Michael Crouser Interview

- - Photographers

Jonathan Blaustein: Right now, you’re in the Seattle airport, having just come from Alaska. Is that right?

Michael Crouser: That is correct.

JB: What were you doing up there?

MC: I was working on a job for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, shooting portraits of Alaska fisherman. Both subsistence and commercial fisherman, all along the Southeast and Southwest of Alaska.

JB: Wow. Had you been there before?

MC: Yeah, I’ve been to Alaska quite a few times, working for different clients. I also have worked on a personal project there.

JB: How big of an area were you ranging?

MC: I started in Juneau, which is in the extreme Southeast, and I ended up near Bethel, which is in the Southwest of the main body of the State.

JB: Can you translate that into the lower 48?

MC: Miles?

JB: Yeah. How far were you rolling?

MC: Boy, that is a good question. I just don’t have any idea. I’ve never sat down and calculated how far it is from Juneau to Bethel. But while I was near Bethel, I was going up and down the Kuskokwim River, photographing the fishermen in the different villages.

JB: Well, you and I have had a bit of a difficult time hooking up to do this interview. It occurred to me only last night that your lack of Internet might have something to do with you traipsing around the bush and the backcountry.

MC: It has everything to do with that. Occasionally, I could go to a tribal council office, where they would have Internet service, but it wasn’t available in most of the places where I was.

JB: You were in a pretty remote locale.

MC: Absolutely. But I like that. I’m very interested in these kinds of experiences and circumstances. It’s nice to see how other people live in the world.

JB: Did you get to eat some really killer fresh fish? What was the cuisine like?

MC: The most interesting thing I ate was walrus. They also have a dish that is made with seal blubber or shortening with sugar and berries. They call that Eskimo ice cream, so I had some of that as well. And I tried some moose meat. When you are in the villages, they really do live a traditional, subsistence life.

JB: Where will these photographs end up? Were you shooting digitally or film?

MC: For this type of job I always shoot digitally. I never shoot digital for my personal work, but commercial clients really don’t want to deal with film and prints anymore, for the most part. This client will use the pictures for a number of different things, as they’re trying to build a library of portraits of Alaska fishermen. They’re trying to promote the human aspect of this industry.

JB: You were shooting some pretty burly dudes, for sure. And you’ve photographed biker dudes as well, no?

MC: Yes, I’ve photographed members of a certain motorcycle club that operates out of Brooklyn. I’ve gotten to know some of these guys, and hung out with them, and done some portraits of those guys.

JB: And even though you’re a nice, soft-spoken guy from Minnesota, when you were shooting those big fishermen, do you ever slide into character and start dropping F-bombs?

MC: I do find myself shooting in a lot of different kinds of cultures and sub-cultures, and I never really try to pretend that I’m something that I’m not. Whether it’s ranchers in Colorado, or bikers or fishermen, I can pretty easily join in. I don’t pretend I’m one of them, but they don’t seem to mind having me around, just being myself.

JB: How do you split your time between commercial and personal work?

MC: It’s a tough question, because it changes with the different phases your life goes through. Sometimes, you don’t even know you’re in the phase. It used to almost all commercial, and a bit of what I would have called personal work.

I didn’t have an outlet for it as fine art, so I never thought of it as such. Now, I’m more involved in book publishing, gallery exhibitions, and selling my work. So personal work becomes fine art, with that label.

I spent a lot more time on that, these days, than I do on commercial work, but that’s not by any personal rule. I’m always open to whatever happens.

JB: Well, the impetus for this interview was that you and I met last year, when you had a show at Verve Gallery in Santa Fe.

MC: Right.

JB: I was really taken with the project, “Sin Tiempo.” I saw some really exquisite black and white photographs, that I recall being gelatin silver prints. I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong.

MC: They are.

JB: And they were photographs taken in Europe that had the feel and emotional tenor of fifty, sixty, seventy year old pictures. You look at them sideways, and you can easily imagine some of the pictures being made by Cartier-Bresson, or Willy Ronis, or somebody of that age. Then, I looked at the title card, and they were dated as being 2011, 2010, 2012.

MC: Right.

JB: I was taken aback by your ability to channel a sense of time dislocation. The experience of the art was very different from the literal time in which it was made. And when I mentioned that, you told me that was very much your intention.

MC: It is very much the goal. I don’t claim that I’m trying to make old-looking photographs, but I am attracted to scenes that don’t give away a sense of popular culture today. I’m not very interested in reflecting or commenting upon our popular culture, and a huge percentage of photographers today are interested in that.

It just doesn’t appeal to me aesthetically. A lot of times, photographers are trying to make a critical commentary, or some kind of an ironic statement about the world in which we live, and I find myself looking for something that’s more aesthetically pleasing to me. A timeless aesthetic.

I call the project “Sin Tiempo,” which is “Without Time” in Spanish, because I prefer that to timeless, which is an overused and generic term. I’m trying to make pictures that are without time. I’m not conscious of trying to make pictures that look like they’re from the 40′s or 50′s, but I am conscious of eliminating elements that label it as now, or five years ago. Any specific time.

So there’s no particular hair styles or graphics that are shown. No cars. No fashion that would be able to be labeled as any particular time. And what you get are photographs that do look like images of another time. Fashion changes by the minute, as does typography.

JB: I’m about to throw a word at you, and I’m pretty sure you’re going to embrace it, or reject it strongly.

MC: (laughing.) All right.

JB: And I bet you could even predict it, if you tried really hard.

MC: (pause.) You already used Cartier-Bresson, and timeless, so…I’m not sure.

JB: Romantic.

MC: I think it’s great. I’m interested in an aesthetically pleasing, Romantic, perhaps even dream-like settings. I really am drawn to that. The compositions are rather formal, but the feeling is whimsical. Even the photographs that have some tension to them, there’s always still a Romantic feel. Or a calm feel.

Romance is a good word.

JB: I didn’t know which way you’d go on that. You’ve photographed bull fighters, and working cattle ranches in Colorado. You were talking about timeless, and of course that’s impossible, given that photography requires time, which our readers will know.

But it seems like there is an absolute sense of of longing for a simpler time. What is the attraction for you? What is the commonality of the things you’re choosing to focus on?

MC: Tell me if I go off-the-rails here, but there’s an aesthetic commonality in the photographs. I would hope, anyway. I can’t speak for the viewers, but for me, I am attracted to ways of life that are simpler. But also a little more dangerous. A little rougher. A little of the Earth. More to do with life and death. And the involvement of animals, and physical labor.

I find those things attractive/romantic, both sociologically and photographically. I always suggest to students that if they go after a long-term project, they go after something that interests them outside of the photographic interest. That they find something that they are attracted to, because then they’ll stay with it and explore it more deeply.

With regard to bullfighters and cowboys, we really are looking at at way of life that extends backward to before there were even cameras. This way of life existed before there was anybody to take pictures of it. And there are elements if it that have remained unchanged.

The series I call “Mountain Ranch,” which is about ranchers in the mountains of Colorado, concentrates on the traditional elements of traditional lives. It’s not the story of the modern cowboy. I’m not trying to hold up some juxtaposition between four-wheelers and horses, or baseball hats and cowboy hats.

It’s just that these things are fascinating to me, and they’re going away, as is their lifestyle. Part of it is, I just want to look at it. I love being around it. It looks to me like something that I, Michael Crouser, should be making photographs of because it appeals to me so strongly.

I don’t really know what to say when people say “It’s great that you’re documenting this for posterity.” I agree, but it’s not necessarily the full motivation. It’s interesting to me to be documenting for that purpose, but I think the motivation is mostly an aesthetic one.

These things grow. It starts off as something you might like to go take a picture of, but then you meet people, and start becoming interested in their lives, and families, and the way they work. And the fact that their grandparents lived on that land as well.

I’m not photographing everything about their lives. I’m photographing the traditional elements of their lives.

JB: You mentioned your students at the beginning of that answer, so that seems like a great place to segue a bit. The Santa Fe Workshops is sponsoring this interview, because you’re going to be teaching a worksop with them called “Finding Your Voice as a Photographer.”

MC: Right.

JB: We just heard, at length, about how you have learned to trust your own instincts. And that’s lead to your voice, aesthetically speaking. But all workshops need titles, so why did you choose that one? What do students come to you to learn?

MC: Before I started teaching, I was doing some self-exploration, as a photographer. Just wondering to myself what it is that makes my pictures personal. Why are they mine, as opposed to someone else’s? I became fascinated by this idea that by a series of decisions, or factors, or elements in a photograph, you start to hone your aesthetic voice.

The choices that you make with regard to light, medium, equipment, composition, perspective, subject matter, etc. As you work through those things, and experiment, your photographs become something more personal. More unique to you than they would be without the consideration of those things.

A lot of students that I have in my workshops are really interested in taking another step in their photography. That’s kind of a general way that people express the fact that they want to grow and learn and expand.

It’s often difficult for people to know where to go. How do you open up the door if you don’t know where the door is? So this class looks at a number of doors that are there for the opening. When you start to explore these things, and consider the work of established photographers, and how they use these elements, they get exposure to choices that they can make.

A lot of photographers who take these classes have never thought of these things before. Maybe they like to take pictures of their kids, or horse races, or maybe they’ve never thought about the qualities of light that appeal to them the most. Once you start experimenting with your own preferences, I feel like your own voice gets sharper. More articulate.

JB: How about group dynamics in workshops? What are some of your tricks for getting people to engage with each other?

MC: I’ve found I like teaching more in a group setting, than working with individuals, because there’s more discussion. It becomes more apparent to the students that there are differences of opinion, and different aesthetic tastes. It happens all the time where one student will be very attracted to garish color, and the student sitting next to them will say “That’s ridiculous.”

There are two vastly different opinions about the same photograph. I think that is interesting for a number of reasons. It shows them that taste is personal, that there is no right or wrong. That’s an important piece of this class, because I don’t teach people that there’s a correct way to take photographs.

I teach people to explore what is they like about photographs, and what they like about taking pictures, and to run with it. Explore it.

JB: Do you find people are attracted to your way of making work? Is there a Romantic vibe in the air, when your students come together? Or are they more attracted to the fact that you’re confident in your personal vision, and they want you to bring that out in them?

MC: I think that some people end up taking a class because they like the instructor’s work, but I wouldn’t say that’s universal.
There are a few classes in which I ask people, just as an exercise, to emulate one of the photographer’s whose work we’ve seen. And there are a lot of things we do as exercises that don’t necessarily correspond to the work they’re going to do for the rest of their life.

But some people do choose to emulate my photographs, which is incredibly flattering, because it never occurs to me that people are there because of my aesthetic. But I am also aware of the fact that there are a lot of reasons to choose a certain workshop instead of another one.

JB: You mentioned that you show other photographer’s work in you workshop. Who are some of the artists whose work you like to use as examples?

MC: I like to show extremes. I try not to just be limited to the people that influence or inspire me. There are people that I find to be controversial, whose work I show.

Are you looking for names?

JB: Of course. We’re always looking for names. People love names.

MC: There is a lot of the aesthetic that appeals to me, like Edward Curtis, and of course Cartier-Bresson, and Willy Ronis, and Robert Doisneau, and Lartigue. I call it the French Mt. Rushmore. Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, Lartigue and Brassai. It’s an era that speaks to me so strongly.

But I also like people to see David LaChapelle, and Annie Leibovitz, and Albert Watson and Herb Ritts. (pause.) I’m trying to think of more contemporary photographers…Susan Burnstine…

JB: I demanded names, and you gave us some. Now we know you’re also intrigued by editorial masters, as it were. I just wanted to give people a sense of what inspires you.

MC: I might add that I’m inspired by people who are inspired. I’m inspired by certain photographers, but I’m also inspired by teaching; by people learning and growing. It really gets me going.

JB: Do you enjoy getting to come down to New Mexico? It sounds like you get to travel quite a bit. Do you think that Santa Fe offers anything special, compared to other locations?

MC: It’s a great atmosphere in which to learn. The people are so nice in Santa Fe, and at the Workshops. They’re so helpful and positive. They make available a lot of locations that the students can utilize, apart from classroom learning. There’s a lot at hand, as far as landscape and setting.

When you go to Santa Fe, you know you’re not in California, or Minnesota, or New York. People get a uniquely Santa Fe experience when they’re there, from the light to the farmers market. It’s a great place to be. Very comfortable and positive from start to finish.

JB: As far as travel goes, we started this conversation mentioning that you were on a long layover in Seattle on your way to China.

MC: I’m going to Beijing. It will be my first time to Asia. I’m going to speak to the organizers of an upcoming exhibition, to help them plan it from the photographer’s perspective. I do a lot of work for and with Kodak, and they’ve been so very supportive of my projects with Tri-X film and darkroom chemicals. They’re sponsoring it.

JB: If when you’re walking along the road, you see knock-offs of your own photographs, what are you going to do?

MC: It’s interesting that you mention that. I recently found some different examples of knock-offs of my pictures online. People selling paintings of my work, and things like that.

JB: I have an idea. You could just bring in the biker dudes.

MC: Right. I could mix projects for protection.

JB: You gotta call in backup.

MC: (laughing) I like it. They’d probably love it. Riding their Harleys around Beijing.

Richard Reinsdorf v. Skechers Update

- - copyright

Looks like I missed an update to the Richard Reinsdorf’s $250 million dollar lawsuit against Skechers from February of this year (thx for the tip Josh). To recap from my previous post “Skechers Sketchy Defense For Ignoring License Terms“:

The suit started when Reinsdorf discovered that images he took for Skechers from 2006-2009 and licensed to them for very specific terms–six months use in North America for point of sale, magazines and certain outdoor advertisements–were being used for several years and included in ads overseas and on packaging and other unauthorized media. The suit states that Skechers “completely and utterly ignored the terms of the license.” (source)

First reported by TMZ back in September of 2009 it took an unusual turn in 2010 when Skechers filed a motion to dismiss claiming ownership of copyright because of “alterations they performed on the images from slight modifications in models’ skin tone to the substitution of models’ body parts and the addition of substantial graphic effects.” They asked the judge to dismiss because they couldn’t possibly have infringed on their own copyright.

If you want to read the motion to dismiss you can download it (here). It certainly would set a disturbing precedent in the photography world if something like this were to be allowed. In the discussion the judge states that “Skechers is correct that a co-author in a joint work cannot be liable to another co-owner for infringement of the copyright” but that’s not what’s at issue here because “Contrary to Skechers’ assertions, the evidence in the record does not indisputably establish that Reinsdorf intended that his photographsbe incorporated into a joint work.” He simply gave them a limited license to their use. The motion to dismiss was denied.

A ruling on Skechers Motion for Summary Judgment dated February 6, 2013 (download it here) states:

Skechers has not demonstrated that the parties intended to be co-authors of the finished marketing images, which are, therefore, not joint works. Nor has Skechers demonstrated, as a matter of law, the lack of a copyright license agreement or breach of such argument. Accordingly, Skechers’ Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED in these respects.

The expert opinions of Frank Luntz and Jamie Turner do not satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 702. Accordingly, Skechers’ Motions in Limine to exclude those opinions are GRANTED. Skechers’ objection to the Supplemental Report of David Connelly is SUSTAINED.

Given Plaintiff’s failure to adequately demonstrate a causal link between Skechers’ profits and its allegedly infringing conduct, Skechers’ motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s indirect profits claim is GRANTED. Skechers’ unopposed motion for summary judgment with respect to statutory damages and attorney’s fees is also GRANTED.

I found what District Judge Dean D. Pregerson has to say about joint authorship in this case interesting. While both parties intended that their separate contributions be merged into a unified whole this is different than an intent to be co-authors. The parties behaved in ways uncharacteristic of joint authors:

  • Reinsdorf charged for his time and effort plus usage of the photographs.
  • He attempted to limit Skechers’ use of its ads.
  • Skechers sought to prevent Reinsdorf from making use of the finished images on his personal website

Finally, you can see that Richard was unable to demonstrate a relationship between the images he took and the profits Skechers received from shoe sales. And… the kicker… “he failed to register his photographic works within the period contemplated by the Copyright Act”, so he’s NOT eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

Reader Question: Licensing Images Shot On Private Property

- - copyright

A reader asks:

Hi Rob,

I’m an architectural/interior design shooter for the last 15 years and I’m still working in 4×5 film.

I’ve been approached by a stock company and they would like access to my catalogue of mid to high end residential exteriors and interiors. I’m usually hired by the architects or the designers, seldom the owners and the work has been for the clients “personal portfolio and marketing purposes”

I know I have the “copyright” because I was paid to photograph the residences with owners permission.

But, if one of the living room shots is licensed from the stock company and the property owner happened to come across “his” living room in a mag somewhere, can he drag me to the carpet and create a litigious tussle or a simple cease and desist.

I’d like to finally get a wee bit of money for potential stock usage.

I asked The Photo Attorney, Carolyn E. Wright if she could give us general advice on licensing images shot on private property for stock. Here’s her answer:

 

NOTE: The information provided here is for educational purposes only. If you have legal concerns or need legal advice, be sure to consult with an attorney.

When considering whether you need permission of the owner to use photographs of the owner’s property (often referred to as a “property release”), you need to analyze what claims the owner can make against you.

Assuming that the property is in the United States, any potential claims will based on state laws, not federal rights. So the claims may vary, depending on the laws of the state where the property is located. However, each state’s laws are similar.

While some buildings are protected by copyright, the US Copyright Act provides an exception for photography of architectural works:

The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place. See 17 USC 120. Therefore, you are allowed take and use exterior photos of a building or home when it is located in and is ordinarily visible from a public place. A home owner would not have grounds to keep you from photographing and using the photos for any purposes, including commercially. Such was the case when a California homeowner complained about photos of his home used to advertise mortgages: http://www.photoattorney.com/is-a-property-release-required-for-use-of-photo-of-house-for-an-advertisement/

When taking photos inside property, you are subject to trespassing laws. Specifically, your presence on another’s property is pursuant to a “license” to be on the premises. For example, when you invite someone to your home for dinner, that invitation does not extend to a “license” to drive your car or stay overnight, but would be specific or implied consent to sit in your living room and at the dining room table. At any point, however, you may revoke the license and ask your guest to leave your premises.

The ultimate question is whether the owner or manager of the property has given specific or implied consent for the photographer to take photographs there. You cannot misrepresent your purpose to enter a property and then take photos. For example, in the court case of Food Lion, Inc. v. Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., 194 F.3d 505 (4th Cir. 1999), ABC news reporters from the show, “PrimeTime Live” obtained jobs at several stores under fraudulent pretenses and then proceeded to surreptitiously film Food Lion’s unsavory food handling practices. After the program aired, Food Lion successfully sued the producers on the charge of trespass. However, if you are on the property and the owner sees but doesn’t stop you from taking photos, you have implied consent to do so.

If you have consent to take photos of property, then the issue is whether the owner has a right to restrict the use of them. An owner would be able to stop the use of the photos if the photographer and owner had an agreement that the photos wouldn’t be used in certain ways. If the photographer uses the photographs otherwise, then the owner would have a breach of contract claim.

Absent a trespass claim or contract regarding the use of the photos, no court has recognized a claim for using photographs of private property. Some have argued that a homeowner would have a claim for conversion, trademark infringement, or violating the right of privacy. But, for example, a South Carolina court found that The College of Charleston Foundation had no claim against Benjamin Ham for invasion of privacy or conversion for his taking and selling photographs of the College’s property, known as the “Dixie Plantation.” Significantly, the court noted that if Ham had taken the “Plantation Road” photograph from off the property with some sort of high-magnification equipment, the Foundation would have no cause of action for trespass, either. http://www.photoattorney.com/update-on-the-lawsuit-against-benjamin-ham-for-photographing-private-property/. Neither did photographer Charles Gentile violate the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s trademark for selling posters of the museum. http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=8775495145817703769&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr. Likewise, a German court recently upheld the right for a photographer to license photos taken of property at a park: http://www.photoattorney.com/german-court-finds-no-violation-for-photographing-and-licensing-photos-of-property/. A subsequent owner of property would not be able to prevent a photographer from licensing photos that a photographer had taken, as no other claim would bar their use.

In sum, while some owners may whine about seeing photos of their property used commercially, the law won’t support their complaints.

Copyright Carolyn E. Wright, Esq.

This Week In Photography Books – Jane Hilton

by Jonathan Blaustein

Boobs sell books℠. I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again. (Because it’s true.) But they also sell cars, coffee, cake, coffeecake, kielbasas, and anything else you can think of.

Wow. Sex sells. How original. Tell us something we don’t know.

OK.

Most people are out in the world, looking for companionship. We pair off, two at a time up the gang-plank, because it’s in our embedded code to reproduce ourselves. Right? Sex is nothing more than a pleasurable way to create the next generation, according to some.

But that doesn’t explain why single people get cats, dogs and birds. Don’t we all know someone who treats an animal like a person? Or at least creates a lasting, meaningful relationship with a pet? Of course we do, and it has nothing to do with sex. (We assume…)

No, people are social creatures. Like horses, we need the company of others. We need to tell someone what happened during our day, even if we know it was boring, because we just lived it. (For example, this evening, I will tell my lovely wife that I stared at a dirty computer screen for hours on end.)

The need to share our lives with others drives our actions far more than we think. For every dollar you’ve ever spent in an overpriced bar, throwing back watered-down drinks, I’m here to tell you that it wasn’t just about the potential booty call. We need each other.

Which is why I was so intrigued by “Precious,” a new book by Jane Hilton, offered by Schilt Publishing in Amsterdam. (Where the lights are always red, and the coffee shops sell lots of green.) For all the times I’ve mocked artists for including a few naked photos to boost sales, you might be surprised that I’m writing about this today.

But books are meant to be opened, and ideas are meant to be spread. (The good ones, anyway. I wish someone would put that stupid Justin Bieber haircut out of its misery.) Yes, this book features a bevy of naked women, but it’s not what you think.

