Interview with Photographic Bandwith (2017)
TF: What motivates you to create images?
EG: In the most general sense, it’s simply about contributing to the greater human dialog. Something that says something about me, or you, or all of us.
In the day-to-day, I really enjoy exploring and seeing new things. I love thinking about how to execute an idea. I love seeing new images that didn’t exist before. It’s empowering and thrilling.
TF: I read that prior to working as a photographer you worked at an ad agency and hated it. What’s the journey been like going from the 9 – 5 world to the world of a working photographer?
EG: It took a few years, but it all worked out in the end. If anything, those years “lost” in the corporate world made me hungrier than the other kids who had Photography already. To me, Photography was a liberation and I couldn’t be stopped.
Those corporate years also taught me the language and protocols of corporate meeting rooms. It’s paid dividends over the years. But I still hate that time of my life, don’t get me wrong. It still helps fuel the fire to do Photography.
TF: One of my favorite things about your work is that you take a very straightforward and honest-feeling approach to image making. You’ve done an excellent job at not getting pigeon-holed into one particular genre of photography and almost effortlessly seem to shift between creating documentary, editorial and lifestyle images – while at the same time holding true to a particular aesthetic that is your own. Could you elaborate on some of the choices or decisions you’ve made previously in your career that have helped you stray away from being pigeon-holed into shooting only one specific genre of photography?
EG: It always comes naturally. I don’t think I’ve consciously tried to make work that spans across genres. If anything, I’ve tried to narrow down what I do because it’s hard to “sell” myself if I can’t tell people that I am a portrait photographer, or documentary photography, etc. People have looked through my work and said, “I love your work, but what do I hire you for?” I get it. It’s hard to reconcile. But it’s like, I speak four languages. You can’t ask me to forget three of them.
TF: Your work has taken you around the globe, what’s you favorite commission/assignment to date?
EG: I shot Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) earlier this year. I love his music. Like, A LOT. And he was a dream to photograph.
Shooting a cruise to the Bahamas for a travel magazine was pretty great. I shot some images for them, and then some for me. That became Thank God That’s Over.
Manual for Speed is sort of an assignment? MFS was definitely where I flexed the most amount of creative muscle in my career. It will probably go down as my greatest single “thing” I did.
TF: Any advice for up-and-coming photographers looking to better establish themselves?
EG: Figure out who you want to me. NOT who THEY want you to be. Stay on that trajectory, no matter what. Like Khaled says, They don’t want you to win.
TF: If you could have any superpower for one day what would it be? Why?
EG: Intellectual illumination
Interview with A Certain Standard (2018)
How did you get your start?
After graduating college, I got a job at a big, corporate ad agency. I had a really boring and very un-creative job. I was miserable and suffering from a deep existential panic. “Is this really my life? How did I get here? What am I going to do with myself? The 16-year-old you would punch yourself in the face. You’re nothing.” That kind of thing. So, in order to keep my brain moving and stay inspired and intellectually agile, I decided to pick up a hobby. I bought a camera and started reading photography forums. I took a class at International Center of Photography and 15 years later you’re interviewing me.
If you had to describe your style, what is it?
I don’t really think I have a singular style. In fact, I think people are confused by how disparate my photos seem to be. I think of it as speaking 3-4 different languages. I can be melancholy and reverential, I can be loud and disrespectful, or I can be cheesy and ask everyone to smile (if you pay me enough!!).
What do you like to shoot?
I like to shoot stories that I can sink my teeth into. Something a bit longer term where I can observe and flex my photographic muscle. I like combining portraiture, reportage, and humanity into a body of work.
Do you consider yourself an artist?
In the general sense, sorta. But probably not. I don’t think my goal is to put forth some conceptual idea, and that is what (capital-A) Art is about these days. It’s conceptual. But with that said, I do hope my photos will contribute to the greater human dialogue. So, it really comes down to what you think Art is. I’m not here to tell you what to think, though.
What’s the backstory behind your Instagram handle @quesofrito?
