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Blog » Interviews

We're Fired by Jacob Thomas

Posted by Workbook on 03/22/2016 — Filed under:  EventsFeaturesHeadlineIllustrationInterviews
Donald Trump portraits.

Some people seem to make better portrait subjects than others, and Donald Trump is one of those people. Illustrators seem to be having a great time interpreting him as a blowfish, a hot-air balloon, and Batman, just to name a few examples.

Illustrator Jacob Thomas, the creator of the Batman portrait, will soon exhibit a whole array of Trump portraits at the Chicago Degenerate Art Gallery, opening on April 1st. The series on display is a culmination of what began as a guerrilla art campaign featuring "Trump as Batman" on the streets of Chicago. It was spotted by gallery owner Nicholas Zahn, who made it his mission to track down Jacob. As Trump's popularity surged, so did Jacob's output of Trump portraits. Jacobs hopes that by combining humor with activism he is able to contribute to the political debate in a meaningful way.

“I actually believe in what I’m doing,” Jacob says. “I think it’s important, and its scary there’s a possibility that he’s going to be our president, so that continues to fuel me....." See more of what he has to say in his full interview with WGNTV in Chicago.

Jacob Thomas interview

Jacob Thomas Degenerate Art Gallery

Jacob is also an accomplished professional illustrator, and his work has appeared in numerous national publications such as the New Yorker, the Boston Globe, Newsweek, the New York Times, and the National Review.

Shuttle cockDoping in Cycling Article NYT

Bird with worm

ETC Creative, Making the Most of a Partnership

Posted by Workbook on 02/24/2016 — Filed under:  Advertising CampaignsFeaturesHeadlineInterviewsMarketing IntelligencePhotography
ETC Creative

Erica Chadwick and Joe Lombardo of ETC Creative had known each other for quite a while before they decided to form their partnership in 2009, but once they did, they had to ask themselves why it took so long. They answer this question and many others about how their partnership has evolved over the last seven years, how they make it work day-to-day, and what they think the future holds.

Workbook: Please tell us a little bit about your professional lives prior to the creation of ETC.

Joe: I had 15 years' experience representing photographers at a few different agencies and also owned a production company.

Erica: I had a few years' experience representing photographers and had been a producer and photographer prior.

Workbook: How did you first meet?

Erica: We met in 2002 at a time in the industry when artists had different representation in each major city. We shared artists – with Joe being the agent on the East Coast and myself being the agent for the same photographers in the Midwest.

Workbook: What were your first impressions of one another?

Erica: I thought Joe had high energy; he was a word craftsman and could spin a lot of plates at the same time. He had a way with people, and he was fun to be around. It was always a good time to spend a night out on the town with Joe.

Joe: Erica didn’t play the games that some other in the industry play. In a lot of ways, she was unimpressed with “the show” of it all, and I liked that. She saw things honestly and to me was very human and relatable. We felt like old friends in a short period of time.

Workbook: What made you decide that you wanted to form a partnership with anyone, and specifically each other?

Joe: We had each been trying to find ways to expand our reach into other territories and increase our knowledge and contact-base independently, but neither one of us was really looking for a partnership.

Erica: I had mentioned to one of my artists that I got advice from Joe a lot and loved chatting with him. He said to me, “It would be a good thing if you two were partners.” A light bulb went on for me. Sometimes a critical piece of your life can be something you never realize yourself, and someone  can give you  insight for which you are so grateful. If that photographer had never said that, I am not sure it would have happened. The next day I called Joe and asked him if he wanted to have a conversation about joining up together and he said,  “Why didn’t we think of this before?!!” We both knew we could learn a lot from the other person. It was during a time in the business where it wasn’t much fun to do the job, things were shifting so quickly; the economy was in a terrible recession. It was in 2009, and if we were going to ride out the bad economy, it looked like a hell of a better view of the road ahead to do it with a friend.

Workbook: What were your biggest challenges in setting up your partnership?

Joe: We had two backgrounds that had two different voices, mine coming from New York with more of a fashion perspective, and Erica’s from the Midwest, with more of a lifestyle and food/product focus. It took time to figure out what the new voice of our new agency was going to be.

Erica: Also, it took time to learn how to work in tandem. For the first 6 months, we were both doing our own thing and reporting to each other each day. After some time, we discovered Skype. That technology changed everything. We would be on Skype all day and were able to see what the other person was great at in real time. That led to a new way of doing business in which we learned to divide and conquer.

Joe: A few years into working together we came to another epiphany. We knew we needed to continue to define who we are as agents, then as a company, and finally, what we value in business together overall. We developed a set of core principles. We shared them with our artists so that we would  all be in the same space when dealing with conflict, when determining the types of clients we want to work with, and in setting the tone of our communication amongst members of our agency.