Ms. Hilton has spent fifteen years among the brothels of Nevada, where prostitution is legal. She knows the culture, and the women who populate it. She seems to understand the vagaries of human nature that would lead someone to work there, and others to pay a lot of money to touch their bodies. This book gives us a glimpse inside, and it costs a lot less than a “party,” that’s for sure.

A statement, early on, suggests that the subjects were photographed naked, as their clothing made them look like stereotypical hookers. That was not the point of the photographic exercise, so off came the clothes. The emotional walls came down, too, in some images. Other pictures depict guarded women, who perhaps trust the photographer more than the process.

There are a wide range of body types and ages on display. For the most part, these are actual women; not people who’ve been scarred up by cheap plastic surgeons who’d use scotch tape to seal up the implants, if only they could. Some of the women are nearing sixty, and it’s a strange sight to behold. (A compliment for a photo book, no?)

The real treat here, beyond getting to look at boobs without feeling guilty, is that the artist includes testimonies from the women at the back of the book. Their voices come through, and make it impossible to just huck metaphorical tomatoes at their faces. Many are married. Many are proud. One girl, 18 and pregnant, has to do the work because she can find nothing else. She said it hurts to get f-cked while she’s knocked up, and that is hard to read.

We learn that black prostitutes make less than white ones, which is incredibly wrong, but not totally surprising, given what we know of racism. One woman is writing a book about sexual sub-cultures, and decided to do her research the old-fashioned way. (We’re reminded, several times, that it is the world’s oldest profession.) Apparently, the brothels are safe and clean, but take a massive 50% cut. (Just like art galleries.)

Above all, a one message was consistent: clients come for the companionship, far more than the sex. They build relationships, and the money-exchange keeps everything honest. So next time you giggle when you drive by the Chicken Ranch, if you happen to be in Nevada, just remember: people will pay a lot of money to have someone listen to their problems.

Bottom Line: Up close and personal with some Nevada prostitutes

To Purchase “Precious” Visit Photo-Eye

Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.

 

Art Producers Speak:

We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.sease@verizon.net

Anonymous Art producer: I nominate I nominate Carissa and Andrew Gallo. I have really enjoyed working with Carissa and Andrew, they are an amazing husband and wife team based in Portland, OR. I discovered their work through Kinfolk Magazine.

Branding Campaign for Fred Water, shot in LA

Branding Campaign for Fred Water, shot in LA

Branding Campaign for Fred Water, shot in LA

Documentary Work - Uganda

Ode to Summer, for Kinfolk Magazine

Travels in Iceland, 2012

Travels in Iceland, 2012

Travels in Iceland, 2012

Original Series for Kinfolk Magazine

Lost Lake - Portland, OR

Lost Lake - Portland, OR

 

How many years have you been in business?

Andrew and I started working together over 4 years ago. Our business has morphed and taken on new shapes, as things tend to with time… Its latest shape is called Sea Chant- and it combines our practice of photography and video to tell and create stories.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?

Self-taught, with the investment and guidance of many different minds, along the way.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?

My grandfather, primarily. He walked through life with a camera at his side, documenting all things that fell before him. From my dad’s first birthday, to time in Japan during WWII. It wasn’t his business, it was his passion, which he passed on to me- as he gave me all his old film cameras and shared with me these intimate glimpses into his life.

How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?

We just try to keep ourselves occupied by the things that naturally inspire us- travel, nature, music, books, stories… The Internet is a great place to be inspired, but we feel the most filled up, creatively, as we see things face to face.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?

Sometimes- but we’ve been blessed enough to work with a lot of great clients who value our work and creativity and push us to pursue it.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?

Just creating things and putting them out there, through all the various ways allowed us. We love meeting with people face to face- I think that’s the most valuable way to share and show a vision. We also love and use instagram and the new VSCO Grid almost each and every day.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?

I am not so inclined to encourage someone to do work that you think others want to see. Obviously, there is a place for it, somewhere/sometime. But I’ve found it best to show the work that you love and are inspired to do- I think whether its a buyer, a potential client, or just a fellow creative soul, people always value and appreciate genuineness in this regard!

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?

Yes, for sure! Without that, we tend to lose our own sense of artistry. It pushes us to try new things and be inspired in new ways.

How often are you shooting new work?

A few times a week.

www.carissagallo.com
www.andrewgallo.com

Sea Chant is the storytelling outfit of Andrew & Carissa Gallo, a photography/directing duo based in Portland, Oregon. Together they write and direct films, each delivered alongside of a anesthetically complementing photo set.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

 

Jock Sturges Interview

- - Photographers

Jonathan Blaustein: How did you come to photography as a method of expression?

Jock Sturges: It’s an important question, because the answer sets the groundwork for my whole life’s work. At age eight, I was sent away to summer camp. And, from eight on, I was in boarding schools or summer camp right until I joined the Navy in 1966.

That’s pretty young to be away from home. These were all boys boarding schools and all boys camps. I had as well four brothers, all of whom were similarly sent away. No sisters.

So, as circumstance dictated it was in these schools and camps where I was obliged to find what family I could – amongst the other boys. And right from the beginning I had an appetite for beauty. Due to a chain of circumstances that involved several broken arms, I wasn’t allowed to do sports for several years, and ended up swiping a camera from one of my roommates who had in turn swiped it from his dad. I was eventually able to make prints from the work I was doing. My roommate’s mother came up for a visit and saw some of the prints of her son on the wall and took them down and kept them. 

JB: (laughing.) For real?

JS: But she paid me for them!

JB: OK. 

JS: What was then a small fortune.

JB: How old were you?

JS: I was about eleven at that point.

JB: You sold your first work at eleven? I haven’t heard that before.

JS: Right away, I discovered that many of my friends’ parents suffered from guilt for having sent their children away to school so young, so, as it happened, there was a nice market there for me. Some of my friends in turn figured out that they were a kind of cash register, and wanted a cut of course 

JB: I sold lanyards. I had a friend making them, and I was basically the middle man, selling lanyards around the lunchroom in what was probably seventh grade. I think you have me beat, for an early understanding of capitalism. 

JS: The capitalism was a side affect for me. It was certainly very much enjoyed, because we had no spending money. But really I was keeping the images of my friends because at the end of the school year, or the end of summer, many kids would disappear. You’d never see them again. Their parents would be transferred to Europe, or wherever.

It was a way of keeping family. And beauty was also a big part of that for me. Boys can be very beautiful, and I was drawn to it, right from the beginning. Long before that, when I was five, my parents moved into a house in Providence that belonged to my great uncle Howard Sturges – a legendary bon-vivant who was Cole Porter’s partner for much of his life. Anyway, there was a big set of US Camera Annuals, in the bookshelves of that house, which I just loved. There, inexplicably, I fell in love with Grace Kelly because of two images of her swimming in Lake Como. I had a massive crush on her. I was five or six.

I don’t have any particular explanation for why that aesthetic appetite exists in Homo Sapiens, even in young children, but there it is. 

JB: I was going to ask if you were coming from the North East. Was your family part of the cultural tradition of boarding school? 

JS: In fairness to him, my father had been sent away at the same age himself. It was just how it was done. The English pattern. My family came from money, but several generations before them. I like to describe them as camped in the ashes of a great fortune. 

So I grew up with the trappings of privilege, but almost none of the economic leverage. The good schools, etc, were actually paid for by a relation. I came out of that, making photographs all the time, but mostly just of the other boys, because that’s who I was around. It wasn’t until after four years in the military, where I was a Russian interpreter living in Japan for three years, that I found myself finally in a context that included women.

This was Marlboro College in southern Vermont. It was very small, 200 students, and I arrived right at the height of the sexual revolution. The school’s only rule was, whatever you’re doing, just please close your door. 

That was paradise for me. I was finally in the context of women, and finally really happy socially because the truth was, I’d never much liked talking about cars and…

JB: Sports? 

JS: About cars and sports. Exactly. The conversation with women was instantly more interesting to me than any conversations I’d had before. The critic, AD Coleman, has since described me as having a strong feminine aspect, and I really appreciated that clear perception of who I am. It realys fit with my own sense of self.

From that point on, I only really photographed girls and women.

JB: But your first experience, based upon your age, and the age group of the kids with whom you were billeted, was in photographing young boys.

JS: Very much so.  My cofrères.

JB: Is that something you think people are familiar with?

JS: It’s been in an interview here or there, but it’s kind of the bedrock of where it all comes from.

JB: At what point in your evolution as a photographer did you start working with nudes?

JS: Not for a long time. When I was at Marlboro, in Vermont, I did some. But the work then was really fueled more by hormones than intelligence. I was 22 or 23 years old, and new to the game of sex and relationships. Making pictures of naked women struck me as an enjoyable endeavor. But it left me feeling hollow, somehow dishonest, so I stopped pretty quickly

Then in 1973 I took a feminist workshop in Minneapolis/St Paul as part of a larger workshop I was doing on alternative education. It changed my life significantly, because, for the first time, I started to really appreciate the problem with objectification in nude photography — and how much of traditional photography of women was hard on them as a group. Abrasive, even.

I came away from that deciding I didn’t want to make photographs like that, and I actually stopped doing nudes for almost ten years. But then, almost accidentally, I stumbled upon the fact that making portraits of people over a long period of time transitioned the work from being about the body to being about relationship. In the same time frame I found myself in a counter-culture context in California where nudity was commonplace and shame absent. This was an epiphany for me!

This encounter with people who had no complex about simply being naked combined with my experience with feminism in the early 70′s and set me on a completely different path from where I started. Very happily so, because, since then, I have not photographed a great many people, but I have photographed the people I do photograph a great many times.

JB: So what led to photographing younger girls was that starting earlier enabled you to potentially open up a lengthy, multi-decade process?

JS: That’s exactly right. In fact, as time went on, I got more and more interested in even starting with pregnancies, when possible — starting as early as possible so that I felt like, when I’d been photographing for a number of years, that I really knew something. 

Now, I’m photographing a third generation. You begin to have something on the order of a significant understanding of who a person is when you’ve known her parents, and then their parents before that, most of their lives.

The first two Aperture books did me a real disservice, in that respect. Michael Hoffman refused to allow me to edit them chronologically, as I wanted to. I had edited my first book, “The Last Day of Summer,” with a great editor from Aperture, and we had worked it out together as a chronology to our mutual satisfaction. With each of the models depicted, you’d see them getting older image by image, and that painted the picture of a relationship.

That didn’t suit Hoffman at all. He wanted to edit it graphically, so he ditched our chronology as not interesting, and basically did it as an exercise in graphics. His mantra was, “You don’t know anything about making books. I do. Shut up.”

JB: Had you gotten your way, it sounds like you would have created something within the realm of what Nicholas Nixon did with “The Brown Sisters,” which, of course, drew him massive acclaim.

JS: Exactly right. I’d been doing lifetime studies for a long time at that point. I wanted people to understand that it wasn’t just pictures of pretty girls, it was a long-term relationship with a huge amount of respect as the engine, and that the project was open-ended and continuing.

