One of our favorite food shooters, Jody Horton, is back with loads of new work that waters our taste buds, no matter what time our last meal was. He’s been shooting work for Texas Monthly lately, specifically their feature on the Best Barbecue in Texas, which comes out every 3-5 years. Putting together The Golden Age of Barbecue, Jody toured around Texas to photograph his subjects. For Jody, this is a dream project, because the elements incorporated within barbecuing are the most interesting to him. Barbecue is all about fire and smoke, both extremely dynamic, and add on top of it the highlight and texture of meat, which is compelling in its own unique way. There’s always a ton to shoot in the moment as well, considering barbecuing is quite an active form of cooking, loaded with visual appeal.
This isn’t Jody’s first time working with Texas Monthly though, as he is a recurrent shooter for them, having worked with them for 6 years now. When he first started to focus on the food and drink work he’s doing now, they were one of the first publications he approached for assignments. He has always had a great understanding with them, and is knowledgeable of their brand and what they’re looking for. In the past 6 years of working with them, he has done more than 100 shoots for the publication. His understanding of their sensibility is so keen, and his personal aesthetic is so closely aligned to theirs, that it makes for the perfect client-photographer relationship. There is not much direction given to him any longer from the publication, but he still has lots of conversations with art directors about what they want the final product to look like. But in the end, it’s almost the photographers job to do what they would do, not necessarily following the instructions to a T.
One of the many positives from his relationship with them is that they will always give him a shot list of what exactly they need, but they’ll tell him to “go do what you do”. Jody gets to have a lot of freedom, which allows him to be more exploratory and less predetermined. The level of spontaneity and working off of what will work best is more successful than trying to force a preconceived concept onto a situation.
Jody often works by himself or with a single assistant, as he sometimes needs someone to hold a reflector or push a light somewhere. But he finds that when a set is cluttered with extra hands, you’re more of a director, orchestrating people around the whole time. So when it comes time for his editorial shoots, he finds it nice to switch it up and work alone. That way he can be more immersed in what he’s doing, only worrying about himself and not a multitude of assistants. While both situations have their merits and draw backs, he prefers to work with just himself, his camera, and his subjects.
His plethora of editorial work is what ends up landing him his advertising work. In his commercial and advertising work he likes to bring in the editorial natural feel. Most often within a commercial world, there is a fairly specific need. In terms of what the abstract concept is, it is all pretty locked down, but what he most often is doing in the commercial world is bringing as much spontaneity and realism into that preconceived shot. Concurrent with the Texas Monthly BBQ shoots, he has recently shot for Yeti and Organic Valley.
Not only has word of mouth from other art buyers and art directors helped get his name passed along through the industry, but a lot of the marketing he’s done has been through the help of us at BLVDArtists and FotoWorks. Jody finds there is a huge benefit to the face to face meetings, mostly because creatives are able to get a sense of your personality and how you approach problems. So much about photography involves what sort of creativity and vision you may bring to a project, so being able to share how you generally see the world to someone’s face is crucial. The most successful meetings he has had at our events are less about people seeing his work, and more about speaking with the people he meets about the nature of the work that they with do. If someone can get the sense that you grasp what is essential to what they are trying to do, then regardless of the fact that you might not do work that is exactly within their description, they’ll feel more confident to bring you onto a project. It can be difficult to convey the same sense of understanding from afar, so they need to be with you to understand that you grasp it. It is no surprise that Jody finds what he is drawn to most in his work is story telling, as sharing his own stories and listening to other’s at these meetings is the most important element to him.