Category: friday features

Friday Feature: Alexandra Grablewski

Alexandra Grablewski is one gifted photographer. Born in New York City, she kept true to her roots with an education in photography from NYU and continuing her photo love by assisting local photographers. It’s no surprise I’m not the only fan of her work… Alexandra is the Queen of books, having photographed over 30 books!

Yet, photography isn’t her only talent. Alexandra loves to sew, knit and use power tools (yes, power tools!)… which should come in handy with her current renovations on her soon-to-be Brooklyn home. (That’s where her picture was taken).

Alexandra’s portfolio has been on my link list since this blog started. If you are not already familiar with her work, you’ll now know why I’m such a fan.

Here is our interview, for you:

01. What equipment did you start with? What equipment do you use now?

I started out using mostly a Zone VI 4×5 field camera, mixed with a Mamiya RZ, and a Pentax 6×7 for location, but since switching to video I use a Mamiya 645 with a Phase One back, and carry a Canon 5D Mark II for back up and video. I am really thankful for the Mamiya 645–it was a much easier shift to digital being able to use a camera and lens that were originally used for film, and keep that same beautiful quality.
02. Do you prefer natural light or studio light?
I absolutely prefer natural light, but I do shoot strobe from time to time and really appreciate it when the days are shorter. However, my goal with studio light is always to duplicate natural light as much as possible.

03. Favorite project/book/shoot you’ve worked on?
That’s really hard to say, but maybe one of the best was when I got to travel to Thailand for month with Thai chef Su-Mei Yu to work on her cookbook The Elements Of Life. Not only was Su-Mei wonderful, but Thailand is so visually inspiring, and I got to see so much from the insider perspective that I would never would have had access to as a tourist.
04. On average, how much time does it take to shoot a book/cookbook?
A book usually takes anywhere from 3 days to a week…sometimes more… depending on the number of shots. I love working like this on one project for a few consecutive days.

05. Do you cook? What is your favorite dish?
I do like to cook but I’m somewhat challenged as I am vegetarian, and also allergic to mostly everything. My favorite things to make are desserts because I have a real sweet tooth, and the smell of baking cookies or a pie makes me very happy. However, none of that happens often enough.
06. What do you think makes a successful photo shoot?
I think harmony in a crew is really important, having prop and food stylists who you really click with visually, who you can be inspired by, and you just generally enjoy working with. With the right people you can make just about anything look good.
07. How do you make and keep clients?
I have been un-represented for some time now and I really believe that I work harder to promote myself than any agent I’ve had. It’s important to be really on top of it–I still send postcards 4 or 5 times a year, an occasional email blast when my website is updated, call to send in portfolios,…and it’s worked really well for me. As far as keeping clients…well, the work is always first–and the goal is to make the client happy, and maybe even surprise them with something better than they expected. But I also think that the general atmosphere on a shoot is really important, it’s a creative business, and we want to have a nice time. I want my clients to be comfortable, maybe listen to some good music, have a good lunch….and walk away feeling great about the shoot.
08. What/who inspires you and your work?
I think that light is what I get the most excited about and seeing how it falls on something or someone makes me want to photograph to preserve it. The first thing I do when shooting anything is to walk around it to see how the light changes from each angle until I find a highlight or a shadow that I can’t live without.
09. What are the biggest challenges in working with children? What are the advantages?
The advantage is that children are so spontaneous and unpredictable and most of the time when I get down to the edit it’s really fun to see what you’ve gotten. But sometimes a certain child is tired, or doesn’t want to do what you’re asking –and although it’s my responsibility to do the best I can to capture what the client needs, I have strong feelings about not wanting to torture anyone.
10. What is the most challenging thing to photograph?
I suppose a subject who is very uncomfortable with being in front of the camera, or a child who has crashed from eating too much sugar, or ice cream in a garden in 90+ degrees which is melting while bugs are landing in it. Really.
11. Are you friends with other photographers in your industry? Is there any competition?
I have a couple of friends who are photographers but we do very different types of work which makes it easy. I find that the exchange of information on technical things, new programs, new equipment etc is really helpful. I wish I had more actually, but it’s not easy to meet other photographers since we don’t ever end up working together. I do have many stylist friends however…

12. Do you think it is important to assist photographers before venturing out on your own?
Yes, I assisted a few still-life and food photographers and I really think that it was in many ways much more applicable to the business than what I was able to learn in class. At least for me it was a much more gratifying way to learn hands on, and a great way to get a good spectrum of how different artists work as everyone sort of develops their own methods.

13. If you could photograph anyone, who would it be?
I don’t have a celebrity or anyone that I’m dying to meet and shoot. I suppose if I could go back in time I would love to photograph some of my relatives like my grandparents because I have so few visual records of my extended family.

Thank you, Alexandra! Readers, please show your appreciation by leaving a comment!

Friday Feature: Rebecca Crumley

What a pleasure to have a wedding pro as a Friday Feature!

Rebecca Crumley is the Photo Director at and sifts through thousands of images daily to bring you the best ideas and photography in the world of weddings.
Originally from Richmond, VA, Rebecca calls Brooklyn, NY home and is lucky enough to work at The Knot’s headquarters in Soho. (I’ve visited several times and it’s a hive of amazingly talented and busy people.)
Rebecca is also a photographer (has a degree in Communication Arts/Photography) and draws on her photographic knowledge daily.
Here is our interview, for you:
01. What is the best thing about your job? What is the most challenging?
Two best things! First, the simple fact that my job as photo director at is to look at photos all day. It’s so inspiring to see how photographers approach their shoots and the creativity that comes out of it. Second, I love the relationships I’ve developed. I’m lucky enough to have friends in every city through the weddings we’ve featured. It’s very humbling to think how many talented people I have met through
The challenging part is the volume and always thinking three steps ahead. I’ve learned it’s important to budget your time wisely and to be ready for anything to land on my lap at any given point.
I also have to admit how exciting it is telling photographers we plan to feature their work. Sometimes you can really feel the excitement through email, and it’s so satisfying to know we can help businesses with that editorial exposure. I love finding new photographers and spreading the love!
02. I’m sure you’ve gotten lots of ideas for your own future wedding. Is it something you think about or are you tired of the whole business?
After six years of photo editing weddings, I’m surprisingly not tired of weddings at all! But at the same time, if I found myself engaged tomorrow, I’d be really overwhelmed with what to do. I suppose my first step is to find that dream husband of mine… then I’ll worry about the wedding!
03. What are your recent favorite finds for weddings?
I think it’s all in a personalized venue and incredible environment. As a guest at a wedding, I love being taken somewhere that I wouldn’t normally get to see and experience. One of my dear friends married earlier this year and in lieu of a fancy rehearsal dinner, she rented a large house in the country for a few days -with a pool, area for campfire, animals on the property. It was so charming and the time that we had together for a few days will always be one of my favorite memories -especially having time with our generation, the parents and the new babies from friends. Another friend married in her parents’ village in Greece a few years ago. I never would have imagined I’d be part of such a unique and cultural experience. The fact that we as her best friends all got to be there together was incredible.
From Rebecca: Photos from a day-after shoot in Hawaii. Environmental portraits win me over, period. Dramatic settings make for insanely awesome photos. photos © Stephanie Williams
04. Describe the sweetest (or most outrageous) wedding you’ve seen so far.
Honestly, they are all on the same level to me. A lot of money to one person is pocket change to others. I’m just looking at photos, what makes a wedding sweet is the moment of the day! I do contribute to the Wedding Obsessions blog. We highlight an idea that impresses us and new wedding news. It’s fun writing for the brides, so this is where we call out the “wow” factors that matter to us.
05. How many photos do you sift through each day?
It’s not outrageous to say 15,000 easily. I’ll scroll through blogs like slot machines roll out! I also like to joke that one day the Olympic committee will add a new category: The Pictage Olympics.. in which, I tend to compete.
06. What makes a great photo submission?
Taking the time to send the right photos. The average submission sends too many shots of the couple, and not enough of what we’re actually looking for -the details! It’s also really important to provide image variety, so that some shots are wide scene setters and some are clean tight product shots. Rather than just pulling random images, take the time to imagine you are designing a magazine layout and how the photos all work together. Also, each image needs to have an editorial point, so make sure every photo has something to say.

