A good night’s rest and an excellent cup of coffee (from Crema, in this case) is all we needed to re-charge for our second day of meetings in Nashville after being in Birmingham the previous day. One thing I immediately noticed about the city, aside from the 350,000 square foot Music City Center that can fit nearly seven Boeing planes inside of it, was how unbelievably friendly and accommodating everyone was. Opportunity for a courtesy nod or smile never goes overlooked in good ‘ol Nash.
Our first destination was iostudio, a creative agency with an impressive collection of work under their belt. The designers and creative team were super welcoming and suggested plenty of things to check out in Nashville (noted for future visits: hot chicken.) In between the friendly chatter, they raved about portfolios of a few local photographers we shared, like Robby Klein and Josh Anderson. Seeing as the agency does a lot of work with the National Guard (fun fact: their offices act as a call center for enlisting), Jonathan Chapman‘s action lifestyle images stood out among the books. Not only was Andrew Maguire‘s book a hit, but his promo pieces were too. We were also pleasantly surprised to learn that they were Hollis Bennett fans, and already had a shoot scheduled with him for an upcoming project.
Jonathan Chapman’s portfolio:
We were anticipating our visit to Catapult Marketing for days. A huge agency with 10 offices around the country, their Nashville branch consistently zeroes in on pet-related clients. We made sure to show them an array of lifestyle books, but the obvious stars here were Winnie Au, Barbara O’Brien and Landon Nordeman. Winnie’s portfolio is not only adorable and kept everyone squealing from page to page, but impressed the Catapult team with the quality of her photographs. Barbara and Landon both had leave-behinds available–mini books showcasing their best pooches. Despite their animal focus, people are important to them too, as they enjoyed Stewart Cohen‘s portraits.
Winnie Au’s portfolio:
Our last stop of the day, and the only one-on-one meeting of the trip was at Warner Music, where sat down with Creative Director Shane Tarleton. His cozy office, Christmas tree in tow, felt like we walked into a William Sonoma catalog–except with a bunch of platinum-selling records on the wall. Being a huge music fan, I was excited about this one. He looked thoroughly through the stack of books we brought him, mentioning the excitement he feels when he has the opportunity to look at prints. Shane favored Stephanie Diani‘s style, along with Robby Klein‘s, who he’s worked with in the past. Fate fell into place when he opened Ryan Gibson‘s book. It happened to be the exact vision he had for an upcoming album shoot for a rock band, and was interested in contacting Ryan immediately. That was a perfect note to end on for us.
Shane’s cozy office.
Stephanie Diani’s portfolio:
With our muscles significantly stronger from hauling portfolio cases for days, we high-fived (really) and got to enjoy our last night in Nashville at Tavern Midtown with a handful of Wonderful Machiners. It was a fun way to close out our stay, although we were tempted to cancel our flight home and stay in Nashville forever.
Ironically, our flight did get cancelled, and we had the luxury of spending an extra 9 hours in the Nashville airport the next day. We did eventually make it home safely to reflect on the fabulous experience for all of you. Can’t wait to do it all again soon!
Last week, the lovely Elyse Leyenberger and I set out for the South with 150 pounds of luggage filled with an array of impressive portfolios. We had the luxury of relaxing once we touched down in Birmingham as our meetings didn’t begin until the morning. So, naturally, we found ourselves at El Barrio, a Mexican downtown hotspot where we inhaled delicious tacos. Seriously, I don’t even remember chewing them.
Our first stop the next morning was at Time Inc. As we drove up a labyrinth-like path to the building, we were wondering if they accidentally sent us to a magical Autumn wonderland. Alas, we were in the right place, as the building was surrounded by creeks, small waterfalls and every leaf shade of the season. There we met photography director Julie Claire and the ladies of Cooking Light, who we were delighted to hear utilize Wonderful Machine’s website often when looking to hire photographers. They were coincidentally working with local photographer Stephen DeVries on the following day. Aside from loving Stephen’s style, they were big fans of the documentary feel that Alan Gastelum‘s work presents as well as Lincoln Barbour‘s food and home decor images. Because of Kyle Dreier‘s art director background, his food photography is more conceptual, as well as colorful and vivid, which really seemed to stand out.
Pushing the portfolio cart through the incredible Time Inc lobby.
The popularity of those three photographers was consistent among the Southern Living and Coastal Living staff as well. Art Meripol, who was Southern Living’s staff photographer for nearly 25 years, made an appearance in the books we shared and they enjoyed seeing a familiar name. Jessica Glynn‘s clean-cut book of interiors was a favorite between both of the magazines. Coastal was specifically thankful that she is in fact located along the coast (Palm Beach, FL to be exact)–which was the same case for Preston Mack. Local pair Beall + Thomas also left a lasting impression.
