Photographers and Blogs

- - Blogs

If you’re a professional photographer there are 4 reasons to have a blog and 1 good one not to:

1. Community Building. Talking about the industry, helping photographers just starting out, linking to sites and news about photography you think the community would be interested in. This is a great reason to have a blog and a big reason why blogs are popular, bringing people together from all over the planet who are interested in similar topics.

2. Marketing. You can use a blog like a big promo card and post tears, new personal projects and generally just pimp yourself out to whomever might be stopping by. Google seems to be ultra sticky when it comes to blog posts so just posting your name with an image from your portfolio or the city you live in with genre you shoot will probably attract some clients. I have been known to type professional, photographer, Juneau, AK into google from time to time.

3. News and information. You can use the blog like you would a newsletter and let people know where you’re going to be and what images you just added to your stock library so someone visiting because they like your landscape photography can discover that you just had a portrait session with Angelina Jolie and the images are available for syndication.

4. Building a fan base. Talking to your fans, who at this point are mostly amateur photographers and giving them photography tips and telling stories about your experiences on assignment has turned into a real moneymaker for some photographers. It’s important that you have something to sell your fans like a photography book you wrote or a lighting seminar you give.

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1. Posting things that will get you un-hired. Mostly just bad photography that you wouldn’t put in your portfolio (this is still your portfolio) and weird rants that might make me think you’re someone I don’t want to forge a relationship with. The biggest reason to not have a blog is that you have nothing interesting to show or say or you’re just not the type of person who likes to sit at a computer and write because you’d rather be taking pictures.

At this point most of your clients aren’t going past the first dozen pictures in your portfolio so a blog is not a “make or break” deal. Although, in one version of the future I see media companies building communities of people who are interested in a topic and they’re helping consumers edit through all the crap and selling advertising into the different content that’s created and photographers who blog become a valuable asset and a reason to give an assignment in the first place.

So, whatever your reasons might be for starting a blog remember that it’s still your portfolio and there will be client rooting around from time to time and google never forgets (college grads are finding out the hard way about this) so, whatever you do don’t post a rant about the goddam CFO and the Editor’s crappy story ideas and the Creative Director’s shitty layout and expect Condé Naste to be calling.

The End Of Book Publishing

- - The Future

I think I’ve read enough glowing reviews of the kindle in the last month to know that combined with a flailing economy, skyrocketing fuel prices and a fundamental shift in the way we interact with text, that it signals the eventual death of book publishing.

Anymore, it’s going to start to seem ridiculous to print all those books to throw in the trash (I don’t know the sell-through numbers for books but if it’s anywhere near magazines where 70% go unsold on the newsstand then there’s a ton of waste) or store in warehouses or sit on your shelf collecting dust. And, then you have the fuel cost to drive something around the country that essentially started electronically and was printed on paper for distribution. With a device like this you’ve eliminated the single biggest cost in book publishing and the main reason book publishers exist in the first place. Now, authors can distribute their books for free and take most of the profits if they want.

I stopped short of buying one myself because I don’t need to spend any time on stuff without pictures and because what I’d really like to buy is a magazine reader. There’s about 40 magazine’s I’d like to check out on a regular basis, something I used to do at the newsstand in Grand Central, but now out here in the sticks (there are newsstands but the selection is somewhat limited) I’m faced with the prospect of signing up to receive close to 500 issues in a year to stay on top of who is shooting what in this industry.

Not to mention the fact that I was emailing the photo editor of City Magazine and reading about Seed Magazine over on Shoot Blog and wanted desperately to check out their latest issues and would have instantly bought a copy if there were some electronic way to do it. If I sign up for a subscription today the first issue should arrive in 12-16 weeks. That’s hilarious.

The interesting thing here is to look at iTunes and now Kindle and think about the recording executives and the book publishing executives who completely missed the boat and an opportunity to maintain a monopoly on distribution by bringing a revolutionary device to market. And now how we’ve got a handful of magazine publishers who run this industry, essentially to foot the enormous costs of taking something created electronically, print it on paper and drive it around the country.

I suppose there’s still time if any of the publishers are working on a device right now which somehow I highly doubt because many are still wrapping their heads around the internet (and telling me it takes 12-16 weeks for a magazine to arrive). But, when the device finally arrives we can talk about the eventual death of magazine publishing and the revolutionary device that put the power back in the hands of the content creators.

Crappy Old Cameras

When I used to send Teru Kuwayama out on assignment I would marvel at the amazing images he would coerce out of a piece-of-shit Holga and how he was never afraid to rely on it for some of the most important shots in the story. And, I’ve always been a fan of imperfection in photography so when I find a photographer who does their primary work with old, unique and sometimes crap cameras I make a note of it because they always seem to bring something interesting to the page.

