Early this week, on a beautiful summer Tuesday, fellow producer Craig Oppenheimer and I took to the mean streets of Philadelphia to meet with some local advertising agencies. Craig and I both live in Pennsport, home to the famous Federal Donuts, so it was a no-brainer for us to bring a few of these amazing confectionery delights to our first meeting at Agency51.
Gourmet Federal Donuts
Agency51 is a full-service ad agency with clients like Hilton, Alabama Credit Union and Cox Communications. We arrived, armed with the donuts and a box of coffee, to the beautiful Public Ledger Building—an amazing steel neoclassical structure that used to house one of the countries most popular newspapers, the Public Ledger. I was excited to see all the steel doorknobs adorned with beautiful PL insignias; very classy stuff here people.
Craig and I arrived to a handful of creatives trying to start their morning, with no idea about the jaw dropping, mind bending photography they were about to be introduced to. Our gracious host, art director Chris Poole, roused the crew, who broke out of their shells once they got a caffeine and sugar boost. We brought over a dozen books with us to showcase our motion, lifestyle, portraiture, beauty and travel photographers. With an office in Orange County, CA, and the City of Anaheim Tourism Board as a client, Chris immediately pounced on Tom Cwenar’s travel and hospitality work. The group also enjoyed the work of Jody Horton and Daniel Elliot. As we packed up, Chris said we would be hearing from Agency51 very soon. Saying goodbye, we thanked everyone and headed to our next meeting, eight blocks away at Brownstein Group.
With a few minutes before our appointment at Brownstein, Craig and I grabbed a quick lunch, al fresco, and lounged in the beautiful pop-up garden sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. The garden is usually just a gravel lot in the middle of the city, but PHS had transformed the space with trees, bushes, flowers, figs, and reclaimed wood walls.
Craig and the portfolios in the Pop Up Garden
We checked our watches and it was time to meet with Brownstein’s production manager, Nancy Logan. Brownstein works with IKEA, Einstein Healthcare Network and Comcast, and their building is beautiful. Passing through their bright red door in the shadow of City Hall, we headed up to meet Nancy, where she supplied a large conference room. We pulled out our books and had about eight creatives check them out. We learned that their art director Adrian Castillo was featured in Chris Sembrot’s project about Surfers in Philly, which we posted about in July. Since they already knew about WM, we gave them a spiel about our additional services, including our Crew Page, Stock Requests, and Production coordination. We then chatted about the WM photographers they’ve already worked with, who include Jeffrey Totaro, Dom Savini and Ryan Donnell. The group took turns reviewing all the portfolios, with emphasis on Matt Wittmeyer, Nate Luke and Duncan Kendall.
After handing out promos and T-shirts, we packed up and headed across the street to where Tierney currently holds court. We hung out with their secretary, who kindly explained to me what the hell all those buttons on her phone are for. (Answer: mostly for show, she doesn’t really use them). I couldn’t help but notice they had a TON of awards at the front desk; it looked like they were at capacity and will need to upgrade to a new display pretty soon.
We soon found Peg Finucan, their art buyer, who supplied us with, again, a huge conference room. Tierney works with TD Bank, Blue Cross, and PA Liquor Control Board, so we pulled out books appropriate for those clients. The catering from the local philebrities Di Bruno Brothers had already arrived and was a major draw for the creatives. Peg said that mostly everyone was too busy to show up, but once she told them there were cookies and coffee, they came running. The dozen or so creatives that showed got to work munching and checking out books. They all stopped to admire Mark Katzman’s portfolio and dug deep into Nate Luke and Alison Miksch.
A Tierney creative admires Mark Katzman’s portfolio.
We also discussed their new client, King’s Grocery, and their needs for photographers for that effort. They were happy to have seen all the work, and said they would stay in touch as projects arise and their needs formulated.
All in all, a great day for Wonderful Machine, advertisers, Philadelphia and the world-at-large. We did it.
