were trying to make beautiful [portraits],
rather than trying for a narrative shoot.”
Wood says he worked 80-hour weeks,
commissioning “every photo for 20 issues” of
the magazine. He was frequently coordinating
celebrity portrait shoots with 10 or 15
photographers around the world, all at the same
time. He often joined them on set, where he
observed their workflow, and learned by watching
how to solve problems, project confidence
and interact with subjects and crew on set.
Back at the office, Wood learned about
budgeting, the mechanics of production, and
how they affect the outcome of a shoot.
“The creative decisions you make early
[in the production process]—simple things
like the location, and whether to shoot inside
or outside, whether to shoot in a studio, or
drive around and taking fly-on-the-wall
photographs, or whether to shoot at the same
time the writer is there or not—all that stuff
really has impact on the work,” Wood explains.
The job also taught him about the internal
politics of editorial production. “It allowed
me to understand the perspective and
position of photo editors. If a not-so-good
photo ends up in print, it may not be the
photo editor’s fault,” Wood says. “I learned a
lot about what informs what ends up on the
pages of magazines, and how to direct things
strategically to get the best stuff there.”
By the end of his tenure at The FADER, he
says, “people knew who I was. They looked
at my work.” His experience as a photo editor
has enabled him “to have informed, in-depth
conversations with photo editors.” He’s also
learned how to interact and negotiate with
publicists before a shoot, and how to work
with them on set. “I also understand what
editors need in an edit to get good stuff on the
page,” Wood says.
All those skills came to bear, for instance,
when he had to shoot eight actors—ranging from
emerging talent to A-list stars—in eight different
locations for a spread in DuJour magazine. “I had
10 minutes with one, and an hour and a half with
others. It was a blank slate as to where, what, and
how to shoot,” Wood says. His challenge was to
make it feel cohesive. He had to parse locations,
juggle schedules, and “do the publicist dance”
with several of them all at once.
For a men’s knitwear feature in The New
York Times style section, Wood was assigned
to shoot a series of portraits. It was a typical
assignment for print. “But I knew from The
FADER that the web is the place where
anything goes. So I told the Times that online
we could make it totally different,” Wood says.
He suggested making diptychs juxtaposing
images of the knitwear with images of natural
objects. “And we did it,” he says.
Wood says that to rise up out of the
“primordial image-making sludge” and launch
a career “requires a break, or something unique.
Some people start magazines themselves. For
me, it happened to be this photo editing work.
It was huge for me…I say it was my grad school.
It added another layer of creative richness and
depth and understanding of the medium.”
After studying photography at New York
University, Macel worked as a studio manager
for Bruce Davidson in the early 2000s. Looking
at his images all day inspired her to “jump and
become a photographer myself,” she says. But
her leap turned out to be premature. “I had
only seen what the life of an older, established
artist was,” she says. “I knew nothing about the
business side” of building a career.
She ended up taking a job as a producer
at Art Department for photographers
including Platon, Steve McCurry, Robert
Maxwell, Christian Witkin and Rankin.
She quickly learned the essential business
skills: budgeting, handling creative calls,
figuring out what clients want to hear from
photographers, and what creative directors
and photo editors are looking for when
“This is all the nitty gritty stuff, the real life
experience of being a photographers, as seen
through the eyes of the person making sure
their life is running smoothly,” Macel says.
It was an all-encompassing job, that occupied
all of Macel’s attention. But ultimately, she
wanted to be a photographer, not a producer,
so she left Art Department to earn a master’s
degree at the School of Visual Arts.
Macel is the author of May the Road
Rise to Meet You. She shoots fine-art work
and editorial assignments, and teaches
photography at State University of New York
and City University of New York. In addition
to telling students to learn as much as they
can from photo industry jobs they take on the
way to careers as photographers, “The most
important advice is to constantly work on your
own [projects],” Macel says. “Keep focusing on
your own work, because that’s the end goal.”
And, she adds, “The photo world is a small
world. Be kind to everyone. You never know
which intern of yours [will end up] a photo
editor” at some magazine you want to work for.
ABOVE: Natalie Portman, for DuJour magazine.
“I understand what editors need in an edit to get
good stuff on the page,” Wood says.
BELOW: For the Everything Is Stories podcast, Sara Macel photographed Sulome Anderson holding a photo of
herself as a child with her father, journalist Terry Anderson. “Find what’s most useful in any job to help you”
build a career as a photographer, says Macel, who worked as a producer before becoming a photographer.