10 minutes with a photo editor, Toby Kaufmann

Random October 21, 2013 10:20 am

When did you first become interested in photography?
Growing up, I lived below Elizabeth Hathon, a well known child photographers in NYC at the time.  She’d pay me and my siblings to come hang out and model which, as you can imagine, was incredibly exciting for a child.  I loved her well-lit, funny and beautiful Christmas cards…which I think I still have somewhere.  My interest in art and photography grew, then I made the leap and went to Parsons for art school.  I didn’t ever think I’d have a career in commercial photography at Parsons but as they say a girls gotta eat.
Was there a particular moment when you decided you wanted to be a photo editor?
Honestly I just needed to make money… so I think I really decided I wanted to be a photo editor once I was already one.
That’s a good way to figure it out. Where was your first magazine job and how did you get it?
My first magazine job was after two years as an assistant at USA network.  I went to Stuff magazine as a producer after a friend of mine had taken over as photo editor. It was the heyday of laddie magazines – lots of travel and fun crazy shoots.  I will never forget – I was forced to call Annie Leibovitz’s rep to see if she wanted to shoot an INSIDE fashion story for us… so funny
Hilarious! Now that you are a photo director and have a range of titles under your belt – GQ, Maxim, Men’s Fitness and currently Fitness magazine – can you give photographers some advice on what you want to see from them when they are sending out promos or trying to reach out to you?
Believe it or not I open and look at every promo I get.  If its an image I respond to I will look at the website and go from there.  its part of my job to review new work and meet with photographers and I enjoy that.  That being said, don’t stalk me… I get some of that as well.
Do you have any advice for up and coming photographers on what you like seeing on their website – such as, do you want to see personal work or more commissions? Do flashy sites bug you? Do you care about blogs, tumblr. etc?
I like to see clean website that aren’t fancy with good work on them.  Seems simple but so many people can’t edit their work and get overly precious about cutting images that are either really old or don’t work with the rest of the body of work.  I like blogs, etc. but frankly I don’t have much time to look at them.
How important is it for you to meet with photographers in-person? 
I really like to if at all possible.  Helps me to get a feel for how they will be on set.  But also I like to know a little bit about them and how they work beforehand.
Do you ever think of what you might be doing if you hadn’t gone into photo editing?
Actually as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to think I would have become a photographer. Early on I did a few assignments that went well but didn’t pay anything so I still looked for full-time work.  An assistant found them a few years ago and reminded me of them which is why I think they have been floating around in my mind,


Glenn Glasser

Toby Kaufmann is the Photo Director of Fitness magazine. She has worked as the Photo Director and Photo Editor at Men’s Fitness, Maxim and GQ among others.

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