Monthly Archives

July 2010

GJP: Back to School

During the first year of my social work program, I interned with an amazing agency called the Georgia Justice Project. GJP works with a population that many people might write off, or find undeserving – those who have been convicted of crimes.

Georgia Justice Project is an unlikely mix of lawyers, social workers and a landscape company. We defend people accused of crimes and, win or lose, we stand with our clients while they rebuild their lives. We believe this is the only way to break the cycle of crime and poverty.

GJP doesn’t just help clients through their trial, or probation, or prison sentence. They are there for the long haul, helping clients build job skills, find employment and housing, reach educational goals. They stay in touch with their clients for years, offering support as needed, and building a true sense of connection and community. I had a wonderful internship experience at GJP, so when they asked us to photograph their Back 2 School event this past Saturday, I eagerly agreed. The Back 2 School event is a day for the clients and their families to receive school supplies – backpacks filled with notebook paper, calculators, pens, pencils, etc.

There are specific backpacks for all ages, from infants through college students. But it’s not just a backpack giveaway – it’s a fun festival in the park, with bounce houses, face painting, games, sno cones, and more! There is also health, dental, and housing information for the families. Oh, and the local fire station came out and let the kids play all over the fire truck, honking the horn, talking on the loudspeaker, etc.

This event wasn’t about giving items to the “needy”. It was a day for fun and celebration, a day for families to come together and, for at least a few hours, let go of the stress and the stigma they face in their day-to-day lives.

Intern Selection

Most of these photos were shot in our first four months of shooting. They represent some of our favorites, and they’re still in our posted Portfolio. More than just showing you how far we’ve come since we began – they also represent the chances that people took on us from the very beginning.

It’s hard starting out as a photographer. We know because we’re still starting out. But for some reason, people have consistently taken a chance on us and hired us to photograph some of the most important moments in their lives. When a family asks you – no – pays you to enter their home and photograph their newborn baby, you can’t help but feel honored. It goes without saying that we appreciate all of our clients, and if we were ever unable to deliver a quality set of photos, we’d give them back ALL of their money.

This is what I wrote after my first wedding (Kind of foolishly, I did it without ever having any wedding experience except my own wedding):

Word of Advice: If you’ve never shot a wedding before – if you’ve never even been the second shooter assisting the main wedding photographer – don’t sign up to shoot a wedding. Nevermind the difficulty level. Nevermind that it’s not like any other event you’ve shot. The fact is that it’s just too important for you to think that you’re that good enough of an amateur photographer and you can shoot anything.

Especially if you want to do anything close to a reasonably decent job – and by decent I mean that all of your shots need to look like something that no one else at the wedding could’ve gotten. There is a reason you’re being paid, and that reason is because YOU are supposed to get the shots that NO ONE ELSE can get. Your shots need to look 100% better than anything anyone else with their point and shoot cameras could possibly shoot. I mean it. This isn’t the time to be a notch above the crowd. You’re competing with 50 other amateur photographers and if even a single one of them out does you – then you should hand over all of your sorry prints, and tear up the check.

Our relationships with our clients is a serious thing because there are so many other photographers they can choose instead of us.

Having said all of that – we feel the same way about our Interns. Up front we require a lot of commitment. And then we send a second email asking for MORE THAN DOUBLE that level of commitment and work + they have to answer two essay questions. Not only do we want committed and talented photographers, we want good writers. If you’re thinking that we do all of this to ‘weed’ people out – you’re absolutely correct. In case you haven’t noticed, our Photography Internship is different. You have to be much more than a very talented photographer. Are we good enough to require that level of commitment and effort from people?

We don’t make that decision – the Interns decide for themselves if this is worth it – or else they wouldn’t do everything we ask during the application process.

Our Interns represent us. We send them on assignments to cover events, and accompany us on paid gigs. We introduce them to people and put them in positions where they can make some of their own contacts and relationships with clients.  Basically, we try to have them mimic what we’ve been doing all this time.

It’s really that simple.

Selecting this group of Interns was considerably difficult. For some of them this is their second time applying. It was even more difficult for those applicants because we could compare their current work to their work from three months ago. Of course – simply applying again doesn’t guarantee acceptance – as much as we wish we could’ve done that for everyone.

