Interview With John Huet
May 10, 2018
In the past, I’ve interviewed photographers who have discussed the monumental shifts happening in the photo industry. Personally, I am saddened by some of the consequences of these rapid changes, but one very important lesson I’ve learned over the years by watching successful photographers is to be smart about the market. It’s important to recognize the changes early and make moves to adapt.
This month I had the chance to interview one of my favorite contemporary photographers. John Huet has continually adapted to the ever-changing market like a pro, and was kind enough to sit with us to talk about his vast experience, as well as what lies ahead.
Ian Spanier: Tell us a little about your history leading into your career as a photographer. When did you start making images?
John Huet: I started in high school shooting for the yearbook. Then I went to college to study photography. After that, I spent five years assisting in Boston before I opened my own studio over 30 years ago.
IS: Did you have a mentor?
JH: The closest thing I had to a mentor was a photographer by the name of Al Fisher. I assisted him for 18 months before I opened my studio, and I have always said that those 18 months were like going to graduate school. I was getting my master’s degree. He taught me what it meant to be a professional, and I still apply the things he taught me to this day.
IS: The business has changed quite a bit for many photographers over the years. Are you feeling those changes as well? If so, how are you managing them?
JH: I think our industry, much like the world, is in a constant state of change and has been for the many years that I’ve been in it. And I think it’s important to remember that you need to be able to change with it. I am always looking for new ways to take photographs, whether it’s trying a new camera, a new lens or maybe a different way of processing the raw file. I also think it’s very important to have diversity in your work. You can no longer just be a photographer. You need to be a director and a producer, and while you need to be able to shoot advertising work, it’s also important to do editorial work, pro bono work and your own personal work.
IS: A few months back I spoke with a few photographers about their thoughts on longevity in the photo business. You have been in the game for quite some time. What would you say has aided your success at being a mainstay in the industry?
JH: Never being satisfied and always feeling that I could do better. I think that’s what pushes me. I’ve never lost the hunger to improve and to stay relevant.
IS: Personal projects are something I feel are integral to photographer’s showcasing of how they see the world. I know that, aside from your book of Sochi Olympics work and your insanely amazing book Soul of the Game, you have a knack for shooting not just the assignment, but all around it. What are your thoughts on this for young photographers? What advice would you give young photographers in regards to personal work?
JH: First and foremost, make all of your work personal. Every time you pick up the camera, whether it’s for yourself or for clients, take great pride in what you’re doing and produce the best work you possibly can. Then do an honest critique of your own work: What worked? What didn’t work? Use that information to build your artistry.
IS: How do you see what’s changed on the client side for you?
JH: I’d say that one of the things I’ve noticed is that the people from the brand/client side are more involved than they used to be. They weigh in early and often on the projects I’ve done recently. Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of different personalities, experience levels and management styles, on both the client and agency side. I’ve worked with people who’ve been in the business for as long as I have, if not longer, and people who are just starting out; people who are very hands-on and opinionated and people who give me an idea and let me run with it. Personally, I love to work many different ways. I love to collaborate, but I don’t mind if somebody says, “this is how I want it to be.” I also like working with clients who give me an idea and leave me alone to do whatever I want. Obviously, technology has changed the way that we do our jobs, but one of the things that have remained constant is the diverse group of people who come to the shoot. And I have to say that, at the end of the day, it’s still all about the image.
IS: Social media has become an integral and useful tool for photographers to showcase their work. How do you treat social media?
JH: I agree, social media has become an integral and useful tool for photographers. I have to say that I came late to the Instagram world and, for a while, I only posted photos that were taken with my phone. I guess I took the word “insta” to mean immediate. I think the biggest drawback for me is that you’re taking an image that looks great large, and you’re looking at it on your phone. The technology we have available is obviously great, but there’s nothing like getting lost in a large print on a wall. And as useful a tool as social media has become, I don’t think it should ever replace meeting with creatives face-to-face. If anything, I think the value of really connecting with people is even more important now.
IS: Favorite Photographer?
JH: The list is too long to pick just one
IS: Favorite Camera?
JH: The one I have with me.
IS: Best advice you ever got?
JH: Find something that you love to do, and because you love to do it, you’ll be good at it, and because you’re good at it, people will pay you to do it… And it only works in that order.
IS: Best advice you can give?
JH: See above.
IS: Favorite subject?
IS: The best assignment you ever had?
JH: Too many to pick just one.
See more of John Huet’s work at www.johnhuet.com
John is represented by Marilyn Cadenbach
Ian Spanier is an award-winning advertising and editorial photographer based in Los Angeles and New York City and a PhotoServe member and contributor. As comfortable as he is in the studio, he can face any challenge presented on location. Ian’s first full book of published work, Playboy, a Guide to Cigars, documents his travels to nearly every country that manufactures cigars and is available at fine cigar shops and at major bookstores. His second critically acclaimed book, Local Heroes: Portraits of America’s Volunteer Fire Fighters, is out now in stores and online. You can visit the book’s Tumblr Page here. Spanier is a member of the Lowepro Team, Photoflex’s Pro Team, and Imagenomic’s featured photographer list. He has been the recipient of numerous awards from such major photo competitions as American Photography, SPD, The International Color Awards, The International Black & White Spider Awards, PDN’s World in Focus, Planet Magazine, and Seeing the Light, to name a few. Finally, he is a regular lecturer for SMUG, as well as for The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Ian Spanier is available for assignment. Questions or comments, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see more of Ian Spanier’s latest advertising and personal projects, visit his site at www.ianspanier.com.