ASMP Experts and Masters — Clay Patrick McBride

Tom Kennedy and I talk with Clay Patrick McBride live at Adorama in New York about both his career creating portraits of the biggest names in music and sports, as well as his new role in teaching the next generation of up and coming photographers at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Clay’s classes and hang out with him a few times. Aside from being an incredible photographer I find him to be one of the most compelling and realist educators I’ve ever met.

Clay’s portraits of top athletes and musicians such as LeBron James, Allen Iverson, Metallica, Norah Jones, Jay Z, and Kanye West have appeared in countless magazines, among them Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated and NY Magazine. His commercial work includes dozens of album covers for Sony, Blue Note and Atlantic Records, as well as print campaigns for Pontiac, Boost Mobile and Nike

Edreys Wajed

A multi-talented artist and musician, Edreys Wajed is best known outside of Buffalo under his stage name of Billy Drease Williams. This successful emcee and producer has been a member of both Raw Intel and The Elements, and founded the non-profit cultural preservation and educational organization The Art of Hip-Hop. A hiatus from recording has recently allowed this avid painter to focus on the visual aspects of his art — recently completing a series of large-scale portraits of American civil rights leaders William Wells Brown, Malcolm X, W.E.B. Du Bois, Frank Merriweather, Dr. Lydia T. Wright, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Harriet Tubman as part of The Freedom Wall, a project commissioned by one of the oldest public art institutions in America — the Albright-Knox Gallery.

Lindsay DeDario and Her Golden Accordion

When I first discussed the idea of photographing the multi-talented Lindsay DeDario the original intention was for it to be part of my ongoing white + white series of portraits… that quickly changed when I found out that this accordion was on the table as a potential prop.

If I was ever going to learn to play another instrument it would be the accordion —I think it’s a terribly underrated instrument and I’ve always had secret aspirations to play fancy French waltzes for my wife like a character from a film set in a seedy 20’s cabaret. Naturally, when Lindsay mentioned that she had gotten her hands on this incredible white and gold specimen (she plays) I immediately fell in love with the idea of photographing her with it (because accordion… right?)

Thanks to Lindsay’s influence I might have to follow though on this hidden obsession and start playing to occupy my time between shoots.

ASMP Experts and Masters — Alyssa Meadows

Episode two of my new live streaming show with ASMP Executive Director and former Director of Photography for National Geographic Tom Kennedy features NYC based photographer Alyssa Meadows.

We talk about the Young Photographers Alliance, her own experiences being a young photographer in New York, and her work documenting environmental and societal issues — taking an especially in depth look at “Every Woman I Know” a personal project of hers that depicts the women in her life who has been victims of sexual violence.

New Promo Books!

Take a look at the digital version of my newest promo book — Rust Belt Vol. 3!

This collects some of my favorite work from 2017 and features many of the unique subjects that I’ve met over the years photographing the creatives and entrepreneurs working and living in Western New York.

Want to receive print and digital promos like this and others that I share throughout the year? Sign up for my mailing list here, It’s the easiest way to keep up to date with what my team and I are working on.

Eastern Broccoli Project

You can do a lot with broccoli: steam it, roast it, deep fry it, or serve it in a soup containing copious amounts of beer and cheese (and accompanied by even more beer if you’re doing it right). It’s delicious, nutritious, and an increasingly important crop for growers as demand for it grows — but 90% of the nearly two billion pounds produced in the US each year are grown in California, much to the dismay of east coast farmers and consumers.

Currently, it can take 7-10 days from when that California grown broccoli is picked before it becomes part of your dinner menu (or before those with picky kids have to stop their little ones from conspiring with the dog to hide the evidence of their distaste). Broccoli has to be shipped in ice filled waxed boxes to slow down the degradation of the crop, and after a week on a truck not all of it may survive the trip. But that might change soon because of the work of Dr. Thomas Björkman, a renowned horticulturist and researcher at Cornell University who is one of the driving forces behind the Eastern Broccoli Project. The mission of the EBP is to create new strains of the crop that will thrive in the less consistent climate of the east coast, provide much needed crop diversity to farmers in the future, and cut down on the environmental impact of shipping broccoli across the country. ⠀

My assistant Will and I left Buffalo NY around 4:00 AM to drive out to Geneva NY where Dr Björkman tends to his trial crops at Cornell University’s Agricultural Experiment Station. Our plan was to be out in the fields before sunrise to create some portraits of the doctor with his crop on one of the last days before harvest and we could not have hoped for a more spectacular morning. Better than the weather though, was the utterly engrossing education we got in the efforts of the the EBP to create new types of Broccoli, agricultural breeding tools, and distribution system that will make the east coast broccoli industry a competitive one in the national market.

