricade. I think people liked it, but they didn’t really know how to use it, or use me, or what to do with me. I’ve slowly been able to get over that hump. I’m not the perfect lifestyle photographer, which would make it really easy to get jobs.  My work is a little more complicated for them. And maybe it’s not happy enough or as glorious as it should be, or as fun as it should be. At this point, I don’t really care, because I’m sort of confident enough to just make the work I want to make, which then lands commercial gigs. But that’s a very hard position to live in.

What was your entry into the fine art world?

James Wagner and Barry Hoggard did a review of my MFA work in their blog. Pre-Instagram. A couple of different gallerists found my work through that blog. One put me in a group show and took my work to Art Basel, Miami for one of the smaller satellite fairs. This is the December after I graduated. Crazy. That relationship blossomed very quickly, because I had a great response to my work at the fair and they offered me gallery representation and a show that led to a book being published. That trickled into another gallery in Canada, which had an exhibition and then another book, and that really set me on the path to go to Review Santa Fe in 2009. 

I found pretty good success pitching myself at that review, because the professional practice class I had with Henry Hornstein really prepared me. That led me to getting represented by a gallery in New York. And that really put me more on the map. So I got into the real deal art world very quickly, within a matter of five years out of grad school. It’s all contingent upon having pictures they liked, good artwork with good messages, good statements.  And timing is such a big part of this job. I was making work that not a lot of people were making, and I think it became a popular subject matter.  I got very lucky with this. I just made my artwork in grad school, I didn’t think about how the markets are going to digest it in five years, and whether or not it’s going to be a hot topic.

This was “Intertidal”, which was about about this idea of masculine identity, and a self portrait. “Wild and Precious” was really interesting, I would say it’s my best work, certainly, it’s my most favorite work. It’s my most successful work in some ways, but it didn’t sell very well. 

I shifted as a person. I had a kid, I started making new work. Again, I’m not making work for the market. I’m just making work I’m interested in.  Since 2015, the culture around children and nature and the connection — or not — between humans and nature, and the environment and climate change, all that stuff was really boiling up. This was just part of my life, became part of my photography, and wasn’t really something that was as sexy as my gallery wants it. It was different. I was now taking pictures of a little kid. No more men and no more self portraits, but now I was dealing with parents and nature lovers, and it opened up so many more doors for me as others were shutting.

That is the way careers go for creative people who are not trying to meet the market, they’re waiting for the market to meet them. Students and emerging photographers in particular, you’re told your voice, your brand — whatever that is — is the most important thing. Be unique and set yourself apart. At the same time, you’re told be commercial, whether you’re in the fine art world, the gallery world, or the editorial world; meet the market.

I have this relationship with that concept as a construct in the world. My friends that are commercial photographers, they’re often very successful because they’re always doing like what’s hot in the market. And I don’t necessarily have any interest in that, at all. I’m aware, very aware, of what’s hot in the market. I’m very aware of marketing in general, and what sells. But I don’t cater my work to that. 

For example, in the last few years, there’s been a huge push for minority representation, and BIPOC and LGBTQ+ representation that I’m all for 1,000%, I love all that stuff. But I don’t necessarily try to shoot that stuff in my work. When I’m on a commercial job, I certainly try to cast minority people for representation purposes, because I think it’s fair and equitable and something I want to do, but in my own personal artwork, it’s really not present. If I did, I could probably be more successful. My friends that do are more aware of it and chase it harder, and I find they are more successful in some ways.

There’s a total consistency in the work on your site.

I’m just me, and obviously the pictures are going to reflect that, because it’s really just the way I see the world. It’s not that unique, but it’s very specific to me. For example, right now I’m working on a project, we’re putting together a bid package for this job, it’s a road trip job, and it’s for a big brand. I was creating this treatment, which is a presentation about why I should get the job. All I did was say: Hey, this is who I am, look at all the shit that I’ve done in my life has led me to the moment where I can actually say to you that I am the right photographer for this job. Here’s all the proof. It’s a series of personal projects and client work. 