Beall + Thomas’ portfolio:
If it were up to us we would have never left Time’s beautiful offices, but with three successful meetings under our belt, we made our way to Lewis Communications–a top branding and advertising agency with offices in Birmingham, Mobile and Nashville. As soon as we spotted their bookshelves lined with awards, we knew they were the real deal. Their team was as enthusiastic as we could have asked for, and looked through every book thoroughly. Seeing as how they were not as familiar with Wonderful Machine, we informed them of our directory of photographers, crew, stock request feature and production services–all of which could assist them during future projects. Adair Freeman‘s collection of kids and lifestyle portraits resonated with all of the work Lewis does with children’s hospitals. Landon Nordeman, David Ellis and Mike Nemeth all seemed to fall in line with the work they use at the company as well.
There seemed to be no better way to take a load off (aside from distributing all of our photographers promos and leave-behinds to everyone we met with) than to grab a few drinks at The J.Clyde. It was here that I was introduced to my dream beer: Good People American Brown Ale, a local Birmingham brew. Oh yeah, and I was introduced to some of our photographers from the area, too! It was great to put names to faces, especially after promoting their books all day. Kerri Bunn, a stylist from our Crew page even joined the party.
Chatting at the J.Clyde with Stephen DeVries, Cary Norton, and Art Meripol.
After exchanging quality laughs and conversation, Elyse and I bid our farewells to the great city of Birmingham. We drove many miles in the dark to Nashville, where we buried our heads into guitar-patterned pillows and memory foam mattresses in preparation for the Southern adventures yet to come. More on those later.
Last Thursday, I arrived bright and early at photo editor Sean Stone’s house for my first New York City portfolio adventure. We cruised up the New Jersey Turnpike with our rental car chock full of portfolios, graced by the sweet sounds of classic rock XM radio. Arriving safely in Times Square, we stacked our dolly with books and prepared for a great day of meetings with various editorial clients.
First up: Condé Nast Traveler’s photography department. We chatted with photo editors Esin and Nelida about some upcoming projects that they were seeking specific images for. As their team of photo editors joined us, they checked out the selection we had spread of our finest travel photographers’ work. Although it was a brief meeting, we managed to chat with the team as they took several leave-behinds and business cards for future reference.
Particularly popular among the Condé Nast Traveler team were UK-based photographer Julian Love’s travel images, bound together in a magnificent leather book. The team also discussed photographer Yadid Levy, whom they had worked with before, but learned of his relocation to Israel. They also loved Christopher Shane‘s food and travel images, as well as his unique scrapbook-style presentation.
View Julian’s full portfolio here:
As they’re working under a new Editor-In-Chief, the staffers at Condé Nast Traveler were very engaged in looking at the books to see how our Wonderful Machine photographers will fit into their new editorial direction.
Food Network Magazine was next on our list, located on the 35th floor of the gorgeous Hearst Building where we met with Alice, the photography director, and her photo editors. Sean and I passed books around the table as we engaged in conversation surrounding the photographers we were showing, what was in the works at Food Network Magazine and, naturally, about Wonderful Machine.
Popular books among this group included Kyle Dreier’s conceptual food photographs, Brian Wetzstein’s vivid images of delicious food, and Jennifer May’s awesome farm to table work. The ladies at Food Network informed us about a travel insert they are including in the publication, which led us to show them some of the travel and lifestyle books we had brought along with us. They loved Winnie Au’s lifestyle portfolio and took some of her leave-behind envelopes. We threw in some fashionable WM t-shirts for fun as well!
View Winnie’s new portfolio here:
After a food pitstop, we scooted our portfolio dolly to the Time Building to meet with a photo editor at All You Magazine, where we shared food and fashion lifestyle books. The work of Richard Fleischman, Leo Gong, and Julie Bidwell all received a high amount of interest. The editor was excited to hear about our vast amount of members in various geographic locations, because they often have shoots in unusual locations and WM can be a great tool for them.
After our day of successful meetings, Sean and I grabbed a drink at The Ginger Man to avoid the rush hour traffic before heading out of the city and waving goodbye to the beautiful New York skyline. Another successful portfolio event in the books!
We woke up early on our final morning in Detroit and had a great breakfast. On the drive to the first meeting, we listened to some Detroit rockers like Funkadelic, Bob Segar and The Stooges. Our first meeting was at Commonwealth, located in the Fillmore Theatre building right across from Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. With a great view of the city, we set up our breakfast catering, along with books for the Commonwealth team to check out. They were swamped, but folks did stick around to chat with us about what’s going on at the agency. Commonwealth is the joint venture of East Coast McCann Erickson and West Coast Goodby Silverstein & Partners. They started about a year ago to fill the void when a lot of Detroit agencies closed their doors. Their clients include automakers across the board. They wanted to see LA car shooters, so we pulled out John Early’s book. They loved it and grabbed his leave behinds as well as a few others.
Wesley enjoys some books with a creative at Commonwealth.
Next, we headed out of the city for a little taste of Southfield, MI to check in with the folks at Doner, an agency of about 600 employees worldwide. Their Michigan office is housed in their own branded building right off the highway, and is full of energy and artwork. Doner themed paintings covered the walls, along with little write-ups about their successful campaigns, and pieces from old ads in cases—I thought it was a really great way to remember their roots.
