PDN Photo District News


Nate Gowdy’s “Campaign in Contrast”

2013 PDNedu Student Photo Contest winner Nate Gowdy has been on the campaign trail for the 2016 presidential election, capturing bold black-and-white portraits of the candidates that reflect the polarizing state of U.S. politics today.

Reminiscent of the style of photojournalist Mark Peterson, Gowdy’s portraits are jarring and exaggerated, showing the unflattering sides of candidates on both sides of the fence. Gowdy says: “‘Campaign in Contrast’ visually echoes the spectacle of a starkly polarized presidential election: the harsh contrast of passionately partisan contests and the blunt ways supporters see themselves as well as their rivals—Republican versus Democrat, the Left versus the Right, capitalist versus socialist, conservative versus liberal, even good versus evil.”

The work has been featured and recognized by TIME, American Photography 32, Communication Arts‘ 57th Photography Annual, and Al Jazeera English, among other publications.

See more from Nate Gowdy at nategowdy.com

All photos © Nate Gowdy

 Gowdy_Campaigns in Contrast-2 Gowdy_Campaigns in Contrast-1Gowdy_Campaigns in Contrast-3 Hillary rally in Manchester, NH, on Feb. 5th, 2016.Gowdy_Campaigns in Contrast-4



Timothy Hutto on Romance and “Things”

By Brienne Walsh

Timothy Hutto describes his relationship with photography as a “crazy, romantic story.” “I was in Paris, trying to figure out my life,” he begins over the phone from Brooklyn, New York, where he’s currently living while working towards his MFA at Pratt Institute. Hutto was in Paris on medical leave from the Navy, which he had joined right before September 11, 2001. It was in May 2011 that he received the phone call announcing his discharge thanks to an inner-ear injury that caused him constant vertigo.

Hutto had been interested in photography since childhood, but had never considered it a real career possibility. While stationed in Bahrain, he spent leave time photographing local kids riding their skateboards. Being released from the military left his life wide open; rather than emptiness, Hutto saw an opportunity. “‘You’ve always had a passion for [photography],’” he recalls thinking. “‘Explore it now or you’ll never do it.’”

That day, he began applying to art schools. He ended up at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he began to experiment with style and develop a voice.


“Beauty” Photo © Timothy Hutto

At first, he found himself frustrated with the work he was producing. His instinct was to create portraits that mimicked the styles of some of the 20th century’s greatest photographers—such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn—which he thought would make him more appealing to potential future clients. But his portraits didn’t work. “I couldn’t establish the rapport I needed with my subjects,” he explains.

Around the time he realized he needed to find a new direction for his work, he got a job as the student photographer for the college’s media department. It freed him from the pressure of having to make what he thought was “commercially salable work”—as an adult putting himself through school, he had to be practical—and provided him with an income. Once some financial pressure was alleviated, he had a powerful realization: “You don’t have to be a portrait photographer, you don’t have to be a fashion photographer,” he says. “You can say what you want to say, and have fun doing it.”

Soon after, the work that set him apart from his peers, his multi-part series, “Things,” was conceived. It began with a desire to photographically illustrate idioms and tongue-in-cheek jokes using mass-produced objects painted in bright colors. Hutto began experimenting with photographing different colorful, spray-painted props, arranged as still lifes in a studio. The images themselves were often elusive; the titles Hutto gave them offered keys for the viewers to understand what he was trying to say. For example, “Politics” (2013), one of the first “Things” images, is a photograph of three dinosaurs painted red, white and blue, and looking over their shoulders. It was meant to express Hutto’s own weariness with the government—and it worked. Like a newspaper cartoonist, Hutto intuitively understood that simple, clean compositions would make the punch line of a joke funnier.


“Sexuality” Photo © Timothy Hutto

The process for developing the series, which currently consists of four parts, was cheap, solitary, and very hands-on. Every image began with a rough sketch and a trip to the 99-cent store (“I love cheaply produced objects,” he confesses), followed by the art-supply store for paint. “The colors had to have a common thread,” he explains. “Either punchy and saturated or toned down, so that they’d work together.” Color theory, which he learned as part of SCAD’s curriculum, became increasingly important to the work. Unique—and sometimes jarring—color combinations enlivened the compositions. Doing the “wrong thing” emboldened Hutto to break rules he’d learned in class.

