Q+A with Andre Constantini

December 4, 2008

I had the opportunity to speak to Andre Constanini this week about working with various forms of media and how they contribute to his freelance business. Andre is a photographer and artist currently residing in New York City. A partial client list includes: American Repertory Theatre, Boston Early Music Festival, Constellation Center, Criterion Collection, Dynalite, L’oreal, Rainbow Media and Tamron. He also photographs modern dance companies and musicians. Assignments have brought him as far west as Prague and as far east as Japan as well as throughout the United States. He has taught photography seminars throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean and has written articles for Shutterbug and Studio Photography and Design.

I had the opportunity to work with Andre about a month ago when he edited the first video shot with Canon’s new 5D Mark II camera, a 21.1 megapixel DSLR that also shoots HD 1080p video. The video was shot by my boss Vincent Laforet, a former New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who now shoots commercial and editorial work. Vincent was the first artist in the world to get his hands on this camera, and he produced, shot, edited, and distributed a short video within 72 hours. It was viewed by 1.5 million people in 10 days. See the video here.

B: Can you talk about what different forms of media you’re using, and how frequently you use each of these mediums?


A:  I would say this is the first year that it’s about 50-50 with video and photography. Prior to this, video was maybe 10 or 11% two years ago, 25% last year. It’s been a growing segment for me, and the photography business has really been consistent in terms of growth, so all the video has been an add on to my business.


B: Have you been pursing video more, or has the market shifted in terms of more demand for video? 


A: It’s definitely more demand, especially because of things like youtube and vehicles where people can display their work. Because we have a vehicle for it, that’s one of the reasons why the demand is so high


B: What kind of stuff have you been doing within video? Has it been a specific task, or all over the place?


A: It’s pretty much all over the place to be honest with you. [For example] I have one client that’s an NGO called Doc 2 Doc… I have a couple of other clients in the photo industry and for them its creating endeavors like “How-To” content or product demos. Basically being used as a vehicle for advertising.


B: Specifically within advertising, do you see these clients going to the same person for both photography and video? To perhaps save money, or streamline the process?


A; Possibly. There’s still kind of separate in a lot of ways. Obviously you have to take stills, but most of the clients who hire me aren’t like, “produce this print ad, and do video stuff.”


B: Are you trying to appeal to any sort of niche market? Or do you find yourself getting more work by being a “generalist”


A: Well, there’s some work I turn down because of lake of interest or budget, but anything that keeps it interesting for me, different types of work, like traveling to Africa with an NGO this week and then shooting an instructional video or podcast the next keeps it interesting.


B: Do you think the era of the niche market artist is over?


A: Not particularly. I think there will be a need for people that are good at doing their niche market stuff, but I do see, in terms of print advertising budgets decreasing and online budgets increasing…the cost of a full page ad in a magazine, single insertion with no deals, is about $25,000 a page, plus the cost of the photographer and all the rest of the stuff that goes along with it. The cost to produce a couple of small videos is way cheaper than that. I run things on pretty tight budgets, but its profitable enough for me to be able to grow my business and give my clients what they need and make (video) a reasonable alternative for them.


B:  How to balance the needs of your business with your creative strategies?


A: For now, it’s been a pretty nice balance. It’s been a little more on the commercial side than the creative, but ultimately, with the content, the clients I have are giving me the ability to make it more creative and exciting and a little less dry, and that makes it more challenging and exciting for me.


B: I was speaking with a regular New York Times photographer, Robert Caplin, the other day, and he said to me, “We are entering the era of the freelancers market.” What do you think about that?


A:  I totally agree with that. In a lot of ways, especially if you’re running as a freelancer and not in a business and you don’t have a lot of overhead while still maintaining a reasonable price for clients…I still think there’s an element, when it comes to photography and video, where you really need to know what you’re doing. There’s still an art to taking a picture and telling a story with video. In that way, it’s not the type of job where things are completely automated or replaced…yet.


B: How do you think people are going to react to the fact that, on top of having to be very well versed at various forms of multimedia, also have to have some sense of entrepreneurial-ship, and be able to take on other factors such as self-promotion? Do you think they’re teaching it in schools?


A: Well, I went to school at Rutgers, in their art school. There weren’t really any business classes, it was very art-based. They gave a lot in terms of theory and design…totally useful stuff…but when I got out of school, I had to kind of figure out how to make my own business. So, the way that started, I had a lot of [regular work in the] photo industry…while at the same time developing freelance clients. What I’ve found is that by being consistent at doing good work, the word of mouth, contact marketing…is definitely in my business model…if you do quality work at a good price for people, they will recommend you, and my business has basically been built off of that.


B: And advice for the fresh out ungrad/grad school, budding multimedia entrepreneurial freelancer?


A: [laughs] I think the one thing that people sometimes forget to do is their own projects that keep them excited about what they do. As a freelancer, if you can have a project you do on your own, one that you’re excited about, and then you get it out there, that just winds up being a vehicle for promotion for your own artistic gratitude.


B: Thanks very much, Andre. 


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