Art Producers Speak: Evan Lane

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 Buyer: I nominate Evan Lane. He is a fantastic photographer that can work in any environment. He is really professional, flexible and has a great attitude. He and his crew are a pleasure to work with.

Part of a personal series called Ambien. Those late night moments that feel like a waking dream. Los Angeles CA, 2014

Part of a personal series called Ambien. Those late night moments that feel like a waking dream.
Los Angeles CA, 2014

The beautiful Heather. I have shot her with long hair and with short hair and I’d shoot her any which way.

The beautiful Heather. I have shot her with long hair and with short hair and I’d shoot her any which way.

Calisthenics, with my friend Chelsea

Calisthenics, with my friend Chelsea

And I also love capturing those in between moments, the subject never thinks you are going to use.

And I also love capturing those in between moments, the subject never thinks you are going to use.

Nighttime conjures magic.

Nighttime conjures magic.

Best shots are the ones where they never even knew you were there.

Best shots are the ones where they never even knew you were there.

From an editorial I shot last month for Bright Ideas Magazine.

From an editorial I shot last month for Bright Ideas Magazine.

From an editorial I shot last month for Bright Ideas Magazine.

From an editorial I shot last month for Bright Ideas Magazine.

This is from a Toyota Prius campaign I shot for Saatchi.

This is from a Toyota Prius campaign I shot for Saatchi.

True love in Lake Havasu.

True love in Lake Havasu.

Lake Havasu, Arizona, 2014

Lake Havasu, Arizona, 2014

Lake Havasu, Arizona, 2014

Lake Havasu, Arizona, 2014

This is another one from the Toyota Prius campaign I shot for Saatchi.

This is another one from the Toyota Prius campaign I shot for Saatchi.

Set still from a music video for Artist, Emily Sundblad

Set still from a music video for Artist, Emily Sundblad

Artist, Emily Sundblad

Artist, Emily Sundblad

This tortoise was just chilling in the middle of the desert during my editorial shoot for Bright Ideas Magazine.

This tortoise was just chilling in the middle of the desert during my editorial shoot for Bright Ideas Magazine.

This is a print ad for the company I started, Langly Camera Bags. www.langly.co

This is a print ad for the company I started, Langly Camera Bags. www.langly.co

How many years have you been in business?
I have been shooting about 4 years professionally.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I went to Emerson College for film. Photography was self-taught out of necessity for instant gratification. Filmmaking is such a lengthy and layered process from start to finish.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
I’d say it was a culmination of things. After my parents split when I was 4, my mom dated artists and scientists. These people influenced and strengthened my natural curiosity. My dad was a film editor and taught me how to be frame accurate. My grandparents exposed me to cultural experiences and would take me to tons of galleries and museums. From those experiences I was able to learn how to form my own subjectivity for art, the composition, textures, color palates and subject matter. I think narrative film has had a huge impact on the way I approach photography and see it as another form of story telling.

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?
I will never stop leaning or evolving as an artist and foremost as a human being. I think it is important to stay excited about what interests me. On many levels I am a documentarian and I approach photography as a window into my life.   I think I get hired for this unique perspective as result.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
I think it just depends on the client. A lot of the times there are really pragmatic reasons for a client to intervene, the nature of a forcing ideas for practical reasons can definitely cause the final product to deviate from the personal vision they hired you for to begin with.

I think it just depends on the client. A lot of the times there are really pragmatic reasons for a client to intervene, the nature of a forcing ideas for practical reasons can definitely cause the final product to deviate from the personal vision they hired you for. I personally like the challenge of thinking outside of the box, inside of a box.
 
Other clients have less pressure from a large chain of command and hand over the reins. Those are usually the best shoots because the best relationships are ones built on trust. They want what they saw in your portfolio.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
Of course there is the conventional way of getting out there, meeting art buyers and showing my book. I think it’s all about continually shooting new work, paid or not and then pushing that through social media. I have met a bunch of art buyers and art directors through Instagram. It’s a live-streamed portfolio that people are selectively subscribing to. It allows me to see how people react to my photos in an instant and on an almost subconscious level.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
If you stay true to your own personal vision, the ones who notice you are the ones who understand your work and see a place for it. You don’t find your audience, your audience finds you.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
I am always shooting for myself.

How often are you shooting new work?
2-3 days a week and I always have my camera on me.

——————

The work of LA-based photographer, Evan Lane, is unapologetically honest. His photography takes the form of a visual diary, documenting organic and relatable moments. The photos maintain that inherent effortlessness – breaths of life on pause. In 2012, Evan launched Langly to bridge the fashion and functionality of camera bags. Today, Langly can be seen on photographers on 5 continents and Evan can still be found on the road chasing down shots. If you need to get a hold of him, contact Dara at I Heart Reps.

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 Daily Edit – The New York Times Magazine: Dylan Coulter

- - The Daily Edit
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The New York Times Magazine

Director of Photography: Kathy Ryan
Associate Photo Editor: Clinton Cargill
Art Director: Gail Bichler
Designer: Raul Aguila
Photographer: Dylan Coulter

Heidi: Had you worked with the New York Times Magazine before?
Dylan: This was my first commission for NYT Magazine. I’ve been sending emails promos to the photo department for a couple years and in the last year Director of Photography Kathy Ryan had responded to several of them with kind words. With that said, it was an unexpected call when Clinton Cargill, Associate Photo Editor, called and asked if I’d like to photography and direct videos of the world’s best soccer players.
Congratulations. What work did you submit prior to being awarded the assignment? Along with print, did you send motion work?
I’m not certain if there was one thing that lead to the assignment but, the first email promo responded to was a multiple exposure image of professional baseball pitcher R.A. Dickey that I shot for The New Yorker and, also, a larger project for ESPN The Magazine entitled “Anatomy of a Pitch,” that consisted of both photographer and video.
   -2                                              Brad Ziegler, sinker pitch ESPN Magazine
                                                               
 -1                                               R. A. Dickey: New Yorker Magazine
                                                                                             
When you say Kathy Ryan was supportive, can you explain that a bit more?
I’ve always had enormous respect for Kathy, but hadn’t met her before this project. From afar, it’s always been clear to me that she has a tremendous eye and, of course, a reputation for commissioning immensely talented photographers. To actually work with her was a dream come true. She has a strong sense of vision from the magazine’s perspective, but also was an incredible advocate for my creative ideas as well. She was supportive at every step and had valuable insights along the way.
Where you afraid you were going to fail?
From the moment I was given the assignment there was a lot to do, so I didn’t have much idle time to contemplate a bad result. With that said, I was definitely  aware of the incredible forum that is NYT Magazine and I wanted to create something really good. The magazine did too, so that was always the driving factor and pushed me throughout the project, from developing treatments, to when I had the athletes on set, to whom I collaborated with at all  stages. Clinton and Kathy were instrumental in not letting failure be an option in so many ways. One key area, was by not taking no for an answer when it was unclear whether some of the athletes would be available to us.
Tell us about the idea development/execution for this shoot.
The goal of the project was to both photograph and create short films of the world’s best soccer players. We would travel to them, take portraits, create multiple exposure photographs of a particular skill each player is known for and make a short film about each athlete. The overarching idea was to focus on the athletic prowess and physicality of each athlete and capture that in an unexpected way.
You were awarded the grand prize assignment: The cover, the inside feature, video, a dedicated issue, international coverage. How did you deal with that type of pressure?
First and foremost, when I found out, I remember feeling excitement. It was a massive opportunity. I also felt incredibly fortunate to have been chosen for the commission. Also, frankly, some pride, in the sense, that the hard work up until that point was being recognized. I think most photographers in an unguarded moment, or perhaps even in a guarded one, would admit that a photography career can be a bit of roller coaster ride. This commission was a marker of sorts, that I was indeed on the right path. It’s not always easy to have perspective when you putting one foot in front of the next each day. All of those feelings though quickly settled, with the exception of being excited – that remained present throughout – and I started work on it like any other project.
This being a package assignment and not about one specific element, how did you approach the idea as a whole?  The covers where white, the inside pages where black, how did those concepts evolve?
Kathy and Clinton were interested in creating motion studies – multiple exposures images for the printed magazine and employing slow motion video. So that was initial framing that I started to concept from. I wanted to pare down everything, so the focus was on the beauty and skill of each athlete’s action. We took away everything that wasn’t necessary. I used black as the background for both the multiple exposures and the videos to bring the viewer immediately to the subject. Everyone was to be dressed in their national team jersey – fabulously bright colors. The ball we used was simple, all white and purposely pedestrian looking. Our lighting was a hard source and spare. For the video I had each athlete emerge for darkness to enhance the drama. The slow motion aspect, in the way we employed it, ran counter to how sports is typically portrayed. It encouraged the viewer to look at one single action and admire the masterful skill being performed. This was further enhanced by using a single take, no cuts for each video. Jake Silverstein, Editor-in-Chief, Kathy and Clinton, deserve enormous credit for encouraging this direction. The covers were intended as a contrast to the inside pages and were shot on white.
I know you had planned to have about 3 hrs with each athlete. At what point in the process did you discover you only had 8.5 minutes with Leo Messi? Where you able to  execute the more time consuming idea with other players?
Our initial creative direction – for the photography and film was based on having 2 to 3 hours with each athlete. That was the initial ask. Fairly early in the process, it became clear to Clinton Cargill, who was the primary photo editor and producer, we weren’t going to have that kind of time with the athletes. Everyone we were shooting plays in Europe and when we started the project, they were just getting into the playoffs. That was quickly to be followed by all of the athletes heading directly to their respective national teams in preparation for World Cup. With that said, we didn’t realize how little time we would have until just before each shoot. And that’s after we were told on several occasions that certain players were not available whatsoever! Clinton, to his credit, would not take no for an answer. In the end, we had between 8 and a half minutes and 25 minutes with each player. We had Leo Messi on set for the shortest amount of time. With the brief amount of time we had, we were able to stay true to our original creative direction, but had to be as efficient as possible. I didn’t want to waste a second of time and that was reflected in the choices we made in terms of shot list order, equipment and crew. My hats are off to the crew, many of which I was working with for the first time (all our shoots were in Spain). They were professional and extremely talented. My digital tech Andrew Katzowitz traveled with me from New York and my DP, Edward Gibbs traveled from London, everyone else was based in Spain.
I worked on the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine.  Imagery for news journalism is very different from imagery for consumer magazines.  Image manipulation is not a option. Period. How if at all did this alter you project and your ideas about your own work?
I’ve always believed that less is more in regards to retouching and prefer images to look natural and real, but flattering. Working with the NYT Magazine though was a new experience in this regard and frankly, took some getting use to. Retouching, in a traditional sense is not allowed. In the end, though, it’s was a great exercise in letting go and embracing more imperfection than I’m use to. Essentially being ok with fly away hairs and wardrobe wrinkles.
Because you are reporting for Times Magazine and documenting the athleticism of these players, am I correct in assuming these were all captured in one take? I see the multiple exposures were credited as photo illustration, was that a different type of credit for you?
The portraits were all single frames. The short films are comprised of a single take. The multiple exposures, though, were a composite of different takes and for that reason they were labeled “photo illustrations” as the NYT photography guidelines mandate. This was the first time that I’ve been credited in that way. Which is fine, I do think of the multiple exposures as being as much art as science. Purposely so. They’re technically an evolution of a film based multiple exposure. The technique is to capture each moment as a single photograph and then composite all of the frames together in post production. I work closely with my retoucher, Alex Verhave, to decide which frames to emphasize, through greater opacity, and which layers to de-emphasize, through more transparency. That helps create a visual hierarchy that leads the viewer through the image. In many ways, it’s more important what you leave out as what you choose to include.
Where the athletes shot all in the same location? If not what were the logistics like?
There were three shoots. Cristiano Ronaldo was shot in Madrid. Neymar Jr. and Andrés Iniesta were shot in Barcelona. Leo Messi was shot in Barcelona as well, several days after Neymar and Iniesta.
Because you were short on time, what were your interactions like with the players?  Any language barriers?
I think it’s really important to have a conversation with the subject on a general level and, also, explain what it is I’m after creatively. It used to surprise me, although I’m accustomed to it now, but a lot of athletes and personalities arrive to set having no idea what the concept is. I’ve always felt that involving the subject and having them take ownership is always more fruitful. With all that said, our time was so short and there was language issues. Cristiano Ronaldo speaks English well, so we could communicate easily. The other guys spoke just a bit of English. I speak a touch of Spanish, so we were able to general understand each other. There was always a translator on set, so he’d help convey whatever was not clear.
How did your former career as an advertising art director come into play with the video component?
It was tremendously helpful. Having started my career as an art director, I learned how to concept, storyboard and have a basic understanding of the production process. That said, for the video portion of this project I relied on the kindness and skill of others. Alexis Stember’s expertise was invaluable. She was my post production coordinator and advised on the production portion also. My cinematographer, Edward Gibbs, and editor, Georgia Dodson were essential. Many more people as well. This is an obvious statement, but video is such a collaborative medium. For this project it required the talent of many.
What was your inspiration for the music direction and where was it sourced?
I wanted the music to be unexpected and compliment the spare nature of the visual. During the video process, Georgia, Alexis and I kept discussing and both Philip Glass and Nine Inch Nails. And somewhat odd pairing, but that was the reference that I discussed with Will Bates of Fall On Your Sword who composed the music, Keith Reynaud who did the sound design and later Cory Melious who did the mix. Specifically, each piece needed something different in terms of tempo and emphasis, but we wanted them to family well together.