All my subsequent books with Scalo and Steidl, etc, and, after Hoffman was gone, even with Aperture were in fact edited chronologically.

Fanny; Montalivet, France, 1990

Fanny; Montalivet, France, 1996

Fanny; Montalivet, France, 2011

JB: It seems like a great opportunity to talk a bit about the way your vision of your own process, your motivations and intellectual curiosity, have led you in one direction. Clearly, the elephant in the room here is the way an audience, critics, and other people have responded to what you’re doing.

It’s not edgy here to say your work is among the more controversial that’s come around in the last three or four decades. 

Can we start with the way you react to other peoples’ reactions? What’s it like for you, when you feel your own actions are coming from one place, and other people are responding from such a massively different set of assumptions?

JS: The Aperture book set off a certain amount of reaction that was conservative, as you depict. I think, if it had been edited chronologically, that wouldn’t have necessarily been the case, as much as it turned out to be. Subsequently, most of those critical voices have gradually been stilled, by seeing the chronologically edited books, and the long, long timespans.

And then came the Aperture book, with Misty Dawn which described a quarter of a century of her life. That kind of calmed people down. It became impossible not to realize that there had to be a profound level of trust between a model, who was letting herself be photographed for that many years, and who then entered her own child into the process. There’s no harm being done there. Just the opposite, in fact.

In fact, the work is reifying, and re-enforcing in a very positive way for the models. Simply put, the people whom I photograph love both the process and the work. People who are too conservative to appreciate that, frankly, just don’t interest me that much. I’m fine with how the work is made. I know that it’s a great joy for me to make it, and it’s a huge pleasure for the models to be in it.

Finally there are only two entities that I answer to: myself, and the models. What the rest of the world makes of it is, frankly, just not that interesting or relevant for me.

JB: Context is key. It’s hard to have any kind of art conversation in the 21st Century without bringing it up. 

I’ll speak plainly here. I saw one print, decontextualized on the wall at Aperture a couple of years ago. I hadn’t been face-to-face with the work before, and it threw me. I had a very powerful, negative, visceral reaction to it. And I wrote that as well.

It was just one print, a slice pulled out of the narrative that you’re describing. I have to say, I think it did you a disservice in that regard.

JS: We’re not there to protect the work and make sure that doesn’t happen. 

To advance my notion of it, the most important thing in my work is an absence: the absence of shame. The people that I photograph are basically living a lifestyle without clothes because that’s the lifestyle they choose. They’re not taking their clothes off for me. They live that way.

That’s one of the things I discovered at Marlboro, was that getting people to take their clothes off for you is something that’s been done rather too much. It’s essentially artificial; kind of understandably hormone induced. 

I have this visual curiosity, and became fascinated, later in the 70′s, when I finally started on the body of work that I’m doing now, by the reality that I encountered in the counter-culture in Northern California. Dress or undress was dictated only by weather – not social convention. A new world.

There I found the nude, per say, as something that was organic to the being of the people. They were completely unashamed of themselves. Coming from the East Coast, an absence of shame was a little startling, because I was raised on it. 

That absence, even in an individual picture, can be breathtaking for people who’ve been raised in a context where it doesn’t exist. Where the body is hidden, and where nudity is routinely conflated with sexuality. That’s really not my problem, and it’s not the model’s problem. It’s the viewer’s problem.

JB: That’s why the work creates such powerful conversations, and can so easily end up in the political crosshairs. Given the times, and the decades we’re talking about, did you ever find yourself in a room, sharing a conversation with Robert Mapplethorpe or Andres Serrano? 

JS: No. I never met either of those two artists. I wish I had done, and I would have been intrigued to speak with them.

My roll as a test case, as it were, was not a role that I enjoyed or embraced in any way. I wish that it had never happened. But, culturally, it was more or less inevitable. The fact that I was unaware of that, and hadn’t thought to predict it, is evidence, once again, as AD Coleman points out, of my naiveté.

As we record this interview, you’re in New Mexico and I am in France in a naturist resort with a summer population of 29,000 people on the Atlantic Coast. There are many other such resorts up and down this coast and elsewhere in Europe. I’ve been coming here for thirty years. Nudity means nothing to anybody here. People come here to exist wearing whatever they want. When the weather is cool, people wear something. If women have their period, they usually wear bottoms. People wear whatever’s relevant or nothing – as they please.

Children, especially, are rarely clothed here, because they enjoy so much not having clothes on. If you exist in that context for a while, it gives you an artificial notion of what’s reasonable behavior as regards the rest of the world. This is such a comfortable place to be. 

JB: It’s great to learn more about the roots of your process, especially as one who was so offended by the work out of context.

Given that we’ve been talking about nudity, that seems like a good segue to discuss your upcoming workshop with the Santa Fe Workshops. It’s called “The Portrait and the Nude.” 

How long have you been teaching? 

JS: Pretty much my whole life. I’m kind of a natural teacher, if I can say that without sounding self-aggrandizing. It’s probably the thing I do best in life. I love it.

It is an abiding sadness for me that, given the political take on my work, probably no major University would dare hire me. But I’m brought in as a lecturer from time to time and I love doing it. I particularly like looking at people’s work, and then trying to help them figure out how to do it better. 

JB: What do you think are the advantages of working in small groups? What is it like for you as an instructor, and what do you think your students tend to get out of the environment?

JS: Every student is a different person, and it’s my job as a teacher to try to figure out who they are, and then turn the key in their lock to help them be better. Help them manifest themselves in the work. 

In a small group, I have time to spend with individuals, to try to get my head around who they are, what skill set they have, and what skills they could use to go further. Sometimes, that’s a manner of looking at what equipment they’re using, and then figuring out if they’re frustrating themselves unnecessarily by using equipment that’s not appropriate for what they need and want to do. You’d be surprised by how often that is the case.

Other times, it’s talking about the larger philosophies that are behind making pictures; understanding them, and how they relate to what they might have been born to do. I’m not much fond of art schools, where people are often taught to think in parallel as it were — where political cant has a large place, and political correctness often holds sway. This can result in students manifesting popular schools of thought as opposed to the individuals they were born to be.

My assistants during the summer come from The Norsk Fotofagskole in Trondeheim, Norway. Five years ago I had occasion during the Nordic Light Foto Festival to review the school’s entire student body’s work during one long day. No student had work that was anything like anybody else’s! Every student was doing completely original work and all of it was extremely well-made. That’s a terrific photographic education.

That’s my ideal. I’m trying to help the students be individuals. I don’t want them to be me by any stretch of the imagination. I give a gentle hard time to those people who think they’re flattering me by resembling me.

JB: A gentle hard time? I haven’t sorted that out yet. I’m more accustomed to a hard hard time. 

JS: I really believe in blowing on sparks and encouraging people. Figuring out what it is that they do well, complimenting them for it, making them feel good about themselves, and then getting in a little medicine by saying, “And you could do this even better if…” I never want to do anything but encourage students.

JB: In something like this, where the purpose of the workshop touches so closely on your own process, do you ever encourage students to photograph people with clothes on? Does it always stick to the nude? 

JS: Absolutely. What I like best to do, if it’s a two day workshop, the first day we’ll shoot kids who are dressed. Working with young people obliges the students to be decent people, because kids won’t pose for them if they’re not. 

Kids simply won’t accept a person who’s being mean to them, or being officious, bossy, or pushy. You’ll get nothing from them, under those circumstances.

Then, for the second day, we transition to the figure, which a lot of people come to study. I still emphasize, of course, that you need to be treating this person as a person, not a model. It’s vastly better if you accept from them what they have to give, and not tell them what to do. The set of ideas we have when we instruct a model to pose is tiny, compared to what people do naturally.

There is far more beauty in the awkward grace of a natural position than there is in any sort of Neo-Greco-Roman pose. If I never saw another one, it would be too soon. I’m sick to death of all the arms behind the head and everything. No thank you!

For a five day workshop we do two or three days of younger models followed by the days of figure models. I let the group decide on the balance of what they want to do.

JB: What about San Miguel de Allende, where the workshop is taking place? Have you been there before?

JS: I’ve taught there I think as much as a half a dozen times. It’s a terrific location. My first workshop there was a real eye-opener, and was actually my first time in Mexico. San Miguel is at altitude, and has enormous charm. As a photographer, it is a paradise of brilliant locations and amazing light.

The model population is surprising too, because they’re not the kind of over-tired, worn-out models that I sometimes associate with workshops. They tend to be relatively new to it, and quite beautiful. They’re interesting people, and the workshop students become enamored of them. They develop a relationship and of course that for me is the holy grail.

JB: I’ve been through that part of Mexico. It’s lovely. There are some cool, smaller cities around there, like Guanajuato and Queretaro. Do you get out of San Miguel at all? Are there outdoor shoots?

JS: They’re all outdoor shoots, and we go all over. We go to people’s ranches. We spend a day up at an abandoned silver mine, which is a bit higher. It’s a long trip up there, but it’s a stunning location.

We definitely get into the real Mexico doing this. It’s as rich a workshop experience as anyone could ever hope to have. At the end of the week, we are all pretty beat, because we do so much. Tired but happy.

The Santa Fe Workshops does a great final evening, where everyone’s work is seen. There are slide projections. It’s a terrific experience for people. It’s my favorite workshop that I’ve taught. 

JB: That’s great to hear. I’m glad we got a chance to talk about it, as the Santa Fe Workshops are sponsoring this interview series. We all know each other here in New Mexico, and I’m a big fan of how they promote education and creative practice.

Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on right now?

JS: This evening I’m shooting Flore, whom I have known for more than 25 years. With her kids. So I’m doing a mother and daughter portrait there. 

At a greater distance I am leaving for China in a few weeks where I have a series of museum openings of my work to attend. I then come back to Europe to print a new book of 25 years in the life of my goddaughter, Fanny, with Steidl. And then I get to finally fly home.

JB: What’s the light quality like on the Atlantic Coast this time of year?

JS: The light quality is staggering. The first time I walked onto this beach, 30 years ago, I suddenly understood the Impressionists in a new way. The light here is stupefying. It has a lot of moisture in it, and in the evening, it fluoresces. Things are lit from all directions when you’re on the beach. 

Shadows have an enormous amount of information in them. The highlights are soft, with beautiful, beautiful scale. The light saturations here are just so richly appealing. 

JB: Do you get to travel around and hit the museums, or do you mostly stick to your beach?

JS: I tend to be doing just one thing. I’m either with my family here, or I’m shooting. I’m also in Europe a lot during the winter. That’s when I hit museums and shows, because I’m omnivorous. I’m much more influenced by paint, in fact, than I am by photography.

I love ingesting new art. It’s one of the reasons why I love teaching so much because I see things I would never have thought to do myself. I hope that I’m learning permanently.

JB: I try to use this platform to encourage people to go look at work as much as possible. I find, anecdotally, when you talk to photographers, they often say they’re too busy. But I believe, without good input, there’s very little chance of great output.

