Steven Klein’s Website

- - Photographers, Websites

Not sure how new this is but it’s certainly unusual for a fashion photographer of this caliber to have a personal website this comprehensive (here).

This growing trend among top photographers I attribute to google searches that will turn up all kinds of strange and possibly unwanted results (and other steven klein’s of the world) if you don’t have a site dedicated to your work online. Also, growing the fan base is always a good idea.

From Steven’s artist statement: “Portraiture in the past has been regarded as a documentation of a person but for me it is a documentation of the encounter between myself and the subject. It is not meant to reveal them, nor is it meant to subject them to an X-ray; it is a departure from that.”

Why A Magazine Is Like A Record

- - The Future

I know some people can’t stand the comparison between the media industry and the music industry and it’s been pointed out that the history of the recording industry and the way consumers use music prevent direct comparisons but follow me for a second on this one.

There used to be two basic types of buyers for records. The core buyer is someone who will consume anything the artist puts out and will listen to every single track of a record over and over. Then there’s the casual buyer who likes one or two songs on the record but is forced to buy the whole thing because that’s the only way to listen to those one or two songs.

Magazines are the same way. Some are bought by people who will read cover to cover and back again (I remember reading the ads in Powder Magazine when I was obsessed with skiing because I’d already read every last caption and sidebar and it was still 29 days till the next issue came out) and some are bought by people who wanted to read one or two stories but still had to buy the whole magazine to do it.

So, then the internet came along and the distribution for music suddenly got easier and that one song you wanted to listen to but didn’t want to be forced into buying the whole album for was suddenly easy to find and download for free at first and now for 99 cents or less. It’s interesting to note that a common practice in the recording industry was to make a couple hit songs with a producer to trick consumers into buying the whole album.

When are magazines going to finally figure this out? People who used to read one story per issue now read none, because a comparable story can be found online for free. Advertisers seem to have already figured out that most people aren’t reading the entire magazine.

But, here’s the rub in the whole deal. An album of music used to be worth $12 and now it’s worth $1 or $2 to some people and $12 to others. It’s possible that still adds up to whatever amount you would have made previously if the $1 or $2 purchases are ten times what they would have been because you brought in people who were reluctant to buy the whole album for one or two songs. But, it’s entirely possible the profits are 1/12 of what they used to be.

None of us care if you make one million dollars instead of twelve next year but you’d better realize pretty quick that people aren’t buying into the packaging anymore and all shit you stuff in there for advertisers because pretty soon it’s going to be zero. The future of magazines is producing singles.

Jeff Riedel’s Massive GQ Photo Essay

- - Photographers, Photoshoot

I was floored when I picked up the November issue of GQ and saw in it a 32 page photo essay (online here) shot by one photographer. That’s major. There are very few photographers getting 32 pages in magazines all to themselves these days (anytime actually) and a photo essay of this magnitude is a major deal. The photographer was Jeff Riedel. I’ve worked with Jeff in the past and always admired his photography and work ethic but hadn’t talked to him in awhile so I gave him a call to discuss the piece.


November 08 GQ – Jeff Riedel Photo Essay from APhoto Editor on Vimeo.

Let’s start at the beginning. How did this come about?

Well, I think GQ is making a turn as a magazine towards content, moving further into a combination of fashion and content. This was certainly a big deal for them and reminiscent of the photo essays Vanity Fair or most recently The New Yorker might do.

Everyone has proclaimed this the most historic election of our time and GQ was the only magazine that stepped up to the plate with a photo essay of historic proportions.

They called me up back in January and said we want to do this 30 page story and we want you to shoot the entire thing. I went into the office and had this really interesting meeting because within 2 minutes it became an open forum collaboration between the writer/features editor Mark Healey, Design Director Fred Woodword, and Photography Director Dora Somosi. It became very political very fast. We started drawing up wish lists of people we wanted to go for. One of the things that came out was how Richard Avedon did this shoot of politicians back in 1976 called “The Family” for Rolling Stone. That was certainly an inspiration for the project, not in a way that we wanted to rip it off but as a point of reference. I looked at it and tried to understand what he went through to get those images. I recently saw the whole body of work at the Corcoran Gallery in D.C. He got access to everyone they wanted to get except Nixon from what I understand.