Last Wednesday, Jared Grunewald and I flew into Logan International for two days of Boston portfolio meetings. Right off the plane, we collected our things—including 150 pounds of books and a dolly—and made our way out to Watertown, MA. There, we pulled up to the brick offices of our first meeting, Harvard Business Review.
Since HBR hires photographers to shoot CEOs and businessmen around the globe, we knew WM would be the perfect tool to make their jobs easier. Once we sat down with HBR‘s photo editors and art directors, we laid out a table-full of portfolios and chatted about the site. The group was impressed by the books, especially those of Emmanuel Fradin, Chris Sembrot and Porter Gifford. One art director mentioned that they’re always looking for talented shooters who can handle CEOs and their PR people—and tight schedules. They also said they don’t use much stock, assigning almost all of the photographs in each issue. A nice change of pace from what we typically hear from magazines these days.
The meeting went very well, especially since our site’s search function seemed like an ideal solution for their round-the-world photo needs. After saying goodbye, Jared and I drove back to Boston for our photographer happy hour. But first, we had to get lost several times along the way—Boston, what’s up with your crazy road system? Ever heard of a grid?
Stepping out onto a lovely New England night, Jared, Caleb and I walked Greta through the Boston Common to her car. Caleb then ushered us to The Last Hurrah for a nightcap and some Boston cream pie (yum). After a long chat about the good ol’ days, Jared and I said goodnight to Caleb and headed to the hotel, only getting lost once along the way.
Our next morning began with a meeting at Mullen, a full-service ad agency whose clients include US Cellular, Zappos, Google and more. Mullen’s office was bright and airy, with a giant espresso bar greeting us as we walked in.
Mullen’s sign and coffee bar. Follow @wonderfulmachine on Instagram.
We were soon also greeted by art producer Jessica Manning, who walked us to a sunny round table next to the bar. We pulled out a wide variety of portfolios for the art production department to review. After setting up, a group of Mullenites sat down around the table. Together we passed around books and chatted about the work of those like Paul Owen, Trent Bell, Morgan & Owens and Bryce Vickmark.
After all the portfolios were admired, Jared and I packed up, grabbed some coffee and headed to The Boston Globe.
Like HBR, Boston Globe is often hiring photographers around the world. So far, they’d been finding them mostly through NPPA, which they admit, wasn’t always the best tool. This is especially true since many of the photographers listed on NPPA are staff shooters, unavailable for freelance. So when we sat down with BG‘s photo department, they were happy to learn that there were “no strings attached” to using Wonderful Machine. No, we don’t charge clients to find photographers. No, we don’t make you create accounts to use the site. No, you don’t have to contact us to hire a photographer. We also have a photographer in a city they’d been searching for a shooter for some time, so they seemed quite pleased we’d stopped by.
While we chatted, the group looked through some of the portfolios we’d brought, with reportage shooters like Ryan Donnell and Ackerman+Gruber standing out. They also explained their photo contract to us, which was much more lenient than the typical newspaper contract. They also shared that their day rate is $300—higher than many other papers as well. After our in-depth discussion was over, The BG team said they’d check out the site next time they were looking for photographers and took several promos. Then it was on to our final Boston meeting at Arnold.
Jared adjusts the “D” in Arnold. Portfolios out on an Arnold table. Follow @wonderfulmachine on Instagram.
Arnold was particularly difficult for us to get to, and we ended up in a few odd places before finally ditching the iPhones, and going back to good old-fashioned paper maps. Finally, we made it to their office in time to meet with art buyer Kathy McMann. She led us to a conference room where we laid out around 20 portfolios for her and two of their digital assets managers to review. We picked the books that we felt were most appropriate for Arnold’s clients, who include Volvo, Jack Daniel’s, New Balance and Progressive. Each book was carefully examined by all three reviewers, with favorite work including Jordan Hollender, Michael Indresano, and Michael Piazza.
After discussing the photographers on the table, we said goodbye, and drove out to the airport with some detailed driving directions from Kathy. (Thanks, Kathy! We made it!). Flying off, we said farewell to Boston and good riddance to its crazy roads.