From Rebecca: Décor that doubles as favors = eco-friendly, creative, and budget-conscious.

photo © Jules Bianchi
07. What is the most unique thing you’ve received because of your job?
Once I opened a submission that had a big knife in it!!! I didn’t know what to think (passive-aggresive anger?!). Turns out, the photographer had mistakenly slipped it in with about 10 submissions. He said he’d been wondering where his butcher knife went!
08. What is the worst thing a vendor or photographer can do to get your attention?
Sending one image of a couple and asking if we want to see more photos. We’re pretty lenient and flexible on ways to receive weddings submissions. As a vendor, take some time to do it right and provide us with the information we need. One image of a couple is a waste of time for both parties. You can find submission information here.

From Rebecca: The color red is so bold, I love seeing it in layouts and the attention to DIY. There’s also just something about the simplicity and elegance of a single-flower bouquet of dahlias. © Tanja Lippert

09. It seems the trend lately is for brides to create blog or magazine-worthy weddings for exposure. What do you think of this?
It certainly makes my job easier that brides are taking the extra attention to detail. But at the same time, I hope they’re still taking the time to realize it’s a special point in their lives. It isn’t a media event, it’s your wedding.
10. What is your typical day like?
It’s all about multi-tasking! I walk to work almost every day with two important accessories: my iPod and my Blackberry. I’m pretty much at my desk from 9am – 6/7/8/9pm-ish. The time in between is some combination of photo editing, photo researching, and meetings. I’ll sit at my desk and zone out to music when editing and organizing weddings. I’ve recently started reserving two hours a week to work on non-pressing projects. During this time, I’ll do blog research, image organization, update contacts, etc. It is beneficial to continually develop efficiency.

From Rebecca: Katy & Daniel are from our winter national issue of The Knot, shot by Bonnie Berry Photography

11. Describe how you came to be a photo editor.
First, I wanted to be a photo curator. I always loved both photography and museums, so it seemed like a good combination of my two favorite things. I did some incredible internships and worked part-time for a few art galleries and world-renowned museums, but saw how the magic of it all can wear off quickly.
As I realized this, I was also working as a custom black and white printer for Dementi Studio in Richmond. They’re a family-run company that’s been in business for almost 100 years. The brothers that founded the company worked for the local paper and were able to retain the rights to their images over the years. Essentially, the company has thousands of vintage negatives of street intersections and historic moments in Richmond and it was my job to make archival prints of them. I enjoyed getting to know thte collection of images, and how the photos were distributed locally in Richmond. (Sidenote: I sued to get freaked out printing 11×14 images of Robert E. Lee -like his ghost was watching me as I “burned in” the blown out highlights of his white hair!) Long story short, I was able to work with them on a photo book of “then and now” scenes in Richmond and really loved the publishing experience. It’s fun to collaborate on a big project then have a completed product afterward.
Also, when I was a teenager I spent a few summers in Maine and fell in love with the Maine Photographic Workshops. I really admired their structure and had dreamed of becoming one of their summer staffers. So after a few years at Dementi, I attended their annual job fair interview weekend, and low and behold was hired. I took that summer off to work as printing assistant there. It was incredibly inspiring to work alongside photographers I’d always admired and the unique opportunities (like having lunch with Arnold Newman). It opened my eyes to making your goals happen and living your life as you want it to be.
I realized that if I wanted to pursue publishing with the goal of photo editing, I had to move to New York. I wasn’t immediate that things fell into place, but I’ve been so happy to be a part of the team at The Knot. It is such a progressive company and has grown in many ways in my time here. It’s exciting to see your colleagues on national TV, your CEO ring the NASDAQ bell, and the loyalty from the community generated on
From Rebecca: My most recent favorite cake! I stumbled on last week and found a way to sneak it into one of our upcoming issues of The Knot. Cakes can make or break a wedding submission for us. They make such a strong visual element in a layout. So many of the details are floral or stationery-based, so a beautiful cake goes a long way in a photo editor’s eyes!

12. If you hadn’t become a photo editor, what would you be?
In another life, I would love to be an archeologist. I remember a field trip visiting Alexandria, Virginia. An archeologist told us how she found George Washington’s toothbrush and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Plus, I think it would be fun to dig in dirt every day. Or also in the exhibits department of a museum -your job would be to decide which paintings go where and how to incorporate signage. I love the vinyl lettering they use!
Thank you so much, Rebecca! I appreciate all your hard work so I can look at quality magazines and websites. Dear Readers: please leave a sweet comment below.

* I want to point out that whenever Rebecca uses the term “editing,” she is not referring to photoshopping, color correcting, etc. “Editing” outside of the portrait world refers to choosing images: “I like this one… I don’t like that one.”

** Rebecca’s headshot is by Mel Barlow.
Want to see more Friday Features? Click here.

friday feature: lindsey kaufman

So pleased to introduce to you the work of Lindsey Kaufman -Copywriter and Voice Over Pro.

Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of one of those jobs? We’re not talking about the person who copyrights your protected work, we’re talking advertising -sexy Mad Men style. Lindsey makes ads that sell products to you and has worked with such hot-shots as Fisher Price, Eucerin, Dr. Scholl’s, Diet Coke, Kraft, Nabisco, Keri, Valtrex and more.

What’s voice-over work? Oh just a little side job for Lindsey that does a great job bringing in the cash as the voice for awesome ads by Kraft, Oscar Meyer,,, Lunchables, and

Though a native of San Antonio, Texas, Lindsey can officially call New York City (Nolita, to be exact) home -since she’s lived there now ten years. And ten years can give a self-proclaimed “problem solver” all the experience she needs to be a succesful Ad (wo)Man.

Here is our interview, for you:

01. When did you first get involved in advertising?
I was in school at the University of Texas at Austin and I thought I wanted to be a Psych major but then my best friend found out about advertising and I decided to be an Ad major. The second year of school you could try out to get into this creative sequence to develop your portfolio. A lot of my friends in my business went to trade school in addition to college so I was lucky to get it done in 4 yrs.

02. Was school tough?
Yes. The first year, you had to draw everything by hand and worked solo. But it really helped me -though it was limiting to have these ideas and not be able to execute them. I had to convince my teacher to “promote” me to the second year because I couldn’t draw, but I new I could do really well once I could use the computer.