So that brings up a question I wanted to ask you because some of the pictures look like you didn’t get access to everyone and I like the overall effect on the essay whether it was deliberate or not.

Some of the things that happened were astounding. Obama was on the cover of GQ I think last December and the McCain campaign was able to manipulate that and turn it against him and say ‘see we told you Obama’s a celebrity, a fashion symbol he’s all artifice’. That’s really an outdated perception of what GQ really is. Of course McCain, ironically, had no problem being shot by GQ for our portfolio. The Obama campaign for the most part stayed clear of it. In the end we couldn’t get him for a sitting.

I think it actually works for you because you have the iconic picture of Obama. The picture that defines him in this campaign.

Yes, it couldn’t have turned out any better because his face is on the cover of Rolling Stone three times and if we’d actually gotten a sitting with Obama we just likely might have done the same and it wouldn’t have been as strong as what we got at the convention.

Did you shoot film and 4 x 5 like you usually do?

Yes, it was all shot on film. I shot a good deal of 4 x 5 for the studio, and many of the environmentals like Bill Richardson on his horse. I ended up shooting a lot of 6×7 as well. The reportage was with a Pentax 6×7 with long lenses holding my hand as still as I possibly could in low light. There’s a lot of blurry frames. The magazine wasn’t very keen on digital and I can understand why. It’s a historic election these are going to be historic pictures and there’s still an integrity to film and while we can still do it we should.

Do you shoot a lot of digital now?

Anything that’s commercial or celebrity stuff is digital. Since I now live outside of the the city it’s so much more convenient for me. I use a back on a Hassleblad 555. I need to hear the clunking of the mirror and have the weight of the camera for it to feel like photography for me. I still need that familiarity to take pictures.

Were any of the politicians suspicious of your motives?

No I don’t think any of them were suspicious and we shot some dirt bags like Jerome Corsi. Why that guy would show up for a GQ shoot I have not idea, I guess he’s desperate for publicity. By the way, he announced to me during our shoot, I think back in October, that Obama was finished. His chances of winning were nil because Obama, according to him, had just accidentally let it slip that he was a Muslim. I’m not kidding, he was really saying this shit. I thought about him on election night.

So this brings up a big question you clearly are not trying to be objective here and can you be objective in this kind of thing. The editors seem to have a point of view on this and they wanted you to bring that to the shoot. Am I correct in saying that?

There’s decisions that are made, editing decisions that do adhere to a point of view. For example on the Corsi shoot, I didn’t intend the image to translate as harshly as it did. I don’t set out to burn somebody, though I do appreciate a sense of irony in a photograph. But there’s a process that you can’t really help. You’re trying to remain as objective as possible but as soon as you put that camera to your eye the objectivity ceases to exist. It doesn’t exist anymore.

Right you can’t create something interesting without coming at it from somewhere. It wasn’t a requirement from GQ to remain objective?

It was never discussed. GQ never told me how to shoot McCain but I gave them options so they could choose how to portray him. These are politicians and they’re very guarded and aware but at the same time there are moments that are very truthful that come out in the course of a shoot. It’s interesting too that by the time the magazine was being put together things had changed in the race and perceptions had changed so the edit of the work changed to reflect that.

Can you be objective and do you have to be objective. How important is that for pulling off a shoot like this?

I don’t personally believe there’s any such thing as objectivity in a photographic image. I don’t think it exists. One can fool themselves into believing it does but there are unconscious processes that come forward when you’re shooting as well as the conscious advertent ones. But, there’s a vast difference between subtlety and trying to find a strand of irony and a complete attempt at a take down picture. I would also add that the more subtle ones tend to be smarter pictures than the obvious and overly advertent ones. and by the way, Bill Richardson can’t ride a horse.

Did you deliver as you went and what kind of collaboration was there in the editing?

