Promos We Kept: Looking to the Sea

July 6, 2017

By Sharon Ber

As we head into summer, this month’s promos focus on a never-ending source of photographic inspiration: water. “I’ve always been attracted by the enormity it promises—freedom, adventure, mystery, and beauty,” says photographer Elizabeth Cecil, when asked why the ocean features prominently in her images and her new promotion. Photographer Brian Flaherty says he’s drawn to shooting water for the same reasons that “a lot of people are—it’s mysterious, always changing and it’s a phenomena people are just generally in awe of.” We’re diving into promos by five photographers who feature water in their recent pieces.

© Elizabeth Cecil. Photo by Sharon Ber for <i>PDN</i>.

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Elizabeth Cecil

Elizabeth Cecil

“Being near water has always been very important to me,” says lifestyle, food and travel photographer Elizabeth Cecil. She grew up on Lake Michigan, moved to the East Coast and for the past 20 years has lived in seaside towns. Now based on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, Cecil says about the ocean: “It feels very natural that this has become a dominant theme in my work.”

Photo by Eben Armer

Elizabeth Cecil in the Azores photographing the ocean. Photo by Eben Armer.

Her promo, one of three in a series, measures 6 x 8.75-inches and tells a “story based on color, theme [and] season.” The imagery combines soft blues and pinks from the ocean and sky with the bright colors from her food photography. It is a mix of personal, commercial and editorial work, some of which appeared in Bon Appetit and Edible Vineyard.

Cecil worked with creative strategist Melissa McGill and designer Claire Ellen Lindsey. “Melissa knows my work inside and out and is an incredible editor,” Cecil says. Lindsey “always brings fresh ideas and important elements of design into the piece. The three of us work really well together as a team.”

Hemlock Printers produced 100 booklets. Cecil mailed them to a select list of photo editors, clients, reps and advertising agencies she hopes to work with. She had a budget of $2,500, which covered the editing, design, printing and shipping.

The response to her promos has been great, she says. “Most people let me know that they have kept the booklets, which is really nice to hear and [is] the ultimate goal.” Past promos have helped her land jobs, she says. “Getting assignment from promos is always very rewarding, but it is also a great way to keep people up to date on my current work and projects.”

© Rush Jagoe. Photo by Sharon Ber for <i>PDN</i>.

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Rush Jagoe

Rush Jagoe

“I love being on the water,” says New Orleans-based photographer Rush Jagoe. “Spending time paddling in the swamp or taking a boat out to the barrier islands along the coast are some of my favorite things to do.” And while he enjoys spending time on the coast, he has a more serious reason for photographing waterscapes. “We are losing our coastal habitats and I feel a huge drive to document these places before it’s too late so that others can see them before they disappear.”

Photo by Jon Clark.

Rush Jagoe (left), crew oarsman John Henry Trant and Julie Bergeron just before they flipped their raft in a class IV rapid, in Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River in Utah, recently. Photo by Jon Clark.

Last year, Jagoe created two promos, both measuring 24 x 18-inches when unfolded, which center on the theme of water. The first, titled “The Mosquito Supper Club,” tells stories from the bayous of South Louisiana. It documents “traditional and contemporary Cajun culture,” food and music, and interactions on the “beautiful stage that is the alluvial flood plane of the Mississippi River and the Gulf South.”

He shot the images in his second promo, “The Sea Cloud,” aboard the largest hand-sailed wooden vessel afloat. The project was commissioned by EnRoute, Air Canada’s in-flight magazine. Jagoe, equipped with his camera as well as a drone, sailed with the crew for about five days in the Caribbean.

He mailed “The Sea Cloud” promo just after the story ran in EnRoute. “I like to share things when they are as fresh as possible,” Jagoe says, “but that’s obviously subject to permission by the client when I’m sharing commissioned work.”

While he made the two promos separately, they compliment each other. “I like to think that my vision comes across as fairly consistent….I like to think I’m searching for some kind of timelessness in the style of imagery I make.”

When editing his images, Jagoe works with his reps John Hopkins and Stephanie Anderson at Anderson Hopkins: “It’s a constant conversation between me and my rep.” He also worked with designer Teresa Hopkins.

Meridian Printing produced 1,800 copies of each promo. His budget was approximately $4,000 for printing and mailing both promos. “There were a lot of people I was excited to send these to and [I] had to make just a few concessions so that this could be affordable.”

Jagoe sent them to a list of clients he stays in touch with and to a larger network of editors and art buyers supplied by his rep. “I got great reactions immediately. And I continue to get positive responses as I get jobs moving forward, from folks I wasn’t sure had ever even see them.” Jagoe says that creating promos is about “more than just getting future assignments, it’s also about deciding how you want to represent your work and…about the kind of work you want to get moving forward.”