Each of the images in “Things” was photographed in a studio against a backdrop of colored paper. Hutto described his early lighting setups as “daft.” “I was using four or five lights, all with modifiers, focused on a tiny, brightly colored set.” Eventually, he switched to Profoto strobe lighting and honed his technique. Although the images look like they’ve been digitally retouched, Hutto did very little work in post-processing. 

The images became more sophisticated over time, the titles more elusive, the color combinations more bold. “Sacrifice II” (2014), from “Things IV,” depicts the black bust of an owl set against a backdrop of purple and turquoise, implying that one must sacrifice for knowledge. “Synergy” (2014), from the same series, shows an unusual combination of colors—lime, peach, sky blue, mauve, purple—and depicts a sheath of photocopy paper torn from its wrapping only in the top right corner. In “Synergy,” something greater has been created than the sum of its parts: alone, photocopy paper is mundane, but juxtaposed in such a color environment, it becomes a painterly abstraction.

“‘Things’ is about many things,” Hutto laughs when I asked him if together, the images told a single story (about America, or mass production?). “They are complex but not complicated. They are about objects and how they define the world around me. The beauty of mass production, the restoration of aura through artistic processes, glamour and isolation, humor….”

Timothy Hutto, Elizabeth City, NC, BFA Photography, Senior Project, Professor Dixon, 2014

“Narrative” Photo © Timothy Hutto

Timothy Hutto, Elizabeth City, NC, BFA Photography, Senior Project, Professor Dixon, 2014

“Attraction” Photo © Timothy Hutto

 “Things” closed his chapter at SCAD as his thesis project, and after graduation, Hutto moved to New York City. “If you want to catch elephants, you have to go where the elephants are,” he says. Along with enrolling at Pratt, he began a steady gig as a staff photographer at Barney’s New York. With a full schedule at school and at work, his time to shoot personal work has shrunk. Still, he continues to sketch out ideas for future tableaus to add to his “Things” series. He has also begun working on a layout for a “Things” book, finding the time to write rough copy for the book while riding the train from his apartment in Greenpoint to the Barney’s studio in Long Island City. “I’d [like to] have the book 80 to 90 percent done before I start schlepping it around to publishers,” he says.

Hutto has all of the things required to “make” it in New York—drive, a vision and a voice. “Ultimately, as an artist, I’m showing the world my soul,” he says. “Mine happens to be brightly colored, cheap, cheerful, intellectual and playful.”


Cameras: Nikon D800, D7100

Lenses:  AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G, AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G, AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 IF-ED

Lighting:  Nikon SB-910 speedlight

Drives: LaCie 2TB Rugged Thunderbolt HDD, Seagate Backup Plus Fast 4TB HDD

Editing Software: Adobe Creative Cloud, Capture One Pro 9


Is it Legal? Outtakes From Client Work on Social Media

Q: Can I post outtakes from client work on Instagram? I took them with my smartphone, not the camera I used on set, so are they even part of the shoot?

A: If you work as a freelance photographer and are not employed by a company, you own all the work you create. The client hiring you is granted rights to use the photographs you make, but you retain the copyright. How the client hiring you can use the photographs created on assignment is controlled by the terms of your agreement. Having an agreement in writing that clearly explains what each of you can do with the photographs avoids misunderstandings that can arise from an oral agreement. If the hiring party requests any exclusive rights, the agreement must be in writing to be valid.

If a client wants to own the copyright and requests an assignment of all rights, you would not be able to use the photographs, even on
Instagram, unless you receive an exception for personal use, including your portfolio and self-promotion. Whether to assign all rights is a business decision, but you should understand that you lose the right to use your photos in the future without an agreement. You should request the right to use any photograph taken on assignment for self-promotion, in all forms of media.

Because Instagram, as well as other forms of social media, is a form of self-promotion and marketing, it functions as a digital portfolio, just as much as any personal website. Often photographers are hired just because of their social media following. Some clients will want the photographs taken on assignment posted on your social media account to create interest about a story. This may be more frequent for editorial assignments where the publisher benefits from increased interest in a story ahead of time. Many agreements with publishers provide that a publisher will receive exclusive publishing rights for a limited period of time, and after this embargo period you have rights to publish the images in any way you wish. If you want to use the photographs from the shoot on your own social media channels during the embargo period, you should request to do this in the publishing agreement. You may be asked to include language saying that the images were first published by the assigning publication.

