Q: You've been missing in action here for almost a month. What's up?
CTL: Well... you know, the usual. Keeping the home fires burning, working, editing, writing, a little assignment travel, working on the website, studying color theory in an intensive class I've been taking for the past couple of months... nothing too terribly exciting. It's been busy enough, work-wise, that there just hasn't been time to post updates here. Besides, I haven't really had anything relevance to say in the past few weeks.
Q: Home fires?
CTL: There is always something to keep me busy around the house. Ever since moving my studio to my home, it's become more difficult to ignore or put aside small repairs & maintenance. For example, several months ago we erected a fence around the back of the property for a little extra privacy and to contain our trusty mutt. I've been painting the thing forever it seems... prime, paint, second coat... it's been weeks now and several gallons of paint later and I've still only half-finished. The worst part, the inside where all the braces are, had to be brushed on by hand & is now complete with only the outside left to do. With any luck, the rains will hold off this weekend and allow me to finish.
Q: What about work? What recent projects have you been involved in?
CTL: There has been quite a bit of editorial work coming in over the past month or so... a recent assignment from an airline in-flight magazine had me photographing a giant, 500 lbs. sow named "Bubbles". She was a real pig! Ha! The story will see the light of day next month so I am unable to show you the results of that outing for a few more days. Another travel magazine from the West Coast sent us to Oahu a couple of weeks ago to produce images of several scenic locations around that island. Weather proved to be a challenge on this one. Rain and clouds required that I make several trips to a couple of the locations in order to capture the scenic beauty the photo editor was looking for. In the end, two days of attempts yielded success! This story won't be out until january of next year so, again, nothing to show yet other than an outtake or two...
For the past two weeks, I've been working on the scouting & preproduction for another series of the "Come Play Maui" national print ad campaign. Two new ad images were committed to pixels just last week and feature a nod to a more "cultural" direction with the campaign. I've been busy editing all the images from that shoot and just sent them off to the agency yesterday.
Q: You mention editorial work. You seem to do a lot of it. Is it still possible for photographers to earn a living shooting for magazines?
CTL: Good question. I think it's still possible but I also think that it would require living someplace close to the media giants in order to stay on the radar of publication art buyers. It's really tough to do living in Hawaii... or at least that's been my experience. Publications in this state, and you see this more & more in other parts of the country, have put the pressure on editorial fees. Budgets are tight and often there is little money for things like travel expenses or monies to compensate for time spent in post-production. I find magazines based outside Hawaii to be a great deal more generous in terms of editorial fees, expenses & post. Fortunately for me, I manage to get my fair share of these. That said... one would have to do a great deal of "editorial" work in order to make a living. Then again, editorial offers us a great deal more creative freedom in the images we produce... unlike advertising work. Editorial also offers the added bonus of slight exposure via the printed photo credit and the occasional brief bio on the contributors page in the front of the magazine.
Q: So... advertising is what really pays the bills?
CTL: I can only speak for myself. If I had been smart early in my career, I might have geared my business more towards the wedding industry here. It's a huge, multi-million dollar industry in Hawaii. It seems to me that it may be much easier to support a business and a family going that route. It's something that has never really interested me and I think I would find it quite a challenge to do that sort of work day in, day out. I've managed to carve out a career as a photographer doing many different things without resorting to weddings. I shoot advertising... I shoot editorial... I'm pretty handy with architectural & interior design photography... a real plus when living in an area where there are a gazillion hotel rooms, condos, villas & luxury home to market. This has also led to doing portfolio and sales images for some really great architectural firms around the state. I do portraiture, though portrait assignments regularly fall into the editorial category. I work with a lot of musicians producing promotional images for their projects. This can be really fun & inspiring. Most musicians & bands are lacking in funds, so these tend to be projects full of love with lots of opportunities for taking creative risks you might not get doing ad & editorial work. On top of all that, I seem to license a fair amount of stock photography though that comes in spurts and is not what I would consider a steady income stream. The same can be said for my fine-art work... it sells consistently. In many ways, I am so extremely lucky... I get to do something new & different almost every day. This keeps me excited and inspired. There's lots of problem solving involved... how do we light this room?... what do we want to say about this editorial subject?... This lack of "focus" in any one particular area, while perhaps the kiss of death when attempting to get on the radar of mainland art buyers wanting the ability to ascribe you a label as an artist in terms of specialty, has served me well over the years.