Where you afraid Neymar was going to hit you with the ball in the video?
Ha, no. I was actually hoping he would! Not the camera, but the plexi glass that was in front of the camera. In a couple of the early takes the ball was leaving frame too soon, so I asked Neymar to try and hit the camera. At first, he didn’t believe me, but once he understood I was serious, I think it engaged him even more. He seemed to like the challenge and maybe the mischievousness of it as well.

What did this assignment teach you and how did it further develop your skills as a photographer?
In many ways I’m glad this commission happened at this point in my career, 12 years in, and not earlier. At one point or another I drew upon most, if not all, I’ve learned along the way. More than anything it reminded me of the importance of grace under pressure. It truly was a dream assignment for a magazine I greatly admire shooting enormously famous personalities in a very short period of time. Sometimes the most important thing to remember was just to take a moment and breathe deeply!

Best advice for anyone starting out?
Certainly there is no one way, but I’d say first pursue a liberal arts education. There are so many more aspects to being a photographer than taking a picture, so it’s important to be able to express your ideas through writing and discussion. And then, I’d say, find photographers who’s work you admire and work for them, gain technical knowledge and insight into the business side of things, production – essentially all the aspects that go into a shoot. Always take photos, even if you’re working for someone else, make the time. With all that said, I didn’t do it this way. I went to school for art direction and ventured down that path first, then decided later on to somewhat blindly jump into photography. So, there’s many ways to get going, but that’s my advice for someone starting from scratch.

 

 

 

-2                                               Cristiano Ronaldo, “Quick Feet,  Slowed Down”

for Cristiano video click here

 

 

-1                                              Andrés Iniesta, “Quick Feet,  Slowed Down”

for Andrés video click here

 

-3                                              Neymar Junior, “Quick Feet,  Slowed Down”

for Neymar video click here

 
-1                                              video credits

 

 

 

Mishka Henner Interview – Part 1

- - Art

Mishka Henner is an artist based in Manchester, England. He’s been shortlisted for the Prix Pictet and Deutsche Borse Prizes, and was awarded the ICP Infinity Award for Art in 2013. His work is currently being exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and a solo show recently closed at Carroll/Fletcher in London.

Levelland and Slaughter Oil Field, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

Levelland and Slaughter Oil Field, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

OIL FIELDS - Cedar Point Oil Field- Harris County- Texas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

OIL FIELDS – Cedar Point Oil Field- Harris County- Texas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

OIL FIELDS - Levelland Oil - Gas Field- Texas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

OIL FIELDS – Levelland Oil – Gas Field- Texas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

OIL FIELDS - Natural Butte Oil Field- Utah, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

OIL FIELDS – Natural Butte Oil Field- Utah, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

OIL FIELDS - Wasson Oil - Gas Field- Texas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

OIL FIELDS – Wasson Oil – Gas Field- Texas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

Jonathan Blaustein: You probably don’t know this, but we were both nominated this round of the Prix Pictet prize. For “Consumption.”

Mishka Henner: Okay, right.

JB: I’m going to have a picture in the book. But you were chosen for the short-list. And you will be exhibiting your work at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, yes?

MH: Yes.

JB: I’ve been thinking about it a bit, and since you were short-listed and I wasn’t, I’ve come to believe that it makes you a superior human being to me.

MH: (laughing.) Clearly. Yeah. Although you’ve probably got a better paid job. But go on.

JB: You agree? We can go there?

MH: That I’m superior?

JB: Yeah. To me.

MH: It’s obvious. If I made the short list then you’re a loser. Although come next Wednesday, I may well be the loser. The question is, will I be the bigger loser because it will be on a bigger stage, or a smaller loser?

JB: Nobody even knew that I had been nominated and failed, until now.

MH: (laughing.)

JB: Here’s the way I look at it. I’m prepared to stipulate that you are superior to me, as a human being, and an artist, but your humiliation will likely be larger than mine. Which was heretofore in private. What do you say?

MH: (laughing.) Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right.

JB: Good. I thought we could establish that right away, so that you could realize “Holy Shit. He’s telling the truth. This isn’t a regular interview.”

MH: Yeah, okay. That’s fine.

JB: Good. We’re there now. Well, first of all, good luck. When I saw that Boris Mikhailov and Rineke Dijkstra were on that list, I felt OK about not making it. That’s the big leagues, bro.

MH: I know, I’m well aware of that.

JB: Your ascent seems to have been somewhat rapid, in that you were short listed for the Deutsche Borse prize, and got the ICP Infinity Award. Now the Prix Pictet. How did you get on this many radar screens this quickly?

MH: Fuck, I don’t know. The Internet?

JB: There it is.

MH: I’ve gone viral, I’ve given everyone a virus.

JB: (laughing.) Did you? Go viral?

MH: Well, yeah. I’ve never had a publisher, and I only started working with galleries in the last six months.

JB: Get out. Six months?

MH: Yeah, up to that point, all I’d been doing is print-on-demand books. Books that have maybe sold ten or twenty copies. Those books had a greater life online than as physical books, that’s for sure and a few of them went viral. I did a project called “No Man’s Land,” where I photographed sex workers across Southern Europe using Google Street View.

JB: Right.

MH: That was a print-on-demand book, and I made a just single copy of the book. The pdf was available online and it drew some controversy. A sex worker on the West Coast wrote about it and she was quite positive, but then a load of feminist sex workers on the West Coast basically went ape shit, trying to get the book banned, writing letters to the print-on-demand company.

I had to defend myself to the company’s lawyers and I guess I succeeded because they let me get on with it. After that I sold about 60 books and decided to bring out a second volume.

When the dust had settled I’d sold a few hundred books and “No Man’s Land” was short listed for the Deutsche Borse prize. It’s also the project that was nominated for this Prix Pictet but I didn’t submit it because I was tired of it. I’d been working on the “Beef and Oil” series and thought it would be more interesting to enter that. Nobody had really seen that work properly so I thought it would be interesting to launch it through a prize like that.

JB: You took a risk?

MH: I’d been nominated with “No Man’s Land” for the Prix Pictet for the Power theme two years ago, and didn’t get anywhere with it then. So the risk was that nobody would ever hear about it. Which was fine.

JB: I know how that feels.

MH: (laughing.)

JB: Hey, I made the book. You’ll see it. I’m not a total loser, just mostly a loser.

MH: A mere footnote.

JB: (laughing.) I’ll take that. But just tucking back, when you said the West Coast, you meant the West Coast of the United States?

MH: Yes. But most of the exposure I’ve had has been in the US anyway. In Europe, I’ve had some exposure, and the work has done well, but really, my work’s flying in America. That’s where people are taking notice of the work most and are buying it. The picture editors at the New York Times were my earliest supporters.

I’ve hardly sold any work in Europe.

JB: You guys are bankrupt as a Continent, essentially?

MH: Yeah. But people just don’t buy art here the way they do in the US. Maybe it’s to do with tax breaks, or something else. I don’t know.

There always seems to be something going on in the US about buying art, as opposed to Europe.

JB: You probably could have just stopped that sentence at buying. Right? We’re talking about “Consumption,” and my peeps have sort of perfected the idiosyncrasies of Capitalism. We Americans are proud of it.

MH: Yeah. You’ve done pretty well at it.

JB: And you guys don’t have a lot of disposable income. Even your football clubs are bought by other people. Come on. You’re in fucking Manchester.

Some Americans and some oil sheiks own your shit. You have to know this.

MH: I’m with the oil sheiks.

JB: Of course you are.

MH: That’s right.

JB: Two titles out of three. You’re with the winners. (ed note: Manchester City.)

MH: Look, the biggest photo museum in England has an acquisition budget of £12,000 a year, which is about $20,000. That might just about pay for a cleaner in a US museum. No disrespect to cleaners but that’s doesn’t offer much hope to artists.

JB: It would pay for one square inch of a Gursky.

MH: Exactly. I think that tells you something about the market here.

JB: We went right to the market. But “Consumption,” is the theme for this year’s prize. But we went right to the commodification aspect of Consumption. I’ve spent a bit of time in England in the last couple of years, and went to quite a few museums, which are free. The consumption of art that I saw in London was mind-boggling.

Families and kids and babies and grandmas. Anecdotally, I thought the consumption of art, with your eyes, was much more impressive than I have seen in American major cities.

MH: It’s possible. I think there’s a real hunger for it here, absolutely. And the market for that probably isn’t as developed as it is in the US. I think there are different reasons to do with tax laws, as I said. There are incentives for buying art that probably don’t exist in Britain or Europe.

But listen, I haven’t got a clue. We’re talking about things here that are way out of my league.

JB: I mean viewing. Looking. You must go to London a lot. Do you not notice the hordes that are there to absorb ideas?

MH: Yeah, but maybe we’re talking about different things. It’s true online as well. There’s a voracious appetite for new stuff to look at. It’s a bit like the Tumblr culture, where you’re looking at a waterfall of great stuff. Great imagery, great music. And we absorb it quickly.

We consume it super-fast, and spit it out just as quick. That’s as true in the art galleries as it is online. But as an artist, when it comes to the actual material fact of making a living by selling work, that’s quite different, I think.

Which is more what I was talking about before. We can talk about that other aspect of consuming data, or culture, if you like.

JB: I like to talk about all of it. I was just pointing out the natural way we gravitated. Of course, selling objects is a necessity, if you’re trying to make a living that way.

In America, we have so many more people, and so many more artists, that I think a very, very, very small percentage of contemporary artists even attempt to make their living exclusively through sales.

MH: Sure.

JB: Almost everyone, including the big dogs at Yale, is teaching, or running workshops, or writing. I call it the 21st Century Hustle, because almost everyone has to hustle over here. We don’t have the social service infrastructure that exists in Europe.

I personally live in the Wild West, but I think America is that way. Fend for yourself.

I like to think of the various strands of the process. Why we create? How we create? What we create? And then the market forces are a separate concern. The business and creative concerns rarely come from the same place.

MH: That’s right, and it’s why I’m a bit out of my comfort zone talking about the business side of it. Because I don’t have much experience at that.

In terms of the creation stuff, what was interesting to me about the Oil Fields, especially, is the lineage from John Paul Getty II to Mark Getty. The former was this huge oil baron. He was once asked for the secret to his success and replied, “Rise early. Work hard. Strike oil.”

