September 16, 2014, 07:42:29 AM

Author Topic: How do you become so famous that you have assistants to do it all for you?  (Read 4309 times)

mackguyver

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Guy, it's too bad we can't watch it on the other side of the Pond, but I can certainly see your point, especially if they are setting up the initial composition and such.  I have also heard similar stories (unsubstantiated, unfortunately) about several famous photographers who know next to nothing about their equipment or lighting and just show up and press the shutter.  Was this always the case with them - or have the progressed to relying on assistants? Are they still photographers? What constitutes "taking a photograph?"  All debatable with no answers.  It sort of reminds me of the case where a monkey took it's own photo and the photographer claimed credit: Monkey Hijacks Photographer’s Camera and Shoots Self-Portraits

I don't know too many actual pros personally. 
I know a decent number and I used to correspond with one of Vogue's top photographers and while he has many assistants, he was very involved in every step of his photographs, including scanning them (this was the early 2000s), which is how I got to know him.  I just wish I had kept in touch with him...
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RustyTheGeek

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I don't know too many actual pros personally. 
I know a decent number and I used to correspond with one of Vogue's top photographers and while he has many assistants, he was very involved in every step of his photographs, including scanning them (this was the early 2000s), which is how I got to know him.  I just wish I had kept in touch with him...

I naively thought most artists (pros?) were insanely protective of their craft, the process and most of all the finished product.  Now I can definitely see a gifted photographer that cut teeth on film maybe having an assistant to help with all the tech stuff and working magic on Photoshop at the behest and direction of the artist but I would think most 'old pros' would feel silly having an assistant place their tripod and camera for them.
Yes, but what would  surapon  say ??  :D

mackguyver

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I don't know too many actual pros personally. 
I know a decent number and I used to correspond with one of Vogue's top photographers and while he has many assistants, he was very involved in every step of his photographs, including scanning them (this was the early 2000s), which is how I got to know him.  I just wish I had kept in touch with him...

I naively thought most artists (pros?) were insanely protective of their craft, the process and most of all the finished product.  Now I can definitely see a gifted photographer that cut teeth on film maybe having an assistant to help with all the tech stuff and working magic on Photoshop at the behest and direction of the artist but I would think most 'old pros' would feel silly having an assistant place their tripod and camera for them.
He's definitely an old pro (born in the 40s) but was keenly interested in how to extract the best information from his transparencies using Silverfast (software) and his scanner.  I helped him with that and he returned the favor by giving me advice on my work (I'm beyond embarrassed when I look at it today).  I honestly had no idea who he was (other than a fashion pro) until years later when my wife was telling me how much she loved his work and his name rang a bell.  That's when I realized how stupid I was to lose touch with him!  I last saw him on a TV show crouching on the ground with a 5DIII/24-70 MkI shooting some models on the NYC waterfront and it looked like he was still very much involved in all aspects of the shoot.

The other pros I know use their assistants for location scouting, site/studio prep, organizing resources, grunt  work and retouching.  Most of them process their photos themselves or at least supervise the changes in LR/PS, etc. in post.  And they would certainly feel silly having their assistants compose their shots for them.
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Sporgon

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The other pros I know use their assistants for location scouting, site/studio prep, organizing resources, grunt  work and retouching.  Most of them process their photos themselves or at least supervise the changes in LR/PS, etc. in post.  And they would certainly feel silly having their assistants compose their shots for them.

You've missed out the most important function: loading film backs !  ;D
 
I've browsed through most of the thread and I'm surprised so many are taken aback by this guy having his assistant (s) set the camera up on a landscape picture. Producing this type of picture is very different from sports or press photographers, those guys never used an assistant in the field. But producing a landscape; what's it about ? The location, the light, the view. Who was the guy who instigated being in that place at that time ? I'm sure the photographer will have set up his exposure how he wants it and framed the picture. Then who actually releases the shutter doesn't matter. By and large I would expect the photographer to do his own editing; in another thread recently someone stated that post process work is editing, not photography, but this couldn't be further from the truth.


agierke

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it shocks me sometimes the narrow point of view that is expressed about certain subjects and how little knowledge there is on this forum about professional photography. i thought there were more professionals on this forum but it seems more and more there is not...or at least they remain quiet readers for the most part.

i still work as an assistant and 2nd shooter while growing my own business. been doing this now for 15+ years. most professional gigs benefit greatly from having a good assistant.