Q: You mentioned just having wrapped up a shoot for a national print ad campaign. Can you tell us more?
CTL: This one was another of a continuing series we've been working on for the past two years. Commissioned by Laird Christianson-Anthology Agency in Honolulu, the client is the local tourism promotion authority, The Maui Visitors Bureau. The ads have focused on young children in scenic island locations, involved in some fun activity. The concepts falls along the lines of "Discover Your Inner Child On Maui". The shots have all been these kids in gorgeous scenes doing fun stuff. The tag line placed next to each photo has been " John or Jane Doe, Age 40-50-something, Accountant or Doctor or Attorney or.... Come Play Maui". The campaign, I'm told, has gotten really great response and has been probably the most widely distributed work I have ever done with full page and double page spreads appearing in the likes of The New York Times Magazine, Islands, National Geo Traveller. A couple of years ago, we produced two of the first ads in the series, kids building sandcastles on a beautiful beach and a young girls SUP paddle boarding offshore with a backdrop of island mountains. Last year, we were awarded two more in the series... a young boy running up a beach and a girl flying a kite down a dirt path. Last May, we completed four more. In fact, just yesterday, the agency sent me the printer proofs for three of the four...
For this series, we were able to get away from the beach and portray some less obvious types of island experiences... shopping, an upcountry farmers market and the obligatory golf course scenario. The fourth in the series depicts a young boy eating an island favorite, shave ice. I'd post it but have not received the final layouts yet. I don't think it's been released just yet. Finally, we completed two more ads for the campaign just last week. The client felt that certain cultural aspects had not yet been photographed so these scenarios involved hula and making fresh-flower leis. Those were just delivered to the agency yesterday.
Q: How do clients find you?
CTL: Obviously, my website plays a major role in my visibility and marketing. I have also, over the years, placed ads in local & national creative directories. Regular email & direct mail marketing plays a huge role. Every couple of years, I make the rounds to agencies and publications around the state with a print portfolio. Just recently, I was given an iPad. I am really excited about the potential of this device as a way of augmenting my print portfolio by adding an electronic portfolio which can also display a couple of the motion projects I've been involved in for television commercials for Hawaiian Airlines. I'm experimenting with a couple of different e-portfolio apps right now, trying to settle on the one that I think looks great but is also easy and user-friendly in the back end. I spend far too much time as it is geeking around with computers... a necessary evil these days. I'm not interested in adding too much more to my digital workflow but think that it's essential these days to sort of meet the expectations of a younger generation of art buyers. This blog is another way I can open up my little world, just a bit, to potential clients. Here I can post images that are maybe a little rougher, or don't exactly fit within the context of my formal portfolio. I can also place personal work here and give potential clients some insight as to who I am, as an artist and as a human being... what it might be like if you have to spend a few days with me, what I'm like to travel with... you know... stuff that's a little more personal and might not get communicated in other modes of self-promotion. Other social media platforms also play a role in the overall awareness plan. I can be found on Facebook and LinkedIn. I am also considering jumping in on the Instagram and 500 Pixels platforms too.
Q: Why the watermarks over your images?
CTL: You know, I hate doing it. Color me paranoid but there are several social media platforms, this one included, that go to great lengths to build into their platforms a tool that strips away all embedded meta-data showing copyright and attribution information when images are uploaded to those sites. It's unnecessary and no doubt a step in the overall plan to create "Orphan Works" or images where ownership is difficult to find. Facebook is another site where this information is intentionally stripped away when photographs, illustration, etc. are uploaded. Then, going through the Terms of Service at many of these sites, your will find that the site reserves the right to market and sell any images posted at those sites. Seems to me that Google, Facebook and others are gathering massive libraries of the works of artists. If meta-data has been removed, the watermark is the only way of guaranteeing, or almost guaranteeing that your work receives proper attribution at the least. I am happy the learn that anyone may be interested in using my work. That said, if Google, Facebook or any others end up profiting somewhere down the line, it's only fair that I am compensated too, or at the very least, able to track who's using what, how & where.
