10 minutes with Jasmine DeFoore
Can you tell me how you first became involved in photography?
I studied photojournalism at the University of Texas at Austin. I think photojournalism was my 3rd major, after dabbling in geology (apparently you have to be really good at math to be a geologist) and English. I was interested in photojournalism because my dad was a photographer in the Air Force during the Vietnam war. He had stacks of prints that I used to go through, like aerial photos of the Ho Chi Minh trail and other strategic locations. He also had some great, candid photos of his fellow Airmen hanging out in Vietnam and Thailand.
My parents had a few photography books, and I remember very clearly looking through their first edition of Phillip Jones Griffiths’ Vietnam Inc. When you’re young and you don’t really know much about the world, seeing a book like that is a real eye-opener. If I taught high school history, I’d make documentary photography books part of the required reading.
At UT I was a mediocre photographer, and I left with no real knowledge of the business side of photography. But I did have a real love of images.
After college I moved to London and worked at an ad agency. I spent most of my time making tea and running errands, but I did start honing my chops in graphic design and photo editing. Then I moved to San Francisco and landed a job at the San Francisco
Chronicle’s website, SFGate.com. This was the beginning of the first internet boom. Jobs were being handed out like candy on Halloween. Luckily, it was a great job, and I got to hire photographers and create original content for the site. I plowed through thousands of photos a week, scouring the wires for the best pictures and getting them online as fast as possible. It taught me a lot about working on deadlines and keeping fresh content streaming to the public.
I moved to New York in 2002 and worked at Teen People and Corbis. I then went on to rep food, travel, lifestyle, portrait and documentary photographers at Redux Pictures for 7 years, and went freelance 3 years ago.
How do you like being freelance now? It seems like many photo editors who had always had staff jobs have gone freelance; do you think this is in response to the lack of staff jobs and dwindling positions or more of a need for freedom from the daily grind and/or more variety in their experience and portfolio?
I like being freelance, but I miss the collaborative environment of an office full of people all working towards the same goals. And happy hour with my workmates, I miss that. Now I work from home all day and as soon as I’m done I pick up my kids and instantly switch to mommy mode. I’m lucky to be able to work flexible hours and be with my kids instead of sitting in traffic commuting home, but it’s different. It takes getting used to.
The proliferation of freelancer editors and consultants is due in large part to the economy. There are so many incredibly talented and experienced former staffers, and there just aren’t enough staff jobs to go around. That’s changing with mobile apps realizing how important great imagery is, but still, it’s not enough yet. Also I think it’s just the way the whole world is moving. Freelancing, telecommuting, Skyping… these are the ways that we work now. Companies looking for great talent without having to commit to a salaried employee should be thrilled the level of talent available right now.
Very true. Though it seems like we have a ways to go before companies really understand that most of us can (and do!) the same work at the office that we can do at home.
We do more work from home, I’m convinced! In an office, there is always a meeting or some distraction. There are distractions to manage at home too (piles of laundry calling out to be done) but I find that I get more work done at home.
What common mistakes do you see photographers make when trying to reach out to editors, buyers or agents?
The biggest one is they don’t fully research the person before pitching themselves. They show work that is just not appropriate for the client, or they pitch an idea that the client has already done recently. When you’re really targeting your efforts, you should follow the client’s campaigns, publications, blog and twitter for a few months first. You should know what they are up to. That way you can say, “I saw that amazing story you did on post-Sandy clean up efforts. I was hoping you could keep me in mind for future essays like that. I recently did a portrait project on FEMA workers and would love to collaborate with you in the future.”
Also, put yourselves in their shoes. They are so busy. Their staff has been cut, they are responsible for more work than ever before. If they don’t get back to you, don’t take it personally and don’t harass them about it.
From your experience working as a photo consultant, how important do you think it is for photographers to have an outsider perspective when editing their work?
I think an outside perspective is essential, but I don’t think it necessarily needs to come from a professional consultant or photo editor. Not everyone is in a situation where they can pay for help. People can benefit greatly from sharing work with their peers too. Ideally, you get feedback from a variety of people and simmer on it, seeing what works for you and what you can discard. Not everyone is going to click with your work for whatever reason, and so it’s important to show it to a few people who you trust.
With all of the changes that have happened in the last several years with magazines, do you have any thoughts on what the future of editorial photography might look like?
Can I be really honest? No, I have no idea! Things are changing so fast and people like to claim they have a sense of the future landscape, but I don’t think anyone really does. That said, I think we’ll see more niche publications (print and tablet). I think we’ll continue to see more and more branded advertising, custom publishing, content marketing or whatever you want to call it. Strong imagery will continue to be a major element of corporate social responsibility campaigns and PR.
I think you’ll continue to see more DIY publishers, either using POD technology or old school zine techniques. And advertisers are going to continue their shift to looking for ‘authenticity’ in the imagery they choose to associate their brand with, which is good news for the more editorial-style photographers out there.
And then as all those trends will die and something new will come along.
Jasmine DeFoore is a photo editor and marketing consultant. Her marketing efforts have won PDN Self Promo Awards and her editing has helped photographers and publications gain recognition from World Press Photo, American Photography and other elite competitions. Prior to starting her own company, she was a photographer’s representative and Director of Marketing at the award-winning agency Redux Pictures. www.jasminedefoore.com
She is the founder of ILoveTexasPhoto.com, a blog dedicated to Texas-based photographers and creatives. ILTP is launching a print store this spring. Stay tuned!
And be sure to check out Roundup – If you’re a photographer, you’ll want to be in Austin February 7-9 for the Texas Photo Roundup. Jasmine is one of the founders of the Roundup, which features 3 days of workshops, panel discussions, talks and portfolio reviews. This year’s Roundup is bringing photographers Dan Winters, Chris Buck, Wyatt McSpadden, Adam Voorhes, Andrew Hetherington and Monte Isom to town. They’ll also host some of the country’s best photo editors, creative directors and art buyers, from companies including Fortune, ESPN, JWT, R/GA, Dwell, Texas Monthly and many others. Co-produced by the Austin Center for Photography andASMP Austin/San Antonio. Details at www.texasphotoroundup.com.