Shot for EatingWell Magazine.

Thomas Björkman of the Eastern Broccoli Project at the Cornell University Agricultural Testing Station.

ASMP Experts and Masters — Doug Menuez

 

I’m so happy to announce that the first episode of my new live stream show is now available to watch!

Co-hosted by Tom Kennedy (the former director of photography for National Geographic and the executive director of The American Society of Media Photographers) and myself — ASMP Experts and Masters is a new discussion series brought to you by The Photo Brigade and Adorama.

In this first episode Tom and I sit down with photographer and director Doug Menuez to discuss his book Fearless Genius: The Digital Revolution In Silicon Valley 1985-2000 and the many years he spent documenting the life and career of Steve Jobs. We talk about the intersection of art and commerce, what photographers can learn from tech entrepreneurs, the importance of saying no, and building your business around the work you really care about rather than what you think will be accepted commercially.

Enjoy!

Legendary Rock Promoter Bruce Moser

Legendary Rock Promoter Bruce Moser helped launch the careers of acts like The Cars, Tragically Hip, and U2 on some of their earliest tours.

Have you ever heard The Cars, The Tragically Hip, or U2?

There’s a good chance that you’ve heard of them because of the behind-the-scenes efforts of legendary rock promoter Bruce Moser – who is responsible for helping break these acts and others in the U.S. through his relentless work promoting them live and on the radio all along the thruway chain that runs between Boston and Cleveland – and hits cities like Erie, Buffalo, and Syracuse on the way. 

I was traveling back from Santa Fe over the summer when I found out that I would be photographing Bruce the very next day when I got back into Buffalo. I knew a bit about his history in the rock world because I had actually worked with his daughter Erin Moser in the past, but I was not at all prepared for what an animated and engaging storyteller Bruce is, nor was I prepared for the mind-blowing tales he told me about some of the biggest acts in music. I normally talk a lot on set – it’s important to me to engage with my subjects and draw them out a bit, but this was probably the least I ever spoke on a shoot, because once Bruce started I knew it was better to just listen to the incredible behind-the-scenes stories he was telling me. 

He told me about having to convince park police not to arrest the at the time eighteen-year-old members of U2 at Niagara Falls when they decided to hop over the security barrier to get a better look at the Falls.

He told me about seeing The Beatles for $5.50 before they were famous and when you could still hear them play over all the women screaming. 

He told me about one of his earliest successes working with an unknown at the time band from Boston named The Cars.

He told me about the first few concerts he ever went to – which just happened to be The Animals, The Dave Clark Five, The Byrds, and Bob Dylan.

He told me about his efforts to help acts from Canada like Rush, The Tragically Hip, and Bryan Adams find early success in the US. 

He told me about meeting Robert Frank and talking with him about his rarely seen documentary about the Rolling Stones.

He told me about the time he and his wife played Pong with Bono in a bar in Buffalo on the night that John Lennon was murdered (Bono thought it was a sick joke someone was playing on him.) 

That’s pretty epic stuff, and it doesen’t even start to touch on the innumerable other acts he’s worked with that Bruce and I didn’t get a chance to discuss – like Tom Petty, Melissa Etheridge The Goo Goo Dolls, Tom Cochrane, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Steven Van Zandt, and many more. Getting to sit down with Bruce and learn about his life and career was so much fun, especially because Bruce still comes across as someone who just loves music – listening to it and seeing it played live. He’s a fan, a fan who turned his passion for music into his career – although I don’t know many other fans that own the only copy of a song that was written and performed by Bono for their 50th birthday.

Legendary Buffalo NY rock promoter Bruce Moser is responsible for helping ti launch the careers of such bands as The Tragically Hip, The Cars, and U2

The Patron – Frits Abell

Frits Abell is an entrepreneur and patron of the arts who is the driving force behind WNY's Echo Arts fair.

The founder of both the Echo Art Fair and the Buffalo Expat Network (not to mention countless other ventures). Frits Abell is a guy who likes to make things happen – usually from a position of equal footing in both the arts and business worlds. A figure of growing importance in the revitalization of Buffalo, I was lucky to be able to spend a little time with this developer and arts patron in studio a few weeks back.

The Guitarist – Mick Hayes

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Mick Hayes .

Guitar slinging, soul, blues, and rock singing badass Mick Hayes is the subject of one of my most recent shoots!

It’s always a treat to get to photograph someone who has shared stages and billing with stars like Stevie Wonder, The Doobie Brothers, Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, Steve Vai, and Los Lonely Boys, and I’ve been lucky these past few years to work with Mick on a bunch of still and motion projects the include the release video and cover art of his most recent album.

