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Meet Pulitzer Prize Winner and SONY Artisan…Brian Smith!


Meet Pulitzer Prize winning photographer and SONY Artisan, Brian Smith!

I know what you are thinking…”wait a minute…he’s not an Amazing Mom!”¬† ūüôā¬† Yep, your right.¬† But…Brian is freaking AMAZING!¬† And somehow, he has graciously made time in his busy schedule and accepted the invitation to be here today to talk about shooting celebrity portraits, his new book Art & Soul, and how to win the Pulitzer Prize.¬† But that’s not all!¬† Brian Smith¬† is ALSO going to be with us tomorrow night on the forum for our 2 hour Ask & Learn!¬† I personally promised him you would ALL come with questions, small and big ones, so mark your calendars ladies for this awesome treat! ūüôā

CLICK HERE to register yourself on the SOARORITY Forum!

For those of you who feel intimidated to ask Brian a question, keep reading this fantastic interview we had.  Brian is completely approachable, super giving and just all around FUNNY!  I first met him through SONY three years ago, and he has a heart of gold.  I am truly honored to be a SONY Artisan alongside someone like Brian.  If you ever wanted to connect with a celebrity photographer, today and tomorrow night is your chance! 

This is what I mean by funny!  Check out the opening to his bio!
Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Brian Smith is the luckiest guy on the planet. He’s told Bill Gates exactly what to do for an entire hour, had an exhibit at the Library of Congress, dined with the President and 3,000 of their closest friends, had cupcakes with Anne Hathaway, gotten drunk with George Clooney and married the most beautiful woman he ever laid eyes on‚Ķ
His bio goes on and blows my mind!
For the past 30 years, his bold, iconic portraits of famous celebrities, athletes and executives have been used in advertising at such as simple signage, banners, and wooden signs, by corporations and have graced the covers and pages of hundreds of magazines including  Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine, Time, Forbes, New York Times Magazine and British GQ.
His first magazine photograph appeared in LIFE Magazine when Smith was a 20-year-old journalism student at the University of Missouri. Five years later, Smith won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography for his photographs of the Los Angelas Olympic Games. He was again a finalist for the Pulitzer for his photographs of Haiti in Turmoil. His photograph of Greg Louganis hitting his head on the diving board at the Seoul Olympics won first place in both World Press Photo and the Pictures of the Year competition. His work has been exhibited at the Library of Congress and the Aperture Gallery.
Smith’s book ART & SOUL: STARS UNITE TO CELEBRATE AND SUPPORT THE ARTS was done in cooperation with The Creative Coalition and support from Sony¬†pairs his portraits of 123 celebrities with their personal messages about the importance of funding the arts.
Smith is a Sony Artisan of Imagery and he’s been featured in Photo District News, Communication Arts Photography Annual, American PHOTO, Popular Photography, Professional Photographer, Digital Photo Pro, Rangefinder, After/Capture magazines. He appeared on Fine Living Channel teaching a Little League Mom how to become a Big League Sports Photographer.
He’s the President of Editorial Photographers, an organization of over 1500 of the top magazine photographers and newspaper photojournalists from around the world and frequently a speaker at photography seminars and to photo students at colleges, universities and art institutes. After more than three million air miles, his career has taken him on assignment to six continents his home in Miami Beach.
These are a few of the photos he won the Pulitzer Prize for!¬† I’m sure some of you will remember them!¬†

 And now, on to our interview! 

Q: What’s your first memory of photography? ¬†Or being enthralled with picture taking?
I think everybody from my era remembers the magic the first time they watched a print develop in the darkroom. It’s kind of sad that many people starting out now will never have that experience. The real magic came when I had my ¬†first photo published in the local newspaper¬†when I was in high school.¬†I shot sports for my hometown newspaper and still remember the first time I went out to the doorstep and picked up a paper with one of my photographs. It was a bit surreal. A few years later I had my first magazine photo in LIFE and I was absolutely and totally hooked.

Q: What was the biggest obstacle for you overcome in building your business?
Patience. Patience. Patience.

Sometimes it feels like you are rolling a boulder up a hill. You just take it one step at a time and hope the thing doesn’t flatten you when it slips. It seems like you are barely moving and every step is a huge effort. Then all of a sudden you get over a ridge and that damn rock starts to roll and pick up momentum. Well you know what? There are more hills ahead of you, but you’ll get over those too. Don’t give up. A lot of people before you had to push that same rock. Enjoy the journey…

¬†Q:¬†What’s the best advice you have about running a business?
Surround yourself with people far smarter that you. In my case that’s my wife Fazia, so I should also add more talented…and¬†way¬†better looking…

Q:¬†What’s the best advice you ever received, in regards to shooting?
The best advice I ever got was when I had just started and applied for an internship at a newspaper.¬† Their chief photographer looked at my photos and said “all this shows me is that you know how to focus a telephoto lens. Go out and shoot portraits of 50 strangers that reveal something about who they are.”¬† There is no better exercise to make you comfortable with the people you photograph. I never got that job – but I got much more than I could have asked for.

Q: What is a common mistake you see many new photographers make?  How would you advise them differently?
This is a great question, I would love to dive into this during the Ask and Learn Session tomorrow evening!

Q:¬†You’ve created a whole book around Arts Education support, such an important issue. ¬†What got you interested in this topic to go to this length of supporting it?