© Jason Falchook. Photo by Sharon Ber for <i>PDN</i>.

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Jason Falchook

Jason Falchook

While on a trip to South Beach in Miami, photographer Jason Falchook noticed the reflective property of the glass terraces visible from his 15th-floor hotel room, overlooking the pool. “I knew I wanted to capture it,” he says of the shifting water reflections from the pool below. “[The view] would change so much depending on the time of day, so I would check it out every time I came back to my room.” The poolside images he made there, featured in his recent promo, show both active moments and more peaceful ones. “There was such a range of things happening around the pool. I tried to capture little vignettes and moments and also approach wider images of people using the space in vastly different ways at the same time.”

Falchook didn’t shoot the images with the intention of using them in a promo, but he knew he wanted to create a piece with a “carefree summer vibe,” to send out before summer began. “It was a long winter and I was getting excited for summer. I wanted to send out something that reflected that excitement. I kept coming back to these images from Miami for one reason or another.”

Falchook had a limited budget of about $300 for printing and postage, but says he was committed to doing “more than a postcard.” He designed the promo himself using the software provided by Paper Chase Press, which printed the 11 x 17-inch two-sided promo.

His mailing list consisted of photo editors he’s been in contact with or admires and “hopes to be in contact with.” After the next print run, he wants “to reach out to more creative directors and agencies.”

The response has been positive, he says, but the promo has yet to land him a specific job, something that Falchook’s e-mail updates have done. But he is “confident it will happen with the printed promos too.”


Photo by Sharon Ber for <i>PDN</i>. © Brian Flaherty

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Brian Flaherty

Brian Flaherty

Brian Flaherty, who grew up in a small beach town just south of San Francisco, says the ocean “is the backdrop” to many of his “formative memories.” One reason he photographs water is to “attempt to give a certain shape or visual permanence to these memories.”

The images in Flaherty’s 6 x 7-inch, 16 page promo have a distinctive stillness and warmth. “There’s definitely a sense of calm/quiet to a lot of my work,” he says, “especially the work I’m most drawn to and am most proud of.” The tranquility throughout his recent promo was intentional, Flaherty says. “I wanted to be sure to include a variety of images, but be sure that they all maintained this similar vibe and esthetic.”

Flaherty tries to send out one printed promo a year, not only as a marketing tool, but also as a creative exercise. “I find it helpful to gather some of my favorite images from both commissions and personal projects and see how they fit together and talk to each other—to see if they live in the same world. I think part of my desire to do this is an anxiety about whether or not my work has a cohesive vision. This process also helps me rediscover and reaffirm that vision.”

He edits and designs them himself. “I used to work in architecture so there’s a certain graphic sensibility that I’ve carried over from that with regards to visual relationships.” Color palette, he says, was also important to his pairings. And his sequencing comes down to “a gut feeling of ‘this works.'” He admits that the process “sounds sort of vague,” but he says he’s “honed in on a particular feeling and aesthetic” that he’s interested in conveying and says it’s clear to him when an image works.

Flaherty had a budget of around $600 for printing and mailing. He printed 200 and says he tried to keep costs low by using and a modest paper stock. He sent them to a targeted list of photo editors and art buyers. And while he’s only heard feedback from a few people, the responses have been positive. In the past he’s had a client specifically say he was hiring him based on promo. “Sometimes people tell me a year or so later that they’ve been keeping my promos.”


Photo by Sharon Ber for <i>PDN</i>. © Julia Vandenoever

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Julia Vandenoever

Julia Vandenoever

Julia Vandenoever was looking for a narrative project that she could use to build her portfolio when photographer Peter Dennen mentioned he had a contact with a lobster captain. Vandenoever jumped at the opportunity to spend the day photographing a working lobster boat on Casco Bay in Maine with Captain Hugh Bowen of the Long Haul.

She used the images in a 20-page promo that includes facts about lobsters and Maine alongside the images. Vandenoever, a photo editor for 11 years, decided to include the text because she often thinks about what she would have liked to know an editor. “If I was getting this, I would want to know more about the story. I did some research on the facts and Peter, being a Maine native, helped me refine them.”

Vandenoever did the initial edit of images from the shoot and then worked with Dennen to refine the selection. She also worked with a designer from Hello Creative to help finesse the design that Vandenoever and Dennen created.

The budget was $1,500 for the project, which included printing, postage and the design and creative fees. printed 3oo of the 6 x 9-inch promos. Her mailing list consisted of past clients, ad agencies and magazines she would like to work with. She also sent them to a list of people who have consistently opened her e-promos. “Different people like to be contacted in different ways. I know this first hand from being a photo editor. By sending out e-promos and print promos, you are reaching a wider audience.”