03. At that point, were you sold on advertising as a career?
I wasn’t really sold on advertising yet, so.. my Senior year I interviewed to be a “Hot Dogger” for Oscar Meyer. (A group of students who drive around the Oscar Meyer WeinerMobile for PR purposes). I was chosen as a finalist out of 1000 students and was flown to Madison, WI and got to test drive the Oscar Meyer WeinerMobile. It’s ironic now because I just booked the voice of Oscar Meyer!

04. What was your first job?
Well, I did an unpaid internship first with GSD&M -and they are probably the most well-known (and definitely the coolest) creative shop in Austin. I did a lot of grunt work, but we also got a lot of opportunities to work on client jobs. N: Is it typical to have unpaid internships today?
I think so. People are hungry for these jobs so they’ll do anything. But, they also provide the jumpstart to your career. Typically with the creative thing, it is not about your grades, it’s about what’s in your portfolio -what you have done. You are your work. My first job was at FCB in New York City and I was hired as a Junior Copywriter and now I work as Senior Copywriter for EuroRSCG NY.

05. Explain what a copywriter is.
I tell people, “I’m a writer for an advertising agency. I make ads.”

06. I love the show Mad Men. What character on the show best describes you and your job?
As far as positions, I would be Peggy. She is a copywriter! If going by personality and big booty, I’d be Joan. Advertising really is a boys club so for Don Draper to take a chance on Peggy was really a big deal. I hear about ad men in the 80s and it was very much the same way -a boys club. Today, it has changed a lot, but I love the show and we all watch it. After all, we are the ones sending all these messages to you a million times a day telling you how you should look and feel.

07. How do you decide if a product is going to be successful?
We run focus groups which are usually a random sampling of people who meet a certain criteria. For example, at Kraft, we would have a sampling of moms. These people are recruited and show up at a research facility where we watch from behind a two-way mirror while the mediator presents the work and asks lots of questions. A lot of it may be inaccurate because it’s a fishbowl situation. A product lives and dies in testing. We will think we have a great product but it may not test well. And if it doesn’t test well, it’s back to the drawing boards.

08. Tell us what process an ad takes before we get to see it.
The account people come to us wth a creative brief, then we sit down and brainstorm and start concepting. It goes through so many layers –like playing a video game. (How many lives do we have?) I work with an Art Director and it can be stressful because we may have 3 weeks or just 3 days to put something something together. We’ll take the idea to my Creative Director to approve it. (Taking in consideration their mood that day. ) Sometimes they might change it. We go back and revise and make changes then take it to the Accounts Dept who might change the idea based on what the client wants –then it goes to the client. And even then, we might have to start over. If approved, we move onto the actual shoot and I always attend the shoots because I want to make sure my work is being presented the right way. Then it goes into the post-production process and that’s how I became voice-over talent! We usually have someone stand in for the voice-over (scratch tracks) and since that was usually me, my editor found I have a talent for it and said, “I’m going to get you a real job. I think you’re really good.” It’s the most random talent. Although, I think it helps being a writer and being around ads because I know how it should sound.

09. What was your first voice-over job?

My first job was for Kraft and it was three words: Kraft Your Salad. I kept getting more Kraft jobs and it was amazing! I saw that there was money potential, so I started looking for an agent. They say my voice is raw –meaning imperfect. So the jobs I get now are less “announcer” so it’s perfect for my voice.

FYI: Lindsey’s Voice Over name is Lindsey Walters

10. Do you do anything special to get your voice ready for recording?
I drink this tea that tastes pretty disgusting, but my voice is raspy is it depends how I was using it the night before.

11. What is the pay range for voice-over work?
It’s really hard to determine because checks just come in the mail in random amounts and they are all for different lengths of time depending on how long they run. You get a session fee for every time you’re in the booth (usually about an hour) then everytime that spot airs, you get money. National spots pay the most. (Nicole here.. I’m not going to list her average annual income, but let’s just say this side job pays like a full-time job! Lucky girl!)

12. How do you pull off both jobs?
It’s very hard. I make sure my real job is my priority because it is a job that I can use my brain. I don’t think I would personally be fulfilled just doing voice-over work. But when it rains, it pours. Whenever I get a lot of ad work, the auditions are also pouring in.

Lindsey’s Copywriting Reel (She’s also the voice-over for two of the commercials!)

13. What’s your favorite voice to do?
I like the sultry or flirty voices because it amuses me. I don’t love being super perky because it doesn’t feel natural. I love being the sarcastic girlfriend.

Thank you so much for the interview, Lindsey! I certainly loved peeking into your double-life! Hey Readers, did you? Leave a comment for Lindsey here!

friday feature: randi brookman harris

About three months ago, I met with Randi Brookman Harris in NYC for what would be a long but captivating interview over breakfast at City Bakery. You see, I love stylists. They make my work so much easier -and Randi is as good as they come. You’ve seen her work in Kate Spade and Martha Stewart Weddings -but now that she’s freelance, you’ll be seeing her beautiful styling for clients such as J. Crew, Real Simple and in a new book due out soon from Minhee Cho of Paper+Cup!

So why have I been holding out on you for three whole months? Randi just launched her brand new website and blog today so you are the first to see it!!

Full of information and excitement for her work, here Randi shares her journey in becoming a stylist -including the challenges and fun involved. So grab a cup of cocoa and curl up on the couch while you read our interview for you:

(oh and ps… click on all these amazing sources Randi shares!)

01. How did you get your start in styling?
I studied graphic design at the School of Visual Arts and worked in the field for a few years. I’m obsessed with typography, but I still never felt totally creative at work even though I was solving visual problems all day long. I would often come home from work and stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning doing little projects or rearranging my furniture or knickknacks just to get the creative-satisfaction buzz.

I didn’t know that “prop styling” – as I know it now – was even something that people could choose to do as a career. In 2003, in conjunction with a gallery retrospective of all things Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia at the Art Directors Club in NYC, I went to a lecture series to hear Martha Stewart staff talk about what they do. The “a-ha!” moment was when I heard the style director talk about what she does! It made total sense to me that this was my calling. I reached out to the Style director for a job and she was kind enough to grant me an interview for an open position. In the office where we met, all the books on the shelves were in order by color of their spines. This was a hierarchy I had never seen anywhere but my own bookshelf, a practice I’d done since high school, and the feeling was “OMG, I found my people!” I thought, I want this job SO bad. I pulled out all the stops!

photos by Brian Henn

02. But were you applying as an art director?
First I interviewed for the stylist job but they also wanted me to apply for an art director job. The creative director said, “You should be an art director… you studied graphic design.” And I said, “Please let me be a stylist!”

To prove to them that I could do it I pulled together maybe 200 tear sheets of photographs from magazines and Xeroxes from books that I thought were successful photographs. I knew I’d have to be able to talk about that, even though I had no experience on-set. I was asked why a prop was successful or why a proportion or texture worked in a photograph to tell the right story; to interpret color and palettes, spaces between objects, historical significance of a certain type of object and its relevance in the shot. All of that, is what I do now, but I didn’t know then that’s what would make me a good stylist. It just felt like a natural outpouring of things that always made sense to me. I was able to talk about styling by drawing upon my education in fine arts and graphic design.

