ACKERMAN + GRUBER // Dynamic Duo (#008)


In past episodes of Photo Forward, we’ve looked at a ton of different topics in visual storytelling — from creating a long term documentary project to how to pitch that work to editors in the wider world. And in all of those stories, it’s been typically centered around solo operators, freelancers, and individuals. Well today is breaking that mold ENTIRELY.

Crafting a successful freelance photography career is NO SMALL FEAT. From accounting to marketing to insurance and everything in between… It’s ALL on YOU. Now imagine adding an extra personal wrinkle: Your photography partner is also your LIFE PARTNER. That’s the story for today’s amazing guests – Jenn Ackermann and Tim Gruber.

Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber are a husband and wife team based in Minneapolis, MN. You will almost always find them working side by side, which has been the case since grad school. They enjoy the collaborative nature of being a tight-knit team and pushing each other to create images that sing. Their goal on every assignment is simple - evoke emotion and authenticity in every image they make to advertising, corporate and editorial clients. They pride themselves in being storytellers and work to create a narrative in every photo they take.

Their work has been honored by the Communication Arts Photography Annual and Advertising Annual 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019, American Photography 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 PDN Photo Annual, Review Santa Fe Center Project Competition, Photolucida’s Critical Mass, Inge Morath Award, Magnum Expression Award, POYi, and many others. Their most recent documentary film won an Emmy and they were named a McKnight Fellow and to PDN's 30 Photographers to Watch.

In today’s interview, Jenn, Tim and I tackled a ton on the nature of crafting AUTHENTIC visual storytelling work, getting through those “scary” times building a creative business, and how crucially important open communication is for growing a collaborative partnership.


QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY // What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments!

SHOW NOTES // Coming Soon!

ANDY MANIS // One Picture, One Story (#006)

“It’s what’s between the ears that makes the picture. Not what’s in front of the eyes.”

Hello everyone and welcome to the Photo Forward Podcast, where we explore the stories behind some of the greatest visual storytellers in the world. From their photographic origins, to finding work-life balance as creative professionals, to how to actually make a living as a photographer, videographer, or multimedia creator — we uncover what makes them tick and their shutters click. I’m your host, Ben Brewer.

Associated Press. The A. P. If you follow the editorial, photojournalism or news photography world, you already know that organization is a heavy hitter. (For those of you that don’t, the AP is a global news agency and wire service with over two hundred bureaus in over a hundred companies. And a hefty stack of Pulitzers to boot since their founding around 100 years ago.) And so, if you as a photographer could put AP contributor or stringer in your bio, that carried a hell of a lot of weight.

But the world has changed since the heydays of wire service photography and newsgathering. As newspapers struggle to reinvent their business model in the digital world, that pushes organizations like the AP, Reuters, AFP and more to cut back on the number and regularity of contributor content.

But you’re thinking, “Yeah, that’s a great sob story, Ben. Why should I care? My photography work is totally different.” Everybody thinks they’re immune to the democratization of visuals, but the truth is, we’re all vulnerable. If you don’t intentionally reinvent yourself and adapt to our new visual world, you’ll get left behind all the same. That’s why I brought on today’s guest, AP Photographer and all-around great guy.

Andy Manis started his freelance business in 1995 and has been going strong ever since. Manis began his career in photography in 1980. He has held positions as a college staff photographer, staff photographer at newspapers, a photo editor for a wire service and an educator. Some of Andy’s clients include the University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin State Journal, Getty Images, The Associated Press, The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today among many others. Manis lives in Madison with his wife and step-daughter where they love to cook and enjoy the outdoors.

In today’s episode Andy and I break down how adapting your freelance work to the changing state of photography is critical, why sometimes, the best marketing tactic is just making face-to-face connections, and the importance of telling a unique story, even in a single photo. We even get into a bit of the nuts and bolts of taking care of yourself as a freelancer and some tips Andy has for avoiding burnout.



QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments!