Posts by: A Photo Editor

NY Times Magazine- Oscars Photo Essay

- - Magazines

Last Sunday the New York Times Magazine featured a brilliant photo portfolio of actors that appears to be the antidote to the Vanity Fair treatment. Shot entirely by Ryan McGinley, in a spare but cohesive style, it surprisingly holds together nicely for 28 pages. I think their attempt to wrestle the Hollywood photoshoot beast away from its recent hyper-produced overwrought incarnation is a welcome relief.

You may be surprised to see that they got Ryan past the actors handlers given his easily googled (here) colorful past (FYI, if you want to see how you appear to a publicist just google yourself and if you don’t have a section entitled celebrity, forget about it). It’s easier to get unconventional photographers through the gate with the younger actors and a big project like this can act to change the conversation from who the photographer is to who’s in the portfolio. It’s also about trust and Photo Directors like Kathy are usually given a long leash by the publicists for a long history of pairing actors with talented photographers.

Online slideshow of pictures (here), behind the scenes shoot video (here).

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Money Advice for Creatives

- - Blog News

Written for writers but it reads the same if you’re a photographer.

Money quote:

“If you don’t mind your own business then others will do it for you — and make no mistake that you will lose out, not because the people you are working with are evil or shifty, but simply because they are approaching their end like it is a business and will naturally take anything you leave on the table. That’s business. That’s how business works.”

Read it *here.* Via, Ben Casnocha.

The Opener

- - Working

Sometimes, I’ll get a shoot in and be disappointed with it but then I’ll show it around to the editors, the creative director and the other photo editors and everyone will like it and so I think “Ok, just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not a good shoot.” And, I chuck it in the file cabinet and forget about it.

Then the damnedest thing happens. The story is slated and we pull the film out and scan it in and they start to lay it out and then there’s, a problem. It’s not working in the layout for some reason. The reason is usually one of two things. Either the photos are all very similar and when put into a layout they all look like the same photo taken over and over. Or, there’s something important missing, the key part of the story or someone’s portrait or a photo to match the headline they wrote. The worst possible problem–this happens more than you may think–is there’s no opener. At least nothing that fits the traditional definition of an opener: an image that fits a spread, one and two thirds or single page that either has the power to stop readers in their tracks or represents the scope of the story in that single image. There are other ways to skin this cat but if the designer is unwilling to explore them I need to go find an opener and your photo credit went from display to the gutter.

Always shoot the opener first. You’re always better off if you only come back with the opener and nothing else.

Irving Penn’s Blue-Collar Portraits

- - Blog News

Acquired by the Getty Museum in LA. Everyone will find this part of the story very interesting:

“Weston Naef, the Getty’s senior photography curator, said that the museum had been working to acquire the series for more than five years, but the sticking point had been copyright ownership of the images. In many cases, he said, Mr. Penn and Condé Nast, which owns Vogue, share the copyrights to Mr. Penn’s images. And the Getty, which had long insisted that it be given copyright power over the trade series, along with the master set of the photographs, decided in the end to abandon the copyright demand.”

Thanks Bruce. Via NYTimes (here).

5 Questions for Boda, WIB Agency

- - Photography Agent

Boda, Director of Photography at the WIB Agency has a 20 year career as an agent under his belt and in that time he’s worked with some very talented photographers at a few of the biggest agencies in town (NYC). He also has the good fortune to have one of the most memorable names in the business. I didn’t know about the move to WIB and he was telling me about it and I thought I’d ask him a few questions for everyone to read. I even found a couple photographers I like to add to my list (below).

1. Boda, you’ve been an agent for quite awhile now. Can you tell me how you got started in this business and why you’ve kept it up for so long?

When I first moved to NY, I met the Art Director Paula Greif and Director Peter Kagan, they were just editing the video of Chaka Khan and Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” I worked with them for about 2 years and always seemed to gravitate to the client, making sure that they were happy and they were getting what they wanted. From there I started at Art + Commerce assisting Jim Moffat with Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe and Steven Meisel. I knew then that my passion was making people happy, making sure things got done, and making sure that in the end everybody had what they needed and that nobody got hurt doing it. Paula Greif called me a “Gentlemen’s Agent” meaning one not to backstab or do anything malicious. Just a good guy trying to do good work with good people.