And Mark Getty, his grandson or great-grandson, is the founder of Getty images. He was once asked why he gravitated towards images as a commodity and said, “Intellectual property will be the oil of the 21st Century.” Or something like that. You should look it up. Anyway, I love that transition from oil to images.

That’s why I became obsessed with oil fields and the idea of even looking for oil fields. In effect, if you think of the world now as a single image that’s been photographed from every angle, from satellites to street view cameras…

JB: Planet Earth is now Picasso’s guitar.

MH: Yeah, it’s an assemblage of images. I like the idea that all this stuff is there, but because there’s so much of it, we can’t see it. Finding the valuable stuff is as difficult as finding oil. When a plane like MH370 goes missing the first place we look is at the satellite imagery because the images of the plane are probably already out there. But just like the ocean is unfathomable, so is the quantity of imagery. We just don’t have the capacity to study it all.

Now, what happened with the feed lots, for me, was fascinating because that’s the work that really went viral in the US. Feed lots are generally remote, in the middle of nowhere and Americans had never really seen them before.

JB: How much time have you spent on the ground in America while you were making this work?

MH: None.

JB: None?

MH: I visited California with friends three months ago for ten days, but that was to see “Spiral Jetty,” Nancy Holt’s “Sun Tunnels”, and Michael Heizer’s “Double Negative.” It was more of a pilgrimage. But apart from that, none.

JB: On I-5, the highway that connects San Francisco and LA, there are strings of these feed lots, right along the highway. You can smell them about ten minutes before you see them, and that stench will carry on for about ten minutes after you’ve left.

So the Californians are familiar with it. It’s not only tucked away in Kansas.

MH: I spent a lot of time looking at California because there are hundreds of feed lots there, but the key ones that struck me were generally in Texas and Kansas because of their size.

Feed lots are pretty much all the same. There are thousands of cattle, you’ve got silos that mix the grain, tracks that allow the trucks to pass up and down dispensing the feed. And then you’ve got these huge lagoons of piss and shit. That’s pretty much a feed lot. I looked at thousands of them. After a while, you start to wonder how big the series should be and I eventually whittled them down to seven key pictures.

The main one is the one with the huge red pool in the middle of it. The one that looks like a cross-section of a brain.

JB: I just want to say lagoons of piss and shit out loud, because it’s such a great phrase. Now I’ve done it.

MH: (laughing) Well, that’s what they are. People ask, “What’s that?” And I don’t know how to say it really, other than to use those words. Piss and shit is what it is. Hundreds of tonnes of it.

JB: Sure. I’m not mocking you. I’m honest. It’s fun to say stuff like that every now and again.

What do you hope the impact will be on your viewer, when they look at these pictures? What do you want people to think, when they see the picture, read the words, and understand what they’re looking at?

MH: I first came across the feed lots when working on the oil fields. I’d come across the structures and didn’t know what they were. When I started to research them, I was amazed these things existed and would ask myself, “How have we gotten to this point?” The feed lots represent an end point of Capitalism to me. You wonder how much further we can go with it before we destroy ourselves.

But I’ve never seen the feed lots as being just about the cattle in the pens. This is literally a system for living and dying, and I think that system exists beyond the feed lot. It’s a system that our societies, Britain and the US, are aspiring to. The feed lot is almost a dream system. It’s not my dream, it’s my nightmare. But it’s this idea that every sinew of a living animal should be drained dry of productive value. You know what I mean?

JB: I do. They’re concentration camps for cows, really.

MH: With a lot of my projects, the more I spend time working on them, if I think it’s good work, my ideas about it change quite dramatically. From the beginning of the feed lot project, it went from a very practical understanding of what these things were to me thinking that these were systems for living and dying that exist all around us. That we’re actually part of and involved in.

JB: What do you mean by that? That’s an abstract statement.

MH: Well, if you think of yourself as a journalist…are you a freelancer?

JB: I’m a writer, a teacher, and a freelancer writer. I write for this publication, A Photo Editor, every week, so it’s very consistent. And I do a little work for the New York Times.

I’m the person I described before. I’m a little bit of everything, out of necessity.

MH: You might disagree with this but being freelancers we’re trying to make the most of the skills that we’ve got, wherever we can apply them. We’re atomized, in a sense. Our identities are reduced to these productive units.

In England, for example, there’s a lot of discussion about the welfare state. People who work, and people who don’t work. It’s very polarized; ideas of who is worth something in society.

The people who are worth something, generally, are those that are working and productive. The rest are basically draining our resources. They’re a waste of time and space.

It’s an extreme idea for me; an extreme view of life. The idea that every one of us has to be absolutely drained dry. Generally serving someone else’s profit, right?

JB: Yes. Of course.

MH: Taking it back to the feed lot, it’s a perfect demonstration of that. Every single animal in the feed lot, it’s entire life is devoted to serving a single purpose.

Being someone else’s dinner and providing maximal return on someone else’s investment. You can see that way of thinking happening in Britain. It’s less extreme than in the US, but in Britain you can see that thinking applied to the health service. Or to education.

I should probably say I didn’t come from an art background. I never studied art, other than informally. My education was Sociology and Cultural Studies.

In Cultural Studies especially, there’s this idea that you can take a 3 minute Pop song, and in deconstructing and analyzing it, you have the code of the culture. There is a structure, and a code and a language within it that informs how culture works.

I think that’s true of images as well, that maybe there is something locked in the idea of the feed lot, and in these images of feed lots, that stand for something much bigger about the society we’re in.

JB: That’s what we hope to do, when we pick our symbols. Visual Art is about creating symbol sets that speak to larger issues. When you’re good and lucky combined, you might hit on a style of language that makes sense to people.

That was why I was asking what you wanted the viewer to get out if it. It’s clearly very powerful. There’s a lot of solid intellectual underpinning to the interconnection of oil and corn and cows. It’s been sifted through quite a bit, over here in the States.

But your pictures, by combining Internet, Satellite, Surveillance, and then these particular symbols, I think they make it easier for people to comprehend what’s actually going on.

I imagine that’s your goal?

MH: I’m not into artists who lecture, who present their work and accompany it with a lecture about what their intentions and motivations were. Or their research. So I’m reluctant to talk about that and try to keep that out of it.

Obviously I’m talking a lot now and probably saying more than I’d like to, but whenever my work’s presented, I try to say as little about it as I can. There’s the work and then there’s everything else. If I want anything it’s for people who come across the work to really examine it, to figure out for themselves what they’re looking at, and to reach their own conclusions about what’s going on.

I didn’t know, for example, that it was illegal to photograph feed lots, in a lot of US States, because of the Ag Gag laws. So I love the idea that someone who’s confronted with these images is seeing something that has been censored from them. Kept away from them. And all I’m doing is exploiting a loophole, which is that the satellites have already photographed it, and the imagery is out there.

I’m not a vegetarian. So it’s not like I have a very clear goal that I want people to become vegetarian.

JB: Did you decrease your consumption of cows, subsequent to the project?

MH: Yeah. When I was in America, I couldn’t eat beef, because of all the stuff I’d read and seen about it. Most of the beef in the US comes from feed lots so having worked on them and meditated on them for so long, I couldn’t eat it. But I ate chicken. And I imagine the production of chicken’s not much better either. But I didn’t see it, whereas this I could see.

Maybe that’s something: this idea that I’m trying to make something visible that is very difficult to visualize, even if it’s just to help me get to my head around it. But once you do, it can really affect you. That was my idea with the “Oil Fields” as well. On the ground, it’s very difficult to get a sense of the scale of them. But when you go 500 miles up, you can see the scale of them. That was quite shocking to me.

It affected me, and I assumed it would affect others who saw the prints as well. But that’s not something I can really control.

Some journalists have called me an “activist,” but I don’t think of myself as that at all. I think it’s almost disrespectful to activists. I’m an artist and there’s a big difference between the two. I’m not out to persuade anyone or to win an argument.

JB: I can relate to a lot of what you’re discussing. My work went viral when the NYT published it, and it deals with many of these issues. I’ve photographed cows from the pasture to the plate, and then ate them raw.

MH: Really?

JB: Yeah. I photographed a cow being skinned 10 seconds after it was killed from three feet away, with a 50mm lens.

MH: Jesus.

JB: The project that was nominated for the Prix Pictet I did was called “The Value of a Dollar,” and I bought all these food objects, and measured them out, and presented them as is, so it was a reduction of animals as commodity. Comparing the relative value of a handfull of organic blueberries versus a hunk of beef shank that was just a cow leg that someone slapped on a jigsaw and deconstructed.

MH: Yeah, yeah. I’ll look it up.

JB: It just helps give perspective into why I’m so excited about what you did. Your pictures have a palpable ability to impact peoples’ consciousness.

Many artists don’t want to be called “political.” But if your work doesn’t have any sort of political undertone, then you’re not really saying anything.

I’m very interested in how you think of these things.

MH: Well, if you dig really deep down there’s my outrage. I’m pretty outraged about the stuff I see around me. I have strong reactions to it all. And I try to articulate that in such a way that isn’t a rant. If you look at the other work in the Prix Pictet, this is probably the loudest. I think of the image with the red lagoon, and it’s almost like Munch’s scream. Only it’s my scream.

JB: Right.

MH: It’s like a gunshot wound. Or a decapitation. It’s pretty horrific. It’s a pretty strong articulation of my outrage. I really liked what Ed Ruscha said once, that all he wanted to do was photograph the facts. He just wanted to see if it was possible, with his gasoline stations and parking lots and all the rest of it.

JB: Of course.

MH: He wanted to photograph them as facts. I know that’s not fashionable, and there’s been 40 years of photographic critical theory that’s gone against the idea that photographs can in any way be factual, but I like that.

That’s why I love appropriation. It’s using what’s already there. Reframing it changes everything and that can be enough.

FEEDLOTS - Black Diamond Feeders Inc- Air Base- Herington- Kansas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

FEEDLOTS – Black Diamond Feeders Inc- Air Base- Herington- Kansas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

FEEDLOTS - Centerfire Feedyard- Ulysses- Kansas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

FEEDLOTS – Centerfire Feedyard- Ulysses- Kansas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

FEEDLOTS - Friona Feedyard- Friona- Texas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

FEEDLOTS – Friona Feedyard- Friona- Texas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

FEEDLOTS - Randall County Feedyard- Amarillo- Texas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

FEEDLOTS – Randall County Feedyard- Amarillo- Texas, Courtesy of Carroll/Fletcher

Art Producers Speak: Kris Davidson

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 Buyer: I nominate Kris Davidson as one of our art directors really like her and she seems so great.

Returning to Sweden (my homeland), I spent 5 days traveling with migrating reindeer. It was very cold – but cathartic and utterly magical. In this image I was drawn to how the reindeer antlers resembled braches of the distant tree line.

Returning to Sweden (my homeland), I spent 5 days traveling with migrating reindeer. It was very cold – but cathartic and utterly magical. In this image I was drawn to how the reindeer antlers resembled braches of the distant tree line.

These two maniacs are in a “safe” naturally formed pocket at the top Victoria Falls in Zambia – near the Devil’s Pool. I still get dizzy just looking at this.

These two maniacs are in a “safe” naturally formed pocket at the top Victoria Falls in Zambia – near the Devil’s Pool. I still get dizzy just looking at this.

Sunrise somewhere in the Atlantic -- sailing with Semester At Sea as a staff photographer early on in photography career helped me build a beginning travel portfolio.

Sunrise somewhere in the Atlantic — sailing with Semester At Sea as a staff photographer early on in photography career helped me build a beginning travel portfolio.

On assignment for National Geographic Traveler in Key West – this wonderful mystic read my fortune as I photographed him – and he kept the details of my future to himself at my request!

On assignment for National Geographic Traveler in Key West – this wonderful mystic read my fortune as I photographed him – and he kept the details of my future to himself at my request!

Photographing Cochise County, Arizona for National Geographic Traveler has been one of my favorite assignments to date. Such a strange, wild place where history and the modern day converge. These cowboy actors relaxing in a saloon before their daily gun battle at the OK Corral in Tombstone.

