What you must know is that I am afraid of heights, to the point where I don't even like riding in glass elevators. But I was hired by a company out of New York to photograph grain silos in a town close to Marshall, Mich. The day of the photo shoot I showed up at the airport with my camera to find a really young pilot and a very small airplane waiting for me. After takeoff, I realized that the window of the plane didn't open. I asked the pilot, "How am I going to photograph the grain silos?" His response was not reassuring--we would open my door when the time came.
Again, we passed the target and I still didn't have a great angle, so I told the pilot I couldn't get the shot. He assured me the next pass would be the one. When we got back to the site and I again leaned out, he banked the plane to my side. I screamed, as I thought I was going to fall off the plane, and was lucky to hold onto my camera. This was turning out to not be a very good day. After three more passes of the site, which included me hanging out of the banking plane with my camera, I was done and had the images I needed. (Remember, this was pre-digital. I was also advancing and changing film.)
To this day, that was the first and last time I ever accepted a job like that. However, it did help me appreciate a style of photography I very seldom do myself. I hope you enjoy this month's articles. If you're like me, it will open your eyes to a different way of making a living in the photographic industry.
Friends Met Along the Way
When you look back and remember the people that came into your life and influenced you or your work, I'm sure a smile crosses your face. For instance, while I was writing about my first experience with commercial photography, I couldn't help remembering many of the commercial photographers I have crossed paths with over the years.
My first PPA committee was the Photographic Exhibition Committee (PEC). While most on the committee were portrait photographers, we were joined by one commercial photographer, Tim Mathiesen. At the time, Tim worked for Kodak, but I was impressed with his landscape photography and the quality of his incredible images. I always enjoy spending time with Tim, catching up on his world. I always come away learning something new.
Another wonderful commercial photographer I have met is Bob Golding from Philadelphia, Penn. I really got to know him the year I received the ASP Fellowship degree. Back then, it was the practice that at the ASP Banquet they would present a slideshow of you, your studio, and images from your portfolio. Bob sent me a letter, saying that "the images of your studio are not suitable quality, and you should hire a real photographer to do the job." He then proceeded to quote what he would charge, as architectural photography was a specialty of his. We still laugh about that letter, but I soon realized there are not many who know lighting and architectural photography like Bob.
I never will be a great commercial photographer, but what I have learned and use today comes from the many "commercial friends" I have in PPA.
Dennis Craft, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, API, F-ASP
2008-2009 PPA President
image copyright Rod Gleason