More than that, I’ve had the pleasure of actually seeing the man play a few times, and it’s a revelatory experience to see live. Mick can play, sing, and put on one hello of a show. His astounding stage presence, steeped in the influence of his musical roots and coupled with his raw enthusiasm and skillful playing , is one of the reasons he’s endorsed by brands like Hammond  and Knaggs Guitars.

The Illustrator – Mickey Thoren Harmon

Illustrator and designer Mickey Thoren Harmon is the co-creator of "The Life and Times of Grovey Cleves. A humorous retelling of the life of "near great" President Grover Cleveland.

Most people know Grover Cleveland as America’s only President to serve two non-consecutive terms. Fewer know him as the former Mayor of my hometown of Buffalo NY, and later as a Governor of New York State who was  praised for his honesty and constant opposition of political corruption.

But now a new story is being told about Grover Cleveland, one that takes a “mostly accurate” look at the life of this “near great’ President and mustache enthusiast who continues to fly under the historical radar. The Life and Times of Grovey Cleves is a collaboration between outspoken illustrator Mickey Thoren Harmon and writer Scott Mancuso that tells the story of Cleveland’s days as a young bachelor and foodie in Buffalo during the city’s rise to prominence; to his rapid and reckless political ascent from Mayor to Governor to 22nd (and later 24th!) President of the United States in just three years.

Originally envisioned as a small exhibition Harmon’s drawings that revolved around his fascination with the political figure, the concept later grew into a more fully fleshed out publishing project with the involvement of Mancuso and the fabulous Western New York Book Arts Center who helped produce the limited edition work.

While you may no longer be able to get your hands on a print copy of this unique examination of the history of one of America’s more interesting but lesser known Presidents, you can still learn a little bit more about the man himself by checking out a digital version of The Life and Times of Grovey Cleves here.

 

LAURA CASAMENTO FOR UTICA COLLEGE

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I’ve recently added Utica College as a client – and I’m happy to share that my first collaboration with the school was to capture an important moment in its history, the installation of Laura Casemento as the first woman to be named president in the school’s 70 year history.

My team and I traveled to Utica for a few days this summer to create a series of portraits of Laura that range from her official presidential portrait to moments that capture her embracing the academic and athletic spirit of the school. Being that students had yet to arrive for the start of the year, we basically had the run of the campus and access to pretty much anywhere we wanted to shoot.

JASON WOOD FOR BUFFALO SPREE

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As Buffalo’s first Nickel City Drink cocktail festival comes to an end I thought it appropriate to share this portrait of one of the event’s organizers, Jason Wood, that I recently shot on assignment for Buffalo Spree Magazine. (But really, is there ever an inappropriate time to celebrate amazing cocktails and those that make them?)

A WNY transplant originaly form Michigan, Jason is a motorcycle enthusiast, musician (formerly of metal core bands Still Remains and It Dies Today), and currently serves as the manager at Vera Pizzeria – the bar that many feel served as the catalyst of Buffalo’s growing craft cocktail movement and its rapid expansion over the past few years. Since stepping out from behind the microphone and getting behind the bar full time this multitalented bartender has become a tireless advocate for quality spirits and thoughtful recipes that excite those tired of Buffalo’s mass market beer and shot dominated bar scene.

CURING YOUR WORKFLOW ILLS WITH PROJECT PRESCRIPTION + A SPECIAL DISCOUNT

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I want to talk to the photographers that read this blog for a second — primarily about all the mistakes I made when I first started in the commercial side of this business, and how I don’t want you to make those same mistakes.

The Set-Up

When I started taking the first steps to coming back to photography as a career I had already been out of school for a few years and working in the graphics department of a manufacturing company. My first foray into the world of professional photography a few years prior had been… unimpressive. A combination of post collegiate burnout coupled with what was (at the time) a chaotic industry that saw numerous large studios go out of business had spurned me to take a stable if somewhat boring job creating safety signs and vinyl decals for industrial equipment.

Naturally, it wasn’t long before I had a camera in my hands again, but this time it was different. Instead of shooting the still-life and food images I had been trained to create I found that I had a real love for working with people and shooting portraits. Soon the seeds of a business started to grow and I began to transition to working as a photographer full-time again, and things were going great..

…until they weren’t.

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Making Mistakes

Most photography programs don’t do much to prepare you for the day-to-day realities of being a working photographer. You might be able to make some incredible images and have all the technical chops you could ever need — But none of that can save you from being a shitty businessperson.

I started to run into issues quickly, most of them were rooted in the fact that despite being a pretty competent photographer I knew basically ZERO when it came to creating an efficient workflow or memorable client experience. I was trying to build a business on the flawed assumption that all that mattered was the end product — who cared about the process you used to get there?