Last week, I set out early on another portfolio event, this time with designer Amanda Friend by my side. Loaded into my Rav4 with a trunk full of production cases and a dolly, we made our way up the turnpike to New York City.
Our first stop was at Ogilvy & Mather. We came bearing gifts of breakfast treats from Dean & DeLuca and filled four tables with portfolios. Once everything was set out, we stood back, grabbed some D&D coffee and waited for the onslaught of creatives to arrive.
The view at Ogilvy.
And boy did they arrive, at first as a trickle and then as a full-on stream. During our two hours at Ogilvy, we reviewed portfolios with around 30 art buyers, art directors, creative directors, and copywriters. There was some definite stand out work in the group, including Matt Dutile‘s travel-themed promos (which were all gone almost immediately), as well as Jim Henderson‘s photographs, which one creative described as rich and vibrant. On the other side of the room, Julie Bidwell‘s food photography had reviewers drooling while Brian Cummings‘s “cool” business cards were being divvied up.
Amanda and I both had some great conversations with the Ogilvy creatives on a variety of topics, from individual shooters, Wonderful Machine, stock, and just how hard it actually is to capture a stand out photo. Eventually, the crowd died down, so Amanda and I packed up and headed to our next meeting at the digital ad agency, R/GA.
A little ahead of schedule, we decided to grab a quick bite. Former New Yorker Amanda’s hawk eyes immediately spotted a little shop, Buongiorno Espresso Bar, pushing “green smoothies”—something she’s been itching for since moving to Philly. We ordered two. I’ll admit, I was a little scared at first when I saw them filling up the blender with broccoli, zucchini and various other green veggies. How is this going to taste as a smoothie?! But, Amanda was right! I’ll never doubt you again, girl. Healthy and delicious.
After drinking our lunches, and feeling like Popeye after a can of spinach, Amanda and I pushed our dolly full of portfolios over to R/GA’s offices. We were pleasantly surprised to find they were very un-New York-like. Instead of a sprawling high rise, we found a hidden gem: a quaint white building surrounded by plants; a mini Manhattan jungle oasis.
The interior was as impressive as the exterior, with walls filled with trophies. There, we met with art buyers Tamara and Kris, the latter of whom was kind enough to help us carry 100 pounds of portfolios up a flight of stairs. Tamara and Kris had been nice enough to squeeze us into their very busy schedule; to return the favor, we pulled out a concise group of books—all lifestyle, as they’d requested. As they looked through portfolios of photographers like Graham MacIndoe and Kinzie + Riehm, we chatted about the site and all the things Wonderful Machine has to offer. Tamara was already a fan of the site, and said she likes how easy it is to find photographers in odd locations. As for the work on the table, favorites included Ryan Donnell and Ashley Davis Tilly.
Once the collections of portfolios had been reviewed, we said goodbye and headed to our last meeting of the day at Men’s Health. Inside Rodale’s building, we entered a model-filled lobby and were mildly offended that the receptionist didn’t ask us if we were there for the casting too (just kidding). Soon, photo editors Mark Haddad and Joe Rodriguez ushered us into a conference room where we shared the work of photographers like Nick Hall, Victor Wang, Simon Bruty and Ackerman + Gruber, to name a few. Mark said he’d used Wonderful Machine, like Tamara, to find photographers in far-off lands. Joe told us that he’s a fan, and reads the blog (Hi Joe!) and follows us on Twitter. For Mark and Joe, Ackerman + Gruber’s humorous reportage really stood out, as did David Arky‘s slick still life. But after awhile Mark and Joe had to wave goodbye—WM t-shirts in hand—as Amanda and I left for our favorite part of every portfolio event: the happy hour.