Workbook: How long have you  been working together as ETC? What do you like best about working with a partner? What do you like least?

Joe: We got together in 2009, so 2016 would be our 7th year.

Erica:  I have 2 kids. Joe covers for me whenever I need family time. That alone is huge, and I always feel so much gratitude for having that in my life. He encourages me to have even more family time, so he’s a little unreal – a bit of a guardian angel. In business, the best thing about it is that he is great at things I’m not a natural at. Our partnership goes to more than business relationship, where we are both looking out for the others' best interests and growth in every way. We are kindred spirits looking after each other’s space and time for mind, body, and spirit, as well as our bottom line.

Joe: Generally speaking, it’s hard to form bonds when you feel like there is no legacy and trust out there. Ours is a world and industry that is constantly shifting. Our business is a home, a place where I am confortable in my own skin, and I feel safe here.

Workbook: And the Least?

Erica: Sometimes I don’t have all the information at my fingertips. But, it would be impossible for me to have all of it on my own with how much work we have. I’d have that issue working in any group.

Joe: At times I don’t know when to step into a relationship with a client or artist because of the delicateness of that relationship. Erica has hers; I don’t always know if my personality would be the best to handle an interaction with an artist or client.

Workbook: Do you have a clear delineation of “who does what” in your business? Or do you each pretty much do everything, depending on the day and what is needed?

Erica: Going back to the prior conversation about how Skype changed us: one day we were burned out from working nonstop, and Joe turned to me and said, “Let's do this a different way. What do you really like doing, and what would you rather not do? Lets figure out who loves doing what so that we each do what we love.”
That was a game changer. It gave us both so much more freedom to be who we are, and it shifted the energy and the bottom line of the company instantly.

Joe: We realized we could live in the space of doing what we love, grow the company exponentially, and  be happier people focused on what each of us is good at.

Workbook: Do you share all communication with each of your clients, or do one of you perform pretty much as “lead” producer on each project?

Joe: We share all communication. Then we divide up what we do into what we each love to do. I took the lead as the booking agent and client account manager. What I realized early on is that I like the play of interaction between people, and being at the center of that makes sense for me. The thrill of closing a deal and producing a project in tandem with the artists kept me in the action - and that’s where I like to be. Erica took over traditional and social marketing, and administration. She is highly organized and gets things done quickly and efficiently. We both collaborate on the creative direction of the agency and enjoy coming together and talking about what we are going to do next.

Workbook: How do you decide to add talent to your roster?

Erica: Typically artists reach out to us, and if they are a good fit, we will add them. It’s rare that we go looking for talent. It happens organically. We just seem to bump into the right artists at the right time.

Joe: We have come to realize that the most successful artists are the ones that are energetically aligned with their work. So, for example, if we sign a lifestyle photographer who has a carefree-feeling portfolio, we want that person’s personality to be that representation of his work. We want our artists to live what they shoot. Their work is a reflection of their spirit.

Workbook: What was the best job you did last year?

Joe: We started a pro-bono assignment with Harold Julian and FCB Healthcare for Blood Equality. The campaign is still ongoing. The FDA had banned blood donations by gay men, and the campaign sought to change that. Their website opens to copy that says it’s “Time for Science, Not Stigma,” and we wanted to be a part of the change. It’s a good feeling to contribute the advancement of society in some way and to influence people to honor one another.

Workbook: Every photographer is different of course, but what are the expectations to which you hold your photographers?  Do you have a list or requirements?

In response Joe and Erica provided us with this list:

- A comprehensive marketing and advertising plan
- A well thought-out website
- Recently we introduced the advice and strategy of a consultant, which has become a requirement.
- The ability to create great treatments
- To highlight their best qualities during an agency conference call
- That they agree with out company’s core values and know we all work with one another in that space of communication

Workbook: Every rep is different of course, but what are your talents' expectations?

In response Joe and Erica provided us with this list:

- Having portfolio reviews with buyers and staying in touch on a personal level
- A complex and integrated social media strategy to promote their work in non-traditional channels
- Transparency in estimating and invoicing and in our communication about clients and interest in the artists’ work
- An understanding of their working process and how that works within each job

They also added that it is essential that they be there to help with client management and production as well as offer guidance on the trends they see coming in a rapidly changing industry.

Workbook: What industry trends do you see that you find exciting?

Joe:  We’ve always found motion to be exciting. The ability to communicate stories in more comprehensive way, rather than in one moment, has every artist in our agency thinking in new ways about the image - still or moving. When motion, special effects and sound design all come together; it's a new thrill for the entire group. Photographers now have the opportunity to discover new tools and media that expand who they are and what they have to offer as artists.

Workbook: What industry trends do you find disturbing?