The funny thing is that I used to do still life photoshoots when I was very young. I would set things up and my Dad would take the pictures. One of my ”shoots” was documenting my collection of buttons when I was 4 or 5. I wanted it to be a graphic glossary of my button collection and I wanted it to be on white. I remember feeling frustrated that I couldn’t find a plain, white surface in my house. It was 1982 and we had crazy-patterned tiles, deeply textured upholsteries, dark woodgrains, and shag carpets. So I remember feeling resourceful when I figured out I could take a Kleenex, smooth it out, and put all my buttons on it. The photo came out blurry. I remember I wanted to redo it because it upset me.

photos by Stephan Abry

03. How long did you work at Martha Stewart and in what capacities?
5 years total– 3 years at the Living magazine, and 2 years at Weddings. In the beginning at Living, I mostly assisted the style director and Deputy Style Editors, but was working on my own shoots not too long after my start. Weddings, which is a smaller staff than Living, was where I really had more autonomy to flourish based on a few well-timed promotions.

04. How long did it take to do your own shoots?
People don’t always realize that you can’t just become a stylist overnight. It’s not something you learn in school. It takes a long time and a lot of hard work. You have to assist a great mentor or two, build contacts and sources for props, and get used to a rigorous combination of many working parts that go into creating a successful photograph.

photos by Roland Bello

05. A lot of people aren’t familiar with the process, so explain how propping a sourcing even works for one shoot. If you have that shoot, what is the first thing that you do, what is the last thing, what is the whole process?

There are many steps to getting to the shoot day: the shopping and lugging, interpreting direction and objectives, letters of insurance and rental agreements, staying on top of a budget, knowing how to get your hands on almost anything no matter how obscure, and being really good at improvising.

After learning about the scope of the project and the client’s needs, I think about what photos, and props within those photos, are going to tell the story best. Sometimes the breakdown of shots is already packaged neatly for me by the client, photographer, or art director before they bring me in. Other times I’m integral to the process. I first try to conceptualize telling the story without any words at all.

Often I will have an idea about certain props I tend to catalog in my head. Usually, I will start with one larger prop I know will work and start building on that. And sometimes I have no pre-conceived solutions and can let my carefully mapped out propping excursions garner all the tricks up my sleeve that I’ll need.

I make tons and tons of crazy long lists of needs: things to do, stuff to be created, bought, rented, or made, and the appropriate people and places to call or go to get it all done. I start with the bigger and/or more expensive items I need and think smaller and more detailed propping after crossing off the big stuff. I usually have many lists separated by theme or type of task, and as I cross things off each one I consolidate the lists.

I like to find something unexpected or offbeat to bring to every shoot that will make the viewer do a double-take, but still fits in. Often, that thing won’t make it into a shot, but it’s fun show-and-tell to have everyone on set be amused and loosen things up, and if it does make it into a shot – even better. It means the client is open to a little lightheartedness. For example, look for the photo in the April 2010 issue of Real Simple with a plastic triceratops dinosaur figurine next to a lamp on a sideboard. I was shooting at the art director’s apartment and she has 2 young sons. I stuck the plastic dinosaur in the shot last minute, and that ended up being the favorite option. Serendipity often makes a more successful image because you were open to something unplanned.

photos by Laurie Frankel

06. Can you think of any particularly challenging jobs that you’ve had?
There are so many things to simultaneously orchestrate to get a shoot together, that the most frustrating thing is when things change at the last minute. Often, too, I get called at the last minute and it feels like horse racing gates opening at soon as I hang up the phone!

Once, I got hired last minute to prep at around 4 PM for a shoot the following day. Keep in mind that stores of course and prop rental houses close around 5 or 6, so it never matters that I’m a night owl. The creative direction was to get a turtle shell shiny gold without harming the turtle – no toxic paints allowed! I remember running like a maniac from the cake decorating store for gold lustre dust to Sephora for gold makeup and to the ginormous pearl paint craft store for gold leaf in different parts of NYC in the span of 2 hours all while schlepping 20 lbs of sand for the set with me! In the end, the gold metallic leaf worked the best because it adhered to the turtle’s shell with nothing more than a spritz of water and a light rub down with a soft makeup brush. I’m sure this will be voted the most useless tip your readers will take away from this interview.

photo by Johnny Miller

07. What sources of inspiration do you turn to?
I have always been drawn to really graphic, high contrast or brightly colored things. I love everything ever done by Paul Rand. I’ve been collecting vintage books by M. Sasek since years before they began to be re-published. Swedish graphic designer Olle Eksell’s illustrations are amazing as is the work of Saul Steinberg – absolutely anything Charles and Ray Eames designed – they had the awesome ability to not take themselves too seriously when everyone else did. The Hang-It-All makes my heart hurt every time I see it, which is a lot because one hangs right next to my front door. I love collections, especially different types of the same thing where you can study details of variation; I like hatpins, topiaries and lollipops for the same reasons of proportion. I love the Kaj Franck heart bowl, which I finally won on eBay after years of trying and losing! I collect ephemera and all sorts of bits-and-bobs which I save in boxes organized by color. I like to look at photographers’ and stylists’ websites for inspiration. Some of my favorite sites are: Frank Horvat, Tim Walker, Robyn Glaser, Ilan Rubin, Victoria Granof, Tara Donne, Ditte Isager,Johnny Miller, Roland Bello.
I love reading blogs – lots of blogs, especially because they are such aggregators of repetative content, and you can kind of witness micro-trends in real time, which is incredibly interesting to me! I finally started my own blog by the way. I’m so excited to finally have a place to catalog all the stuff I want to remember!

photos by aaron dyer

08. What drives you as a stylist?
My love of form and 3D objects are what has always driven me, even in graphic design, in art school, and as a kid.

What fascinates me about personal style is that we can all share what we love yet no two people’s individual aesthetics are alike. It’s amazing that everyone draws inspiration from such a broad spectrum of sources mixed with personal experience that adds nuance. Sharing something that will delight someone else is what drives me as an image-maker.

photo by karen mordechai

09. What happens to the props once you’re finished if you’re not returning them?
In the past, I’ve had major prop take-over in my apartment. My bathtub was a phenomenal depot for awhile, but that wasn’t going to work forever… Now I have a large storage space, and I’ve been building a database of my inventory so that I can rent things and reuse stuff so I don’t always have to buy new if I can avoid it. I try to be very conscious about being “green” which takes extreme vigilance in this business. Mostly clients just want you deal with the stuff. So just the management of the packing and unpacking, the storing and organizing, and the accounting takes up a good chunk of my week every week – especially as I try to minimize waste.

photo for real simple by José Picayo

10. Does it ever change what you buy because you know that you will be keeping it later?
In a way its very interrelated because what I style with is within my aesthetic because I would never put anything in a photograph that I didn’t think had beautiful bones to it. I’ve always been drawn to the saving and collecting of interesting and beautiful things, but I just didn’t know for what purpose besides my own pleasure. Everyday at least once, I think to myself, “I can’t believe this is my job!”

photos by ditte isager

11. So you will buy things without any story or client in mind? Just for your own personal prop house?
Sure. Sometimes if I feel like it has a story already and can come in handy. If I see something that just speaks to me, I often ask myself, “Am I ever going to see this again?” I sometimes just write that off as the cost of doing business, and almost always end up using those objects.

photos by jason frank rothenberg

12. What is one of the most valuable things you’ve learned?
One of the most valuable things I learned over the years is that the night before a shoot when I’ve finished prepping the studio and all my props are unpacked, everything should look totally neat so that when the photographer arrives at the studio the next day, they can see all of my prop tables in one eye-full. That’s when the collaboration begins – when the photographer sees what I have to offer and they can relax and feel inspired and excited to collaborate with me.

