I used to think the tension in James Nachtwey’s photos came from the subject matter. Everything he shoots is so intense and scary how could there not be tension? I mean holy effing christ, you’re getting shot at or someone is telling you the horrors they experienced or you’re looking at the results of horrors they experienced and there’s got to be serious drama in any image made, right?
I sent Jim out on assignment once where I knew there was only the smallest percentage of a chance that something dramatic would happen. This is a very bad situation to send a photographer into, because the writer will draw on past events to manufacture drama when it doesn’t occur live which forces us into a situation where the editor wants to pull stock to create drama in the photography (I’m always on the lookout for these “traps” that are created when a writer oversells a story). When I heard nothing dramatic happened on the assignment I was prepared to be disappointed with the images not living up to the eventual rewrite of the story. But, hey wasn’t I surprised to see a couple images leading up to the drama that never happened, filled with tension and impending doom. Jim nailed it.
You see, the subject matter he shoots may be intense but Jim knows what he’s feeling or seeing doesn’t always translate directly to film so he uses the framing, timing and relationships between subjects and objects to create the tension.
I really love these pictures taken by Colin Pantall who I found over in photo rank (here) and he was also featured on Conscientious (here) back in May. I really don’t have a specific need for this type of photographer because the scope of his work is so limited I’m not sure what I would hire him to shoot but I’ll never forget these images. I’m sure something will come up someday and I’ll have no problem remembering him.
Alright people, it’s almost Thanksgiving and I want to make sure you’re prepared to meet your aunt’s sister in law’s son who is also a photographer because you know how it is these days saying you’re a photographer is like saying you breathe air.
But, here’s the deal, you need a shit load of talent to become a “working photographer.” A shiiiiiiiiiit load. There is such a massive gulf between amateur and professional photography it’s really quite improbable how people can make the jump. I guess that’s the good news for pros. The bad? Enduring your new amateur photographer friend’s endless string of questions about camera type and file treatment and technique then the viewing of vacation photos on the ipod or blog or photo sharing site and then in my case the inevitable “if you ever need photos from the Vesna Festival in Saskatoon Saskatchewan Canada, I was there last year and have a thousand shots.”
I’ve got nothing against amateur photographers and I’m more than happy to engage them in conversation about the business but this website is for working photographers, people who aspire to become working photographers, photo editors and art directors. I don’t give a crap if you hang out on flickr or myspace or zooomr because there’s plenty of good stuff happening there as well. But, if you come here to hang with us it’s to engage in conversation about working as a photographer at the highest level.
You know what I love about working with Brigitte Lacombe (here) besides dropping her impressive (lovely sounding too) name in meetings.
That’s right. No one is allowed in the room with Brigitte and the subject. No client hovering, no hair person attending to errant hairs, no makup person blotting the brow, no stylist fussing the collar, no caterer tapping emails on the blackberry, no producer yapping on the cell phone, no agent cleaning fingernails… no goddam distractions.
I thought it might be interesting if I created a place where people could submit a story or their website or a photograph and let their peers vote and add a comment. I’m calling it photo rank and it’s in the sidebar and (here).
I was looking for a program that would allow people to submit portfolios to me on this blog and came across this free software called pligg. I can’t believe how many features it has and I have no idea if it will prove useful or just more of a time suck. I loaded all the photographers I’ve written about to get things started. See what you think.
I’ve never met anyone as loyal as Martin Schoeller (here). To the subject, his team of people, the client, his agent, his style, his goals, the print… everything. It’s more than just being a nice guy and delivering consistently good work there’s honesty and integrity, and a devotion to the craft, and an incredible work ethic that adds up to, well, loyalty.
There was a point in his career where he was thinking oh shit, this big head style is not going to define me but over the last couple years he’s decided the market forces are too great and produced a book and several gallery exhibits of big heads.
Daniel Boud (here) left a comment on my Anton Corbijn post with audio (here) of Anton talking about his work.
The highlight is his love of imperfection in photography and how, as someone who wants to achieve perfection, he needs to use techniques that force imperfection. He shoots handheld with leicas and likes to print full frame so you see everything that is not right with the image and that’s the perfect way to make a picture. Awesome.
Here’s an old interview that says the same thing (here)
Soth: You’ve also done a fair amount of editorial work. How do you mix that work into your overall practice?