Photographing Cochise County, Arizona for National Geographic Traveler has been one of my favorite assignments to date. Such a strange, wild place where history and the modern day converge. These cowboy actors relaxing in a saloon before their daily gun battle at the OK Corral in Tombstone.

I danced on the bayou with the inimitable “Wild Man” while on assignment for Lonely Planet Traveller in the Louisiana swamps.

I danced on the bayou with the inimitable “Wild Man” while on assignment for Lonely Planet Traveller in the Louisiana swamps.

The Cajun version of Mardi Gras (called Courier de Mardi Gras) is absolutely surreal. I found myself running after brightly dressed men (some on horseback) who were chasing after chickens (traditionally destined for communal gumbo) through miles of bayou wetlands.

The Cajun version of Mardi Gras (called Courier de Mardi Gras) is absolutely surreal. I found myself running after brightly dressed men (some on horseback) who were chasing after chickens (traditionally destined for communal gumbo) through miles of bayou wetlands.

In Key West again, for Lonely Planet Traveller. The egg and cheese sandwiches are delicious at the Cuban Coffee Queen.

In Key West again, for Lonely Planet Traveller. The egg and cheese sandwiches are delicious at the Cuban Coffee Queen.

This is the very first image I made for In the Southern Garden. Here is Walter in Glendora, Mississippi holding up an old Nat King Cole album titled “Love Is the Thing.”

This is the very first image I made for In the Southern Garden. Here is Walter in Glendora, Mississippi holding up an old Nat King Cole album titled “Love Is the Thing.”

Also for In the Southern Garden -- Swamp Thing is a street performer in the French Quarter.

Also for In the Southern Garden — Swamp Thing is a street performer in the French Quarter.

For my in-progress American Macondo project I am experimenting with mixed media – this is actually a photograph of a print that includes paint, pencil and gold specks. The image is a Mexican born US border patrol agent in what they refer to as “no man’s land.” Tijuana on the other side of the fence.

For my in-progress American Macondo project I am experimenting with mixed media – this is actually a photograph of a print that includes paint, pencil and gold specks. The image is a Mexican born US border patrol agent in what they refer to as “no man’s land.” Tijuana on the other side of the fence.

How many years have you been in business?
Full time, about 6 years – I gradually transitioned from a branding/marketing career into being a photographer and educator.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
After taking every single photography course at Loyola University in New Orleans I immediately enrolled at Brooks Institute for an MFA program. Beyond that, I feel compelled to credit the invaluable non-formal education I have received over the years as well – my career began in the San Francisco during the dot com boom in as a branding project manager. The time I spent learning how to dissect a brand was priceless. I owe a huge debt to my branding guides Renee Sheppard and Rita Damore. Also, photographer Catherine Karnow, who showed me how to really see people through a lens, demonstrating that it, is possible to make a living celebrating humanity.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
Two people: Dr. Leslie Parr, a photography professor at Loyola University in New Orleans. She is a wonderful photo historian with a focus on the documentary genre. Her classes were always the most delightful refuge for me. Also, Michael Sustendal, a commercial photographer who I assisted during my college days in New Orleans. A Southerner to the core, he is the most entertaining storyteller I have ever met. I could listen to him talk all day! He remains a life mentor and dear friend.

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 think too much about ways to stay fresh. Maybe I should! In truth, I just indulge my own curiosity — I feel most alive when traveling and telling/interpreting stories (whether in a far away land or just down the street). Curiosity drives pretty much all the work I do, from commercial work (branding IS a form of story-telling, after all) to editorial travel assignments and my personal work. I have come to regard the camera as a magical key that allows me to open doors into worlds that I have no reason to be in otherwise.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
I tend not to look at it that way. In my previous branding career incarnation I was privy to a topographical view of the branding landscape far before anyone ever paid me a dime to shoot a single frame. With my hands in everything from initial client meetings — including the occasional hellish moment of having to tell a new client that “their baby is ugly” as one of my first branding mentors wryly phrased it — to the end resolution/plan for moving a brand forward in a dynamic, collaborative way. The photography portion of a brand can be very important, but it is always a part of a larger effort. As such, I don’t view client pushback as a rejection of my own creativity — I view it as part of a larger conversation about an organic brand. My goal is to be creative — of course — but I always want to be in tune with how the rest of the brand is emerging and evolving. The collaboration itself is the creative challenge.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
Well, I am a people-person! I try to meet with creatives with my printed portfolio whenever possible – there is nothing that compares to a beautiful printed portfolio and eye contact. Other than that, I don’t like being too heavy-handed. I send a small set of promos of current/new work out a few times a year, along with short, personal hand-written notes — although I wonder if that is a good idea since my handwriting is questionable. Beyond that, a clean, focused tightly-edited website is my primary marketing tool – I update it about ever year with the help of my marketing consultant. I also blog — I like to write with the intent of providing a deeper insight into my photographic approach and who I am as a person.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
Be honest with yourself about what kind of work you really want to do (often easier said than done). Then, with that defined, make every effort to understand the business side the specific market you are interested in. It is not the sexiest area of study (and you may need to devise your own education here to some extent), but it is essential. The consumer, editorial, commercial and art markets are all unique, and nuanced within themselves. I personally find it very useful to partner with industry experts/consultants to help organize and present my work. Just like I have an accountant who does my taxes (thank god), I have a consultant who helps me manage my portfolios/marketing strategy, a printer who makes my prints and a bookbinder for my portfolio book exteriors. It is an investment, but worth it. For me it is a huge stress relief not to have shoulder the weight of all that work by myself.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Yes. Being an immigrant to the United States, my current personal projects explore what it means to become and be an American. There are so many varying interpretations. I am working on two separate projects that explore this question. Currently, I am focused on American Macondo, which looks at migration in the US/Mexico borderlands through a magical realism filter (I am interested in navigating a line between a documentary aesthetic and the often fictional/constructed landscape of memory). And, being based in New Orleans for the time being, I am also working on a project titled In the Southern Garden, which considers how individual identity and collective social memory continue to unfold in the American South in the wake of the Civil War.

How often are you shooting new work?
Commercial and editorial gigs — as often as they come! Beyond that, I am almost always working on a personal project in some capacity. But I am not someone who shoots every day or carries a camera everywhere. Rather, my process tends to involve a lot of pre-shoot thinking and cross-disciplinary reading/research for inspiration. Right now for my American Macondo project I am reading three very different books: Being America: Liberty, Commerce and Violence in an American World (by Jedediah Purdy); Thirteen Crime Stories from Latin America (A McSweeny short story collection); and St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (another collection of surrealist/magical short stories by Karen Russell). I also have a standing coffee date with a friend who is a Mexican economist and we just chat about art, Latin America and his impressions of the US. Later this year I’ll head back down to the borderlands to shoot – and see what transpires.

—————-

Kris Davidson is a freelance photographer and educator based in San Francisco and New Orleans. Her specialties include travel/lifestyle and portraiture for editorial, commercial and corporate clients. Kris has an MFA from Brooks Institute and a BA (Communication Arts) from Loyola University in New Orleans. Prior to becoming a photographer, Kris worked as a marketing/branding professional for 8 years.

As a photographer, Kris has worked with various clients including Lonely Planet Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, Travesías Magazine, The Discovery Channel, MTV Networks, The Institute for Shipboard Education, Kimpton Hotels to name a few. She has been recognized for her work in PDN Magazine, American Photo Magazine and in the International Photo Awards.

Kris is also faculty at the Academy of Art University based in San Francisco, teaching several courses online in the photography school; additionally, she also teaches for the National Geographic Expeditions Photography Workshops.

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 Daily Edit – Damon Casarez: The New York Times Magazine

- - The Daily Edit

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The New York Times Magazine

Directory of Photography: Kathy Ryan
Photo Editor: Amy Kellner
Photo Editor: Christine Walsh
Photographer: Damon Casarez

 

Heidi: I know you started the project with just 3 photos, is that all you had pitched to the NYT for the story and then it developed from there?
Damon: Yes. I was marketing myself for a NYC editorial meetings trip for the following week and I had emailed Amy Kellner at the NYT about a week before going, letting her know I would be coming to town and would love to meet her and show my work. Towards the end of the email, I had one sentence telling her about the project and I attached 2 out of the 3 photos. That’s how this all started.

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( 3 photos that started the project out)

Who did you address to the pitch to and what was your presentation?
The pitch was to Amy Kellner at the NYT. It was super basic, along the lines of “Here is a new project I’m working on about Boomerang kids, young adults who’ve had to move back home after college.” I got a response within the hour, asking if the photos had been published anywhere. We had a phone call shortly after that and she let me know that she would be pitching it to the editorial team and to not show anyone else the photos for now. The next day I received an email saying that it went over great with the team and they wanted me to continue it across the country as a photo essay. It was a dream come true.

Did you send it to anyone else besides the NYT?
I did, I sent it out to about 4 other news based magazines that I thought it would be a great fit for. I didn’t receive any other responses and stopped pitching it.

Was this your first big national news story?
Yes, this was my first national feature story and first cover, of course. I shoot a lot for Los Angeles Magazine, have shot a couple profiles for Bloomberg Businessweek and have had a couple of photos in Pacific Standard Magazine. I assist half time and shoot half time for my income as I’m starting out.

Were you concerned about rejection or did you have enough positive reinforcement prior to reaching out to them?
I’ve learned over the last couple of years after graduating and trying to get my name out in the photo world that rejection is a big part of marketing. You have to have thick skin when you are starting out and no one has heard of you. After making the 1st photo (Jacqueline Boubion,) I knew that the project had potential. Also, after trying to find people on craigslist, I had more responses from writers and photographers who wanted to jump on the project with me. I even got a call from some Hollywood book agent who wanted me to think about making the project into a book or sitcom, since it’s such a relevant topic. I took it down shortly after, ha.

Were you in despair when you decided to to this project, thus it was cathartic?
Yes and no. I had to move back home after having a rough summer where assisting work and shooting work was extremely slow and I had no savings because my overhead was so high with student loans, rent, insurance, etc. Moving back home was my last resort and I felt like a failure for a bit. After beginning the project and realizing how many others were out there like me, it was clear that I needed to bring this story to light and share the experience of the “Boomerang Kids,” including my own story.

What advice would you give to young photo college students?
I would tell students that you have to prepare yourself as much as you can in college. A lot of students don’t and have no idea what they will do after art school and begin trying to figure it out, and then the loans start coming. I had two amazing internships and a few mentors in college and I always tried to meet with other LA photographers, show them my work and get feedback and ask all kinds of questions. I first interned with Maren Levinson, owner of Redeye Reps photo agency, where I learned the business side and marketing side of photography. Next, I interned with Amy Feitelberg, who is photo editor at Los Angeles Magazine. I was able to see how the magazine was run and witness stories from their beginning to it being published. I’m still good friends with both Maren and Amy and constantly ask them for advice and feedback on new work, which is another reason why you should intern.

How receptive has your former school been about this body of work?
My school was extremely receptive. They were very happy to hear the news and hopefully will have me speak there soon! I learned so much on this job and have a lot of insight I could share with students.

How did you decide who you would shoot and how did you go about finding them? Did the magazine get involved?
I found most of the people through a mix of craigslist, and friends of friends. I used Facebook to have my friends reach out to their network of friends and so on. I also found one person, Jessica Meyer, on instagram, by searching hashtags. When I had a potential subject, I would have a long phone conversation with them to see if they were a good fit for the project, then we would talk about their home life so I could get a better idea how I would photograph them. From that point, I would send a brief about each person to the photo editor and we would figure out together if they were right for the story. There were a lot of factors involved for choosing the people, such as what was their major, age, if they had loans, what they were doing now and when they moved back home.

Expert Advice: Emailers & Print Mailers

by Joey Pasko, Wonderful Machine

All photographers should have a variety of promotional tools in their arsenal to help garner clients and bring attention to their work. Among these tools are email promotions and ever-popular print mailer promotions. If used correctly, both can help bring in a lot of new business and keep your name on the radar of your existing clients. However, it’s important to know the difference between email promotions and print promotions.