left: Aaron Dyer; right: Ilan Rubin

13. Do all photographers work like that?
A photographer with whom I shot a cookbook, Susie Cushner has a very different creative process than I do, but our team works quite well. She’s very organic whereas I lean towards the need to really think things through and be prepared with all possible options. Susie has such a natural calm. She’ll say, “just throw it down, were going to make it work!” Its so liberating for me to have a collaborator like that who encourages me to let go a little bit.

photo by Susie Cusher

14. What are some recent projects that you have been working on?
This fall, Chronicle Books will publish the book I worked on with Minhee Cho of Paper+Cup! It’s a crafting book I styled and co-authored with Minhee, which was shot by Johnny Miller. Johnny is one of my favorite photographer collaborators. (see his friday feature here.)

special sneak peek image of sofa by Johnny Miller

I did an ad for J.Crew which was really exciting. I love how everything they shoot takes an artful approach to styling. Their soft-stylists amaze me every single time I get the catalog. This image is the ad that didn’t run, but is a personal favorite.

photo by John Fei

I also just taught a workshop about still life photography for adults with mental disabilities at L.A.N.D.‘s day habilitation program. The artists are truly exceptional and create amazing work. Jacob Snavely, the photographer who collaborated with me on the lesson, photographed the students’ tabletop still life set ups using some props I brought along and some of their own work. It was such an inspiring day!

This year’s Kate Spade gallery of Valentine’s Day e-cards featured a little animation I collaborated on with photographer Evan Sklar (who has an awesome blog, by the way). This is the little animation we did:

photos by evan sklar.

15. How do stylists find jobs?
I think it is totally relationship based. Being in New York City is so inspiring because everybody knows somebody who does something interesting, and it’s always changing. It’s continually exciting to think about the future.

photos by sang an

16. Any advice for budding stylists?
You have to be open to the creative process with others, as a team. There’s no such thing as styling in a vacuum; it’s a very organic process. I would say that saving stuff that inspires you for reference is really important because it really helps drive ideas. I’d also suggest that if you’re just starting out, you really should assist a mentor for a long time.

It can be hard to find stylists. Credits aren’t as prominent as ones for photographers in many cases. Keep an eye on the byline, look for photographers and try to appropriately network with photographers and ask them what stylists they love to work with.

Thank you so much for a great interview, Randi! Readers, please leave lovely thoughts for Randi by commenting on this post.

friday feature: johnny miller

Have you picked up any issues of Martha Stewart magazine, lately? No doubt you have seen Johnny Miller’s beautiful still photographs.

Originally from Kansas, Miller was trained in Photography at Parsons School of Design and furthered his education while assisting the famous Mary Ellen Mark.

As a still photographer, his favorite things to photograph are single, found objects -and he has been shooting them ever since he found his father’s articles from Vietnam.

His latest book (with Baptiste Lignel) Coney Island features found objects around Coney Island and they are paired with documentary-style images from Lignel. While the book isn’t available everywhere yet, you can purchase a copy here or here.

Clients include Martha Stewart magazines, Target, Nylon, ESPN, Kate Spade, Chase Bank, Cookie, and more. He also has some exciting projects coming up: books he just finished shooting for Design*Sponge and Paper + Cup.

When not shooting, Johnny likes perusing A Photo Editor and Emmas DesignBlogg for news and inspiration. Johnny is currently based in Dumbo Brooklyn.

Johnny’s work is such an inspiration to me and I’m thrilled to have had the chance to interview him. To see more of his beautiful projects and photography, click here.

Here is our interview, for you:

01. How did you get your start?
Initially, I took a photography classes in Junior High with a wonderful teacher Dr. Pat Boyd (Who got me my first job, you can see it on my site under personal) and fell in love with it from day one. I ended up attending Parsons School of Design for photography where I started to assist Mary Ellen for a few years.

02. Do you think your style has changed through the years? In what ways?

Yes and no, From where I started in school yes, I studied documentary photography at Parsons so I was running around with my M6 thinking about the decisive moment, it was when I started my project My Father’s Memories from Vietnam: 1963-1971 (where you can also see on my site under personal) that I started focusing on still life. From there I have been mildly obsessed with single object. I’m constantly reevaluating my approach to my subject matter.

03. Anyone or anything influencing your work?

It’s such a constant mismash throughout the day from music I’m listening to to what I see on the street to my subway ride…

04. What equipment did you start with? What equipment do you shoot with now?
In Jr. High/High School, I was shooting a Minolta 35mm. then in college I shot mainly Leica & Hasselblad. But now it is really a mix with the RZ, Hasselblad, and Sinar.

05. Why were you interested in photographing family heirlooms?
Well, it all started with my father’s kit bag project, all of these objects were so interesting and the idea that these were things that my father collected and carried was really important to me. The love letters came after the kit bag, I found 3 love letters and a few reel to reel audio tapes (that I had digitized) in the kit bag and started looking for more… I think I found maybe 300-400 more letters…

06. What is your favorite camera to shoot with?
I was just given a Fuji SP1 Polaroid camera and I have my grandfather’s Polaroid land camera. The quality of Polaroid is amazing and you can’t reproduce it.

07. Do you shoot much for yourself
All the time. Coney Island is the project I have been focusing on the last three years (with fellow photographer and friend Baptiste Lignel) The project was just published and finally has made its way to bookstores (Dashwood Books in NYC and Photoeye in Santa Fe). I photographed found objects and paired them with Baptiste’s images of people on the boardwalk. I’ve also started a project on memory -playing with the idea of mixing things that are both meaningful and not meaningful.

08. What has been your favorite story to shoot so far?
It was for Cookie magazine, called the Alternative Archivist story -which was a story about alternative ways to archive your children’s objects/memories. They gave me two weeks to shoot it and left me alone.

Another great project was for Paper + Cup for Chronicle books. Randi Brookman Harris was the stylist and did a great job. (Johnny got special permission to let us preview this image below!)

09. Any advice you can give to someone entering your field?
The only thing I’d say is find the photographer whose work you’re absolutely in love with and assist for them. I learned more from assisting than I did in school. What I love about my current assistant is that she understands etiquette, is quiet on set, and is always two steps ahead.

Thank you, Johnny!

Dear readers: Show your love leaving a comment!

friday feature: kendra smoot

If you have even spent a split second on design blogs or ever read Blueprint, you have seen the amazing styling of Kendra Smoot. She’s the one that makes photographs (and photographers) look really, really good. Lucky you, we have brand new photographs you can see below that are not on her website.

Kendra was born in Walnut Creek and has lived in LA and Utah, but now calls New York home. As a child, Kendra loved painting and art projects, but {ironically} studied social work at Brigham Young University. Her favorite things include good food, traveling to foreign countries, street style, living in a big city, and anything involving the ocean.. oh yah… and her man Seth and their adorable daughter, Stella Lou.

Clients include: Garnet Hill, Clarks, Cookie Magazine, Real Simple, More Magazine, and The Knot.

This is a favorite Friday Feature for me. Here is our interview, for you:

01. Describe your typical day (or however many days it takes) to prepare for a shoot. From pre-production to production and post.