Early in my career, my friend and I had a party to self-congratulate ourselves for leaving our corporate jobs and doing our own thing (he’s now a successful chef in Brazil). We wanted to give the party a name or something, so we landed on Quesofrito. This is a Nicaraguan food I used to eat in high school with another friend. It just had a cool ring to it, and the Q looked really cool in the type I chose. The name stuck, and I have been using it as my social media handle ever since.
Rumor has it that you have quite the plant collection. How big of an obsession are we talking here?
Loose lips sink ships, man! The rumors are very true. My studio has about 50-60 plants currently, mostly cacti and succulents. I just bought another plant on eBay today for $125. Damnit.
Travel is a big part of being a photographer. What’s always in your carry-on?
I don’t go anywhere without this iPhone clip for the car. Keep extras in all your bags! Also, get one of these spare batteries from Amazon. And I don’t go anywhere without my sunglasses.
You claim to be an ice cream connoisseur. What’s your go-to flavor? Best place you’ve ever been?
My go to flavor profile lands squarely in the cream /eggy/buttery/sweet area. So for ice cream, I almost always get vanilla. Or if we’re talking gelato, it’s always fior di latte. This flavor profile extends beyond ice cream, too. You’ll never see me get chocolate cake or anything like that. It’s always the crème brûlées or key lime pies or things like that. There is a new ice cream spot in Williamsburg called Gentile that is A-MAZING. Side note: I’ve been thinking about what comes after photography for me, and I dream about opening an ice cream shop.
Of all the shoots you’ve done, what’s the most memorable?
I’ve got two that really stand out. They were both for T: The New York Times Style Magazine.
First one was Andy Serkis. I had asked him to lean out of a window of the 6th floor and I would photograph him from the other window. But the dude said, “I’ll just climb out there.” Everyone freaked out and asked him not to. I told him I couldn’t stop him and that I would take the photo but I REALLLLLLY didn’t want him to. He ignored everyone and gave me the closest thing to a panic attack I’ve ever experienced. The photo is great, though.
Second one was Dev Hynes. I love Dev’s music so much, so I was geeking out. He’s also the sweetest and least pretentious people I’ve ever met. He oozes talent and grace. Every photo we took was sublime.
You’ve shot with a lot of celebrities. What makes photographing celebrities so challenging?
The celebrity industrial complex. Too much BS, too little humanity.
Getting to the nerdier stuff, film or digital?
What equipment do you shoot on/with?
I have a bunch of cameras. DSLRs, several medium format film cameras, a 4×5, etc.
I think the heart of your question is getting to technique and process, which is a question I sort of hate answering because it’s so limiting. Good photographs aren’t made simply by using good cameras. Good photographs are made by being a good observer, a good human, an intellectual, an original thinker. Cameras are just like pencils or hammers – a tool you use for a certain task. I’ll use different cameras depending on the photographs I’m trying to take. If I’m being slow and methodical and want to think more, I’ll use a bigger, slower camera that requires more rigor and deliberateness on my part. If I need to be fast and nimble (both physically and intellectually), then I’ll use a DSLR or a rangefinder (❤️Mamiya 7❤️).
Interview with Photoshelter (2015)
Emiliano Granado picked up a camera in 2001 as a hobby. He was working at a New York advertising agency and didn’t like it at all, so he decided to take a class at International Center of Photography. It snowballed into a new career, and he was able to quit his job in 2005 and start freelancing as an assistant while shooting personal work. He got his first assignments in 2007.
Today, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based photographer’s portfolio includes work for commercial brands like Converse, Nike and Smirnoff. Granado is also a founder of Yonder Journal and Manual for Speed, two creative projects partially underwritten by brands. “I don’t think of myself as specializing in one thing,” Granado says. “I do quite a bit documentary style work, but also commercial and lifestyle stuff, portraiture and more humorous and youth culture stuff.” Here, Granado gives insight into his marketing strategy, which he describes as a “constant, pleasant background hum. Not a series of loud pops and bangs.”
What types of clients are you trying to attract? Who are some of your favorites or ideal clients?
