Writer-Photographer Collaborations

Things to Consider When Working with Other Creatives

Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography
Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS. Photography by Kurt Weston.

As many of you might know, I am a writer and photographer. Hence, I often work with other writers and photographers. Sometimes I do get to photograph and interview someone for a magazine article. Other times, I team up with another photographer or writer, each doing his or her part (photography or writing) for a particular feature or cover story. There are also times when I collaborate with other creators, working on longer projects, such as books. And then there are times when I get to create the visuals to help promote a book, CD, and other similar products. The truth is that there are times and projects when it is important, often inspiring, as well as enlightening to work together with other creatives.

But being a lone wolf myself, I’m not usually the one to volunteer to collaborate with others. And yet, there are times and there are creatives I love to work with. And I learn from the process, while at it.

Here are a few things to consider if/when planning on collaborating with other creatives:

  • make sure your personalities match; if you know the person and think that you could work together, why not give it a try
  • start by deciding on a project, and then write down and split the necessary tasks, making sure you don’t step on anybody’s (or each other’s) toes
  • with the previous point in mind, working as writers/photographers or writers/cover designers becomes a more organized project when it comes to assigned tasks and to-do lists in order to finish the project. But that doesn’t mean that two photographers or two writers cannot work together. The secret is to keep an open mind (and ear), exchange ideas, be willing to learn and explore new avenues, and also figure out what would best work for you–your style, work, workflow, etc.
Swedish author Hans Hirschi at the LGBT Center in NYC
Author Hans M. Hirschi reading an excerpt from his book at the LGBT Center in NYC.

The first project I worked on as a writer, while collaborating with another photographer, was my book, Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of award-winning, legally blind photographer Kurt Weston. Kurt shared his photography and the stories behind his stunning (mostly) black-and-white images, and I took notes and wrote the book. It took me several years to finish the book, but it’s worth all the sweat and tens of edits. In 2012, Kurt Weston was the winner of the CNN iReport Award, for Personal Story. Check out Kurt Weston’s interview on CNN.

A few years ago, I got to work with award-winning author T.J. Banks on her book, Sketch People–Stories Along the Way. That was an interesting project! Not only I got to be interviewed for the book, but I also got to meet and photograph fantastic people for the book. Also, made the cover and made it on the cover, thanks to Tammy.

Recently, I also collaborated with another favorite author, Hans M. Hirschi, creating images that visually captured the essence of several of the stories included in Hirschi’s short story collection called Shorts–Stories from Beneath the Rainbow. That project came out of the blue, as an amazing surprise. While you browse through Hirschi‘s website, check out his latest novel, Last Winter’s Snow.

The other week I got together with fashion photographer, actor, and artist Rob Ordonez for an experimental photo shoot. That is, we met at his NYC studio and took pictures of each other, switching roles between being photographers and models. I got to work with continuous lighting, something I haven’t done in a long while (I usually use strobes). We kept it simple, having available one light source only, and white walls or Rob’s famous wallpaper as a backdrop(s). And, most importantly, even if I cannot pose for the life of me, Rob still made me look pretty good.

Here are a few images from the shoot with actor, artist, fantastic model, and fellow photographer Rob Ordonez:

Rob Ordonez photographed by Alina Oswald
Robert Ordonez photographed by Alina Oswald.
Rob Ordonez photographed by Alina Oswald.
Rob Ordonez photographed by Alina Oswald.

And also, here’s an image (that I cropped) Rob Ordonez took of yours truly, during the same photo shoot.

I cropped the above image of yours truly. Photo by Rob Ordonez.

The secret of coming out alive and still friends from these collaborations:

  • respect for the person(s) you work with on the project
  • be open and honest, ask for feedback as you work on the project, and also share your own thoughts
  • discuss and decide on what the final product/goal should be, and how to tackle the project, before you get to work; make sure you’re both (or all) on the same page
  • make sure everybody understands his/her role and assigned tasks, and delivers on time, hopefully before the deadline
  • have a deadline for each step or part of the project, if it’s a longer project (like a book or photography show or visual content for a book, etc)
  • share updates, ask questions, as you work your way to completing the project
  • make sure or at least do your best, so that, when all it’s said and done, everybody feels fulfilled and willing to do it again, if possible

Working together on projects is not a competition, it is teamwork. Cherish the experience!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Alina Oswald


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