JS: I couldn’t agree more. You are what you eat. Period.

Occasionally, I’ll teach someone over the age of 60, and they’re often a lot harder to teach. Very often, they’ve made up their minds, and they’re not taking on new ideas. Because I am 66 now, I’m terrified of that ossification.

I’m always trying to push myself, and at least once every couple of days, I’ll make a picture that breaks some or even all of the personal rules I have for making pictures. I don’t want to live in a cage of my own habit and practice. Often those experiments fail – but not always. The only truly bad picture one can take is the one that one does not take at all. We learn from all the rest.

The Weekly Edit Interview
Fast Company: Aaron Fallon

- - The Daily Edit

Fast Company

Creative Director: Florian Bachleda

Photography Director: Leslie dela Vega

Photographer: Aaron Fallon

Heidi: How did the concept come about for this shoot?
Aaron: Kathy Nguyen (Senior Associate Photo Editor – no longer at Fast Company) sent me a detailed email explaining the overall focus of the Fast Talk section for that particular issue: healthcare —  and the innovators and entrepreneurs who are leading the way in disrupting the status quo — many come from backgrounds outside of healthcare.

She also gave a me a lot of details about GoodRx and the background of the founders Scott and Doug. And she already had images of the office space as well, which she sent along, so a lot of my usual questions were answered in the very first email I received from her regarding the shoot. She also sent me a few ideas they were discussing at the magazine and asked if I might have any ideas. After looking at the location photos I sent back 4 written ideas, with sketches/mockups based on some of the concepts she had sent me and also incorporating my own ideas.  (I often use location photos and create mockups using clipart.  I find it helps when people can see how something might look in the actual location space, as opposed to an imagined space — then they can choose if they want to go further with an idea or not…

They discussed my ideas at the magazine and approved 3 of them.  There was some back and forth about the execution of the shots, some slight changes they wanted, etc.  They were very communicative and I felt the art direction was very clear and they were open to my ideas — my favorite type of collaboration!

I went ahead and scouted the location since it is close to my house and I was available.  I’m glad I scouted.  There was a logistical issue with one of my original concepts (that I  found when I scouted) so the next best option was to move a shot into the conference room — and since I was already planning on having pills for two of the other shots (one was a setup that didn’t run in the magazine) I thought that it might be fun and interesting to litter the conference room table with pills and pill bottles.

Did you have a prop stylist to get all the pills?
I got all of the props myself.  Bottles from the deep valley.  Pills from the eastside.

If so were they hard to procure?
Not particularly.  Apparently, empty pill capsules aren’t that difficult to come by.  The pill bottles were easy.  Basically, google and a few phone calls and a bit of driving across town…

Your subjects seems lively, was it easy to get them to juggle and play along?
Yeah, it was pretty relaxed.  We started off with the conference room shot and my assistants and I slowly built up the table with lots and lots of pill bottles.  I let Doug and Scott  continue building with the pill bottles as it gave them something to do.  I think props (when appropriate) allow the subject to relax a bit and giving someone something to do makes things so much more natural on camera.  I gave little bits of direction here and there and let them go with it.  By the time we got to the juggling shot (it was the third setup of the day), they were plenty used to it.  I think this was one of the last images taken that day.

Have you been doing alot of editorial lately, if so, how do you promote yourself, what’s been most effective?
I do a moderate amount of  editorial (but hey, I shot a magazine cover yesterday!) – of course, there’s always room for more!  I tend to split my time somewhat evenly between editorial and advertising.

What sort of volunteer projects are you involved with?
Over the last few years I’ve tried to find a way to use my photography in a beneficent manner.   When it comes to pro bono work, I’ve found that it really depends on the project as to whether or not it’s going to be both positive and fulfilling.
Above images attached are from one of the Taproot Foundation projects I worked on for A.C.O.F (A Community of Friends) “a nonprofit affordable housing developer for people with special needs.” that also “serve homeless and low-income persons, including transit-oriented developments, supportive housing for veterans and mixed-population housing”
Above images from working with KCRW

I done a few projects with the Taproot foundation that turned out well, and since then I have aimed my efforts at a project that I’m a bit more hands on from start to finish.   It’s  just getting started here in Los Angeles — and it focuses on young adults who have aged out, or are about to age out of the Foster Care System.  It’s called The Aging out of Foster Care Project and was initiated in NYC by Maggie Soladay, and I believe a Seattle version of the project was also completed.   A photo editor friend and I are starting it up in Los Angeles — and we’ve put together a small group of photographers, writers, editors, and a graphic designer.  We’re still looking to fill a few of the writing positions and ultimately we plan to turn the project into a published book like they did in New York. (http://salaamgarage.com/2013/book-on-sale-now/).

I also work with KCRW on occasion (the awesome NPR affiliate for Los Angeles and surrounding areas) , which is a lot of fun.  The people that work and volunteer there are great.  I’m happy to help them out, and sometimes I get something interesting for myself as well.

As for promotion, I send print promos about every 3-4 months and epromos about every 6-8 weeks.  And I try to do face-to-face meetings whenever possible.  I think face-to-face meetings are invaluable when I can get them.  In all honesty, I think print promos are what open the doors to those face-to-face meetings. My best guess is that most of the bigger editorial jobs I’ve gotten are due to having a fairly consistent print promo campaign. And just to kind of reinforce that idea, Anna Alexander and Julia Sabot just featured some of my print promos on their Daily Promo post.  (http://www.dwell.com/post/article/promo-daily-aaron-fallon)

I also use the social networks too, mostly instagram and tumblr.  I can’t say if any work or meetings have ever come that way, but it’s working for me as far as staying on people’s radar and keeping them on mine too…

This Week In Photography Books – Aaron Huey

by Jonathan Blaustein

My mother was sitting in her home, recently, minding her own business. Suddenly, she heard a loud thump, and was shaken and concerned. (Obviously.)

Mom looked out the window and saw a majestic, brown and gray raptor. It was lying on the ground, just outside. As she peeked, its last breath escaped into the atmosphere. It was beautiful, she thought. So beautiful.

Later in the day, she invited me over to see it. I arrived, and realized I was looking at a Peregrine Falcon, meant to be the fastest creature known to man. It was perfectly still, lying on the brown dirt, but flies and ants were crawling on the corpse, preparing for a large meal.

“What should we do with it,” my Mom asked?

A fair question.

Immediately, I thought of our good family friend, a Native American artist, who lived less than a mile away on the Taos Pueblo. After a brief call, she agreed to take the bird, honor its spirit, and make sure the feathers were harvested properly to be used in ceremonial attire. Problem solved.

I roughly shoveled our dead, new friend into a garbage bag, and entrusted it to my almost-six-year-old son. He was entranced, holding it carefully, and kept saying, “I like it so much. I like it so much.” He wanted to keep it, so we discussed the taxidermy process, and my belief that the bird’s soul would be sad, trapped on a shelf until we moved or died.

We delivered the cargo in short order, and were promised it would be treated with respect. My son asked for the talons, as it was clear the Falcon was now his spirit animal. (Mine used to be a coyote, then an eagle, but now it’s a snake.) Needless to say, as crazy as the two previous sentences might sound to you, out here, they’re commonplace concepts.

Our collective fascination with the religion and culture of Native America will never abate. It is a permanent fixture in global consciousness, one that enables us all to focus on the majesty that remains in a set of communities that have been ravaged beyond belief. Our collective shame, so much less pleasurable a sensation, gets buried under our obsession with magic and mystery.

Whether or not you forever brand me as a new-age hipster, I’m speaking the truth. Having been around Native American communities since I was a teen, and written my first essay excoriating US policy as a freshman in high school, I speak with confidence. The vestiges of conquest have yet to lift from the broad shoulders of Native America, and the resulting alcoholism, drug and sexual abuse, and internecine violence are max-level-tragic.

I wish things were different. Would that I could make it all better. Would that anyone could. As photographers, image makers, and media manipulators, it’s hard to imagine anyone capturing that spirit of desperation, misery, beauty, and cultural pride. Even if it could be done, would it make a difference? In an age of infinite distraction, if a tree of truth falls on a plain, will anyone be there to listen?

Fortunately, this is not a thought-experiment. Aaron Huey has put in the requisite time, and spent years among the Oglala Lakota in South Dakota. You might have heard of the Pine Ridge reservation before, but you’ve never seen it like this.

The project, which has received much acclaim, is now in book form, called “Mitakuye Oyasin,” published by Radius. Like last week’s offering, this one speaks for itself. I’ve seen bits and pieces of Mr. Huey’s work on the Internet, and admired from a far. But now, I’m officially blown away.

The photographs contained within are supremely excellent, and drip with tension and emotion. It’s a big, well-crafted book, and there are many photos, (and a few inserts,) so I’ll only be able to share a small sample, unfortunately. You’ll have to buy it to get the full impact.

With my eyes closed, I can see a little girl bathing in the filthy kitchen sink, surrounded by dirty dishes, a boy playing atop a trash pile, pockmarked faces and swollen noses, and another boy, leaning out his window, talking to a friend on horseback. There was a graffiti tag that said “All my heroes killed cowboys,” or something like that. I recall a cavalcade of people carrying a fallen tree, a masked gunman, a child pressed against the rear window of an overstuffed car, and a bison in someone’s back-yard.

I’m sure I come off as an ethnocentric American, at times. (I do love this country, though I live in a spot that is far from typical.) Love it or hate it, the fact remains that this continent was stolen, and most of its inhabitants were killed. We cannot change this, so we choose to forget.

The depth of poverty experienced on many, if not all, Native American reservations in this country is a national disgrace. Can it be improved? Is there any hope at all? I don’t know.

I can tell you that if you want to see for yourself what an in-depth reality looks like, this is the book for you. That Mr. Huey is a Caucasian-American has no bearing on this story. He may have a spirit animal, as I do, or he might believe that such babble, out of the mouth of a gringo, is disrespectful and bourgeois. I have no way of knowing.

But I have come to see this weekly column as an opportunity to shine light on the best work out there. Some weeks I’m funny, and some weeks I’m not. Today, I’m just doing whatever I can, small as the gesture might be, to claw back some of our collective ignorance. No matter what you’re doing today, or how pitiful your paycheck has become, there are people out there in far worse shape than you are. And they were here first.

Bottom Line: A brilliant book that honors a culture, and exposes our national disgrace

To Purchase “Mitakuye Oyasin” Visit Photo-Eye

Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.

Art Producers Speak: Erik Madigan Heck

We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.sease@verizon.net

Anonymous Art producer: I nominate Erik Madigan Heck. I had the pleasure to meet him over a year ago. He has such a thoughtful process and is really going places.

How many years have you been in business?

I started photographing when I was 14, and finding my path in the industry around 23, and since then it’s been about 6 more years of photographing and clarifying what I want to say with photographs.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?

Technically, I’m self-taught (although I’m not a very technical photographer). I did go on to study photography and film-related media in graduate school. (I received my MFA from Parsons.)

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?

