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A Fitts + Wolinsky Review

April 2, 2010 Getting an edge in a world brimming with creative professionals is a no-brainer these days if one wants steady, creative work. As more and more competition builds for those jobs, finding that edge and developing it is just as important as creating a great body of images. What kind of images do you need to get the job? How should you present it? Boston University's Center for Digital Imaging Arts helped answer those questions Saturday, March 27, with a portfolio review by Creative Director Jim Fitts, and National Geographic photographer Cary Wolinsky. Together, Jim and Cary brought with them over 65 years of creative professional experience as to what it is that art directors, photo editors, and advertising agencies look for in a photographer. Jim Fitts, the current Executive Creative Director at Avenue, Inc. in Chicago, led the charge as the “employer”, with his extensive background in photography and art direction, while Cary Wolinsky, a 30 year veteran of the photography world and co-founder of CDIA, took the roll as seasoned professional photographer. Both gave a wonderful and striking balance of what the “real world ” will expect from you as a creative professional. Jim spoke about what he looks for in a photographer, citing “quality-consistency-vision” as the three things he looks for before hiring. Can you as the photographer deliver these things? The importance of making your employer, "the Creative Director,” look like a star, was not understated by him either. Photographers may not always have this in the forefront when doing commercial work, but it is something I have personally heard many times from other successful creative people. Make your boss look good, and be someone with whom they cannot do without. Do this, and you're sure to succeed. Cary gave an anecdote about a friend of his who was inquiring about photographers for her daughter's upcoming wedding. Cary took on the role of Creative Director while reviewing (the) five photographers for his friend. Again the need for “quality-consistency-vision” was the decisive factor in making the final choice. All five were great photographers, but consistency and vision is what finally set them apart. Cary eventually chose the one he felt could deliver this the best. This need for consistency became more apparent as the portfolio portion of the session began. As Jim began looking over the first portfolio, Cary remarked he should review them the way he normally would: as if the photographer were able to get him to personally view their portfolio. With lightning speed Jim cruised through the first portfolio, shocking some of the attendees. Explaining that with the volume of photographs he has seen over the years, he can tell in a matter of seconds per image if the photographer has what it takes for the job. This shouldn't be understated; this was a fast, critical assessment by a seasoned professional with 40 years of reviewing portfolios. The exact kind of feedback you are likely to get at any Ad agency worth their merit. Jim was direct, blunt, and honest in his critique. A directness I personally found refreshing, though some may have been surprised by. He was quite forthcoming with his accolades as well, sharing these with each photographer whose portfolio he viewed. Several of the portfolios reviewed during the session were inconsistent on their subject matter, and consistency is something Jim remarked is absolutely necessary to have when showing your personal work for employment. Having a good body of work that was strong without any weak images was stressed. If you apply for a food photography position for example, your portfolio should have only food in it. “One generic portfolio does not work anymore,” Jim said. Gear it towards the job you are going for. When meeting with a potential employer, Jim recommended to listen, bring a notebook, and jot down anything the employer may say. He stated your work should speak for itself. In a portfolio review for a gallery— listen. Listening is what you paid for to get that personal review of your work. Don't waste it. Both Cary and Jim were emphatic on this point. “If your work doesn't speak for itself, don't show it,” Cary stated. How should you get seen and make your way up the food chain to show your work? Jim mentioned starting with the new, younger creative professionals. Build those relationships and make a name with them. Jim said he still works with people he met 30 years ago. The relationships you build will last a long time. And what are the two questions Jim always asks when he interviews a prospective photographer? 1. "What do you know about me?" He said this shows the person has done their homework and is professional and curious. 2. "What do you want to be?" It shows what the person is about, or that they have a vision. In closing Jim asked if anybody learned anything. One attendee remarked that it was amazing the difference between somebody who knows what they are doing and someone who just looks at photos. Another commented they just need to get out there and shoot more. On the topic of shooting more Cary said, “You really got to get out there and shoot. You have to respect the tools of your trade and get better and better at them.” After attending Jim and Cary's portfolio review its clear the camera is just one of those tools you need to keep sharp. Having a rocking portfolio and knowing how to use it is what really gives you the edge. Here are some images that Jim and Cary enjoyed: Image by Colleen Dubois Image by Laura Young Image by Alexandra Minton Image by Kathleen Ezersky Image by Amos Terry


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