Editorial Insider – Why Garden & Gun really is the soul of the south.

People always ask me how we think of ideas for our blog and is it hard to ask people to contribute.  We are very fortunate to have a network of friends and colleagues that we can draw from and ask for their input.  It is of course easiest with the people we know personally, but those that we do not are just as generous with their time.

Andy Anderson has photographed for Garden & Gun in the past so I have always been a fan of their photography.  He spoke so highly of their photography director, Maggie Kennedy, that I thought she would be a great person to contact and ask to contribute.  Even though we never worked together personally, she was more than willing to share her thoughts.

Even though Garden & Gun is a national magazine, it is often mistaken for a regional one because it is based in the south. This couldn’t be more far from the truth.

She and I agreed that a post about the little things that people may not know about Garden & Gun and her job would be a great way to share with others how special the publication really is.

Here is what she had to say.

I was honored when Heather asked me to contribute to her fabulous blog and thought it could be an opportunity to share not only my passion for photography and the magazine but share a few things about Garden & Gun and my job that you may not know.

•  Garden & Gun is a national publication about Southern lifestyle and culture with an emphasis on photography. We have a nuanced view of the South so it’s not uncommon to find varied topics in one issue such as the best barbecue sandwiches in the South, a profile of Emmylou Harris, a photo essay focused on falconry or a feature on New Orleans artist Noel Rockmore.

 In one weekend in May, Garden & Gun won a National Magazine Award for General Excellence and a James Beard Journalism Award. We are still pinching ourselves.

•  The magazine’s name comes from the old Garden & Gun Club in Charleston, South Carolina. The happening club/disco late 70’s, early 80’s. Our building, built in 1808, was once a girl’s school, Civil War hospital, and the city’s best apothecary, whose inventory was donated to the Smithsonian Institute in 1978. The doors, windows, and floors are all uneven.

•  I love how the country seems to have a genuine interest in the South. Magazines covering food, shelter, outdoor, sport, etc. continue to highlight our region as well as dedicating entire issues to a Southern topic. This wasn’t the case a few years ago and it’s exciting to be part of this trend.

•  The South is such a beautiful place so I consider myself very lucky to work with a publication where photography is a driving component of its’ design and reader interest.   There is care and thoughtfulness put into each issue, each article and each photograph.  I’m proud to have been a part of the team since the first issue in 2007.

•  I love photography. I love my job. I love meeting photographers, sending them on assignments, hearing the war stories. To us in the office, the photographers are the rock stars on tour.

•  I like to work with a combination of up-and-coming Southern shooters and nationally established talent. There are so many talented photographers based in the South. Some have spent years traveling the globe and have made their home here. Others have lived in the South their entire lives and are making a national name for themselves.

•  Our photography strives to be iconic Southern, not kitchy. Soulful images that make our readers want to be there, in the moment. Lots of natural light, lifestyle, rarely conceptual. You’ll find gritty as well as a more polished look which supports our editorial range.

•  We love to run full page photos and print on high quality paper stock. I pay close attention to color proofs and reproduction of the images to ensure the photography is going to look its’ best.

•  I want to put our photographers in a position to succeed by allowing them to express their creativity during assignments. I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to work with so much talent. Shooters are hired based on their individual style. They get what the magazine is all about and bring their interpretation visually. If a project is too controlled beyond the basic who/what/when/where, I believe the end product will suffer. I love it when I see Garden & Gun images on their website or in a portfolio.

• I get to assign/edit projects ranging from taxidermy to five-star cuisine and everything in between. Did I mention I love my job?

•  I enjoy continuing to build a strong stable of shooters both nationally and in the South. I always welcome pitches from photographers when ideas fit within our content. We’re also increasing our photo essays online so I’m always on the hunt for creative material.

If you are a photo editor and would like to share with us what it is like to work at your publication, please email us.  We would be happy to feature you.

Looking for a rep? Consider these tips first. You never know, they might just work.

© Ron Berg – www.ronbergphoto.com

Last year, I wrote a very short blog post for The Workbook about a phone call I received from a photographer.   In light of a flurry of recent calls, I thought it was a good time to resurrect the post and expand on it.

We receive calls and emails from emerging photographers looking for representation all the time.  I am always amazed at how many of them start off the conversation, “ Hi, my name is Joe Smith and I am looking for a rep.  Are you adding talent to your roster?”  If we are not adding talent at the time of the call, I immediately say no.   It is an easy conversation and over quickly.