We’ve selected a group of fantastically talented photographers. They come from many different backgrounds, and are at different points in their lives. Some have graduated from art school, and others are working professionals doing the daily 9-5. We have a military wife and mother of two that lives near Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Per the requirements, she’s agreed to make the 7 hour drive to Atlanta twice a month to work on photoshoots with us and take instruction. We have a very talented high school student in his Junior year, and we also have an NGO staff photographer that has traveled the world photographing third world slums and high ranking government dignitaries.

Our eventual goal isn’t to make profit from some sort of photography training program – there are enough photographers offering weekend “workshops”. Our goal is to earn a living as working photographers and as much as we can make it, this Internship with us will always be free. We’ve also created a repository where we’ll store and share our collective knowledge. Different resources such as the full archive of our weekly emails, and some photoshop .psd files showing how certain photos were edited, will be kept there for reference. All ‘Alumni’ and Current Interns will have access to the forums and hopefully we’ll even have some discussion threads going on.

None of what we do is secret, but not everyone knows all that we do.

This selection process hasn’ t been easy. In fact it was very, very difficult and even then so much of the success of this internship is out of our control.

Look for the official post on Thursday where we introduce all of our New Interns.

Thank you.

Secret Supper | Theatrical Outfit

We like photographing the Secret Suppers held by our friends BlackTie BBQ. They’re always fun AND we get really, really great food. Not satisfied to hold their secret suppers in normal event spaces – they held their Valentines Day Secret Supper in the unfinished eighth floor of one of the high rises in Atlantic Station. That’s just cool. So when I found out that this time they were serving dinner ON STAGE at Theatrical Outfit – I knew it’d be awesome.

I also suspected that lighting the space for photos would be… like lighting the inside of a black box. Yup. Exactly. Below is a photo of what it looked like with just the available light – except of course in real life it was even more dim, and you know – moody. This shot was taken at f/4.0, ISO 3200 – and a shutter speed of 1/10th. If you don’t know what that means – trust me – you can’t photograph events that way. Everyone will be blurry.

There’s technically enough light in this picture – but like we always ask, ‘Is it the quality of light that you want?’ No. Absolutely not. If we only used the house lights we’d be stuck with far too many badly colored photos with generally flat lighting.

But hey – it’s okay – they hired – and we always bring our own lights.

Now they’re not ‘floating in black space’ like they were before. And you know – now we can do some cool stuff with shadows and where the light hits – stuff you can’t do when you don’t have control and you’re dependent upon the theater tech for lighting. The trick though is to not BLOW OUT the guest with your high powered studio lights. It’s still supposed to be a candle lit dinner ya know? So fully lighting the space isn’t an option – at least if you don’t want to anger the guests. It’s not a wedding and everyone’s not drunk… for most of the dinner!… so you have to be aware of what your lights are doing to the scene and mood.

We had initial difficulties finding the right light setups – and then we were making adjustments all night.

I spent waaaay too much time trying to get this light to go across the curtains like that – and even then, I helped it in Photoshop.

Plus, if you’re having dinner on stage – you want it to look theatrical right? Of course!

What’s cool about BlackTie BBQ is that they’re absolutely great people. In case you haven’t noticed – Leah and I are all about working with great clients that like us, and ones that WE LOVE. Now – we’ve both worked in really rushed and hurried kitchens where when things get crazy, politeness goes out the window and people start snapping at each other. But even at the height of the rush and when attitudes could have easily gone south – all of the BlackTie BBQ staff weren’t just polite to each other – they were genuinely good to each other.

Mistakes happen, plates are dropped, and in other kitchens, we’ve seen attitudes change for the worse – but not with this team. Having worked with BlackTie BBQ several times now and seeing how all of the staff interact with each other, it’s beyond impressive. They’re not a ragtag crew of servers hired for the night. I see the same faces over and over again – and they all do a great job.

You can tell their food is made with the same consideration they give each other.  There’s just something special about it.  Love and goodness and amazing flavors.  We can’t get enough.