Our San Francisco excursion got off to a rather early start, as we arrived Wednesday morning at around 1 AM. We’d flown straight from our meetings in Salt Lake, and to us EST folks, it felt like more like 3 AM. But the moment I stepped off the plane with a bleary-eyed Maria Luci, I felt at home. I spent an incredible two years in San Francisco, and upon return, experienced a heavy dose of nostalgia. But I pushed through the feelings long enough so that we could pick up our sweet ride, and after a roller coaster of construction detours that almost landed us on the Bay Bridge, we finally arrived at The Hotel Carlton. The place was great—our only issue was maneuvering the hand truck and portfolio cases through the historic building’s narrow hallways and tiny elevator. But we eventually made it up to our rooms where we each promptly passed out.
After such successful meetings in Salt Lake City, I was excited to get the ball rolling in San Fran. So I hardly felt the jet lag as we burst outside. First, Maria and I headed to OgilvyOne where we met with Creative Director Jennifer Anderson. Jennifer was very interested in finding new travel/lifestyle photographers and fortuitously found herself flipping through Jayms Ramirez’s portfolio. She was impressed with both his and Mike Tittel‘s books, and quickly called our home base back in PA to find out more about our other travel photographers.
After Jennifer popped out for another meeting, we left Ogilvy and found ourselves with about an hour to eat before our next meeting. So, I decided to take Maria by my old neighborhood, Alamo Square, for a quick bite at the Blue Jay Café.
The painted Ladies of Alamo Square.
After a pleasant meal that included some savory cauliflower soup and a waiter who labeled us flamboyant (and that’s saying something in San Francisco), Maria and I hopped back into the Wonderful Machine Mobile (aka a rented mini van) and blasted off to Duncan/Channon. There, we met with an eager group of creatives including Co-Founder/Executive Creative Director, Parker Channon. Everyone was extremely fun, chatty and happy to see both familiar faces and local photogs not yet on their radar, including Anthony Lindsey, James Wirth, and Michael Winokur.
D/C creatives review portfolios.
With a half hour to spare, we decided to push our cart through the streets to our next meeting at AFAR. We both prayed we wouldn’t encounter any major hills along the way—and luckily, we didn’t. We even arrived early and were greeted by Photo Assistant Dani Vernon who set us up in a conference room to prepare a presentation for Photo Director Tara Guertin. After we laid out the relevant books, Tara came bursting into the room like a great ball of energy. She was enthusiastic and friendly and I immediately knew this was going to be a good meeting. We didn’t have to go into the regular spiel explaining Wonderful Machine, as Tara frequents our site and often relies on it as the first stop on her journey to hire a photographer. She was also very familiar with our roster and recounted a hilarious story involving Austin-based shooter Jody Horton, insular communities, and chicken fried steak. This meeting was more of an “it’s so nice to finally meet you in person” get together, as we’ve been working with Tara from a distance for quite some time. On our way out, we chatted about our Barbados shooter Mark King as she handed us a pile Afars to keep us occupied during our long journey home.
Arms full of magazines, we made it back to the car and shot off to our last meeting of the day with ATTIK, a creative communications firm. There we met one on one with Sr. Producer Michelle Mintz. She was primarily interested in automotive photography, so we wowed her with the portfolios of Michael Alan Ross, Dom Romney, John Early and James Wirth. She was blown away by Michael’s shots of old school hot rods on the Bonneville Salt Flats and loved Dom Romney’s portfolio, which doubles as a leave behind. She was also very interested in our stock services.
After mentioning that this was our last meeting of the day, she told us we had to check out a new Mexican joint called Tacolicious. I was all set to take Maria to my old burrito spot, El Farolito, but it’s hard to argue with a local, and I’m all for trying something new. After a brief stop at one of the coolest stores in town, Paxton Gate, we found ourselves gorging out on some of the best taco’s I’ve had in decades (yeah decades, and I’m not yet thirty). “Best tacos of my life!” – Maria. Thanks, Michelle!
