“The lesson, basically, was that in order to stay afloat,
you want to do your own thing, develop your own style
while maintaining your awareness of what’s new and
next,” says Smirnov of working with Cramer.
Lacombe adds, “He also includes me in his professional life as much as he can.
It’s not just all about the shoot. For example, he will call up his agent or clients
to discuss jobs, and put his phone on speaker so I can hear how things happen
on the business side of things. During these phone calls I usually make mental
notes of some unfamiliar things that were discussed, and I then review these
topics with Jeff.
Hutchens is also concerned with Lacombe’s development. He sometimes asks
his assistant to do a first edit of his work, then they discuss the selection. “He always asks to see what I’ve been working on, he goes through my work and critiques
it and, on occasion, has passed jobs down to me to challenge my skills and help me
further develop my portfolio. We have even set some evenings aside just to review
my work together, and discuss which directions I should be taking, where I should
try to publish this work and how I should approach some upcoming projects.”
Gene Smirnov on Bill Cramer
Gene Smirnov considers himself “lucky” to have been mentored by Bill Cramer,
photographer and founder of the rep
firm Wonderful Machine. “I learned a lot
about the business of photography. It’s
something you can’t learn in school,” says
Smirnov, who worked 9 to 5 for two years
in the company’s office.
Smirnov explains, “The best thing I
learned from him was how to be resilient in this tough economy. And it wasn’t
something he taught me, but something
I picked up from being around him and
his staff. The lesson, basically, was that in
order to stay afloat, you want to do your
own thing, develop your own style while
maintaining your awareness of what’s
new and next. It’s extremely important
to always stay on course and never give
up. Consistency and persistence is an amazing combination.”
© ANDRE W KAHL/ WONDERFUL MACHINE
Gene Smirnov (above) feels lucky to have
been mentored by Bill Cramer.
luke CoppinG on rhea anna
Luke Copping had done a variety of photography jobs –working as an assistant,
a stylist, and a product shooter—but felt frustrated and burnt out. He tried taking a secure, salaried job in graphic design. When that didn’t satisfy, he started
shooting photos again, and in late 2008, he decided to look up Rhea Anna, the
© 2011 PE TER DENNON
© LUKE COPPING
Luke Copping (left) says working with Rhea Anna (right) re-excited his passion for photography.
photographer he had assisted during summer vacations while he attended the
summers while he attended Rochester Institute of Photography. Working with
Anna, he says, re-excited his passion for photography.
“One of the first lessons I learned from Rhea was the importance of shooting
work for myself and not just to please other people,” says Copping, who now believes photographers have to “show what you want to shoot.” He says Anna taught
by her own example the importance of shooting personal work. “She has evolved
greatly as an artist and I was lucky enough to see this evolution first hand,” he says.
Working as a digital technician, Copping has enjoyed collaborating with Anna.
“We are always working together to create the imagery that is best for the project.
Though I am now fairly established in my own work I find that she always has valu-
able insights to share with me on my own work and business development too.”
He often asks Anna her opinion on his latest work. “Most importantly I find that
because of her influence I am a much happier and more creative person than I was
in my first foray into this business. In many ways I would not be where I am today
if it wasn’t for her and the guidance and support she has given me over the years.”
“One of the first lessons I learned from Rhea was the
importance of shooting for myself and not just to
please other people,” says Copping.
Jenn pettheiSer on BruCe WeBer
Editorial portrait photographer Jenn Pettheiser worked in the studio of Bruce
Weber in 1998 and 1999, and then had a chance to assist on shoots. Not that she
played an important role; she says she was fifth assistant. Now that she runs her
own studio, she says, “I have never heard of a fifth assistant since then nor could
I ever imagine now as a shooter having the need for a fifth.” Still, she says, even
though she was just one part of a very large production crew, she learned a lot
watching how Weber organized and guided
“All of the while that he was creating
beautiful images, he made everyone— assistants, art directors, models and caterers— feel at ease and part of his crew.” After
a week of shooting on location, Pettheiser
recalls, “Bruce called his assistants in for a
pow-wow. He compared what we were
doing all over the country making pictures
with being on tour in a band playing music.
He reminded us that while he might be the
lead singer of this great big rock-and-roll
band, his music wouldn’t sound too good
if the drummer, guitarist or the guy driving
the truck with the sound equipment were
not performing at his best. Even as a fifth
assistant on that shoot, Bruce’s little chat really made me feel part of his team and
his words stuck with me.”
COUR TES Y OF JENN PE T THEISER
Portrait photographer Jenn Pettheiser.
Pettheiser, who opened her own business in 2002, says she learned from
Weber’s example. “I always try to have my crew realize how important each of
their roles is to the shoot that day. My assistants, producer, makeup artist, tech and
every person on set help to make me look better. I try to make sure that they know
how vital they are to the success of each and every one of our performances.”
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