I always think it is unfortunate that he didn’t say something like, “Hi.  I am Joe.  I am looking for someone I can share my work with.  I thought of you because I like the photographers you represent.  Do you ever review photographer’s work that you don’t represent?”  Indeed my answer would have varied based on how busy I was.  But, at the very least I would have suggested to him to send his website.  Who knows, I may have liked it and started to look out for his name and his work.

If you want to get our attention, we are sorry to say, it is long before the phone call.  Here are a few tips on how to reach out to a rep and get noticed.

First and foremost, before an agent can seriously consider you for their roster, there is one criteria that is a given.  Without it, a commercial photography agency will not be able to partner with you to increase your business. 

The criteria is this:  Your work must be marketable.

This is the most important step to getting through the door.  We are commercial photography agents that show your work to top creative agencies, photo editors and designers.  It is important that your work be creatively relevant. The majority of the time nude photos of your girlfriend are not commercially relevant.  An image that a client can easily recognize their product or brand in is an image that will get our attention.

Now, assuming that your work is commercially relevant, the following tips (in no particular order) will help you to begin a relationship with a rep and ultimately partner with one.

#1)  You need to be your own rep first.

There are 3 reasons that this is important:

The first is so that you understand what is required of a rep.  You need to know how hard it is to get an appointment or to get someone to check out your website.  And, you need to struggle a bit with the awkwardness of sales so that you can appreciate the effort required to build strong relationships.

The second reason is so that you hear first hand what people think about your work.  You need to recognize that if you ask 10 people about your work you will get 12 different answers.  Having these conversations on your own will help you to define what the common thread of your work is, see what isn’t working and ultimately develop a brand identity for your business.

The third reason is that it is no longer ok to think once you have a rep, you can cross marketing off of your to do list. Nowadays we require all of our photographers – no matter how successful they are – to get out there themselves to share what they have been up to lately.  No rep can replace the power of the photographer connection.

#2)  You need to be able to support yourself

We appreciate the photographer that comes to our group already working.  This not only shows that clients trust them but it gives us some breathing room.  It takes a long time to get a new photographer up and running.  We like to set expectations and say that from the date your images are first up on our website, it takes a full year to get your work around the country.  A photographer that already has some clients will be more patient with this process.

It is important to note that this source of work does not need to be commercial projects.  We have represented photographers that have connections in the retail, editorial, stock, retouching and fine art worlds that have kept them going while their commercial careers got started.

#3)  You need to have money to spend.

Any good rep will require you to market your work.  Marketing your work will cost money.  Source books, websites, portfolio renovations, direct mail and emailers all cost money.  If you cannot afford to market yourself on a high end level than it may still be time to market yourself.

#4)  You need to do your homework

Please do not send us a basic email asking us to represent you.  The web makes it very easy now to get to know an agent, see how they market, learn the type of work that appeals to them.  When you contact us, please show us that you did your homework and explain why we should look at your work and why you would be a good fit for us.  We cant expect someone to hire one of our photographers just because I sent them an email blast.  That would be nice but it rarely happens.  We need to do the necessary leg work for them to get to know our photographers first.

#5)  You need to be patient.

It will take time to find a rep that is the right fit for you. Timing is everything so spend your time wisely.  Know that any time invested in getting to know a rep and having a rep get to know you will pay off in dividends later.  Maybe they will represent you, maybe they will refer you to another rep.  Regardless of the outcome, if you are able to connect with a rep my guess is there will be advice, friendship and partnership that will help you all along the way.

It is rare when we make changes in our group but when we do, the first people we consider are the ones we have had a relationship with over the years.

#6)  Be creative

We still have promos from photographers that we thought were well done and stood out amongst the others.  While we are not representing them, we have referred them for a job or two.  When a solicitation stands out to us, we feel compelled to connect.  We try our hardest to respond to those promos that are well thought out, relevant and creative.  If someone spent the time to get to know us and target us specifically, we want to make sure they know they were heard.

#7) Be a good person

This really should be #1 or even up there with the Marketing Relevancy criteria.  And, it really should go without saying.  Be nice, be respectful and be a good person.  And, we hope you would expect the same from us.