This can really vary from shoot to shoot, and honestly I feel like I’m almost always working because part of the job is being inspired by places and people that you see. But I can give two specific examples of putting together a shoot:
If I’m working on a one day food shoot for a magazine than that usually requires 1-2 days of prep work. During those days, I’ll have a meeting with the Art Director or Photo Editor to discuss the direction and mood of the shoot and also the logistics of where and when we’ll be shooting. We’ll talk about what issue the images will appear in and if there is anything seasonally appropriate we want to be there and if there is a color palette. Its always nice to have inspiration in these meetings -whether that is pictures or something beautiful I’ve found that I think would be nice to incorporate into the shoot. The rest of the prep time is spent acquiring props from prop houses or stores. at the end of the shoot there is about another day of post production -returning the props, submitting credit information if you’ve borrowed things from stores, and gathering receipts and invoicing.
Sometimes I work on much longer shoots. One of my favorite clients is Garnet Hill. I often do the props for the fashion portion of the shoots. We will usually shoot about a week on location and another week in studio. For shoots like this there is usually about a week of prep time to concept and source props and sets.

02. How did you get involved in styling?
I fell in love with a photographer! We moved to New York together and I was interested in his profession. i wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do but i did know that I loved the idea of collaboration and the work that went into making an interesting image. Through my husband, I met and worked for an agent, producer, and photographer. It was on one of the shoots that I met a prop stylist and knew that it was a job i could really sink my teeth into. I asked to intern with her and it was great timing -her first assistant happened to be leaving and so we worked together for two years. From there, I worked at Blueprint Magazine as an Associate Style Editor until they folded (RIP!). For the past two years i’ve been working freelance.

03. What stylists/artists/photographers do you look to for inspiration?

04. What would be your dream styling job?

Probably shooting one of the “Living In” books by TASCHEN in a beautiful locale. Right now, I’m dying to go to India and it would be fantastic to have access to beautiful homes there.

05. Explain the creative process you go through to style a shoot.
I always love to sketch out my ideas and pull out swatches of fabric and paint. I keep this style sheet and any inspirational photos in a plastic binder that goes with me everywhere. From there I’ll draw up a list (which is usually quite long) of what I’ll need. Then I strategize about where i’ll need to go, how i’ll get things done, etc. when i’m running around sourcing for a shoot, I always like to pop into a museum or interesting store just to get the creative juices going.

06. What is your favorite subject to style? (lifestyle, interiors, still life, etc.)
I really appreciate styling all sorts of subjects for different reasons. I love styling for fashion shoots because you often get to travel to interesting locations and shooting people is always faster-paced. I love shooting food because the scale of objects is a little smaller and its nice to take a break from all of the heavy lifting… and I love shooting interiors because its so inspiring to see how people live and their style.

07. What is the most challenging thing about your work?
Sometimes it can be really physically challenging. On a prep day, I can sometimes walk up to 10 miles going from store to store, and it seems like you are always schlepping heavy things around.

08. Favorite places to shop?

Brimfield Antique Show, The stretch of Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn near Smith Street, Ochre, Butik, ABC Carpet and Home, Kiosk, Jon Derian, Bird, Odine, Moon River Chattel, Matter, Paula Rubenstein, online: Nightwood, Ebay, and Etsy.

09. Funniest work story?
On a recent shoot in Greece, our crew of about 10 had to travel back to Athens overnight via a yacht. When we pulled up to the marina, there was a beautiful boat awaiting us -it was like something out of a hip hop video. We were all cheering our good luck… until we actually got on the water. The wind had picked up and there were giant waves. You couldn’t even walk two steps without being thrown across the boat. By the time we got to Athens -6 hours later- everyone was seasick and we had all taken turns throwing up over the side. It was the trip from hell! We are still laughing about it….

10. How often do you make/craft/sew things for your jobs?
Almost every job. I’m just an ok crafter. I really enjoy the process but after working at Martha Stewart, I realized how talented their crafting department is. Those people are geniuses!

11. What was it like working with Blueprint + Bluelines?
Blueprint was amazing! It was the type of job that required a lot of work, but the payback was always worth it. They always hire the most talented art directors and photographers, so it was a real honor to be included in that project. We are all still pretty tight and do a good job of keeping up with each other. Its been sad to see so many magazines close and those that are still around seem so thin! But its been exciting to see what’s happened within the blog world.

12. If you could have any other career what would it be?
I’d love to consult companies when they are re-branding. And do interior design. And own a small shop that has all of my favorite things.

13. Any exciting projects in the works?
My husband and I have started working as a photo team so that’s been really exciting. We’re taking it slow. Right now we work a lot for the AOL’s Holiday blog, Holidash, doing DIY projects. It’s pretty low-key- it takes a couple of days to concept and source and craft, and then we shoot mostly in our apartment. i really enjoy having a creative day at home. we just crank up the tunes and dance between shots.

14. What advice would you give to a budding stylist?
Keep organized files of the images that inspire you. Get an iPhone. They are so useful for everything: storing contact info, the maps, tracking Fedex packages, taking photos of props, emailing press requests on the go. Intern for someone that you admire.

Wowzers.. isn’t Kendra amazing? Leave a very special comment for her here. Thank you, Kendra! Dear Readers… anyone you’d like to see featured? Shoot me an email.

friday feature: aran goyoaga

I’m really excited about today’s Friday Feature, Aran Goyoaga.  Aran is the triple threat behind Cannelle et Vanille and has some of the most beautiful dessert images i’ve ever seen.

Born in Bilbao, Aran grew up in her grandparents’ pastry shop -where she first fell in love with food.  With brothers and a father who are photographers and painters, she was constantly surrounded by art.  
Though schooled in business and economics, Arin later attended Florida Culinary Institute and never turned back.  She has since worked as a pastry chef, and now writes her award-winning blog, Cannelle et Vanille.  Not only is she the mastermind behind the recipes, but she also styles and photographs every work of art she creates.  Be sure to look at her newly launched online portfolio here.
Here is our interview, for you:
01.  Tell us your greatest memory from culinary school.
The first time I made the most beautiful macarons with Sebastien Cannone from The French Pastry School.
02.  What has been your greatest kitchen disaster?
When I ruined an entire batch of panna cotta two hours before a wedding of 300 while working in Portugal.  It’s almost impossible to ruin panna cotta and I did it big time.
03.  Who are your cooking/styling/photography favorites?
Con Poulos and Petrina Tinslay who have worked very closely with Donna Hay always blow me away.  Tina Rupp is always very fresh, unpretentious and modern.  I also love the organic approach of Deborah Jones. (click here for our friday feature with tina –and here, for our friday feature with petrina.)