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An email promotion may seem like a cheap and easy method to get your name out there, but by no means should it be your sole marketing effort. In fact, the best way for photographers to promote themselves is by using both print and email promotional tools very strategically and specifically. Email promotions are a good way to send a large group of clients a quick reminder to check out your website and your new work. If you use the email analytics to see who actually opened the email and clicked to your website, you can create an even more tailored and effective list of clients to send a memorable print mailer to. Think of it this way: your email promotion should go out to a large general list of clients, and your print mailer should go out to a targeted and tailored list of clients.

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Print mailers are a great way to give a potential client something tactile and cool to constantly remind them that you’re the person to hire. But how do you make your mailer stand out? It’s easy to fall into the trap of a typical postcard. Many photographers would say anything more is a gimmick, but remember that your clients receive lots and lots of postcards from great photographers all the time. “Letting the photo speak for itself” sometimes isn’t enough to push your work above all the other promos hanging on the bulletin board.

The solution is to embrace the medium and create something that stands out. Utilizing modern design and printing techniques can help make your promo the most unique one in the crowd.

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At WM, we typically advise photographers to go one of two ways with print promos. The first option is to create a promo that is beyond just a postcard. By elevating the piece beyond the norm, you automatically are guaranteeing that what you send out will stand out amongst other print mailers. A great example of this would be Nashville photographer Josh Anderson’s printed promo. Rather than a single image, Josh added interest by utilizing a printing technique called foil stamping. His print promos included a hand printed board and buttons for the recipient to keep. These small additions to the concept turned what might have otherwise been a simple and forgettable card into a packet that feels more like a gift than anything else.

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Two printing options that people must also consider are digital printing versus offset printing. Digital printing applies ink to a page using a digital printer and offset printing applies ink to a page using metal plates and rollers. There are pros and cons to both. While you can get good digital print quality using a digital printer, offset printing’s quality is superior and has better color matching. Digital prints are far cheaper and better for small batches of prints, while offset is better for larger batches due to its higher set-up price for creating plates. However, unlike digital, offset printing gives you far more options of paper. Offset printing allows you to print on thicker paper, rougher paper and all sorts of specialty papers. It’s important to decide which of these methods will best suit your print mailer campaign. This designer’s humble opinion: while digital can be cheap and easy, offset printing is truly the way to show off photography.

There are a number of other printing techniques that can also be used to elevate a project! Here are some that could easily make your print promo stand out amongst the crowd:

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Letterpress: Letterpress printing is just that — pressing ink (traditionally type) into paper. Letterpress printing has been around since the 1400s, and with the more recent advancement of using photopolymer plates instead of traditional wood type, there are even more possibilities in this print method. With photopolymer plates, much more detail can be achieved. Nowadays, letterpress is prized for the deep impression that can be achieved when the ink is pressed into the paper, and offers really tactile and beautiful results. Whenever I’m given anything letterpressed, I’m more inclined to keep it.

Foil Stamping: Similar to letterpress, a foil press is used to apply foil to paper. Most popular are metallic foils applied to the print, giving an eye-catching and shiny appearance to specific elements on the page.

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Laser-cutting: Laser-cutting is a technique where machines are used to burn intricate designs into or even through various materials. From paper to metal to wood, the results can be dramatic. This technique can transform a simple mailer into something that gives depth and elegance to your work.

For advice or assistance with your own print or electronic promotions, contact us through our Consulting page.

Photography With A Voice Has A Better Chance Of Breaking Through The Clutter

- - Blog News

“It’s always been true, I guess, that the uniqueness of a photogra- pher and the photographer’s voice … is what got people hired, it’s just more true now,” he explains. Davis finds the old idea that a photographer should be an impartial observer of events no longer applies. Instead, he believes the photographers whose work is sought after today “are powerful in what they say [and] in how they take a photograph.

via Picture Editor Mike Davis On Clarity of Voice in Today's Media Landscape.

This Week In Photography Books: Jason Nocito

by Jonathan Blaustein

I awoke this morning, before 6, to a bright pink sky. It wasn’t pink like my daughter’s sun hat; more electric, day-glo pink, like a patch of cloth on my Obermeyer ski jacket back in the 80’s.

As I gazed upon its magnificence, I noticed three huge ravens just outside the window, not 10 feet from where I stood. They began to bark at me; it wasn’t squawking. (You’ll have to trust me.) Their bodies shook in fury, and the sound emanating from their beaks were absolutely barks.

Shockingly, the next second, two strange dogs appeared, scaring the ravens away. The dogs, nominally barkers, were totally silent. They trotted away into the field, towards the horses, who we’d more reasonably expect to trot.

Words are funny things. Embedded in language, with its rules and structure, they maintain a consistent power. But unleashed, as they have been in our oddly-futuristic times, and there’s no telling what they might mean. Or how they might be misused.

(OMG. R U for realz? Propr word use is for squarz, man.)

Just think of curses. I occasionally write for another publication, where I can never, ever use the word fuck. I could, however, say copulate, fornicate, or engage in sexual congress. Which all mean the same thing. So what the f-ck is the difference, I ask you?

Sometimes, the original meaning for a “bad” word is so antiquated that it falls off the face of the Earth. For example, when I was young, my mother hated when I said “scumbag.” In Jersey, that meant a slimy person of low repute. To her, it meant condom, or a bag for scum.

She didn’t mind the word condom, of course, just its less-classy euphemism. Why? I still haven’t a clue. Maybe she’ll enlighten us in the comment section.

Another 20th Century epithet was “pudwacker.” I just thought it meant doofus, or jerk. But “pud” is a synonym for johnson, or member, or dick, or penis. So a “pudwacker” is actually a masturbator.

Was Jason Nocito, the artist behind “pud,” a new book published by Dashwood, aware of this? I guess so, but I have no idea. The book lacks any text at all, save for the title/thank you page at the end. (Or paragraph of gratitude. In which he thanks the New York Knicks, which I’ve never seen before.)

The book is orange and blue, (OK, just got the Knicks reference,) and opens up to some grooved, textured paper. Which kind of stuck to the first page the initial time I thumbed through. This was helpful, because the photo I saw immediately thereafter was a puddle. Most of the photos inside, in fact, are of puddles strewn with spent cigarettes and spilt oil.

Is pud short for puddle? Again, I have no idea. But the puddle pictures are the epitome of anti-aesthetic, and I loved them. (Or ugly beauty, if you will.) The colors in the reflected oil are luminous, like the aforementioned pink sky. The pictures appear to have been made with a really-good-medium-format-digital camera, as they’re super-hi-res looking. (Or hyperreal, if you prefer.)

There are a few photos that are definitely not of puddles, like a section of the hood of an old pink Camaro from the 80’s. So does pud mean puddle, only the artist was too insouciant, or devil-may-care, to make a book entirely of puddles? Je ne sais pas.

So I went back and looked again, trying to figure it out. This time, I noticed that the first picture is actually of some wilting flowers. Not puddles, and not “puds.” (It won’t fit, no matter how hard you try to force it, so just go with it.)

We’ll have to chalk this up to a hipster artist, prowling the Lower East Side, finding beauty in the least obvious places. And then being too “ironic” to admit it, so it’s couched in mystery. (Or enigma, if you will.)

When I picked the book up a third time, I grabbed it upside down. I noticed that the cover could also be read as “pnd”. Does that mean anything to you?

Bottom Line: Really beautiful photos of ugly and/or random stuff

To Purchase “pud” Visit Photo-Eye

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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: Misha Taylor

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 Buyer: I nominate Misha Taylor. He is probably my favorite my favorite, he has an incredible eye and always perfectly captures that specific mood in his photos.

I love these images of Jamie Foxx, these are outtakes from ad campaign we did together. He is the ultimate entertainer, it didn't just start when the camera was on him either. He sang and danced and ruled the room. These images really tell that story to me.

I love these images of Jamie Foxx, these are outtakes from ad campaign we did together. He is the ultimate entertainer, it didn’t just start when the camera was on him either. He sang and danced and ruled the room. These images really tell that story to me.

I was asked to conceptualize and shoot the Kisua Campaign, I really wanted to do something contemporary and pop yet still African.. I love how the image comes to life. Its almost a still life, but somehow really jumps around the page.

I was asked to conceptualize and shoot the Kisua Campaign, I really wanted to do something contemporary and pop yet still African.. I love how the image comes to life. Its almost a still life, but somehow really jumps around the page.

This is one of my favorite images, I find the similarities between his face and Johannesburg cityscape really moving. His eyes and scarred face tells the story of the beauty, pain, struggle, and resilience of the still young S. Africa. something about it really gives me hope.

This is one of my favorite images, I find the similarities between his face and Johannesburg cityscape really moving. His eyes and scarred face tells the story of the beauty, pain, struggle, and resilience of the still young S. Africa. something about it really gives me hope.

the way the ice-cream drips through his fingers give the picture a strange desperation, yet reminds me of slow summer days. There is something magical about that parallel that really draws me in.

the way the ice-cream drips through his fingers give the picture a strange desperation, yet reminds me of slow summer days. There is something magical about that parallel that really draws me in.

This was one of the most fun shoot I have ever done, I got a good number of my friends together for an underwear special for Selfridges.  I love this moment, it reminds me of that reckless abandon of long summer days. My friends and I sneaking into pools that weren't ours, jumping off roofs, basically being a kid.

This was one of the most fun shoot I have ever done, I got a good number of my friends together for an underwear special for Selfridges. I love this moment, it reminds me of that reckless abandon of long summer days. My friends and I sneaking into pools that weren’t ours, jumping off roofs, basically being a kid.

This image of Diane Pernet was taking in Paris. She is one of that last  true eccentric fashion icons and working with people like her make portraiture such an incredible experience. I love that you can almost see her eyes, but cant quite see where she is looking.

This image of Diane Pernet was taking in Paris. She is one of that last true eccentric fashion icons and working with people like her make portraiture such an incredible experience. I love that you can almost see her eyes, but cant quite see where she is looking.

This image was featured on Nowness and was taken on the pan African Rovos rail. I love the starkness of the Karoo as it glides by behind her, and how she bisects it in quite a violent way. I find this image quite jarring in the end, even though at first glance its so peaceful

This image was featured on Nowness and was taken on the pan African Rovos rail. I love the starkness of the Karoo as it glides by behind her, and how she bisects it in quite a violent way. I find this image quite jarring in the end, even though at first glance its so peaceful

This image has such a wonderful stillness, I almost find myself holding my breath when I look over it, I never really find peace as far as a place to settle my eyes. I love when pictures have have little lives of their own.

This image has such a wonderful stillness, I almost find myself holding my breath when I look over it, I never really find peace as far as a place to settle my eyes. I love when pictures have have little lives of their own.

These two images were taken in Johannesburg, I cant help but feel that I am in the middle of them as they look at each other.

These two images were taken in Johannesburg, I cant help but feel that I am in the middle of them as they look at each other.

This was taken in Paris, the intensity of the photo is odd  as I find it quite weightless. They seem to counter balance each other. Its beautiful but as their faces come together quite bizarre as well. I really enjoy all these little permutations

This was taken in Paris, the intensity of the photo is odd as I find it quite weightless. They seem to counter balance each other. Its beautiful but as their faces come together quite bizarre as well. I really enjoy all these little permutations

This is one of my favorite places in the world, fitting to its' name; "Natures Valley".  A giant indian ocean on one side and this view inland up the river on the other. The air there has a weight to it. I was really pleased with this image as I can feel that weight when I look at it.

This is one of my favorite places in the world, fitting to its’ name; “Natures Valley”. A giant indian ocean on one side and this view inland up the river on the other. The air there has a weight to it. I was really pleased with this image as I can feel that weight when I look at it.