Here’s a site (Andreas Wolkerstorfer :: cameras) where the photographer runs film through all types of cameras so you can see what kind of pictures they take and although the general theme seems to be vignette with the older cameras, I still enjoy seeing images that aren’t perfect.

Of course, boring subjects still make for boring pictures no matter what camera you’re using.

Photographers Should Embrace Richard Prince

- - copyright

Whether you think it’s art is irrelevant. Nancy Spector, Chief Curator at the Guggenheim decided that “Prince’s work has been among the most innovative art produced in the United States during the past 30 years. His deceptively simple act in 1977 of rephotographing advertising images and presenting them as his own ushered in an entirely new, critical approach to art-making—one that questioned notions of originality and the privileged status of the unique aesthetic object.”

Whether or not you think it’s worth 3.4 million dollars is irrelevant. The value of a Richard Prince re-photograph has nothing to do with what’s depicted in the photograph. It has everything to do with the number of editions made (2 plus an artist proof in this case) and the reputation and stature of the artist within the community of collectors, curators and gallerists. Becoming the sole private owner of one of these photographs, when the other edition lives in a museum, is certainly worth millions to collectors.

You should embrace Richard Prince because he’s exercising a right all photographers enjoy and need. The ability to photograph copyrighted and even trademarked objects and sell the pictures for a use that doesn’t interfere with the copyrighted objects intended use–if he’d used those pictures to sell cigarettes then there’d be a problem. When you take a picture of a street scene and there are people wearing t-shirts with slogans, listening to ipods, talking on cell phones, billboards with advertisements in the background, cars, buildings and then you sell that photograph you don’t have to worry about lawsuits from all that copyrighted material.

I’m sure it’s not a very pleasant feeling to be the photographer (video of Sam Abell) who’s work Richard re-photographed, who now have to stand around and watch as their pictures hang on museum walls and set new records at auction. But, this is such a fundamental right photographers enjoy that without it we’d all be screwed.

Darius Himes, Publisher- Radius Books

I first met Darius at Review Santa Fe many years ago when he was the editor of Photo-Eye Booklist, the quarterly, highly collectible catalog of books for the renowned local photography bookstore. When I heard several months ago that he’d founded a photography book publishing company called Radius Books (website here) I was curious to find out more on how the book publishing side of this industry works.

Tell me a little bit of your background.

My education history and work history are basically interrelated and flow one into the other. I received a BFA in Photography at ASU, Tempe back in the early 90s and then went overseas where I worked for an organization that had a large, permanent collection of historical photographs, which dated back to the 1870s. While there, I pursued my own photography and got called upon to do everything from photograph visiting prime ministers to documenting deteriorating historical buildings.

I came to Santa Fe in 1998 to pursue a Master’s degree at St. John’s College, which, as you know, has a Great Books program. On the surface, it may seem to have nothing to do with a career in the arts, but to me it brought intellectual balance to an undergraduate fine arts degree. At the heart of the program are a couple concepts that I gravitated to. One is the idea of books serving a centuries-old dialogue about core ideas that affect humanity, regardless of race, culture, language, or class. Another was a cluster of ideas about the role of the arts in society and where image-making, artists, language, communication, and what it means to be human all figure in.

During my time in graduate school, I began working at photo-eye part-time, in the bookstore. I stayed on after graduation to launch the magazine, which was a quarterly devoted to photography books. It was here that my love of photography and a latent but deep-seated love for books–as art objects as well as conveyors of ideas and images–merged.

So, I guess you spent so much time looking at photography books working on booklist for Photo Eye you decided it looked pretty easy and you’d start your own imprint. Isn’t the photography book business notoriously unprofitable? Doesn’t that frighten you?

There was always a paradox floating around out there that didn’t make sense to me. The illustrated art book business was notorious for being unprofitable, true, but each year as editor at photo-eye, I was dealing with more and more publishers coming onto the scene that were producing great books. The two didn’t jive for me. There was a great article written by Christopher Lyon in Art in America in September, 2006 which gave a key to understanding this bigger picture. The large, illustrated book publishers (think Prestel, Rizzoli, Harry N. Abrams, Bulfinch) simply weren’t able to sell tens of thousands of copies of fine art books to the masses the way they used to. So their world was changing drastically, and Lyon detailed how and why in that article. But similar to the music industry, where genres were reproducing and splitting and creating sub-categories faster than bunnies, the art and photography book scene had become filled with lots of nimble, savvy, smaller publishers who had very smart, sophisticated collectors buying their books. If you don’t have to maintain office space on Madison Ave and you’ve got a staff of 1 to 3, you don’t need to sell 25,000 copies of each title. As people like Jack Woody of Twin Palms Publishers or Chris Pichler of Nazraeli Press proved, you can sell 1000 or 2000 copies of a book, watch it go out of print in a couple years, recouping your costs in the meantime and move on to the next list of projects.