Just to give you an example, I had a client in the past where we would go on RV road trips with my family, which was spawned because of Wild and Precious. They were like: go make Wild and Precious for us. It’s 75% me being myself and 25% shooting stuff for the client. I would never shoot a picture of an RV personally for myself, but we were in an RV, but most of the pictures were just art pictures. The beauty of that process for me is that the client gets the artist they are after, and I get the artwork that I’m after on the client’s dime. So it’s a really great place to be. There’s a certain level of keeping it real with your vision and not catering to the market, but there’s also an element of commercial viability in my artwork. 

My life is one thing, it’s one path. I feel very fortunate to have stumbled into that. That’s not necessarily a conscious decision, it just happens. I think it’s nice I’m able to sort of live in between two worlds. I think there’s a lot of photographers that do that; I’m not the only one.

I don’t know how much influence pop culture has on my life. My work is infused with lots of things that are relative to culture, and pop culture. Somehow, my story is a little slippery, it can slide in and out of editorial work and commercial work and climate change, global warming, being a conscious consumer, traveling, parenting. Those are big, high level concepts that all my work fits into in a really fortunate way. We’re all living in the same world, right? We’re all trying to raise our families in the same world. We’re exposed to the same TV commercials and the same movies and the same political bullshit. So all of those things are overlapping into all of our lives. I just feel like I’m fortunate enough to have it also overlap into my artwork.

Most people, if they do artwork, are mostly doing their day job, then they do their artwork and there isn’t any overlap, necessarily. 

I think the takeaway from these interviews always, is that you can live the dream. It’s possible, right? I have some kids, I have a little farm, I have a decent career in photography, and I basically do what I want, when I want, and how I want. Not many people can say that, even in the photography industry. I don’t need a lot of money to survive. I have an older LandRover that I love and it’s a passion car for me. It’s still a nice car. We’re happy, and I’m able to make it work and keep it real with my vision and my artwork and parlay it into commercial photography. For people wondering how the hell do I do that? Or can I do that, I think it’s really nice to know that, yes, it’s definitely attainable. It’s a lot of work. You never can turn it off. It is never off. You’re never off the clock. It has sacrifices. I was literally up until midnight on the phone with other people talking about this commercial project last night when my wife is trying to sleep. My kids know that Daddy’s always on the phone. You’re never not working.

I saw Joyce Tenneson give a talk. She said it is still true that a lot of people assist in order to learn the trade, then they’ll go on to become photographers. The ones that succeed, they don’t go to the party. They go home at the end of the day because you have to build your portfolio. 

I assisted after grad school to make money when I wasn’t getting any jobs. I was a digital tech. We were taught how to operate camera RAW from Steve Smith over at RISD. I was able to segue out of grad school into the commercial world through the assistant path because of that, which gave me a lot of insight as to what commercial jobs were like. I remember my first job, where we had a motor home, and there were models and hair and makeup people. I was like, this is like a movie. Then I started working for Ralph Lauren Polo for my friend who was shooting that stuff. We were traveling all over the country shooting famous models, and it was nuts.

You made me think, when you quoted the photographer who said the ones that succeed are the ones that don’t go to the party. I would argue there is something to be said for the party, in the sense that that is a place to make connection. I think that’s a huge piece of this. I totally agree with that person’s stance, but also you need to make time to go to the party once in a while. You need to have some sort of a personality when you get to that party so you can connect with other people who are peers, other photographers, writers, cool people, art directors, clients: they want to go to the party. A lot of the times the people you want to work for are at the party. So not going to the party, ever, does rob you, in some ways, of opportunity. Part of the reason I was getting jobs is because I was having fun with these art directors. You’ve got to be open and flexible and fun and have a good personality, but also have good artwork.  If you have bad pictures, it’s game over right at the beginning.

