Toby Kaufmann © Erin Yamagata
Toby Kaufmann is an Award-Winning Creative Director, currently at Facebook, and one of the judges for Feature Shoot’s Emerging Photography Awards. Most recently she had launched a small creative studio in Brooklyn where she worked with brands such as Apple, Netflix, and NBC. She is also the Creative Director of Pur·suit, a digital archive and deck of playing cards re-imagining Catherine Opie’s seminal work from the 90s, in collaboration with artist Naima Green.
Kaufmann was formerly the Executive Director of Photography of Refinery29 where she lead the work around defining the brand’s photographic aesthetic. She has also previously held the title of Director of Photography at Maxim, Men’s Fitness, and Fitness magazines. Additionally, Kaufmann has served as Vice President of The Society of Publication Designers for two years, co-chaired SPD Gala 53, and is on their advisory board. Kaufmann also consults for Parsons The New School for Design. Her work has been recognized by AIAP, PDN, ASME, and SPD.
Kuafmann has a BFA in Photography from Parsons and lives just north of San Francisco with her son Jack and husband Nick Ferrari, with whom she collaborates frequently.
What have been some of your favorite career highlights, and what stands out to you about them with the passage of time?
“A couple come to mind: working at GQ, becoming the Director of Photography at Maxim when I was 29, hosting the SPD awards Gala, and all of the ground breaking work my unbelievable team at Refinery29 and I were able to accomplish.
“I’m probably best known for being the Executive Photography Director of Refinery29 during a critical point where they were scaling and really maturing into a stronger and forward leading visual brand. One major career highlight was changing the casting filter at R29. Lilac Perez, Casting Director, and I took the team from shooting more typical fashion models to celebrating every person in all ways.”
Who are some of your favorite photographers, and what makes them extraordinary in your eyes?
“I love Kate Owen: she’s fearless and an amazing at getting energy out of people. Michelle Groskopf is so passionate and great at telling stories. Lia Clay photos are so touching and beautiful, and, of course, my creative partner Naima Green. She’s a magical human and you can see that in her photos.”
How can photographers set themselves apart from the group and build their names while they build their experience?
“I always tell them to build a dream wall, set a vibe for yourself and goals to creatively hit. Also you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s ok — you just have to be yourself and develop a strong true vision.”
What types of work and/or what topics do you think need more exposure and support?
“Work by marginalized communities.”
What are some of the most influential trends you are seeing in photography today, and what makes them important to you?
“The trend right now is about who can tell the most authentic story. I think people are craving real things in their lives.”
What are some trends you think we will be seeing more of in photography in 2020?
“I hope more realness and optimism — it’s what we need. I hope to keep hearing from people with diverse points of view.”
What do you think are some of the keys to success for longevity in the photography field?
“Constant evolution and a thirst for that.”
Toby Kaufmann is one of the judges for the 5th annual Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards, an international photography competition for up-and-coming image makers. Photographers of all ages and backgrounds not currently represented by a gallery or photographers’ agent are invited to submit. Prizes include a group show at the world-renowned Aperture Gallery in New York. Deadline to enter is midnight November 20, 2019 (EST).