Inside, we met their creative services assistant who arranged a giant conference room for us to welcome creatives. We set out books, catering, promos and swag and waited for the hordes to arrive. The group looked at the books and gave us feedback about what they were up to. They loved the work of local shooters CJ Benninger and Tom Roche.
Doner works with Coleman, Chrysler and Cox Communications, so they have interests across the board. Their creatives were really happy to hear about our services, including the production coordination and stock research. After wrapping up, we said our goodbyes and headed to our next meeting, but not before a stop at Buddy’s Pizza, where we watched some international little league baseball while enjoying our deep dish pizzas.
Satisfied, we headed to Team Detroit, a company with clients like Ford, Lincoln and Sports Authority.
We had a great turn out at Team Detroit, with a nice group of art producers hanging out the whole time, whom we still owe t-shirts in the proper sizes (we didn’t forget y’all!). Some of them were already familiar with WM, having worked with a few of our local guys. They enjoyed looking at some of the lifestyle shooters we had, like Stephen Devries. As we chatted about Wonderful Machine news, and gave our spiel about the new services we’ve been rolling out, they were particularly thrilled to hear about the crew page. We passed out cards, ate some cookies, and then said goodbye—giving Craig and I plenty of time to pack up and get to the airport.
A little Detroit ambiance.
Getting back to Soft Pretzel City late in the evening, Craig and I gave one last fist bump. We did it… again. The universe is once again in order; the world may now sleep soundly.
Hello! Welcome to this month’s Portfolio Event Diary, where our heroes Craig Oppenheimer and Wesley Kays-Henry (that’s me!) travel to the Motor City of Detroit to share photography portfolios. We had a lot of ground to cover, with six meetings scheduled in two days. Although we didn’t make it to Canada (spoiler alert!), we had a blast seeing the current and former beauty that is Detroit. It’s a city that doesn’t have the option of sugar coating the truth, and I find serenity in that.
Craig and I rolled into Detroit with about 30 portfolios late on a Tuesday night. Although our hotel was in the heart of city, there wasn’t a soul in sight. Empty streets and steaming sewer grates gave off the surreal feeling of a zombie apocalypse, or a dream sequence—Vanilla Sky anyone? Shrugging the eerie aside, we hit the hay, knowing we had two very long days ahead.
The next morning we arose to a bustling city filled with amazing art deco, neo-gothic and neoclassical architecture. Even the suburbs are old and beautiful. I surveyed the scenery while Craig drove us to AutoWeek, a Crain Communications publication. AutoWeek’s offices feature a lovely atrium-lobby. After some amazing glamor shots in front of yours truly, we headed in to meet with the creative director.
It was no surprise that their CD wanted to check out automotive work. Most of our local guys had shot for, or were at least on the radar of AutoWeek—including Jeremy Deputat and Roy Ritchie. But, surprisingly, the CD asked to see some fashion work as well. We weren’t expecting this, but luckily had George Kamper‘s portfolio on hand. Together the CD and photo editor looked through his book and kept talking about models leaning on cars, or replacing the models with cars entirely, but keeping the high gloss/fashion feel to the images. They said that they tend to shoot about two assignments per issue, and enjoy shooting outside of the city whenever possible. After our brief meeting, we packed up for our next review at SMZ in Troy, MI.
SMZ is a medium-sized agency with clients all over Detroit. These include The Lottery, The Tigers, and The Michigan Dental Association. We discussed how the automotive photography world works, stock backgrounds, CGI cars, and more. They also have a lot of lifestyle clients, so we tried to switch it up from the typical Detroit automotive pitch. Stacy Zarin-Goldberg‘s work was a definite favorite—particularly her photos featuring pets.
Next, we headed further out of Detroit to a town called Clarkston, home of Union Adworks, an agency with Chrysler, Kellogg’s Brand and Scott Shuptrine Interiors as clients. Union is located in a suburban neighborhood, which backs up to a small lake. The old building they occupy was originally a schoolhouse that Henry Ford bought in 1913 to sew Jeep interiors.
Inside, we set up in the hearth of the business. Their Creative Director looked at all the books (quite a feat I assure you!), and chatted with us about their recent move into the building, their clients, and again, using backgrounds for CGI with automotive ads. The manufacturers do so many redesigns, they would rather have the option of switching it out last minute than holding off the ad. As creatives wandered in and out, they checked out the work of Tim Klein, Janko Williams and more.
Eventually, we packed up and headed to meet with some of our photographers at Bookie’s Bar for happy hour. We talked with Joe Vaughn and Roy Ritchie, along with their wives and CJ Benninger about the spirit of Detroit photography, and checked out CJ’s new book (totally awesome, by the way.)
Detroit photographer happy hour. From right: Roy Ritchie, Craig, Joe Vaughn, C.J. Benninger, Amber Ritchie and Cari Vaughn