Joey L.: Absolutely. That interest really helps in portfolio meetings. People don't want to work with somebody who takes just good photos. If I meet a creative director and I'm knowledgeable about what they have on their channel, it's more likely I'm going to get hired for the shoot because I can better represent it.
A lot of photographers shoot things that don't necessarily fit together. You have to remember that although the photography industry seems vast, you have to specialize. You wouldn't go to an ear doctor to get your eyes fixed. I'm very focused on doing projects that interest me and that mean something to me. The things I spend my time on are typically the things I get hired for. That's the sort of stuff I get hired for to re-create on a commercial project. What I do is very research-based.
DPP: Your work in Ethiopia and India has a very warm tone, just the opposite of the movie poster work you did for Twilight, with its steely cool feel.
Joey L.: That's the most visible work I've done so far. Twilight came about because I photographed a friend who's in a band with similar lighting. When I had a meeting at the movie poster company, they were looking through my portfolio, and when they came to that photo, they said, "This is the look we're going for." They wanted to match the lighting vibe—strong backlight and cold tones. I lit it pretty dark, as well, to match the mood of vampires.
DPP: You often blog about portfolio presentation. Your overseas work and your studio commercial work are part of the same presentation, not an easy thing to do successfully.
Joey L.: I strive for a sense of cohesion in my work. When I first started, it was all over the place. Then, like everyone else, I found out what I really liked doing and what I was good at. Now my commissioned work takes on the vibe of my personal work, and vice versa. I structure my portfolio in an order that when you turn the pages, it doesn't feel like a sudden departure with two different visions.
I like showing hard portfolios. It's physical, it's real—you have to flip through the thing. My paper choice is the 325 gsm Hahnemühle FineArt Baryta. I've always felt like the photograph is complete when it's printed out on paper.
There are a lot of great shooters, but you need business knowledge if you want to make photography a career. I knew I had to approach it this way to keep a roof over my head. One of the most important things I did was to move to New York when I was 19. My agent Bernstein & Andriulli and many of my clients are based here. But, also, the city is full of inspiring people. We all sort of have the same mind-set. New York is full of workaholics. We call it ripping. We want to rip all day, and work and better ourselves. New York attracts those sorts of people. I've met a lot of people who I collaborate with. It's really inspiring to be around people doing similar things. There's a complete vibe here.
To see more of Joey L.'s work, visit his website at www.joeyl.com.
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