Erica: Some clients want usage on an entire library of shots on a job and don’t understand the cost implications and production implications of doing so. The same can be said for a lot of jobs having the request that the image use is in perpetuity. It’s not always possible for this to happen because of reasons outside of our control to license the image. There are talent/models to consider in most cases in the re-sale of an image. Agents who represent models won’t agree to use in perpetuity. They will limit the time length to five years, maximum. The recent changes in editorial contracts are a bad deal for photographers.

Joe: We would like to see a shift in how companies are looking at the usage in social advertising. It’s still seen as a usage buy that is less than print when seeking pro-photographers, and that could not be further from today’s reality, due to the influence of the web. Most people are getting their news and information from social platforms, and now brands have the ability to interact with the public and the consumer as the result. So, the value of the outreach in social advertising should be worth more in the marketplace, and photographers therefore should know how to place proper value on their productions.

Workbook: If you could change one thing about how your business works, what would it be?

Joe and Erica: We wish it would run itself so we could hop on a jet to Hawaii and drink cocktails on the beach!

Workbook: Do you think that geography impacts buying habits of creatives? How are art buyers, art directors, and creative directors the same from region to region? How are they different?

Erica: East Coast has an edge, the Midwest has a hearty and warm feel, and the West has a laid-back vibe. Those are the stereotypes, right? They tend to be true to a certain degree, but that’s primarily because of the client base in each of those regions. It’s rare to find a clothing designer based out of the Midwest, for example. They are on the East Coast. Most of the food corporations are based in the Midwest – so the agencies in those areas service the clients they have and the vibe of regions in advertising seems to follow that.

Workbook: Describe a project you haven’t yet done, but want to do.

Joe: Something in the realm of virtual reality - right now we have a sound designer on our roster who is producing music in the virtual space. We know that brands are creating virtual reality studios now, and we want to be a part of that movement as it is an advancement in technology, and we love technology here at ETC.

Workbook: What surprised you most about how your partnership has evolved?

Erica and Joe: The amount of meetings it takes to get it all done and be in sync company-wide. In the area of divisions of duties, we’ve found that as we grow as a company it has become necessary to build more ways to reach our audience and be constantly engaged in what and how we present our artists' work. This has necessitated more meetings than we ever thought possible. We run our company much like a democracy, and we look for our artists to be in the conversation with us. So to be able to be an effective team - to get it all down on paper and get it right - takes a lot of person-hours gathering together to produce a result. We wish we could all read minds to make this process less time-consuming, but we are often times better for sharing with each other in this way.

Workbook: What is next for ETC Creative, Inc.?

Erica and Joe: We are going to be expanding our reach with all things motion. We have recently signed Lionfish Music to our roster of services, and they provide sound design and music supervision to broadcast productions. This is very exciting for us as we are all big fans of sound as it intersects the advertising space.

Our blog is also going to be a place where we share our  company CORE VALUES and content associated with them. Here is a short list of hashtags that you can explore with us on our blogspot.


Joe and Erica closed by saying they are excited about curating and adding new and interesting art and conversation to their blog that hasn't really been seen in this business before. Watch for more posts about their CORE VALUES Campaign here at Workbook in the coming months.

An Interview With Workbook Publisher Bill Daniels

Posted by Workbook on 10/19/2015 — Filed under:  EventsFeaturesHeadlineIllustrationInterviewsMarketing IntelligencePhotography

What is new with The Workbook?

This year, Visual Connections is pleased to partner with Workbook. We would took some time to chat with Bill Daniels, Workbook CEO, about Workbook and its staying power – 37 years plus!

VC: Workbook has been around for a long time. Tell us about your history.

Bill Daniels, Workbook CEO: First let me say from everybody at Workbook, we are really looking forward to collaborating with Visual Connections. I appreciate your taking the time to talk to me about Workbook. It’s a fun story that started thirty-seven years ago when our founder, Alexis Scott, misplaced her address book. In an instant she saw how valuable those names and addresses were, so she set out to build a directory of all the Los Angeles commercial art buyers, and Workbook was born.

Workbook1First Workbook – 1978

LA Workbook was an immediate hit. Photographers saw this as a way to connect with art buyers. Art buyers loved it too. Initial expansion included all of California. In 1990, Workbook went nationwide. By 2000, the annual Workbook was a set of tomes: three volumes and 2,500 pages.

Workbook, Circa 1998Workbook, Circa 1998

Today Workbook is more than a beautiful coffee table book. We embrace new media, and the company has become an all-purpose resource for the creative community. Our website is the go-to destination for creatives looking for the best commercial artists. Our blog and social media help tell the artists’ stories in powerful ways. The printed Workbook continues to be important, easier to handle and published twice per year. All told, we will publish more pages in 2015 than any year in our history!

VC: How do you find out what buyers need?

