These two model release related news stories landed on my desk last week. In both, the model is upset after seeing their picture used and even though they signed a release they want to go after the photographer because they didn’t consent to the use.
I asked Carolyn E. Wright the Photo Attorney, if the models have a case. She replied that “If the model releases signed in those cases are all-encompassing like this one: http://asmp.org/tutorials/adults-model-release.html, then the model’s don’t have a legal complaint. The best practice is for photographers or ad agencies to clear the specific uses with the models when the uses might be controversial to avoid these types of complaints.”
They can make a stink about it on fox news, but if the release is solid they’ve got nothing in a court of law.
Our policy is that, no matter what, our photographer must have a call with the creative. Very often, if you are on the ball…you can go from third place to first. That’s happened to us quite a few times. We never do estimates without a creative call – how can you? We have no idea what the expectations are without talking to the creatives. This phone call is where all the stops are pulled out, and what happens before the photographer picks up the phone is critical. Do your homework before you get on the phone.
UPDATE: April Fools!
See more bestselling images (here).
UPDATE: April Fools!
What started as friendly banter when photography agent Heather Elder wrote an open letter to art buyers with several responding back and everyone agreeing and asking for open and honest dialogue between the two, has suddenly taken a turn for the worse this morning when a senior art buyer at DHPH-NY/LA declared “I’m tired of this shit, you people work for me” then announced a new policy called the “silent bid off.” Now up to 20 photographers will be asked to submit silent bids on all jobs. The job will be awarded to the lowest bid or picked based on “arbitrary rules we’ve made that you have no idea about.” Additionally, an a la carte menu will allow agents to purchase more information about a job (e.g. budget, creative call, who you’re bidding against) that may or may not give you an edge in the bid off and could potentially mean you’re paying them if you win.
Senior agent David Chartikoff from Creative Photographers Agency fired back with new surcharges that will be added to all jobs. Photographers will have at their discretion the ability to charge thousands of dollars in “dealing with agency/client buffoon charges.” The DWACB charges include additional surcharges for people trying to eat and drink the expense budget in a single evening and people standing around set acting like they’re on “spring break” instead of working. He hinted at some type of hangover fine but was initially unsure if that might backfire on some of his well known photographers who “work better” when everything is a bit blurry in the morning.
Another art buyer jumped into the fray and instituted a new portfolio show policy inspired by the pac-man video game. Agents must schlep 400 lbs of portfolios, snacks and drinks throughout the agency and try to find as many creatives as they can in an allotted time limit. Each creative you find gives you a small time bonus that you can use to show a portfolio or go find another creative. When found you can ply them with snacks and drinks, but if it’s not something they like (e.g. they’re allergic to an item) they get to smear frosting on the prints of the book you were trying to show them. Once time runs out all the creatives convene in a conference room for a meeting and you must exit the building immediately. Obstacles placed throughout the building (e.g. life size sponge bob squarepants) will prevent agents from using any mechanical aids in this new pac-agent challenge.
Finally the Agents Association of America made a surprise announcement and revealed a new email marketing tool they’ve been working on called the “Email Blast Master.” The EBM is capable of locking up a computer and rendering it useless until the email is read and the link to the website clicked on. In addition to locking up the computer anyone not expressing enthusiasm at the invitation to “check out new work” will immediately have their personal email blasted to all flickr users with the headline “Looking For Fresh New Photographers To Work With.”
This was all happening in a secret forum where agents and art buyers discuss jobs, so “untouchables” (photographers without agents) cannot land them, but someone broke in and opened the thing up to the pubic. Go check it out (here) before they close it again.
Speaking of photography books, Christopher Anderson has just released “Capitolio” which he claims is the first authored monograph photography book for the iPhone and iPad (here). I asked him a couple questions about it.
APE: I believe there are photobooks available as apps already so this is not the first is it?
CA: There are “photobooks” but they are all either collections of stock photography or something along the lines of a slide show that was put together for the ipad. The distinction I make is that it is the first authored monograph that was made for print and now has been translated to an “I” version. It may seem like a technicality outside the world of photo books, but it is a big difference for collectors, authors, and fans in general of photography books.
APE: Much of the value of a book comes from the printing, binding, paper and quantity that are made, essentially the cost to produce it. An app has none of this and in fact once you make one, the reproductions are free. Why would someone value the app over a book or in addition to the book?
CA: A book is the ultimate expression of the work, and obviously I count the original print version as the ideal original form of the book. But the technology got me thinking about how only a finite audience could see that end product where only 3,000 copies are printed and the price is out of reach for many people. By introducing the app version, I am democratizing the experience of the work by making it available to an infinite audience. And at 4.99 it is not a thing just for a certain elite. There are other implications as well such as the way that the book could now be used in an academic or educational setting. Perhaps the book could be used in a curriculum for photo students or, in the case of this book in particular, political science students for example. Yes, the print form is the consummate form, but now a wider audience can see it and understand the work how it was intended rather than just as a slide show on the web. Also, the app allows for added features such as a video interview that gives a deeper understanding of the work and a director’s cut of extra pictures.
APE: How does an app fit into the future of photobooks?
CA: As far as the future of photo books, I don’t really know, this is an experiment. But I imagine that the app version could ultimately drive sales of the print version…making it more valuable. It also might change the path of bringing a print version into existence. I could imagine a time where the existence of an ipad book might create a market for the print version. In other words, the app might become a successful self publishing model that could lead to a publisher making it into an actual printed book.