How many years have you been in business?
This question is a little different for me as some of my earliest memories are from film sets, my father, and award winning director and photographer used to let me look through the lens or operate the camera before I was even a teenager. He also had his crews work me to the absolute bone as soon as I was old enough to hold my own. I worked 22-hour days fetching water and carrying stands. Driving Trucks, writing treatments, setting up lights and loading cameras. But I suppose the question you are after is as far as me being in creative control, to be safe lets say 8 years.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I learned on the sets of my father and his friends, I tried taking a few classes in university but realized quickly that technically speaking what you learn through work experience and life far surpasses what you learn at school. Something also has to be said from seeing how the best in the world operate creatively, how they deal with clients, and how they stay true to their vision. However as far as theory goes, school was invaluable.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
First and foremost my parents, both artists filled our lives with art and travel. These memories dance their way through almost all of my creative process. Sitting on the front of small rubber boat in the deep Okovango delta and being charged by a giant bull elephant to beautiful girls in a studio.

When there wasn’t an adventure we made our own, seeing so many things allowed for me to see the world through my own lens. I was given the chance to allow my imagination to run wild, and this business gave me the incentive to want to tell stories beyond our day-to-day lives.

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?
I really try to live my pictures, I try to see myself in my work, the wonderful and the mundane the challenging, the obscure, the loss the gain. We all share a common emotive process, and I hope that what brings my imagination to life will have the same effect on others.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
Part of the process is reinvention to make old ideas new, to make bad ideas good, to make complex ideas simple. Of course there are moments in the bureaucracy of this business where the opposite seems to destine to happen, good ideas turn bad, the simple becomes complicated. In the end the fight for what we as creatives believe to be the best execution is best done with the image itself.

To show this image and let the story be right rather than the artist. However there are always the few that need convincing beyond the image, and this is as much an art as the work itself.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I personally believe my work is better off for me concentrating on the art itself, rather than the propaganda and PR. Just to keep making art to keep shooting and experiencing and the reach of that is unmeasurable.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
Some people are better at this than others, if done correctly I think someone could do quite well. But in the end to live and love your work, you must do what it is that you want, and produce what it is you want to see.

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
It’s important to constantly want to tell stories, even if this is done by other means than photography. To keep new ideas rolling off your tongue or your pen or out of your camera.

How often are you shooting new work?
This question is a bit convoluted, as we seem to be measured in quantity so often. I work everyday, and take a picture everyday. But I suppose I can only roll out new projects when they are finished. This can take less than a week from the birth of an idea to full realization. And there are other projects that I feel I will be working on forever.

But as I see an absolutely binding bond between work and life. I feel like I am working even when I am walking through town or lying watching the rain.

—————–

I was Born in Cape Town, South Africa, in the early 80’s, My Parents both Artists did their best to distract my sister and myself from the Politics at the time by taking us to the people, to the country, to what was real in a place plagued by misunderstanding and misinformation. We traveled feverishly, by all means and to some of the most remote and wonderful places in the world. Before my father’s career took us to the United States, they would pack us and our yellow dog in the back of our Landrover and drive for weeks on end.

When we moved to Los Angeles, in 1989 our lives changed somewhat. But our lust for adventure didn’t. They would pull us out of school and proclaim a fly-fishing trips to Montana or hikes through Monument Valley.

School in the United States was, incredible. I was able to be exactly who I was, and who I wanted to be. I grasped onto the contagious American mindset that allowed you to pursue your dreams and I was off.

I left California in 2000 and began my travels home and beyond. I wanted to see how much of my childhood imagination had painted of memories of Africa, I was desperate to be part of the new hope and new democracy. I fell in love with Africa all over again. And was able to see my life there through balanced eyes,

My love for travel however soon pushed me on my way. I wanted to live Italy and walk through the ruins of the Roman Empire, to live in France and read and drink wine in the same bars as my literary heroes. To Dance in the famous techno clubs of Berlin and ride bicycles down massively wide streets.

I did all this and more, everyday I wake up wanting to keep living, to keep watching all the serendipitous fortunes the world has to offer. I am quite young but have lived a life full to the brim. This is why I feel comfortable telling stories. Because I have so many to tell and the world has so many more to give us.

Check out more of Misha’s work www.assignmentagency.com

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.

Focus on Your Business with Judy Herrmann & Richard Kelly

- - Working

I’ve known Richard Kelly and Judy Herrmann for several years now through the ASMP and different panels and events I’ve been a part of, so when I heard from Richard that they were launching a new educational series for photographers I was intrigued. I think they are both excellent people, so I simply asked them to tell us all about it and you can decide if it’s something you want to check out.

Can you give me a little background on yourself and Judy?
We’re both working photographers and experienced educators. Judy and her partner, Mike Starke, run Herrmann + Starke in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. In 1994, as early adopters of digital photography, they recognized the business opportunities and competitive advantages of the technology. Frustrated by the lack of available information for photographers making that transition, they took it upon themselves to educate the professional community about digital photography and business practices. Since then, Judy has given literally hundreds of seminars on professional business practices for photographers. In fact, we met when Richard attended Working Digitally, a day-long workshop Judy & Mike presented in Pittsburgh on his 40th birthday.

Richard’s photography practice started in New York City, assisting and producing for fashion photographers. He began shooting front of the book for some major magazines and eventually relocated to Pittsburgh, where he realized how much he didn’t understand about business. He joined the local ASMP chapter and, with the help of some great mentors, began learning on the job. Not content to keep what he learned to himself, Richard began giving seminars and teaching at Pittsburgh Filmmakers where he helps students master both the craft and the business of photography. You can see his work at RichardKelly.com.

In the early 1990’s, we each separately attended an ASMP weekend workshop called Strictly Business, where we were both struck by concept of photographers helping photographers. We share a strong desire to use the challenges we’ve overcome and the hard-won knowledge we’ve gained to make the road easier for others to follow. It’s no surprise that we both became chapter leaders and later national ASMP presidents. Our experiences in our own businesses and in leadership roles at ASMP have given us a strong understanding of the variety of paths that can lead to professional success and the need for constant adaptation and evolution as creative entrepreneurs.

Through your involvement with ASMP and different panels and presentations to photographers groups you’ve seen the industry change quite a bit. What’s different today from when you started?
There are so many changes, it would be hard to list them all. Many of them, though, can be traced back to changes in how photography is created and viewed. On the craft side, the learning curve is not as steep and the tools are less expensive, so far more people are taking photographs than ever before. This is great and has led to a fantastic creative renaissance, but it also means that much of the bread and butter work that was profitable for professionals has gone away.

When people do hire professionals today, it’s often for very different reasons than in the past. When we were starting out, mastering the gear – knowing how to use a 4×5 camera or professional strobes – was enough of a differentiator to earn a living wage. Since everyone now has access to affordable tools that allow them to take technically perfect photographs, professionals have to bring a lot more to the table. It’s not enough to create great photographs – to have honed your craft and mastered the tools of your trade – that’s just the cost of entry. Today, more then ever, your understanding of all the complex elements that form the business side of the business matter more than ever before.

The connectivity that we all now have is awesome and also creates a radically different environment for the professional. We can see so many wonderful projects that people are creating – not just locally but all over the globe. For the first time in history, professional photographers have the opportunity to build and connect directly with vast audiences without going through a publisher or really any gatekeeper at all. That was not possible even 15 years ago. This new accessibility to the tools of production and distribution place us smack in the infancy of a new age of enlightenment for photography and it will be very exciting to see where it goes.

Tell us about the online series you’re launching?
Richard has been teaching at Pittsburgh Filmmakers the past nine years and every year, sees what he calls the two week rule kick in: about two weeks after students graduate from their photo programs, he starts to get the panicked calls from students wanting to know what they should do next. Many of these students had wonderful educational programs but for the first time in four years they don’t have an assignment. They know they should be doing something, but what?

We’ve both given countless seminars on business, marketing, copyright, licensing, releases, pricing, etc. and have seen first-hand that students and emerging photographers are not the only ones struggling with business practices. We’ve met hundreds of mid-career photographers with “gaps” in their practices that are really holding them back.

For several years, we’ve talked about running some kind of intensive bootcamp but presenting an in-person program that’s accessible to people all over the country was just too cost-prohibitive. So we’re taking advantage of digital technologies to build a modular series of e-learning courses that will guide the emerging photographer through the process of building their careers, while also filling the gaps for those who’ve already started down the path and don’t want to reinvent every single wheel themselves.

The series will allow us to share everything we’ve learned about starting, growing, running and reinventing a photography career – not just our own experiences but also everything we’ve learned from the thousands of photographers who’ve shared their stories with us over the years. Instead of locking our audience into a linear path, the modular structure will let them pick and choose which topics are the best investment for them.

We’re kicking off the series at 2:00 pm eastern, Thursday, June 26 with a free 60 minute introductory class called What You Really Need to Know. It provides a soup to nuts overview of everything professional photographers need to understand to build a successful business. Registration is open at http://asmp.adobeconnect.com/e29xfy2u5y7/event/registration.html and all registrants will get free access to the recording.

Our first module, Launching Your Career, runs from July 10 – 24. Designed for students, recent graduates or anyone transitioning into the field, it provides an in-depth understanding of the nuts and bolts of starting and running your own business. Registration is open at http://focusonyourbusiness.eventbrite.com/?aff=1a0

APhotoEditor.com readers can save $40 by registering here or entering the promo code APFgo at the main registration site [APE does not receive any kind of commission for this].

How does your program differ from others photographers may be considering?
From a philosophical standpoint, the big difference is that neither of us believes that there’s a one-size-fits-all formula for how to build a successful photography career. We’re not saying, “Do what I do” or selling a non-existent magic bullet. Instead, we’re providing a toolkit – we’re sharing information and insights we’ve gained from a wide range of sources along with a framework for thinking about your business that will help people figure out what’s going to give them the best outcomes no matter what their goals are or the challenges they encounter.

We’ve also designed a unique format. Not only does our modular approach allow registrants to choose the topics they want but each module includes lectures, readings, exercises and live online office hours where we log into the e-learning platform with our students to take questions and discuss whatever they’re struggling with. The lectures provide insights and information. The readings deepen your understanding. The exercises personalize the information and foster deeper thinking. But it’s the Office Hours – where we’re interacting with our students and providing real time answers after they’ve had a chance to process and apply the information – that really set us apart.

Does the future of photography look bright to you? What can emerging photographers expect?
We are absolutely living through a new golden age for photography; the accessibility of capture tools and editing software plus the ease of getting your work out into the world has heralded a creative resurgence that shows no signs of slowing.

For professional photographers, though, the rate of change has created some significant challenges. There used to be clear career paths in this industry – you might become a staffer, a freelancer or start your own studio but if you followed certain steps you were almost guaranteed a decent living. Today, those paths are less clear and there are far fewer guarantees, but as communications become increasingly visual and audiences get more visually sophisticated, we’re seeing some great opportunities moving forward.

There are more collaborative opportunities for creative working together rather than going it alone. Our clients are starting to use photography in new and unique ways – often with the photographer as the lead creative – which allows for exciting new business models. Companies are starting to realize that repurposing print & TV content or taking a “DIY” approach to online and social media uses isn’t effective and are hiring professionals to create work just for these channels. So yes, despite the challenge of learning how to adapt to ongoing change (which is one of the big factors that drove us to create this new series), we see a bright future for professional photographers as well.

That’s not to say it will be easy. Emerging photographers – you need to be prepared to work your ass off. You’ll need a solid work ethic and a fierce commitment to this profession. You’ll need to invest the same time and energy into mastering the business side as you put into mastering your craft. But, if you put some real thought into designing your career, master some basic business practices and learn how to apply your creative problem solving skills to business decisions, we believe you can build a sustainable and satisfying career as a professional photographer.