I cut up contact sheets and I didn’t hand in anything that I felt strongly against but I wanted to give them some choices because it’s a pretty sizable portfolio and there’s decisions that need to happen with regard to the layout and design so I gave them a pretty wide edit. We turned in the film as we went, over the course of 9 months. We started out thinking it was going to be color heavy with some black and white mixed in and we ended up with a balance between the two. You think 30 pages is a lot but it’s actually not. It was good to break it down as we went along. We tried to do a studio and an environmental with everyone.

How much time did you get?

We got a couple hours with John Edwards. We got good chunks of time because we did a studio shot and an environmental shot. With others, we got ten minutes. It varied.

So, any thoughts on what’s happening right now to the industry?

We’re in a different world, a different environment it’s like an instantaneous change for our industry. The results were so immediate for us. Advertising shoots that were nearly fully produced were canceled and there’s a knee jerk reaction happening. Budgets are going to be scaled back and a number of magazines will fold.

How do you feel about producing work online?

I think that’s an extremely powerful tool. I think the web is very revolutionary in many, many ways. The dissemination of information from one part of the globe to another.

What is the role of photography online?

I think it’s going to play a more and more important role. The internet has changed the world but we haven’t seen anything yet. One issue for photography right now is how it’s rendered on the computer screen – how it can look great on one and like shit on another. Or what a friend mentioned to me about the GQ portfolio- how it printed so beautifully in the magazine and looked so much worse online. I think generally at this point there simply needs to be a lowering of expectations from one to the other.

What do you think of the political process now that you’ve done this?

The same thing I’ve always thought. That there’s two political parties that are bought and paid for by the corporate interests, and by extension they represent and defend the interests of that class. I much more believe that the biggest divisions in American society are those of class not race. The American presidential campaigns are the most overdrawn political events. Does it really need to be 2 years long. Why can’t it be 6 months and then we make a decision. It seems like a giant smoke screen that covers up the issues that really need to be addressed like the job losses, the economy and war.

Were you very involved in politics before you shot this work?

Yes, I’m very involved.

Were they aware of this before they hired you?

Yes, I think they might have had an idea.

Really? It’s not represented in your work.

There might have been a rumor or two about my left leaning politics.

The marketplace could destroy an artist’s gift

- - copyright

From a story in the NYTimes Magazine entitled “What is Art for” (here):

For nearly a decade he had been struggling to explain — to his family, to nonartist friends, to himself — why he devoted so much of his time and energy to something as nonremunerative as poetry.

The predicament of all artists living “in an age whose values are market values and whose commerce consists almost exclusively in the purchase and sale of commodities.” For centuries people have been speaking of talent and inspiration as gifts; Hyde’s basic argument was that this language must extend to the products of talent and inspiration too. Unlike a commodity, whose value begins to decline the moment it changes hands, an artwork gains in value from the act of being circulated—published, shown, written about, passed from generation to generation — from being, at its core, an offering.

If creative work doesn’t necessarily have any market value, how is the artist to survive?

In the course of writing “The Gift,” Hyde underwent an intellectual transformation on this subject. He began the work believing there was “an irreconcilable conflict” between gift exchange and the market; the enduring (if not necessarily the happy) artist was the one who most successfully fended off commercial demands. By the time he was finished, Hyde had come to a less-dogmatic conclusion. It was still true, he believed, that the marketplace could destroy an artist’s gift, but it was equally true that the marketplace wasn’t going anywhere; it had always existed, and it always would. The key was to find a good way to reconcile the two economies.

Copyrights are utilitarian things. They generate money to pay a mortgage and buy groceries and continue working. Extended too far beyond their practical usefulness, copyrights not only contradict their original intent; they also wall creators off from the sources of their inventiveness. Genius, Hyde believes, needs to “tinker in a collective shop.”

American Photography 24

- - Awards

The American Photography – American Illustration party was last night (no, reports yet report here). The American Photography book has always been a very prestigious publication to be in. Most Photo Editors and Creative Directors keep a reference copy above the desk. I would always thumb through the last couple copies with my other photo editors or the CD every once and awhile looking for ideas or inspiration. You can see the winners on the website (here). Chosen means they were picked but didn’t make the cut for the book and Selected means they made it into the book.

