Clinton Cargill – Director of Photography, Bloomberg

Clinton Cargill – Director of Photography, Bloomberg


– Hello, and welcome to
the i3 lecture series, hosted by the Masters in
Digital Photography program at the School of Visual Arts. We are thrilled to have
photo editor, Clinton Cargill as tonight’s guest speaker. Clinton is currently Visuals Director at Vanity Fair magazine. Previously, he worked as
Director of Photography for Bloomberg Businessweek and
Bloomberg Markets magazines. During his tenure at Businessweek, the magazine’s photography won recognition by American Photography, Pictures
of the Year International, The Society of Publication Designers, the Creative Review, Photo District News, and the American Society
of Magazine Editors. Before joining Businessweek, Clinton was a photo editor at
The New York Times Magazine where he worked from 2004 to 2014. He has taught courses
on editorial photography at the International Center of Photography and serves on the board of directors at the Center for
Photography at Woodstock. He is currently the president of the Site of Publication Designers. Aside from being a
distinguished photo editor, Clinton is one of the most generous and gracious leaders of our industry. So, it is our great privilege to welcome him tonight
to our lecture series. (audience applauds) – It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m gonna show you a bunch of pictures and probably talk too fast. I think the way that I
think about my career is kind of, I totally
stumbled into this work and the best case of dumb
luck you can possibly imagine. I studied theater in
college, I was a dropout, I was temped in virtually
every building in midtown. (laughs) I used to go to parties and tell people that I was in a chrysalis
and I was waiting to figure out what I would become. It was like the kind of thing you say just because people always ask what you do and you have no idea what to say. When I lucked into a job
as the photo assistant at The New York Times Magazine, I didn’t understand how good it was. I’m like a situationally
intelligent person who maybe isn’t as well read
as I sometimes come across, and so a lot of times I
find myself in places where I think I have a lot to
figure out right now, which is actually where I
am currently at Vanity Fair. So, I always think it’s, as a person still learning on my journey, I think it’s not so helpful
to people along the way to kind of make it sound
like it was all meant to be. None of it was meant to be. It’s luck, it’s work, it’s time, and then it’s learning. So, I’m kind of couching this as the way that I learned
to be a photo editor and how that has evolved and
I have developed through that. That’s what it’s gonna be. But feel free to stop
me if you have questions or if you’re having trouble hearing me or anything like that. So, I’ll first just show you
a few of my favorite covers from The New York Times Magazine. This was what is now a very old story about the nationalized
oil industry in Venezuela. This was photographed by Ambroise Tezenas, beautiful large format
landscape photographer. This is, I think, 2008. This jumps ahead a few
years to about 2012. This is the special forces in Africa assisting with US Special Forces working on the ground to assist local and national military organizations in the fight, Boko Haram, but also, this story, they
were looking for Kony, who you may remember was a
sort of scoundrel at the moment in Uganda around that time. This is a portfolio by Michele Asselin about nannies, called The
Other Mothers of Manhattan. Joe Biden, photograph by Taryn Simon. Alicia Keys, photograph by Peter Hapak for an Inspiration issue. So, it was like a whole issue looking at how art gets made. And this was right around the time that Girl on Fire was released, so I sang it, played
it over and over again until the whole department was sick of it. This was a cover story
after Hurricane Katrina about four years, there
was a really terrible but very ethically
journalistically interesting situation at one hospital there where a sort of for profit
longterm care hospital had been housed on top
of another corporation but in the same building. These people were basically
the kind of people that were really hard to triage
once the flood waters came, and many of them died. The story was that the doctor who had been in charge of this unit, the question was whether she had taken it into her own hands to euthanize people who she couldn’t triage
out of the hospital. So, this was like a 12,000 word piece reconstructing everything
that happened on that floor. We sent photographer, Paolo Pellegrin to basically break into the upper floors of this hospital and
photograph in the old ward that was condemned, and
that’s what that is. I brought this because
Rodney Smith died this year, and he was such an amazing
joyful imaginative artist, and I got one day with him in his beautiful home in Rockland County for this crazy story about
the mattress business. It was essentially, the upshot of it was you’ll never sleep well no matter what, but it was kind of a marketing story, and this is another
funny one to look at now as I’m constantly seeing
Casper adds on my social media, anyway, you’ll never get
a good night’s sleep. This was for an education
issue that we produced, this whole issue was on teaching. But the idea, when I worked
at The Times Magazine, was that we would hire students in undergrad or grad school to photograph everything
that we shot in these issues. So, this was a big
production that we shot, David La Spina photographed it in his second year at Yale. There was a cherry picker,
do you know what that is? The entire Yale MFA photo program were on deck as sort of
production assistants, and stylists, and things like that. This is a story shot by Andrew B. Myers about the New Math. Just a favorite ’cause it’s fun. So, now, this is the first
assignment that I ever did when I worked at The
New York Times Magazine. I always come back to this because it was by way of context, my aunt happens to be a very avid birder, like is married to the President of the American Birding Association. My whole childhood life, I
spent a lot of time with her, and I hated birds, and I hated birding, and they had parrots in the house. So, I have this exposure to this certain kind of naturalist. So, the story came up, it was about, in 2005 there was a guy that thought that he had spotted an
ivory-billed woodpecker, which is a long extinct, it was the king of birds,
or something like that, like this big, magnificent woodpecker that only lived in the remotest
parts of rural Arkansas. And so, this was like a
good easy first assignment. Send a photographer with the guy who goes out and hunts the bird. Basically an environmental
portrait, right? The 25 year-old Clinton really
thinking it all through. I went to The Museum of Natural History to hear this man speak about this discovery that he’d had. It was very controversial
because of wing flaps and where the white