The Daily Edit – Armando Sanchez – Lucky Peach

- - The Daily Edit

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Lucky Peach

Art Director: Walter Green
Associate Designer: Helen Tseng
Writer: Kevin Pang
Photographer: Armando Sanchez

Heidi: How did you get connected with Lucky Peach?
Armando: Kevin Pang, the writer of  “Fixed Menu” is a food critic for the Chicago Tribune. So when Lucky Peach contacted him about the piece, he asked a few photo editors at the Tribune about finding a photographer, and I was lucky enough to be recommended.

How did the work in your  “Incarcerated” portfolio help capture the images from Westville? Is that one of the reasons they came to you?
“Incarcerated” acclimated me to working around inmates. It also helped me develop a small flow to working with the jailers or guards, which is much easier than most people think. But the approach to both shoots was so different. When I was working on the “Incarcerated‚” project, I was really trying to understand how the small spaces and restrictions of prison affect a person’s  well-being. When I was in Westville, my focus was the influence of food played in the lives of inmates and whether or not it had an impact on their long-term outlooks and behavior. I’m not sure if that’s why they selected me for this story but I’m sure it helped.

What sort of direction did you get for the story and were you with the writer?
One of the editors at Lucky Peach told me that this story would focus on the types of foods that inmates can create with ingredients you find in a 7-11, and how those foods contrast with the world outside prison. So I knew what to focus my pictures around. Kevin, the writer, was with me during the entire two-day shoot and he was really great to work with. If I was working a situation or if I saw something that I wanted to stop and photograph, he would always ask if I was ready to move on or if I needed more time to shoot. He never made me feel like I needed to work at his pace, which you don’t always get when working with a writer. Actually, when we were in the maximum security wing while they were serving food, I found myself shooting images that may not have related to the guidelines of the assignment, but were just pictures I wanted to make of the recreation room and medical treatment area. Kevin let me do that and never gave me the impression that I needed to move on.

Did you feel threatened or scared at any time?
Never. Everyone I talked to was basically trying to make the best of a bad situation. Prison is full of routine. It’s the same thing every day, down to the minute. You see the same people, guards, other inmates. So I think anytime you add new people to the routine, it’s almost welcomed. Everyone stares at you and asks you small questions. They were curious about why we were there. Once we told them who we were and what the article was about, everyone wanted to talk.

What struck you about the inmates? Tell me about your interactions with them?
Actually, the only time I felt nervous was when we visited the main kitchen. We were talking to some of the inmates who worked in the kitchen, and one of them told us to go look in the walk-in refrigerator. When we went into the refrigerator, the smell was overwhelming, kind of like an old dirty mop and rotten eggs. I have a pretty strong stomach but I was close to heaving. Anyway, the inmate was trying to show several trays of egg casserole to Kevin. The inmate was basically telling Kevin that the casserole was inedible, but one of the prison employees was defending the casserole and told us it was fine to eat. It got kind of tense, so I quietly stepped away and photographed the egg casserole. That picture actually made it into the layout.

Most of the inmates were extremely receptive and friendly. They seemed interested in what we were doing. They were always polite and willing to share their opinions about the food. Some inmates seemed kind of nervous, but once we started talking to them and asking where they were from, most of them opened up. The only people that we didn’t really talk to were the inmates in maximum security. They were kept in their cells and behind several walls of thick glass and steel doors.

Did you taste the Disciplinary Loaf?
I wish. There was no loaf available. Just finding the recipe was kind of difficult. I got the impression that it wasn’t something that was made very often.

(“Nutraloaf aka Disciplinary Loaf is reserved for offenses such as taking part in a riot or assaulting prison staff.”)

Did you eat anything while you were on location? Did you bring your own food?
I ate the first day during a culinary class. They were serving the kinds of food you would eat at Thanksgiving dinner. The prison had a culinary cooking class that served turkey, mashed potatoes, shrimp cocktail, all prepared by the inmates. It was pretty good. But I never ate the creations the inmates made with food from the commissary. I really wanted to try some, but the inmates save up money to buy the ingredients; Ramen, condensed chicken soup, packaged cheese. I didn’t want to take anything they had saved up for. Other than the Thanksgiving-style meal the first day, I didn’t eat while I was there.

You’re a recent graduate, interned and were published several times in the Chicago Tribune. Tell me about your process for handling those shoots.
It’s been a learning experience. I interned at the Tribune from June 2012 to November 2012. I started freelancing for them immediately after the internship was over, but I had to go back to Kentucky to walk at my graduation ceremony in December. I’ve spent most of my college career interning at newspapers. The Tribune was my last of four internships, and I was pretty sure that I wanted to work for a newspaper when I was done at the Tribune. But after I finished my internship at the Tribune, I found myself in a pretty cool situation where I could immediately start receiving work as a freelancer and still pursue local news, all from the Tribune. From there, I started reaching out to other editorial clients, pursued commercial work and have been trying to teach myself the ins and outs of working as a freelance photographer.

When did you start shooting photos and knew this is what you wanted to do?
I started shooting photos after my mom made me take a photography class while I was a junior in high school. But I knew I wanted to do this when I was a senior in high school. I was watching John Moore present work from Iraq at a high school journalism conference at the University of Texas. He was still with the AP at the time and I was pretty moved by his photos and the team he oversaw that won the Pulitzer. I actually talked to him for so long that I followed him outside until he had to cross the street. After that, I was pretty determined to work on stories I care about.

Don’t Compete; Find What’s Uniquely Yours And Obsess Over It

- - Blog News

“By my fourth year in school, I was shooting every day and every night. I photographed every little thing—all my food, doorways covered in graffiti, and my friends and roommates. I tortured my first boyfriend, Marc, by capturing each moment of our relationship. I was obsessed with documenting my life. So that’s my advice to you: Find something to be obsessed with, and then obsess over it. Don’t compete; find what’s uniquely yours. Take your experience of life and connect that with your knowledge of photographic history. Mix it all together, and create an artistic world that we can enter into.”

via Ryan McGinley’s Advice to Young Photographers | VICE United States.

Pricing & Negotiating: Architectural Images For A TV Commercial

by Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Exterior architectural images of 20 restaurants

Licensing: Use of all images captured in multiple broadcast television commercials

Location: 4 cities on the East Coast

Shoot Days: 7

Photographer: Architectural and portraiture specialist

Agency: Medium-sized, based in the Northeast.

Client: Large restaurant chain

Here is the estimate:

Blinkbid

Creative/Licensing: The ad agency was in the process of creating a series of TV commercials, and wanted to feature still images of the exteriors of their client’s restaurants within the spots. They anticipated that there would be up to five restaurants in each of the four cities where their client had locations, and with an accelerated timeframe for the media placement, they hoped to shoot all 20 locations in one week.

After a call with the art buyer, I approached the creative/licensing fee with the knowledge that while there were 20 locations, that it was most likely that 5 of them would be featured prominently in the videos, and the rest of the locations were options to choose from when compiling the final commercial. I felt that the size of the client, accelerated pace of the project and likely exposure level of the commercials put strong upward pressure on the fee, but the fact that I knew this was a last minute overage on top of the overall budget for the commercial applied a bit of downward pressure. I decided to price each of the first five shots at $5,000 each, then discount the next five locations to $3,000 each, and then further discount the last 10 locations to $1,000 each, which tallies up to $50,000.

After determining the value of the usage, I checked out Getty to see how they may have priced this since it’s not often that I’m asked to price stills for TV. For TV advertising use for three years (which is the longest duration they offer for this use), they priced one image at $4,870, which was nearly right on the nose of what I priced each of the first 5 images. Corbis similarly priced the same use at $4,160. Based on my research and the fact that this was a big project that needed to be completed blazingly fast, I felt that the $50,000 fee was appropriate.

Pre-Production Day: The photographer would require 1 day to pull together all of his travel arrangements and test out a few pieces of special equipment (mainly lenses) he’d need to buy for the shoot. I would typically include travel/scout days, but the rushed schedule broke down in such a way that there would be days when shooting would happen prior to travel on the same day, and I discussed with the art buyer and photographer that it was better to just figure on a week’s worth of shooting (and charge for it accordingly in the creative/licensing fee) and have the photographer shoot and travel on days that worked best for him, rather than specifying a certain number of shoot and travel days.

Equipment: In addition to the special gear he’d need to purchase (which would cost $1,500), I included a fee for the equipment he owned and would be using on the shoot. For these items I anticipated $800/day (including the camera body, lenses, cards and minor grip equipment), and typically estimate that gear rentals for a full week are often rented for the price of three days at most major rental houses.

Lodging, Airfare and Car Rental: One of the locations was local to the photographer, another was a lengthy car ride away, and the other two were plane rides away. We were able to work out a schedule that required five nights of lodging, for which I estimated a rate of $300/night. That’s typically higher than I’d estimate, but the locations were in major cities and would be booked just a day or two before arriving, which would make for expensive reservations. After shooting the local cities, the photographer would be flying to the third city, shooting and then flying to the fouth city, and then flying home after that. I used kayak.com to research flights which ranged from $200-$600. Combined with $60 for each flight to account for checked bags, airfare totaled about $1,400. I then rounded up this number to account for a slight increase on costs should fares increase between the time of estimating and booking. The photographer would only need to rent a car in two of the cities, which tallied up to an estimated rate of about $550 including gas.

Miles, Parking, Meals, Misc: I estimated $50/day for parking for 7 days, $75/day for meals for 7 days, and built in an extra $225 for mileage and other miscellaneous charges/fees throughout the trip.

Post Processing and Delivery of All Images by Hard Drive: The agency would be handling all of the post production, and required a hard drive containing all of the RAW images captured. In addition to the cost of the hard drive and shipment (which I anticipated being about $250), I wanted to make sure the photographer would be paid for his time to organize and manage the transfer of the files (which wasn’t a very difficult process, but it would take a long time).

Results: After submitting the estimate, the art buyer told us they had a budget of $60,000. In an effort to move the project along quickly, the agency asked if the photographer would be willing to take on the project for a flat 60k fee. This meant that the photographer wouldn’t have to compile or submit receipts when invoicing after the shoot, which would have taken a decent amount of time given the travel. Additionally, this meant that any cost savings would go into the photographer’s pocket. For these reasons, he felt the $550 discount was worth it and agreed to the flat fee. He was awarded the project and shot it the following week.

Hindsight: While the scope of the shoot was detailed and fast paced, the photographer was confident that he could accomplish it on his own without an assistant since it would be just him, his camera and a tripod. However, he did ultimately decide to allocate some of the cost savings to hire an assistant as he felt that an extra set of hands was well worth the money to help him move quickly around each city.

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: Richard Renaldi

by Jonathan Blaustein

We talk to strangers all the time, on the Internet. Twitter makes it so easy. Just add someone’s handle to the beginning of a short missive, and they’ll probably read what you have to say. What could be more impersonal?

I did it the other day. Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author of this brilliant article about Reparations, in the current issue of The Atlantic, was taking questions on Twitter. I happened to see the tweet announcing the conversation, so I asked him a question. Why did he focus his investigation on Chicago?

Then I went for a run.

When I got back, I saw that my notifications had blown up. He’d chosen my question as a launching point to explain his motivations. He sent six or seven tweets my way, deconstructing my inquiry in a very methodical manner. And hundreds of people had RT’d the info around the globe.

I felt bad for having started the chat, but not been around to reply. So I apologized to Mr. Coates, and then dropped him another note. Both tweets were summarily ignored, and I was neither surprised by that, nor offended.

Why?

He doesn’t know me. We’ve never met or spoken. Despite the fact that he used my handle repeatedly in his replies, it was little more than a Socratic technique. I was a stand-in for the many people out there who yearned to know more about what drove him to engage so deeply in the journalistic practice.

I was not a real person in this situation, any more than he was a real person to me. I typed a few letters, pressed send, and then my thoughts went out into the ether, where they were received as information. The words were disembodied; a process to which we have all become so accustomed in these last five years.

Our ability to “reach” people we don’t know has never been greater. I still remember the shock I felt the first time I got an email from “Barack Obama” in 2007. (Chicago again.) It seemed like magic. Now, I don’t even click on the spam he sends me. I’m under no illusions anymore.