I had no mechanism to define the types of clients that were a good fit for me, or identify red flags that might indicate I should pass on a job.

I had never thought about the experience of working with me from the client’s perspective either, so my project proposals were usually little more than an impersonal spreadsheet of costs and line items that did nothing to differentiate me from my competition creatively.

It’s really difficult to charge what I thought I was worth because without a system in place it was next to impossible to justify those costs to clients.

I didn’t even have a real sense that there was more to do after a project was delivered because the idea of getting testimonials and real feedback from clients was also a foreign concept — a mistake that left me oblivious to common but easy-to-fix problems with my workflow and business model for a long time.

These (among others) were some very real issues that I wasn’t even aware I had to deal with, and most of my clients were too nice to let me know. Thankfully, a few weren’t.

I quickly came to an important realization — clients were interested in more than just the final images. They wanted to work with a creative who inspired confidence and who valued the pre-production process as much as they valued the creation of the images themselves. In essence, what they needed was someone who was fully dedicated and on-board with every aspect of their production  — and had a road map to get through it all safely and successfully.

Suddenly process was the sexiest word in my vocabulary.

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You Are Not Alone

It took time, effort, experimentation, advice from some amazing mentors, and feedback from some equally amazing clients (not to mention how much I’ve learned through professional organizations like ASMP) — but I did build a process, one that my clients love (and one that constantly evolves based on the feedback I receive from them). And having that process in place has become a major catalyst in growing my business — because even though it’s my work that first grabs a client’s attention it’s the experience that they have working with me that keeps them coming back.

I’ve also seen a lot of really talented photographers struggle in this business due to a total lack of process. And it’s not surprising, because developing a process is difficult and time-consuming, and because photography is a hell of a fun job that lets you share your unique creative vision with others. And while the business stuff is important, we all want to get back to the reason why we started taking pictures in the first pace — to make something cool. But having a strong process in place can actually make your business more efficient and nimble. Allowing you to focus less on dealing with workflow related fires as they pop up, and more on creating stunning images for your clients. Your process can really be a deciding factor in the jobs you book as well, because when faced with two similarly talented photographers a client is much likelier to go with the one who makes them feel confident and comfortable.

This problem isn’t unique to photographers either — designers are another group of creatives who can often struggle with developing a solid process for workflow and client care. And it was two designers that really got me thinking about how I could help photographers improve their processes and their businesses.

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We Have The Prescription

I’ve been so lucky to work with Shauna Haider of nubbytwiglet.com and We Are Branch the past few years on all sorts of design projects. In fact, her own blog was incredibly instrumental to me when I was first starting to think about how process intersected with branding and how I needed to be thinking about a lot more than just my logo and my images — and specifically how every single point of client interaction and communication mattered in shaping how client’s perceived me.

Shauna had also been examining the idea of how she could help designers and creatives to craft an effective process AND provide them with a set of professionally designed and customizable documents to support that process and impress their clients. She teamed up with the similarly process minded and insightful Paul Jarvis (who’s worked with people like Danielle LaPorte and brands like Fast Company, Forbes, and Lifehacker) to create Project Prescription — a workflow and document collection aimed at helping designers to strengthen their business.

As a devoted reader of Shauna’s blog (and now Paul’s newsletter and podcast — which are topping my must read/listen lists respectively), I decided to check out Project Prescription soon after launch, and though it was originally intended for designers, I loved it so much that I started to immediately adapt it to my workflow as a photographer. Almost instantly I was struck by how this could help so many of my peers and solve a lot of the problems that photographers face in terms of relating to clients – especially photographers who are just entering the market or beginning to make the transition from consumer to commercial photography. I was so excited that I immediately mentioned it to Shauna and shortly after that her, Paul, and myself decided to team up and create a version of Project Prescription that was specifically tailored for commercial photographers.

We’ve put together an awesome collection of twenty documents that professional photographers need that are completely customizable to your brand and available in both Adobe InDesign and Google Docs versions. This collection covers everything from your first client contact all the way though pre-production, the shoot, delivery, and even follow-up to make sure that your clients are blown away by every aspect of your services.

I’ll be featuring more info about Project Prescription the rest of the week on the blog and digging a little deeper into the workflow. So check back tomorrow for more.


All three of us are so excited to announce the Project Prescription for photographers launches today! And for this first week only you can get this kick ass workflow/document collection for just $88.00. Starting next Monday the 8th, Project Prescription will only be available at its regular price of $108.00. You can sign up for our mailing list and receive two free sample documents at theprojectprescription.com.