I asked my friend Aeli Park, a photo agent at theCollectiveShift, to fill out a Q&A about the photo industry. Her agency represents prestigious photographers such as Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Inez and Vinoodh, and Clang.
1. Your Name: Aeli Park
2. Your occupation: Agent
3. How did you get you into the biz? I first started out interning at W Magazine when I was 19. During that summer I also was curious about going to a real fashion show and figured the only way I could go was to work at one. I called up Calvin Klein/KCD to see if they needed an intern and serendipitously they hired me for the 1st season and from then on I worked on all the Calvin shows for the next 2 years.
4. What do you love most about what you do? Watching ideas come to life and then realizing what works better in our heads versus in real time/life.
5. What do you hate? That money and politics can get in the way of creative endeavors.
6. What would you tell aspiring photographers who want to be the next Annie, Steven, etc.? Good luck!
7. The biggest misconception of the photo industry…It’s a generic answer but always so true. The glamour is such a false idea that many people have. Anything can seem glamourous – you just need a good video editor, throw in a few smiley people in the background, add a hyped up soundtrack and get it aired somewhere.
8. What’s the most outrageous experience you had on a photo shoot – at least that you could tell us. A legendary photographer sitting on a toilet seat – holding my hand – crying and apologizing to me and then asking for my forgiveness.
9. Fave non-working photogs? Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdain, David Hamilton.
10. Are you finding that photogs are getting more into video? Yes absolutely. More content please.
11. Your best decision Letting go of my producer position to become an agent. Going to theCollective Shift. My best decisions have always been the ones that require risks. Knocking on wood now that this formula keeps working for me. 😉
12. Your worst decision N/A
13. How do you deal with crazy ego-driven artists? I’m sure you’ve had some – can you give example. I don’t. Truth be told I have not dealt with crazy ego maniac artists. We all have egos to a certain degree – its healthy and normal. Maybe its my vibe but the artists I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with have all been absolutely genuine and down to earth – real people with real problems with just enough superficiality to at least entertain you.
14. Difference between fine art photographers vs commercial photographers? That difference is blurry every day.
15. Can you tell us something about working with PL? PL is the most quick witted person I have ever met. Every time I talk to him I learn something whether its about life, people or art. And unlike most ‘artists’ he sees himself quite clearly. His intentions are very pure and honest. I admire that.
16. You have a great rep as a producer – do you ever miss it? Haha!
I do? ha! I don’t miss it at all. Having anxiety about catering is the last thing I want waking me up in the middle of the night. As an agent though – there is still a level of production that I still need to be involved in – you can never really get away from it. But I am happy the entire weight of the production (cube trucks and all aren’t on my shoulders anymore).
17. What I love about working in this industry is that it’s not like a typical 9 to 5, corporate America, kinda industry, and also being able to bring my dogs to work is a plus as you know. But, it is also is pretty intense and stressful – how do you create balance in your life?
Having a personal life is important. For me – being bicoastal helps me get balance. Being with my family is a reality check as it really makes me see my priorities in life and reminds me of what is most important to me. You won’t be able to find balance without knowing the foundation of who you are and family provides that in many ways.
I would love to hear her lecture. I just discovered her last week when I picked up Purple Magazine, which hails her as “the new talent to watch.” Check out her website and blog at www.sandykim.com
Whenever I go to Chicago, I make it a point to go the Museum of Contemporary Photography. However, this past weekend when I was there, the museum was closed for installation. I had limited time on this trip, so I had to resort to photographs mostly hung in hotels and restaurants. If you can get past the bad lighting and reflective surfaces, here are some images that I came across.
I had asked our waiter who the photographer was for the above images, and he said “You know, everyone asks me that. But I never got a straight answer from anyone that works here.”
This past weekend was the Chicago Marathon. There were these photo stations where participants could take photographs of themselves against these screens. Not exactly fine art, but I can appreciate the interactive aspect.
Four monitors nestled in a grid of a cityscape.
What I got out of this study of images is that the hospitality/service industry likes to remind you where you are. They love black & white images, as well as historical images that describe the city or place.
