Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ellen Jantzen

What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what is the primary inspiration for you to keep working in this field?

I am curious and my art has evolved as a result. I don't really consider my self a "Photographer", but rather an artist who uses photography as my art form. There have been several times in my life where photography played a roll, first when quite young. At the age of five, I received a Brownie camera for my birthday and proceeded to capture the world around me. I have dozens of spiral bound booklets of photos where I scribbled words on the backs of each in crayon. Later, in college, I learned the basics of how to use a camera. I developed my own film and printed enlargements in a makeshift darkroom. But all of this was abandoned, as I did not find it fulfilling. It seemed too "real", I couldn't find the art in it…. yet.

With the advent of digital cameras and the ability uploading my images into a computer and subsequently altering and changing them, I found my perfect medium. Through alteration, I am able to subvert the "decisive moment" concept. Every image is a flexible piece of information that can be brought into the future or blended with the past.

I am inspired by the natural world, science (recent discoveries in physics; "multiverses", doppelgängers) and human consciousness. I am intrigued with issues of reality, memory, time and loss.

The photograph, historically, was seen as an evidentiary medium but as we all know, photos lie. The first lie is the translation of three-dimensional space into a 2 dimensional form with its subsequent framing of reality (and what was just outside of that framed area? How does that affect the story being conveyed?)
I have just finished Errol Morris's book "Believing is Seeing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography" where he shows that even documentary photography has been manipulated.

I must say that my primary inspiration that keeps me working in this field is magic.
Photographs are magical creations (or should be). I strive to surprise myself at every turn. My aim is to create images that speak to people, that convey my sensibilities in a way that leaves room for the viewer to insert themselves and their interpretations.

In your opinion and experience, how can emerging photographers evaluate themselves as ready to start promoting their works and seek broader exposure for their photographs? What is one vital action you would recommend photographers undertake to find their audience, be included in exhibitions, and gain professional representation?

There are many ways that emerging photographers can evaluate themselves.
First, a photographer must have a point of view, preferably a unique point of view. They must understand why they are using this medium as a creative outlet. (Writing a statement can help solidify one's objective).
They should study the work of other photographers and analyze what it is that they like and don't like and find a voice for describing their work in comparison to other's. It is always good to view work in person. Attend as many exhibitions as you are able to.

Create a personalized website, YourName.com (if possible) and upload a selection of your best work, update often with new pieces, begin sharing your URL.

Once the artist is fairly confident that they have a point of view worth sharing, I would recommend entering a few well selected juried competitions. Search for ones where the jurors are high profile professionals. This is a fairly inexpensive way to see if your work resonates. With the advent of so many social networks online, it is much easier for a lone photographer to become part of a community and learn about opportunities. Prepare for many, many rejections and don't be discouraged.

Much has been written about the benefits of portfolio reviews and I agree they have their place. But, the photographer has to be well prepared and well funded to participate. Attend with an open mind and take notes. Leave a little something behind so that the reviewer will remember you, a business card or post card. Follow up by thanking each reviewer by mail or email. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

It is vital to establish relationships with other photographers, curators and gallery owners.

How did it come about that you achieved the status of successful, professional photographer? What steps were involved in reaching your level of success?

First, I kept working and refining my point of view. I enlisted the help of my husband Michael Jantzen (who is an artist) to act as a sounding board. He has been a great help with my editing process (and my main model).

Second, I started writing statements. The act of putting thoughts, feelings and intentions into sentences, helped me solidify my unique point of view.

Third, I created my website.

Fourth, I started to establish a database of jurors, gallery owners, curators, and other photography and art contacts. All were culled from reading reviews, journals, blogs and by word of mouth.

Fifth, I began to enter juried competitions. There was a steep learning curve as I grew to know which exhibitions and opportunities were the most significant. Luckily I was able to attract a bit of attention this way and won a few honors. Next, I began to seek publication opportunities. I looked at small startup publications first and followed their submission requirements.
Sixth, I joined groups like the Center For Fine Art Photography, the Atlanta Photography Group, Humble Arts Foundation, Griffin Museum of Photography, The Texas Photo Society. They all have newsletters and post member's news.
I promoted myself whenever I got into an exhibition, or was published by sending emails.