I suppose I should say something profound, but to be honest it was a just a great project dropped in my lap by a lovely lady – Kayla Lindquist who runs Sony’s Artisans of Imagery program. It was supposed to be a quick three-day portrait shoot of celebrities with The Creative Coalitions during Oscars Week 2009. We asked each celebrity to write what the arts means to them. Tim Daly was the first person I shot and on my 10th frame we stopped to look at the shot.¬† We both knew we’d hit on something great.¬†So like any photographer, I turned a quick 3-day shoot into 20 days of shooting 25,000 photographs around the country over the next 15 months to produce the¬†256-page over-sized coffee table book ART & SOUL.

The moral of this story is don’t ever let a photographer paint your house, they’ll still be getting it “just right”¬†decades from now¬†when you pull up to your house in your Jetsons’ rocket car… (hilarious Brian!)

Q: What was your first celebrity shoot like?  Were you nervous?
I¬†still¬†get nervous. I can’t tell you how many times I haven’t slept a wink the night before a big shoot – just going over every detail to make certain everything is taken care of and I know what I’m going to do. But one of the great things I’ve learned from the ART & SOUL project is not to over-think things. We shot 250 people over the course of 20 days and you quickly realize it’s all going to work out if you just chill out a bit and let things unfold. Celebrities are so used to being directed that it can be an incredibly freeing experience when they ask what you want them to do and you say, “you can do anything you want – let’s just have some fun.”
Here are a few samples from the Art & Soul book!
Q: What is your top marketing advice for photographers wanting to build their business?
The first thing to remember about marketing is that it all begins around content.¬† But there is¬†so much to talk about.¬† Let’s talk about all of this at the Ask & Learn tomorrow night on the forum.
Q: What equipment do you shoot with?
My workhorse cameras are a pair of Sony a900 DSLR cameras. But I also love the Sony NEX-5 for travel, and I’ve got a Cyber-shot WX9 that I slip in my pocket for those times when you never know where a great shot my pop up in front of you.
Q: What is your favorite lens and why?
If you held a gun to my head…not that MeRa has ever done this…and told me I could only shoot with one lens, it would be Sony’s CZ 24-70/2.8.¬†It’s insanely sharp for a zoom lens and just¬†the perfect range for portraits from shooting wide environmental portraits at 24mm to 3/4 body shots around 45mm and for tightly framed portraits.¬† I like to be in close at 70mm where you can whisper to your subject instead of shouting from across the room like you would if you were shooting with a long telephoto lens.
Q:  What is the process of entering your photos for a Pulitzer Prize?  
I’m saving this answer and more for tomorrow night’s Ask&Learn!
Meet us tomorrow night on the SOARORITY Forum from 5pm PST to 7pm PST!¬† Bring all your questions for Brian!¬† As you can see, he’s an AMAZING photographer but also a generous heart!
And Brian, thank you SO MUCH for being here!!¬† You are the BEST!¬† (There is just something about men named “Brian”.¬† :))
p.s.¬† You can see Brian Smith and I both speak at Photo Plus this month in NY!¬† We’ll be rocking the SONY stage during the tradeshow with the other AMAZING SONY Artisans, but also giving two hour presentations!¬† CLICK HERE for more details!


  1. What an amazing opportunity to speak with Braian Smith! I can’t wait for tomorrow night. Thanks so much Me Ra!

  2. KarenC says:

    So excited to hear from Brian Smith at tomorrow’s Ask & Learn! And what a great book! I’ve already copied the “Patience. Patience. Patience.” answer from the overcoming obstacles question in your interview and placed it on my desk for encouragement. Looking forward to hearing more on enjoying the journey!

  3. Rhonda says:

    Thank you Brian for taking the time to be with us “moms”!

  4. […] SHOUTOUT to Me Ra Koh for this fabulous interview about my ART & SOUL project. We’ll be chatting live tomorrow night October 6 from 8-10pm ET (5-7pm PT). To read more of […]

  5. […] SHOUTOUT to Me Ra Koh for this fabulous interview with Brian Smith about photography and the ART & SOUL project. Brian & Me Ra will be chatting live tomorrow […]

  6. Sara A says:

    Wow! I’m so excited. Seriously suffering from online “starstruckness” though ūüôā

  7. Wendy Z says:

    So very excited to learn more from you Brian! Thank you so much for making time for the SOAR! readers! Congratulations on all your accomplishments so far! Fantastic!

  8. Julie Watts says:

    Totally awesome! Looking forward to Ask & Learn!!

  9. BreAnna S says:

    Great interview. I’m very excited for Thursday’s Ask & Learn! (I just ordered a copy of Art & Soul for myself. I can’t wait to get it…it looks amazing) ūüôā

  10. Jamie says:

    ummmm… wow… like, seriously…….

  11. Me Ra says:

    Yeah Brian!! We have landed in DC, and I’m going to be ready for you tomorrow night with a ton of SOARORITY SISTERS!!! You going to be ready for us ladies? ūüôā


  12. […] Ali and I will both be online tonight at 5pm PST to kick off a rare Ask & Learn with Brian Smith!¬† It’s not every day that you have a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who is super […]

  13. ajira says:

    Thanks so much to Brian for being with us! What a fascinating, talented and generous man! I’m dying to see his wife… he speaks of her with such adoration!! ūüėÄ

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