Fortunately, I did manage to squeeze in a trip to the Sullivan Galleries at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which included works by Jeanne Dunning, Roger Brown, faculty and students.
Tonight I went to see Rineke Dijkstra at Pratt Institute – I was really looking forward to seeing her lecture, and having seen her retrospective at the Guggenheim a couple of months ago, I especially wanted to hear her talk about the videos included in the exhibition.
I have to admit that going to lectures is not at the top of my list – one of the last lectures I went to the “photographer” took himself so seriously, and spoke so monotonously about the details of how he created some elaborate metal sculptural frame, I was so bored I wanted to leave. He didn’t leave any mystery. I had walked in a fan of his work, and walked out disliking not only him but also the work.
Dijkstra was more interesting – the structure of the lecture was more informal – more conversational. With the Chair of the Photo department, Stephen Hilger, as the other participant, the attendees witnessed an exchange between the two. Dijkstra was very thoughtful and chose her words carefully when asked questions, but when she told anecdotes and personal stories, she was casual and at times funny. The mood was intimate and engaging. And, even though I knew some of her stories already, it was fun to hear them coming directly from her.
The lecture started off with a very brief history about her early photography days shooting for magazines and annual reports. At some point she decided to take 2 months off to figure out what her next step would be – during this time she got into a bike accident, which left her with a broken hip and 5 more months to figure out what she was going to do. Part of her therapy was to swim 30 laps, and she decided to photograph herself after the strenuous and exhaustive exercise. And this was what preempted her to make the beach series. Dijkstra was interested in photographing people when they were too tired to pose and wanted to capture a natural state. She also talked about how she doesn’t direct her subjects very much – that it’s more of an observational process.
Dijkstra also addressed technical aspects explaining that she works with a 4×5 view camera and flash. The flash was utilized mainly to keep the images looking consistent, specifically in the beach series. Because she was shooting during different times of day, the lighting would obviously be different. Using the flash created a uniformity within the series, which was shot all over the world.
The discussion then moved to New Mothers, which was a series of images Dijkstra made of mothers in Holland who had just given birth. They stood clad only in underwear, clutching their newborns close to their traumatized bodies. The images were all made at the mothers’ homes, and in the same minimal style of beach series where there was little background information. She moved furniture and set up her “studio” – just a simple white wall. Here, she also used flash, and told us how one of the babies was reacting to the flash. Worried that she was “ruining” the baby’s eyes, Dijkstra had asked the mother to cover the baby’s eyes. The baby, now 16 years old, apparently loves watching fireworks. She made 3 images for the series – the first woman was shot just an hour after giving birth, the second – a day after, the last one – a week after.
A recurring subject for Dijkstra is young people. When asked why she was so interested in them, she answered that it was because they were “less defined” and “less self-conscious.” That they were “somehow more authentic and more open.” I think this is most prominent in her videos of teenagers dancing at the Buzz Club and the Krazy House Club. For the Buzz Club, which was in Liverpool, she she set up her “studio” in the club. At first the teenagers seem uncomfortable, but the video slowly builds to an uninhibited natural state.
Finally, she presented her triple channel video of young Liverpool students describing a painting by Picasso, The Weeping Woman.
During the lecture, Dijkstra compared photography to other media, specifically painting and sculpture. She claimed that photography was the only media where you couldn’t go back and change what you made (of course, she is not considering Photoshop) like you could in painting or sculpture. She also pointed out that in photography you don’t really work alone, as in painting and sculpture where one is usually sequestered in a studio in solitude. I found these comparisons a bit odd if not irrelevant, since she didn’t really seem to consider herself as an “artist” per se, but rather a photographer. However, later during the Q&A, responding to a question, Dijkstra made some sort of allusion to having a latent desire to be a sculptor. Could you imagine Dijkstra sculpting?
All images © Matthew Leifheit & respective photographers.
Matthew Leifheit is an independent photographer, editor, and writer working in New York City. He is Editor-in-Chief of MATTE Magazine, a journal of photography that features one artist per issue. MATTE is sold exclusively at Printed Matter.
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