Seventh, I attended one portfolio review in Atlanta and was energized by the reviewers and the subsequent interactions with each, both in emails and online (Twitter and Facebook). The reviewer Stella Kramer made one salient point; she suggested always including a photo in any email, not just links. She never clicks on a link unless she sees something that peaks her interest.

Eighth, I stepped up my presence on Facebook by joining several photo related groups like, Flak Photo Network, A New History of Photography, etc. I try to post comments and interesting bits of information I find on the web. Through these interactions, I established a relationship with Susan Spiritus of the Susan Spiritus Gallery in Newport Beach California. Once Susan started seeing my work come through juried competitions she was judging, she started to take an interest in my work and earlier this year started representing me.

All of this "overnight success" took about seven years.

Proof, from the series Losing Reality; Reality of Loss

A Balance of Forces, from the series Losing Reality; Reality of Loss

Hiding the Fiction, from the series Losing Reality; Reality of Loss

Without A Trace, from the series Losing Reality; Reality of Loss

Vital Spirit, from the series Losing Reality; Reality of Loss

Descendant, from the series Losing Reality; Reality of Loss

Incomplete Dream, from the series Losing Reality; Reality of Loss

Melancholia, from the series Losing Reality; Reality of Loss

Blossom, from the series Losing Reality; Reality of Loss

Absorbing Loss, from the series Losing Reality; Reality of Loss

© copyright al images Ellen Jantzen

Saturday, November 26, 2011

David Simonton

What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what is the primary inspiration for you to keep working in this field?
I’d like to start with two quotations. The first is from an article (which I’ll paraphrase) on the Victoria and Albert Museum’s website. It describes a charming and significant portrait, although not a particularly powerful one, by a famous-photographer-to-be: This simple portrait of Annie Philpot is an important one in Julia Margaret Cameron's oeuvre; it is inscribed “My very first success in photography, January 1864.” Mrs. Cameron had received the gift of a camera only one month before it was taken. Having begun her experiments in image making “with no knowledge of the art,” she described her jubilation at producing the picture: “I was in a transport of delight. I printed, toned, fixed and framed it, and presented it to her father that same day. Sweet, sunny haired Annie!” The article goes on to say that the portrait manifests “the hallmarks Cameron would continue to use and refine over her 15-year career.” During that career she made many great portraits, as the history of photography acknowledges. Although that early one might not have been her best, Cameron said of her accomplishment, “No later prize has effaced the memory of this joy.”

The second quotation is by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Enthusiasm is the great engine of success.”

Mine is the “camera and a darkroom kit for Christmas while I was in high school” story. The story also involves my parents getting divorced, and photography providing me with some stability and solace. Photography became a place for me to turn my attention and my efforts. It was a comfortable fit, and something I could control. At the same time, it helped me define myself at a formative period in my life. It provided a means of expression, and suited my temperament. It was, in short, a path forward.

Making good photographs on a regular basis, I soon found out, is a challenge—technically, aesthetically and intellectually. After I’d been out with my camera a couple of times, I was hooked. Today, when someone of the stature of Elliott Erwitt is asked what is his favorite of all of his photographs, and he answers “The next one,” I understand completely. The idea that the best is yet to come is a potent stimulant! and it’s one of the things that compels me to pick up my camera.

So the reason I started in photography, and the reason I continue, are actually one and the same: I really enjoy it. I love the activity of photography, and the amount of energy and attention it requires to do it well. As a film-and-darkroom photographer I embrace the craft aspect, too. And it feels good to be participating in something with a dynamic history and tradition. For me, making pictures is both a challenge and a great pleasure.

I used to worry a bit that “because I like it” might not be a good enough reason to essentially dedicate my life to photography. Then I came across a quotation by the American photographer, writer and MacArthur “genius award” recipient Robert Adams, that helped me relax: “Most photographs would never be taken were it not for an impulsive enjoyment, a delight that is notably free of big ideas.”