as an assistant, i have been responsible for almost every aspect of the job, including gear management, setting lighting, loading film backs, processing and printing film, shooting casting calls, styling sets, digital tech, post production, and even taking the actual shots. heck, my shots are even on other professional photographers websites and have been published with their names on them. its all part of the job.

in my network of photographers i am highly valued for the ability and knowledge i bring to the table. it doesn't trump the fact that its their job and their creative vision. the benefit to me is i constantly get to learn new methods and techniques as well as getting other perks such as contacts and support. when a photographer can't take a job they usually pass along the contact to me. i also have available to me the ability to borrow equipment at no cost when i have the need.

over the last 5 years or so, the shrinking budgets for photography have made it more difficult for photographers to staff a job the way they once did. my response has been to widen my network so that i am covering any future losses by gaining more access to more photographers and their work. in turn my own business has grown year after year from additional contacts.

the world of photography is not black and white for me (excuse the pun) rather i keep the lines blurred, stay diversified, so that my income comes from a variety of sources. its kept me "alive" in this business as i have watched many others business shrivel up and die. my goal, as a professional photographer, is to get the work and fulfill whatever requirement is asked of me, whether that be shooter, assistant, tech or post production. in the end...its all photography to me.   
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Lawliet

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I've browsed through most of the thread and I'm surprised so many are taken aback by this guy having his assistant (s) set the camera up on a landscape picture.

We could take a look at the credit list on those moving picture thingies that came up recently - everybody knows names like, lets say Kubrick, Spielberg or Tarantino. Not that much work on the physical cameras from those I'd wager, yet they're the most strongly associated with the final product. Even their DoPs have a different job description then the camera crews. Just because one can do multiple jobs on smaller scale productions it doesn't make micromanaging trivialities mandatory. Doing a models makeup on my own would end in "epic fail" anyway...  :-[

mackguyver

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it shocks me sometimes the narrow point of view that is expressed about certain subjects and how little knowledge there is on this forum about professional photography.
If you're referring to "professional photography" of old or the the long-established photographers who still have big clients and can afford to hire multiple assistants, then yes, you're correct.  As you say, though, that world is fading...
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I only shoot at ISO 100 with perfect technique - should I get a Nikon?

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eml58

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it shocks me sometimes the narrow point of view that is expressed about certain subjects and how little knowledge there is on this forum about professional photography. i thought there were more professionals on this forum but it seems more and more there is not...or at least they remain quiet readers for the most part.

And with an opening paragraph like this, it's a pity you didn't remain one of those "quite readers for the most part".

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By and large I would expect the photographer to do his own editing; in another thread recently someone stated that post process work is editing, not photography, but this couldn't be further from the truth.

This is because editing and post-processing are two different things. Post processing is adjusting white balance, cropping, leveling etc. Adjusting a single image or a batch.

Editing is going back over your work, choosing photos to keep and those to thrash. Building series, mixing images from different shoots to build up on their strength. Editing is as important as pressing the shutter because if you are not able to select your best photos or those that work best together, its like if you are not able to take great pictures.  If you show all your images to the public, it will be overwhelmed, but not in a positive way. The viewer will judge your work on what is shown to them, not on what is on your hard drive.
What a mess, my camera's sensor is full of massless particules that keep on trying to behave like waves!

Standard

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Albert Watson is one of my favorite photographers. He's well-known for his vintage silver gelatin, black-and-white portraits and his two books, Cyclops, and Maroc – both gorgeous coffee table books – are beautifully designed by an equally famous graphic designer, David Carson. Anyone familiar with Watson's work will not easily doubt his talent. I, for one, would be more than happy to be his assistant. The knowledge one gains from being around such masters is simply immeasurable.

RustyTheGeek

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it shocks me sometimes the narrow point of view that is expressed about certain subjects and how little knowledge there is on this forum about professional photography. i thought there were more professionals on this forum but it seems more and more there is not...or at least they remain quiet readers for the most part.

I'm a bit puzzled why you started an otherwise informative and enlightening post with such a condescending beginning.  Having been such a respected and talented individual as you claim for so long, one would think you would have developed a better proof reading ability of posts such as this before you submit them.

I appreciate you sharing everything you did because it gives a great perspective into what jobs might be possible for others that might want to follow in that line of work.  So often people assume that making a living as a photographer means you can only be the photographer.  Your post shares an interesting alternative.