There’s another interview with Chris (here).
If a woman wants to be a war photographer, she should. It’s important. Women offer a different perspective. We have access to women on a different level than men have, just as male photographers have a different relationship with the men they’re covering.In the Muslim world, most of my male colleagues can’t enter private homes. They can’t hang out with very conservative Muslim families. I have always been able to. It’s not easy to get the right to photograph in a house, but at least I have one foot in the door. I’ve always found it a great advantage, being a woman.
In my experience, every photographer would like a book of his or her work. It’s a given, like the misery of next month’s tax deadline. Whether we’re talking about an artist monograph proffered by an established publisher, or a 21st Century-style photo album of the family trip to Puerto Rico, everyone wants a book. Yet the process is complicated, and often opaque for the average photographer.
Mary Virginia Swanson, who’s had a long and illustrious career in the photography industry, and Darius Himes, a writer and co-founder of Radius Books, have just published Publish Your Photography Book, (Princeton Architectural Press) which I mentioned in my article about the PDN Photo Plus Expo this past fall. They allowed me to preview a pdf of the entire book earlier this winter, and agreed to answer some questions.
Suffice it to say, I think it’s a terrific resource, and well worth purchasing. The book is accessible, and laid out in an elegant manner that is easy to read. It’s a well-written, comprehensive look at the entire publishing process, from the conception of an idea through the marketing of a finished product. It also endeavors to push photographers to be honest about their desires and goals before embarking on what is obviously an arduous process. The authors have solicited expert opinions across a broad spectrum of the publishing industry, and include those other voices throughout the book. They also have a workbook section at the back, and an impressive trove of resources that will help a photographer realize their vision.
JB: The book mentions, and I would certainly agree, that all photographers would like to have their work printed in book form at some point. But I feel that many photographers, myself included, view a book as an abstraction. Publish Your Photography Book gives photographers the information necessary to move from idea to physical form. Was that one of your primary goals?
MVS: Yes, PYPB charts the path from concept through production to physical book to sales and marketing, and helps artists plan for extending the life of their title beyond its launch.
JB: Do you think that the rise in the market for photo books is actually a function of the power of the Internet? As images have become dematerialized, is it possible that photographers, long obsessed with the aging of paper, have become more invested in maintaining a connection to the history of the medium?
DH: While photobooks have had a growing collector’s market for decades, yes, I think that the Internet has played a huge role in the rise in the market. And it has played a correlative role in the interest in photography books. The publication of books like Andrew Roth’s Book of 101 Books, and the two Martin Parr and Gerry Badger volumes were extremely important in creating that interest. Market and interest are different things. The content of those books was created just ahead of the curve of the Internet marketplace.
Your suggested link between the “dematerialization” of images and the “history of the medium” as represented by photobooks is interesting, but not the full story in my opinion. What digital has done, and by digital I mean digital images and our being able to place them on, and send them around, the Internet, is to open up more possibilities for the medium. There are actually now more material ways to make a photograph, not less (as suggested by the word dematerialized). And while there is a heightened interest in some of the great photobooks of the past, there is more of a frenzy around everyone making books now, thanks to digital. So I don’t think book-making today is about a connection to the past so much as a flourishing of something very current. In many ways, the possibilities of digital print-on-demand have fed that.
JB: “Who do you want to reach, and what type of book will best access that audience?” is a direct question that you pose to your readers in the book. It’s a great point of entry to the process, and one that I think underpins the message of this book. The theme of asking difficult questions of oneself recurs throughout. So, allow me to turn it back to you. Your audience is very clear here. (Photographers.) I’m more curious about the why. Why did you want to publish this book, and why now?
DH & MVS: We wanted to publish a book that would be useful to photographers of all backgrounds and aspirations. Our column, which was written for the photo-eye Booklist (2004-2007) was successful and got people thinking about and talking about bringing their work to publication. Some of the updates include increased options for print on demand, the growing market for limited-edition books and e-marketing. We wanted to extend that conversation and expand the audience.
JB: You address your reader directly in this book. Why did you choose to adopt that format?
DH: It seemed the best way. It’s a book, essentially, about how to do something, so we addressed the people who want to do that something (ie the photographers).
MVS: And the “Industry Voices” featured in our book speak directly to our readers, sharing their area(s) of expertise and advice in a clear, direct way.
JB: I worked in the restaurant industry for many years, and it was obvious why so many restaurants don’t succeed. The balance of people management, food quality, service principles, attention to detail, graphic design, interior design, marketing, and business savvy are so rarely seen in one person. So when I read the following quote, “(Books) are also multifaceted objects requiring a range of skill sets to produce that you alone probably don’t possess,” it resonated. Do you think that photographers who go the POD route ought to consider bringing in some design or marketing experts to help ensure that the end result is worth the time and effort?
MVS: I admit to seeing many POD books by artists where the design is so bad it actually hurts the work, making a really poor first impression. I say seek professional help! A fine example is “My Brother’s War” with photographs by Jessica Hines, book design by Elizabeth Avedon (Blurb 2010)
DH: The quick answer to your question is yes.. But it’s a yes that is dependent on, again, what type of book do you want to produce, and what are your goals with that particular POD book? The bigger point you bring up is recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and learning how to build a team that can help you accomplish your goals.
JB: How big do you envision your potential audience?