I know American Photography is all about the book, but they’ve got this website which is an amazing collection of all the past winners and it’s absolute shit to navigate. It could be such a useful tool for finding talent if only it were organized better, because the real gems are the photographers who made the cut but not into the book. Maybe someday they will fix that.

Dangerous Jobs- War Photographer

- - Photoshoot Video

The CW has a show called In Harms Way where they do episodes on dangerous jobs and one happens to be war photographer. The other jobs are pro bull rider, landmine clearer, coast guard swimmer, live animal capturer, vulcanologist and test pilot. It all looks pretty interesting but of course it will depend on how much hype they mix in to the show.

I was just going to check it out and see if it’s any good. You can watch full episodes (here).

Here’s a trailer for the show:


Failure is an Option

- - Working

When I worked at a magazine, every month a couple of the shoots we assigned would fail. Fail to meet our standards, fail to be interesting, fail to capture what we were looking for. Immediately we would need to either kill it and reshoot, kill the story altogether, find pickup to replace it (I worked at a place once where they wanted me to find pickup and make an assignment simultaneously which seemed like a defeatist attitude so I usually just pretended to look for stock) or just figure out a way to run it. What you do depends on how far over budget you are, the number of kills that month, amount of time till you go to press and wether or not you can come up with a solution.

I worked at several magazines where we were told to reduce or eliminate (!) the number of kills (btw, eliminating the kills always amounted to pretending like it was going to run in a future issue and when that future issue never came–2 years down the road–we killed it). Kills have always been a part of making magazines and I would argue an important part of how a magazine is different than a newspaper or a monthly is different than a weekly. When you kill photographs it’s because they aren’t good enough to publish and that means you have high standards. Also, the only way to find brilliance is to take chances. Companies have R&D budgets because doing things the way you’ve always done them will never produce an unexpected bit of genius. You might think the first thing to do in a time of budget crisis is eliminate the R&D budget. This will of course eliminate your edge over the sea of sameness.

There are several reasons why a shoot fails:

1. The editor’s fault: Many times when making an assignment we are dealing with an incomplete picture of the story. Either it hasn’t come in yet or it has and is going back for a massive rewrite. Usually this leaves interpretation of the subject and selection of the photographer with a very wide area to work in. Whether this is bad or good usually depends on if the editor is one of those people who likes to see the important parts of the story depicted in pictures. You can also sometimes get caught in the trap where the editor is focused on a particular paragraph or sentence of a story pitch that may not even be possible to shoot. These shoots are called sandbags and always fail on some level.

2. The Photo Editors Fault: Sometimes I will fail to understand what it is the editor is excited about in a particular story and assign the wrong photographer or send them off in the wrong direction. Sometimes I would be unable to put enough effort into figuring out how to shoot something. I should also point out here a skill that is often overlooked in Photo Editors which is the ability to motivate and lead photographers. Magazines do a horrible job of teaching management skills which is sad because the reality of photo editing is that you’re hiring and managing a ton of freelancers each month and a huge part of managing people is leadership.

3. The Photographers Fault: I don’t think anyone really admits when they think a shoot they just did sucks eggs, because you can never really tell what’s going on inside the magazine and of course I’ve had CD’s and Editors love shoots I thought missed the mark. I remember calling a photographer who just delivered 3 different pictures for us to tell them one was not working to see if there was anything we could do and he remarked that he was just telling an assistant how the picture you love is sometimes the one they hate. Anyway sometimes you can’t make good pictures. Veteran photographers know how to make sure they get a baseline image no matter what.

4. The Budget’s Fault: It’s no secret that magazines try to accomplish more with less and cutting expenses can lead to a shoot’s failure. Eliminate pre-production, producer, shoot time, assistants, wardrobe, hair, makeup, casting, location scouting, props and you will see a difference in the pictures. You’re simply leaving more to chance when you don’t button up a shoot with these things in place and you have to be willing to redo it if luck is not on your side that day. I should also note that showing a portfolio to the editor where the pictures took $20,000 in production value to create and then handing them $5,000 to get it done will certainly lead to disaster.