BD: Workbook has an ongoing dialog creatives in our industry. For thirty-seven years, we have talked to the community about what they want and need. We also conduct regular surveys of the industry to detect and stay in front of the trends. We take a lot of pride in being an integral part of the creative process. That’s our secret sauce—this strong connection and deep understanding of the business.

VC: How do you work with photographers, reps, etc., to help present their work?

BD: A talented group of sales representatives and support staff work with our clients, the photographers, the illustrators, and their reps. Workbook people have a lot of experience. Most of our sales reps have been in the biz most of their careers.

This experience of our staff really pays off—they are the best at what they do. They are committed, smart, caring, and they really know what the buyers are looking for now. Since the beginning, we have been involved in the image selection for ads and portfolios online and believe these must reflect a photographer’s or an illustrator’s body of work in order to be effective.

VC: As a bridge between client and vendor, Workbook has always had a presence in the worlds of both. What are your observations about the current market?

BD: I feel like we have a pretty good view of the industry. There’s good news and bad. On the downside, commercial artists and photographers in particular face a lot of challenges today that didn’t exist before.

Our business ebbs and flows with the advertising industry. So, as the economy has improved over the last six years, and advertising has picked up, so have assignments for most commercial artists. Photography seems to be doing well. About equal numbers of photographer polled say things are better or have gotten worse (about 40% each); the rest say business is about the same. Illustration tends to move independently of photography, and things are less rosy. The majority of illustrators polled (56%) say things have gotten worse over the last five years, but they are looking forward to better times and expressed more optimism than last year.

VC: Talk a bit about the directory – always a strong point with the Workbook.

BD: We remain true to our roots. Our directory is at the heart of what we do. We still have a staff devoted to calling the art buyers and making sure that we know where to send their Workbooks and find out if there is anything else we can do to help them with their jobs. We take the time to listen to the buyers so we know what brands they are working on. We see a lot more buying being handled in-house versus the traditional ad agencies, and we reach out to that group as well. We respect and guard the trust buyers have in sharing their information with us. We also maintain a directory of artists, a valuable tool for the art buyers.

VC: Going forward, how will Workbook remain a go-to place for creatives and vendors to meet?

BD: Our role with Visual Connections is part of the answer! It’s a wonderful chance for our clients to network. In addition, we sponsor numerous events throughout the year that offer other networking opportunities, including FaceTime, our portfolio reviews, and sponsorship of local APA chapters nationwide.

We often receive calls from buyers requesting help with sourcing talent. We formalized the approach recently with a tool called Workbook Shortlist. We also send out monthly newsletters and our InFocus series, and these help creatives keep up with the assignments our clients are working on. All of this is necessary to help our clients get in front of buyers and keep the buyers informed.

We continually look for new ways to help put buyers and artists together. Keeping our website up-to-date is an ongoing task. We recently launched our mobile version, and earlier this year we launched an enhanced portfolio viewer that makes it easier than ever to peruse and enjoy all of the amazing images on our site.

Social media is another great way to get the word out about our clients. We now have thousands of Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook followers. We know the world is changing and we keep working hard to stay relevant!

Workbook Fall 2015

Workbook Publisher, Bill Daniels Bill Daniels

The Q & A with Tom Cocotos

Posted by Workbook on 06/25/2015 — Filed under:  FeaturesHeadlineIllustrationInterviews

Collage artist Tom Cocotos recently got together with Peggy Roalf of Design Arts Daily to discuss his life in New York, unique style, impressive studio, and much more. Check out their interview and some examples of Tom's work.

Q: As you are originally from Leonia, New Jersey what are some of your favorite things about living and working in New York City?
A: The great city’s sensory overload is always exciting and energizing—it commands one to work hard. But the underrated or less-trademarked treasures with their quality unsurpassed are what sing our town: Dave’s Brisket House in Bed-Stuy, the New York Public Library’s picture collection, Pizza Supreme across from Penn Station, and the Writer’s Foundry MFA program at St. Joseph’s College. New York also houses an eclectic and frequently eccentric combination of humanity; I recently played a pickup volleyball game alongside a bird paleontologist, a musical director of the symphony, and a taxi driver—imagine those perspectives and teamwork all on a single court! Some of the things I still miss: the restaurant Florent, the unadorned, dilapidated, derelict High Line, Julian’s billiards on fourteenth, the St. Mark’s Cinema, and the Empire Roller Skating Center in Crown Heights.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between the art you create on paper versus on the computer?
A: I find a sketchbook is essential to keep the gears oiled. A pocket sketchbook makes it possible to vary scale, going from 4 x 6 inches, often drawn on the street or in transit and then translating that to ever larger scales, with some works in the studio reaching 12 x 8 feet. To work while traveling about in our mass transit is one of New York’s great luxuries; our amazing subway is among the best transit studios on earth. The system persuades an artist to always keep paper, pencil, glue stick, and magazine at the ready.
I keep many small sketchbooks, each devoted to a very specific subject: there are bee sketchbooks, books of portraits—for a while I was doing hundreds of studies of the wonderful NYC poet Marie Ponsot and Warhol Superstar Ultra Violet— and then a book full of machines focusing mainly on backhoes. Like many artists I’m probably obsessive, but steady practice requires some kind of excess. There are also larger books that house drawings, ideas, poems, and technical information about materials. My work nowadays involves many mediums, but somehow I can’t shake my affinity for the tactile quality of paper—its tear, scrape, and gouge.