2. Tell me about your agency? How big is it (offices, number of agents, photographers)?

Our agency started in Paris about 13 years ago and then grew to Milan and London. A little over a year ago, it seemed only natural to open in NY, most of our artists had apartments in NY and Paris and were traveling often. In NY we have only 2 agents, our office is very minimalistic. We consider it to be a boutique, an agency that pays attention to the photographers. That when they call they talk to their agent, not the assistants. We want this to be our “Thing” a boutique, small, cozy and friendly.

3. You’ve got a top roster of what appears to be mostly European photographers. Do you find it difficult to convince clients to bring in someone from Europe to shoot in NYC?

We always tell our clients that travel should not be an issue, most of our photographers have places to stay when in NY and will fly themselves here at anytime. Dean Isidro, Mary Rozzi and Alexandre Weinberger live in NY and the same goes for them when they have to go to Europe.

4. Juggling a photographers schedule with fashion clients seems like it would be awfully stressful. Do you have any special techniques that keep everyone happy?

It is just what I do, I love to keep people happy, I don’t get stressed ever. Everything will always get done if you just breathe and do one thing at a time, lists are very important. You will never, ever hear me say to a client or photographer the phrase, “I AM SO CRAZY,BUSY,INSANE” I am so sick of hearing agents say that, the truth is if you are well organized it will all get done. And there are never EMERGENCIES, yes a belt or a lipstick may be forgotton or Salmon wasn’t delivered at lunchtime, but really, nobody is being rushed in an ambulance to the hospital.

5. What’s the best way for an emerging photographer to get on your radar for potential representation someday?

I love links to their work, I love seeing all work, personal, editorial, catalog, advertising. The more the better. If I like their work then I will always meet with them, but they better be a good person and have a genuine nice personality, because that is who I surround myself with.

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Derek Shapton- On The List

- - Photographers

As a follow up to the Clay Stang consultation I decided to talk with Derek Shapton from Toronto who’s not only on my list as the “go to” for that town but has transcended the local market to become a photographer people will fly to them.

1. I first discovered you in the American Photography annual. How do the awards and publications you’ve gotten help you market your work?

I think awards and annuals are as effective, if not more effective, than any other type of marketing out there. Mailers and bulk email tend to be thrown away or deleted, but awards annuals and juried books are very special in that they’re the only promotional vehicle that’s actually anticipated and even sought out by potential clients. Nobody looks forward to another stupid mailer, but everyone looks forward to the CA Photography Annual! The downside is that they’re unpredictable. I’ve served as a judge for a several awards shows and I can attest to the fact that brilliant work can sometimes be left out of the final selection for very strange reasons. You can’t always count on being included, so it’s hard to carefully plan an annual
marketing campaign around them. I think they work best as a supplement to more traditional promotion — although I know several photographers for whom awards are the only promotional venture they bother with, and they seem to do quite well by them.

2. Can you tell me how you managed to transcend just being the go to guy in Toronto, Canada to become a top North American editorial and commercial photographer?

I think there were numerous factors that came together at around the same time. My entry into the American market was coincident with the rise of the Internet as a communication medium — it really has made the world a smaller place and opened people’s eyes to the richness of talent in geographic areas they might not otherwise have been aware of. The buildup to the dotcom bubble of the late 90’s meant that there was a lot of speculative money being invested in all kinds of bizarre ways — companies nobody had ever heard of were suddenly spending a lot on advertising and marketing, and there were seemingly hundreds of magazines starting up — in North America, at least, it made for a major spike in demand for commissioned photography. Th Canadian dollar was approaching an all-time low in relation to the US dollar, and it was suddenly very economical to work with talented artists outside of the US. And last but not least, the kind of work I gravitated towards — a naturalistic, quasi-documentary, “low-impact”
approach — suddenly became quite popular, possibly as a reaction to some of the more egregious, gimmicky excesses of the mid-90’s (cross processing? Hosemaster? Anyone remember the Hosemaster?). It was a combination of hard work and effort combined with a certain amount of right-place-at-the-right-time.

3. I’ve always had you on my list of photographers as someone with a dry sense of humor, vibrant colors and strong documentary skills. Can you tell me how you arrived at this somewhat odd combination of styles?