When working on an advertising assignment, confidentiality and exclusivity may be a priority to the client, and the client may not want any photographs posted on your social media accounts until the media campaign has been launched. You should carefully review the contract and, in particular, the “grant of rights” clause to make sure you can post your photographs on your own social media channel after the work is made public. Some advertising contracts contain very broad “assignment of rights” clauses, which will restrict the use of all photographs taken on the shoot and could include photographs taken on a smartphone.

Some contracts may require you to ask permission before posting the work on your personal website or social media channels. Typically clients will grant permission once the campaign is launched, but may want to reserve the right in a contract to have you seek permission first. Once any work is part of the public campaign, you can always link to that work and identify your contribution.

You don’t need to worry about Instagram owning photographs you post on your account. The terms of service you agree to by joining contain a “grant of rights” clause that permits the social media platform to use your images as part of its service, which usually includes the ability for you and others to share and like images and other content. It does not give these platforms the right to sublicense your images for any profit. So enjoy posting on your account—just make sure your client does not have any limited restrictions before the campaign goes live.

Nancy E. Wolff is a partner at Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard, LLP. Her practice focuses on intellectual property and digital media law

Got a legal question? E-mail jacquelyn.palumbo@emeraldexpo.com



From a Viral Series to a Book Series: How Carli Davidson gave her “Shake” portraits longevity

by Taryn Swadba

Photographer Carli Davidson was reaching for a towel to clean her dog Norbert’s drool off of her wallpaper when she was struck with an idea that would eventually become a wildly successful viral series. “I thought, I bet it would be pretty amazing to see what my dog’s jowly, drool-filled face would look like in a photo,” Davidson explains in a recent interview with PDNedu.

Carli Davidson Pet Photography

Photo © Carli Davidson

Davidson began assisting for editorial photographers at age 17 in 1998. A few years later, she attended school at The Evergreen State College in Oregon, and she also took a job at the Oregon Zoo, where she cared for and trained animals, in addition to teaching conservation education classes.

In 2009, a car accident forced her to leave her labor-intensive job at the Oregon Zoo. It was during this time that she began taking animal portraits, and that the idea for what would ultimately become her viral series, “Shake,” began to bloom.

Featuring adorable canines mid-head-shake, the images in the series offer viewers a detailed look at a moment that usually passes in the blink of an eye: a freeze-frame of a dog in all of its spit-flying, jowl-flapping glory. “Shake” initially went viral in 2011, shortly after it was named a winner in the animal category in the PDN Faces photography competition, and after The Daily Beast ran some of the images. From there, The Huffington Post ran a piece; then requests started pouring in. “I had one day where my website got a quarter of a million hits,” Davidson says. And it was this influx of attention that made going viral a “full-time job.” She explains: “I did interviews almost every day, and put together press packs and contracts. Everyone that I shared the work with would have to have my name on or below the images, links to my website and agree to image usage for just the one article.” Davidson believes that these parameters are what kept her images from being another flash in the pan, and instead gave her name lasting visibility. “It built a brand, and a business,” she says.

Carli Davidson Pet Photography

Lil Bub! Photo © Carli Davidson

After the series went viral, Davidson worked with her agent to negotiate a contract with HarperCollins to turn “Shake” into a book, which was published in 2013. Having an agent, she says, was “invaluable” for getting her work on the radar of editors and negotiating her rights as an author. Since her first Shake book, featuring all dogs, Davidson has also published Shake Puppies in 2014 and Shake Cats in 2015. Currently working on books with Chronicle Books and HarperCollins, Davidson notes both publishers have been “really amazing to work with.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 5.02.23 PM
While there are currently no plans for another installation of “Shake,” Davidson says that she never knows what she might be inspired by in the future. Whatever she sets her sights on, she’ll commit to it fully. “I’ve never really seen anyone succeed in photography as a career without being totally immersed in both the medium and whatever subject you are shooting,” she says, “and I’m no exception.” 


Davidson has spent close to a decade working with animals—here’s how she gets them to shake:

+ Become familiar with the animal’s  general behavior. “For new animal photographers I recommend walking animals at a local shelter to build this skill set.”

+ Let the animal come to you. “If you run up to a shy animal and scare them, you might not be able to recover that relationship at all.”

Get your subject used to the lighting first. Davidson starts out with animals off set and offers treats after triggering the flash from a distance. Sometimes it takes up to an hour to get the animal comfortable.

