Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Two photographers add services for their clients

Two Photographers

Two of my close photographer friends have been going through growing pains after more than 30 years in the industry. Gary S. Chapman and Robin Nelson started in Newspapers as photojournalists and both of them have been freelancing for most of their careers. 

I have watched both of them continue to find clients and continue their passions of storytelling. Each of them have explored using video to tell stories and both have done some work with video. 

While many in our industry have been preaching that to get jobs you must embrace video the two of these photographers still believe in the power of the still image. 

Today both of them would most likely describe themselves as visual storytellers more than they might have when they were working on newspapers. 


Gary S. Chapman is a humanitarian photographer who travels the globe doing coverage for his clients. Often his wife Vivian, who is a writer and producer has collaborated with him on many projects.

Gary has made just about every change possible to stay current with the technology to provide the very best product for his clients.

Storytelling is core to his work. He has captured real moments as opposed to setup situations in order to respect the dignity of the subject and remain true to representation of the story.

Gary started blogging early to share these stories of the people he was meeting around the world. He was being sent to places where people needed help. For example Gary was meeting people whose entire families were killed in front of them by another group. While the organizations were getting the photos they did not always use them to their full potential.

Due to budgets being cut everywhere Gary was traveling alone more often and didn't have Vivian to write the story for him. Out of necessity Gary began to write short stories for his blog about the people he was meeting.

Check out some of these stories by Gary on his blog here

In the past year Gary started to ask the NGOs if they would like him to write short stories and help them blog about the stories they were sending Gary to cover. The only additional costs to the NGO was a little more to cover Gary's time for writing.

It won't be long before Gary is going to need to change his title from "Humanitarian Photographer" to "Humanitarian Photographer/Writer."

Video and Stills

Robin Nelson is as passionate about telling his subjects stories as Gary.

Whenever I call Robin and we get together for some coffee I am always asking what he is working on. The overwhelming time is spent on telling me the struggles these subjects are going through and how wonderful these people are as human beings.

A little over a year ago Robin took the plunge into video and went to the Immersion Conference. While the teachers were trying to keep the students from using stills in their projects and only video, Robin resisted. He wanted to incorporate what he was already doing with the stills and not abandon them as many others had done.

While many photographers talk about their work as being the voice for the voiceless, this could not be more true than with Robin's passion for the developmentally disabled. The difference with Robin is he is involved helping this community even when he is not photographing them. His own son has some challenges and Robin has seen first hand how society expects everyone to pull themselves up by their own boot straps even if they don't have boots.

This is one of the video/still packages Robin has done for the Georgia Council on Developmental Disability's 'Real Communities' initiative.

How Robin was able to get this project is he was already known by the advocates in this community. They saw him at their meetings and saw the stories he was publishing through traditional media for years. It was because of this ongoing relationship he was able to have them approach him about the stories they wanted told.

Now Robin occasionally writes stories, but this new way of combining his photos with the actual voices of the subjects has him excited.

Here is a link to Robin's website

Executive Producers

Robin and Gary might not see themselves as executive producers, but they are living the role. They are no longer taking photos and handing them to organizations expecting the organization to know how to use them to tell the story.

Both Gary and Robin are producing packages that are being used more today by their clients than the photos alone were being used in the past. They have solved problems for their clients.

In the past the clients had to take the photos of these photographers and then create a package for their audience. With budget cut backs and frankly a lack of knowledge of how to do what Robin and Gary offer, clients are eager to work with someone who gives them a product ready to go.

Both Gary and Robin were noticing for years that their photos were not getting used enough by their clients. Both of them ended up putting together their own packages for their blogs. Their passion helped them to pursue new skills that their clients now embrace.

Are you passionate enough about your subjects to tell their stories even if your clients fail to tell the story? You need fire in your belly to work as hard as Robin and Gary to take on more work like they are doing. I am sure that the subjects of their stories today are glad they did.


Craig Ruhl said...

I enjoyed this great blog story and received the wake up call to re-examine my own work. Thanks!

Stanley Leary said...

Thanks Craig!

Jason K Powers said...

Nice write up, and a good reminder! Finding it harder and harder these days and always having that conversation w/ a fellow photographer friend here of 'how can we stay on top of the game,' but really, 'how can we stay IN the game,' so many times.

Stanley Leary said...

Thanks Jason. We never master any profession. We are all needing to commit our lives to ongoing education and growing. When you stop growing you are dying.