Photography became the thread running through my life; whatever else I was doing—whatever job I happened to have at the time—it was the constant. If I wasn’t out photographing or working in the darkroom in my spare time, I was reading about photography or looking at photographs in books, or thinking about it. But I never showed my work to anyone (well, to relatives if they insisted). And it went on like this, happily, for many years.

In your opinion and experience, how can emerging photographers evaluate themselves as ready to start promoting their works and seek broader exposure for their photographs? What is one vital action you would recommend photographers undertake to find their audience, be included in exhibitions, and gain professional representation?
I recently read an interview with the esteemed photographer Steve McCurry. One passage in particular stood out. Asked for his advice he said, “The first thing you should do is enjoy yourself. Explore. Observe. And then take pictures.” I couldn’t agree more with the underlying sentiment: if you’re engaged in the process, the results will take care of themselves.

When we start out as photographers, it’s common to imitate others, and to try out different styles and approaches. It takes time to become assured in our individual way of seeing and responding to things. It’s important to allow ourselves this time. The emulation/experimentation phase is when we learn to differentiate ourselves, and find our own vision and “voice”—something jurors and reviewers will be looking for. Why rush things? There’s valuable experience to be gained in taking your time. And not only valuable experience, but a growing body of steadily improving work. The more work you have, the more you’ll have to choose from; the strongest pictures will stand out as the others become less “precious.” Look at your pictures repeatedly over time (I keep recent work tacked up around the house). This practice will help you become a more objective editor. And look at your work in relation to other photographs you admire, and experiment with sequencing and pairing images.

I’d like to offer a few thoughts on portfolio reviews and gallery representation. Although I’ve served as a reviewer, I’ve never taken my work to a portfolio review. And I don’t use gallery representation. For better or for worse, I've always represented myself. (I currently spend about as much time promoting my work as I do making it.)

Although they undoubtedly represent a wonderful opportunity for some photographers, portfolio reviews aren’t for everyone. Your personality and temperament—and (let’s be realistic) your bank balance—are important factors to consider. Also, portfolio reviews are neither guarantees of, nor prerequisites for, success. And timing is absolutely critical. It can be self-defeating to participate too soon. Imagine Mrs. Cameron seeking a critical assessment of that early portrait of hers. One suspects she would have been advised (at best) to "Keep on working," something she would continue to do anyway; she was an artist.

She was, in fact, a great artist. But perhaps that wouldn’t have been recognized so early on. She hadn’t had the time yet to practice her photography and improve—she had only gotten her camera the month before. Cameron’s innate skill and unique vision were to develop and mature over time. It’s just possible that had her enthusiasm been dampened by a negative critique too early on, it could have sidetracked the very “engine of her success.”

So before you subject your work to the scrutiny of the most discriminating audience there is, consider trying it out on a few "test audiences" first. Enter competitions, locally, regionally and nationally. (I work best with a deadline). As much as possible, enter your work to participate in the process, not for the promise of prizes or sales. Then, when you feel like you have enough strong work, consider mounting a one-person exhibition.

Gallery representation, if it happens at all, typically comes much later on. And keep in mind that a gallery might (might) be interested in your work if they think it will sell. "Commercial viability," however, needn’t be the goal of every creative endeavor. Although it might seem like it these days, gallery representation is not the be-all-and-end-all of artistic achievement. Besides, it’s the rare art photographer who can make a living on the sale of prints, image rights, etc. In fact, generally speaking, most of us will spend more money on our photography than we’ll make on it. And that will certainly be the case when we start out.

Which brings me back to the article on J.M. Cameron: That early portrait has the pictorial hallmarks that Cameron would continue to use and refine over her career. And a hallmark is "a distinctive feature, especially one of excellence."

The one vital action I would recommend you consider, then, is to strive for excellence, not “success.” That, and (wait for it) be patient. It’s a difficult thing to do these days, but nonetheless it’s important. Here’s a helpful way to think about it: Patience is the suspension of expectations.