The tacos were so amazing, we entered a time warp and before we realized it was 6:00 PM. We paid the tab and rushed over to Nob Hill’s Big Foot Lodge to meet up with some of our San Francisco photographers for Happy Hour. This was definitely my type of bar: dark, crowded, walls lined with taxidermy, and a giant carved Bigfoot lording over all the bar flies. It was a great “meeting”. From Terri Loewenthal showing up with deliciously sweet strawberries (“best strawberries of my life!” – Maria) to Michael Alan Ross and Anthony Lindsay throwing down Wonderful Machine gang signs everyone had a blast. After a few hours, several beers and a Manhattan…or five, the party died down. Victor Wang, the last standing photographer, offered us a ride “home” in his monster truck and that was the end of a very long but very successful first day in the city by the bay.
Happy Hour! From left: Winni Wintermeyer, Victor Wang, Maria, Tai Power Seeff. In mirror: Terri Loewenthal, Anthony Lindsey and Michael Alan Ross.
Day two began as beautifully as day one. Weather is San Francisco can be a bit of a gamble and we hit the jackpot. Meeting number one took us to AirBnB. I would have been satisfied just sitting in their offices all day watching people whiz on by. The space was incredible; it was bright, open, plastered with eye candy and topped off with skee ball and a kitchen with made-to-order breakfast. Not too shabby. Initially I wasn’t sure what use they had for commercial photography, as most of their content is user generated. However, Photo Consultant Rebecca Horne explained that they were looking to add “visual city stories” to the site to help give a sense of place. They were particularly interested in photographers who could blend lifestyle and reportage seamlessly. They especially liked the style of Ramin Rahimian. Basically, she was looking for photographers who could capture the beautiful raw essence of a city or neighborhood with limited need for production. Not everyone we met with was familiar with our site and were thrilled to learn that they could use our simple search feature to find photographers to suit their needs worldwide. No more cold Googling. You’re welcome.
After AirBnb, had a bit of time before our next meeting, and since it was so nice out, I thought a quick tour of the city would satisfy Maria’s desire to get a feel for SF, as this was her first visit. So, after catching up on some work emails, we headed off into the city. Without writing an essay, let’s just say we saw just about everything during my speed tour. We whizzed by Baker Beach and Twin Peaks, to the Haight and Fisherman’s Wharf, to Lombard Street and Hayes Valley and the Castro. Perhaps I should moonlight as a SF tour guide?
Jared’s San Francisco Speed Tours – See it all in less than two hours!
As the three o’clock hour approached, we packed it in and headed over to Dwell for our final meeting. Everyone we met there was incredible nice. We chatted primarily with Photo Editor Julia Sabot, while Creative Director Alejandro Chavetta kept popping over to turn a few portfolio pages. Julia, who was fairly familiar with our site and some of our photographers, was impressed with the caliber of books we shared. She especially enjoyed Derek Israelson, Naoko Kakuta and Sherry Heck’s portfolios. We had a chat about digital vs. print books and she says she still loves the tangibility of flipping through pages and receiving promos in the mail, so don’t go entirely digital just yet.
After that final meeting, we took a drive back to the hotel, packed up our cases and set out for one last jaunt. I took Maria to a sushi restaurant I used to frequent (Kyoto on Van Ness). Great food and .99 cent Sapporo’s. Can’t beat that. We had a lovely meal then called it a bittersweet night knowing that upon waking we’d have to leave. I had an incredible time and meet some great people—but it was also quite the whirlwind and we were both quite sleepy on the plane back to Philly. Thanks San Francisco, but I’d like my heart back now.
Stunning! That’s the word that comes to mind as I reflect on our whirlwind portfolio adventure in Salt Lake City. WM Photo Editor Jared Gruenwald and I touched down in Salt Lake in the afternoon, and quickly loaded up our snazzy rental van (satellite radio equipped!) with 200 pounds of portfolios and our handy-dandy hand truck (which, as always, was oh-so-fun to fly with).
Stunning! Views from around Salt Lake City. See more on Wonderful Machine’s Instagram, @wonderfulmachine.
