features

Why Editorial Works: Brian Finke for National Geographic

By Conor Risch


© brian finKe/courtesy of gallery stocK
A BBQ image by Texas native Brian Finke that helped land him an assignment from National Geographic.

It's no secret that budgets for editorial photography are often slim, deadlines are frequently tight and subjects can be less than accommodating. Yet the creative freedom, challenges, experiences and opportunities to make great pictures offer photographers something they can't get from any other type of work. In this eries of articles about editorial photography, which originally appeared in the June Photo Annual issue of PDN, photographers talk about what made their favorite editorial jobs great, and about what editorial work means to them. Use the below links to read other articles in this series:
Why Editorial Works: Kareem Black for VIBE
Why Editorial Works: Jamie Chung for Document Journal
Why Editorial Works: Ackerman + Gruber for The Wall Street Journal

While he shoots occasional advertising jobs, Brian Finke’s work is primarily editorial and he likes it that way. “I love to be busy working, so I always try to fit jobs in,” he says. Finke doesn’t promote himself to editorial clients heavily. However, he has made personal projects that he has published in books, exhibited in galleries such as ClampArt in New York City and Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen in Amsterdam, and shared online.

As a result, he says, he gets calls from editors when the subject matter suits his personal style. “I get called to go and make my pictures,” he explains.

Finke evaluates which editorial assignments to take based on the subject matter and the editor who calls. When National Geographic asked him to spend six weeks in Texas creating a photo essay about “America’s love of meat,” it wasn’t a tough decision. The editors at National Geographic tapped Finke, who had never worked for the magazine, in part because he often posts images of his own barbecue and grilling exploits on his Instagram feed.

So far he’s photographed cowboys and slaughterhouses and butchers and family dinners and other subjects for the assignment, which is scheduled to appear in National Geographic this fall. A Texas native, Finke, who is based New York City, has wanted to do a project in his home state for years, he says. The National Geographic assignment “feels like one giant personal project.” Because of the amount of time National Geographic allows, “if something’s not working, you can go back the next day.”

“I come from working on assignments where you show up and work through it and produce, basically, regardless of the circumstances,” he adds. This job is “definitely spoiling me.”

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