parts on the bird were. Then also, what if you were there, and you actually saw the
ivory-billed woodpecker while you were out with this man? Then that would be news, so we couldn’t hold it for the magazine, et cetera, et cetera. Just the weirdest kind of fantasies. And helped along by my boss genius, Kathy Ryan, photo editor. So, I had this picture in my mind, and I’m from Texas, I
have family in Louisiana, I’ve driven across the Bayou many times. So, I had in my mind a kind
of swampy cypressy world that you were going to get into, remote. Like everything about this story suggested that it was so remote. We sent this totally great
photographer, Lane Coder, out to take the pictures, beautiful medium format film, contact sheets in those days. They all came back and
every single picture, there was this bridge. I just like, that’s not remote. It’s right off the highway. (audience laughs) It made me crazy. I was like, oh, these are
terrible, what a failure. The lesson is, it totally doesn’t matter, but the thing you have
to do as a picture editor is to kind of form in your
mind what a story should be, what an image should be, and then, basically, let it go, because it’s not yours. You’re the midwife. I always come back to this because it’s where I learned not to
get too attached to an idea, and that the goal is to give someone else the space to create. Again, similar lesson. This was a cover story
about school lunches and trying to make them healthier and the economics of cheap french fries and how much more expensive,
when you buy them in bulk, yams are to make mashed potatoes. So, the whole story was about these school districts in Florida that had tried to basically
bulk buy these things and it breaks the budget. Things may have gotten better since then, but not significantly probably. So, it was look at the economics of it, but also just people actually
trying to do this well. Well, do you see a lunch tray there? No, right? I love lunch trays, I
remember them from school, and I thought we were gonna
sort of construct this thing, and that would be the cover, and then Gail Bichler, who’s now the design director
at The Times Magazine, had this idea of like, it’s junk food, but then wholesome things are coming out. This is the most obvious, but we had a McDonald’s french fry
contain with beautiful yams, and the incredible food
stylist, Victoria Granof worked on it, Stephen Lewis shot it, but not a lunch tray to be seen. Does it matter? No. If you have an idea for a
really striking picture, it doesn’t have to be a literal
read on what the story was. Again, that was the
folly of youth, I guess. That’s kind of why I showed this. This is by Jeff Mermelstein. This would’ve been
after the 2008 election, or right before the 2008 election. Tom Davis was a congressman from Virginia, had been in for years, and just decided not
to run for reelection. I love this, looking at Jeff Mermelstein’s contact sheets really taught
me how to be a photo editor, and I would add with him, the two people who I probably
learned the most from is Jeff Mermelstein and Mark Peterson, because those guys hustle. And they’re never not looking
for a different angle, they’re falling to the floor, they’re getting up high, they’re back, they’re forward. There’s an Adlai Stevenson, was a perennial presidential candidate, and he was photographed once
with his shoes up on a thing, and he had holes in them. So, there’s kind of like a funny historical reference in
this picture as well. But mainly, I just love the
beautiful framing of that. It just comes from hustle and sweat, I mean, and talented genius. Sorry, we’re way back. This was such a simple time, when I look at these pictures now. This was first story about John McCain’s presidential campaign, post Sarah Palin, and it was all taking place
right at the end of September, beginning of October. She had already kind of made her mark, and the campaign was fairly in disarray. In this cycle, John McCain
had run for president in 2000, had then run in the primary in 2008, went broke, almost had
to drop out of the race, before ultimately getting
the republican nomination. Went from being kind of, I mean, it’s wrong to say globalist, but being kind of an
interventionist in one way to kind of returning to certain strands of republican orthodoxy. Well, when Lauren Greenfield was actually on the trail for us, they would not let us get
anywhere near John McCain, because they were huddling
in, essentially, a crisis. I think this is, the book Game Change came out of this election. So, this was a picture that she made while traveling on the campaign plane. A great photographer who
understands the story can find that imagery, find that picture with or without access, and I sort of love that moment. This is Peter van Agtmael in Afghanistan. I don’t really have a lesson here, I just love the picture. This is Mark Peterson, who again, birds. Which now, by the way,
I really love birds. (audience laughs) The thing about The
New York Times Magazine was it’s like getting a
graduate degree in life. Every story, there’s just
some really interesting kind of fascinating lesson on a topic that you would never expect it. This was about the people of
whooping cranes in decline. So, these scientists and naturalists have kind of devised away
to hatch the eggs in a lab and then, essentially, train the birds to respond to them in,
basically, bird costumes as mother and father whooping cranes, and they fly that crazy glider
along the migration path to teach them how to migrate from whatever kind of marshes
in the middle of America that go to down to Florida. So, they do this every spring, and as a way to build
back up the population. Do you guys know Mark Peterson’s work? Probably, ’cause he’s amazing. But if you know his work from the last four or five years, you know everything is
totally in the face, sharp, and his work has been
that way for decades. He’d do anything. I just love, he’s of course,
yes, just tell me where to go. Get me a cheap hotel, I’ll be there. So, again, it’s just, I don’t know, it’s like learning to work from people who I just really respect. This is another moment in history that I look at with I don’t know what, sadness and regret. I bring it tonight because this cover story came out post Carlos Danger Anthony Weiner, but pre future incarceree Anthony Weiner. So, it was like he was
making his comeback, he was gonna run for mayor, he and Huma were still together, and we had this very inside
profile of the two of them. He had a bunch of money that he was gonna have to give back if he didn’t run for mayor this year. It ultimately came down to
like, that’s why he did the run. He had a war chest that was sort of done. So, his whole public comeback, there was a time limit on it. He was very nervous for press. Which again, in hindsight seems crazy, because he made that documentary. But we had Elinor Carucci
photograph them at home, and it was great, but it didn’t really