Q: What do you like best about your workspace?
A: A set of moveable walls and of course, music—the great stimulator! In my workspace a pair of salvaged stereo speakers from a boombox hang and would be at the top of any workspace list. I bought the parts years ago for my first studio on West 12th Street, and their sound has followed me through to about twenty different locations. The system is combined with a tuner and woofer speaker, both found in the trash. It sounds great and will hook up to most any electronic device with a headphone jack.

Q: Do you think it needs improvement? If so, what would you change?
A: Many artists I have spoken to say their studios can use improvement, so that makes me think it is a perpetual quest and that the perfect workspace may be a fantasy. It seems to me that it’s important to try and get comfortable working wherever you are. But if pressed, because of the music, I’d opt for really good soundproofing!

Q: How do you organize an assignment before you start drawing? Do you make lists and thumbnails?
A: Different people classify fine art in different ways but for my practice the fine art develops its own rhythm and complexion over time and through repetition as a series. And while commissioned or illustrative work often depends on a series as well, it is essential for me to read over the material many times or study the ideas of others as soon as I get an assignment, so I have as much time as possible for that information to percolate in my head. Eventually when the time feels right I’ll start brainstorming through sketches.

Q: How do you know when the art is finished?
A: Whenever that which is now being added or changed begins to make the piece worse.

To read the rest of Peggy's interview with Tom Cocotos click HERE

“Spring Swing,” center and right:  “Dinosaur Gas” and “Salted Birds” both for National Geographic Children’s Books, art direction by Kathryn Robbins

(Read more)

Photographers' Community Table: The Conclusion

Posted by Workbook on 05/05/2015 — Filed under:  Community TableEventsFeaturesHeadlineInterviewsMarketing IntelligencePhotography

Photographers' Community TableChaotic,  evolving,  crazy, flighty, and interesting. These are just some of the adjectives used to describe the state of the business today.  Based on the conversation that took place at the first Photographers' Community Table, they are all pretty accurate. It is an exciting business but not one without its risks and rewards. Workbook was pleased to be included in the conversation and to help provide a sense of what the business is really like today. We hope to continue to do so in the months and years to come. To read the last installment go to: or

Thank you again to all the photographers who took part in the conversation:,,,,,,,,

Photographers' Community Table Part 2

Posted by Workbook on 04/23/2015 — Filed under:  Community TableEventsHeadlineInterviewsMarketing IntelligencePhotographyUncategorized
CommunityTable Photographers Roundtable

The over-arching theme of this second post is success. How do we define it? How do we obtain it and sustain it? When Lisa Adams was asked, "How will you define success in 2014?" she first answered with the obvious metric: how many new clients was she able to engage? This will tell her that her marketing is working and she has increased her billings. Every photographer there agreed; consistent marketing and promotion are key to creating new business. Thomas Chadwick says that when he gets up in the morning, “there is a running to-do list, most of which is about marketing these days." All were realistic enough to know, though it does not always provide a direct path to success, you have to take the long view. As Lisa also said, "That client or agency might be on the hot list for five years. One day the phone rings. Here we go. It can take a long time to pay off."

Woven throughout the conversation was, of course, the essential challenge of creating relevant, compelling, beautiful imagery, whether for a client or for a personal project. Each of these photographers has his/her own personal way of approaching that process which you can read more about in the full transcript at: and

Thank you once again to the participating photographers:Lisa Adams, Paul Aresu, Kevin Arnold, Thomas Chadwick, Stewart Cohen, Ty Cole, Chris Crisman, Vincent Dixon, Hunter Freeman, Scott Montgomery, and Walter Smith

Community Table Photographers Roundtable

Rob Grimm Food and Liquid Photography Interview

Posted by Workbook on 04/06/2015 — Filed under:  FeaturesHeadlineInterviewsPhotography

Rob Grimm is a commercial food and liquid photographer with more than twenty-five years experience. With his RGG.EDU program, he's now sharing his vast knowledge to aspiring photographers through classes, workshops, and tutorials. Tonight, he'll be leading a discussion on finding your creative force and voice as a photographer at the Apple Store on 679 N. Michigan Ave. in Chicago. Recently, we had the chance to discuss his programs and pretty much all things related to food and liquid photography.