A failed shoot is no big deal and if a photographer has done other sucessful shoots for you in the past it’s easy to move on but if it’s the first time shooting they’re probably not going to get a second chance no matter who’s fault it is. Failure is a part of the creative process and it’s a big part of making something great and unexpected. Without it you’re just mediocre.

PR Can Be Effective With Decent Photography

- - Working

I’m amazed at how much effort goes into writing press releases, calling editors, staging events and how little thought goes into the photography to go with all of that. If only these companies knew how many meetings I’d sat in on where the first question after a story (or product) is pitched was “what does it look like” and then depending on what “it” looks like the story is either made or not. Get a clue people, the better the photography, the more coverage you will receive in magazines. In general this translates to spending more on photography.

I really feel like we’re headed in a direction where the PR/Advertorial images are going to have more legs than advertising because it’s something people feel like they can report on and share. Smart companies will commission several different kinds of shoots and release them to the different communities that are interested in talking about their product. If the photography is great then the conversation will travel far. This of course is good for photographers and bad for magazines (maybe photo editors will work commissioning editorial shoots for PR efforts). Magazines can’t survive on press releases, they need insertion orders to go along with them. Over the last decade as the advertising revenue has continued to tighten there’s been a slow draining of the trust consumers have with magazines, because the coverage things receive can be correlated to the advertising (with some notable exceptions of course.) Honestly, when was the last time you saw a real review of anything? Online probably.

So, when you get right down to it, reaching consumers with your message will eventually be about friends passing along a recommendation and they will be the one saying “yeah, but what does it look like”.

Life, Burnett, Surburb x, Newspaper Business 101, Eggleston

- - Photography News

NPR’s All Things Considered has an interview and slideshow (here) with Bobbi Baker Burrows (daughter of Vietnam photojournalist Larry Burrows) where she talks about a few of the iconic images from Life Magazine now out in a new book Life: The Classic Collection.

Found it on Robert Benson’s blog.

Photojournalist David Burnett (Contact Press Images, New York) shows you the ups and downs of what it was REALLY like to try and photograph the Games of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.



Via, Melcher & Harrington

American Suburb x is an incredibly interesting photography blog I found via Conscientious.

Over on Publishing 2.0 (here): “Every conversation about reinventing a business model for newspapers begins, it seems, with a question about how to find a way to pay for what we value in the current product. In other words, how do we find a way to keep doing what we’ve always done and make as much money as we’ve always made?”

“I’ve rarely heard anyone start by asking what the market values. Where are the pain points in the market? How can we solve problems for people?”

“You know, business 101.”

William Eggleston at the Whitney (here) via NYMag (here): “Eggleston’s 1976 MoMA show launched his career and proved a turning point in the history of photography. Scorned at the time for being vulgar and banal, the show has since been revered for exactly those reasons.”

A Call For Change In The Publishing Industry

- - The Future

It’s time for change in the publishing industry.

There could not be a better time for change in the publishing industry. On the eve of new leadership for America, magazine publishers need to pull their collective heads out of their asses and stop hacking away at the quality of products they produce (and the spirit of those that produce them) and start leading this industry in a new direction.

After announcing a restructuring of their magazines and a staff cuts Anne Moore CEO of Time Inc. told publishers at a circulation conference that Time Inc.’s decision to reorganize had “nothing to do with digital and one hundred percent to do with the recession” (here).

Really Anne? Yes, advertisers are leaving because of the recession but they are also leaving because the product you produce no longer works for them, because there are new and exciting opportunities online and because you keep hacking away at the staff, frequency, page count, trim size and contributors until what’s left is not worth what you are charging. Was it ever worth what you charged them? You’ve certainly made millions off advertising to your readers but I think we’re about to find out if that was a fair deal for everyone.

