Interview with Photographer and Blogger Andrew Hetherington



Andrew Hetherington is an editorial and commercial photographer from Dublin, Ireland living in New York City who also blogs about photography and anything else that tickles his fancy. A contributing photographer to Wired and ESPN the Magazine his work regularly appears in magazines such as Details, GQ, Esquire and Marie Claire. His dry wit and ironic eye are much in demand and his assignments have taken him all over the US, Europe and Asia.


Check out his website: http://ahetherington.com/


And his popular photo blog: http://www.whatsthejackanory.com/

Interview

Could you talk a little bit about your own background and how you got into the photography business?

I grew up In Dublin, Ireland. My father was a lighting cameraman for RTE (the national broadcasting company) and there was always a ton of film and still gear around. Indeed we were photographed quite a lot as kids. Have to say I never really liked being in front of the camera. As a teenager I was interested in music, fashion, art and sports but wasn’t particularly talented enough at any one to make a job out it when I left school. This was back in the 1980′s so magazines were a huge part of my life with English publications such as The Face, ID and Blitz having a huge influence on me. Picking up a camera seemed like a natural thing to do and a way to explore my passions. I covered gigs and sports for the school and dreamt of being a fashion photographer.

After finishing secondary school (high school) I studied photography at art college for a year before going on to assist some photographers in Dublin. It was a pretty small market so within no time I was testing with models and shooting for some of the local fashion mags. The Irish economy was pretty bleak at the time so after a few years of ups and downs the opportunity came to move to New York. I knew two guys from home who had come over and were carving out a decent living assisting so I hooked up with them and got some names and numbers. I gave myself a year to see how I liked it and of course I am still here. It was exactly what I needed at that time in my life. Naturally New York had a lot more to offer photographically then Dublin and it was during this time working with such a diverse mix of talent from all over the world that I really discovered a passion for the art. Photography had been a job for me up till that point as opposed to a life choice. Coming to New York totally opened my eyes and changed my life.

Your site, What’s the Jackanory?, is a very popular photography blog. What inspired you to first create it? What motivates you today to continue to publish such great content?

Ha Ha to be honest WTJ? was born out of a fear of falling behind in the new media age. I was really curious about the emerging web possibilities and wanted to get involved. I figured early on that a blog could have big potential as a self promotional tool. What I didn’t realize at the time was the enormous creative opportunities it would afford. It took a while to figure it out but being someone who grew up with magazines as my go to for all things visual and literal, WTJ? evolved to become my own online magazine of sorts. That’s how I approach it and thats one of the reasons I think WTJ? has become so successful because its not all about me.

What I love most about it is that it has allowed me to try lots of things. It is certainly tough to continually come up with original content but that’s all part of the fun. If I get an idea I can just run with it and put it out there. If it doesn’t work no worries just move on to the next.

On your site, you’ve written quite a bit about portfolios and self-promotion. What do you think distinguishes the very best photographic portfolios?

That’s quite a question. As a photographer one doesn’t get to see a lot of other photographers portfolios, particularly these days, so I don’t think I am qualified to answer. I know what has worked for me though is having a consistent body of work with a strong visual point of view. When I first started out doing go-see’s I had three or four books for each meeting, 1 fashion, 1 portraits, 1 music, 1 tear sheets. I think it was very hard for editors to figure out what my strengths were as I was showing such a mish mash of stuff and styles. I think I thought I would have no problem by overwhelming them with my range. Hey I can do a little fashion, portraits, landscapes, food, you name it. I don’t think that was the best course of action starting out, although I was getting work I really wasn’t getting work with the magazines I really coveted working for.

That all changed when I realized that I would need to be more specific in what I showed. In 2003 I had just wrapped up a project called ‘Made in Ireland’ and put it together in a portfolio as a single volume of work. I took it around on meetings with all the other books but found that it was getting such a good response that I didn’t need to show all the other stuff. The book showed exactly what I liked to shoot and how I shot it. All of a sudden I was getting calls for the type of assignment I had always wanted to do.

What are your thoughts on the uses of and importance of an online portfolio verses a printed portfolio book?

The printed portfolio is still essential but as someone who’s insight I trust said to me recently “most of the time a printed book isn’t necessary at all anymore but then all of a sudden it becomes the most important thing in the world again for all of five minutes”. I think there is a lot of truth in that. But as with everything there is no right or wrong. Whatever works for you and your work.

And the uses of online verses print promotion ?

I do believe I wrote a year ago that printed promotion was not as important as the emailer or online campaigns but I have to say that I am willing to eat humble pie and take that remark back. With all the clutter and chatter that editors and art buyers now have to deal with in the inbox on a daily basis now I would imagine that it might be refreshing to get an original, thoughtful printed piece. Indeed I just sent out my first printed promo in a while and it has turned immediate results. The irony is that the piece is a printed version of a WTJ? post.