+ Try the easiest method first. Davidson’s vet technician musses up the dog’s hair, blows on its face or plays with its ears to get them to shake. The last resort is an Epi-Optic ear cleaner, which usually does the trick. She notes to never use water in their ears, and suggests having a professional on set for the safety and comfort of the animals.


Make Yourself: Carlos Serrao on Forging a Career

By Harrison Jacobs

When Carlos Serrao began making pictures in the 1980s in Miami, the resources for aspiring photographers were slim. If that was the career path he wanted, he knew he would have to figure it out himself.

Today, Serrao is one of the most sought-after photographers in portrait, fashion and fitness photography, shooting one-of-a-kind imagery for brands like Gap, Nike and Under Armour, and editorial features for FLAUNT, GQ and ESPN’s The Body Issue. Look at his career now and it may seem like a smooth ascent, but Serrao will tell you it was a turbulent ride.


A campaign image for the fall/winter line of Nike Tech Pack sportswear. Photo © Carlos Serrao

Do It Yourself

Serrao’s first camera was a Super 8 that he begged his parents for after seeing Star Wars in theaters in 1977. Serrao spent his childhood making animations, and at age 13, took an interest in skateboarding that would prove formative for his work. 

Skateboarding culture was just getting underway in Miami. There were no international competitions or celebrities, and the skaters built a community on a shared do-it-yourself principle. Serrao became the skaters’ documentarian, filming them in every playground, park and emptied-out pool they skated in.

“I wanted to emulate what the big skate companies did. I’d film amateur skate videos and edit them crudely with two VCRs. I’d shoot photos of my friends skating and then Xerox the photos for our zines,” Serrao tells PDNedu in a recent interview.

The skaters’ do-it-yourself mentality made a deep impression on Serrao. His high school guidance counselor told him if he wanted to go into a field like medicine, business or law, she could help him, but for photography, he was on his own. Serrao was undeterred, enrolling in Florida International University to pursue a B.A. degree. When he found his art courses lacking, he supplemented his education with photography classes at Miami Dade Community College. In his spare time, he conducted shoots with models he met at school and equipment from the photo department to build out his portfolio. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to make it if he didn’t take the initiative.

“I was always very competitive,” Serrao says.

Heading Out West

In 1992, Serrao shipped out to California with the intention of attending Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, but upon realizing that he only had enough money to last him a semester, decided it was the time to pursue photography full time instead.

After weeks spent trying to meet editors at major publications, he found success with L.A. Reader, an alternative arts newspaper. The photo editor agreed to put him on the freelance roster, sending Serrao to press junkets, theater and restaurant openings. It wasn’t lucrative, but it was hands-on training like he’d never had before.

“I would have 15 minutes to shoot this celebrity in a bland hotel room. I learned to work fast, to make interesting compositions with light and shadow,” Serrao says. “I had to make something out of nothing.”

Serrao spent nearly half a decade shooting for arts papers and alternative magazines in Los Angeles, then Miami, then Los Angeles again. Serrao took each assignment as a chance to experiment.

“Back then, most of the photographers were these old-school photojournalists that shot everything the same way,” he says. “I was this young kid that was always trying different lenses and new techniques.”


Russian athletes Darya Klishina and Adelina Sotnikova shot for Vogue Russia. Photo © Carlos Serrao

The “Big Break”—or a Series of Small Breaks

After years of “scraping by,” he had the opportunity to present his work to photography agent Laura Hinds, who had heard about Serrao from a friend. Hinds netted him assignments in national fashion magazines like Glamour and Mademoiselle, and promised him an advertising client by the end of the year. In the meantime, he had to shoot non-stop.

“That first year was crazy,” Serrao recalls. “I was shooting so many assignments that I was practically broke, because I had to pay for everything up front before getting reimbursements.”

But Hinds made good on her promise. Delta Air Lines had seen Serrao’s work and wanted him for their next campaign. Serrao was introduced to concept meetings, casting calls and committee upon committee for creative direction. In comparison, the shoot itself was a piece of cake. After years of living check to check, the shoot was a game-changer: Delta ended up buying all 36 images he turned in—33 more than they contracted him for. Serrao finally had some money to put back into his business.

Breaking Out of Typecasting

After a year of working with Hinds, he realized that editors were hiring him to do the same beauty shots for every assignment. He wanted to shoot big fashion stories and cover portraits, but it wasn’t going to be handed to him.