I’m kind of all over the place. I think it’s great that I speak many languages, but sometimes it can be difficult to market yourself. Since I do so many things, I’m trying to attract a bunch of different clients. I’m definitely interested in portraiture. But I’m also looking for lifestyle/ youth culture clients, as well as sports, athletics, and outdoor stuff. And because I think I’m pretty versatile, spontaneous and shoot a lot compared to other photographers, I’m well suited to shoot large image libraries for brands.
I have a long relationship with Outlier Clothing that exemplifies the type of client I like. I get to shoot portraits, fashion, outdoors, in-studio and athletic style images for them. They are fusing tech, fashion and motion into one brand, so I get to flex different muscles.
Where do you focus most of your marketing efforts? Why?
You can choose to market yourself with big, loud tactics. I’ve chosen a slower approach with my marketing; I’ll call it “white noise marketing.” The secret for me has been to continue to produce quality images and quietly remind people about them. To do this, I like to send people anywhere from five to eight postcards a year and usually write something funny and personalized on the back. I’d hate to be the photographer version of a used car salesman with loud gimmicks and cheap suits.That’s not the association I want people to make when they think about my work.
The focus for me has always been and will always be “make good work.” Of course, I can do things to help promote that work, but if it sucks to begin with, then I’m failing. I’ll continue to self publish and create personal work—that is essential to me as a human and as a brand.
How does this translate into new and returning clients?
Every year since I started getting work, my business has progressively improved. The assignments get better. The budgets get bigger. I can’t really say any one thing is getting me new clients. But the cumulative efforts of producing good work and showing people that work over the last 10 years is yielding results.
What’s your digital marketing strategy? There are so many outlets these days; what do you find the most effective?
I’ve given up on several digital formats recently. I simply don’t have the time to make them compelling or interesting. They become a “Hey, look what I shot” thing, and that gets boring.
So I’ve honed it down to Instagram, a (almost) quarterly newsletter, and very infrequent Facebook and tumblr posts. Also, when I have a new project, I’ll share it with blogs or content aggregators. Depending on the project, I would share it with the editors at the photo blogs for The New Yorker, MSNBC or Time Lightbox. For press I try to share everything with PDN, but then I try to cast a wider net and have built relationships with design and art blogs like It’s Nice That, Coolhunting, etc. There are several cool small-scale photo blogs/aggregators that make sense for me like Flak Photo, Lintroller, Paper Journal, etc.
How much time to you devote to marketing efforts? What’s your workflow like for fitting it all in?
I think about marketing quite a bit. I like to send emails and introduce myself to potential clients and influencers. You have to build your network in order for that network to pay off for you. I don’t have an established workflow for it. Between travel, shooting, family, trying to ride my bike and everything else, you find some time here and there to try to reach a new potential client. If I find out about a new agency doing cool things from a blog or Instagram post, I try to find out who the art directors are and send them postcards. Maybe I’ll email them and try to set up a meeting. It depends on how much free time I have and how brave I’m feeling that day.
And that hits an important point. You have to be brave. You have to learn to put yourself out there and not get a response from someone. In general, you’ll reach out to 100 people and only 20 of them will respond, and of those you’ll only ever meet five of them in person and maybe one of those people hires you down the line two years from now. So you just spent several hours trying to reach 100 people and you failed 99 times. But that one person. . .
Can you explain your online $10 print sales?
I published a new photo every week in 2014 and made 3 prints of it and sold it for $10 each. Just enough to break even. You can still see all the photos on www.quesofrito.com. It was about forcing myself to publish work that was sitting on my hard drives. It was also a way to get people excited about the work that I was excited about. I had to honor those images by putting them into the world. Otherwise, no one would have ever seen them.
Can you point to some specific successes that have come directly from your marketing efforts?
I can think of two really specific successes. Many years ago, I found a cool new agency somewhere on the Internet. They had just started out and were doing some cool small projects. I found their address and sent them a postcard with a funny message. They really liked it and posted it on their blog. I eventually met them in person to say hi. We stayed friendly for years, and last year they asked me to shoot a really great project for a big athletic brand.