DuBois: Editorial work keeps you on your toes and in shape – the unique stress and pressure of an assignment can offer up some real surprises. The hardest part is to maintain a sense of your own work and take appropriate risks in making a good photograph. You have very little time to work and no time to reflect or go at it again. Some of the best editorial work I’ve seen offer significant contributions to the photographers’ work. Larry Sultan, Mitch Epstein, Katy Grannan, etc., pull this off time and again. The frustrations come from the time limitations and other circumstances that you have to work around– and, of course, a bad edit or layout can defeat even the best efforts.
I can’t seem to get a photographer I like hired to shoot fashion, because every time I send a link to the fashion director she clicks and the opening image pops up and it’s this horrendous, pretentious, model-y shot that’s dripping with cheese.
The rest of the site is littered with solid gold shots but she can’t get past the fact that this photographer thinks the greatest shot they’ve ever taken, the shot that goes on the opener, blows.
The amazing thing about working with Peggy Sirota is the amount of effort and the level of detail that goes into the preparation for a shoot. As soon as she signs on, the phone springs to life with calls about styling, grooming, props, locations and then Peggy calls to discuss ideas, then she calls the subject to discuss ideas, then she calls you back to talk it over again, then you talk to the agent, then the producer calls, then the office manager calls… it’s awesome.
I don’t think many people realize how much effort goes into consistently creating images that look like you just walked by and quickly snapped one (she calls them “elegant snapshots”).
A reader sent me a link to a NY Times Magazine piece where photographer Simon Norfolk talks about several of the shoots he’s done (here). There’s good insight to his approach on each story but I love to read between the lines as he tells us about shooting this Sunday’s Perfect Drought story. He describes the photos as “Illustrative of the facts,” for a conventional story where “the pictures sit closely to the text.”
Sure, it’s a job, but handing someone a story and telling them to go shoot all the plot points seems so two dimensional to me. That story should have gone in the newspaper not the magazine.
Like usual Hetherington got the drop on me about Anton Corbijn’s movie but since he’s finally finished (here) maybe he’ll start shooting editorial jobs again.
What’s it like to work with Anton? Crushing.
Remember the photographer who sends one amazing print after a shoot is done? Anton sends 6 or 12. And, each and every one is the greatest photograph you have ever witnessed.
I’m not even talking about the printing technique. I’m talking about what’s in the pictures. I was shocked to discover, after my first shoot with Anton, that his skills lied not in his powerful style but in his ability to create instant timeless, iconic images.
The crushing part? No matter what 4 or 5 you pick to publish there are 4 or 5 more that are better, sitting in the box.
It appears that Jake’s long time assistant Spencer has flown the coop and is crushing it for Esquire among others. Maybe he’s picking up Jake’s overbooking but the work is strong so I wouldn’t doubt he’s landing it himself.
Either way I’ve never forgotten his name because of the difficulty the airlines have with it when booking travel for he and Jake.
One of my all time favorites, Jake has always been a very busy photographer, but it appears he’s exploded and his calendar is impenetrable. Jake is repped by Molly Logan and now consistently has at least 1-2 months of solid bookings.
An associate tells me what it’s like to shoot with the provocative Mr. Richardson.
Art Direction for Terry was a question of what he wanted to do…and we pretty much let him go.
I was really nervous to meet him, you know he’s too cool for school and I felt a bit like “the man”, but he’s a total sweet-heart while at the same time guarded. He’s a celeb unto himself!
He talked about the Lohan shoot and I asked how he had gotten her to crawl across the mirror, an obvious reference to cocaine. He smiled and said it was all about throwing so many things at the subject that they didn’t have time to say no. Which I think is his genius, no matter who he’s shooting he can convince them to be a little wilder and that’s why I love him.
I hear Alessandra Petlin is working on several big editorial projects. Repped by Rob Magnotta at Edge she’s been on my list for awhile now but it appears she’s blowing up. Go ahead and publicly shame me if she’s been hot since PDN 30’d her because I’m not exactly working on cutting edge shit here… if you can tell by my photographer posts so far. And, yes I realize she’s shot for the NY Times magazine since like, forever.
Oddly, it was a writer who made a strong recommendation and that convinced me I had to find something worthy ASAP.