“It was a constant struggle. I always had to push for the bigger stories,” Serrao says.

For years, he shot experimental assignments to showcase his talent alongside the stock assignments that became his livelihood. In 1999, when PAPER offered Serrao a big fashion spread, he knew he had to make the most of it, and decided to conduct a shoot he had wanted to do since college: a science-fiction-inspired shoot at Miami Dade Community College, which had the Brutalist architecture of a futuristic dystopia.

“Occasionally, you get those shoots that come out exactly how you imagined it. Those are rare. This was one of them,” he says.

His editor at PAPER loved the shots and gave Serrao regular fashion stories and portrait assignments, which in turn lead to more advertising clients who gave him the creative control he wanted. In a short amount of time, he picked up assignments from IBM, Ecko Unltd. and WIRED.


Actor Mads Mikkelsen shot for FLAUNT magazine. Photo © Carlos Serrao

Upping the Difficulty

In 2003, Serrao got a call from the client that changed his career: Nike. After years of working for incrementally larger brands, his work had gotten on the radar of creative director Heather Amuny-Dey, who was heading up the major 2004 Olympic Games initiative at the company. According to Serrao, she was tired of the blurry motion look that Nike had been using since the ‘90s and wanted a crisp, fashion esthetic.

Perhaps what most sets Serrao apart from other photographers is his inexhaustible desire to experiment. When Nike called Serrao to shoot the biggest project of his career, he suggested he shoot the entire campaign digitally, at a time when the vast majority of campaigns were shot on film. Serrao was convinced that digital was the right decision for a high-pressure shoot where the creative team would want to see what Serrao
was producing right away. His clients were skeptical, but he lobbied hard and in the end, they agreed.

“Very quickly, I went from, ‘This is going to be great,’ to, ‘Oh wait, how are we actually going to do this?’” Serrao recalls. “I had to figure out how to do it fast.”

Serrao went to Samy’s Camera in Los Angeles for a consultation and came out of the store with a digital tech. Photographer Damon Loble, a sales rep for Samy’s at the time, impressed Serrao with his expertise, so Serrao suggested he leave his job and work with him. Loble, while skeptical at first, ultimately agreed. His role was to make sure the camera ran smoothly and to create a color profile to apply to new images so Nike could see a rough draft as Serrao shot. At the time, digital techs were unheard of except for the biggest shoots, and Serrao’s forward thinking left an impression on the client.

The Nike campaign proved to be a huge hit in the wider advertising community, and soon he was working on campaigns for adidas, Gatorade and PUMA.

Building the All-Star Team

In the years since Nike, Serrao’s list of clients has grown and his shoots have become more elaborate. While the sports-fashion esthetic that he pioneered with Nike has become a mainstay, his pursuit of challenges has become his calling card.

“I’ve become the guy that clients call when they have something very difficult that they want to figure out. Every shoot I get is a Rubik’s cube of problems that I have to solve,” he says.

Those challenges range from “beast” lighting setups to requests for complex art direction. When Reebok wanted to shoot Kendrick Lamar landing in a cloud of dust and smoke, they called Serrao. When FLAUNT wanted to shoot a high-fashion spread of Alice in Wonderland actor Mia Wasikowska in tandem with a short ethereal film, Serrao was game.

Serrao, in part, owes his accomplishments to the team he has built around him. Some members, like Loble or chief lighting technician Ron Loepp, have been with him for a decade.

“My digital tech, my lighting tech, my assistants have all grown with me,” Serrao says. “We are very well orchestrated on set because we all know each other so well.”

A recent shoot for Nike was one of the most complex he’s ever undertaken. The campaign required Serrao to shoot a new line of all-weather apparel called “All Conditions Gear.” Serrao and the art director envisioned a shoot that would have models running through the streets of New York City wearing items from the collection in rain and snow. The creative team at Nike loved the idea, but, after the budget arrived, Serrao realized that the location was too costly.

Instead of dropping his concept, Serrao scouted locations in Los Angeles that could double as Manhattan and Brooklyn, settling on the famous New York City set in the Paramount Studios back lot and a series of pre-war buildings in the city’s Arts District. Next his crew had to make the sets look like SoHo in the middle of the winter in the California heat. On top of this, Serrao was shooting stills for print, and video for a web campaign at the same time. It was a dizzying set to be on, but for Serrao’s seasoned crew, it went off without a hitch.