The photographer who I always credit for really whetting my appetite for photography over other mediums in art was Harry Callahan. He was able to create these supremely complex compositions out of very simple elements—and very few elements, I might add. He was the all-time minimalist. However, unlike most minimalist artists, his work retained emotion, and humanity, or a deep sense of love of life. I saw photography as a medium that was actually doing something new when Callahan took photographs, because he had perfected this space where reduction and minimalism were not exclusive to humanity.

How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?

Honestly, I don’t really pay attention to what I think art buyers or advertising agencies are looking for (that’s who I assume you’re referring to when you say “creatives”). My work doesn’t adhere to a specific time or place, and I don’t think it belongs to a specific photographic and generational movement. In fact, it probably couldn’t be more different from my generation’s photography, which would be easy to argue has very much been defined by Ryan McGinley, and the beautifying and documenting of youth culture. What I think keeps my work fresh is that it isn’t contemporary in its aesthetic stamp, nor does it deal with youth culture. It aims for something much broader, yet at the same time it tries to deal with contemporary ideas about where photography is going and hopefully challenges the idea of belonging to “now.” I think underneath the purposeful beauty of the image lie a lot of questions that are worth asking. Art should always ask questions.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?

No, clients typically don’t hold me back. I’d like to think if they’ve hired me, they’ve already made a decision to take a risk and are willing to go all in. My work isn’t for everyone. It’s very specific, and it’s not necessarily what the mass public is used to digesting, and I think most clients I work with have come to me for that very reason.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?

I release new work almost weekly online on different websites. I’m a huge advocate of publishing online, as opposed to in print. As much as I love the printed object—the beauty of books, and zines, and seeing something in a magazine—the point is for as many people to see and be affected by my work, and the Internet’s reach is far greater any book or magazine.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?

Inherently, art buyers need to be shown what is contemporary by the artists, not the other way around. Artists have the unique position of defining what buyers need, and creating a new mode of thinking and desire. My advice would be to remember as the artist you always are in the position of power, even though it may not appear that way in the commercial landscape anymore.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?

Yes, always. Every project I do is for me, even if it’s a commission. I don’t differentiate from commercial and private work. I see them as always integrated. One ongoing project I’m always working on is photographing flowers, which I’ve found to be one of the most challenging subjects to work with.

How often are you shooting new work?

I try to shoot new work, or at least concept it, every week.

Erik Madigan Heck was born in Excelsior in 1983, to Croatian and Northern Irish parents. He earned his MFA in Photography and Film Related Studies from Parsons School of Design in New York in 2009- where he currently lives and works. Heck is a continuing guest lecturer in both the graduate and undergraduate programs at The School of Visual Arts in New York, and is the creative director of the semi-annual art journalNomenus Quarterly 

Heck’s advertising and editorial clients include Levis, BMW, Neiman Marcus, Eres, Vanity Fair, W Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, TIME, Le Monde, The New Yorker, amongst many others. His fashion clients include Ann Demeulemeester, Haider Ackermann, Giambattista Valli, Kenzo, Mary Katrantzou, and The Row. 

In 2012 Erik Madigan Heck was a recipient of “The Shot” award, and named as one of the top 6 “exhilarating new talents” by W Magazine and the International Center of Photography. In 2011 he received both the Forbes Magazine 30 under 30 Award, as well as the PDN 30 Award. Heck was also nominated for the prestigious ICP Infinity award in the applied fashion category. Heck is also a past National Scholastic Gold Medal recipient.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

The Weekly Edit
Variety: Chris Mihal and Bailey Franklin

- - The Daily Edit
(photograph by  Francois Dischinger )
(photograph by  Jamie Chung)

Variety Magazine

Creative Director: Chris Mihal
Director of Photography: Bailey Franklin
Art Director: Cheyne Gateley
Photo Editor: Janine Lew

Variety has seen some changes recently with the redesign, going to a weekly. In terms of keeping the magazine moving forward what do you hope to do with the project?

Chris: I just put together a presentation for the group last week. It started with asking them to think back where they were 5 months ago, proceeded by showing images of old daily Variety pages. Followed by some of the highlights from that week’s issue. In this business we tend to forget how fast it’s moving and how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time. Robb Rice and Nelson Anderson did such an amazing job setting up an informative and smart product, but we need to keep working with the staff to keep it evolving and growing. I used the analogy of buying a Porsche but not knowing how to drive a stick. I figured automobile references were appropriate for LA, especially with our owner Jay. But keeping it moving forward, I think we need to be better at pacing throughout the book, planning, short form storytelling. We’re falling into the trap of thinking of every piece of content as long-form which is a tough newspaper mindset to break, but we’re getting there slowly. Planning is a big issue for us when approach celebrities and getting them to commit to shoots.


(photograph by  Jamie Chung)

You came from managing several different titles both weeklies and dailies, (Creative Director at Asbury Park Press Design Studio-Gannet) how is it to focus just one one project? What’s been your biggest challenge?

Chris: Ya, I came from a big operation of doing 15 daily newspapers and its weeklies with a staff of over 70 designers. In a situation like that you have to accept the idea of picking battles and living with a lot of simple, rudimentary pages and content. At Variety, it’s the opposite. We place a premium on every single page and these books are anywhere from 100-120 pages a week (150 for Cannes). We’re putting out a magazine that’s bigger than a lot of monthlies, so it gets pretty intense but that’s what makes it exciting. On top of that, I walked in at the worst possible time. It was two weeks before we started doing daily issues for the Cannes Film Festival as well as the weekly issue. That was then followed by putting out standalone issues for the Emmys during June which recently concluded. So there have only been a few weeks to focus solely on the weekly. But I think my previous experience prepared me a little for that workload, but it was a very intense first two months.

Tell us about the cover direction, is it mostly image or concept based?  What direction are you moving towards in terms of photography?

Chris: We try and keep a good balance of illustration and photography with the cover. Our stories tend to be more on the conceptual side which is what separates us from our competition, but I’m a firm believer in never limiting our tools to tell a story. I’m lucky to have rockstars like Bailey Franklin and Larry Williams to really think out how to best tell the story visually. We’ve run into subjects that want a little too much creative control, so we’ve taken the approach of finding the right image and pairing it with illustration. We’ve run into the issue of having to visually represent something as abstract as TV Upfronts, so we went with Andy Samberg who was staring in one of the more anticipated shows to be picked up. Right now we’re still building up a reputation for smart visual storytelling and photography, so getting access hasn’t been easy. But the more we shoot and the better we get at planning, the access issues will go away. We’ve done some of that by shooting Samberg, Steven Spielberg was on the cover a few weeks ago. J.R. Mankoof did some amazing work for us when we were doing panels for our Emmy content. But part of me is glad it’s hard to get access because it keeps us balanced with our approach. Otherwise we might fall in a rut of shooting celebrities for each cover and we start to look like every other magazine.

 

(photograph by  Brian Finke)

Heidi: How much movie Hollywood knowledge did you have coming into this project?

Chris: I remember sitting in the first edit meeting and thinking, “What the hell are these people talking about?” Names were being dropped left and right. Variety is well known for developing it’s own terminology, so for the first few weeks I had to preface my questions with “I hope I don’t sound dense, but …” It has probably been the hardest adjustment since taking on the new job. But luckily I have a staff that’s well versed in the industry from years of experience as well as Nelson to answer any stupid questions I might have.

What’s your favorite movie?

Chris: The favorite movie is a tough question. If I could only watch one movie for the rest of my life it’d probably be Fight Club. Norton and Pitt are amazing. Fincher is probably one of my favorite directors. The story is original. And it’s completely appropriate to end every single day with the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?”

You arrived from the East coast, so far whats the biggest difference is terms of work?  East vs West?

Chris: I think the one thing I’ve noticed is the number of creatives in editorial are far less than what I would have expected for a city the size of Los Angeles. New York goes without saying is the epicenter for what we do, but I didn’t think there would be such a disparity between the two cities. So we’re constantly looking for up-and-coming talent in LA.

Hollywood has a busy schedule, how hard is it to plan shoots and secure time?

Bailey: Scheduling is definitely one of our biggest challenges. We often have only a day or two to put together a shoot from the time that we first hear about it, so we have had plenty of practice working with the subject to quickly assess a situation and come up with the best options available. We also have to be extremely flexible as we frequently have only ten to fifteen minutes with someone, and that time frame can shift multiple times in the course of production. Fortunately, we have a roster of very creative and experienced photographers who are very adept at quickly sizing up any given location and making something happen. It doesn’t always go as planned or hoped, but I’d like to think that we are getting better at reducing the number of clunkers over time.

If I were a photographer, how would I land a shoot with you? and do I have to have shot a celebrity to be considered?

Bailey: To be honest, although we sometimes shoot celebrities, we are primarily entertainment industry focused, so a celebrity portfolio isn’t really necessary. I love getting old fashioned promo cards, and I make a point of clicking on every email link he gets from photographers. We are big believers in taking chances and working with new talent, especially if their work shows a really strong visual identity and flexibility dealing with a range of subjects and lighting situations. The more they can demonstrate the ability to create smart, fresh and compelling images out of the most basic of elements, the better!

Pricing & Negotiating: Portraits of Real Customers for Advertising Shoot

by Jess Dudley Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Environmental portraits of real customers/users on location.

Licensing: National Advertising (Print, Web and OOH) and Collateral use (in all media) of up to eight “hero” images for three years from shoot date. We used specific language requested by the agency: unlimited national print, in-store signage, OOH electronic media and online video use.

Location: Four homes/small businesses in Southern California.

Shoot Days: Three.

Photographer: Seasoned East Coast based lifestyle and portrait shooter.

Agency: Large, based in New York.

Client: Prominent electronics manufacturer with a household name.

Here’s the initial estimate:
Click to enlarge.Click to enlarge.

Here’s how I arrived at those numbers:

Concept/Licensing: The agency came to us with four distinct concepts/ads, each portraying a specific product in use at home or in a business. The client had already selected the talent (real customers), from a casting they did using social media, that considered the subject’s look, their space and their story. The photographer was charged with covering two situations with each person at their home or business; one portrait, posed with product, the other candid, product in use. Since two of the locations were relatively close to one another, we were asked to quote it assuming we could double up the talent and locations on one of the three shoot days.

When determining licensing fees, I usually value the first image higher than the rest. It is not uncommon for a client to build a campaign around a single hero image and then have several supporting images. For projects that feature only one concept/product but ask for alternate talent, wardrobe or slight compositional variations, I routinely set the value of the first image based on the licensing, concept and complexity, then determine a percentage value for each additional image, typically dropping down to 50-75% the value of the first image. The reason being that each of the slightly varied additional images doesn’t go that much farther to help the end client convey their message. In cases where the concepts vary to target different audiences, emphasize different product features, or promote different products made by the same client, I will assign a higher percentage to the additional images, 75-100% the value of the first. In this case, the client makes two different product lines, one for business, one for home. They also make a variety of products within each of those segments. For those reasons, I decided to set the fee for the four portraits at one rate, and the candid variation at 50% of that price.