I say to my wife, you know, comically, when we’re butting heads about something related to my job, I always say, Hey, listen, don’t get mad at me because I chose to make a career out of drinking beer with my friends and going on road trips.

It takes a good partner.

I have the best partner. Most understanding partner, no question. I’m blessed.

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Jesse Burke – https://www.jesseburke.com/

Interview with Jana Ašenbrennerová

This article first appeared on Lenscratch as part of the series Photographers On Photographers. The brief included speaking with photojournalists and documentary photographers whose work is exhibited in galleries, museums, and other public displays, as well as in publications and advertising.

Barry Schwartz in Conversation with Jana Ašenbrennerová on Lenscratch: http://lenscratch.com/2023/06/photographers-on-photographers-barry-schwartz-in-conversation-with-jana-asenbrennerova/

The full article, sans photos, follows.

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Artist Statement and Bio

Jana Ašenbrennerová is a Czech photojournalist currently based in San Francisco. Her specialties include social documentary and environmental portraiture. She dedicates her time to international reporting, pursuing independent projects primarily in Africa and Asia. In collaboration with nonprofit organizations (NGOs), she documents humanitarian efforts in different parts of the world. Her storytelling puts a human face on issues through portrayal of emotions, intimate moments and candid interpersonal interactions. Jana has led photography student expeditions for National Geographic in various parts of the world. She is a member of the screening committee for the International Ocean Film Festival.

Jana’s photography has won numerous awards, including World Press Photo, National Geographic Photo Contest, Czech Press Photo, China Press Photo, and many others.

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Barry Schwartz
What drew you to this sort of work?

Jana Ašenbrennerová
I’m drawn to people and am passionate about learning about them, hearing their stories and capturing them, be it through photography or writing. I am curious about people’s lives, how they arrived where they are at, what transformation they went through, what makes them hurt, what makes them happy, what their life is like at that moment and what is their experience of being alive. It fascinates me and I can get fully absorbed by these narratives when I work on a story. Connecting with all kinds of people is the biggest gift I get from my work. If I ever have to choose only one thing I can photograph for the rest of my life there would be no doubt what I would choose. There is nothing I’m drawn to more than people.

I am drawn to stories from the medical field, documenting patients through their process of recovery – physical and mental as they are undergoing transformation. I can manage looking at blood, open wounds, and photographing surgeries in a way that is publishable and not too graphic, though I have had my near-fainting moments. I find these stories highly emotional not just because of the amount of pain that is undoubtedly part of any recovery but also the impact an accident has on the patient, their family and sometimes the entire community. It’s layered and complex and quite relatable as most likely every one of us have experienced it on some level. (When I was 12 years old my older brother Martin, who was 18 at that time, had a very dramatic car accident that completely changed his life and the lives of our family. In a split of a second, everything changed. It was a year-long process for him to find the new normal and to adapt to consequences. We had to transform alongside him. I feel a lot of empathy for those who are experiencing something similar, for the patient or loved ones.) These stories are full of pain, grief, suffering but also resilience, strength, hope and transformation that can turn out to be positive. These stories are about embracing change which I am passionate about documenting, I find it powerful and relatable.  

Most clients seem to be NGOs. Do you pitch any of these stories to publications?

My clients are a mix of corporate, newspaper, magazines, travel agencies and some NGOs – I live in San Francisco, so it is necessary for me to have a diverse clientele so I can afford to do journalism. Working with NGOs is among my favorite kinds of work and I’m always on a lookout for new opportunities and organizations to collaborate with. I don’t always pitch the stories I do for NGOs to publications; it’s a different kind of coverage and the materials I collect would be considered incomplete for photojournalism. However, I often find a story while working with an NGO and develop and pitch it afterwards on my own when I’m done with my assigned work for the organization. It simply requires more time and a different kind of treatment.

Tell me about your marketing strategies.