Back in 2008, I published a newsprint publication called “Thank God That’s Over.” It was a humorous photo essay taken on a five-day cruise from New Jersey to Bermuda. It was every bit as awful as you can imagine. To this day, people still reference that newsprint thing. I learned that to make good photos is not enough. You have to package them up nicely and deliver it to the world in a format they will enjoy.
What marketing dos and don’ts have you learned along the way to attract the clients you want?
I try to engage potential clients the way I’d want to be engaged myself. Don’t be annoying, don’t be pushy, don’t be irrelevant. Be entertaining, be yourself, speak candidly, don’t be a robot, spellcheck, use pretty colors.
What advice do you have for new photographers about how to market to commercial clients in today’s changing photography landscape?
You have to approach this whole thing as a long-term thing. Just because a photo editor followed you on Instagram doesn’t mean you’re going to get a job. Just because they responded to your email doesn’t mean you’re going to shoot the cover. You’re going to bid a thousand jobs and not get any of them. You’re going to strike out a million times before you get any jobs. No one owes you a damn thing. It’s a slow, slow process, so bunker down for the long haul. The only thing that you can control is your creative output. Make sure it’s fire.
Interview with All of this is Rocket Science Magazine (2010)
What got you interested in photography?
I didn’t pick up a camera until I was 25 or so. I had been working at an ad agency after college and hated it. I needed some sort of hobby or something to learn to keep my mind working. My job was close to the International Center of Photography, so I started taking photo classes after work. One class and I was hooked. I went through 2-3 years of absolute, 100% obsession. Every spare moment would be spent learning, reading, practicing, etc. The transition from the corporate world to freelance photographer was pretty quick. Within a couple of years, I had quit my job and was traveling through South America with a couple of cameras.
Did you expect to come across what you photographed in your series Beach Party?
Yes, pretty much. Spring Break is a pretty well documented event, so I figured I’d find something like that. Regardless, the feeling of being there and the smells and the claustrophobia, and the heat and all that is always going to be a shock to the system. I guess the biggest surprise was the absolute willingness to be photographed. In fact, I had people dragging me over to their friends to photograph them doing stupid stuff.
What excites you most about the medium?
Tough question! There’s so much about photography that excites me. But I guess I’d have to say that being able to tell a story through the use of mood, timing, framing, and all the other technical tools of the medium is what keeps me coming back. When I piece together 10-15 images into a story, I get an incredible sense of accomplishment and pride.
Can you tell me more about your latest project, Time For Print?
Essentially, Time for Print is a catalog of portraits of models from Model Mayhem. I set out to explore modern concepts of beauty, sexuality, and the desire to be seen. I think this is the most complete and most significant body of work I’ve produced – I’m very proud of the work.
What do you like most about photographing people?
I like to think of myself as a cultural anthropologist. When I’m photographing people, I’m trying to create work with relevance that will last for decades.
How do you find inspiration on a daily basis?
I stay curious. Everything excites me. Everything is interesting. I find myself frustrated that I can’t split myself in 5. I could be shooting 5 times more! I definitely don’t have a problem staying inspired and wanting to shoot stuff. I have about 3 projects that are waiting to be released right now. I’m working on 2 or 3 other projects, and I think I already have my next long-term project!
Have you ever given up on a project and if yes, why and what was it about?
Yes of course. You get an idea, you start to shoot it, and it’s not that great. You get home and look at the photos and they don’t wow you. You give up the project. Simple as that. Maybe you come back to it or maybe it changes. A good example is Time for Print. That project started off as environment portraits. My original goal was to try to document the models’ life more fully. While I’m really happy with some of those photos, it became clear that a clean, simple environment would allow the focus to be put on the models themselves. It also served to unify the project visually.
What is the question, related to photography, you least enjoy answering?
Definitely anything technical. I talk quite a bit in classes and through online forums. So many people will look at my work that shows my heart and soul and promptly ask “what camera did you use?” Screw that! Who cares? I’ve put hours and hours of thought and effort and intellectual energy into these photos and people are asking me how I executed the work technically. It’s a bit of an insult.