Considering the use, size/prominence of the client & agency, number of images, various brand messages achieved, volume of work/shoot days, and the photographer’s experience, I set the fee at 8000.00 for each of the four portraits and 4000.00 for each of the candids. For the purposes of the estimate, I bundled it all together as an overall licensing/creative fee of 48000.00. Blinkbid’s bid consultant provided a range of 9450.00-13,500.00 per image, or 226,800.00-324,000.00 for all eight. Corbis quoted 17,500.00 per image for the first year and didn’t have a three year option for the quote pack I’d selected. Fotoquote suggested 30,976.00 per image for the use. None of these resources readily factor in any discount for additional images/variations or the prominence of the client, but they still offer great perspective.

Photographer Travel/Tech-Scout Days: The photographer would need two full travel days and a tech/scout day to get a sense of the locations and talent/subjects before the shoot.

Producer Days: The producer (me in this case) is responsible for coordinating travel, scheduling and crew. This takes the pressure off the photographer. It’s the producer’s job to plan and coordinate the logistics so the photographer can focus on the making great pictures. I estimated two prep days, two travel, one tech/scout, three shoot and one wrap day. When the photographer is traveling, it is not unusual to bring his/her local producer.

First Assistant Days: The photographer would be bringing his first assistant. It is standard for a photographer to travel with a first. Since the photographer shoots with minimal lighting, only one trusted photo assistant was necessary.

Digital Tech Days: The photographer would be shooting tethered to allow for immediate image review and layout composting. The rate included the tech’s fee, a supped up 27″ iMac and all the necessary accouterments.

Equipment Rental: The photographer would be shooting with Canon DLSRs and lenses, basic grip equipment and a few Profoto packs/heads for supplemental light (if needed).

Image Processing for Editing: This fee covers the time, equipment and costs to handle the basic color correction, edit and upload of all of the images to an FTP for client review. Depending on number of shoot days and estimated number of scenarios/images, this rate can vary.

Selects Processed for Reproduction: This per image processing fee for the photographer to handle basic processing (color correction and blemish removal) for the client selects. Anything over and above the basic processing would be considered retouching and be billed at 150.00/hr, which is covered in the terms and conditions.

Location Scout Day: Even though the casting process required submission of scouting shots of each subject’s space, we wanted to get a professional out get some quality shots of each of the selected spaces to make sure we weren’t walking into any unusually difficult scenarios. I also wanted him to check out orientation, windows, and parking options.

Wardrobe Styling: We’d need a stylist to source wardrobe for each of the talent. Two options for each, one for the posed, one for the candid. I estimated two days to shop, three days for the shoot and one day to return. We budgeted 200.00 in non-returnable items for each wardrobe change.

Prop Styling: The prop stylist would need to purchase supplemental props to augment or update each space. We estimated two days for shopping, three days of shooting and one day of return for the stylist, one day of prep and three shoot days for the assistant, 500.00 in non-returnable props per location, and five days of prop-truck/van rental.

Groomer: Since we would only be shooting one talent at a time, we could get away with one wardrobe stylist and one make-up stylist who can also handle light wardrobe adjustments on set (a groomer). We included the groomer for all three shoot days

Airfare, Lodging and Car Rentals: Using Kayak, I priced out airfare & baggage costs, lodging and car rentals for the photographer, assistant & producer. I was sure to also include any taxes, fees, insurance and gas necessary.

Catering: I estimated three days of catering for 12 people at 50.00pp/day.

RV Days: Even though we were being provided indoor locations, I wanted to make sure our crew had the space to handle wardrobe, HMU and gear. RV’s also give the client/agency a space to hang out while shots are being set up and catering a place to stage.

Miles, Parking, FTP, Misc: I included costs for traveling meals, dinners, parking (at the hotel and airport), mileage, FTP for file upload and a little bit to cover any miscellaneous expenses that may arise.

Housekeeping: I made sure to indicate that the client/agency would be responsible for providing all advance scouting, casting, talent, locations and releases. Since these are all elements that might normally be included in a production estimate, I wanted to make certain it was clear that, as discussed, we would not be providing any of them and that the client or agency would be responsible for each.  Lastly, I noted that a 50% advance would be required.

At first, the art buyer told me that our numbers looked good, but then she called back a little later to say that they had another photographer who was willing to give them unrestricted use of all the pictures – for $10k less than we were bidding. She asked what we could do to match that. I have to admit, it’s a little annoying when a client asked us to meet another bidder’s licensing terms. After all, you can find any photographer to bid any price and terms. And it’s not reasonable to expect to have the pictures from one photographer at the price of another. I had a good enough relationship with the art buyer that I was able to call her out on this, asking that she ask the other photographer to raise his rates to meet ours. But, she wouldn’t do that. She also told us that the client wanted to license “outtakes” from the shoot to use on their website. And even though the client only wanted to use them on their website, they wanted the licensing to match that of the hero shots. Not being comfortable just licensing some unlimited number of images, we settled on an additional 32 images. Now, just because a client asks for something doesn’t mean you have to do it. I was pretty confident that my photographer was competing on quality rather than price, so while I didn’t feel that we need to match the other photographer’s terms we did decide to bend, coming down 3000.00 on the fee and including use of 40 images. Adding in the additional processing fees for the “outtakes” actually brought us back up above our original quote.

Here’s the final estimate:
Click to enlarge.Click to enlarge.

After a few days, the job was officially awarded to us and I immediately set to work on the production. The shoot went well and the agency, client and photographer were all thrilled with the results.

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing a project, please give us a call at (610) 260-0200. We’re available to help with any and all pricing and negotiating needs—from small stock sales to big ad campaigns.

This Week In Photography Books – Vanessa Winship

by Jonathan Blaustein

The fire alarm went off in the middle of the night. BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. I heard it first from the other end of the house, where the children sleep. It’s loud like a jet engine is loud: in a painful manner that will damage your hearing.

I was doped up on two Benadryl, as my allergies kicked up the other day. I never had them before last summer, but now I suffer like so many others. (From allergies, not fire alarms.)
Aggravated, I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep, but my muddled mind was afraid the BEEEEEEEEEPING might return.

I knew there was no fear of fire; only that the tired batteries were giving way, having been changed this time last year. My anxiety crested, and then it BEEEEEEEEEEEEEPED again. Before I knew it, a door creaked in the distance, and a crying child soon crept into bed. A good night sleep was not to be had.

So I sit here, now, trying to force my brain to think properly. Deadlines wait for no man, and books need to be reviewed. After three double-espressos, I felt now was as good a time to try as any other. Forgive me if I’m less-than-profound.

Fortunately, I picked a great book up off the stack this week. It should help alleviate your concern for my lack of witty banter. “she dances on Jackson” is a lovely publication, by Vanessa Winship, recently put out my MACK. (I have a love-hate relationship with those guys. Some books are poetic and perfect, like this one, while others stretch my credulity. At least they don’t play it safe.)

The book cover depicts an image of birds and trees. The color is as close to a “Burnt Sienna” crayola crayon as I’ve seen since I was eight. It’s a beautiful color, and yet the only one we’ll see. The rest of the book is in black and white.

I must have mentioned before that I came to photography on a cross-country road trip in 1996. Does that make me a sucker for this type of work? You bet it does. But given that we all still talk about “The Americans” as if it came out last week, I’m surely not alone in this preference.

So many artists are out there at a given time, pointing cameras at anything that moves. Or doesn’t. And yet, how often do we feel that someone has actually added to our overall body of knowledge? How often do we look at a photograph and think, I’d like to meet that person and visit for a while? Surely, I’d learn more about the human condition if only we could chat for a few minutes.

These are such pictures. I loved that all specific references to place were erased. It made me curious where she’d been. At first, it seemed like a Southern-based project, with drippy trees and lots of overgrowth. But, as I turned the pages, I saw mountains, and then desert that looked like here in New Mexico. Soon, Northern cities appeared, and industry followed.

The people within are mostly young, and don’t seem to be on top of the world at present. The landscape photos, devoid of people, share that sense of worn, warm comfort. The bank-type-office built into a dirt berm was a favorite, as was the tree stump adorned with shoes, and the abandoned subway cars sitting still on overhead tracks. Your favorites, invariably, will be different.

At the end, we get a taut, brief story, in French and English, that alludes directly to the otherwise opaque title. A list of locations is also provided, ending the confusion: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. (A pretty solid sample of the US of A, IMHO.)

I’ve been to all, save Montana, hence the sense of familiarity. One photo of some cotton growing along a dirt stretch took me right back to my own big adventure, in the previous century. I remembered a day in Mississippi, and how free it felt to be so unencumbered.

Bottom Line: Excellent, poignant B&W photos across contemporary America

To Purchase “she dances on Jackson” Visit Photo-Eye

Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.

 

Art Producers Speak: Nick Ruechel

We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.sease@verizon.net

Anonymous Art Producer: I nominate: Nick Ruechel. “I love his work, it has a lot of soul, his lighting is beautiful. He is a perfectionist and the connection he gets with subjects shows lovely in his portraits.”

‘Maximo & Agustin, Brooklyn, 2012’

‘India, Chinatown,NYC, 2011’

‘Rooz, Brooklyn, 2007’

‘Reggie Watts, Comedian, NYC, 2009’

‘Sahr Ngaujah, (FELA!), NYC, 2009’

‘Chico Hamilton, Musician, NYC, 2008’

‘Philip Glass, NYC, 2008’

‘Children in a rickshaw on their way to school, Mysore, India, 2012’

‘Visitors, Coney Island, Memorial Day, 2012’

‘Satmar Hasidim, East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2012’

How many years have you been in business?

11 Years

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?

My first encounter with cameras was in high school in Germany as a member of the photography club. We’d get access to Nikon F’s and B/W film and would be sent out on little photojournalistic assignments. I remember once covering the demolition of an historic building which had caused great upheaval in the local community. I had no idea what I was doing apart from rotating shutter and f-stop dials in such as way as to keep the light meter in a viable range of exposure. I felt accomplished because the resulting negatives were actually printable. The club dissolved a couple of semesters later which turned into a 10-year hiatus from taking pictures.

After moving to New York City and graduating from NYU in the late 90’s, I took a job as a freelance talent scout for a record company but I soon realized that I loved music too much to become involved with selling it: I was bored out of my mind. During that time, I purchased an old Nikon F3 with a 50mm lens and a couple of books on basic photographic technique. I began to experiment again: trial and error, roll-by-roll. I would get one or two contact sheets made per week and reviewed my mistakes. Luckily, I soon came across a couple of working photographers who were either sympathetic to my autodidactic plight or plain crazy to give someone a job who had no practical experience at all. I started as a 3rd assistant on German fashion catalogue shoots and worked part-time in the equipment room of a major rental studio in Manhattan. I didn’t do much else; it was a full-immersion crash course.

After freelancing for a number of renowned portrait and fashion photographers for about 18 months, I wound up becoming Annie Leibovitz’s full-time first assistant for two years which seemed like transitioning from weekend outings in the National Guard to full-out warfare in the Marine Corps. It was the best finishing school I could have hoped for. After my tenure, I quit assisting and to went out on my own. It was time.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?