Once at the hotel, we unloaded and sprinted out to our first stop, a Wonderful Machine photographer happy hour. As we drove through the city we took in the stunningly beautiful mountains and the majestic desert landscape— a site quite unfamiliar to us Philadelphians. Tired, and somewhat jet-lagged, we slid into a booth at The Beerhive Pub for some much deserved (low-alcohol) Salt Lake City beer.
Not long after, our SLC photographers began to arrive and merriment ensued. We imbibed, munched and chatted with Brandon Flint, Brian Smith, Chad Hurst, Jacom Stephens, Kevin Winzeler, Michael Schoenfeld, Mike Tittel and Scott Markewitz’s wife, Veronique. The group discussed various topics such as how they all ended up in Utah and their impressive outdoor lifestyles. I, for one, was quite exhausted just thinking about all the biking, hiking and mountaineering these photogs accomplish weekly. Brian Smith noted that he’d biked around 11,000 miles last year alone.
SLC happy hour. From left and around the table to right: Mike Tittel, Chad Hurst, Brian Smith, Veronique Markewitz, Maria, Kevin Winzeler, Jacom Stephens
After wrapping up drinks, several of us headed over to Brian’s studio (BPD Studio) for some wine, cheese and chatting with some local creatives gathered for an event. But eventually, Jared and I felt the sleepiness creep in and we bid so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen and goodnight to our new/old Salt Lake City friends.
Our next day began with a lovely Salt Lake City morning. Crisp air and blue skies welcomed us to the city—but even more enjoyable was the prime parking spot we found right smack in front of the green (see below) building of our first meeting at Axis41, a digital marketing agency whose clients include Adobe, Outside Magazine, 1-800-Contacts and more.
The Axis41 building (with our sweet ride out front) and Jared in their pretty hallway.
Once inside, we were greeted by a hallway lined with beautiful plants and bathed in sunlight. Their friendly receptionist chatted with us as we waited for our contact, Matt Scherer, to walk us to their conference room. After setting out around 15 portfolios, several Axis creatives joined us and flipped through the books. Some of their favorites included Michael Schoenfeld‘s portraits, and Anthony Lindsey and Laura Flippen‘s lifestyle work. They said that with tightened client’s budget’s, they’ve been relying frequently on stock lately, but are hoping to transition back into assigning projects again soon. For now though, they were pumped to hear about our stock request services.
Maria (center) chats with an Axis41 creative while others review portfolios.
After Axis41, it was on to Richter7 for our next review. But first, we passed by some lovely scenery on the way…
Salt Lake City, full of amazing views.
Richter7 is an advertising, public relations and digital marketing firm where we met with print producer, Cynthia Griffin. The agency’s clients include Wendy’s, Jackson Hole tourism, Park City tourism, and more, so we laid out appropriate portfolios along with some delicious cookies from Corner Bakery. Some of the most highly regarded books on the table were those of Mike Tittel, Corey Lesh, Sherry Heck and Tai Power Seeff—but all 13 books on the table were reviewed and their leave behinds snatched up.
After saying goodbye and grabbing some cookies ourselves, Jared and I hurried over to our last Salt Lake meeting at MRM/McCann with their art buyer Spencer Bagley. McCann is located right next to the Salt Lake Temple, and MRM’s conference room boasted impressive views of the city and its mountain backdrop. It also housed a rather long conference table, which gave us plenty of room to spread out portfolios.
Soon a large group of creatives came in and started reviewing the books. There were a lot of compliments handed out, especially to Victor Wang‘s sports portfolio, Chad Hurst‘s portraits, and Derek Israelson‘s interiors. One Executive Creative Director even said of Derek’s black-leather bound portfolio: “the best book I’ve seen.”
All-in-all, around 15 creatives reviewed the portfolios before we headed out. Our next stop was the SLC airport, where we would be flying out for more reviews in San Francisco, but since we some time before our flight, Jared and I walked around the Temple and shot some photos…
…and checked out the observatory at the top of the LDS Church Office Building, which gave us this amazing view:
Salt Lake City
Then, alas, it was time to say goodbye to stunning Salt Lake City.