It wasn’t long ago that the thought of hiring someone to schlep my gear, set up lights and help me out on location seemed as strange and unnecessary to me as paying someone to walk my dog. As a photojournalist, I travelled light–my only lighting provided by my camera’s flashes and whatever ambient light I encountered at my shoot location. I felt good that I carried my own gear and I imagined that the complication of having another person to manage on a shoot would get in the way of creating good images, of connecting with my subject.
I’ve modified my stance somewhat, in part because of my experience with Charlie Widdis, my current assistant, and Ayla Kelley, my former one. In my bones, I’ll always be a photojournalist. But now I understand first-hand that the right application of assistance is critical. Having an assistant means showing up at a day-long shoot fresh, not worn out already from lugging gear from studio to car to location. It means having more options in terms of setups during a shoot. It means looking more professional, and having an extra pair of eyes to spot any of the inevitable myriad issues that come up on location. In short, consider me converted to the pro-assistant crowd.
And now that he’s hooked me on having an assistant, Charlie is moving on. Charlie is a talented landscape photographer just beginning his professional career. He’s also got a huge interest in video, and has spent a lot of time this past year doing Haunt ME, a ghost-hunting video series. It’s good. Good enough that Charlie got hired to be the video production guy for, get this–a treasure hunting expedition. You know, the guys who spend millions locating and then diving on shipwrecks on the ocean floor in search of valuable loot. How cool is that? I’m happy and proud of Charlie, but I gotta face facts. I need a Charlie, or a Charleen, II.
Honesty time: this isn’t a gig that will make you rich. Rates range from hourly to day-rates depending on the job and client. The pay is pretty good, but it isn’t scheduled daily work. For that reason the ideal person will A) have another job that is very flexible or B) have a trust fund that enables them to assist and hang out at coffee shops all day. Don’t worry; I’ll still pay you. The good news is that I don’t believe in making you work for free. I don’t do free tryouts or anything like that. If I use you, even if you break some gear, I’m going to pay you (even if I don’t want to call you back the next time). The other good news is that you’ll learn a tremendous amount from a working, busy commercial and editorial photographer who does a lot of location work and loves to use strobes.
What I’m looking for is one or hopefully more people that I can tap from time to time to be my photo assistant. The work is pretty straightforward—pack and unpack photo gear, prep cameras and gear for location shoots, keep releases organized, lug said gear, and function as a VALS, or Voice -Activated Light Stand. Stuff like that. Any candidate would need to have the following going for them: The ability to carry heavy bags, lift heavy objects over their heads, and they need to have…hustle. That means you need to have more than one gear and the ability to smoothly transfer into and out of that higher gear as the situation dictates. I’m not a get-set-up-and-shoot-in-one-single-spot kind of photographer. I like to move. I change my mind (too much, I know Charlie is thinking). So the ability to roll with it and be flexible is always good. I need someone who can be a chameleon and fit in to whatever environment we’re shooting in. This means you can dress up for the corporate stuff and dress down when we’re shooting from a moving car. I’m not looking specifically for a photographer, though a passion for visuals and an understanding of exposure, artificial lighting and professional camera gear is a huge, huge plus. I don’t care what lights you may or may not be familiar with; that I can teach. In fact, you’d learn a lot on the job, so a teachable attitude is necessary too.
Oh, and…one more thing. You need to have good social skills. You need to have a sense of humor. This should really be at the top of the list. It’s not necessary, but a bonus if you like music like Johnny Cash, the Pogues and Flogging Molly. I’m just sayin’. However, Charlie likes techno and Queen, so obviously I won’t get hung up on that last one.
If you’re interested, email me at email@example.com, please, by the end of December. Feel free to forward this to anyone you think might be interested. No calls, please. In your mail, tell me what your work situation is, ideally what you’re looking for in an assistant position and any limitations you have (can’t work on Mondays, can’t do overnight travel, etc). Tell me a little about yourself. I’ll take a look at what you send me and will do interviews after that point.