Why Editorial Works: Flora Hanitijo for Port

By Conor Risch

© flora hanitijo
Image of jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal by Flora Hanitijo for Port magazine.

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 series 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
Why Editorial Works: Brian Finke for National Geographic

When Flora Hanitijo received the call from UK-based magazine Port to go and photograph legendary jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal, she didn’t know what to expect, and she certainly didn’t anticipate an experience that she says gave her “the jitters for days” after the shoot. “I just thought it was another portrait job, and I had to do a video,” she recalls.

Hanitijo, who estimates that 60 percent of her work is editorial and the rest commercial, photographed and shot video of Jamal at his home outside of New York City. “I was in his living room with two baby grand Steinway [pianos], recording him playing for me all day long.” The next day, she says, he played Carnegie Hall. The shoot appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of Port, the quarterly men’s general interest magazine, and Port used Hanitijo’s 2-minute video to promote the issue.

Port was “really cool about a lot of creative freedom,” she says, something that characterizes her favorite editorial jobs. But Jamal himself made this particular assignment memorable. Hanitijo says he was an “awesome” presence, who was humble and “respectful of my work,” spending most of a day with her and her audio tech, “which was so kind of him.”

Hanitijo says she chooses which editorial work to take based on whether the job makes sense for her creatively, and then evaluates the budget. “If it doesn’t add to my portfolio and [take me] where I want to go, I step back and look at it and see if it’s worth it or not.” At times she’ll come away from an editorial shoot with good images for her portfolio, but the experience isn’t great due to factors like “weather, personalities, production, budget.”

This was an instance where the experience made the shoot. “Meeting a really graceful, talented person—that was what was so great,” she says. “A lot of the time you meet such amazing people doing portrait work,” she adds.

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