Inspire Speaker: Gale Zucker

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In this series of blog posts we are introducing people who are speaking at and attending Inspire 2014. Today we’d like to introduce you to Gale Zucker of Gale Zucker Photography who will be leading a workshop on BOOKS: Get Your Dream Project Published

Gale Zucker

Let yourself bleed through....

When I began working as a photojournalist, I just wanted to fit in. I was young, freelancing, and the vibe atThe Hartford Courant was intimidating. I kept my head down. I tried to shoot the hell out of every assignment, no matter the subject.

That led to a regular freelance gig with The NY Times, and magazine work. I rarely met anyone hiring me, they were in NYC or California. My approach to acting “professional” was to never reveal anything personal. I took the assignments, sent’em in, got more/better assignments, loved my work but barely shared any info with my clients. Not even what went on at the shoot, unless they questioned me.

A gangrenous gallbladder emergency changed things.  I landed in a hospital with my very own morphine pump.  I called art directors and photo editors to say I was out for the week or so... and the morphine made me super chatty. We got acquainted!  Clients learned I was funny, had a kid (only one at the time),a husband, a dog, lived by the beach, was shooting a long term personal project about a small traveling circus... I heard myself chatting away but I just. couldn’t. stop.

To my surprise: the work got even better. I was more than just a photographer who’d create a good photo on deadline. Clients started throwing me way cooler assignments...because now? We had a bond. I seemed interesting to work with, maybe be friends with, worth supporting. I stuck out from the crowd. They’d heard my story about the circus folks making me ride an elephant bareback because I totally failed at trapeze.

It was an epiphany.  I relaxed. I started sending promo cards of images I loved, rather than examples of work I was seeking. I showed off my circus /sideshow friends, instead of well lit business folks or pleasant , but safe, environmental portraits. And guess what? I still got that safe work, as well as really great shoots that seemed unrelated. An art director thought that if I could handle a circus, I’d be the perfect person to do a photo essay on overnight in an urban hospital trauma center. (True).  And, a group portrait of the last surviving Wizard of Oz octogenarian munchkins, shot for TV Guide, in a garden,  got me a lucrative shoot, of  traditionally lit boardroom executive portraits at a Boston financial firm. Go figure.

You’ll notice I titled this bit of advice let yourself bleed through, not let yourself shine. Why? Because no matter what you choose to share, in your relationship with clients, it is not about you.  Can’t blab too much. They are going to hire someone with the right skills to do the job. If they know I have the skills, and they feel good about being associated with me, I’m the one who gets the gig. As well as ride the elephant.

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