How did you get your start as a photographer, and why did you choose to focus specifically on food and drink photography? I have been taking pictures since I was 8-years-old at the side of my father who was a ceramics and photography teacher. Being a photographer was just part of my fabric from a young age. After college I apprenticed at a few studios in Chicago and eventually moved to St. Louis to work in a studio that shot a good amount of food and beverage work. So, by assisting in that studio, I just fell into food and beverage category and discovered that I had a true affinity for the work. The properties of liquids and glass have always held intrigue for me. And I am a bit of a foodie, so the two genres of photography are a natural for me.

When you opened your first studio in St. Louis, what kinds of clients were you looking for, and what would you have considered a “dream job”? I opened my first studio in 1999 in St. Louis. My clients at the time consisted of local ad agencies and design firms. Many of those agencies had national liquor accounts, which fit me very well. Yet a large portion of my work at the time centered upon product work and shooting for a lot of annual reports for various corporations. At the time, I wanted very much to be working more regularly on a national stage. So I was pushing hard to garner the attention of larger agencies outside of my market. As far as my dream job at the time, that is tough to remember. I know I really wanted larger-budget projects that would both showcase and challenge my skills. At the same time, I have always been more concerned with executing a project that truly hits the mark for my clients than searching for my dream project.

How long after that did you open your studio in Chicago? Did your target client base and your idea of a dream job change when you moved to Chicago? I opened my Chicago studio almost three years ago, some twenty years after being in St. Louis. By that point in my career I had been shooting for national and international brands for a long time. My idea of a dream job did not really change, but being in Chicago opened me up to a much larger client base.

What are the biggest differences between working in a secondary market like St. Louis and a primary market like Chicago? The differences are huge. First and foremost, Chicago has given me more credibility. Let me qualify this by saying that I am the same photographer with the same production methodology. Unfortunately, a bit of snobbery exists in the creative world with many people not believing (or choosing not to believe) that talent can exist in smaller markets. Having my studio in Chicago has caused agencies on both coasts, as well as Chicago, to take notice of what I am creating. There are luxuries a large market like Chicago affords over smaller markets. The availability of talented crew members, rental houses, props or any aspect related to production, are in abundance in Chicago. All of this leads to smooth and relaxed productions. At this point, I rarely shoot in St. Louis, and I would estimate that more than 90 percent of my work happens in the Chicago studio. Chicago really feels like home to me. It is where I started my career twenty-five years ago, so this has been a return to my roots. I love the city of Chicago.

What are the significant similarities? This is simple and easy; both cities contain talented and kind people who work very hard to help me create my imagery. The good old Midwestern values of people being considerate and hard-working is at the center of Chicago and St. Louis.

What are the most frustrating and most rewarding aspects of your career? I think the most frustrating aspect of the career is being triple bid on projects constantly. The constant nickel-and-dime approach, while being compared to lesser skilled photographers, can be maddening. But it is part of the game, so we live with it. The most rewarding aspect is simply that I get to do what I love everyday. It still amazes me that I make a living and support my family by doing exactly what I love and want to do. That might sound cliché, but it is really that simple.

How has the rise in CGI, especially with regard to liquid photography, affected your approach to new projects? The effect of CGI has mainly been the elimination of many projects for us. Many of the liquid images that exist are completely computer generated. However, we do work on occasion with a CGI artist and the recent Ciroc “New Years” image is the best example. Their talents are employed to enhance our images by adding elements which cannot be produced photographically.

Stylistically, what has been the most significant change over the past several years in what most of your clients look for? I think that clients are looking for images that, while they are complex in execution, appear to be relaxed and approachable. I work very hard to create the emotion of desire in my food and beverage work. For me it is critical the viewer wants to eat or drink what we are presenting. It’s about creating a craving that, in turn, sells the clients products. My clients are looking for me to spark desire, which will connect people to their products.

As far as equipment goes, what are your must-haves for any shoot? My Broncolor Para 88 is my go-to light modifier. I have great versatility in the quality of light that I can create using this single modifier. Most of my images are captured on a medium format Hasselblad camera. Like many photographers of my generation and skill level, the equipment does not matter so much. I feel like I can create a nice image with any piece of equipment you put in my hands.

What has been the most difficult food or drink to work with? Soft serve ice cream, by far. In my portfolio I have an image of soft serve ice cream flowing down in two swirls into a bowl. The client wanted the soft serve to be real and not an acrylic model as most photographers wanted to use. I was confident and crazy enough to assure them that I could figure it out. Working with the best food stylist in the business, Nir Adar, we spent two days testing methods to create and freeze a swirl that I could photograph. The image contains two swirling strands of soft serve that are real and allowed us to capture it’s entirety, front facing, rear facing and curved edges of the ice cream. The shot was a beast, but one that I am very proud of.