MVS: All those who wish to produce an illustrated book featuring their artwork.
JB: How did the two of you divvy up the workload? Did you write collaboratively, or did each of you take responsibility for different sections of text?
DH & MVS: It was definitely a collaboration. At the beginning, before we had a clear sense of the final structure of the book, we created sections and each of us took lead on the sections that made sense. For instance, Section 4, The Marketing of Your Book was a natural for Mary Virginia. The First Section, The Photography Book Phenomenon, is an adaptation of a lecture and essay I had given over the past couple years, and therefore is mostly my words. But the whole book is written with a singular voice, which emerged in the authoring and editing process and there are not sections that can be called one or the others.
JB: Some ideas in this book do seem to transcend the subject matter. Like “Organization, organization, organization is the only way to stay on track…” Are each of you genetically pre-disposed to be organized, or is it a skill you have learned and cultivated? And if the latter, do you have any advice on how to improve one’s organizational capacity?
MVS: In my view, being organized speaks to the side of pursuing an art career—and wanting to create work such as a book—that requires you to think like a business. It’s like any business—being efficient, hard working and organized will help you achieve what you want to achieve. That is all.
DH: If you’re young, beg your parents to impose more discipline and a strong work ethic on you. You’ll thank them later. Advice on being more organized? Ask others to identify how you’re disorganized and then reflect on that, work to change it, and repeat that process. We all need help.
JB: Given that this book instructs photographers on all the aspects of the physical production, and stresses good typography and design, did you feel additional pressure to perfect the design of this book?
DH: Additional pressure? No. A natural self-imposed pressure because design is so important? Yes!
MVS: Designers David Chickey and Masumi Shibata brought an extraordinary elegance to our book, for which we are forever grateful. The fact that readers won’t be able to put it down is due in great part to their design sensibilities.
JB: This book began as a collaborative column between the two of you that was published in photo-eye Booklist. I haven’t had the opportunity to review that publication, so I was wondering if you might provide a bit of back-story about how the you came to work together?
DH: When Mary Virginia and I sat down for a break during the Society for Photographic Education (SPE) conference in Newport, Rhode Island, in 2003 to draft an outline for a series of articles titled “Publishing the Photobook” that would run in photo-eye Booklist, we knew that we had the makings of a book. We are ﬁrst and foremost grateful to Rixon Reed, the owner and director of photo-eye, for encouraging the column from the very beginning. The column ran for a total of twelve installments over three years (2004–07) and was a recurring topic of conversation among photographers wherever we went.
MVS: Like the book, the column began with the concept for your book, and continued in a logical learning path towards the final “Case Studies” from those who had brought their work to publication. It was timely then, and even more so now.
JB: Did you consider releasing this information in non-book format, like a password protected website or Ipad application? Do you have any intention to supplement the printed book with web-based materials?
DH: We’ve launched a website devoted to our book (www.publishyourphotographybook.com), which will continue to grow with some of the resources from the book as well as interviews and articles about photography books not found in the published book. There is a blog within our website, too, where we will inform our readers of upcoming events, book festivals, competitions and more. We want people to come to the website for lots of reasons.
MVS: We wanted to partner with a traditional publisher for a variety of reasons. Princeton Architectural Press (our first choice!) has a great brand, particularly for the type of book this is. They also have an amazing distribution arrangement with Chronicle Books and we felt like they would be able to get this book out into the world in a big way! The content of our book draws heavily on visuals, and we haven’t yet seen many good e-books that work for illustrated books. An iPad-specific book would be interesting, but the audience for this book is pretty specific, and again, we’re not sure enough people would purchase the book just for the iPad. (A Kindle version would do a disservice to the book, design- and content-wise. Kindles are great for text-only books.)
JB: The book makes a regular distinction between books on subject matters with wide appeal versus artist monographs based upon the reputation of the artist. Given the larger sales potential of the former, would you encourage photographers to consider ways to tailor their work to appeal to larger markets?
DH: Maybe. I would primarily encourage photographers to simply be aware of that distinction and set out to make the work and a book that best satisfies their own personal goals, whatever those may be. If you find there are subject-specific audiences likely to be interested in your book, market to them, as you would naturally want to draw them to your exhibition, your website, your public lectures and more. In my opinion, it is just as hard to make a successful subject-matter driven book as it is to make a successful artist driven book. Both have their own distinct path. In the end, if you know your audience, and how to reach them, you will stand a better chance of putting your books in their hands.
JB: How has the nascent cultural shift from paper books to ebooks influenced the process of having this book published?
DH: There is no ebook version of this book, but we welcome the e-possibilities down the road. Right now, ebooks are more or less restricted to the realm of literature, not illustrated books. If I were to be an oracle, I’d say we’ll see more and more e-book versions of illustrated books. Obviously, Phaidon and a few others are dabbling in this already. Whether they impact a broader population or are limited to the art world is yet to be seen.
JB: Given the current popularity of Print-on-Demand services, I found the following statement to be an incredibly concise piece of advice to photographers. “Successful self-publishers are those who are organized and entrepreneurial at heart, who know their audience, can effectively reach that audience, and have the financial and labor resources available to take on numerous roles.”
It seems like most photographers are using POD services to make books to market themselves and their careers, rather than making a book that might sell vigorously. Do you think, under the above circumstances, that a self-published project can produce a product with viable income stream?
DH: Quick distinction here: self-published does not strictly equate with print-on-demand (POD). Self-published only implies taking on the role of “publisher” of your project, regardless of the technical means you employ to manifest that project (which could still be offset lithography, POD, Xerox, what-have-you).
MVS: Essential elements (whether published or self-published): clarity of concept, design and production that enhances the work, and a plan to get the books to your audience. Can a self-published project produce a product with a viable income stream? Absolutely.
JB: It seems as if the advice in this book could apply to artists working in media beyond photography. Did you consider calling it Publish Your Art Book, and expanding the potential audience?
DH: That’s the title of our next book.
MVS: And the one after that: Publish Your Illustrated Book(.com). But seriously, what we offer the reader in this book could apply to creating a book featuring work created in any medium, to your point.
JB: Place and time are so crucial to the nature of photography. This book feels like a snapshot of the Publishing industry as the 21st Century begins to take shape. Did you feel like you were time-stamping a period of change?
DH: Perhaps. But the information in this book is written in a way to be useful for years to come. It is not simply an aggregate of information gathered off the Internet. What we make clear in this book is hinted at in the sub-chapter heading, Behind the Editorial Door: Understanding How Publishers Work. The fundamental issues at hand in publishing a book are the same for small and large publishing houses, they are the same whether you’re making an illustrated book or an ebook of a novel.
MVS: While it is true that production techniques and marketing tools will evolve, this book is timeless. We open a door to the industry that will help you understand how to make decisions in relation to your book.
JB: Eileen Gittins, the founder of Blurb, is quoted in the book as saying, as a result of the emerging POD market “…I think we are talking about an expansion in the book industry the likes of which we have never seen before.” Do you agree?
DH: Totally. All of these new technologies are transforming, once again, the landscape and creating new opportunities. The smart and the creative will find doors opening up to them.
JB: Again and again, the industry voices included in the book mention the value of teamwork and collaboration, as a book project is almost always a group endeavor. Would you encourage photographers to burnish their communication skills before embarking on a publishing project?
MVS: You will need to effectively pitch your project in short (soundbite), medium (one page) and long forms (publication proposal), and who better to talk and write about it than you? Our book will help you “speak” the language of publishing, from the front cover to the very last page.
DH: I’m always for “burnishing communication skills.”
JB: Rixon Reed, the founder and owner of photo-eye in Santa Fe, is quoted as saying, “…I’d recommend that photographers think realistically about how big their market is before deciding on edition numbers or print runs for their books. Too many photographers have too many of their self-published books stored in boxes gathering dust in their garages.” One message that pervades your book is that photographers should think clearly about what they want and what they can realistically expect. Do you think it’s hard for photographers to hear the truth about their prospects for a successful book project?
MVS: If you look at the monographs that stand the test of time, in nearly every case the artist had established their value in the collectible print markets or editorial market prior to the release of those titles, thus building their audience for their forthcoming book(s). You should be networking, attending portfolio reviews and submitting your work to competitions NOW. Today you can build a presence for yourself and your work on the Internet, and those interested in the subject(s) you are exploring are likely to find you as well. If you know your audience (clue to realistic press run), and how to reach them (path to distribution), AND your book falls within their price range, you have a far better chance of getting your books out of storage and into their hands of buyers.
DH: And it’s not just hard for photographers. All publishers are engaged in a gambling game. There is never a way to know precisely how many people will buy any particular book.
MVS: In summary: no matter if you are published or choose to self-publish, plan on being an active participant in the marketing and distribution of your book.
JB: Alec Soth is quoted in your book as saying, “A problem I see with print-on-demand is that it can be too easy to reach a sense of accomplishment. It’s too easy to make a book with that technology, but it doesn’t guarantee that the work is any good.” Your book makes a point of encouraging photographers who are interested in the POD route to consider hiring professionals to help them with different aspects of the process. Would you agree with Alec that the ease of the process leads to less than stellar productions?
DH: Certainly. The point to remember, in my opinion, is that a book is not just a group of photographs. It’s a very specific group of photographs that have been edited (often from hundreds of others), have been sequenced in a very particular order, and then surrounded by a design and text and typography and bindings and all of that!
With book making tools so easily accessible (in the form of POD, for instance), ALL of the aspects of making a book still need to be considered. There is a whole industry that has traditionally watched over those aspects. When you take all of that onto your shoulders without having been part of that industry, it’s natural that you’ll unwittingly overlook some of those aspects.
MVS: We do feel that POD is a great way to begin to experience the editing/sequencing of your book-to-be. “Case Study” Lisa M. Robinson speaks to the value of creating unique book dummies periodically as she continued to grow her body of work SNOWBOUND, ultimately allowing her to be more critical of her body of work and better preparing her for the bookmaking process itself.
JB: Paula McCartney and Alec Soth both mention meeting with publishers at Review Santa Fe. Among the many options for making initial contact with publishers, do you feel that Portfolio Review events give photographers a better opportunity to jumpstart the publishing process?
MVS: A 20-minute meeting is a great way to introduce yourself and your work to publishing professionals. The experience of showing your work at a Portfolio Review event is often referred to as “speed dating” It is, of course, up to you to follow up and grow those relationships; this year publishers were also at the review tables of PhotoLucida, Palm Springs Photo Festival, FotoFest, PhotoNOLA and more.
DH: At Radius Books, we’ve published at least 5 books with photographers we met at review events (Michael Lundgren, Transfigurations, Renate Aller, Oceanscapes, David Taylor, Working the Line, Janelle Lynch, Los Jardines De Mexico, Colleen Plumb, Animals Are Outside Today.
Mary Virginia Swanson and Darius Himes will be offering an all-day seminar in Santa Fe, NM, on April 9, 2011. For more information, visit www.publishyourphotographybook.com.
NEW YORK—In a move that media executives, economic forecasters, and business analysts alike are calling “extremely bold,” NYTimes.com put into place a groundbreaking new business model today in which the news website will charge people money to consume the goods and services it provides. “The whole idea of an American business trying to make a profit off of a product its hired professionals create on a daily basis is a truly brave and intrepid strategy,” said media analyst Steve Messner, adding that NYTimes.com’s extremely risky new approach to commerce—wherein legal tender must be exchanged in order to receive a desired service—could drastically reduce the publication’s readership.
I’ve been told by several photographers that this Bill Cunningham movie is fantastic:
Go (here) to see where it’s playing.
The game is set in a large museum during a Jeff Koons retrospective. The viewer is given a rocket launcher and the choice to destroy any of the work displayed in the gallery. If nothing is destroyed the player is allowed to look around for a couple of minutes and then the game ends. However, if one or more pieces are destroyed, an animated model of Jeff Koons walks out and chastises the viewer for annihilating his art. He then sends guards to kill the player. If the player survives this round then he or she is afforded the ability to enter a room where waves of curators, lawyers, assistants, and guards spawn until the player is dead. In the end, the game is unwinnable, and acts as a comment on the fine art studio system, museum culture, art and commerce, hierarchical power structures, and the destructive tendencies of gallery goers, to name a few.
via Boing Boing.
At the risk of sounding like that old scratchy record again, what I’m looking for in photography is something that turns me into a different person, something that I need to come back to, something that when I come back to it looks and feels at least slightly different even though it’s the same images. I believe such photography comes from a photographer who has undergone a transformation her/himself. In part, that is why some projects take a long time to do: It’s not just that taking the photographs takes time, it’s also that their maker evolves along with the images.
Photojournalist Tomas Van Houtryve has been testing alternative funding methods for his photography projects and I asked if he would give us a report on how it’s working out for him. His latest project is called “21st Century Communism” and he’s using Emphas.is to fund it (here). Here’s what he had to say:
I realize there are a lot of gripping and important events unfolding around the world at the moment, but I want to share my first experiences on the beta version of Emphas.is. A few weeks ago I put up my project pitch, and then I hit the road for Laos.
It’s a bit like being a test pilot for an exotic new aircraft: I can feel the huge potential and the power of the platform, but I’ve also had to adapt and cope as the site engineers have worked through fixing the early technical glitches.
I had been eyeing Emphas.is and other alternative funding models for months, and I really wanted to be one of the first photographers to give it a try. Based on the launch dates that they initially announced, I cleared my schedule for several weeks to dedicate to fundraising, followed by a trip to Laos timed with key events on the ground. Unfortunately, the official launch of Emphas.is was pushed back as the developers raced to finish the site. Days of delays turned into weeks, and eventually I risked missing the events in Laos if I kept my plans on hold for the launch.
Running out of time and options, I decided to post an early call for support on my own website. I put up a project synopsis and video on my site and sent out a flurry of emails and Facebook postings. Within 3 days, $1935 worth of pledges from supporters rolled in. It was far short of the total $8800 budget that I still need to finance the project, but I had enough to book my plane ticket for Laos.
Then, just one day before I got on the plane, the Emphas.is beta site finally went live. For the first 24 hours there were reports that people were having trouble registering. Regardless, I crossed my fingers that it would start working smoothly, packed my bags and headed for the airport. The area I was heading to in Laos was extremely remote. In addition to an 11 hour flight, it took another 12 hours by night bus and then two full days on a riverboat before I finally got to a town with an internet connection.
Thankfully, when I logged on I saw that contributions were starting to add up on my project page. I quickly sent out my first exclusive update to the project backers, with details about crossing the border into Laos and photographing a shady Chinese casino in the Golden Triangle.
Then, it was back on the road to photograph Hmong villages in the mountainous hinterlands.
Now, I’ve finally made it to a major city with a solid internet connection. I’m just past half way through the time limit for my funding drive, and I’ve got 60 backers onboard contributing roughly 40% of the total budget.
For any folks that want to give Emphas.is a try, I would certainly not recommend such a tightly compressed schedule where I have to juggle shooting, fundraising and a withering travel schedule all at the same time. Its been very intense keeping all the elements on track.
On a positive note, the great thing is that there is something very intuitive about using the Emphas.is model, now that everything is finally up and running. Backers have started to pose relevant questions in the “Making Of Zone” where I post my updates and comments. As my project proposal has made its way through social networks and attracted support from strangers, I’ve made some really interesting and fruitful new connections. In addition to generous funding contributions, several individuals have stepped forward with key contacts and very precise and helpful advice for my subject. I have already managed to make stronger photos due to their input. This is a pleasant shift over the lone-wolf existence that I’ve experienced on many of my previous documentary photo trips. I now have got a crowd of very supportive people behind me, and it is clear that they have a stake in the project’s success. It’s very inspiring.
Emphas.is isn’t a magic bullet that will solve every problem plaguing visual journalism, but I think it is turning out to be a good model for long-term documentary projects.
All the best,
Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity
I am wondering if we might hear from some reps, consultants and photographers about what they think the rough breakdown is for rep commissions and what a photographer should be expecting in return for these fees. I currently pay 25% of my fees on jobs my agent negotiates. My rep is not participating in social media AT ALL and is often unavailable to do quotes leaving me to either do them myself or revise them myself if I want the deal closed. I am not entirely sure how many meetings they go on every month, but would love opinions on what I could reasonable expect here. I am also not sure there is much beyond e-promos being done on my agent’s part, I do a LOT of my own promotion and do not rely on my agent for much in that department. Since I am very active in promotion myself we are often bidding with clients I have been pursuing through my own efforts for years before I started working with my agent. Perhaps this is just one of the many struggles of the photog/rep relationship but I am wondering at what point I ask about a percentage reduction if I can’t get certain things from my agent, and what might some others in the industry feel those standards are?
Amanda and Suzanne:
Having a rep requires open communication. Does a rep relationship change over time, of course it does. But you have to both have an understanding of what each of you will do. Many of our clients assume that marketing can cease once a rep comes into play. In our opinion, a rep’s goal #1 is to be there to negotiate, projects and land the job. A rep’s 2nd goal is to help you keep up your exposure, but it’s a role that is not one sided, both parties need to commit to a plan that works for everyone.
While every agent/artist relationship is different, the one thing that is constant is that you are partners working toward a mutually beneficial goal. You are a team and there are times each one needs to help the other. It is reasonable to expect your agent to go on appointments and be available for estimates. There is no set number of meetings every month and getting appointments is much harder than it used to be (many creative shops are limiting portfolio reviews to once or twice a year).
As for social media & other forms of promotion, it sounds like you both need to have a conversation and discuss/define each others expectations and who’s handling what. If after that, there is no clear cut definition, then a percentage reduction is probably not the answer. It might be time to sever the relationship.
As I am sure you know, every rep/photographer relationship is different. It is important to discuss expectations at the onset of the partnership. These questions should have been answered prior to the agreement. That being said, I think it is critical that the agent be involved in the estimating and negotiating process. If your agent is good, this is where they earn their commission. I find it strange that the agent in question is not involved during those critical times. As an agent, I love this part of the job and know that I create a lot of value for my artists in this area. Rather than a percentage reduction, I would suggest a serious discussion regarding responsibilities and expectations. Even if the agent in question agreed to a percentage reduction, I would imagine that their level of commitment and actual work for you as an artist would subsequently be “reduced.” If a discussion doesn’t work or is not desirable, it may be time to look for a new rep. Good luck!
Regarding our respective obligations, we first and foremost view our relationship with all of our talent as a collaborative one and feel that to be successful, we must have great communication, mutual trust, a shared vision and a firm belief in the value of both parties’ contributions towards realizing that vision. We are fortunate to have had longer lasting relationships with our talent than normal in this business and are quite proud of that fact. While there have been and will be challenges, we’ve worked through them due to our shared interests, respect and trust.
We strive for excellent communication and complete transparency with regards to what we are doing on our talent’s behalf. To that end, we provide quarterly call report summaries to each party detailing all of the calls that we received pertinent to them, the source of the calls (if that can be ascertained) and the results. In addition, we also provide follow up summaries after all of our portfolio shows, specifying where we went and who saw the work. We also encourage anyone in the group who is free and interested, to join us for the shows (locally or out-of-town).
Our financial arrangement is consistent with all of our photographers, as we feel that a common agreement is most fair. Our commission is 25% of all negotiated fees (travel/prep/shoot/post) and any retouching fees not being expensed to either an outside or studio staff person. We are the exclusive representatives for all of our photographers in North America, and worldwide for those who don’t have international representation. We would assume the same would apply to you, specific to your print/still photography business. We are also interested in bringing you motion projects, and given your relationship with outside production companies, need to work out the specifics on how that might work to the satisfaction of all.
Our photographers cover 100% of any individual marketing efforts they do or have us do on their behalf, plus the cost of creating and updating their portfolios/sites and any general mailing/shipping specific to them.
Historically, out of pocket expenses for each talent have been in the $8k -11K range per year, but have been reduced significantly lately as everyone is more concerned about expenses. Whatever the budget ends up being, payments are spread out over time, so there aren’t any major surprises. Of course, I get everyone’s approval prior to making any group marketing commitment, and they all have input along the way.
We see the AGENCY’s primary responsibilities are as follows:
– To build awareness for our photographers’ work through consistent and well-coordinated direct sales, promotion and PR efforts.
– To identify and pursue market opportunities for individual photographers as feasible.
– To develop production budgets with input from photographers and producers and negotiate those budgets with the clients to which they apply.
– To review all contracts/purchase orders and handle all billing and administration duties related to our photographers’ productions.
– To provide timely feedback/input from our sales activities, in-coming calls and pertinent results.
– To provide input on portfolio imagery.
– To aid in the development and execution of any individual marketing efforts done in addition to the group campaigns we coordinate.
Our photographers’ primary responsibilities are:
– To maintain updated, professional portfolio materials (individual and group books).
– To provide a minimum number of portfolios needed to meet market demands.
– To provide timely updates to their individual web sites, and rep website.
– To provide the necessary files and and proofs for any promotional efforts we coordinate, in a timely manner.
– Oh yeah! – to handle the communication and creative challenges of high level advertising productions with great aplomb!
In addition to all of the above, the only other item we need to discuss is whether or not we will be involved with any of your existing/current clients or “house accounts”, and either way, detailing who they are and how we intend to work with them. Normally, I would a define a “current client or house account” as someone with whom you’ve worked with within the past six months, or on a regular basis over a longer period of time, but am open to your interpretation.
Obviously every relationship is different but it is important to communicate with each other regularly. Both photographers and agents wear so many more hats these days and must keep up with the new frontier, which includes social media. Both need to get on this bandwagon, but need to coordinate their efforts. Coordination with emails blasts, social sites, portfolio shows and estimating projects is so very important.
Both photographers and agents need to speak up if either feels something is missing. It sounds like this artist is pissed but may not be expressing his concerns to his rep. This is the first think you need to do. NOW! Frankly I can’t understand the quote thing. That’s what we live for. Maybe it’s time for a new relationship? A fee reduction, no matter who’s offering it, is always insulting.
PHOTOGRAPHER WITH AGENT:
I’m sure others will say, a rep relationship is like any other partnership, including marriage, and is based on trust and mutual respect. Without these things there isn’t much you can count on. I am working with my second rep, the first was not successful in my eyes based upon their lack of participation in promoting their own brand (and therefore my brand) outside of email blasts. They did not seem to have a plan for marketing and advertising but instead saw the possibility of success based upon adding more talent to their roster, cheating their current core talent of resources already in shortage.
With the second rep, it is the polar opposite. There is a strong communication, dollars invested in making our target audience aware of our talents, and respect for ideas expressed.
I have also seen the rep relationship up close when working as an assistant. What I have come to expect is that the talent and the rep should all be contributing to the marketing efforts, and it costs money for everyone. As far as I know 25% is still the norm though I have seen 30%. A photographer cannot expect a rep to handle all of these costs or efforts, and neither can a rep expect the photographer to do it alone (otherwise why would you need a rep?). Once you have a rep, you still have to be as diligent as ever in keeping contacts alive and well.
The contract that my ex agent had drawn up spelled out everything I had to pay for, but didn’t specify what they would do. We went on to have a successful run for quite awhile, but it was never spelled out specifically what they would do other than generalities like “best efforts” or “best judgment”…. that was a mistake. Seems like that could be the source of your problem in that it’s not mutually clear what their responsibilities are. I think what you’re describing is reaching the point where it’s time to move on. If your confidence in them is questioned, it’s tough to rebuild that through revising compensation. Once you start taking money away through less of a commission, you’re removing incentive. What makes you think they will be equally or more motivated by working for less money?
What I would expect from a rep is the same thing I expect in a relationship with a significant other. Honesty, Integrity, an ally, loyalty, protection. When I was with my old agent I felt I was easily sold out. More like someone to fill in a hole. It was more about him and the photo editor/art buyer then me and the work. I once had to call a client to tell them sorry the job had been under bid by my agent and could not be done for that fee. Then I had to rewrite the estimate. A huge chunk of change taken out, but I was not able to buy into their health insurance plan. I had to pay for photo insurance and all expenses up front, yet any type of mark up was frowned upon. I had to find my own support staff, i.e. assistants, stylists and do all of the billing which they retyped up. Managed rights were caved in on faster then a mine in Chile. In the end reps know 98 % of us are disposable and they get what they can out of us. I found more empathy/ support comes from art directors and other creatives.
I am capable of buying AD/ AB picture editors, lunch or a nice gift at the end of the year myself.
Let me start by saying that I am leaving my current Agency this week because I have realized that we are not a proper fit. I too am frustrated by an even more unfair split and even more lack of communication and involvement on my agency’s part with my marketing and promotion.
Currently my “Agency” is taking 35% from clients that they introduce me to and 20% for jobs I bring to them to negotiate. Then the billing is going through them if they negotiate which is also another issue. This split is not to my liking but at the time I joined the roster I did not feel I had too much to negotiate with as the economy was horrible and I felt the need for representation to expand from my editorial work into the commercial advertising market. I did not have to bring in any of my existing clients or current billing to them, which was a plus and has proven to my benefit over the past year. The arrangement was to grow, together, into new markets, both for myself and the agency. They did not have anyone that was doing the type of work I was doing or going after so I had no internal competition for assignments. (This might have been my first warning sign that we might not be a good fit.)
In the two years that we have been working together, the first testing the waters and the second as a full time member of their roster, I have only seen a few emails that were promoting my work. The meetings that they have arranged and taken me to (less then 10) have only resulted in two or three small editorial job and two decent commercial jobs with an art director that I had known prior to signing with them. They only accounted for a disappointing 5% of all of my billings last year. I have found that they were only making phone calls on my behalf when I would call to complain and ask them directly to set up a meeting or follow up with an email that I had already sent to a photo editor or art buyer.
I had a meeting during the summer with them to address my disagreement with the split and was quickly dismissed by being told that everyone has the same split and that is that. I again had a meeting with them before the holidays to address the split and other billing issues. I have yet to see them address any of the issues. I have also mentioned many times in face to face meetings and phone calls a desire to form a clear joint marketing strategy that we can all work on together. There was a clear lack in desire to help me promote myself, and not the agency as a whole. Currently none of these issues have been resolved and don’t see them being addressed anytime soon.