It’s definitely not easy. But loving what you do helps (and being small and nimble is an asset).

Seems like portfolio reviews like the one in Santa Fe where you live are a great place to find projects to publish. Alec Soth was discovered there and I’m sure there were many others that got started that way. Is that your primary source for finding a book project?

Actually, they’re not the primary source for finding a book project, but they are a piece of the bigger picture. Portfolio review events are a primary way of staying in touch with the photography community overall. We, meaning publishers, editors, gallerists, dealers, collectors, curators and writers like to see and know what photographers are up to, what they’re working on, where their traveling, who they’re shooting for, and where they’re showing their work. Signing up a photographer on the spot at a portfolio review event happens more with galleries than it does with publishers, but things happen afterwards, and seeing people at these portfolio events is important.

What are the big considerations when looking at a photographer for a book? How much of a factor is potential commercial success?

First and foremost on the list is that we are deeply moved by the work and think that it is important in some lasting way. We’ve got two photography books on our Fall 2008 list. One is a book of brilliant photographs made in New Mexico by Lee Friedlander. The other is a lyrical group of photographs by Phoenix-based photographer Michael Lundgren. In terms of their careers, they couldn’t be further apart from each other. Friedlander is, well, Friedlander. How do you even summarize his influence on photography as a medium? Lundgren is a couple years out of grad school and passionate about his work and makes stunning prints based on an intelligent and soulful approach to the landscape but virtually no one has heard of him. No one, apart from the lovely Rebecca Solnit, who is contributing a wonderful essay, which will help bring attention to the work. If we looked at Mike’s book purely from a commercial standpoint, we probably wouldn’t publish it. But we love the work and are publishing a modest number of copies, which will be supported by a limited edition book which comes with a print. And we’re extremely proud to be one of the first to commit to this relatively young artist with a strong vision.

Defining “commercial success” is different for each publisher. Again, it’s tied in to how many mouths you have to feed. Being a small publisher brings certain advantages and nimbleness that are inherently different than the advantages of being a really big publishing house.

Do you think that books will continue to be a hot ticket for collectors and photography lovers? Are there any cool innovations coming that can keep this market growing?

I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think books were important, and therefore worth saving and cherishing and collecting. The market for the book-as-object is getting more firmly established every passing auction season. And more and more artists, not just photographers, are seeing the book as a central means of expression. Concurrently, more and more curators and galleries are seeing books as a central means of expression, and are collecting accordingly. For instance Charlotte Cotton, curator and head of the photography department at LACMA recently purchased an entire set of prints by Paul Graham that make up one of his twelve volumes in A Shimmer of Possibility, which was published by Steidl last Fall.

What will keep the market growing are artists engaging with the book in this manner, where the book is seen as more than just a repository for images, but rather the seat of artistic expression. And then persuading collectors to buy them. Honestly, this is where I see the role of curators, critics/writers, and publishers. We have the chance to guide others–the public, the collectors, the institutions–to work that will have lasting importance, explaining why along the way. At least, that’s how I see my role as writer and publisher (and I know that my partners at Radius Books feel the same way). I get excited about work and I want to show others and elucidate how I see this work fitting into a broad and rich cultural dialogue. That’s the St. John’s influence speaking! One thing we’re excited about at Radius is the implementation of our library donation program–over 200 copies of every book we publish is being donated to libraries across North America in an effort to further the dialogue surrounding great art. We’ve got a strong group of donors that are helping this happen (though we’re looking for more to assist) and they are very excited about the role the book can play in stimulating dialogue.

What do you think of these self published solutions like Blurb? Will they ever compete with the traditional book publishers for market share?

I love them. I think they demystify the process of publishing a book, on a certain level. Print-on-demand won’t replace traditional publishers, but it can supplement them in important ways. It’s like having another tool in the toolbox for artists and photographers. Not sure what your current edit looks like in book form or want to try two or three sequences? Do a Blurb book (or two or three)! Not sure what the ideal trim size is for the book that’s in your mind’s eye, or not sure how long that essay will be on the page? Do a Blurb book! Going to a portfolio review event and want something really well done to give to your five favorite galleries? Do a Blurb book!

Blurb is hosting Photography Book Now, an open competition that ends in mid-July, and I’m involved with both the judging process (which I’m very excited about) as well as the traveling symposium that will take place in San Francisco, London and New York this Fall. One of things that we’re aiming to do with the symposium is to crack the door to what happens at publishing houses. Doing a Blurb book is a little like DIY publishing, right? We want the symposium to give you insight on the role of a good editor, how designers approach text and image combinations, how other book artists are using the book as object, etc.

Through the contest, we’re hopeful that the cream of the crop will rise to the top. We know there are photographers out there who think in terms of book-length projects and who simply haven’t had a chance to get that work in front of people in the photography industry. This is their chance.

Who Should We Put On The Cover?

- - Working

In my career I’ve gone from “let’s see which of the stories we have this month will make a good cover” to “we’re going to call every single A list celebrity that has a movie this month till someone says yes” and then of course, task some writer with throwing a story together in a week or less. The cover of the magazine was the single source of more anxiety, stress and nightmares than anything else I’ve ever worked on. There was always a deadline looming and unreturned phone calls to publicists, a photographer to figure out, location, wardrobe and then what will he be doing on the cover, it was always just hanging out there for weeks on end waiting for a date, time and place to land so the rest of the pieces could be jammed in.

I’m sure it’s quite a different experience working at GQ, VF or Time where the celebrities and politicians have heard of your publication and are actually interested in appearing on the cover. I’ve always been in the hapless position of pitching a publicist and providing material to actually prove we’re worthy enough for a celebrity to grace us with their presence.

The importance of the cover image, coverlines, background, expression, wardrobe is at an all time high these days because advertisers need some sign of the health of a magazine and newsstand sales are a decent indicator because consumers are free to decide what purchase to make that month. Except everyone is trying to game the system so the coverlines, subjects and many times the photography have turned into such predictable garbage, because everyone is using the same handful of words and subjects that have proven effective at capturing eyeballs.

Who should we put on the cover? How about someone who actually wants to be there and that the audience cares about. How about someone we can spend some time with a write a meaningful story and take interesting pictures of. I look forward to the day when magazines can return to serving their audience and not the newsstand. Until then you’re stuck with 109, free, biggest, hot, ultimate, travel, toys, secrets, great, perfect, best, sex, abs, weight-loss, getaway, new, insider, easy, delicious, shortcuts, paired with a celebrity you keep seeing over and over on the covers of magazines.

Peter Yang Had A Ball In Texas

- - Photographers

No, really, he ate one.

Back to that in a minute.

I’ve always had mixed feelings when it comes to hiring photographers overly versed in a subject matter. Certainly, when a photographer knows how to behave, act and dress around a subject it can cause the subject to drop their guard a bit and make for more intimate images. It also usually means they’ll be more accommodating with their time and with what they allow to be photographed so you get better access. The trade off is that photographers sometimes don’t push the pictures beyond comfort level, they won’t ask the subject to do something that might make them uncomfortable or might jeopardize their relationship with the subject.

On the other hand picking a photographer who has some distance from the subject and is not excessively concerned with their feelings or the possibility of making them uncomfortable or how they might be looked upon by the subject can result in some really spectacular work.

Anyway, this is a little more heady than I wanted to get into with this post because really I just saw this narrated slideshow over on the Texas Monthly website and I was imagining Peter Yang in his checkered vans and spiked hair dragging his cow shit covered 7b’s, c-stands and octabanks all over Texas and thought that was interesting. Of course I know Peter as a guy who shoots a lot of Rock and Roll pictures for Rolling Stone so I didn’t realize he’s from Dallas and went to school at UT and worked in Austin for 9 years and to what extremes he’d go to, to get a picture when I fired off a bunch of questions to see what the hell he was doing shooting cowboys in Texas.

Check out the slide show and audio commentary (here)

Was it really a 16 day shoot? I’m amazed magazines still do 16 day shoots. Did you have to sleep in a ditch?

It was sixteen days altogether for a cover and an 18-page portfolio in Texas Monthly. We logged 5,000 miles driving back and forth across Texas. In reality, there were six or seven days of shooting. The other days were spent traveling, scouting and investigating.

Leslie Baldwin and TJ Tucker at TM made initial contact with the ranches, but in the end, cowboys aren’t phone people. Arriving at each ranch felt like starting from scratch. I’m this Asian guy with spiky hair and checkered Vans, my first assistant is a California kid, and the second assistant is a hipster with tattoos running down her arms. We had to win them over with our charming ways.

On another occasion, we were out near Marfa. It was already ten at night and I had nothing planned for the next day. I was feeling really depressed as all I’d done that day was hang out in a field throwing rocks at a fence while the cowboys were out working on horseback. That night, we came across a bar and got to chatting with the bartender, and out of sheer desperation, I asked her if she knows any cowboys. It turns out her ex-husband is a cowboy and we ended up driving 3 hours due west and making some of the best images from the trip.

It sounded like you were shooting film. Why did you decide to shoot film?

No, I was shooting digital. I haven’t shot film in a long while. For the portraits I used a medium format digital back (Leaf Aptus at 75 S on a Hasselblad H2). For the documentary shots, I used a Cannon 1Ds2. There was a ton of dust and shit kicking up everywhere I went. For someone who rarely needs to clean his cameras, I was in my motel every night with an air blower and Pec Pad cleaning my cameras Nachtwey-style.

Cowboys, cows, horses and octabanks don’t sound like a natural combination and I suppose that’s why Texas Monthly choose you for this assignment. Did you ever feel completely out of your element like what the hell am I doing here? A New Yorker out in the middle of Texas with a bunch of cowboys sounds like a recipe for trouble to me.

Hey, I’ve only been a New Yorker for four years. I may not have grown up on a ranch (or anywhere near cows or horses), but I am from Texas.

I did feel out of my element at the beginning. I had just come out of 3 straight months of shooting my usual fare. Celebrity shoots where everything has been discussed and agreed upon and every moment of the shoot accounted for. Advertising campaigns with art directors and their clients standing in front of the monitor approving every shot frame by frame. Now here I was in Texas with no one telling me what to do. It’s a photographer’s dream, but it took a bit to get used to.

As far as trouble goes, no one was seriously injured in the process. I drank a lot of beer, ate a cow testicle or two, rode a crazy horse, heard jokes that haven’t been kosher since ’64, tried to lasso a fence post, and ate at a lot of Dairy Queens. A lot.

When you decided to do the lit portraits were you thinking this is my style and I’m sticking with it even if the 7b’s get covered in shit or were you thinking of bringing something new to the genre of cowboy portraits?

Lighting the photos had always been my plan. I’d seen a lot of images of cowboys growing up and I wanted to bring something new to the table while staying true to who they are. It rained a couple of days and there was lots of dust everywhere we went. The lights were always tarped to keep out the elements.

Of your other portrait work how much is planned and how much is just “let’s see what’s happening when we get there.”

I started my training as a newspaper photographer. As a journalist, you are not permitted to affect the environment. When I moved to magazines, this way of thinking stuck with me for years, and helped bring a candid, found quality to my photos. With celebrity work, you can’t tell a publicist “we’ll just get there and see what happens.” You have to assure them you won’t make their client look like an ass. My shoots now are much more planned and produced, but I always strive to keep some spontaneity.

Yum.

Everyone Can Now Become A Magazine Publisher

- - The Future

“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”
– A.J. Liebling

And with that lofty quote begins the dawn of a new age in magazine publishing (or maybe just a cool new promo tool) because HP Labs just launched a new print on demand magazine publishing service called MagCloud (here) which looks to be the bee’s knees from where I’m standing. They use HP Indigo technology to custom-print each issue when it’s ordered on 80lb paper with saddle-stitched covers.

Now I can finally launch that magazine I’ve always dreamt of called “killed,” where I round up all the shoots and photographs those bastard wouldn’t let me run and publish ‘em myself. That’ll show ‘em.

Anyway, I’ll need to do some investigation to see if this actually is viable and economically feasible for short run printing of magazines but it looks very promising indeed. Not to mention the fact that printing on demand saves a whole lot of wasted paper by not guessing how many people will read an issue.

Scott Dadich, Creative Director- Wired Magazine

A native of Lubbock, TX, 30 year old Scott Dadich had already experienced an impressive award winning 6 year run designing Texas Monthly when he arrived at Wired Magazine in 2006. Wired quickly won a General Excellence Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) and was runner up for Magazine of the Year at the Society of Publication Designers (SPD) to fellow Texas Monthly alum, Fred Woodward now Design Director of GQ. Scott, at the ripe old age of 32 now, recently took the crown of 800 lb. magazine design gorilla–a title held by Fred for many years–with his 2008 trifecta of awards from the SPD for Magazine of the Year and Redesign of the year and a prestigious Ellie from ASME for design.

Of course magazines with this kind of visibility have a huge influence on the way other magazines behave so I wanted to ask Scott a few questions.

Working at a magazine that reports on the front lines of technology how do you see your role in defining how printed magazines look and behave in the future?

Honestly, I don’t think too much about it. I mean, in the back of my mind, we try to be aware of what has and has not been done in terms of magazine design, photography, printing, production, but it’s not a driving force in the day-to-day nuts and bolts of what we do. We have some ideas of projects and covers that we want to be the first to do, but we’re waiting on the tech to catch up to our ideas. I love magazines for what they are and can do right now.

Based on how Wired looks I’d say your editor, Christopher Anderson is fairly hands off when it comes to design and photography. Can you tell me how that works?

Chris is a tremendous editor. As is our executive editor, Bob Cohn. I wouldn’t say that they’re hands off, because they both have strong ideas about design and magazine-making. Our ideas clash from time to time, but I’d say that’s pretty rare. When I started at WIRED, Chris and I had a dinner where we talked about our ambitions for the magazine, and I’d say they aligned perfectly. Both of us want to play with the conventions of storytelling and the role of design in magazine journalism. WIRED is about innovation. For me, my Photo Editors and designers not to innovate would do a disservice to the brand and our readers. Folks come to WIRED to be challenged and read about progress in the world.

I spend a little time on my blog talking about the dynamic between the creative director and photo editor and how many photographers assume it’s a completely hands-off process when in many cases it’s not. Can you explain how you work with your Photo Editors at Wired and how you think photo and art should work together?

Yes, I work very, very closely with my two photo editors, Zana Woods and Carolyn Rauch. My first real job was working for a photographer at Texas Tech with a really talented guy named Artie Limmer. He taught me how to assist and and how to see and shoot, so when I first went to Texas Monthly as art director and had to act as my own photo editor, I felt really well prepared. I spent 6 years there working closely with some spectacular photographers—Dan Winters, Platon, Brent Humphreys—and traveling all over the state, making great pictures with those guys. Coming to WIRED and getting to work with Zana and Carolyn has been wonderful. We’re all good friends and collaborate on a daily basis, talking about stories and shoots. Our offices are an open bullpen style, so one of us is usually at another’s desk pitching someone or arguing about another approach. We all have different styles and tastes, and I think that shows up on our pages.

How would you define the role photography has within your design and at Wired in general?

I think it’s a strong voice in the book. I believe in respecting the work and vision of our photographers. I don’t allow our designers to crop or alter any of the photography in our pages, and for the most part, we try and keep type off of images—I don’t allow captions to be reversed out of images at all. And, in as diverse a feature well as we have, there’s always at least one or two stories where photography is the primary visual voice. My tendencies have been toward more graphic photography and it’s been nice to open my taste up to the looser and more organic styles my photo colleagues prefer. It’s a good mix and allows my designers to have a lot of freedom dealing with different visual approaches.

I tell photographers that it’s fine to send promos and marketing material to the creative director but never leave the photo editor out of the loop because I want to at least pretend like I know what they’re talking about when the creative director drops by with the promo from a photographer they’d like to work with. How do you feel about photographers approaching you directly?

I love it. But, yours is a valid point. I should never receive a promo that my photo editors didn’t get. We work as a team and make decisions as a team.

Redesigning a magazine is always a touchy subject with the publisher, editor and owner but I always find it renews my interest in the publication–this happened to me after you redesigned Wired. How often should publications do a redesign and why is everyone so apprehensive about it?

I think the timetable really depends on the magazine and where it is in it’s life-cycle. Texas Monthly had a general rule of redesigning every five years or so, but we had a mature readership that was more averse to change. So I did two redesigns while I was there, one minor, one major. My redesign at WIRED launched in February of 2007, about five years after Darrin Perry’s 2002 redesign. But even now, we’re tweaking that redesign for a little front-of-book refresh. Wyatt and I want the design of WIRED to be very agile, very adaptable, and since we’re learning all of the time, we want to put those lessons on the page.

Scott will answer a follow-up question or two in the comments if you have any.

Photoshelter Announces New Stock Photography Event

- - Stock

July 20th is “Shoot the Day” and Photoshelter is throwing a huge event with classes, competitions and parties (here’s the website) and there’s plenty of stuff to sign-up for so get going cause it looks like spots are limited.

They’ve also got an interesting shoot competition happening where 20 PhotoShelter photographers will be chosen (after applying first) for fully staffed photo shoots. All photo shoot expenses will be covered, including location, prepping models, lighting, and analysis of images. A makeup artist, stylist, and photo assistant will be provided where possible. Not sure if that includes the traditional “Sushi, Wrap Dinner” where the photographer and photo editor try to get fired by eating and drinking the entire shoot budget in one sitting, but if it does count me in.

Additionally, PhotoShelter surveyed over 700 photo buyers, editors and art directors and discovered an urgent need for certain types of imagery in the global supply of stock Photography.

Can you guess what item from the following list was on that survey?
[Poll=3]

The answer is (here).

If that’s not enough, they also just launched a new feature called School of Stock (here) where photographers can go get skooled on the in’s and out’s of the stock photography business. There are sections on production, model releases, lighting and topics that buyers are interested in are explored in depth. There’s even a section for newbies that simply defines stock photography. Apparently the definition has changed (here) since I started in this business and stock is no longer defined as “shit leftover from a shoot that nobody wants.”

An Endless Stream Of Photography

- - Working

The stream, it’s more like a fire hose really, so whatever you do don’t try and take a drink from it. I found these two posts by Liz Kuball (here) and Robert Wright (here) on the sheer volume and mediocrity of photography on the web quite interesting. Interesting because there’s a side to this business that normally only Photo Editors and Art Buyers are privy to. The volume and desperation of an enormous group of aspiring somewhat professional even sometimes highly professional photographers that those on the hiring side of this equation are exposed to on a daily basis. The mountains of promos, the book drops, the phone calls and the stock. Oh, god the stock, let’s not even get into the stock photography here, because that’s a pile of shit you’ll never get through with a grain scoop. Backhoe maybe, shovel never.

Anyway my point here is that there’s so much going on in this business that’s not worth paying attention to. I’m not even talking about the amateur stuff that’s gone from the shoe box to flickr or on the personal website either, I’m talking about photographers who make money shooting shit.

David Alen Harvey has it right when he says, “all of you are now in a position to show your work in a way i never had nor did anyone in my generation have..the net….right here…right now… this forum…if you go out and do the work, you will be seen by more potential Medici’s than i have seen in my entire career….yes, yes (i can hear the excuses already) there are more of you…true….but in the sea of photographers out there , i still see about the same number of “supertalents” as in years prior…more people taking pictures, but few doing it in a special way….but if you are “special” there are also way way more opportunities…and so so much room for invention….i swear, i have never seen so much room!!!”

You’re seeing what I’ve been looking at since I started in this business. The volume of noise is loud but the signal is the same as it has always been, clean, pure and tranquil.

Listen for the signal.

Can Visa pour l’Image Remain Relevant?

- - Working

For the past 19 years photographers and photo editors have gathered near the Spanish border in Perpignan, France for a grand festival to celebrate photojournalism. This years festival from August 30th to September 14th will mark the 20th such meeting and I have been handed an interview with Jean-François Leroy the festivals founding and current director, where he tackles a few of the hard questions facing photojournalism and acknowledges completely missing the boat on the internet.

In 2000 I was scheduled to attend for my first time and my ticket was abruptly canceled by the editor when it was determined that visiting the festival was an unwise expenditure of our resources in suddenly tightening budgets. The opportunity to go never presented itself again and so I’ve been stuck hearing the stories of what went down from the people who visited but never having access to the photography or lectures presented at the festival to incorporate into my own magazine.

This of course, is the problem with Visa pour l’Image, everything that happens in Perpignan stays in Perpignan. And, now it’s even more serious because not only have you missed the opportunity to reach hundreds of photo editors who couldn’t attend you now need to reach beyond the magazines and convince consumers that important, powerful stories like the one’s featured at the festival need to be seen in publications. The consumers are in charge now and it’s only going to get worse so convincing Editors and Photo Editors to buy stories is no longer good enough, you also need the support of the end user.

The internet is the perfect medium for photojournalists and documentary photographers to show their work and if Jean-François is serious about keeping Visa pour l’Image relevant he needs to find ways that the festival can reach beyond the city limits of Perpignan, so we can all hear about the great reportages that were shown and the one’s that need a home and in many cases some will reach consumers online without a publication.

It’s time for someone with a powerful voice in the world of photojournalism to take the reins and lead this industry to the next level. I think Jean-François Leroy may be the right person to do it. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

You’re great friends with Paul Fusco, from Magnum Photos, and often work with him. What’s the story behind that friendship?

In 2000, Jean-Bernard Maurel, who was working with Magnum Photos at the time, told me he’d found something in a drawer and was I interested. He pulled out a report Paul Fusco had done in 1968 after Bobby Kennedy’s assassination. Paul had covered the funeral train carrying the coffin placed on an open car and draped with the American flag, going all the way from Los Angeles to Washington. Thousands of Americans had gathered along the railroad track to see the funeral train go by and pay their last tribute to Bobby Kennedy. Paul, who was beside the coffin, photographed all these people, this cross-section of America bidding farewell to a dead man. For 32 years, the report had never been published! No one had shown any interest in it! We featured it as an exhibition at Visa pour l’Image, in a linear presentation, as if we too were in the train and were traveling across the States. When Paul arrived in Perpignan, he gave me a hug and said: “At least there’s you to understand my work.” And we’ve been great friends ever since. I really admire him as a photographer; his work on Chernobyl was outstanding and had all of Perpignan in tears. I think it’s such a shame that there are some people today who make millions, and a man like Paul, whose work is of such historic importance, is virtually destitute! That really riles me!

Without mentioning any names, some of the top ten photographers in the world today, including war photographers, “live in a garret”, surviving on less than 1000 euros a month, struggling to make ends meet.