Which photographers inspire you? This is a long list, and I am more inspired by amazing images no matter who is he creator. When it comes to the roots of photography, Irving Penn, Edward Weston, Albert Watson, Gary Winogrand, and Richard Avedon are hugely inspirational. As far as contemporary photographers go, I would list Peter Coulson, Patrick Demarchelier, Jerry Uelsman, Nick Knight, and Art Streiber, who all blow me away. There are so many more that this is a wholly inadequate list.

When and why did you create RGG.EDU? RGG EDU was created last year with my business partner, Gary Martin. With both the advent of digital photography and self-guided education, the time that people put in as an apprentice to master this craft has all but died. And as a result, I think the business has suffered greatly. My experiences teaching, lecturing, and conducting workshops really showed me that there are serious shortcomings to the majority of photographic educational content available. So we have set out to make the most in-depth, organized and informative tutorials, created by actual working professionals, to educate future generations of the business. There is nothing I enjoy more than being a commercial photographer. I feel a personal responsibility to ensue the business continues to prosper and not be diminished by people who don’t know how to harness the power of today’s digital cameras or how to compose a striking image. At RGG EDU we want to give away all of our trade secrets to teach photographic skills on an unprecedented level.

How do you want your business to evolve in the next five to ten years? I think my enjoyment of the business will continue to grow as my clients continue to present me with challenging projects. My ego is fairly well in check, and I just want to make images that speak to my clients and to their audiences. Just keep a camera in my hands and I will be happy. I would like to see RGG EDU grow and reach an enormous amount of people. To date, we have had great response with students feeling they have gained a great deal from the information we have imparted. This is something I want to continue over the next decade as I find personal reward from this endeavor, along with a connection beyond the grave to my father, who was a most remarkable educator.

What do you want people to know about Robert Grimm that they might not know from looking at your pictures? Boy, how do I not wax poetic here? I think I want people to know that while I have worked very hard to create my images, I love the process of doing so. Taking pictures rewards me daily.

Car Photography Now: An Interview with Cynthia Held

Posted by Workbook on 04/02/2015 — Filed under:  Advertising CampaignsCGIHeadlineInterviewsPhotographyUncategorized
There have been numerous changes in the automotive advertising business over the last ten years. But lately, creative buyers in this segment of the market have grown  tired of slick, over-retouched CGI imagery. We spoke with Cynthia Held of Held & Associates for an update on where the car photography market is now.

What are automotive clients looking for now? How is the market the same, and how is it different from the past?

Within the last few years, automotive companies have diverged from the ultra-sleek, idealized, “picture-perfect” style that was once so popular. Most often a car was photographed a stark environment, over lit, and void of any reflections that occur in the natural world.

With the influence of social media and in-the-moment smartphone photography,  rends have evolved more towards rendering cars within realistic environments and emphasizing the lifestyle associated with the brand. The art direction has more of an editorial feel, which results in images that are far more relatable than what we have seen in the past.

What is it about your photographers' work that clients seem excited about?

Both Steffen Schrägle and Patrick Curtet have really pushed themselves to establish their brands within the contemporary car market. They both convey a similar feel but with their own approaches and sensibilities.

Patrick Curtet works in tandem with his wife Marlyne, who is a talented photographer and art director in her own right. Their special partnership goes back fourteen years, and they are now the premier creative duo. Patrick acts as the primary photographer and Marlyne as the partnering photographer, as well as creative contributor and facilitator. They invest a lot of time and effort collaborating with their team on all creative aspects of the production, which produces brilliant work that always goes beyond the client’s expectations.

Steffen Schragle is also very successful due in part to his use of natural light to enhance a location and the talent, as well as the physique of the automobile. Steffen is also a master at CGI and heightens the movement of the car and how it interacts within its environment. His landscape work is also exceptional and has great depth and sensibility. He has received seven awards from the International Photography/Lucie Awards this year alone. The impact and relevance of the images make them a favorite of clients who absolutely love the work, vision, and attitude.

I know that Patrick Curtet recently finished a big project with Cadillac. When is it due to be released?  How is the imagery to be used?

This was an extremely challenging and substantial shoot for Cadillac. It involved the rebranding of eleven car models, with several “code red” or unreleased models, and a tremendous amount of talent in luxury-lifestyle scenarios. The shoot came together very quickly and with only a few weeks of preparation.  Patrick had worked previously with the client, who again chose the Curtet Team to execute this creatively challenging, as well as physically challenging, project. It was a marathon shoot, with more than thirty-five long days, virtually without a break for the team. They pulled it off brilliantly, and the client and agency are thrilled. This imagery will be released later this year.

