I’m a photographer in the Washington, DC, area who photographs for all sorts of non-profits, colleges and universities, and labor unions, along with news outlets.
And that used to be it. (Well, there’s always been a little writing thrown in.) But then came the digital revolution. The kind of clients I serve often don’t adhere to the rigid job-description silos that characterize other organizations. They assume it’s reasonable to ask me to shoot and produce videos. And in an age of cross-platform multimedia, don’t those videos need stills and graphic design and motion graphics that can be adapted to other media? What can you give us for our Twitter feed? For Facebook? How about Instagram? Wouldn’t the audio from this video make a good podcast too?
Producing videos or “digital cinema” turned out to be a particularly good fit for me. Long, long ago I started my professional life as a newspaper reporter and editor and I still write for magazines occasionally. So creating a narrative by setting up and conducting interviews comes naturally. (I’ve always loved hearing people tell their stories, and video allows them to do it in their own voice and words.) Then as a photographer, lighting for interviews is something I now actually teach. And video editing – it’s a lot like writing a magazine piece, but way, way more fun and downright magical. It’s an amazing experience to edit a video and then watch it in an audience of 500 people who laugh or grow teary-eyed at all the right places.
All this is why my latest website, this one, is an experiment and a stab at a more “holistic” presentation of my work and interests. Rather than a classic photographer’s attempt to showcase my very best or most marketable images of the last 10 years, this is my current work of all sorts. You’ll find iPhone photos from this morning right next to serious magazine covers shot last week, with poster designs, video and other materials thrown in. Is this the best way to attract clients? It probably depends on the kind of clients you want to attract!
When I started in business, it was assumed that anyone who could write would be a lousy photographer, and vice versa. But with the digital revolution this sort of simplistic “left brain, right brain” stereotype has lost whatever utility it ever had. Younger people I work with today see no conflict if a talented graphic designer happens to write a techie book on coding in PHP, and they routinely swap between an amazing variety of different skills. For nonprofits long on creativity and short on staffing, this means access to skill sets way beyond what a traditionally structured workforce can provide. It doesn’t mean the end of working in teams; it does mean those teams are much more creative and effective.
After all, in the end it’s all about communicating – getting the message out to the people you want to reach in the form that reaches them best. And that’s what my work is all about.