#8)  You need to tailor your marketing to reps

We are neither art buyers nor an art directors.  We are neither clients nor photo editors.  We are a agents.  For us it is not about just about the image or even the story behind the image.  For us, it is all about the above points.  If you are going to reach out to us, please take into account all that we will take into account when considering you and your work.  Address all of our questions up front and sell us on why we should consider you.   Recognize that we may have a need in our group and offer a way to fill it.

We recently received a promo from a photographer that included a bullet point note that outlined everything he was doing for his marketing, who his current clients were and which clients he would like to work for some day.  This  letter showed us that he had a handle on how we worked.  His work conflicted with another one of our photographers and we are not currently looking BUT we still reached out and let him know we were impressed.  We now know his name and will keep an eye open for his work.  You just never know.

Have anything to add?  Please do email us.

A week of interviews. Alison McCreery of POP blog keeps the questions coming.

© Kevin Twomey - www.kevintwomey.com

Alison McCreery of Photographers on Photography blog reached out to me after my Dear Art Buyer letter in the hopes that I would provide her with an interview about my thoughts on marketing and repping.  I was familiar with her blog and thought her recent interviews were very informative.  I appreciate how she asks questions that get people thinking so I was more than happy to oblige.

Below are the questions that she asked me as well as the link to her blog to read the answers.

And, if you actually read through the whole thing, be sure to keeping reading because her interview with David Jay of the Scar Project is powerful to say the least.


Here are the questions:

1)  You’ve been a rep for 15 years. What is your background and what do you enjoy about being a rep?

2)  How important is it that your photographers market themselves in addition to your efforts?

3)  How often is video included in the brief and are you encouraging all your photographers to build a motion portfolio?

4)  I want to ask you about your blog. It’s the only rep blog that is used to foster conversations and an openness between art buyers and reps. You also feature in-depth discussions by your photographers about the stories behind their personal and commercial projects. It stands alone as a much appreciated resource. What was your inspiration for taking this approach and what feedback have you gotten?

5)  Many of the ways in which you run your agency are about furthering the conversation. How has this impacted the relationships you have with art buyers and the dialogues between your photographers and agencies and clients?

6)  With blogging and an interest in personal work, there is a deeper understanding of the photographer and their creative process. Have art buyer’s expectations changed as a result? And has this had an effect on the way photographers contribute to the creative process? And are photographers producing different work?

7) You represent nine photographers, several with overlapping specialties but all with differing styles. What was the strategy behind building your roster?

8) The Specialty section on your site is an innovative way of presenting your photographers. Are art buyers finding this helpful?

9) You’ve been a rep for 15 years, how have you adapted to the challenges of tighter budgets and evolved how you work with clients and agencies?

10) There are a lot of agencies and many talented photographers based in San Francisco. What percentage of the jobs you bid on are for out of town agencies and for local agencies?

11)  What is a recent project that one of your photographers shot for a Bay Area agency?

From the desk of Connie Conway. Insights from a Producer

©Ann Elliott Cutting


“You have how much to shoot this campaign?”

I catch myself thinking this all too often nowadays.  My name is Connie Conway and I am a producer for Hunter Freeman and other advertising photographers and this is my new reality.  Not a reality that I am fond of but one that I have learned to accept.  (If I didn’t I’d be bagging groceries at the local store and I’m sure the eggs won’t be on top!)

I tell the photographers that I work with that the budgets may be smaller, but smaller budgets just make me think smarter.  So much of this is obvious, but a reminder now and again is always helpful.

Here is what works for me:

-I remind the photographers that estimating is not personal, it is a process.

-I take full advantage of access to the key players at the beginning of the estimating process and am not afraid of asking the hard questions.  I prepare for “the call”.  Sometimes it is the only chance I will get to ask the money saving questions.  I ask the same of the photographers.

-I make suggestions, I brainstorm, I provide options.  I make the photographer and the client part of the decision making process.  I do not want to play art director, I just want to give them what they need so they can!

-I repurpose locations and I have alternate locations in my back pocket that can replace ones with high permit and location fees.

I make my crew aware up front – during the estimating process – about budget limitations. They need to feel like they are part of the decision to make this project come in on budget before they commit.

I pay my talent on set – a trick that often gets me the best talent, even when the budget is tight.

I anticipate challenges and deal with them before they become problems.

I am flexible and nimble and require the same of my crew.

I ask for a lot and freely take no for an answer. It can’t hurt to ask, right?

And, finally, while I know that I am a valuable part of a project, I never take for granted that there are many talented people who want to be working. I remind myself of that every day as I strive to be the smartest producer I can be.