“It was a lot of fun because I was photographing and directing at the same time. We’d film a segment and then I’d grab my camera and shoot for 15 minutes and then we’d do it again,” Serrao explains. “We were in a great rhythm.


Photo © Carlos Serrao


Out in the snow for Nike’s “All Conditions Gear” campaign. Photo © Carlos Serrao

One Step at a Time

Serrao has always been someone who never looks too far into the future, and takes his work day by day. In truth, he never thought he would make it as far as he has.

“When I was working, I would always look at the next biggest shoot and think, ‘I’ll never shoot something that big. That’s crazy,’” he says.

When Serrao looks back, he says that there’s one lesson that he wishes he learned a lot earlier—and that he would pass on to anyone looking for advice.

“Limit the amount of time you spend on projects that don’t fit your work,” he advises. “People will pigeonhole you and the more time you spend doing that stuff, the longer it takes to break out.” EDU


PDNedu Spring 2016 is live (and free to read)!

The Commercial Photography Issue of PDNedu is live at digitalmag.pdnedu.com, featuring the work of Carlos Serrao—who shot the issue’s killer cover of ballet dancer Misty Copeland for an Under Armour campaign—Nikon Ambassador Blair Bunting, Pratt graduate student Timothy Hutto, viral sensation Carli Davidson, legendary fashion photographer Guy Bourdin and more. Also inside: practical advice for licensing your work, signing contracts, and engaging new clients online and in print. We also celebrate the winners of the 13th annual PDNedu Student Photo Contest.



Apply: Foundry Photojournalism Workshop and Eddie Adams Workshop


We covered the very affordable (and very awesome) Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in the Fall 2015 issue of PDNedu (read about it here: http://bit.ly/21hqv0P), and registration for the weeklong workshop is open until April. This year’s location is Cape Town, South Africa, and it will run from July 10-16. Tuition for international students is $975, while tuition for regional students—who must have an African passport to be eligible—is $475. Last year’s instructors included Maggie Steber, Ron Haviv, James Whitlow Delano, Andrea Bruce and John Stanmeyer.

Register at http://www.foundryphotoworkshop.org/

26 July 2015 – Ubud, Bali, Indonesia – Maggie Steber’s class watches their final presentation edit at the 8th annual Foundry Photojournalism Workshops in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.


The Eddie Adams Workshop (almost) needs no introduction. The annual October gathering at the late photographer’s barn in New York is known worldwide for gathering the best minds in documentary and photojournalism to teach 100 talented new photographers in an intensive 4-day workshop. Getting accepted into the Eddie Adams Workshop is an incredible opportunity for any young photographer, and if you want to enter the documentary/photojournalism field, we can’t recommend it enough. Submit your work at http://www.eddieadamsworkshop.com/


Eddie Adams Workshop attendees and instructors at the late photographer’s barn in Jeffersonville, New York. 



Step X Step: Seeking Support For Your Creative Projects

This article is excerpted from Chapter Five of Mary Virginia Swanson’s book Finding Your Audience: An Introduction to Marketing Your Photographs. Order it at www.mvswanson.com.

Among the greatest gifts an artist can receive is support in one or more forms to continue and complete a project.  The encouragement and support from friends, family and community can come to you in many forms and help sustain your passion to tell your story.

Two questions that are essential to ask when beginning your path toward completing your project are:

1) Who else is interested in this subject?

2) What do I need to produce this work?

For most artists, support is necessary for research on their subject, production of the work, creating prints, installing exhibitions, and publishing the work.   The path to support begins with research.

Resources to support photography projects can take many forms. Some artists need research and travel funds to move projects forward, others need studio space and art-making materials. Upon completion, additional support may be needed for the preparation and touring of exhibitions and related publications. Assistance for artist’s efforts can be found in a variety of forms from public support, private industry, foundations and social media.


Images from the Jamey Stillings’ series, “The Evolution of Ivanpah Solar.” Stillings sustains his long-term projects through editorial and corporate licensing, institutional acquisitions, fine-art print sales, corporate sponsorship and an association with Blue Earth, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Photo © Jamey Stillings



Programs established and administered by a branch of the federal or state government to foster the arts in our country.