Philip Blenkinsop- NoorYes, it’s a real problem; I’ll give two examples. Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for Time Magazine, and has been going to Baghdad a couple of times a year for the last five or six years. Now look at his work, at what he produces, then compare it to what you see in Time. There is a gaping abyss between what his real work is and what gets published. Another example is Stanley Greene who wanted to do a report in Afghanistan and needed to find 8000 euros to get there, but couldn’t raise the money. I’m sorry to have to say this yet again – everyone’s getting sick of it, and I’m told that I’m biting the hand that feeds me– but we have to stop saying that the press doesn’t have any money! The press can find the money to buy exclusive rights to celebrity photos. A couple of years ago, one weekly magazine paid 150,000 euros for the exclusive rights to Jean-Paul Belmondo’s wedding; and they can’t fork out 10,000 euros to send Stanley Greene to Afghanistan for a month! It just makes me wonder. Fifteen years ago, when a newspaper commissioned a report, the paper would insure your equipment, pay for 150 rolls of film, cover all the lab development costs, and so on. Nowadays, you do digital work, your cameras aren’t paid for, you’re not even given a memory card – nothing. A digital camera costs a lot more than the camera you had fifteen years ago. And we’re not supposed to voice any criticism? Over the same period, the price of a page of advertising has gone up by a factor of 2 or 2.5; compare that to the prices paid for photos which have gone down by a factor of 2 or 2.5! Christophe Calais told me that he wanted to go to Kenya to report on the events there; he called a magazine he often works with, and was told “Listen, if you get the chance to take a shot of Obama’s grandmother, and if we do a double-page spread, I’ll give you 300 or 400 euros.” Hell! He wasn’t going there to do a Grandma Obama celebrity shoot! That’s the real problem, you see. Everything has become celebritized, everything is nice and clean, and we’re told that we mustn’t show any violence, but celebrities instead. Yet when you look at “real TV”, you’re shown violence! Lucas Menget, a top reporter with France 24 and a member of the Visa pour l’Image team, did an excellent 26-minute report on Iraq, and you can see violence there in his report. Just talk to Stanley Greene, Christophe Calais, Enrico Dagnino, Paolo Pellegrin, Noël Quidu, Laurent Van der Stockt, and so many others whose names I haven’t mentioned; they see violence out there in the field, in the events they cover. That’s the real story!

When we ask our parents and grandparents what they did about the Nazi concentration camps, they tell us that they didn’t know about them. And it’s true that many people only discovered what had really happened in the camps when they saw photos taken by Lee Miller and Margaret Bourke White. Today we’re lucky enough to be able to see everything. No country is completely closed off; it might be difficult to take pictures in Burma or North Korea, but you end up getting something. With modern transmission facilities, satellite phones and all the advances of communication technology, it’s much easier than it used to be. So what will we say when our children and grandchildren ask us what we did about Darfur? It’s a philosophical problem. Photographers and journalists, whether with the written press, radio or television, often run the most extraordinary risks so that they can show what’s really happening. For years we were told we had a duty to history, then a duty to remember, so let’s now say that we have a duty to see and to look! I don’t want to live in a virtual world, a nice little, cuddly, fluffy world where everybody’s happy, where everyone is sweet as sugar candy and where everyone has heaps of money. People often say that Visa pour l’Image is a festival with commitment; I would say that we are activists, that we want to be militant because we, the organizers and photographers at the festival, are journalists.

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Yousuf Karsh Estate- New Website

- - Photographers

I see a growing trend here as the Yousuf Karsh estate (here) becomes the latest in a series of photography masters to unveil professional websites that will not only serve as wonderful resources for the photo community but act as a central resource for consumers and professionals looking to purchase prints and reprint rights.

During his career he held 15,312 sittings and produced over 150,000 negatives.

Yousuf Karsh Estate

Yousuf Karsh Estate

The short video clips (here) are particularly interesting to watch as Yousuf answers questions that we seem to ask photographers over and over.

Review Santa Fe Becomes Even Better

Review Santa Fe went down this past weekend and it’s always been a great resource for Photo Editors, Book Publishers and Gallerists looking for new talent. It’s also a great opportunity for photographers, because you can show your work to a very large group of people at once without the usual hassle of making appointments and then dragging your ass and book all over the city.

As a reviewer it was always a disappointment to see work being presented to other reviewers that you found interesting but wasn’t going to be shown to you. Also, it was difficult to remember work you’d seen half a year ago that you suddenly recall being nearly perfect for an assignment that just landed on your desk. All that has been solved now, because they’ve posted a sampling of the work from each of the photographers that were selected to attend (here). As a bonus most have a nice headshot of each photographer so you can see the person behind the images.

This will prove to be another valuable resource for finding new talent (Alec Soth was discovered there) well before they hit the mainstream.

Discovered via the new Boston Photography Focus blog (here).

Summer Break

- - Uncategorized

Going on a raft trip. See you next week.

“Benedicto: May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”

— Edward Abbey