Photographer Rob Strong (of the School Street School School of School Photography*) came by for breakfast the other day, on his way through the area on a Christmas journey. He said something very interesting. Something I don't think I've ever heard before quite the way he put it.
It sounded like things are going well for him and his business. Here's his current website; it's about to be replaced by a new one. Naturally he has a lot of work to sort through in deciding what to present on the new site. We were talking about how you should put in your portfolio or on your website the kind of work you want, not necessarily the kind you've done. You want to encourage clients to think of you for the kind of work you'd like to do more of in the future.
Rob said it wasn't so simple in some ways. For example, he does about five weddings a year and really enjoys doing those, but doesn't want to do a whole lot more than that.
The thing he most wants to do more of in the future? Editorial portraits.
For those who don't know exactly what that means, it's when a client assigns you, and pays you, to go take a portrait of somebody else. Usually it's for some sort of media—newspapers, magazines, or for a book jacket or website or perhaps an annual report or institutional publication—hence the name. (Rob does a lot of work for the Tuck School and the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College.)
Talking about editorial portraits, what Rob said was, "I've noticed I enjoy portraiture more when the client and the subject aren't the same person."
I've never heard it put quite like that, but yeah. I used to do portraits in Washington D.C., but my clients were often the subjects—or closely related to them. It removes a certain amount of control from the photographer, and dictates, to varying (and unpredictable!) degrees how you have to work and the kind of results you have to create. Rob's right—when the subject is paying you, then the subject is your boss. The work will go better if you're the boss on the set or at the location.
Speaking of portraits, I remembered to have Rob sign the mighty TOP Guest Book but for some unaccountable reason it didn't occur to me to make a quick portrait of him, which I usually do when guests visit TOP. My apologies, to he and thee.
(I know that last phrase is not grammatical, but it rhymes, and that wins.)
*The first time we met he described settling into his new studio in Lebanon, New Hampshire, which is located in a former school. The presence of the school caused the street it's on to be called School Street, and the influence then turned around the other way and caused the school to be known as the School Street School, because, of course, it was the school that was on School Street. Rob then realized that if he gave some photography classes at his studio he could call it the School Street School School of Photography, at which point he realized that to complete the name he would naturally have to include school photography in the curriculum; hence the name. There is, however, no actual School of School Photography in the School Street School.
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