04.  What turned you to photography?
My blog actually turned me  into photography.  I started with a culinary point of view and that soon turned into a visual one.
05.  Do you shoot everything at home?
Except for a couple of on-location shoots, I shoot mostly in my home studio.
06.  What equipment do you shoot with?
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but my gear is super simple.  I shoot with a Canon 50D and a 100mm macro.
07.  What is the hardest thing about wearing so many hats? (cooking, styling and shooting)
Timing can be very difficult as there are very many time/temperature sensitive desserts.  All of the food I shoot is real and there is a lot of running around sometimes, especially with soufflés or ice creams.
08.  When did you start your blog?  Why did you start it?
I started my blog in January 2008.  I left the professional culinary world to raise my son, but found myself constantly daydreaming about food and recipes.  I started the blog as a creative outlet for myself, but it soon caught on and people started to respond to it in a very positive way.  In a way, the blog introduced me to a new career within food.
09.  Why do you love making/styling/photographing food so much?
I have asked myself that question many times and I still don’t know the answer.  It’s like ideas just pop in my head constantly and I have to purge them.  I am a terribly visual person and I am constantly inspired by everything around me.  I have always loved to work with my hands and cooking often times puts me in a trance kind of mode.
10.  What is the most bizarre thing ever to be in your refrigerator or freezer?
There are not very many things that I consider bizarre, but I have about 15 lbs of alligator meat in my freezer that my husband caught.  Does that count?
11.  If you were to have any 3 people over for dinner, who would they be?  (a favorite DH contributor’s question. :)
Oh that’s a hard one!  Maybe Bill Murray, Nora Ephron and my great uncle Julian (who was a great cook and a fabulous storyteller).  I think they would get along great and we would have some fun.
And what would you cook for them?
Tortilla de Patatas.  That seems to be what everyone is constantly begging me to make.
12.  Your props and styling… do you collect everything?  Buy at random?  Or buy according to your shoot?   
Yes, I own everything I use.  I have a bad shopping habit!  Sometimes I buy depending on the shoot, sometimes I just see a prop and instantly think of a recipe that would go great with it.  I just discovered a couple of new ceramist artists that I am in love with.  Samantha Robinson in Australia and Asya Palatova in Rhode Island.
13.  Any advice for people entering any of your fields?
Practice, practice and practice.  Shoot everything that draws your attention and play with light.  I also think it’s important to know your style and work with it.  I love seeing an artist’s work and instantly knowing who it is.
Thank you, Aran!  Dear Readers, did you enjoy this Friday Feature?  Leave your comment for Aran below.

friday feature: andrea fazzari

One avenue of photography I’ve always been envious of is travel photography. To be able to eat and shoot your way through country after country would be unreal.

Andréa Fazzari has that job. Manhattan-born Fazzari has been traveling the world shooting for clients such as Travel & Leisure, Vanity Fair, Gourmet, GQ and more. She has stayed at the most luxurious hotels, eaten in forgotten countries and photographed the most interesting characters.

Now she is sharing her travel tips and experiences with you on her brand-new (re-design launched today) blog, Fazzari Traveler.

Oh yah… not only is she brilliant with a camera, but she also speaks French and Italian.

Here is our interview, for you:

01. Where have you been the past month or two?
I have been in India (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur), Italy (Sardegna, Venice and Florence) and Spain (Seville).

02. What equipment did you start with? What equipment do you use now?
I started with a Hasselblad and the Pentax 67, which I still use today. I’m a minimalist with my equipment and I adore my camera and lenses!

03. How has your experience in the fashion industry influenced your photographs?
I started as an advertising assistant for Giorgio Armani out of college. That was my first job! Then I did public relations for Dolce & Gabbana here in NYC. I was interested in fashion, art, photography and design, so I knew I wanted to work in fashion once I graduated from college, but didn’t think I would/could be a photographer. Being someone who is constantly observing and aware of aesthetics and details, I realize that fashion was just a good stop on the way to becoming a photographer and working for myself. I don’t think the industry in and of itself influenced my pictures; it was my life experience that helped shape my interests and led me more specifically to photography.

04. Traveling all the time must get exhausting -how do you do it?
The only time it can be a little bit tiring or taxing is dealing with certain airports and going through security. Jet lag doesn’t affect me too much; coming back from Asia is the most difficult, but I just give in to the fatigue and sleep a lot when I return. I have a certain rhythmn and formula for when I travel; I am very used to functioning in in this way and moving around a lot. I actually thrive on it and find it exhilerating…especially when I go to a country I’ve never been to before. There’s nothing like the feeling of new discovery!

05. Meeting and photographing lots of strangers could be very intimidating for most people -has it ever been for you? What do you say to strangers who you’d like to photograph?
No, it is not intimidating for me. I find it exciting. 9.5 out of ten people say yes! When I do approach someone to ask if I can shoot them, I tell them my name, where I am from, what kind of story I am shooting and for whom, that I would like to shoot them and why…….people do detect my sincere interest, and make it happen! I’ve had some wonderful experiences with some interesting people. People usually get quite excited by being asked.

06. Aside from traveling, where else do you find inspiration?
In films…lots of films. I keep an ongoing list of favorite films from around the world.
Places inspire and / or spectacular views; certain people inspire me a lot for how they look, behave, or how they live. I like observing how people carry themselves and understanding what makes them tick.

07. Where is your favorite place to visit? Sleep? Eat? Relax?
I have too many favorite places, and can never single out one!!
I recently relaxed in Laos…it’s very slow there. Bali was very relaxing too…the sounds of the animals and the rain were enchanting. I’m not sure that I relax in a particular or typical way in NYC. I love Asian food mostly – Vietnamese, Japanese, Cambodian, Laotian….but also enjoy eating in Argentina and Brazil….I’m open to many cuisines!

08. Do you have moments -when traveling or shooting- that make you think “I have the best job in the world?”
Yes, I think this way quite often. My work is quite emotional for me.

09. What do you do to keep your clients to continue to hire you time after time? What do you think you offer?
I think I offer elegant and sensual images which show my engagment with the world and reflect the fascination I have with different people and cultures…I like to transmit my excitement for the beauty in the world. I’m also very enthusiastic about my work, and that’s always a good thing!

10. What is your most helpful travel tip?
Get Skype on your laptop and iPhone…it’s the best and cheapest way to speak everyone…no matter where I am in the world.

Did you like this interview? Please leave a comment for Andréa.
Check back next week for our next Friday Feature with Aran Goyoaga.

friday feature: ellen silverman

I’m happy to re-introduce to you Ellen Silverman and her stunning work. You’ve seen her photographs among the pages of many magazines, ads and cookbooks (and subsequently, many design blogs). Originally from West Hartford, CT, this photographers calls New York City her home, where she lives with her husband Josh and son Luca.

Her client list is extensive -here are just a few of the impressive clients she has worked with:

Not only is her work inspiring, but so are her words.
Here is our interview, for you:

01. When did you first become interested in Photography?

When I was 14 my parents took me to an exhibit of Cartier Bresson‘s work at the Stueben Gallery in NYC. I was mesmerized by the images. They were playful, evocative, soulful and told stories. His work made a great impression on me, but it wasn’t until many years later that I took my first photography class. While working in the restaurant business in Philadelphia, I would frequently visit a photography gallery around the corner and that is where I was introduced to my first black and white photo class. Several months later I took a leave of absence and spent 3 months in an intensive photography workshop at The Maine Photography Workshops. I was extremely fortunate to have two teachers Kate Carter and Craig Stevens who encouraged and supported me in my desire to learn and create.

02. How does your job affect your family?
I live in New York City with my husband Josh and our son, Luca, who just turned 13. My family is extremely supportive of my sometimes erratic schedule. There are many challenges and benefits to having a freelance career. The main disadvantage is that I have had to make choices over the years between taking a job and missing school events. One of our many pleasures besides cooking and eating together is traveling together. However, walking around with a camera up to your eye while sightseeing “en famille” has lead to a few instances of losing one another as I have stopped to photograph something and they have kept walking. After the last mishap where I lost them for several hours in Paris we have learned to establish a meeting place!