If you’re talented and committed, and excellence is your guide (from your camerawork to presentation and promotion)—and you enjoy photography—you’re doing it right.

After all, Julia Margaret Cameron spoke of experiencing the "joy" of photography. The great Henri Cartier-Bresson said, "I have a passion for geometry. My greatest joy is facing a beautiful organization of forms." And, lest anyone think that a sense of joy and even elation is some bygone notion with no relevance to serious contemporary practice, here’s Alec Soth, in Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), "There is no greater joy than wide-eyed wandering."

How did it come about that you achieved the status of successful, professional photographer? What steps were involved in reaching your level of success?
In 1992 I had the privilege of meeting Harry Callahan and hearing him speak. I hung on his every word. This master photographer, 80 years old at the time, explained his reason for continuing to photograph: “To get out and walk and look is wonderful to me. Without any great intent, eventually I get something that amounts to something.” Thinking about the remarkable work that resulted from a lifetime of such looking inspires me to maintain that same approach.

When you’re doing what you enjoy without the (perceived) pressure of what someone else might think about it distracting you, that’s when you do your best work. When I’m out with my camera, if I sense imaginary eyes peering over my shoulder, judging every shot, I tend to freeze. I work best when I don’t put that kind of pressure on myself. I once heard André Kertész say about his photography, “It’s for me, I do it only for myself.” And he made some of the finest photographs I know of.

For almost twenty years I photographed without giving a single thought to what others might think about it; or even a single thought of exhibiting. It was just for me. The first time I showed a photograph was in a statewide juried photography exhibition. The following year I had my first solo exhibit at a local coffee shop. It was 1993 and I was 40 years old. My next one-person show was at a nearby Arts Council…and so on, and so on. Nearly two decades later, my photographs are in museum and corporate collections. The point being, that what worked for me as a self-taught art photographer was starting out small and local, and proceeding at a pace that was reasonable and practical, given financial realities. My only firm goal was the next picture.

As for the details, I like to focus on a project or two, establish a routine and see where it takes me. I also teach photography, and I exhibit my work, submitting exhibition and grant proposals and entering juried competitions on a regular basis (with an eye, always, on the juror[s]: Who would I like to see my photographs?) I seek out online opportunities, and I’ve made some wonderful connections. I have a website I maintain myself, and I engage in social media as it relates to photography. I continue to hone my craft, in the darkroom and at the computer—getting my prints to look “right” on the Web is a necessity in an age of online submissions and virtual exhibitions. And I look at lots and lots of photographs; online and in books, contemporary and “classical” (to borrow Bruce Davidson’s term). I look because I’m forever interested, and, yes, because I enjoy it.

Needless to say, leading a fulfilling (i.e., successful) life as a photographer involves more than just adopting a “don’t worry, be happy” attitude. Hard work and sticking with it are required. But having said that… if you love photography, and you’re pursuing photography because you love it, you’re on a path that’s as valid, worthwhile and well-traveled as any there is.

Photography, and especially art photography, has both enjoyed and endured significant changes over the years, including how it’s been perceived and valued by others. But for photographers, myself included, it has always been a magical and captivating medium.

Bonnie Cook was a young student enrolled in her first formal photography class at a local college where I was teaching. She was a natural. Arriving early to class one Monday morning, Bonnie rushed over and said, “I shot 13 rolls this weekend!” (the assignment had been for two). “And it was amazing!” Bear in mind that the students were using film, so Bonnie hadn’t even seen her pictures yet. Her enthusiasm had been generated by the sustained activity of making pictures.

In that exciting moment, Julia Margaret Cameron came to mind. And it occurred to me that, as much as the technology and aesthetics of photography have changed over time, this part—the joy part, the genuinely amazing part—never will.

But you asked me about success. I guess I do feel successful in that my own early enthusiasm for photography has never diminished.

© copyright all images David Simonton

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tom Griggs

What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what is the primary inspiration for you to keep working in this field?