I don’t have specific marketing strategies and it certainly is and always has been a challenge. I feel fortunate however that clients I have worked with in the past come back as well as recommend me to others; that is mainly how I have built my clientele. It’s word of mouth, the only ‘marketing strategy’ that has ever worked for me, be it in the corporate world, with NGOs, or in journalism.

Did you study to be a photographer in college?

Yes. I did a photography program at San Francisco City College over 15 years ago. It was fantastic and great exposure to a variety of techniques and photo styles. We started with B&W film, processing it ourselves, developing our own images and learning darkroom techniques which I’m thankful I don’t have to do anymore. We worked with 4×5 cameras, had a portraiture and editorial class, learned basic photoshop and lighting techniques, but also explored more experimental approaches like mixed media or cyanotypes. What I found the most appealing was the class I took last, a documentary course with Ken Light. I was drawn to storytelling. From there I went on to SF State to study photojournalism with Ken Kobre, who was my professor and became my mentor. I did several internships while at school, including darkroom techniques with one of Ansel Adams’ former assistants. From there I went to the San Francisco Chronicle to learn about capturing news through photography and then to the Kathmandu Post newspaper in Nepal, which was a unique experience that taught me more than any school course ever could.

I studied directing and screenwriting at the Film Academy of Miroslav Ondříček in Písek back home in the Czech Republic, then photography at City College, followed by photojournalism at San Francisco State.  A few years ago I completed my masters in Visual Anthropology, also at SFSU, where my focus was on improving my writing skills, learning video, production, and editing.  My background in filmmaking, formal photo and journalism education — and three very different internships — gave me a pretty good foundation for the work I do today.

How did you begin your career?

Not sure what I would consider the starting point of my career but my passion for telling stories, capturing the world around me, and connecting with people was something I have been drawn to as long as I remember. One of the turning points was probably when I was taking a news writing course at City Colleague right before I went to study journalism at SF State University. It was the year the Olympics were held in Beijing, China and the famous Olympic torch was supposed to be carried across San Francisco. Protests were expected by the Tibetan community and supporters. Our professor, Jon Rochmis, suggested we go cover it for extra credit. I spent the entire day following the torch, running around taking photos and then at night attended an event where I photographed Desmond Tutu and Richard Gere giving speeches in support of Tibet. I did a full day of coverage and as exhausted as I was at the end of it I felt incredibly alive. I also conducted some of my very first interviews and felt like I had a front seat to history. I got in touch with a magazine back in the Czech Republic that was interested in the coverage and they ended up publishing it. So my extra credit work for a news writing class ended up as multiple page spreads published in a magazine. After this experience there was no doubt in my mind what path I want to take going forward. It was the beginning of my career and life I’m thankful for.

Tell me about photographers you admire.

One of my long-time favorites is Sebastião Salgado, I admire his photography as much as his activism and dedication to make a change in the world. His shipbreaker photos from Bangladesh inspired me to document the same ship yards in Chittagong myself back in 2010. 

Tell me about teaching.

Once a year I lead student photo expeditions for National Geographic. I teach photography and storytelling in different parts of the world; the location depends on the program I get assigned to. I did a couple in Asia — India and Bhutan — and then a photo worksop in the Czech Republic. This summer I’ll be leading a trip in the Canadian Arctic. Even though the concept and approach we follow with our students is similar, each trip is very different. I like working with students, especially when they come into these trips with some kind of passion – be it photography, culture, or just nature or people, anything really. That gives me something to work with and connect with them over. My hope is to inspire them and to help develop their passion further in the little time I get to share with them. It is an opportunity for me to move them, to inspire them, or to expose them to somebody or something that will. Even though I’m considered the teacher and leader, what happens on these trips is always an exchange. It is transformative for all of us involved.

Beside these expeditions I do guest lectures for photojournalism students, most frequently at SFSU for Kim Komenich’s classes.

How about writing?

