There are both right ways and wrong ways to use social media to connect with potential clients and to build relationships in the creative/photography industry. Being overbearing in your approach can get ugly. I know from experience…
In July of 2010 I was asked to shoot some live photos of Aesop Rock in Oshkosh, WI headlining a show locally. Being a huge fan of his, I knew I wanted to add a portrait series of him to my portfolio. I thought I would seize this opportunity to approach the promoter about the possibility of shooting some portraits of Aesop before the show, hoping to get his assistance in setting this up for me. What I didn’t take into account was that Mark (the promoter) had his hands full and wasn’t able to devote enough time to get it set-up for me. That, coupled with Aesop wanting to relax before the show, led to the likely scenario that the impromptu photo shoot wouldn’t happen as I envisioned.
I took it upon myself to ambush him with a photo shoot, having planned out 3-4 possible shoot locations around the venue ahead of time. All my gear and lighting equipment was ready to go, should I get a ‘green light’ to shoot some portraits of Aesop. Once we felt a hint of resistance from Aesop, my team and I took to social media via Twitter, to begin bothering him incessantly to get a photo shoot before or after the show. That became disastrous and led to us irritating Aesop more than anything and pushing me further away from the chance to ever work with him. I left empty handed and feeling defeated. Lesson learned; Don’t be an overbearing and aggressive jerk while trying to get a photo shoot of a celebrity or musician via social media. Make real, honest relationships and be willing to create a human connection ahead of creative desire.
Fast forward to 2011. I had begun shooting more nationally acclaimed musicians and artists, namely for Eleven Seven Music in New York City. It wasn’t until I was hired by the label to shoot promo photos for Deuce (formerly of the band Hollywood Undead), that I became familiar with Los Angeles based musician and renowned make-up artist Jeffree Star. Having looked into Jeffree’s work, I became instantly intrigued with him as he had a ton of personality, was visually interesting and outrageously photogenic. I knew I wanted to shoot with him at some point in my career and create something amazing with his look.
Having my prior experience with Aesop Rock and knowing I’m a photographer based in Wisconsin, I knew the chances were fairly slim that I would ever have the opportunity to work with him. He’s been on hundreds upon hundreds of photo shoots with talented photographers and I’m just the little guy here in the Midwest. It was through both social media and developing those relationships in the photography industry that I was able to connect with him.
I followed Jeffree on Twitter and Instagram for the better part of a year and became quite familiar with his work ethic, his music and his online personality. His clothing line, Beauty Forever, was pretty cool and I ended up purchasing his Killin’ It snapback hat. In the need to shoot some new profile photos for myself, I shot a photo (below) of me wearing his hat and posted it to Instagram, tagging him and Beauty Forever in the photo. The image was dark and decisively different from the other photos featuring his clothing line.
He ended up connecting with me via email and sent me a few more items from his clothing line. We took it upon ourselves to gather a few models and shot a portrait series of the models wearing his headwear, following suit with the dark imagery and cold vibe of the self-portrait I had shot previously. Included with the photos, were a series of 30-second promo videos we created from the shoot. After it was all said and done, I traded a few emails with Jeffree and sent him the high-res images we created. He loved them.
That night my phone rang and it was Jeffree telling me he wanted us to shoot his photos for his upcoming single for Love To My Cobain on Akon’s record label. I spent a lot of time in the coming weeks creating a relationship with him and talking about the creative/visual style to his new music. Crazy as it is, he ended up flying to Wisconsin to work with me for two days. It was a ridiculous, yet an amazing experience spending time with him… which included fans of his gathering in our parking lot, a trip to the emergency room and an ice storm for the record books.
Jeffree is a great friend of mine and I’m glad we had the chance to work together. Social media is a powerful thing. But making real relationships is far more important and fulfilling to me in the end.
I’ve been sitting on these photos for the better part of a year. I was really excited to take Jeffree’s look in a much darker direction, as opposed to some of his brighter early work. Below are the results from the shoot!
Record Label: Konlive Records
Management Representation: Alicia Mann
Photography: David E. Jackson
Producer: Trevor Nackers
Cinematography & Lead Assistant: Adam Koepke
Make-up Stylist: Jeffree Star
Hair Stylist: Tobin Campbell
Wardrobe Stylist: Mark Plowman
Special Thanks: Brett Stoddart, Jillian Campbell, Dan Woolf, Amy Gaerthofner, Tara Rudy, Nancy Sparkplug, Adam Elmakias, Andrea Mussatto, Nate Couillard, Rob Buettner, Roxanne Knight, Jim Germain, Dead By Dawn Productions, Brad Kuehl, The Fox River House
See more of Jackson & Co.’s work at www.davidejackson.com.