I started as a painter, but I discovered it requires a lot of isolation and the discipline of a monk. Frank Auerbach – to pick an example - paints 364 days a year in his studio from sun-up to sun-down. I found I’m not built to do that. I’m too interested in art as it relates to external life experiences, physical exploration of space, and interactions with other people.

I began taking more photographs as I left painting. Its speed and portability were a revolution in terms of integrating my life and artistic practice. I discovered photography can be used to explore any discipline – from urban planning to rural sociology to jungle ecology. It gives me a reason to be part of events and allows me inside other people’s life experience. I can frame specific and direct questions about a subject. All of these things about the medium appeal to me.

I keep photographing because it continues to feed me as a person and artist. There are moments I imagine myself doing other things, but it’s never a consistent line of thought. I don’t think of myself a photographer. I am a person curious to understand and experience and photography continues to be the best way I know to do that. If I come to another conclusion, I’ll sell my cameras.

In your opinion and experience, how can emerging photographers evaluate themselves as ready to start promoting their works and seek broader exposure for their photographs? What is one vital action you would recommend photographers undertake to find their audience, be included in exhibitions, and gain professional representation?

Taking on the second part of the question first, there have been a lot of good suggestions in other interviews on Two Way Lens. My recommendation is simply on when and how to use those suggestions: work as long as possible outside the gallery-museum-competition world before looking to enter it. Develop your craft, your vision and your relationship to the medium. Make images every day for a long time. Show them to people whose opinions you respect, then go back out and make more.

The reasons for waiting are several. Navigating the art world takes energy and time away from making work. People start to define you as you gain exposure and exposure brings expectations. It can become more difficult to take the exploratory risks necessary to find your way forward as well as confusing to have other voices involved with your work while it’s young.

As for how to know when you’re ready, I think that knowledge is based in developing an honest and reliable community around you. Self-evaluation is hard, especially at the start. Build a trusted circle of friends and look to establish mentors. Show them work, stay humble, listen. Be as objective with yourself about the work and where it’s at as you can. When it’s time, those people and the work itself will let you know its ready to be shown. You won’t have to think much about it.

How did it come about that you achieved the status of successful, professional photographer? What steps were involved in reaching your level of success?

I think the easiest way to answer these two questions - and hopefully the most useful response for others – is to list the ideas that I work with or am working towards.

It’s a combination of lucky insights, stolen wisdom and brutal lessons:

Not only are there no divisions between your bodies of work, there is no division between your work and your life – they are all part of one thing.

You can’t do it all, but you can do one thing intensely.

Don’t be afraid of beauty, but don’t make it your main subject or content. The same is true for light.

Making images and thinking about your images need to be respected as separate processes done at separate times.

Photography does not require a good camera, the perfect light, or enough time. If photography is something you should be doing, you’ll make images on the days when you don’t have these things.

Carry your camera everywhere. A good image can be made anywhere.

To paraphrase the commencement speaker at my undergraduate graduation who was paraphrasing someone else: talent in art is about as important as tits on a boar. Success on every level - from personal satisfaction to your first Guggenheim - is work, work, and more work.

Give yourself permission to make photographs without prejudging them. You don’t have to show them to anyone. If you’re not sure if you should take the picture or not, take it.

Put down your camera and spend time just looking - frequently.

Take a few weeks off every year – at least.

At some point on this list I have to provide my thoughts for the pure realists and Machiavellians:

Photography has strong personalities, friendships of benefit, questionable minds with power, and straight-up assholes just like every other business. Many good photographers are not only good, they are also strategic and cutthroat. Exposure depends - to a degree - on developing connections and on what sells. You’ll have to market yourself; no one is out there waiting to discover your work. Sharpen your elbows as well as your vision.

Turn outside of photography for instruction and inspiration – go to movies, operas and the theater. Have music on while you work at home. Read all the time. Digest slowly.

Practical advice: Find a second source of income. Learn basic carpentry, become an EMT or study basic investing.

Travel every opportunity you can, especially during your 20’s.