Since high school I found writing to be quite intimidating. This became even more pronounced when I emigrated to the United States and started to communicate in a language that was not my first. I was holding back and was unable to fully free myself from that inhibition until I started to study anthropology. We were writing excessively and constantly, producing long essays and analysis on a daily or weekly basis. There was no time to worry anymore. It was overwhelming but it helped me to shake off that fear of writing. I gained some confidence and my attitude towards writing has changed dramatically. I started writing more freely, focusing on the content and what I want to say rather than obsessing about the mistakes I might make in the process. I now write articles to accompany the photo stories I document and even though I am a slow writer, I find the process satisfying and am thankful to editors who polish my work up before it gets published.

When I work on personal projects I take excessive notes and do my own interviews. I do a lot of medical reporting so it’s crucial for me to understand the technicalities. It often takes a long time and multiple interviews to understand the scope of the medical work. I record interviews on the iPhone, upload them to the Otter app to transcribe and then write my article based on notes. That is my process. I believe it’s crucial to be able to write. I’m both a journalist and a photographer and therefore I like to have a toolbox of skills to best tell a story. Writing is certainly one of these skills.

Have you been on staff at any publications?

I have never been a staff member on any publication and it’s not something I was ever interested in. Even though freelance life can be stressful and uncertain at times, I would always choose it over a secure staff position. Regardless of the frequent anxiety, it aligns better with who I am and how I like to work and live my life. I appreciate the flexibility my work offers.

How do you market yourself to publications?

I don’t do a whole lot of marketing and consider pitching among the most difficult aspects of my work. It feels awkward and I have yet to learn how to do it properly and effectively. There are, luckily, some publications I have worked with for a long time — they trust in what I do and give me a great freedom in doing my work. I appreciate these relationships and often produce my best work for these publications as a result.

Roughly how much of your income is from secondary licensing or stock?

There are some unexpected chunks here and there but overall, not a lot. Time is the main obstacle for me. I started to contribute to some stock libraries and agencies during Covid but it takes time to develop. There don’t ever seem to be enough hours in a day to do all I would like to do. There always seems to be more that needs to be done, I often feel overwhelmed. On the other hand, I’m certainly never, ever bored.

Tell me how your work ends up in exhibitions and museums.

I did have some exhibits over the years and it’s a question of opportunity or invitation, rather than my main focus. It’s usually in collaboration with an organization or somebody reaches out as they see I have work that would be fitting for their theme. It’s usually quite time-consuming to prepare materials so I don’t pursue it often but when it’s something collaborative and impactful I gladly participate. The two most recent exhibits I had were in Europe. In Prague, I exhibited a portrait series of gay couples that are raising children together. The project was done in collaboration with a Czech NGO Jsme Fér that fights to legalize gay marriage in Czech Republic. The other exhibit was in Spain (FineArt Igualada), where alongside other photographers I was exhibiting my project “Growing Up Among The Dead” from the Philippines.

Do you pitch to contests?

I do my best to constantly submit my work to contests, if I have something fitting. It pushes me to work with the material I have, make an edit, sort it out. I find it to be a helpful practice and often a first step to get the work organized and prepared for a pitch.

Do you print yourself, or outsource?

I never print anything myself, always outsource.

Do you do your own post?

Yes I do my own post production on everything I shoot unless it’s a commercial gig when we have an editor on site who processes on my behalf. When it comes to personal projects, I always do all my processing.

Do you go to portfolio reviews as an attendee or reviewer?

I have attended a good amount as both over the years, reviewer and attendee. There is no regularity, it depends on opportunities and time but maybe one a year?

What social media do you do?

I probably use instagram the most. My regular posts are curated – therefore not too frequent – but then the 24 hour stories are what I use quite often. There I share more personal experiences from my own life and my frequent travels; it’s rather spontaneous and not always related to my work but it does refer to some of it. It’s a mix.

How about commercial work.

I do a lot of corporate work when in San Francisco.

And video?

Yes, when requested by clients I am able to provide it.

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Jana Ašenbrennerová is a photographer, educator, and writer.

Website: https://www.asenbrennerova.com