BLOG of AUTUMN THEODORE PHOTOGRAPHY
How long have you been a photographer? What kind of work do you do?
Well, I got my first camera when I was a kiddo from my grandfather. It was a Polaroid SX-70. It had the leather case and everything. I loved it. My parents accidentally sold it in a garage sale. Speed up to 2014, I found one in mint condition at a side walk sale for $45. I will tell you though, my perspective on photography has changed and evolved since those polaroid days.
So of course throughout my youth I was taking 35mm film, and in high school learned how to develop it. My first paid gig was photographing my friend's emo screaming band on film. I think they paid me $60. I used gels and it was awesome. My career really started when I went to Chicago in 2009 to work for Todd Baxter. I assisted, did editing, casting calls, whatever an assistant does. I loved his work. After working with Todd, I was the in house photographer at a small studio in Akron. Mainly shooting Guess Eyewear floating frames, still life and studio work (before Warby Parker was hip).
Back then, I really wanted to be a photo-illustrator and create photographs in a series of storytelling and surrealism. I think mostly because I was also double majoring in graphic design so my work always had a little bit of design and little bit of refined photography. I suck at drawing so photo illustration was my best chance at being an artist. So my early work really aligned with that idea. I wanted my images make people look twice and and be slightly weird. I loved styling still life and doing portraiture. Just as long as it had a narrative or story to tell.
While strictly being a studio photographer, I found what I was good at and what I loved. I had worked under a big photographer and learned a lot from him. Then, I got a call to get my big kid job at Ologie to be a designer and a photographer. But there, I had to change my perspective on photography. I was upset at first, but I realized that it made me grow to be a better photographer. All our clients were asking for "slice of life" or " lifestyle photography." I found myself doing a lot of natural light and lifestyle shoots. I grew to love it, and was able to still find moments and ways to have my style come through with composition and light. I found that I love raw human emotion, and authenticity in images. It was the total opposite of me directing and creating photographs. But, candid nature is just so perfect in itself. So now, I love it when my images are blurry and over or under exposed. Fuck it. It's beautiful. Loosing control is a part of life and makes photography so relatable. I love looking at images and being like, "Hey, yeah I get it man. I feel ya."
Now, it's ice cream. I'm the in house photographer for Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. I love their approach to photography. It sort of meshes my two approaches. They want to make art with ice cream (photo-illustration), but they also want to make people feel like they can relate to the ice cream in their everyday life (lifestyle). I love it. I get to do candid work and get technical with studio work. So far, it's been a fun new chapter. And anyone who photographs food that doesn't melt - I envy you. Ice cream is tough!!! And we photograph the real stuff!
What is your favorite thing to photograph? Why?
I love photographing people. I love talking to people, getting to know them, building relationships and making them feel special. An old coworker said once that with clients you basically have to make yourself super human even to the point of making yourself look stupid. I am OKAY with that. So sometimes I tell an embarrassing story to get a smile and to make them feel special. Sometimes I mispronounce cities or words in conversation. The session is not about me, and I think going into a session with that mentality really helps the person feel good. I also really like a lot on posing and directing. I'm obsessed with learning new conversational tips on how to get the most out of a personal session.
When was the last time you felt frustrated about your work as a photographer? How did get get past it?
Oh brother. I feel frustrated the most when I'm used as a tool and not used for my creative insight. It's common when you work in-house. But it's cool because sometimes I just have to photograph a product on white. That's the project that gives me the brain space to keep pushing on other projects. But I don't want to be used as a tool on a creative shoot where the client really doesn't know anything about lighting or aperture, or that they schedule a shoot at the wrong time of the day because they don't know north vs. south vs. east vs. west. Use me. Please. I'm a professional and I'm really just here to help the project. I have zero ego and just want to get the best thing out of working with clietns.
Do you have a muse? (This can be a person, a city, an Instagram account, anything!)
I'm inspired by a lot of things, but I'll just list some photographers out there that I love.
What's something you haven't yet learned how to do yet (in photography), but want to learn soon?
I would love to rent a medium format film/digital camera and just go to town. I know they are easy to rent but I'm waiting for that big bad freelance gig to come in and pay off my credit card first. (Yes, I do freelance. Hire me! I'm fun!) I also love teaching people how to take pictures and hope to do more of that. I've done a lot of one-on-one sessions for clients so maybe a class or workshop? Everyone is a photographer, and I think that is rad!
I also love design, but I'm taking a break from it. I needed a change of pace and to focus on one thing in my career. I have a problem where I want to do and try everything. I have to say that right now is the happiest and most confident I've been in a long time. Maybe I'll go back to design, or not. Maybe I'll become a tree farmer! Who knows!
Top three reasons I hate bots:
I will never use bots. Any comments or likes from my account will always be genuine and organic.
That got me thinking, "Why did they so willingly agree without knowing much about what I wanted from them?"
Well let's think about this for a moment. They only got two pieces of information: 1) can I take three photos of you? and 2) it will take an hour of your time.
Again, 32 of 33 said yes. (I asked one additional person to fill spot 33 and they said yes immediately as well.)
Once 33 said yes, I shared more information: this is part of a personal photography project, the shoots will happen in their homes, I want them to look real (not dressed up, made up, etc.), the photos will be shared on Instagram this spring, and yes, they will totally get the final hi-res photos emailed to you. Oh, and I sent them a list of 52 one-hour times I'm available - they have to pick one each.
And they still wanted to do this. After asking for so much of them all 33 people are still doing what I want. And here's why I believe they are doing what I asked:
So if you want something from someone, ask yourself these two questions: 1) what are they getting out of it? and 2) what's your relationship like?