Travis Jensen is a self-taught photographer with a day job who has just published his fifth book of street snaps.
Shot with an iPhone 4 plus Hipstamatic’s John S. Lens and Blackeys Supergrain Film, “Wish You Were Here – San Francisco Street Snaps,” was published in collaboration with the Franklin Street Whole Foods store with proceeds to benefit Larkin Street Youth Services. (If you’re in San Francisco, you can meet Jensen and pick up a signed copy at the launch party at Hipstamatic headquarters on Thursday, November 29.)
A website and social media can substitute a portfolio and PR. Jensen doesn’t have a printed portfolio to shop around projects, but relies on his website, Twitter and Instagram to get the word out. Just use them judiciously: “Spread the word but don’t be the person constantly shoving their project down everyone’s throat on Twitter…Good work gets recognized eventually.”
Start small – and consider self publishing. Jensen’s work caught the eye of Whole Foods with a book of 40 photos called “Insert Title Here” that he published in just 75 copies. For small-batch projects, recommends print-on-demand services like HP’s MagCloud, which also handles shipping and distribution.
Keep a tight focus on your work. A mixed theme book of pics is fine for your family, but don’t expect those adorable shots of your dog on a lazy Sunday afternoon interspersed with your kid’s Halloween costumes to have much traction beyond your relatives. “A road trip is a good place to start. It gives you a consistent theme, then you can build off that and explore something else, like old-school barbers or outreach programs or whatever interests you.”
Commit to the project and take your time. Think about the images – each should be able to stand alone – and remember you’re in no rush but honor your commitment to the final project. “I hear a lot of people say ‘I’m going to make a book’ and never quite get there. You just have to keep chipping away at it.”
Create a big body of work – but don’t publish all of it. “People sometimes judge books on how hefty or lengthy they are, but less is more with photography. Be your own harshest critic.” Small but focused batches of published work will also give you more flexibility should corporate America come calling. Jensen knew that edgier pics from his previous works – nudes, for example – wouldn’t work for the Whole Foods project. “That’s where you want a body of 5,000 shots to choose from when you only need to publish 25.”