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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Herrmann + Starke - Failure Is Not An Option

The team of Herrmann + Starke creates perfect moments instead of waiting for them to happen

Failure Is Not An Option"Around November of 1993, I had this nightmare that we hadn't gone digital, that we had listened to our clients, and our careers were just trashed because we had missed the boat,” says digital photographer Judy Herrmann.

As her faithful clients now attest, Herrmann didn't miss the boat—in fact, she was early. That same day, Herrmann and her partner, Michael Starke, received a junk-mail offer for a collateral-free loan that they accepted as a sign from “the fickle finger of fate.” They took the money and took the plunge, becoming digital photographers before the term was fashionable. The only problem: their clients weren't ready.

“The first couple of years was a lot of client education,” explains Herrmann. “In 1994, the client side really wasn't ready, so we used that time to learn what we were doing and hone our skills. We had a few [catalog] clients who were right on board with us, and as our clients became more comfortable with the idea of digital, we were already so far ahead of the curve that it made it much more comfortable for them to trust us than it would have been if we had only just started.”

Judy Herrmann and Michael Starke began their careers as catalog photographers, working exclusively with small products, large-format cameras and sheet film. That worked fine until Herrmann's 1993 nightmare. Now, 10 years later, almost everything has changed. They work out of their Ellicott City, Md., home, shooting everything from still life stock in their first-floor studio to motion-filled people pictures in the great outdoors—and they haven't shot with film since 1997.

“Our business model has radically changed,” explains Starke. “It has definitely been inspired by digital.”

The Herrmann and Starke style is now recognizable as “being digital.” It's also vibrant, colorful and complex, and perhaps above all, incorporates intensive postproduction work. Herrmann says they were able to broaden their subject matter and refine their style because they began to think differently, and it changed both the way they do business and how they think about photography.


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