This AdAge article (here) presents two scenarios for the next five years. Either, top tier magazines that somehow find a way to survive will reap huge returns when the recession ends or advertisers that are leaving now will never come back again. Without a doubt I know all the publishers are betting the former and I think they are all completely wrong.

There are two monumental changes in our industry:

1. The balance of power has gone to the consumers, contributors and even *gasp* your employees who can create, distribute and use content online practically for free.

2. The web allows you to save millions of dollars in creation and distribution costs.

Yet, I feel like many people in publishing think they’re not monumental. If a magazine is anything it’s a very expensive and complicated way to package and deliver content. Suddenly this takes zero effort and publishers are all standing around scratching their heads screaming how will we make money off this.

The changeover to the digital use and distribution of your content is going to be a mess, a complete mess, but without significant investment from existing publishers you will see your market share dwindle and eventually disappear completely. There’s nothing wrong with this really, it happens when the market changes and companies don’t see that hairpin turn in the road and just drive straight off the cliff. I’m sure there are many who will not be one bit sad to see the demise of a few publishers out there who don’t treat their employees or contributors very well.

Here are my 5 easy steps to making the transition to a new media economy:

1. Plow all of your profits back into the your company. Then get into the savings account an grab some of the profits from the 90’s when you were getting obscenely rich off your advertisers and plow some of that back into the product. Use it to make mistakes.

2. Gather all the employees you were about to fire because they don’t fit in so well with your organization or because they are too green to have mastered traditional publishing and give them promotions. Put them in charge. Gather all the people you’ve trained to say no to change and yes to whatever you say is good and fire them (ok I know this will mean there is nobody left in accounting and IT so keep a few of them around but maybe go for the junior ones).

3. Now, add staff and make everyone spend half the day doing traditional print work and half the day working on the online thing (it’s not a magazine). Make sure they try lots of crazy ideas and make lots of mistakes.

4. Invest in your contributors. You spend a tiny fraction of your production costs on the contributors yet the product without them is worthless. If you don’t start building some loyalty with your content creators they will leave you when a better deal comes along.

5. Photography is the key. Figure out how to use it. Video online is TV. We already know that works. Text online is, well, it’s great to read at a certain length but you know, it’s always going to work better printed. Photography is the perfect medium for communication online.

Change or die. It’s up to you.

The Election And Photography

- - Photography News

The Obama camp did a much better job managing their photography in this election and while I don’t think you can control everything that happens I still think people underestimate what can be done with photography.

When I saw these Obama rally photos (here) I thought, how can you not believe in the power of photography to deliver a message. I was told by someone who used to help politicians with photography for a living that the way you get images like this is make the photographers stand in a certain place so the only photograph they can take is that one.

Good Morning America ran this picture (here) yesterday morning with Diane Sawyer saying “what a photograph.”

Folio Mag, Covers of the campaign (here).

Powell cites a Platon photo when endorsing Obama (here).

If the intersection of politics and photography interests you visit this site: http://www.bagnewsnotes.com

Side Note– Over on FiveThirtyEight.com: “Ever since Brett Marty started taking photographs for the site, our traffic has skyrocketed (here).”

Thanks Allison, Ryan.

Photo Contest Pre-screen — Critical Mass

- - Getting Noticed

Over the last two weeks I looked at 606 different photographer submissions for the Critical Mass competition and helped narrow it down to the 180 finalists (here). As you might expect the images ran the gamut from “are you effing kidding me” to “holy crap that’s amazing.”

I tried to only vote for photographers I would hire or that I would put on a list and ultimately since I won’t be doing any hiring in the near term I’m going to share some of the photographers I found with the PE’s that read the blog. There is a tendency to vote for work that would look good on a wall or in a book (the grand prize) but I know the organizers have carefully brought in people with different backgrounds (and that’s not mine) so I tried to force myself to avoid doing this.

I made sure I voted for any photographers who had pictures of people smiling. That was like 1 or 2 votes. Everyone else was either suicidal or staring a hole through my skull (kidding, sort of.)

Pictures of houses and of people standing staring seemed to outnumber empty parking lots and shopping malls which I think is a noteworthy trend but ultimately the majority of the photographs fall in the “landscapes with shit in them” category (i.e. people and objects).

