HEY, YOU YOUNG PHOTOGRAPHERS --- STARING THE RECESSION IN THE FACE, are you? I started after I got out of the Army just after WWII and believe me, I know depression times, but I also know how to start something HOT up. BE INNOVATIVE. THE SUPER RICH want something new that is like the greatest thing that ever was, that's OLD...that was how THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH and SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS got those huge PORTRAIT FEES.
Thousands of pounds sterling?Each painting was about the sum it cost to buy a posh cottage in SUSSEX back in those days. These two painters offered the London artistocrats something like the best art in any museum at the time, but also, a finished product just a tad better than the best...And hey, they all cheated. They were all posh and elegant sketching out on the canvas while the client was there, and then when client left, an assistant would come in and paint the folds of the satin dress all night long while Gainsborough dated his lady friend. The helpers would move that portrait along real fast, The Painter would be back with the client in the morning and a few sessions, he'd take the final payment and go on to the next Patrician Portrait. So GAINSBOROUGH and REYNOLDS really gave me the idea to do portraits of the SUPER RICH.cuz really, HOW DOES ONE GET THE BIGGEST FEE possible? PORTRAITS that cater to the EGO of the average billionaire and his squaw. Did five a day until I was famous and my style recognizeable so I'd sign the mat at the bottom, they'd POSSESS a treasure with my NAME emblazoned on it. I was an utter nobody when I started, but my attitude was so ELEGANT that soon I was Richard Fucking Avedon. No more actors' photos, no more baby photography, no more weddings, bar mitzvahs. Strictly high priced portraits. Sure the other stuff pays well, but its pace is blah. LIke doing their laundry, kind of. No, you want to go straight to the EYE OF THE MONSTER. That's their colossal EGO. Do ELEGANT PHOTO PORTRAITS.
You think there are reasons why you can't be ME? Hinderances? Obstacles? Oh I know the list; you have no studio, you can't schlep enough lights to shoot the super rich at their posh mansion. You don't own enough lights, etc. etc. I didn't own lights either when I was young like you but here's what I used to do when I was a poor nobody. I'd rent another guy's photo studio just before he closed, 5 pm, til six p.m. negotiate a really fair price by telling him I'd do this often, so good price for volume. I'd close the deal saying, hey I could go to another studio, plenty of photogs wanted help with the rent. Entirely. his call. And I told him I'd also get him puhlenty of clients for the stuff he was doing. Weddings and such. I'd be his PUBLICITY MAN. If I couldn't deliver, our deal would change and I'd pay more. Now, truth is, many big photo developing labs often have a studio to rent with good lights. Paper rolls there, for fashion photography. EITHER WAY I'd meet my toney client at this 'temp' studio which impressed the client no end. I DELIVERED MY AVEDON PORTRAITS and I got my big fees. And it was easier than all the other types of jobs I USED TO DO!. (Lugging equipment around. Keeping an eye on it at parties, weddings, in public parks!)
NOW, When you do portraits sooner or later fashion mags want you, they pay well. But not as well as portraits, but I'd do them and guess what? IT was like a rainstorm drenching me with publicity! I could DOUBLE MY PORTRAIT prices off the fashion work. THEN clients began to ask me to SHOOT THEM quirkly like my fashion WORK. So first, I printed grainy, sepia, blurry, high contrast, every cheap gimmick in the book but you do enough of those techniques at once, and print it on textured paper, big, framed, flat, and put a high enough price tag on the work, you get their friends' and their friends' friends. It doesn't stop. You get on this big cash roll. Pretty soon, you can rent a studio, fill it with those exact same photos and many are celebs so people who come are dazzled. WHY the super rich will pay so much for a portrait is that above all they want to be big. Mr. HUGE, MR. CLASS. They want to be hugely Famous and costly and the best in town And you are delivering those items. If you do it right. UNRELENTING. SNOTTY. THIS IS MY PRICE, I don't budge. Everyone wants a session. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Now, when you get really famous, you can start doing verrry QUIRKY PHOTOS.
Then you get famous for that, I guarantee that all your old clients will hear about it and come back to get a verrry QUIRKY SESSION as suddenly their formal one and even their QUIRKY one looks outdated. That's double or triple the money from each client. Now, you may be asking, how do I get started? Do I advertise? NO! You simply do an elegant sample shot of a serious, power person you know, a dignified face, can be old, can be beautiful, a power person. and print it out and hang it on the wall. So it looks like a REAL AVEDON. THEN shoot that person standing in front of it to SHOW THE SIZE of the damn photo hanging on wall. HUGE.. This is important. Send this print as an alluring invitation that GOES RIGHT TO THE EGO of your potential clients. Send it to every old client you ever had. You kept their addresses didn't you? Right, you're no dummy and they're right there in your city, right? Hey, you're loaded for bear! They're gonna call you! They're gonna have it on the wall, your name on the mat, their friends are gonna see it and book themselves too.
AND you do a website with the same mix of samples and text which reads "POWER PORTRAITS.--I OFFER SESSIONS NOW. You get a roll shot, choose your best, get a single print framed for the wall. Like this." The trick getting the client to look better than usual is don't do anything in the morning. Give them time to unwrinkle, unswell, hang out. Serve coffee in the studio. Get everybody wired.
AVEDON AT WORK SHOOTING OUTDOORS, ROLL PAPER, NATURAL LIGHT
ME STANDING IN FRONT OF SOME HOMELESS GUY's PORTRAIT. REVERSE CHIC
FAMOUS ACTORS WHO LOOK LIKE HOMELESS GUYS
COCO CHANEL AND SUZY PARKER
"A portrait photographer depends upon another person to complete his picture. The subject imagined, which in a sense is me, must be discovered in someone else willing to take part in a fiction he cannot possibly know about."
-- Richard Avedon
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