make sense for the cover. And so, we asked her, “Would you come “to a studio and
photograph them together?” And I went to the shoot. They were very concerned. Huma, super lovely, and Anthony
was actually lovely too. But they were so guarded, and he in particular was so tense. They wanted to be
photographed like if they were in a buddy cop movie, sort
of back to back, no distance. It’s the most unnatural
pose you can think of. You would only do it for
a silly movie poster, because that’s not how
people relate to each other. So, you know, we asked them, “Would you just hold hands.” Two frames, they stood like this. It didn’t fit the political narrative that they were trying to share
of like no space between us, and they were really uncomfortable. But in that moment, you
actually got something of the two of them actually
relating to each other in the way that a husband and wife might. And then you know the rest. It was a really valuable lesson for me to be in that space and think about how do you make something genuine, and how do you get past the veneer that, particularly, a public
figure is trying to show? This was a big World Cup project that I worked on in 2012. What was the lesson here? I spent a lot of early mornings trying to, all the shoots were in Europe, soccer players are really
notoriously hard to get time with, they all get their money from Nike or from their team, and the teams hate the World Cup because they don’t make
any money off of it. None of the FIFA money comes back. So, if you’re going to
see Manchester United or whatever, Bayern Munich, they just want them to
be in their uniforms that they wear as
professional soccer players. We wanted to have them in
this whole special thing. I don’t know, it was just
like a really interesting, and we did photo and high
speed video with them, just demonstrating moves. It was a crazy access nightmare. The Ronaldo stuff, we just basically had to send the crew to Spain in the hopes that we
would get time with him on the day that they said we might. It was like a multi-thousand
dollar investment to make that choice. I think that was the lesson, I guess, is if you don’t go, you
definitely won’t get the picture. At the end of the day, the money stuff, it matters of course, but
if you don’t have a cover, if you don’t have the most famous soccer player in the world on your cover for your World Cup issue,
that’s a bigger problem. So, this project I bring because, this I think is the moment where I really started to understand, and these are a little bit
out of chronological order, but where I really started to understand that I, as a photo editor, am also in some way an
author of the publication that I work with and that that whole midwife story
is true and important, but that there are a lot of ways in which being a picture editor
just means being an editor and looking at the world and thinking what is interesting, how are the things that I’m excited about actually something that might relate to the work that we’re doing. So, this wasn’t an issue about, essentially the idea of nudging people into better behavior, how do you green the
way that people think. Which we still, obviously, haven’t solved. But, all of the stories in the issue were about kinds of
that behavioral science trying to change the way that people think about climate change. And this story in particular was trying to kind of unravel some wisdom about the way that we think about short term gain versus
longterm incentives, et cetera. So, the whole idea was like, it’ll be the green mind. The editor of the magazine
was like, I’ve got it, we’ll get the Blue Man Group
and we’ll paint them green. And all of the art and photo people were like, No! Anything but that! (audience laughs) (laughs) I had just been with my partner to see the dance troupe, MOMIX. I think they’re actually
an offshoot of Pilobolus, but really interesting kind of sculptural, playful, modern dance. So much of their work is about creating shapes and isolating body parts and movements in ways that
sort of lend to other ideas. I said, my little reference pictures, like what (mumbles) MOMIX. And they went for it,
and I was just shocked. So, I ended up making
a call to the founders of the dance troupe, and Stephen Wilkes and I drove up to their studio in Connecticut
and watched these people in a barn out in the wilderness. I have really low kinetic intelligence so I am just amazed by people who can do anything beyond one
foot in front of the other. These people had this whole other, they didn’t talk to each other, but then they would
suddenly erupt in laughter. There was a sense of like, they had physical communication in way that I had never
experienced before, and it was just great and
they were totally into it. I bought $2,000, $3,000 worth of spandex in the Garment District, and we had all these costumes built. And then they made these kind of crazy shapes with their bodies. It was the most fun I think
I’ve ever had on a photo shoot just because they loved it. They were having the best time. To get that outline, it was like, Steven would call for them to basically tense up their bodies
together into the shape, which is a lot of physical work, and then take a couple of pictures, and then they would all relax. I don’t know, it was just magical. So, that’s the first time I think that I truly understood I have some power to bring my own ideas into this process. This was a portfolio
for the Winter Olympics that Ryan McGinley photographed. We had the fashion designer, Rodarte, create strange knit pieces, I say strange, they were pretty strange, to take it out of, if you
ever go like winter sports, they’re always like
Burton or some crazy type. So, it was just to give something that took it out of the realm of being just general sports photography. This was Evan Lysacek who
won the gold medal that year. They created a whole
knit bodysuit for him. That amazing sweater, that
always makes me think of, there’s like a scene from Chicken Run that I always think of when
I look at that picture. This is how I really
learned to be a producer. That’s the main thing
that I learned from this out of a month’s long project, really working with Ryan, understand someone’s
vision and try to enact it. So, that meant all of the negotiation for the athletes themselves, I was doing, working with the publicist and setting up the time, and
figuring out the schedule. But also then like, we need a snow blower. You know, we’re at a
ski resort in Colorado and we need a snow blower. And then you’re just the person who goes and tries to sweet talk someone into giving you a snow blower that you haven’t rented or
paid for or that you’ve been told you couldn’t
have when you got there. But it’s all in service of
making these magical things. And then I bring this one because I, in addition to birds,
which I’ve come around on, love sciencey natural world things, geology, all of that stuff. I was obsessed for a little
while with the Northern Lights, and am still obsessed with them. I was temporarily really