I’m a complete sucker for pictures of kids (unless engaged in a suicidal stare). I have kids as I imagine many reviewers do and it’s an easy emotional connection to make.

I can’t escape the influence of familiarity and novelty on my decisions. If I’ve seen a photographer blogged favorably and liked their work the bias was strong. Same goes for things that I’d never seen before. Also, I found myself on the fence about an image a few times and looked down to see the image title and many times it felt incredibly stupid and suddenly I’m no longer on the fence.

One thing that struck me was the incredible number of original ideas and subjects that just quite didn’t hit the mark. So much originality that if the images were only better executed it would be so compelling. I think some of those photographers just need more time working on it and developing their approach. I hope not making the cut or the top 50 doesn’t mean they will abandon the project.

Finally, when the next round comes for voting I’ll be interested to see which photographers who’s work I loved, missed the cut. Also, which photographers I voted against made the cut and suddenly I realize I made a mistake (or not). When a group of people votes on something there’s inevitably great work that’s left behind. Law of averages people.

George Lois Video — The Great Esquire Covers

- - Creative Director

This video of George Lois was shot by GQ’s Design Director Fred Woodward for the 2004 SPD awards. George conceived and designed all those iconic Esquire covers from the 60’s (cover archive here).

From a story on Lois and the hit show Mad Men over on Fast Company (here):

So what happened to the great advertising of the sixties? It continued into the seventies but slowly got taken over by the Saatchis and guys who were buying up agencies. Before you knew it, all the creative agencies were bought. Most advertising today is group grope. The marketing people decide what a point of view should be, then they go out and test it and they come back with all kinds of opinions about strategy. That’s fed down to the copywriter and art director who are stuck with that whole approach. It’s an art but they’ve made it a science. Every businessperson today has gone to marketing school, business school or communication classes. How are you going to teach advertising? With the way I worked, a client can give me everything they know about something and then I go away and come back with advertising that knocks them out of their chair. They finally understand what kind of a company they are.

…mostly today, I could name you brands that spent a half a billion or a billion a year on advertising and I could say to you, “Okay, give me what they say in their advertising–give me the words or the visual of what their message is, and you couldn’t tell me what the fuck they do. I could name every car in America and I couldn’t tell you what the fuck their advertising is. Every beer brand, you would confuse every commercial for every other.

Thanks, BoSacks.

Off The Cliff We Go…

- - Just Plain Dumb

Digital Rail Road completely collapses and gives it’s contributors 24 hours to remove material before shutting off the servers. Vincent gives them a good thrashing here. I guess we now know that photoshelter made the right move to abandon the stock sales and keep the personal archive servers alive. It seems somewhat criminal what they’re doing, but in the current business environment they can get in line with all the other aholes.

Time Inc. begins the holiday bloodletting with a 600 job cut. I agree with Lee Crane and wonder if they will fire any of the decision makers who drove them here.

Corbis needs more of your royalty. After 15 years of trying to reach profitability this is your solution? Melcher has the straight dope as usual.

You can read about all the latest magazine failures and job cuts over at  Magazine Death Pool. Will they become the f*cked company of the media world as advertising takes a nose dive?

UPDATE: DRR appears to have an extension of the shutdown to 11:59PM, PST, on Friday October 31. (via, photoshelter)

Photo Trade Show Hangover

- - Events

I spent last week in NYC going to events, then 3 days on the floor at the PDN Photo Expo and I’m a little fried from talking shop all week so I thought I’d throw up this recap jumble for the moment.

