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Anecdotes: Hiring a New First Assistant

I loved the POV!!!

I loved the POV!!!

Now that I’m semi-retired from forty-eight years of shooting advertising, editorial, and corporate photography, I can devote my time to teaching with the online class PPSOP and conducting my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops around the planet.

There was a period of about thirty years when I traveled up to two-hundred and fifty days out of the year, and for those days I always traveled with my first assistant. When we got to a city, I would pick up a free-lancer who knew the city and could get things for me as I needed them.

My first assistant went everywhere with me and was responsible for the equipment, and the liaison between the free-lancer and myself. He was always right by my side, giving me the ever changing exposures readings from a one degree external meter made by Minolta.

When the assistant I had at the time gave me his two week notice (the best ones would only work for two years before going off on their own), I would begin to advertise through several channels I had at the time. When they applied for the job, they would have a portfolio with them that I basically looked at to see how neat they were.  If they didn’t take care of their own work, they wouldn’t take care of mine, and there was just too much money involved for the assistant to be sloppy.  Their subject matter didn’t matter since they would not do any shooting.

What I did care about and was the first question I would ask someone that I was interested in was if they were afraid of heights. If they were, then the interview was over. They needed to be willing to do whatever I needed them to, and I never asked anyone to do something I wouldn’t do myself. The question had a tendency to shake someone up, to the point of thinking I was kidding…which I wasn’t.

It usually brought the macho out of the guy and no one would ever say no. That is until we were in a position to test their testosterone quotient…as in out in the field.

The above photo was taken on the Elissa. A tall ship anchored in Galveston, and it was shot for National Geographic’s World Magazine. My assistant was fairly new and had not been field tested. I wanted a portrait of this kid that was spending the summer on board.

The kid told me some of his duties, and right then I knew the photo I wanted to take of him. When I explained what I was going to do to my assistant, the blood drained out of his face; which in of itself was fairly scary/funny. The three of us climbed out on the mast to get the shot.  The next day my brand new first assistant quit…his face was still white!!!

His last shoot with me.

His last shoot with me.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2015 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. I have two openings left in my next “springtime” workshop in Portugal.Next July 26th I’ll be back at the Maine Media Workshop for my 27th year. a fantastic place full of energy and lot of photographers on the campus to share your experience with. I always pick this same week as it’s the week of the Lobster Festival down the road in Rockland. A different set of photo opts: color, motion, people, energy, light, and design. A great way to break up photos of the beautiful coastline, fishing villages and lighthouses that Maine is known for.

I have one spot left for my “Autumn in Provence” workshop to be next October 21st. We’ll be shooting during the Fall foliage.

Keep those photos and questions coming to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.


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    { 2 comments… add one }
    • Valeriano April 6, 2015, 11:24 am

      Funny story. I was wondering when are you gonna also tell about the time you were an assistant. Too embarrassing?

      • Joe April 6, 2015, 1:06 pm


        I was never anyone’s assistant. After graduating college, I moved to Houston. I had three jobs within two years and with my background in art, and a degree in journalism, I went out on my own…and never regretted it. Because of my background in art, my photos looked different than the well known shooters that were already established. AS a result, I started getting enough work to keep me away from those nine to five jobs…and the rest as they say is history.


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