obsessed with them. There used to be this section of The New York Times Magazine called Look, and it was a single page
and then you turned, and then one big spread of images. Either one image or a grid of nine, and it was just a constant turn of, oh, we need more ideas for this. 52 times a year you have to come up with some kind of spectacular picture that’s totally newsworthy
and interesting on its own, or like a new way of seeing something. It was torture, and we would
have these ideas meetings, and you were constantly
like, I don’t know. For me, that was really, really, hard because, again, I started working there just before I turned 26, I guess. One of the things that limited me in the first five years that I was there was that I always understood
that someone older, smarter, more talented, more well read, more belonging there, would just step in and kind of make it clear
what was supposed to happen, and that anything I said
was just kind of like maybe an older smarter person
will make this work for me. So, I didn’t feel that thing of being, I didn’t have, I think, the kind of, I wasn’t a great advocate
for my own ideas, basically, because I just felt like I
didn’t deserve to be there. So, I had this obsession
with the Northern Lights. We’d have these meetings, it was like you’d come in Monday morning, and there’s be a meeting at 10:30 like, ideas for the Look pages,
and it ruined the weekend. It was just the worst. I was like, you know what I love? The Northern Lights. I’m willing to look into
this in great detail. I hooked up with Simon Norfolk, who was a regular
contributor to the magazine, and he also was obsessed
with the Northern Lights. And with bicycling, which you can do like a midnight sun ride
around the Lofoten Islands which are in this kind
of weird archipelago on the outer part of Norway. The climate there is special. It doesn’t get as cold, like wind currents or something like that. So, the thing that they
do is they dry cod. So, there’s a lot of, what I could call, an antique way, or in
a very traditional way of working with these fish. So, there was actually a whole interesting cultural story here plus
also the Northern Lights. We pitched it as a two-pager, and then he shot it, and it was so wonderful we made it a photo essay
in our travel issue. It validated my sense, like
my own curiosity mattered. I think the lesson that I have taken away from being a photo editor, generally, is like it’s really important, of course, to know how the camera works. But, if you don’t have
curiosity for the world, your pictures are not gonna matter. They’re not gonna be interesting because you have to tap into what your own curiosities are, and engage with the broader subject. Even if all you want to photograph are beautiful flowers, you have to find a depth
of interest in that subject so that your own, and I’m
not a fan of this word, so that your own passion
kind of imbues the photos. And I think that’s how I
think of this project for me. I had an obsession, and
I caught somebody else who shared that obsession. This is a portfolio of actors, British stage actors,
shot by Nadav Kander. Again, I was a theater major in college, so this is one of those things where people always look at me when
the Broadway part comes in. They’re like, what do you think? Not that they think I know, but like, you seem interested in this. And then I moved to Businessweek, and Businessweek is a
very different magazine from The New York Times Magazine, and I knew that when I went into it. I was at The Times for like 10 years, and this position came up, and I knew it to be a really irreverent, it had gone through a redesign in 2010 when Josh Tyrangiel and Richard Turley took over the magazine, and it became really bold and smart and crazy, and not
particularly photographic, but incredibly design forward. The photo director left and
this position came open, and I went to talk to them about it. I didn’t think I could do it. None of it made sense to me, but I was just like, either you stay at your job forever or you
try to do something else, and then succeed or fail, and
that’s all there is to it. So, I got there, and the whole way of thinking at Businessweek,
The Times Magazine was very formal and it was
like getting a masters degree. And I felt like Businessweek
was like joining a punk band. That if you had references, if you brought in Richard Avedon to them, they would just be like. (scoffs) All of the designers were like, oh, it’s like 90s Time Magazine. They were interested in this kind of ironical looking back at periods, they’re also all like 10
years younger than me, are obsessed with Comic Sans font, and just all kinds of
stock photos and memes. I got to this job and I was like, I am one of the old people now. And that was really shocking, ’cause I wasn’t particularly old. But I was like, I was
in the crowd off people who know who Lucinda Williams is and not the crowd off
people who understand memes. But when I interviewed for the job, Rob, who was the creative
director at the time, said to me, “The first rule for us is “we think of the magazine as
being like a broken thing. “If something would work
in another magazine, “that’s a sign that it
would be an issue for us.” So, the first rule is break all the rules, and I am a very obedient person. So, that was a great way
to sort of short circuit all of my own insecurities, because you’re surrounded
by all these people who would bring in just
totally bonkers ideas, like nonlinear, and I had to learn to
play in that sandbox, and it was really fun. So, this the first cover
that I worked on there, which was about the incredibly terrible maternity leave policies in the US, particularly for freelancers. I’m married to a doctor, so I was like, can you please steel some scrubs from the hospital? That’s how everything
at Businessweek is done, it’s like a shoestring and a favor, and we did this shoot. The other crazy thing about this was that this came to be in a dream. I was asleep and woke up and was like, oh, Emily, the woman who was the editor of the story, I finally understand the title, the headline for the
article, labor crisis. And then I got into work, and I was like, “Emily, I don’t
know why I didn’t get this. “That’s such a great
headline, labor crisis.” She was like, “I never said that. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” (laughs) So, the headline to the
story came to me in a dream. Then actually what ended
up happening is that in this job I learned a lot
more about packaging stories. I mean, I learned a lot from
that at The Times Magazine, but in this job I was really in almost every conversation
about that stuff. And I also was looking
around and thinking, at The Times Magazine there’s always Kathy Ryan, there was Janet Froelich, there was Arem Duplessis, there was these great, great, minds, and you just knew somebody was gonna definitely kill this if