Advertising car photography was known to be well paying; how does it compare today?

Budgets are more challenging today than in years past. Contrary to general perception, automotive photography fees are not any higher than other projects; however, these shoots tend to involve more shoot days. It is a very competitive environment with few chosen shooters, so it is imperative to have a top producer and a cohesive crew to deliver the best possible work for the allowed budget. We estimate very precisely and work very hard to ensure we produce superb images at or under budget.

Do car companies require a treatment from the photographer? How much do they rely on the photographer for the “look” they want to project, or do they retain pretty tight creative control?

Although treatments are not required, we feel that it’s an important part of the bidding process. They’re virtually a blueprint for how the photographer will translate the creative’s or client’s vision. In addition, treatments reflect the photographer’s personality and passion for the project, which are all-important factors that clients take into consideration when awarding a job.

Patrick Curtet Red Cadillac

Patrick Curtet Cadillac

Patrick Curtet Red Cadillac

Steffen Schragle

Steffen Schragle

Steffen Schragle

The Art of the Faux Pas

Posted by Workbook on 03/18/2015 — Filed under:  IllustrationInterviews

Alexei Vella was hired by HOW magazine Art Director Adam Ladd,  to create an image for "Visual Faux Pas Explored,” an article about the moment we realize we've had a lapse in judgment, and we have somehow offended the norm with our design work.  We spoke with Adam about why he was drawn to Alexei's work and why it was a perfect fit for the project.

"Alexei's work is not only graphic, but his use of  bold and vibrating lines, as well as the added texture within the illustration, helps create a layer of tension within the image. Combined with his expressive character, it all adds up to an image that perfectly conveys the moment a serious faux pas has been discovered," says Ladd. We spoke to Richard Salzman, Alexei’s representative, who tells us that he likes to represent illustrators like Alexei who are thinkers, can tackle complex ideas, and also really draw. See more examples below.

Lisa Adams Interview with APA National: Beauty in the Seemingly Mundane

Posted by Workbook on 02/26/2015 — Filed under:  FeaturesHeadlineInterviewsPhotography
Photographer Lisa Adams was recently interviewed by Nicole Weingartner for APA National and the article makes for excellent reading. We've included a few excerpts from the article and several examples of Lisa's food and drink work. Click HERE for the full article and check out her Workbook Portfolio too.

A Boopie glass of plump, chocolate pudding waits to be eaten on a flowing brown ribbon. A candy cane is made out of a layered cherry parfait. A timeworn shaving kit becomes a story of little trinkets and treasures. Don’t see it yet? You will.

Still life photographer Lisa Adams has a knack for transforming ordinary objects into ethereal pieces with lighting, mood, and composition. When we see mundane objects, she sees a lyrical image, where each item becomes part of a bigger story that incites our emotions—emotions of a lucid childhood memory, distaste, a craving for a food, or colors that stir a particular fascination.

How did you become a photographer? And how did you become interested in still life?

In college, I started taking classes in design and photography, which was a total deviation from my English literature and physics direction. I initially saw the design and photography as electives that might help boost my GPA. I didn’t really think much about it until one of my professors pulled me aside to compliment a recent project. I thanked her and commented, “It was easy.” That was when the light bulb went off...the realization that I might actually be good at this was the catalyst for what has now become a 28-year-long fascinating career.
My first assisting job was with a studio that had a lifestyle and still shooter. I worked with the tyrannical still shooter (he liked to throw things and expletives) but occasionally I assisted the lifestyle shooter and quickly learned that I had incredible patience when dealing with inert objects but not so much when it came to people. I really love that I have such control with stills and food. They stay where I put them, don’t talk back and never say no. Of course food can die or melt, but I can forgive that!

Exactly what do you want to say or portray through your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that? What’s your technique?

I’m most happy with my work when I feel like I’ve created a lyrical image, one that expresses emotion and evokes emotion. It’s all about revealing the subject matter in a beautiful way, through lighting and composition and creating a mood that’s reflective of the subject itself.
Hopefully, the image is telling a short story and inciting the imagination of the viewer. I’m usually shooting bright, airy, and graphic with a distinctive color palette or dark and moody with pops of color. I like mixing soft light with hard directional light. The hard light intensifies color and pulls out texture, plus it adds crisp bright highlights and deep shadows that create depth and dimension.
I shoot with SinarP2's outfitted with Multi-shot capable Hasselblad CF-39 backs. If necessary, I'll also shoot with a Hasselblad H3D-31. I've always shot large format; it’s definitely my preference. I love all of the control available with a 4x5. Am I starting to sound like a control freak?
Clients love the live video available with the Phocus software, they can see everything as it’s happening, and it’s a great collaborative tool. I still use Speedotron lighting. Those packs are like tanks!