This project in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties section has sleek modern design with metal panels, in contrast to the usual red brick Philadelphia rowhouse.
My photographs of the interior are here.
The new expansion to Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Convention Center adds a dramatic facade on Broad Street near City Hall.
Photographing in a busy urban area is a challenge. Cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, and pedestrians crowd the streets, creating visual distractions. Minimizing their presence allows the building to stand out.
As part of my preparation for photographing the center’s exteriors, I received permission from the Philadelphia Film Office to mark the 1300 block of Arch Street as a “no parking” zone for the day of the shoot. This enabled me to take photographs of the south-facing facade without parked cars distracting the viewer’s attention.
The new $700 million expansion to Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Convention Center brings the total size of the center to one million square feet.
I was selected to photograph the new spaces for the two construction companies, the architect and the owner.
My photographs of the exterior are here.
The soaring atrium on Broad Street has a ceiling ten stories high.
During two days when the Center was unoccupied, I photographed the spacious interiors with three assistants and a client representative.
A reader has posted a question on one of my earlier blog posts,
TJ Swafford Says:
Question: I’m currently involved in a speeeeeeeeeendy photography degree at SCAD, Do I even NEED this degree to be successful? Or would I be better served by hooking up with an established photographer and glean what I can from him/her?
Do you stay in school and get a degree or leave art school to learn from a photographer?
There is no easy answer to your question. I am a big believer in education. Yet a Bachelor’s degree in Art is no guarantee of anything. For that matter, a Bachelor’s degree in many fields is no guarantee of anything.
Yes, education is expensive. Developing your mind and expanding your thinking is very valuable.
Everyone’s path is different. If you want to be a commercial or fine artist there is no straight path for your career. Unlike becoming a lawyer or doctor there is not a prescribed way to become an artist. The most successful artists have always blazed their own unique paths.
I know a corporate lawyer who told me that when he was in high school, his father said to him, “You can be a lawyer or a doctor. You choose.” He has ultimately pursued one of the two options dictated by his father.
You do have the power to choose your own path, wherever it may lead. Just by choosing to go to art school you have picked a path off the main stream.
To be an artist, you will need to have a passion and perseverance. You will need to figure out how to pay your bills.
Clients have never asked to see my diploma when they were considering hiring me. Instead they want to see my photographs. But my degree in History of Art and an education in the liberal arts have given me a conceptual framework to see and understand the world. I can discuss architecture with architects. I know what a cap rate is when I talk with a commercial realtor.
It is important to learn how to learn. I do feel that my liberal arts education boosted my ability to learn things on my own, which is an important skill in our dynamic changing world.
I did not take a digital photograph until 2001. Since then I have taught myself many things about digital photography, software and computers.
In the beginning of the digital photography revolution, I imagined I was climbing a mountain of knowledge, learning new technology. Yet as I hiked upward towards the acquisition of more knowledge, the mountain has kept growing and changing. The goal of reaching the top and completely mastering digital photo technology feels perpetually out of reach because the mountain of knowledge is always growing and morphing.
I also feel this way with using and understanding the internet and social media. There will be more changes in the future. So learning how to learn is important.
You will have to make your own decision as far as whether to continue and finish your degree. I don’t know your financial circumstances. If you are piling up student loan debt and school is a huge financial burden, it could make sense to take time off to work in your field and get the perspective of working with a real world photographer.
There are limited opportunities for paid work with photographers. Many commercial photographers are operating with fewer paid staff than before. The freelance model of hiring people is common. And unpaid internships are common, too.
If you leave school and enter the marketplace to find work with a photographer, you will be competing with people who do have degrees in your field. That’s not to say you won’t succeed, it’s just that if fifty people apply for a job, having a degree and experience could move your resume higher up the stack.
Good luck. Whether or not you ultimately finish school–keep learning and keep taking photos.
Keep in mind, one upside to getting a degree, especially a graduate degree, is that you get to wear a crazy hat.
1. Always be learning new things and improving your skills.
Video and photography are crafts. Technology changes rapidly. Blogs, web sites, books, workshops, self-assignments, and talking with peers are all ways to keep educating yourself.
2. Keep practicing your art.
It’s hard to make a living and also do art. But do some art. Yes, making a living can be much harder than school. And you don’t graduate from making a living in four years, which is good and bad.
3. Know that there will be ups and downs.
If you don’t want to be a creative professional, accounting is a steadier business — no disrespect to accountants or the IRS.
4. Keep your head up.
Remember that the last two years have been the worst economy since the 1930s. Yet most people I know are still eating.
5. Don’t give up.
Persistence will eventually pay off.
Read the other parts of this series.
Last weekend I went with my wife, my daughter and son and saw the film, Bill Cunningham (trailer), a fascinating documentary whose subject is a documentary photographer.
It’s a great film about the quirky photographer, Bill Cunningham, who says, “The best fashion show is on the street. Always has been, always will be.”
Originally a hat designer and then a writer on fashion, years ago he was given a camera by a friend who told him to use it like a pen to take notes. He has taken that advice and become a photographic note taker extraordinaire. Cunningham is eighty-two years old and still produces his weekly photo essay called On the Street for the New York Times.
Wearing his trademark blue jacket, the same one worn by Paris street cleaners, Cunningham rides around New York City on a basic Schwinn bicycle, stopping to photograph what people are actually wearing on the street.
In this age of digital photography he shoots 35mm color negative film, has it developed at a lab called Photo King and then has the New York Times scan his best frames. Cunningham is obsessed with his work and lives to do his work. His living quarters are spartan, a bed surrounded by filing cabinets, no kitchen, and a bathroom down the hall. He values his independence and will not accept meals or drinks at events that he covers.
His knowledge and connections in the fashion world are encyclopedic. The French government honored him in 2008 with title of Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters.
I can only hope to have his energy and enthusiasm for taking photographs if I am blessed to live into my eighties.
V. Networking and Marketing – 2 of 2
1. Use social media.
Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can all be used to keep you in front of other people.
2. Send out post cards.
Always follow up a meeting or first project with a client with a postcard or at least a thank you email. I once worked with an assistant in Washington DC who sent promotional post cards to a list of photographers he wanted to work with. The cards were mock tabloid front pages with catchy headlines, like, “Photo Assistant Sets World Speed Record for Wrapping Up Extension Cords”. Corny, perhaps. But they led to work, since they were attention-getting and showed a sense of humor, which is a valuable commodity in our work-a-day world.
3. Send out promotional emails.
Yes, we all get too many emails. But I do send promotional mass e-promos once a month. It’s a subtle reminder to existing clients that I am still out photographing, and I have attracted new clients this way too. For a rookie, it can be a first contact with a potential client.
4. Make cold calls with warm leads.
Call places you are interested in working with. It can be better if you have a referral: “Charles Gonzalez suggested I call.” If you get a live person on the phone, explain briefly why you’re calling and find out if they are hiring or use freelancers. Many times you will be shunted to voicemail. If that happens, always leave a message. Follow up a live call or a voicemail with one of your great post cards or emails.