Today’s post is part 2 in our mini series talking to photographers who balance multiple photo careers (that is, working for a company, and working for themselves). Here, we’re talking to photographer Khaki Bedford Fritscher.
What do you do during the day?
I am a Digital Imaging Specialist at Magnum Photos in NYC – basically the fancy name I came up with for digital retoucher. Magnum is a unique photo agency because it is one of the only well-known agencies that is owned and run by its members (the photographers). It was founded in Paris by one of my very early photography influences, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Primarily, I am retouching all of the negatives and digital files for the photographers working in the field… and also retouching very old negatives from as far back as the 1940’s… which can be pretty cool, restoring bits and pieces of photographic history.
Outside of your day job, what are you doing in terms of photography?
Outside of Magnum, I am shooting pretty much whenever I can. I started at little wedding/commercial photography business for some extra income, as my personal work doesn’t really make me any dough, but am pretty much up for whatever a client throws at me. I’ve shot a lot of fashion stuff, primarily for shoe designers, as well as editorial and music photography. I’m also doing album and book design which I enjoy. Really, its about taking any subject or project and making it my own. I feel that most people who hire me really want me to use my own personal style, so that is pretty flattering in itself and it allows me to always keep things fresh and come up with new ideas… never having to conform to something that’s not me.
Of course, I also have my “personal” personal work which I guess you could say is more likely to be seen on a gallery wall… and that stuff is a totally different experience for me. That is my baby! It is always ongoing, evolving, and transforming – its more personal, and always forcing me to learn new things about myself. I shoot film with a Yashica T4, so the process is much different than my digital/ commercial work. I am not clicking away and taking hundreds of photos… with my Yashica, every frame counts. And if its not right, I don’t click the shutter. I would say 1 roll of film actually lasts me 3-4 months and every frame is from a different scene from my life. I basically am quietly shooting when I see something that fits or just feels right- whether it be passengers on the subway on my way to work, catching people close to me in quiet moments, or seeing two empty chairs in a room and the light is hitting them just right. I find this work to be very quiet and discreet, and kind of lonely…. as opposed to my wedding work when I am trying to get the subjects attention and making kind of a scene. My personal work is much more “don’t look at me” and “don’t smile”.
When do you find the time to work on personal work?
I always carry my Yashica with me so those photos can be taken on my way to work, on my lunch break, and during the weekends. Anytime really. As for weddings and commercial work, I am constantly scheduling shoots on the weekends. The great thing about working at Magnum is that I leave my work at work, so I am never bringing anything home with me on the weekends and rarely working past 6pm.
How do you balance/organize your time?
I think I do a pretty good job. I wouldn’t say the commercial work is rolling in, but I really like it that way. If I wanted more work, I would advertise and really push it. But then I probably wouldn’t have time for my husband or my personal work… so I like to maintain a balance between Magnum work, commercial work, personal work, and my personal life. Too much of one thing would not make it enjoyable for me anymore.
What are the pros/cons of the double photo duty?
Pros: Getting to do what you love and making an income to support your photography endeavors outside of the 9-5 job. If I didn’t work my 9-5, I would probably get burnt out because I would be relying too heavily on booking photo and wedding jobs every weekend.
Cons: Getting burnt out and spending too much time editing! Specifically with wedding work. You have to shoot so much to ensure you get everything covered… so you can come home with over 2,000 photos to go through after 1 shoot. I have to be brutal with my editing and just let a lot of “not so great” photos go.
Do you have any tips for others in a similar situation?
Just do good honest work and good things will come. If you are always honest about who you are and the results you can achieve and have that rapport with clients, they will be easier to work with, and they will be happier with the results. I tell people up front that I work during the week and am doing different things, so they know I am doing this on the side for now.
How do you keep from getting burned out?
I shoot when I want and take a break when I need it. Sometimes when I am taking a break, I kind of freak out, like “I need to be doing something!”. But then I remember that I did 5 big shoots last month, so I should just enjoy this time because when it rains it pours, and soon enough I will have a bunch of shoots lined up again.
I also try to pace myself and make time for hobbies outside of photography! I love to exercise and that is my main passion outside of work- it really keeps me sane and relieves stress. Also hanging out with friends who have nothing to do with photography can be nice sometimes- takes you outside of your own head.
How do you stay inspired?
I actually started a Photo Group with a few girls who went to school with me at SCAD. I randomly saw them in NYC after I moved here and we all decided we needed some inspiration and we wanted to critique each others work. That is the one thing you really miss about school- critiques! You have the support of your peers to really open your eyes to what you’re actually doing. Its really inspiring to have a group of totally different people, shooting totally different things and in different ways. It constantly reminds me of why I love photography- because it is so broad and vast and everyone has a different point of view. It really opens your mind to be exposed to that.
Our group has grown to about 6-10 people each meeting, and we all keep up with what everyone is doing- going to each other’s exhibitions or helping with promo materials for our photo businesses. Having a meet every couple of months really motivates you to keep working and have something to show at the next meet. We are all in the same boat – retouching jobs by day, photography by night/ weekend – so we can all relate really well to each other.
How do you stay motivated?
I stay motivated by not trying to be too motivated… not to put too much pressure on the process and just let things happen. I have to have trust in myself that this is me and I’m heading in the direction I want to be in. Also, by nature, I can’t keep still too long, so I know if I just keep shooting, something will come out of it.
Anything else on the topic?
Photographer Bio: Fritscher was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee and studied photography at The Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. She graduated in 2005 with a BFA.
Fritscher is currently living and working in New York City at Magnum Photos as a Digital Imaging Specialist, as well as working as a freelance photographer, retoucher, and book designer. She has shown work in NYC, France, and Savannah, GA and her work has been published in several publications worldwide, including Art on Paper, Gearhead, and Time Out New York.
all photos © Khaki Bedford Fritscher