This week I am interviewing Jonathan Clark a well-established professional photographer. Jonathan was recently featured with a two page spread in Communication Arts Annual Photography issue.  Communication Arts is the “grand daddy” of all advertising publications. Being featured in this publication is the equivalent of winning an Oscar.  Many photographers, art directors and other creative types who have been featured in high caliber magazines such as this go on to lead very lucrative careers in their perspective fields.

I was featured in Communication Arts website many years ago, and I can attest that it did in fact help my exposure, and gain my name more credibility but it didn’t put money in the bank (right away anyways) I was curious when my friend Jonathan was featured in Commarts if he experience the same things as me.

Jonathan describe to us what photos where featured in Commarts and why you think they were chosen? I photographed the Burning Man event on 2009.  What was featured was a series of 5 images about the event it’s a place where a photographer is guaranteed great images –  good for portfolio building, as its eye candy heaven. There are photographers everywhere you look. So finding some unique angle that has never been shot or does not look cliché at Burning Man is a real challenge. Photographing it first in 2007 gave me a great feel about the event and upon my return in 2009 I felt more comfortable with how I wanted to shoot there. It’s the kind of event that glazes over a photo editor’s eye as they have all seen images of it before. The reason I believe it was featured in Commarts was due to the unique perspective I shoot it from.

Burning Man, Nevada Desert, USA. (2009)

What was your experience after having the photos featured? Did you receive more emails? Phone calls? Did it result in any new work or leads? I had received several emails from people in the creative industry saying they liked what they saw and I had one person contacting me asking if I would photograph his wedding at Burning Man the following year, as there are a stack of ‘playa weddings’ that get performed there.

Did you receive any emails of praise and congratulations? Most messages of support were from friends and family. When I posted the link to it on my Facebook page, that’s where I got the most pats on the back – the status update. When I was featured in Commarts I found it was a real boost to my self-confidence.

Did you find seeing your work published like this really helped give you the kick in the pants to take it to the next level? What it gave me was some internal self-recognition that my work was approaching  / on par to the quality of work of many of the best photographers out there. My friends and family were always saying my work was really great, but I guess deep inside I wanted some form of acknowledgment by peers in my industry. Ultimately though, I realize the only acknowledgement was that the essence work I created was as true as possible to me. That is something other people cannot judge.

Burning Man, Nevada Desert, USA.

Burning Man, Nevada Desert, USA. (2009)

If a student or someone new has time on their hands is it worth it to create a project with the idea of winning an award? Or are their efforts better spent just building a good well rounded portfolio and seeking work? If one is a student and they truly believe their craft is a vocation, they should put their efforts into creating a body of work that rings completely true for them. The further one digs deeper into their subject matter, they can pull out that essence of the subject and express it back into reality in a way that works with them; whether that’s in visual art, music, cooking, gardening etc.. People feel it when somebody has created something true to their core. And when somebody can feel that, it can change a person (looking at the work, listening to the music, tasting the food…) and it makes the artist feel like they are really contributing something original to the world. That is the best feeling. A body of work that stands true to it self seems to have the benefit of attracting people that want to give you money. As nice it is to have recognition from your peers, I perceive awards as nothing more than a platform to add more power to your name, which in some way gives you better access to getting your work / art out into the public.

What tips would you give to other designers or photographers about submitting to design award sites? What do you think helps win these awards? I’d say look at the awards and categories and the types of work being submitted and ask yourself if you could see your work being featured there. As for winning them… stay true to your vision and your heart. Don’t let people pull you down and sway you. Let the work speak for itself. Judges come in all shapes and sizes and the creative work is a very subjective thing. So if nobody goes for it – fine – move onto the next thing. And if it’s picked up and awarded, fine – move onto the next thing. Celebrate the moment, yet be indifferent.

What is your next move? How do you plan to capitalize on these photos being featured in Commarts? I reference it on my website and in my CV, all of this is just a stepping stone on a very long path.