I do not think that these problems are mine alone but I do not think that they are the norm. One of my mentors has a very up and down relationship his current agent that he has been with for many years. I have heard them fight over many different issues including splits and portfolios but in the end his agent has stepped up and fought for higher fees (and got them), stood behind him on expenses and picked up the phone for him. I believe his current split is between 20-25%. He has told me that there is no way he would have been able to handle negotiating some of the jobs he has be awarded in recent years without his agent there to close the deal. He, like me and most of us are not the best negotiators. We have agents not just to make us look more respectable and established but to do the dirty work of standing firm and being the fighter. They are our “bad cop” before the shoot and we are the good cop on set.
Personally I find it completely unacceptable for an agent to be unavailable to negotiate on a photographer’s behalf. This is their most important task as an agent, they are they to fight for our fees (so they can get paid) and to back us up on our expenses. They are there to close the deal even if they are not the ones to start the deal in the first place. We cannot depend on our agencies or reps to be picking up the phone every day just for us. They have to work with many photographers on a roster to stay in business themselves. We have to be able to pick up the phone, write an email, send out a promo and speak for ourselves. In my current search for a new agent I am looking for someone that understands me, my work, and will be a partner in marketing. Ideally I would like a split of less or equal to 20% on all new clients and a 10-15% split on all current clients. I would not be too upset with 25% but more is totally unacceptable to me. I think as a general rule it has to be a symbiotic relationship between photographer and agent, it should take both parties efforts to make things happen. If it is a one sided relationship you need to step back and evaluate the situation and see if you really benefit from it or are you even being hurt by it.
Is one party guiltier than the other? No. The cliché saying “it takes 2 to tango” is really true. A rep is only as good as their communication, estimate deliveries, client support and marketing exposure delivered. The photographer is only as good their communication, the work they produce and their marketing efforts. When a photographer says my rep is taking 30% and they do nothing. Stop there and ask yourself what are they doing for that 30%. Who likes to talk money? 20, 25, 30% is an agreement to have representation that is there to truly represent you (it doesn’t mean a full-time assistant). On the other side, when a rep says a photographer isn’t doing their fair share, we hope they stop as well and look at what the photographer has time to do, what budget is realistic to their marketing plan. Sometimes just stopping and talking it out OVER THE PHONE or IN PERSON can really cover a lot of ground and educate everyone involved and open the eyes to both parties and then a common ground can be met.
Call To Action:
Put yourself in the shoes of that agent and see what their life is like and what it’s like to juggle the multiple positions and talents. I hope agents will do the same thing. Put yourself in the shoes of that one artist and see what their focus is and what truly worries and bothers them. Having had the role as a rep, it’s hard to juggle everything. Having had the role to consultant with both rep and photographers, both sides have it hard. It’s a tough industry and if everyone can see both sides of the coin – it can be a happier union. Basic call to action: Know what you want, express it, offer support where you can, and then put your goals into action, without depending on the other to get it done for you.
The “next, new” media company will disintermediate all these “current, new” media companies by demonstrating the common-sense and obvious fact that continues to allude otherwise smart people: Today, all companies have the power to be media companies.
Moreover, any new media company that is created on the old notion that they sit between sellers and buyers is only temporarily new. They’ll be gone faster than you can say, “ Speedy Alka-Seltzer.”
So, enjoy your day, all you new media companies that send out daily deals to people who are in constant search of a better deal on a day spa. One day, those day spas will figure out how they’re a new media company themselves and will figure out what they really need is to invest in media that helps keep those customers coming back, instead of becoming itinerant day-spa-ists.
Believe me, when I looked at the pictures on the screen, my hands were shaking. My heart was beating. I realized that this is a picture you take once in a blue moon. It’s being there at the right time, at the right moment, at the right place, with the right lens. If you want to shoot artsy stuff, you never have the lens for this. If you’re covering the war with a 35-millimeter and a 50-millimeter lens, you’ll never have this.
The New York Times journalists–photographers Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario among them–recount their ordeal after being captured in Libya:
“Shoot them,” a tall soldier said calmly in Arabic.
A colleague next to him shook his head. “You can’t,” he insisted. “They’re Americans.”
They bound our hands and legs instead — with wire, fabric or cable. Lynsey was carried to a Toyota pickup, where she was punched in the face. Steve and Tyler were hit, and Anthony was headbutted.
Cameras are now seen as weapons and the dangers of photographing conflict seems to be on the rise.
If he died, we will have to bear the burden for the rest of our lives that an innocent man died because of us, because of wrong choices that we made, for an article that was never worth dying for.
No article is, but we were too blind to admit that.
Read the rest of today’s A1 story (here).
Judge Denny Chin of the US District Court rejected a deal google reached with publishers to split the proceeds from books who’s authors could not be found. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s basically orphan works for books.
Google reached the settlement in 2008, agreeing to pay $125 million to establish a registry to allow authors and publishers to register their works and get paid when their titles are viewed online. The deal resolved a consolidated lawsuit in which authors and publishers sought to block the company from scanning books and making them searchable online.
The plaintiffs alleged that Google’s book-search project violated copyrights.
The judge said it went too far in granting Google rights to exploit books without permission from copyright owners.
He did have a solution for the publishers and google. Rather than opt out the copyright owners should be given the chice to opt in. “I urge the parties to consider revising the [settlement] accordingly,” Judge Chin wrote.
UPDATE: The full opinion is here (PDF).