Finding Talent at Portfolio Reviews

by Jacqueline Tobin and David J. Carol

Reed Decker

February 19, 2013

Photographers often tell us that one of the best parts of being in this industry is being able to connect, share ideas and learn from each other. One way to do this is through portfolio reviews, which we both routinely attend throughout the year. Below is a roundup of some of our favorite work we unearthed during the past year, with comments from the photographers  themselves, as well as our thoughts on why certain images or styles caught our eye.

Lauren Welles:

“I’m a former attorney who heard the whispers of my passion for photography growing louder and louder until I finally left law to focus full-time on making photographs. With my camera serving as the vehicle to connect me with a diversity of people, I strive to capture moments that express the quiet spirit of a subject or scene.  

“I am an avid people-watcher and believe we are far more alike than we are different. I believe that people can only be attracted to something that they inherently possess. I was instantly drawn to this man’s soulful eyes. The bikini girls behind him maybe the paradigm of beauty, but his radiance shattered that rule for me that day.” (Shot with a Canon 5D, 59mm lens, 1/20 at f/8 at ISO 200.)

“I was instantly drawn in by this man’s magnetic stare. I was also struck by the juxtaposition of the ‘bikini girl’ fantasy life depicted on the poster with the reality of this man’s daily existence as a homeless person. That really hit home for me. It’s a very haunting image.” –Jacqueline Tobin

Ian White:

“The shoot was for a cover story for Wired magazine. Film director James [Cameron] and his Titanic submarine crew were running tests on the new submersible, and invited us down last-minute. We drove from L.A. and went down to the massive facility where they shot the film in Mexico. This shot was done in the seawater pool where the sinking ship model in the movie was rigged.”

(Shot using two Profoto 7B portable packs with a bi-tube and extra batteries on an Elinchrom 6-foot Octabank, as well as additional bare Profoto heads and packs to help get the light up brighter than daylight for the dramatic effect.)

“Here’s a lesson in how to put a celebrity in an environment he is comfortable with, and pull off a great photo at the same time. The lighting is impeccable and the image is dramatic, interesting and pretty much perfect!” —David Carol

Patricio Robayo:

“Zerega Industrial Zone is a stretch of land in the Bronx that houses factories and parking lots, along with residential houses and various city agencies. I’m interested in the formal qualities of a photograph. With the mixture of urban neglect, architectural rehabilitation and the area’s natural elements that are all struggling to co-exist, I wanted to explore this area and find those nuances that make this place unique and beautiful.” (Shot with a Canon 7D on a Oben tripod, at 1/400 at f/5.6 with a 24mm at ISO 200.)
“I love the humor and sense of isolation in Patricio’s photographs. In this photo, we see a few things that to me are funny and also kind of surreal. We see orange things, we see white arrows and we see a truck hiding behind a tree; so much manmade stuff and yet nobody around to use it. Very odd indeed.” —DC

Reed Decker:

“This is an image of Steve Penley. He is an American artist known for vibrant paintings of historical icons. I was commissioned by Mr. Penley to take some portraits in his studio. For this particular shot, I used a 4-bank Kino-Flo for key light, and a gold reflector for fill light. One reason I love the Kinos is the beautiful highlight-to-shadow transfer. Instead of neutralizing color, I let the yellows and reds take over to create an overall warm tone.” (Shot with a Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-70mm lens.)

“The colorful painted background instantly tells me this is a portrait of an artist. Reed’s use of warm lighting on the subject’s face and legs really separates it from the background, which could be tricky if not handled so precisely. I also love the posture and position of the subject; great balance.” —DC

Ira Jesse Pfeffer:

“I captured this image of Anthony Pittman while I was shooting at the world-famous Gleason’s Gym in DUMBO, in Brooklyn, New York. This fighter project has been a chance to bring me back to my initial love and connection with taking pictures when I was in high school many years ago. It has also taken me back to a place where the subject reveals itself without the need for outside provocation, and a brief glimpse is granted into the underground world of fighters taken usually outside their respective rings of combat. I’ve been granted tiny and fleeting moments into either their exhilaration of victory or their devastation of defeat.

Sometimes—as is the case with amateur fighter Anthony Pittman—I am able to capture a quiet moment with a fighter as he trains and mentally prepares himself for his next foray into the arena of battle as a modern day gladiator. For many of my fighting shots I’ve been using a portable Lumedyne Lighting Kit; this image was photographed using available light with my camera on a tripod and no additional flash.” (Shot with a Canon 5D Mark II using a 24-70mm Canon lens.)  

“For me, this is a sad and powerful portrait: powerful because of the bold (dare I say blood-like) red walls and the dramatic lighting; sad because most boxers’ careers are filled with pain, failure and ultimately permanent damage. Ira conveys all of this to me in one well-executed photograph.”  —DC

Jodi King:

“I studied the business side of fashion at FIT, began my career as a buyer, and then switched over to creative. I later assisted photographer Noel Sutherland and was eventually promoted to producer. As shown here, I specialize in location photography, and spotting a great location is often the inspiration for my work. I would describe my style as romantic and dreamlike.

I love to mix natural light with artificial light to give it more of a surreal look.” (Both images were shot with a Nikon D200 and a 24-120mm lens. “Sylvia” (top): f/4.5, 1/60s,  ISO 100, with a small white reflector on the subject’s face. “DC Psycho” (lower left): f/4.5, 1/50s, ISO 160. The couple was positioned under a street light and filled in with a SB900 speedlight on a tripod to King’s right.)

“Jodi’s work is both surreal and real. The girl lying in the field could be a cool fashion spread or a great, introspective portrait. I also loved the scale here and felt a bit of a Gulliver’s Travels vibe going on! With the image of the couple, I absolutely loved the quaintness and old-world feel of the neighborhood contrasted with how perfect and mannequin-like the couple appears to be. Jodi’s lighting in both images is really beautiful.” —JT

Jimmy Mathis:

“This was photographed in Austin, Texas, in late April at 1:30 p.m., with hard sun on the background and dappled sun on the subjects. The camera position is 25 feet from my subjects. My light/softbox on left is at 45 degrees and 6 feet from the subjects, heavily feathered with CTO gel with reflector sunsilver side on right as fill, held by assistant. Correct metering of ambient and strobe light was critical to balancing. My placement of props, subjects and camera was very intentional, and the whole shoot was complete in an hour. I hate post work so I am very careful on the set to capture my vision in camera.” (Shot at 1/60 sec at f/11, ISO 100.)

“Jimmy has toured as a drum tech for some of the biggest names in rock and roll, yet in person he’s very laid-back and easygoing. When we met, he enthralled me with tales of traveling the country and taking pictures, living out of his car, camping, and crashing with friends. When I saw this particular image, I was incredibly struck by how meticulously lit and perfect it looked, and it’s such a great example of how Jimmy perfects his craft without doing crazy things to the image using software. To me, he is a true photographer.” —JT

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