it wasn’t good enough. I woke up and I was like, I might be the only one who’s worried if this is good enough, for what my standards are from the way that I learned them. And that’s not to say, incredibly talented smart people, but the timeline was
always a little bit faster. What I would find is that people would confuse the words great and done. Like if something was up on the wall and it looked pretty close to finished, everybody’d be like, “Oh,
it’s great, so great.” And I was like, oh, it’s fine. It is definitely Wednesday
and we shipped the magazine, so it’s not changing. But great is, the upper limit of great is pretty darn high, and
we’re a business magazine. We’re not gonna hit it every week. So, I started to think about looking at the whole picture. Like is this headline good enough? Are these things speaking to
each other in the right way? Is somebody else besides
me gonna speak up? And actually, I should say Rob Vargas, the creative director, was
also very good at that piece, and kind of pushing when things sort of weren’t at the level. I think between the two of us, we spent a lot of time thinking about how do you tell a story, how do you shock people
into paying attention. This was my, I think,
actually second cover there. It was for a story about the unraveling of Abercrombie & Fitch as a brand, and the very, very, gross founder and CEO of that company who’s kind of a racist and kind of a pervert. But also, just a sort of
youth brand from the 90s trying to live its way into the 20-teens was having a lot of trouble. So, we went into the idea room and had all these conversations, and it just kept coming back to those Bruce Weber campaigns. Bruce Weber shot these magazines for them, and they’re all these punky frat dudes. We were just like, it’s irresistible. We can’t not. So, we did this, and we did the casting in the bathroom on the sixth floor of the Bloomberg building and had all these real
people models come in. The guys had a great time. We had them doing tug of war and carrying surfboards
and all this stuff. And we had these funny,
silly, fun pictures. Finlay Mackay photographed this. They were fun. But then we had this one picture, and I was like, this has to be it. It can’t not be this picture, because the rest of them are just goofy, but this actually makes
the strong connection in a way that is really sharp. Notably, the men at Businessweek
really hated this photo. (audience laughs) It’s not so often that you can see that in the gender divide, but all the women were like,
oh, my god, it’s so great, and the men were just like, oh. (audience laughs) An important lesson I
learned from Kathy Ryan is, every so often you have
to get down on your knees and beg for the right picture. (laughs) I was like, you got to do this, you got to give it to me. You know what? Jimmy Fallon showed it on his show. It hit a register that
it wouldn’t have hit if it was just a funny picture of guys playing tug of war or whatever. It’s not so often that I felt like I’ve been in that position, but it was like I really
know this is the thing. It was an important lesson. And then there’s just a parade of weird Businessweek covers. It really was the most fun job, because you could kind
of just say anything and then turn it into a cover. It was like the parents
were just not there. So, this is a story about (sighs) antibiotics getting into the food chain. It starts with geese and pigs, but then shrimp are bottom feeders and pigs poop in the water, and then the shrimp. In a lot of places where shrimp is coming from commercially is Asia and Southeast Asia, and the regulations we have in the US about what kind of antibiotics
you can give to animals are probably now what they should be, but are better than certain other places. So, there’s all of these things coming into the American food chain because they’re not regulated in the same way in Asian markets. We had a great projects
and investigations group that was really longterm
investigative projects that was adjacent to Businessweek but part of Bloomberg News, and this was a story that was generated out of that department. I thought the story was great. Again, it was just like, what can we do? And then you just think of anything, and we had so many shrimp sketches too for this project. I don’t know, I love it. I can’t remember what
the gross substance is that’s inside of the syringe. I think it’s a beautiful product. It wasn’t orange juice. It was something really viscous. We would do this issue called The New Money Issue every year. Now I don’t even really
understand what it was. It was basically sort of looking at people who have come into
money in some way in business. We had one photographer shoot
the whole issue, Amy Lombard, and we needed a cover. We were sort of playing with, what’s new, what’s money, baby. It’s like a wallet. And, oh, my gosh, the editors. We had a change of editors, and the new editors, they were like, is it about child trafficking? (laughs) One of the other things I learned in my theater background
was no joke too cheap. If something is funny
you can get away with it. To me, it’s just striking and funny. This is one of my favorite covers, and they eventually let us publish it. Again, it the striking, and
strange, and funny category, this was a story about Targets trying to rebrand all of their
children’s clothing line, which they have now done, and it’s like Nancy and
Jack or Cate and Jack or something like that. But they did a lot of, the whole piece was about, they had done all this, essentially, user testing with, they let the kids into the design studios to test out all the looks. And so, we kind of had this idea of all these little Anna Wintours telling what these things should be. I don’t know. Again, this is just
like, what did I learn? Sometimes seeing the photo editors about what you can get away with. That’s the overarching lesson
of Businessweek, I would say. Some of this, too, is just to give you a context for the magazine versus where I had come from before. This is a portrait for a story about… I’m trying to think of
how I should say this. Silicon Valley companies all say they want black engineers, so why don’t they hire them? About the gap between the conversation around diversity, and this is actually a conversation that’s ongoing in the photo industry too. The kind of common refrain about not doing more hiring diversity, the pipelines are not there. The kids are just not there. We go to all the schools and whatever, but actually there’s an educate gap issue, there’s a major class issue around coding and computer literacy because by in large, kids that grow up in areas with less access to computers who are likely not to
have computers at home, don’t, from age five or six, grow up learning how to program. So, they’re maybe not genius programmers at 18 when they graduate high school or get into college. Google had worked with Howard
University in Washington DC to establish a technologies
and residents program, really, to build up this program to actually start to build the pipeline for engineers of color,