Q: What's your usual daily routine?
CTL: Most days, if I don't have an early morning assignment, I wake early... usually between 4:30-5:30am. I will make coffee, check email, shower & then walk my dog at the nearby park for an hour. He has canine friends there and he loves the social interaction. After the park, we return home. I head into the studio, put on some music and hunker down over the computer to answer emails, return phone calls, read the latest at a handful of photographer's blogs & check my website stats. If there is no shooting scheduled for the day, there's always editing from a previous assignment waiting to be completed. Once the tasks requiring immediate attention are completed, I might write something for this blog, update my website or print new work for the print portfolio. I'm also working on finishing up the text and layout on a coffee-table book centering on photographs and essays from my years of travel in S.E. Asia. I'm going to print it at Blurb initially; copies to use as leave-behinds to clients after portfolio reviews or as gifts to family & friends. That is slow, tedious work... and I, so far, am doing all the design work myself... learning as I go. For the past month or so, I've been setting aside one afternoon each week to complete homework assignments for the class in Color Relationship Theory, that I have been taking. It's interesting & involved. The homework has been pretty intense but fun. It usually takes one afternoon to get it done. Besides my photographic endeavors, I also manage a small, low-power alternative FM Radio station and host a weekly radio program too. There is always something needing to get done, it seems.
Q: What do you do for fun?
CTL: None of that stuff sounds fun? Ha! I've gotta say, I am extremely lucky that I've created a business... and it's as much a lifestyle as a business. I think most photographers you would ask would pretty much tell you the same thing. Sure, there is pressure, deadlines, the occasional assignment that turns into an exercise in self-inflicted torture, the cash-flow worries... but what we do, what I do... is fun! Everyday it's something different. This business has opened so many doors and introduced me to so many interesting people I might have not otherwise had the chance to experience. It's really hard for me to describe any part of my daily routine as work. But, beside all of the photographic pursuits, I like to cook & garden. I am a voracious reader when time permits. I love to travel... the more exotic and remote the destination, the better. I like to putter around my house & yard. I play guitar as well and recently got my hands on a beautiful new ivory Fender® Stratocaster. I've been writing a little music lately... I spend a lot of time simply looking at things.
Q: What's your favorite f-stop?
Q: What did you have for breakfast?
CTL: Several cups of strong coffee and a cigarette
Q: Who are your favorite photographers?
CTL: That's a tough one. I am inspired by so many. Now that I have begun looking at the 500 Pixels site, I am exposed to thousands of great new images by an equal number of very talented artists. As far as the "known" photographers, there is Irving Penn, Sheila Metzner, Gregory Heisler, Jan Saudek. These days I am completely inspired by a Bay Area guy named Tim Archibald, a New Mexico-based photographer named Karen Kuehn & a real character in the UK who goes by the name of Perou. I find I draw inspiration from almost everything and everyone. The web now gives us access to work we might have never seen before it existed.
Q: What's your favorite image or project you've worked on?
CTL: The one I'll work on next.
Q: What are you listening to these days?
CTL: That would depend on my mood or the task at hand. If I have concentrated work to get done... maybe something non-intrusive and in a more "ambient" vein like Sigur Ros, Minus the Bear, Boards of Canada. Maybe some Bach or some singer-songwriter stuff by artists like Richard Thompson, Peter Bradley Adams, Sufjan Stevens & Evan Dando. I like almost everything... it could be old school punk ala The Dead Boys, weird abstract composition by artists like Robert Wyatt, Brian Eno, Jeff Greinke, power-pop like early REM, Radiohead... I have so much music. Working in radio, I make an effort to turn up unexpected music and listeners to my show will often send me stuff I've never heard before. There's a big pile of CD's sitting next top the stereo right now that I have yet had a chance to listen to. I am also a huge fan of straigh-ahead jazz & experimental guitarists like David Torn & Adrian Belew... artists that take their instruments to places they were never intended to go.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.
CTL: Thanks for asking!