In future, perhaps when you observe a knowledge gap or ignorance of a subject, simply share your knowledge and let others benefit.  Being ignorant isn't something to be ashamed of, it's simply what everyone is until they learn the things that make them less ignorant.  Since you have been the receiver of so much experience and wisdom over the years, kindly pay it forward!
Yes, but what would  surapon  say ??  :D

Taemobig

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I don't know too many actual pros personally. 
I know a decent number and I used to correspond with one of Vogue's top photographers and while he has many assistants, he was very involved in every step of his photographs, including scanning them (this was the early 2000s), which is how I got to know him.  I just wish I had kept in touch with him...

I naively thought most artists (pros?) were insanely protective of their craft, the process and most of all the finished product.  Now I can definitely see a gifted photographer that cut teeth on film maybe having an assistant to help with all the tech stuff and working magic on Photoshop at the behest and direction of the artist but I would think most 'old pros' would feel silly having an assistant place their tripod and camera for them.

Its actually the complete opposite, all the pros I've assisted are more than glad to teach me everything they know. They know the real secret to success is not just your creativity but your connections. Which leads me to the answer for the topic.

I was one of those assistants that you're talking about for 5 semi-famous/popular fashion photographers in L.A. I proved to all of them how hard I want to work by being the best assistant I can be (it also helped that I have a bit of talent). They notice, they pass on jobs to me that they don't have time for or don't want to do. I got published in a fashion magazine within 3 months, I got free access to 3 studios/lights/equipment in 6 months (they trusted me enough to give me keys), within 8 months one of my shoots was big enough to be nationally televised ( http://www.junmapue.com/view/Rwv/Videos#cPx3 ), by my 2nd year my 2nd mentor gave me a major client which let me shoot my first billboard, middle of my second year and I got hired to be Director of Photography for a couple of music videos (my first one debuted on BET). Currently on my 3rd year and I'm still surprised how I got here.

I rarely got paid for the assistant jobs I did but if I never did it then I would never have gotten the connections I have now. So now you see why us assistants do it. We know that's one of the fastest way to learn photography and get connections at the same time.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2014, 10:57:08 PM by Taemobig »
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Over the years i've shot just about everything that can be shot from landscapes to wedding to glamour and fashion, and yes even porn.

I've shot solo and with a team, i've shot stuff in the studio and on location.

Having assistants CAN make things easier but it can also make things harder, it all depends on the shoot and what they want to get out of the shoot.  Some assistants are just there for the money, to them it's just a job that they do to pay the bills, those are the ones you want for the butt awful jobs, the ones where it's not so much about creativity it's about getting the job done, stock photo shoots, shooting products for advertising.  The ones who want to be assistants as a way of learning the craft, to build a portfolio of material, those are the ones you want on the fun shoots, the shoots that you build contacts, build relations and expand their and your creative horizons. 

In relation to the opening question, "How do you become so famous that you have assistants to do it all for you?"  You don't need to be famous, just be in the position to have the cashflow to be able to hire them.

I remember when i first started out, i was an assistant for a local photographer who was taking pics of art work for a book, i remember having to learn how to change film in film backs and do all the heavy lifting of art work so that she could just stand there and press the shutter release button, it's was hard work but it was the work that got me to understand what photography was all about. 

Hard graft!

fats


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agierke

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I'm a bit puzzled why you started an otherwise informative and enlightening post with such a condescending beginning.

the title of this thread and the presumptions made by the OP annoyed me. statements like "anyone could get excellent shots there - especially a Phase One." warrant a sharp response imo. it cheapens the often unseen efforts, experience and ability that many pro photographers bring to the table.

i have generally steered clear of threads like these. the threads about Andreas Gursky's work are another example of presumptuous statements being bandied about that just exhibit ignorance. its one thing to have opinion...its another thing to marginalize a person or his work out of ignorance.

i carefully worded that opening statement so as not to completely disregard the presence and contributions of a number of members on this site and possibly jog a few more responses from professionals. i stand by the statement as i wrote it. there are many whom i enjoy and respect on these forums, both professional and amateur. Sporgon and Florian to name a few, as well as others.

and to be clear, i personally dont place myself anywhere near the experience and abilities of a great photographer. by my own estimation, i'm very far from where i want to be. but when all is said and done, i want to be able to say that i am a true expert in this field. someday. its because of this that i work very hard and keep an open mind towards others in my profession. i want to always be learning and improving and take pride in being able to contribute to the growth and success of those that i do work with. 
   
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Rienzphotoz

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C'mon, the guy is over 70 years old.  Give him a break!  At least he's getting out and doing something he enjoys, and if he's got the ability to have other people do the hard lifting, good on him.
+1 I totally agree.
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