with mixed success. They had a really great department head and they had a good start. It was actually a great
story by Vauhini Vara. You know the answer, of course, is it’s complicated. So, that was a lot of what you come away with from the story. But we wanted to photograph the kids that Vauhini had written about. This was shot by Christopher Gregory. This felt like me bringing some of my real journalistic news
magazine portraiture to Businessweek in a way that gave it a little more gravitas
than it sometimes had. This is Barack Obama. I learned that sometimes you’re at a friend’s 50th birthday on the day that you’re
supposed to meet the president. This was shot by Geordie Wood I don’t have anything
else to say about it. I was at my friend’s 50th birthday. Somebody else got to go. (audience member laughs) I also did not meet Vladimir Putin. (audience laughs) Or Mohamed bin Salman. I know, this picture has not aged well. But that’s actually a
lot of why I brought it. Because we were writing about him when he was still the Deputy Crown Prince. To photograph anything in
Saudi Arabia is a major get, and to have time for an interview and a shoot with somebody who was such a power broker, and then seemingly such a nice guy. Luca Locatelli photographed this for us. We had a huge debate because there was one with a
really Cheshire smile, like a big grin. I think a lot of us in the art department wanted that picture to be the cover. But we had a whole conversation about, there was also another very elegant full length portrait of him. When these are in focus, those two pictures in this
corridor are also major king and prince type family portraits, and we liked that picture. It was very smart. There’s something felt
about on a magazine, Businessweek is a global magazine, but mostly in the US, putting a Saudi prince
on the cover in this way, we felt like it was actually meaningful to reflect the world and show you someone on the cover that you would mostly never see in the US. We liked the grin, we
ended up with this place. Now, I guess, it’s better that we did, because he’s seemingly an evil person. No lesson here, I just love this cover. (audience member laughs) This was Tim Cook
photographed by Ike Edeani. We did a redesign in 2017,
I guess, of Businessweek. We were kind of straightening
up for tougher times. Which I think felt right. Businessweek was zany and irreverent in a period when the
rest of the world wasn’t, and then the rest of the world has become the worst synonym for zany
that you can possibly think of. So, we were trying to
kind of clean up the grids and make it all feel a
little bit more sober. I bring this because he’s
like the Princess Diana of business magazine subjects. There’s him and I wouldn’t
even know who else. Not even Jamie Dimon, ’cause he’s kind of around. He’s like, if you don’t
get this subject right, it’s really bad. I felt like, I was on this shoot and working with the photographer, it was during the developer’s
conference that they do, and we had three or four different setups. And there was a beautiful picture outside on a stucco
wall against the stairs. At 4:47 it would’ve been perfect, and he was running 30 minutes later, and at 5:20 it was a nothing picture. But we ended up with this,
which I really loved, and it just so happens Tim
Cook also really loved. This was the night of
the election in 2016, which I’ll get to in a minute. I should be going faster. We had done a big politics issue looking at the composition
of the electorate. But we knew, we go to press on Wednesdays, and the election was on Tuesday, and we were not on
newsstands until Friday, so we kinda knew whatever happened, the country was so divided, half of the world was gonna be unhappy, and there was not much we were really gonna be able to say before press time. And so, we always had the idea of, go to both election night parties and try to get the mood of, you know, it’s like one is
laughing, one is crying. Then I went to the Jacob Javits Center to get that part of the story. So, this is Jonno
Rattman and Scott Brauer, and I got home at three
something that night, and had to be in at 8:30 the next morning to edit pictures with the photographers and try to come up with 12 pages of photo recapping of the events. It was, as you can imagine,
a hard night, a hard morning. But we… (sighs) I mean, it was the worst. I’m not gonna lie. I’m just, actually, I’m
flashing back to it now. We had to do our job, and that was the thing. It was like we basically had 24 hours after this, not even 24 hours, we had one business day
into the night to do our job and tell America what happened and why. Right? That was a bracing experience, and also having to think through how do you respond to this story. We go into these headline meetings, and we found the pictures pretty quickly. But it was like trying to get the editors to come up with the
language for a split cover. Every now and then they
just really struggled. So, we were looking at these pictures, and this, and that, and the other. I was looking at that guy, and I was like, We Got This seems like such a funny thing. So, I actually suggested those headlines. It was kind of, to me, it helped pull together the reason
why we were doing the split and not just having a
straight up Trump cover. This is a cover story about non union auto parts plants in the South. This was in Alabama, and basically, a bunch of safety violations that resulted in people getting maimed
or actually dying. Another thing that came out of our project and investigations group. This is a photo essay by Kirsten Lewis looking at the border wall, the existing fence does not actually, you don’t dig it in the
middle of the river. It has to be somewhere
north of the border. And so, there’s lots of
spaces in South Texas where there’s even two miles between where the border wall is and where
the actual physical border is. People live there, they farm there, there’s public parks and all this stuff. So, she pitched this as a kind of looking at the economy
of the space that was north of the border, south of the wall. This was Jonno Rattman from
the republican conventions. I just love the picture. That’s Philip Montgomery
after Hurricane Harvey. This is John Francis Peters
at a Trump rally, 2017. Sasha Arutyunova in Moscow for a city trying to reimagine itself, or trying to imagine its street life. This is an earlier photo essay by Kirsten Lewis looking at how migrants are tracked, which essentially comes
down to footprints. And then I’ll show you, this is one of the last photo essays that I produced while
I was at Businessweek. This is also Mark
Peterson, who you can tell is kind of a hero of mine. He has been doing just
incredible work on the heinous violence and hostility in our public discourse in the last five years. He came to me and he was like, “I want to look at the
actual cost of free speech.” Because so much of what those debates end up being about is a