My favorite part of flying has to be the visit to Hudson News to survey covers, scan headlines, look for trends and see in general what piques my interest. The first thing to jump out at me was the new Rolling Stone book size and paper which eerily looks very similar to Men’s Journal. I bought a copy to check out the Sebastiao Salgado essay and read a 12 page story on the death of David Foster Wallace. I also grabbed a copy of The Atlantic after reading about the redesign because I wanted to see how it feels in the hand. I was impressed. I noticed that portfolio hasn’t run one of those lovely abstract covers in awhile and hope they haven’t completely abandoned those in favor of the more traditional personality based ones. The new Radar redesign looks great… too bad they pulled the plug on it. Bon Appetit covers are grabbing my attention now because they feel grounded/authentic and I see that Craig Cutler has shot the last couple. The cover flap for literary and news magazine seems to be a new trend and is likely tied to their need to sell, sell, sell on the newsstand but remain tasteful on your nightstand. I wasn’t going to buy the new GQ because my bag was already weighing a ton but I couldn’t resist a 32 page photo essay by Jeff Riedel (I’ll have to see if he’s up for an interview about it). I also discovered a piece inside on covering the presidential campaigns for news magazines that talks about the un-objectivity of the whole affair and nasty way that the flacks influence the press.

I attended and blogged about the Lucies (here) and while there are several things I think they could do to improve it, I was moved by several of the speeches and overall it’s a much needed event in the world of photography. My very simple fix would be to give more awards to young upcoming and hot now photographers and maybe include some academy like mass voting in the process. While I think honoring some of these legendary photographers is very important and gives the event serious street cred, there is a real need to elevate hungry young photographers into the spotlight and give validation to projects that require publishers and editors to take chances on lesser known photographers. That being said, the honorees were the ones who gave speeches that reminded me of the power and importance of photography.

I had two days between that and the the start of the trade show and ended up out both nights with photographers, photo eds and agents. Everyone now begins a conversation with me by saying “this is off the record.”

Thursday I headed for the trade show and the place seemed to be packed with people. I was there to meet people, observe what it might take to have a decent booth for my website company and hand out some cool stickers I made. The serious fawning over gear is somewhat lost on me (I’m not a photographer) so, I kind of walked around observing and meeting up with different people. The most interesting phoneomenon has to be the “live photo sessions” where photographers with model(s) and lights are shooting live images in front of a crowd of people. There’s also a lot of slideshows where photographers talk about technique and how the images were made. Some of the crowds were impressive and Vincent Laforet seemed to be drawing the biggest. I can only assume the blog is partially feeding this and that is an awesome development.

After the show it was time to party and I headed out with Andrew Hetherington (his official report here) to 3 in a row. The highlight of the evening was Monte Isom’s self promo party. Yes, instead of a promo card or emailer that you track Monte has a guest list, DJ and booze. Clients are handed flash drives with his photography on it when they check in. I guarantee he sees a return on this mother of all promos and I hope he keeps it up because it’s a good event for photographers and clients to mingle and party unlike the PDN self promo event where they shut off the booze and kick you out just when I was starting to settle in.

I had some interesting conversations with industry vets much of which was concerned with the cliff we just fell off. When it comes to advertising in magazines there seems to be a lot of chasing demos going on which amounts to creating content that will attract a certain demographic age, income level, education and ratio of male vs female readers. This has really been going on since 2000 but now in earnest because of the urgency in the situation. I think demos will dominate the conversation with potential advertisers going forward along with words from the web like uniques and hits.

My argument against chasing demos is that the cost to appease these fickle readers who care very little about your core values is enormous. Both in terms of the number of people needed to produce the junk content and the watering down of the core content. If you’ve every wondered how a magazine with millions of readers can shut down it’s because of the sheer weight of trying to maintain a huge circulation of people who barely like what you produce. This is a very scary time to be in magazines as I was told by several people that no advertising is being sold in 2009. None. Everyone is making a decision after the election and waiting for some sign in the economy. Only the strong will survive. In the end chasing demos has no end game it’s just a temporary fix as numbers rule the conversation right now but eventually it will fail as we return to the value of original content and readers who are invested in the product.

Overall it was a great week in the city and I met an incredible group of people who are committed to making this industry a better place: John Harrington, David Hobby, Joerg Colberg, Mark Tucker, Kristina Snyder, David Burnett, Cameron Davidson, Eric McNatt, Chris Bartlett, Evan Kafka, Jonathan Saunders and Allegra Wilde.