I’m a photographer and writer from Frederick, Maryland, specializing in people and location work. I’ve been doing this a long time because I love it. I was an editor for ten years before starting to photograph full-time, and a graphic designer before that. I’ve experienced every aspect of the editorial process firsthand, and visual problem-solving is my specialty.
I’ve seen my profession transformed by the digital revolution and a lot of new talent spring up in its wake. Advanced technology and smart cameras have taken high-quality imaging from the domain of old-school pros and put it into the hands of people who know only digital photography. Many of these with strong visual talent are producing worthy work. Beyond an intuitive eye and high creative quotient, what do I bring to the table that’s special?
1. I’ve been working with words and pictures for many years. More than just photography, I understand editorial and journalistic priorities. Good photography needs content, composition and light; good photojournalism also has to be honest. It’s possible for a photographer to feel because his or her pictures are so strong they don’t need anything except an audience, but editorial pictures need to be about the subject, not the photographer. And they generally need context. Sometimes that context is provided by supporting images; more often it’s likely to be words. A good editorial photographer understands he or she is part of a team effort in bringing understanding of the subject to viewers.
2. Photographing for publication is my default mode. I’ve worked with art directors and photo editors for over 30 years. Making images with a larger purpose is familiar territory to me – whether that purpose is pulling a reader into an article, telling a story or selling an idea or service. I’m accustomed to pleasing my clients by the quality of my work, and don’t settle for less.
3. I respect the dignity of my subjects. Some people are easy to photograph but others require patience and empathy, even to see them properly. You can easily capture a person’s façade but I’d rather find their essence. I don’t expect this to always be easy. A sensitive, empathetic photographer will work patiently with his or her subject to find their visual essence, and will respect it by their portrayal. This applies equally to complex subject matter as it does to editorial portraiture.
4. I love light. I’ve never stopped studying how light works in photography. Visually this may be the biggest deal of all. Light is what makes photography possible; you have to understand it to control your images. It can’t just happen in post production, or by pumping up the HDR. I shot film for a long time, and that forces one to come to terms with light control and modification. Digital technology can seduce a person into thinking it’s all about learning how to use a complicated DSLR camera. Nope, aside from the subject it’s always been about the light, no matter what technology is used to record the image. With portraiture this is absolutely not negotiable. If the right light isn’t happening, you’ve got to recognize that and know how to make it happen before the shutter opens. Creating beautiful, believable light from scratch has always been one of my main strengths.
Look at my photos, and you be the judge. I’ve worked deep in coal mines and from open doors of airplanes, from factory floors to executive boardrooms, from the halls of Congress to Sudanese refugee camps. I’m still expanding my range of skills, but I’ve got a pretty good base to work from. I’d love to put it to work for you. Give me a call or an email – let’s get together and see what we can make happen!

More about me and my work

Check out my novel, The Redemption of Valerie Tolliver