city like Oakland pays millions of dollars in overtime hours for police to be on duty
to accommodate protesting, or someone like Richard Spencer petitions to speak at a
university in Florida. And then they have to, because
they’re a public institution, they can’t deny, so they either have to pay hundreds of thousands
of dollars in security or face a lawsuit from him and
people who are backing him. He had shot some of these on his own, but then we picked a bunch of different events around the country where then we actually
sort of got in touch, we had a reporter, Susan Berfield, get in touch and actually quantify. It was intentionally provocative. It’s like, is it worth it? I think, like many people,
I had the sense of, how, in my work, do I, I’m a journalist. I have to sometimes, if we were gonna make a portrait request of Donald Trump, that email comes from me. So, I can’t just go on Facebook and kind of rant and rave
about how awful he is. My first duty is to be publicly impartial, which I’m failing at tonight. I’m also not an investigative journalist, I’m not somebody who’s going out there and reporting on the ground. That’s not a part of the work that I do. I actually, I’m not gonna lie, I had a really hard time living that life in the aftermath of the 2016 election. I felt like, because
Mark is very smart about the things that he’s excited about, this was a really great
way for Businessweek to talk about the social
environment that we’re living in. And it’s a really great lens through which to consider the
questions around free speech, not, I mean, free speech in particular, but also the hostility of our
current political environment. So, I felt really proud that I was able to trick the magazine into doing this and that Mark trusted me enough to come and pitch the story. I have to stop, so I’m
probably just gonna stop. You’re all wondering why
do I work at Vanity Fair. So, I’m just gonna blaze
through these pictures, that one of the things that I did while I was a Businessweek was to, I worked on our magazine called Pursuits, which was Bloomberg’s luxury magazine. I kind of got thrown this job when I was two months into having the Businessweek job and really didn’t campaign for it or feel prepared at all. And we had to do a
redesign of the magazine and kind of figure out, a small team of eight people, basically, what it was gonna be and why. I liked it because it was like having access to pictures
that were just beautiful for the sake of being beautiful, which I had basically totally given up when I life The Times Magazine
to work at Businessweek, but it was also and area that
I wasn’t comfortable with. I’ve not done a lot of fashion. I’ve done celebrity, but not a ton. And, again, it was the sense that I worked really closely with Bob Vargas who did the redesign, but all of the sudden
I was in this position where you kind of have to create a magazine out of whole cloth. I would never have said
I’m the man for this, but it also turned out, over the years, I had become the adult. We had travel, we had, this was Ben Lowy, I’ll just tell you that he was not a nature photographer before
he got this assignment. He credits me with now all
of his crazy sharp pictures. It was a really, it was an educate that, once you know the DNA
of how one thing works, you can start to see,
how do you articulate an identity for a different brand. So, I work at Vanity Fair now. A lot of why I do that is because one of my old mentors from
The New York Times magazine, Kira Pollack, is the deputy editor there. So, I’m running the photo department and working closely with her and with Radhika Jones at a
time when they’re re-imagining what a real marquis brand has been. I feel, I would say,
quite uncomfortable at it, but I’m learning. Hopefully, by March or April, or 2020, I’ll feel like I know how to do it. So, that’s the next chapter for me. And then I’ll just leave you with this because it’s my favorite favorite. This was a holiday gift guide that we did for Pursuits that William Redmond shot. It was like just one of
life’s great pleasures to be let into the way
this man thinks and works. He’s a mad genius. (audience laughs) Okay, and then that’s it. (audience applauds) – [Audience Member] So,
you’ve been in the industry long enough now to see the decline of the magazine publication. – For sure. – [Audience Member] So,
what has that done to the photographic process, your
role as payrolls shrink, you’ve seen it shrink, so how
does that play into it all, and how do you see the future of it? – Well, I don’t know how I see the future. Budgets are gonna keep getting smaller. That definitely seems true. I think that a thing that exists maybe concurrently with that, and maybe there’s a correlation, and maybe it’s actually just a generally thing that’s also happening. I feel like when I started
working in this industry, the sort of primacy of
the photographic genius was so big, the incredible egos, and the this only happens this way, and that still exists for sure, and it still exists in commercial work. But I think the balance is that we just don’t have the time, or the staff, or the money to deal with
all that shenanigans. I think a way that young people and or social media have changed the world is the idea of the
single iconic picture is like the gig is up. And so, I think it’s much more now about working with
people who have a voice, have a distinctive voice. But not like, we don’t need a Avedon, we don’t need an Irving Penn. We need a chorus of
photographic visionaries who are reflecting the
world as they see it. And that’s really exciting. I think a huge part of what’s happening at Vanity Fair is like, Radhika’s putting people of color on the cover of the magazine, which hasn’t happened for 25 years or possibly ever. I mean, that’s an overstatement. But then that puts the pressure on me, which I welcome, to be expanding my sense of who is a
Vanity Fair photographer, and who should we be working with, and who can we be working with? And like, Annie is a fixture and she’s a singular genius and probably the most important
photographer in the world. But we don’t need ten of those. We need that person to open the gates and let other people in. So, I think, to sleep at night, that’s how I think about the future. And then I have budget fights and I say no to things
because we can’t afford them, and we think about costs per page, and how much you can invest
for a spread in the magazine, some of the time. And then other times you kind of say, well, this is gonna be really
special, let’s just do it. And then you still fight about the money. What I’m experiencing, I’ve been on this tour
of talking with agents and people who I didn’t used to spend a lot of time talking to at all. What they’re saying to me is that people approach editorial work, like photographers approach it now as kind of like, I find this very quaint, one or two editorials a season. It’s like you’re not making any money, so you just want to do things
that you’re excited about and that feel like they