I’m very interested in many different kinds of photography, but I’m a terrible mimic. I’m always trying to figure out how other people do things, but it never really works out the way I expect, and so I guess I eventually arrived at something of a hybrid look — definitely influenced and informed by certain types of approaches but not quite nailing any of them on the head. I also think that the way I work — a minimal, “documentary” approach, for lack of a better term — kind of leaves a lot of things out there for the world to see; my feelings about my subjects, for example, tend to come across quite clearly, and I’d like to think that this makes for a certain
emotional content and sense of empathy that’s perhaps a bit lacking in other people’s work. As for the bright colors, I’m not sure what’s going on there. Maybe somethings wrong with my monitors?

4. Are there any career choices you that you either regret or were the best decision you ever made?

Biting the bullet when I wasn’t sure it was worth it and going to the time, effort, and expense of getting a US work visa is something I’m really glad I did. Buying a PC instead of a Mac as my very first computer was probably a mistake.

5. If you were an insect what kind would you be and why?

I’m tempted to say dung beetle, because I sometimes feel (particularly when I’m retouching) that I spend much of my time aimlessly pushing crap around, but I think I’ll pick a Monarch butterfly because they migrate 3000 miles twice a year, and I really like traveling.

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How to Manage People

- - Working

I consider myself a pretty good people manager but it took me a long time to become one. I’ve always been good at working with photographers but it took quite a bit of work to become good at managing the people under me and I only really figured it out in the last year or so.

The greatest piece of advice I ever read (out of 20 or so business books) goes something like this: Taking someone else’s idea and increasing the quality by 5% occurs at the price of a 50% decrease in their commitment to execution (here’s a recent explaination on the Harvard Business blog).

This is a huge problem in the publishing industry. Everyone tries to “add value” to everything: stories, photos, ideas, line-ups, headlines, cutlines, pull-quotes, captions, typefaces, colors and hairlines. If you’ve ever worked with an editor who makes slight modifications to every single effing thing that comes through the door then you know what I’m talking about. Your desire to execute is deflated because you no longer own anything thanks to the misguided idea that the readers will somehow notice a slight improvement in quality. They don’t. Half the readers were bought by the newsstand director anyways.

Photo editors know all too well of this phenomena that I call “shuffling the deck” where someone will come along and rearrange the photos and change singles into half’s and half’s into spreads all in the name of somehow improving the story. It’s not better, It’s different.

Some of my greatest accomplishments as a photo editor are a direct result of me doing nothing. See if you’ve got the sack to admit that.

If you want to make the magazine better do your job as well as you can and keep your mitts off mine.

Discusson on Portraiture Over at Conscientious

- - Blog News

Joerg and Miguel Garcia-Guzman asked a whole swath of the photographic community what makes a great portrait. All the different opinions makes for great reading.

Love this quote from Bill Hunt: “…My own take on this genre, after many years of looking at and collecting photographs, most always images of people, is that portraiture by and large fails to connect the viewer and the sitter in any sort of revelatory and meaningful way.”

Link (here).

More On Sartorialist As A Photographer

- - Blog News

This one was worth the wait. Robert Wright begins his Yale MFA dissertation (kidding) with “The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesman, The Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City, The Last People and The Sartorialist: an Appreciation or, Its the economy, Stupid.”

Money quote: “…it seems to be “attention aesthetic” is a good way to describe the style of The Sartorialists photographs. The photography only has to be good enough to create and keep your attention. It is not a photograph or a question of fine art but a kind of a conversation,…”

Read it (here).

Inside The Great Magazines

- - Working

I’ll be checking out this series entitled Inside The Great Magazines, Produced by DLI Productions (here). I love it when people talk about how great a magazine is by referencing the photography.

National Geographic

Vanity Fair

Via, Mr. Magazine (here).

Thomas Broening Interviews Art Buyer Jen Small

- - Blog News

A couple highlights.

On using her experience to suggest photographers:
“The art directors I know are not interested in having a photography education. …They want to own the whole process because they have to stand and say I made this decision. And they don’t care about my opinion. It would be naive to think that my opinion is the decisive one.”

On the conference call try-out with a photographer:
“…It is really hard because it boils down to a personality contest. I am sorry but there it is.”

Read it (here).

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