The Meaning of Life in 10 Questions… Heather Elder

There are some of truly creative people in this industry. Let’s face it, you’ve got to be constantly concepting, developing, and executing or you get left in the dust. I’m fortunate to work with some really dynamic and inspiring people, ranging from art directors, to producers, to creative directors, photo editors, art buyers, and print producers. Instead of questions about email blasts, printed promos, and portfolio reviews, I think that it’s time that I put some of them on the spot to show us their meaning of Life. “The meaning of Life” may be a little far flung to answer in only ten questions, but hopefully these interviews will serve to distill some of the inspired and intellectual energy of the creatives that we work with.

© American Express & Annie Leibovitz

It was somewhere in-between the plates of fresh pasta and the homemade chicken parmesan that I knew I’d made the right choice in selecting a new rep. On a recent trip to San Francisco, my studio manager Robert and I had the pleasure of sharing dinner with Heather Elder and her family. You might know her from the outstanding roster of photographers she works with, or maybe from her blog, a standard for creatives in our industry. Any way you cut it, Heather Elder is an insightful and inspiring agent – not to mention, her mother makes a mean red sauce. I’ll let her tell the rest…

1. Name an actress to represent you in a movie portrayal of your life?

How about Tina Fey?  I am not nearly as funny as she is, but the photograph that Annie Liebovitz took of her for American Express always resonated with me.  It is the image in Tina’s office where her daughter is in the chair and the desk is a mess.  The image makes it look like her life is crazy but you know she has it all together.  When I see it, I know Tina knows what each and every piece of paper is on that desk, her daughter is a big part of her world and she is perfectly content with her life.  She doesn’t sweat the small stuff and her sense of humor pulls her through.

2. What is your preferred vehicle or mode of transportation?

I will travel by car, boat, train or even by foot as a first choice.  However, since I like to travel and the places those modes will take me are rather limiting, I then choose airplane.  BUT, it is far from a preferred mode. For those who know me well, know that I do not like to fly very much. I will pay more money for a window seat and will change my schedule if one is not available. By sitting near a window, I feel like I am connected to something when turbulence hits.  My kids say it is because I think  I can hold the plane together if it gets bumpy.  Whatever works.

3. What is your favorite beverage for creative inspiration?

Amarone, our favorite Italian wine. My husband and I have solved many of the world’s problems sharing a bottle (or two).

4. Name your favorite band/singer and album?

When I was in college I listened to Phil Collins and James Taylor non stop.  (Yes, I am dating myself)  Now, I am addicted to Pandora so I am more interested in stations  rather than one particular person or album.  My favorites are Adele, Ben Folds, Carl Bruni, Eminem and Amy Winehouse.

5. How did you get where you are today?

Well, when I was in high school I heard a lot that I wasn’t working up to my potential, so I am guessing it wasn’t the hard work I put in then.  I worked hard in college though and began to figure out what I wanted to do with my career.   Mostly though, I am where I am today because I am not afraid to speak up or ask for what I want.  I am resourceful and creative about how I solve a problem.  Someone once told me that I know how to shape my environment like no one else.  I took that as a compliment.

6. Where do you source your inspiration?

My life is a made up of a million moving parts so it is no surprise that i am inspired by each and every part that keeps it all going.  My kids; by keeping me on my toes and never letting me sit still, my photographers; by sharing beautiful images with me everyday, my husband; by making me laugh, Lauranne, Taya and Alexia; by being keeping it all organized and my friends; by just being great friends.

7. What is your philosophy on creating?

It should not be a to do list item.  It needs to come naturally. And, everything counts. Even making dinner (so says the working mom).

8. Describe a defining moment in your career that has led you to where you are today?

When I first graduated from college, I was working at an ad agency as an account executive at a small, creative agency.  They made it very clear that they did not want their employees to date.  It was an odd rule seeing that the agency was located in Providence, RI (what else is there to do there??) and everyone was young and single.  Besides, we worked crazy hours so I am not sure how else we would meet anyone.  Well, I started dating my boss and of course had to keep it quite; not an easy task in a small city.  After a year,  I knew that if anything was to become of the relationship, I would have to leave the agency. So, I quit my job, moved to Boston and started working for a photographer as her rep, studio manager and producer.  That decision changed my life. Within a year I was married (yes, to my former boss) and had started my own business as an agent.  I am happy to report both my marriage and my business are still thriving.

9. Name one photographer that you’d love to work with but haven’t yet?

My daughter.  She sees the world in a such a unique way and her photographs make me smile.  Her photography is so obviously an extension of herself and what makes her happy.  It is a window into her world that  I would otherwise not get to see.  I am for sure biased but her talent for photography is greater than a lot of what comes across my desk.  Regardless of what path she chooses in her life, I hope she always has photography to help her communicate.

10. If the world is ending in 2012, how will you change your life plan?

Our family has a special place that we call ‘Mona. It is a small house in the middle the wine country in Northern California.  We are fortunate to have created many family memories here.  If we found out the world was ending,  I would take my family and head north.  I would pack plenty of Amarone, ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and lots of firewood.  We would not plan a thing, read an email or watch TV.  We would walk to the creek, sit on the porch, watch the sunset and just be together.

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