We have witnessed an explosion of great photographers in this generation, but it’s an explosion of too frequently similar great photography. Understand longer cycles of art and have faith in understanding and developing your own innate drives within the medium.

Decisions by juries and committee are notoriously fickle and are frequently a compromise between several people on someone / something. Learn from rejections and listen to criticism, but don’t pin your sense of worth as a person or photographer on these things. There’s a degree of correlation between quality and success in the photography world, but it is not a meritocracy nor is it rational.

Build a community – photography is a game more fun played with other photographers. Go beyond yourself so that you rejoice in and actively help the success of others.

The best photographs involve you on all three levels simultaneously: head, heart, and sex. [tip of the cap to Nicholas Nixon]

The best photographers are students all of their life; photography can never be completely learned.

Finally and absolutely most importantly, laugh - and don’t be too hard on yourself, either. Photography is less serious than we usually think.

© copyright all images Tom Griggs

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Nick Turpin

What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what is the primary inspiration for you to keep working in this field?

I was introduced to photography at school but didn't really take it seriously until I was at Art College and experimenting with painting, sculpture and design. I realised the unique power that photography has to engage head on and directly with the world as I experienced it day to day. I have always enquired into my own nature and photography became a part of that long term enquiry which probably explains why I have been committed to Street Photography for so long, it is the approach that most satisfies my wish to understand. I find working with a small camera in a public place with no preconceived aims to be a revelatory process, the act of being there and looking with that magical light recording device often results in the most unexpected results. I have always recognised that the still camera has this one wonderful trick, to freeze and store a scene for long term inspection. I don't think I will ever tire of playing with that process.

In your opinion and experience, how can emerging photographers evaluate themselves as ready to start promoting their works and seek broader exposure for their photographs? What is one vital action you would recommend photographers undertake to find their audience, be included in exhibitions, and gain professional representation?

I think it takes quite some time to find your own voice and vocabulary as a photographer and there are a lot of attractive diversions along the way. Inevitably one starts by mimicking the work one admires of the previous generation and hopefully along the way one stumbles, often by accident, on to a unique path of ones own and realises one has something new to contribute to the history of the medium. When I teach I always encourage my students to 'own' their pictures and be confident being the 'author' of them, I get them to explain their decisions and I don't think its ever to early to start this process of self assessment. When you are content that you are achieving your own goals as a photographer, that is probably the point at which you are ready to show your work more widely and seek external criticism and exposure.

As a new photographer I think it is vital to recognise that people like to pigeon hole and categorise you and recognition will come more quickly if you focus your work in one area or style for the first few years, you will get shows, publications and work if you are the guy/girl that does 'that' thing....it's a shame but it's just the way humans do things. Once you are a name in your own right, you can experiment more widely and people will accept it.

How did it come about that you achieved the status of successful, professional photographer? What steps were involved in reaching your level of success?

I think confidence, self belief, enthusiasm and above all energy have driven forward most of my projects and ideas. It takes a lot of faith to see through an idea you have during the night into a published book or a public exhibition. There are always times with any project when the pictures aren't coming and you begin to doubt the whole venture. I have developed strategies to get me through these periods and they come out of experience, out of having been there before. Having the confidence to experiment and do things a differently can go a long way to getting you noticed and for commercial work simply doing a great job is the best promotion you can have.

Everyone needs a break at some point, mine was being given a job on The Independent Newspaper in London at the time when that paper was leading the way and transforming the perception of newspaper photography, it was a very exciting time to be there. I have made mistakes a long the way of course, my biggest lesson was when I started to get Advertising work in New York and allowed myself to be bullied into working in a different way to my usual approach, the pictures where not good so the next time I shot for a big US Agency I behaved like a Prima Dona, ignored the client, demanded to use my usual little cameras with no tripod making spontaneous observations like I do on the street.....it was the best commercial Ad campaign I've ever shot. Those kind of lessons can only be acquired the hard way and they are the lessons that make one a safe pair of hands for expensive commercial commissions.