03. What equipment did you start shooting? And what equipment do you shoot with now?
My first camera was a Minolta 35mm. Soon after a dear friend gave me a gift of a Fuji 645. The first 4X5 camera I owned was a beautiful wooden Wista 4×5 which I dragged along with me on a 3 month trip to Guatemala. I travelled with another photographer and it was quite a site to see us setting up our 4X5 cameras with our dark cloths over our heads! I loved working with my 4X5, there is something magical about being under that dark cloth and composing a picture. For the last 3 years I have been shooting with a Hasselblad with a P25 back, I also use a Canon 5D.

04. Do you miss film?
Yes, I do miss film. But I have come to love the work flow of digital. I have found this way of working to allow for a lot of improvising and compositional freedom. The immediacy of the process allows me to quickly view my images and to keep “playing” and composing. Over the last few years I have been very fortunate to work with an incredible assistant. Kevin being a recent grad of RIT is a whiz kid of the digital world. He has spent many hours creating a sensible digital work flow, archiving images and teaching me to function in this new digital world.

05. You’ve shot some beautiful interiors. What is the most difficult thing about shooting interiors?
Finding your angle and making sure your interior and exterior light is balanced in a natural and convincing way. When I walk into a space I spend time walking around, keeping my eyes moving, trying to find a new angle and not to shoot from the obvious place. Whether I am shooting an interior, a still life or food I am always trying to push myself to see something new, to find a different and unexpected point of view for myself.

06. What client has been your favorite to work with?
Some of my recent favorite projects have been a catalogue for a German company, Primivera. The AD was very open and willing to explore. I also recently worked for Target. They were a delight, very flexible and, appreciative. A few weeks ago I finished shooting a cookbook project with Gwyneth Paltrow which was a real treat. We had a fantastic team, everyone was extremely collaborative, talented and dedicated to making beautiful images.

07. If you could shoot for any client, who would it be?
An ideal job would be to shoot a catalog for Neiman Marcus or Bergdorfs as well as to do a project for a high end hotel.

08. What type of images do you strive to shoot?
I strive to make images that feel as if someone just walked away, you can feel a touch of a person, a human element, a presence. My son Luca said, “I like your work because it just feels as if someone is there – like someone just woke up.” I think we all have our place of comfort, and compositionally we all go to that place first. i am always trying to push myself through that, so I enjoy working with people who are motivated to do that as well. During the past year I have been testing with an extremely inspired San Francisco based stylist, Suzanne Rubin. We like to block out some time together, sit and discuss ideas, eventually coming up with a concept to shoot. Together we play and work in a very focused way until we look at each other and know that we have got the “right” image.

09. What inspires you?
Visually the things that inspire me are objects and places , just as I find them. A few summers ago we were in Sicily and I walked across the street to explore an abandoned villa, a crumbling building from the late 1800′s. This was a treasure for me, I spent the early morning hours alone walking around shooting, praying that I would not fall through the floor. What intrigued me was that the villa still retained the sense of someone’s presence lost in time.
The first place I seek out when I travel are the local market places. I am fascinated by how people arrange their goods, what they sell, their postures and the social interaction among buyer and seller.
I’m trying to be more spontaneous with what I shoot. To that end I have begun carrying my camera with me every day to use as a sketch book. When I take a picture and feel content, knowing that I have completely pleased myself, well this is a feeling that is worth everything to me.

10. If you could photograph any place, person or thing…. where/who/what would it be?
I’d like to be left to roam around Versailles in all of it’s public and private spaces!

11. What advice can you give other photographers?
Keep your eyes open. It’s not the camera that takes the picture, it’s you. Always keep shooting and work with as many people as possible. Look at photography and art books, go to exhibits, listen to music, cook, find something every day that visually inspires you. As I walk down the street, I look up, there is often a surprise waiting. Try to ignore what other people are doing and focus on your own desires and wishes. It’s much more interesting!

Did you find this interview interesting? Leave a comment for Ellen for a chance to win the soon-to-be-released Dam Good Sweets -photographed by Ellen. (Sun at midnight deadline)

friday feature: cig harvey

I had the great pleasure to speak with Cig Harvey yesterday. I’m sure you are all familiar with her dreamy, conceptual images. Along with the numerous awards Cig has received for her images, Cig was named PDN’s “Emerging 30” Photographers in 2005 and a “Rising Star” in 2004.

What you may not know is that most of Cig’s personal work are self-portraits. You thought photographing someone else was hard? Try photographing yourself. What a talent.

Cig’s clients range from Kate Spade to Ralph Lauren, Bloomingdales, W Hotels and more. Her work has been featured in many galleries around the nation… and lucky you.. she teaches!

The Santa Fe Workshops –
The Personal Photographic Image – June 28th – July 4th, 2009

The Maine Photographic Workshops –
The Personal Story – July 5th – July 11th, 2009

Born and raised in the county of Devon, England, Cig now lives in Maine with her filmmaker husband, Doug Stradley and dog, Scarlet Snacks. (read her clever little bio here.)

More of Cig’s work can be found on her personal site and her agency’s site.

Here is our interview, for you:

01. How were you first introduced to photography?
When I was 13, I used to volunteer at a local community darkroom. The people there showed me how to use the darkroom and I was utterly hooked. The darkroom is a magical place.

02. Do you shoot film or digital?
Both. I very recently made the transition to digital for most commercial jobs because it makes more sense, financially, but all my personal work is film. I spend hours and hours in the darkroom and have a deep respect/love for that part of the process.
(Cig does all her own color printing. Learn more about color printing here.)

03. What was your first camera?
Nikon 35mm. (though Cig has had many old cameras, this is a favorite) I’ve also shot with the Hasselblad the last 10 years.

04. What was your first commercial job?
In 2001, I got picked up by a gallery in New York. It was my first serious show.

05. What was your favorite shoot you’ve worked on?
Commerically, my favorite job was Kate Spade. It was a dream assignment and couldn’t have been more creative and inspiring. They were astonishing. My favorite thing is brainstorming and they really trusted me.

06. How are you inspired?

So much. So much! I’m an avid reader of novels. I read a lot of Japanese novels and books from other Asian authors. Life inspires me and fuels my pictures. Different artists influence my work depending on my portfolio. Christopher James mentored me through my MFA.

07. I noticed one of your images, “Hope Chest,” is a self-portrait. Are there others?
Yes. I have taken lots of self-portraits. “Hope Chest” was actually photographed in my [home ] studio. The studio isn’t as clean now!

08. What inspired you to shoot self-portraits?
To tell a story. It started off because I had no money for models. When I shoot personally, I typically work alone. I love being able to come up with a concept, set my camera up and run into the picture. It’s important to have some separation [with personal work] from commercial work.

09. Why did you decide to live in Maine?
I came here for Rockport College (The Maine Media Workshops) –I took these workshops and later got my MFA. It was ideal because it was total immersion. Photography 24/7.

10. Would you say that your location inspires your work?
Yes. I use the landscapes as a metaphor for my work. I teach in Boston, and live part of the week there but rarely make work there. I’m very much inspired by my space.

What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?
It really is about the work coming first and finding the right avenues for your work later. People submit what they think people like, rather than working on the work first and foremost. The discipline of being an artist is very key. I make work every day in any creative way. It’s 1% talent and 99% tenacity.

Thank you, Cig! Readers, did you like this interview? Leave a comment for Cig below.