better your portfolio, or might get real traction
out there in the world. And then they go look into commercial work and try to make a living. So, I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I think it’s probably both. Yeah. – [Audience Member] I was just curious, as a retired actor myself, how did you find yourself
at The New York Times? Can you give us the crash
course in how that happened? – I went to NYU, and a lot of people graduate NYU and then don’t continue working in the theater industry, and a lot of them do. I actually worked, I was a
dresser for off Broadway shows, so the person who stands backstage and zips the zippers and
pushes them back out, (audience laughs)
and then does the laundry. I did that, and it gave me proximity to working in theater, which
I was really excited about, and then it really wasn’t working. So, I went to do something else. And I got a temp job at a magazine, and I had another theater friend who had a friend from NYU who somehow became a clerk
at The New York Times. The clerks are like the assistant people, and they often hop desks
and do different jobs different days of the week. So, actually, how I got into The Times was like four generations
of theater people. There was Gordon, and then Alexis, I think that’s only three. My friend had worked with me
at bunch of different places, theater and non-theater. She was like, this guy is really smart, and you should bring him in. And they brought me in for a job to work in the graphics desk, which I was manifestly unqualified for. I didn’t get it. And then I took a temp job at City Bank and then was working on
PowerPoint presentations. Months later, I had worked at a magazine called Biography which was like, in the old days of Annie, long before Dog the Bounty Hunter, they used to just have hour long shows about interesting
characters from history, and they made an entire
magazine to go along with it. It was a really easy safe place
to learn what magazines are. But then on my resume I
had the world magazine. So, they went back to the
file when this job came up in the photo department
of The Times Magazine, and they were like, you have magazine experience, you’ll be great at this. So, it was really just
the worst of dumb luck, I mean, the best I guess. But also, be kind, be professional, maintain relationships, think about things as potentially having consequences in the future. – [Audience Member] Can
you give us a walkthrough of the genesis of an editorial meeting. At Vanity, you’re monthly now, so you walk in, and you’re about to start talking about the first issue. Walk us through that process. – A bunch of editors sit around in a room. I mean, it’s really different at a monthly because I’m now thinking about, we’re in the middle of January, so I’m starting to shoot for February. And that to me is very alien. The hope is to bring more
documentary journalism, in some ways, back into Vanity Fair. But the bread an butter of what we do is the intersection of personality and power, as Radhika put it, which I think helps me understand what the job is. So, it’s a lot of Hollywood, politics, obviously, Silicon
Valley, New York society, but kind of also expanding
that into global society, and culture, more generally. So, there’s ideas about who is interesting from a celebrity standpoint, who we want to be featuring, and what’s coming up on the calender. It’s a little more calender
driven at Businessweek than, I think, at other
places I’ve worked, things are calendar driven
but also very news driven. So, a lot of times I might come in with an idea for someone that I’d want to be working with or a project that came from a photographer that I might pitch, but the editors,
generally, are looking for, it’s much more often in that case that it begins with the subject or it begins with a story. I don’t know, there’s a lot of meetings, we come together, we sit down, people say things, and you ask them what does that mean, and then kind of try to
connect with the writer and figure out what’s possible from a photographic standpoint. And then what’s the most impactful kind of picture that you can make. You know of an individual subject that’s a celebrity or
if it’s a real person. Like, for example, Gillian Laub, (laughs) you appreciated that, thank you. Celebrities are real people I guess. Gillian Laub shot a bunch of the gymnasts who had come forward about Larry Nassar being a sexual abuser. So, there was a story
that went along with that, but Gillian felt like the right voice to get the sort of tension and the sensitivity of that subject. But in other cases, it’s about the mix. This is much more true than with weeklies, although we always thought
about the next bit. Is there a lot of color in this issue? What’s the pallette like overall? If three stories come in and they’re all in a kind of green,
brown, neutral space, in a monthly magazine, you really feel that in a way that some weeks Businessweek
was not as photographic, and other weeks it was very photographic. And you just kind of shrugged it off, and it was like, well, the next
week will just be different. But in a monthly there are only 12, so you have to really get that right. Things change a lot, like
in the course of the close, you know, we’re really
talking about February now. We’re really living the holiday issue, which is the month
formerly known as January, and really in the close of that, and putting things in layout. But thinking about the mix and thinking about who should be shooting, what should we be photographing
for the February issue. But then it also changes because, you know, things come in and
the mix doesn’t feel right, so a story might get held or killed. Not killed so often. But if there’s something
that doesn’t have a time peg, then that might move to get in something that’s more colorful or to get us a dose of
politics that we want. Because, believe it or not, Vanity Fair is a general
interest magazine. So, you really do want to be representative of a broad array of kinds of storytelling. – [Moderator] Clinton, thank you so much for a stellar lecture. That’s all the time we have.
– Oh, thanks. (audience applauds)

3 thoughts on “Clinton Cargill – Director of Photography, Bloomberg

  1. This was such a valuable discussion. As a photographer, being able to hear how an editor views our works was priceless. Thank you for making this lecture available.

  2. Vanity Fair is not New York times. It needs to stop acting like it. Vanity Fair needs best fashion and portrait photographers to keep its culture going. Stop hiring shitty photographers and photo editors. This is what happens when you hire a English lit major to run your FASHION magazine. I betcha Radhika doesn't know the difference between wrong and right white balance. Same with this guy Clinton!

  3. The Clintons are well aware of everything they've done and they don't care. Power is more important than humanity. Sickening.

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