Diverse programs for individuals exist at multiple levels throughout most of the United States, administrated by local, regional, state and federal programs. Depending on the community, political environment and cultural legacy, many areas are known for providing outstanding support for emerging and professional artists, offering funding for professional advancement, studio space and emergency grants. In addition to funding allocated for the arts, many cities have dedicated funding for a “Percent for the Arts” program from hotel taxes, new stadium taxes, state lottery income and other revenue sources. Government funding can vary from year to year depending on economic conditions.  Start local. Begin your research by looking into local funding opportunities and whenever possible engage in face-to-face dialogue with potential funders.


Private, nonprofit organizations with grant programs determined and directed by its trustees/directors.

Private foundations typically have a clearly defined and often more focused mission, and support projects that align with their existing initiatives.  Example: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (www.gatesfoundation.org), whose initiatives include improving global health, preventing disease, combating hunger and poverty in developing countries and improving public education.

Family foundations often have multiple areas of interest, reflecting the backgrounds and experiences of the founders. The late Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was generous during his lifetime and beyond; gifting artwork to organizations that championed causes he believed in was a frequent activity.  He established the foundation in his name in 1990 (rauschenbergfoundation.org) and the organization thrives today, underscoring Rauschenberg’s belief that art can change the world. The Foundation’s program areas include broadening Rauschenberg’s legacy and offering grants to emerging and established artists through its residency program, fostering collaborations through targeted philanthropic initiatives that engage art, education, activism and collaboration.


Programs established and administered by a philanthropic division within a for-profit corporation for the expressed purpose of supporting their stated brand values.

Corporate support is often limited to disbursement within the geographic region(s) in which the parent corporation’s headquarters and local branches offices operate, thus more directly benefiting their employees and their communities.

Each type of funding source—government, private and corporate—will have formal guidelines available with clearly described areas of charitable support and paths to submission, many noting first what they do not fund.  Some long-established charitable foundations target their support, seeking partnerships directly, and therefore will not accept unsolicited proposals.  An increasing number of foundation grantmakers are requiring proposals to be submitted online, contracting with companies such as CyberGrants (cybergrants.com) to facilitate all aspects of the application process.


There is a long tradition of grants given to artists based on the quality of their artwork.  Numerous philanthropic family foundations such as the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation’s “Fellowships to Assist Research and Artistic Creation” (gf.org) as well as federally funded programs at the city, state and national level, award funds to artists to initiate, produce or complete their work.  Large numbers of artists apply for such awards, the receipt of which adds prestige to your professional résumé.

Artists are required to submit examples of their work, and in some instances, to provide letters of support from respected individuals in the field.

Typically grants to individual artists are awarded directly to the person receiving the award, rather than requiring that funds be administered by a fiscal agent that then disperses the monies to the award recipient.

Accomplished artists are widely familiar with publications and websites that provide information on grants to visual artists; emerging photographers/artists should invest time becoming familiar with these resources. Start your search for funding in your own community, as many county and state programs offer public sessions to advise artists of application procedures and deadlines. The public is often allowed to observe the jurying process when government funds are being awarded, which can provide valuable insights into the grant-giving process (volunteer to assist during the granting cycle if you are able to do so). Join email lists for local and state arts organizations to receive information on funding opportunities and approaching deadlines.

Whether or not you are awarded a grant or fellowship, judges are often influential individuals in our field who you will want to become aware of your work.


See more at www.jameystillings.com


See more at www.jameystillings.com


What is the subject of your artistic explorations? Are you making work that addresses social or environmental concerns?  Is your work created in response to a specific place or culture? Are you exploring the sciences or other fields through your project?  By seeking out private foundations and corporations that share a passion and commitment to a common subject, you are far more likely to be successful in finding support for your projects.

The majority of philanthropic foundations and corporations give grants or offer sponsorship based on the subject of the work you are pursuing and/or the geographic area in which your project is based.

Many companies have established a separate foundation to provide funding support and this information may be available online.  The Foundation Center (foundationcenter.org) is a useful source. Conduct a search on its home page on “FUNDER DATA” by the specific corporation name; if it is a formally established foundation there will be a direct link to their website, mission statement, deadlines and contact information.  If you don’t yet have a lead to follow by name, start with a search by ZIP code: you may be surprised to find like-minded philanthropists doing great work nationally or globally who are located nearby.


Many corporations or small businesses welcome the opportunity to partner on visual projects that bring their corporate culture to a broad audience or in some cases bring their brand to a very targeted demographic.

