Steve Vaccariello
Based On A True Story

You promote the work that has your heart and soul in it, the work you want to keep doing.

The art director for an ad agency is setting up a storyboard presentation for a client's kick-off campaign for an upscale shopping mall. The plan calls for five evocative photographs to be used in print ads and on billboards. The photographs are key: they will set the look, mood, and tone of the mall and its stores. They will be the first images the public sees in connection with this new enterprise.

The art director finds a photo in the Black Book, one of the premier showcases for photo and illustration talent, that exemplifies what he's looking for. He clips it out, copies it, uses it in his presentation to the client to show the kind of images around which he wants to build the campaign. The client buys the concept, and the A.D. goes to work to find a photographer to create the actual images. He contacts a handful of photographers' reps who he respects, faxes them copies of the concept layout and asks them to send portfolio books if they think they have a photographer who can interpret that look.

One rep takes a glance at the fax and immediately calls the art director. "I've got the photographer who can do the job," he says. Then he adds, "As a matter of fact, he already did." The art director says, "What do you mean?" The rep says, "I represent the photographer who took the image you clipped from the Black Book--the picture you used to sell the concept to your client." The art director says, "Well, I guess we're hiring the right guy then."

The photographer is Steve Vaccariello, and, yes, to a certain extent he got lucky. But the best commercial and advertising photographers know that you put in your book the kind of work you want to get. You promote the work that has your heart and soul in it, the work you want to keep doing. You hope it will resonate, artistically and commercially. It's risky. It's probably safer and easier to follow the latest trends or imitate the latest looks in an attempt to appeal to the current market. But the market is fickle, and ultimately it will probably elude you.

"The best projects," Steve says, "are those for which I can use my own style to create images for a campaign. Why would I want to show anything other than the work I really want to do?"

Steve Vaccariello is a NikonNet "Legends Behind the Lens" featured photographer. The current "Legends" story and an archive of profiled photographers, including Steve, can be found at Steve's website is