As cliché as it may sound, Irving Penn probably is a central figure in my photographic development. The discipline and integrity of his photographs have always fascinated me. He was a true innovator across so many genres of photography. Penn’s approach to taking portraits still seems to be the basic blueprint from which so many of us operate, knowingly or unknowingly. Arnold Newman, Jeff Wall and William Eggleston are others who subsequently informed and influenced my ideas about the color environmental portrait. The list is long and always evolving.

Not surprisingly, I have always loved film and cinematography ever since I was old enough to be admitted to a Sunday matinée. But it isn’t photography or visual art per sé which motivated me to choose this profession: it’s more the idea that you can bring something fresh and new into existence every day, meet complete strangers through an “instrument” and learn something about their condition, even if it’s just within the span of a brief moment. It enables you to develop a point of view about the constant sensory impingement that is life. That’s my inspiration. I think that’s what aesthetics are, ultimately.

How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?

In my opinion, staying true to yourself implies that you trust and follow your creative instinct. That is ultimately what clients hire you for. Contemplating too much what ‘others’ may like, can be dangerous to one’s process. This is not to say that you shouldn’t follow direction in the commercial realm: that is what you are getting compensated for. In the ideal case, a client will trust/expect you to bring your personal vision and ideas to the project so it becomes synergetic: a collaboration.

There are lots of good “technicians” in this business. Executing decent lighting and any other part of photographic technique is a function of practice; even a part of the so-called “eye” is part of that. A way of looking at the world in photographic terms (such as composition) can be learned but it doesn’t replace raw talent: it merely supports it. Once you master technique, you should ‘forget’ it and pay attention to what is really going on around you. Creatives want to see a tangible point of view; images which reflect a sense of identity – a thread of sorts that permeates your work. Some people call that ‘style’, although I think that term is a bit limiting (Maybe it’s necessary to be categorizable in order to be successful in this new environment). In the end, it’s externalizing some of what’s inside of you.

By contrast, it’s also very important to be content to do absolutely nothing sometimes. Putting all your emphasis on being prolific can often come at the expense of producing mediocre work. There is a new theory in the field of Quantum Physics which examines how the creative process really works in humans. The first stage is information gathering, the second stage, a state of inertia or ‘incubation’, as it were, where we permit ideas and concepts to proliferate within our mind. It all sounds pretty haughty and theoretical but it does make sense to me. Then again, everyone’s different. If you can produce 20 good pictures each day, good for you. Charles Bukowski most likely wasn’t too involved with physics and he once said: “This is very important — to take leisure time. Pace is the essence. Without stopping entirely and doing nothing at all for great periods, you’re gonna lose everything…just to do nothing at all, very, very important. And how many people do this in modern society? Very few. That’s why they’re all totally mad, frustrated, angry and hateful.” Ironically, he was a very “prolific” writer so go figure.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?

It depends what shop you are working with: some agencies represent more traditional clients and have to be a bit more conservative in their creative approach. If time permits and it’s feasible, I try to shoot things in a number of different ways from ‘safe’ to a bit more towards the proverbial ‘edge’. Every situation is different and you generally get a good idea at the outset as to how flexible the client is when it comes to creative concepts and their execution. There is a time and place for everything.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?

Websites and iPads have replaced much of the physical portfolios photographers were circulating in large numbers only a few years ago. Not having to constantly update ten or more books with prints and sleeves is a bit of a blessing in disguise. Creatives can now pre-screen your work on the web to determine whether your work is consistent and appropriate for their purposes. It’s more productive and time-saving for everyone involved.

Nonetheless, I feel that a face-to-face meeting with a client and showing physical prints is more important than ever before. Nowadays, personal meetings are also an examination of your personality: we live in a world with far fewer jobs and a lot more photographers than ever before. There are thousands of talented artists out there who can execute any given project well. An individual in a position to award you a job will want to make sure you are a nice person and a team player. Nobody wants to work with a Diva/Ego-tripper.

I email images to art buyers and photo editors on a regular basis but I personalize every message rather than ‘mass-blasting’ 5000 potential clients. I think that invites immediate deletion. It seems better to develop a relationship with a select number of people than carpet-bombing the entire industry. Keep it short and sweet. If an art buyer or creative director takes time out of their crazed schedule to click on your message, they most likely want to see one image and a brief message, rather than your life story and half your website. If you have the time, check out the agencies you’re targeting and what accounts they are servicing. Is your work applicable to any of their accounts?

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?

As mentioned before, I think in quite a few cases, this approach can put you on the road to confusion and failure: you’ll never truly know what creatives are looking for and things are always changing. You’ll pose that question to 15 people and you will most likely get 15 different answers. Portfolio reviews are a good indicator of this: some people will respond to certain images, others will react differently. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open to criticism and input: some people might be better editors of your work than you are. I have good friends in the industry who have pointed out things to me that were of great value.

One’s relationship with art is quite personal and subjective. I follow my intuition but regularly get feedback from my agent, peers, and other individuals whose judgment and experience I trust. One can sometimes be too close to one’s own work: others have more distance and that can be conducive to a better edit. No one book is right for all occasions; every possible job you bid on might require a modification of your portfolio, i.e., the addition or subtraction of images which might or might not be relevant to the project at hand.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?

Always. Personal work is essential to my mental health. I always feel compelled to self-assign to pursue ideas that I find exciting and relevant. Coincidentally, that is the work that creatives seem to respond to most enthusiastically. To me, it’s the most accurate reflection of who you are as a photographer. I constantly write down new ideas for new images in a small journal I carry. I refer back to it, re-edit, modify and delete things until I select something to work on.

How often are you shooting new work?

Apart from using my iPhone and Instagram, I try to shoot something once or twice a week, depending on how busy I get with editorial and commercial assignments. It’s not a compulsive thing; I try to relax as much as possible which paves the way for being inspired to go out and putting a good idea into a better photograph.

Nick Ruechel was born in Berlin, Germany and moved to New York City in the mid-1990’s. His photographs have appeared in many editorial publications such as: Vogue, Vanity Fair, Esquire, New York Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, Men’s Journal, VIBE, Interview, Wired, Fast Company and others. Notable commercial clients include: NBC/Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Television, CNN, Bravo and Showtime Networks, AVAYA, Sun America Banking, Hyperion Books, Discovery Channel and others Some of Ruechel’s recent work has been selected to appear in AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHY’s AP29 annual, to be published in May of 2013. Besides editorial and commercial assignments, Ruechel has been working on a large portrait retrospective of Jazz musicians since 2004, entitled, ‘I can’t get started’ , a new series of close-up video portraits, entitled ‘Padartha’ and a documentary short film, entitiled “Las Piezas Que Faltan (“Missing Pieces”) He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Photographer Arne Svenson

- - Working

The New York photographer who provoked controversy by photographing his neighbors through their apartment windows and exhibiting the images in a show has fended off lawsuit for invasion of privacy. New York State court judge Judge Eileen  A. Rakower dismissed the claim against photographer Arne Svenson, ruling that the photos in question were protected by the First Amendment. She also ruled that the images did not violate New York State civil rights laws, as the plaintiffs had claimed.”An artist may create and sell a work of art that resembles an individual without his or her written consent,” Judge Rakower wrote in her decision, underscoring a central principle of the case.

via PDN.

This Week In Photography Books – Patrik Budenz

by Jonathan Blaustein

Tourists just love Times Square. They flock, as if someone was giving out free, all-you-can-eat ice cream. Hordes of people drive, train or fly across the country, just so they can eat in a Fridays. (Or Sbarro) Depending on your personality type, you either find that ironic and hysterical, or poetic and sad.

The reality is, most people prefer to know those things that reenforce what they already believe. It’s easier to fit new information into the tidy, empty folders of a well-organized mind. Juggling juxtaposition and hypocrisy is best left to professional bloviators like me. Most folks from the heartland, therefore, are happy to hit Times Square, take in a Broadway show, and then hop a cab back to Newark Airport.

I mention this, because I recently had occasion to view several versions of Ansel Adams’ “Moonrise over Hernandez,” which is meant to be the world’s most famous photograph. It reads differently here in New Mexico, as we locals always giggle that Mr. Adams hornswoggled everyone so thoroughly. Majestic and magical as the photo might be, it depicts the massively edgy Española Valley.

Española, or Espa, as we call it here, is among the most hardcore places in the New Mexico. It sits along an important drug trafficking route, so heroin is always a massive concern. (Probably an epidemic, but who am I to say.) Mostly, Espa is a rough, tough, La Raza-style place, filled with bumpin’ low-riders and tinted down, jacked up trucks. It’s like a mini-East LA, surrounded by mountains and desert cliffs.

As I was approaching Espa from the South last week, I noticed a billboard that almost made me laugh milk through my nose. (Which is tricky, if you’re not actually drinking milk.) Some poor sap was advertising cremation services, right next to the local movie theater. Honestly. Cremation billboards? $1200 to pre-plan the vaporization of your bodily remains?

Of course, I found it ironic and amusing. (That’s the way I roll.) Perhaps someone else would have found it tragic; that the best way to get people to engage with the inevitability of death was with a roadside advertising message. It’s possible, even, that some old lady drove by, dialed the number, and gave up her credit card info on the spot. (Operators are standing by now. Our fires are the hottest around, so you don’t have to worry about any pesky bones rattling around the urn.)

Joke all you like, Blaustein, that still doesn’t change the fact that death is sad. Right? Well, I suppose so. I’d love to say that I’m so enlightened, I’m anxiously awaiting my chance to decompose into the waiting Earth. But it’s not so. I’m hoping to get as many good years on this planet as I can. (Aren’t we all.)

What comes next is not pretty, at least for the shell that houses our soul. We might not know where our spirit is headed after we die, but there is little surprise about where the corpse goes next. Which is why it’s surprising that I’ve never seen a book like the aptly titled “post mortem,” by Patrik Budenz, recently published by Peperoni Books in Germany.

*Spoiler Alert* Don’t look at the photos below if you aren’t prepared for a little gruesomeness. After last week’s Summer Vacation column, I came at you hard this week. Mr. Budenz’s book is literal, and looks at a succession of human remains at a funeral home. (Could be multiple homes, maybe even a morgue, but does it matter?)

Gray skin, suture marks, pursed lips closed forever, toes wrinkled like they’ve been in the bath too long… it’s all here. The open chest cavity was a bit much, but mostly, the book delivers on the title’s promise. The camera even follows the corpses into the cremation chamber, which is interesting, technically, but also provides a glimpse of something we were not meant to see.

It’s a fantastic photography project, embedded in a well-made, spartan book, that basically shows us something we work really hard to avoid. That’s as good a definition of excellent art as I’m likely to muster up today, sitting on my trusty green couch. Forgive me if I’ve upset your appetite, but there is always time to get hungry again. Until there isn’t.

Bottom Line: Powerful, excellent, morbid photos of dead people

To Purchase “post mortem” Visit Photo-Eye

Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.