The climate for photographers has and is changing constantly though and we are all having to adapt quickly, my experience of 'making it' will very likely be different for someone starting out now. My advice to anyone on a photography course now would be to get out of the classroom and get some real world experience as regularly as you can, just go down and observe a professional shoot, make coffee at a photo reps office for a week and listen to the phone calls and conversations

Grenoble, France 2010 From 'The French'

Contrevoz, France 2010 From 'The French'

Le Touquet, France 2010 From 'The French'

Artemare, France 2010 From 'The French'

Lyon, France 2010 From 'The French'

Lyon, France 2010 From 'The French'

Contrevoz, France, 2010 From 'The French'

Street Scene, London

Street Scene, London

Street Scene, London

National Portrait Gallery, London

Street Scene, London

© copyright all images Nick Turpin

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Yael Ben-Zion

What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what is the primary inspiration for you to keep working in this field?

While I have always been drawn to photography, I saw it merely as a hobby until I stumbled upon an introductory photo class at the Yale art school. I came to the U.S. to study for my LL.M. and J.S.D. degrees (masters and doctoral degrees in law), after being trained as a lawyer in Israel. While writing my dissertation, I took a couple of photography classes that opened my eyes (literally and metaphorically) to the potential of photography as an expressive art form. I think it had a lot to do with my teacher, David Hilliard. I found myself spending hours in the darkroom and later at home - editing and sequencing my work. It felt very different from writing my dissertation, which was intellectually challenging, but didn’t engage me the way photography did.
As I was already quite invested in law, it took me a few years before making the switch, but when I finally did, it just felt as the right thing for me to do. And I guess that this is what keeps me going – the passion and curiosity, and the stories I still want to tell.

In your opinion and experience, how can emerging photographers evaluate themselves as ready to start promoting their works and seek broader exposure for their photographs? What is one vital action you would recommend photographers undertake to find their audience, be included in exhibitions, and gain professional representation?

I think that one is ready to start promoting his or her work when they feel that they have something to say and figured out how they want to say it. A project may not always feel complete, but there is a time when it feels mature and ready to go out to the world.
I don’t know if there is one vital action I can recommend in order to have work out there, other than trying to show it to people in the field who may support it and/or offer viable advice. It can be done in different ways depending on the work, as well as on the photographer’s personality. In my case, a couple of portfolio reviews led me in the right direction.

How did it come about that you achieved the status of successful, professional photographer? What steps were involved in reaching your level of success?

Circumventing the more propound question of defining “success” and the prerequisite combination of hard work and chance, I will refer to 5683 miles away, as this is the project that put me where I currently am. 5683 miles away is a long-term project that was photographed in Israel. When I finally set down to make sense of the work, I realized that due to the variety of images and the layered tale I wanted to tell, the proper presentation for it would be in a form of a book. I created a book dummy and met with Alexa Becker of Kehrer at the portfolio review in Arles, and this is how the book was born. While I was still working on the book, I contacted Bob Gilson of the 92nd Y who offered me a show in their art gallery. The book and the exhibition gained recognition for the work and hopefully will enable me to reach wider audiences down the road.

Flags, from 5683 miles away

Milk, from 5683 miles away

Ella with Protective Gear, from 5683 miles away

Laundry, from 5683 miles away

Black Iris, from 5683 miles away

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, from Lost and Found

Indian wedding, from Lost and Found

Pocket dress, from Lost and Found

Murphy bed, from Lost and Found

Hanukkah candles and advent wreath, from Lost and Found

© copyright all images Yael Ben-Zion

About this Blog

Two Way Lens is a project designed to inform and inspire emerging photographers wanting to focus their creative output in a way that enhances their chances of finding an audience, being included in exhibitions and ultimately achieving gallery representation. The journey from inspired artist to successful artist is one that is often difficult to negotiate and hard to control. On these pages, I will feature the experiences and opinions of other photographers who I have found inspiring, and hopefully the knowledge they have built in their own experiences will be valuable to all of us finding our own way to sharing our creativity with the wider world.