When considering which corporations are likely to respond positively to your project, pay close attention to the photographs corporations feature on printed materials, media campaigns and on their website.  Is portraiture important to convey their brand? Are they focused on who makes their product, who buys their products or the locations where their offices are located? Or do they feature landscape photographs in their branding, signaling an appreciation for the environment? Are they declaring they are utilizing “green” business standards? This will give you a sense of their corporate mission and corporate culture, as well as a window on the role photographs play in communicating their corporate message.   

Many recently established corporations that do not yet have a history of funding visual arts projects may welcome your proposal to engage them in alignment with your project.  If your mission is consistent with theirs, it may well be a good match. One advantage to seeking support from younger corporations not yet listed in guides to funding sources is turn-around time can be relatively short, often reviewing applications as they are received.


Crowd-sourced funding is an important development for people seeking an alternative form of fundraising for their creative project.  While there are slight variations in procedures and policies of the crowd-funding companies entering this market, the basic premise is the same. You create a campaign for your project following detailed guidelines (including an informational video clip), and if accepted, a page about your project will be featured on the host company’s website.  Visitors who wish to contribute to your project can do so directly from your campaign’s page and are frequently rewarded with incentives such as small prints, copies of publications and more.  Utilize email and social media platforms to spread the word about your project and important funding deadlines. If your financial goal is reached within the time allotted, individuals who have pledged support for your project will at that time have their pledge amount withdrawn from their designated credit card and you will receive the value of the donations at that time, less pre-determined service fees. Upon completion of your project you will be required to deliver any premium products you have promised to donors in return for their financial support.

The two most prominent crowd-sourced funding companies that artists are utilizing to seek support are, in order of their founding dates:

Founded in 2008

Indiegogo presents more funding options to those who are considering supporting your project. If you have a partner non-profit organization that is serving as your fiscal agent, donations can be processed through the organization’s PayPal account, giving donors a tax benefit for supporting your project.  Another important aspect of Indiegogo’s model; if your project is not fully funded by your stated deadline, you will still receive the promised support from donors.


Founded in 2009

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing funding platform for creative projects: if you do not reach your funding goals by the stated deadline, none of the funds pledged will be secured from the sponsors. Additionally, your project will be recorded on the Kickstarter website as “Unsuccessful.” More than 100,000 projects have been funded since Kickstarter launched in April of 2009, the majority of which asked for less than $10,000. Unsuccessfully funded projects number over 175,000 to date, but 79 percent of projects that reach more than 20 percent of its goal end in success. Kickstarter’s current project funding statistics are updated daily on their website at www.kickstarter.com/help/stats.

To evaluate if this method is appropriate to you and your project, research and gain a broad understanding of the type of projects that have been successfully funded.  Assess the clarity of the stated project goals and benefits offered to those who donate to the project(s).  Be clear about all related fees and charges to you and to donors before submitting your project to any crowd-sourced funding company.

Today it is easier than ever to reach out to the public for help, and like-minded people are responding, making the benefits of finding your audience a path to achieve your project goals.


Call for submissions: Emerging Photographer Summer 2016

Our sister magazine, Emerging Photographer, is looking for a group of 10 new photographers to featured in the Summer 2016 issue. Emerging Photographer is entirely submission-based, gathering international entries from photographers with around five years or less of professional experience, and selected by editors of Emerging PhotographerPDN, and Rangefinder magazines. The magazine is mailed out to 8,000 art directors, buyers and photo editors, plus photo festivals, galleries and more. Enter at emerging.pdncontests.com, and see the other issues at issuu.com/eephotogroup.

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Celebrate photo l.a.’s 25th Anniversary

Photo l.a. is celebrating its 25th year, kicking off Thursday, January 21 with an Opening Benefit Gala honoring Los Angeles artist James Welling. The art expo will run from January 22-24 at The Reef/LA Mart in Downtown Los Angeles.

Programming includes roundtable discussions, workshops, tours and  curated installations, and the air fair will bring together international galleries, museums, universities and nonprofit organizations to showcase work from the 19th century to now.

Visit www.photola.com to sign up for general admission ($20 in advance) or a three-day pass ($35 in advance). Tickets to the opening gala are $80 in advance, with proceeds benefiting Best Buddies.


Photo © James Welling/Regen Projects