At best, no matter how many “friends” or “followers” you might have, you can’t possibly have real relationships with more than a hundred people. Even that is a stretch. Which means that 99.9999999999% of humanity will always be strangers to you. People with parents you’ll never meet, boobs you’ll never see, stories you’ll never hear.

And that makes them fascinating. We may know that most humans have much in common with the herd, but unfamiliarity is its own kind of exoticism. Which is why I was so impressed with Richard Renaldi’s “Touching Strangers” exhibition when I saw it at Aperture, in New York, this past April.

For a guy who writes about photography on a weekly basis, there’s surprisingly little I see that embeds deeply in my brain. I’m the type of artist more likely to be influenced by cinema, painting, sculpture, or fiction. Photography doesn’t boil my blood as much as you might think.

But this project was mindblowing. It was the perfect metaphor for the medium writ large. We accept the nature of the rectangle or square. It is the biggest part of what makes a photo; that delineation between what is included or excluded. We accept that there is a world surrounding the border, but we choose not to care, for a brief moment.

As the exhibition has since closed, we’re lucky to be able to view it in book form, also called “Touching Strangers,” also available via Aperture. (The publisher’s name is itself a reminder that the camera is inherently limiting, in its access to light.)

Mr. Renaldi spent years combing the bus stations, laundromats, public spaces, and fancy museums of America, casting regular folks to be his models. Once the text, (and a video in the exhibition) allows us access to the process, a world of wonder floods into our consciousness. We imagine him out there, wrangling people, making small talk, offering compliments about a woman’s hair, or a young man’s bandana.

Yet it all happens offstage.

It puts me in mind of the story Reid Callanan told in our recent interview, how a photographer can approach a random person with odd questions, but, minus the image-making apparatus, the same interlocutor becomes a nuisance, one step short of an assailant.

It’s hard to believe these subjects never met until Mr. Renaldi intervened. The pictures feel so natural, which is a testament to his skill. They’re uniformly excellent, and seeing so many together allows those subtle differences to emerge. Who was reluctant? Who held back? Who cast a curtain across his eyes, to make sure we couldn’t steal his soul?

Which people had chemistry? Who opened up, blossoming into a faux-model for just a moment? Which of those Vegasites with beer cans was totally drunk? How close to death was the bald-headed cancer patient?

Did the Orthodox Jew and the African-American in Brooklyn each realize the other had a guarded look? Did they know the artist must have been thinking of the Crown Heights riots, back in the day? If they knew, did they care? Did their moment of contact create an opportunity for the suppression of prejudice?

I had so many questions, none of which I tweeted to Richard Renaldi. In his beautifully-written end note, he shares his own story, growing up in the segregated city of Chicago. Apparently, he ventured out into forbidden territory as a youth, in search of trysts with strange men.

He became intimate, we can only imagine, in ways far beyond what he’s asked of the people in this book. But the courage and confidence he developed, while fortunately not being kidnapped and killed, enabled this project to coalesce decades later. Thankfully. Because this book reminded me of why some of my colleagues, like the indomitable Jörg Colberg, still find photography fascinating on a daily basis.

Bottom Line: Remarkable project, great exhibition, wonderful book

To Purchase “Touching Strangers” Visit Photo-Eye

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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: Tobias Hutzler

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 Buyer: I nominate Tobias Hutzler. He has gorgeous work and he is so hardworking and humble. I think he is going to be a star some day! He also has some amazing video work on Vimeo.

A recent project for Sony Music, an exciting project with a lot of creative freedom. The light trails are created by the movement of the water.

A recent project for Sony Music, an exciting project with a lot of creative freedom.
The light trails are created by the movement of the water.

Shot in the SouthWestern desert at night in moonlight.

Shot in the SouthWestern desert at night in moonlight.

A series on energy, light and space, shot in deserts across the US.

A series on energy, light and space, shot in deserts across the US.

This image was shot on location at night.

This image was shot on location at night.

An international Honda campaign for Wieden+Kennedy . The concept was to create a warm graphic and modern look.

An international Honda campaign for Wieden+Kennedy . The concept was to create a warm graphic and modern look.

International campaign for Honda. The concept was to create mirroring images, a car that appeals to both, the head and heart. Images that highlight the versatility of the car.

International campaign for Honda. The concept was to create mirroring images, a car that appeals to both, the head and heart. Images that highlight the versatility of the car.

This cover image we shot recently in LA; illuminated solely by moonlight.

This cover image we shot recently in LA; illuminated solely by moonlight.

A portrait of Maedir Eugster from the personal film project "Balance," which led to a global campaign for Titan watches.

A portrait of Maedir Eugster from the personal film project “Balance,” which led to a global campaign for Titan watches.

This is from a series on dancers. We shot this image on a rooftop in midtown Manhattan New York.

This is from a series on dancers. We shot this image on a rooftop in midtown Manhattan New York.

Commissioned by TIME magazine, photographed in Brooklyn.

Commissioned by TIME magazine, photographed in Brooklyn.

Lower East Side at night, New York City

Lower East Side at night, New York City

this image is from a series photographed for TheNewYorkTimes Magazine, a huge festival in the unexplored Western part of India. We scouted locations and captured the stunning sceneries in different parts of the city, like this candle-lit ballon flying.

this image is from a series photographed for TheNewYorkTimes Magazine, a huge festival in the unexplored Western part of India. We scouted locations and captured the stunning sceneries in different parts of the city, like this candle-lit ballon flying.

The NewYorkTimes Magazine commissioned me to photograph a new concept for refugee camps on the border to Syria. We created a custom device to capture unseen overviews to show both the structure and how people interact with the space.

The NewYorkTimes Magazine commissioned me to photograph a new concept for refugee camps on the border to Syria. We created a custom device to capture unseen overviews to show both the structure and how people interact with the space.

This image was commissioned by The New Yorker Magazine, New York July 4th.

This image was commissioned by The New Yorker Magazine, New York July 4th.

How many years have you been in business?
I have been shooting professionally for 3.5 years, but I have been photographing since I was 13, inspired by the work of the German Becher school, Bauhaus, Pop Art and Cubism. I am very interested in illustration, film art, painting and contemporary culture.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I studied photography at some of the best universities in Europe before receiving my MFA in the US on a Fulbright scholarship. That said, my work has also evolved through experience—learning by doing, constantly pushing the boundaries and experimenting in finding new ways. I learned to think outside the photographic box through things like studying film and contemporary culture in all facets.

Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
My greatest influence was traveling around the world. At an early age, I became very curious about the world and started backpacking throughout Europe, then Africa and Asia. Photography helped me to process all these experiences with different cultures worldwide. I crossed the Sahara and traveled in very remote corners of the world. Through photography, I was able to understand, communicate and tell stories.

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?
I don’t shoot to be noticed or hired, but to create work that is new and significant. Inspiration is everywhere. I want to introduce new ways and perspectives and make visible what’s hidden. I want to photograph what we all have in common, to find something universal that we can all connect with. This is really a magical thing and so essential.

There is so much that goes into an image: the light, time, composition and intention. Photography to me is more asking questions rather then looking for answers. I am grateful for every opportunity to collaborate with creatives and to go out and shoot exciting new work.

Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
Every project is a collaboration. Art directors are creating great ideas. I am there to help the process come together as smoothly as possible. I’ve been fortunate to work with great art and creative directors. Recently, I had the chance to work with a wonderful creative director at Sony. The creative director was so open to my ideas; it was a dream collaboration.

What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
Shooting editorial is a great way to get my work in front of potential advertising clients. Editorial is also a great way to work with interesting people and explore fascinating subjects with a great creative process and freedom. One week this year, for example, I was photographing large crowds in an unexplored area in India, and a few days later, I shot a cover in the Californian desert, in moonlight.

Personal meetings with clients are also very important to me. There is nothing better then a one-on-one and getting a feel for who the other person is.

What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
You must create your own market. You must develop a true self.
Who needs a copy of a copy of a copy?

As a photographer, I think it is very important to be able to come up with new ideas, perspectives and solutions. This helps the creatives produce something original and unique. And that’s everybody’s goal, isn’t it?

Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
Yes. This is the most important part of my work. I am constantly shooting, pushing the boundaries, exploring, challenging myself and working outside my comfort zone.

How often are you shooting new work?
At least weekly. If I’m not shooting, I am thinking about a new way, researching, planning or developing a concept.

In 2013, Time magazine debuted my short film “Balance,” which was produced with cutting-edge technology, It started as a personal project and soon went viral. Many millions of people around the world have viewed it, and it inspired an international ad campaign. For me, personal work is essential to growing as an artist as well as attracting new clients.

http://tobiashutzler.com/index.php?/motion/balance/

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Tobias Hutzler presents subjects in striking new ways, possessing a distinct point of view that has attracted advertising and editorial clients including Honda, Hyundai, Titan watches. He studied photography at some of the most prestigious schools in Europe and received his MFA in the US. He is a Fulbright Scholar and recipient of the prestigious DAAD and European Union fellowships. His work has received numerous international awards and he was named one of PDN’s 30 photographers to watch. “His pictures are both consistent and filled with surprises,” legendary director of photography Elisabeth Biondi wrote of Tobias’ images. As an image maker Tobias captures the pulse of our constantly moving and contemporary culture.

He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, TIME magazine and has been called “visionary” by AD Magazine and “one of the most exciting new artists working in photography.”

He is based in New York City and represented by Stockland Martel.

represented by Stockland Martel
www.stocklandmartel.com
talentinfo@stocklandmartel.com

New York studio:
www.tobiashutzler.com
tobias@tobiashutzler.com

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.

Art Is Essential Yet Digital Abundance Has Diminished Our Sense Of Its Worth

- - Blog News

Art and culture are nonetheless vital, essential even, to what it means to be human, yet digital abundance has diminished our sense of their worth.

“Does it follow that culture has value only if there is a limited supply to drive up demand? And what is it that makes some bits worth paying for — food for a virtual pet, a video game app, or a song on iTunes — and others — an article, a streaming video, a photograph — not?”

via How Much Should We Pay For Art? – NYTimes.com.

Susan Burnstine Interview

- - Art

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Jonathan Blaustein: You used to be a stand up comedian?

Susan Burnstine: I worked in the entertainment business for many years, in many aspects. I started playing with stand-up comedy after. I was out there 8 years or so. Can’t say I was that great.

JB: (laughing) You weren’t funny?

SB: I was funny. I just wasn’t funny enough.

JB: (laughing) OK. I like that.

SB: Because you have to be contained in this 30 minute slot. I’m not very contained. I did stand-up comedy in college, and then I started working for Castle Rock, and a lot of different entertainment companies.

I happened to fall on to these sitcoms with a lot of famous comics, and one of them put me up on stage at the Comedy Store, and it went that way for a little while.

JB: So in what capacity were you working for the studios?

SB: Everything. Mostly development. I was behind the scenes, and didn’t do much that was exciting. I did write for years, but I never had any notable successes. So it’s nothing to talk about. I honestly hate talking about my entertainment past, so apologies.

JB: Why do you hate talking about it?

SB: It’s a past that I buried, and I truly don’t relate to it anymore.

JB: I feel that way. Don’t you think a lot of creative-types have phases in their lives? Or snake-skin-shedding periods where we were different people and then we change? I think that’s very common, and not embarrassing.

SB: Certainly. It also brought me to where I am now, because the cinematography and my writing are both a big part of how I create my images. I see very cinematically.

Learning to write screenplays, and having that background, really did give me the fundamentals.

JB: Let’s back up just a hair. You’ve been making and exhibiting your photography for quite some time. Can we put a rough figure on that? How long have you been engaging in the world of galleries, exhibitions, and publications?

SB: I’ve been making my own cameras since 2005, and by 2007 I ended up in my first gallery, thanks to Dave Anderson.

JB: Shout out.

SB: Shout out. Absolutely. He’s the best. I was in Photo LA just walking around. I was a nobody, enamored by everything that was on the walls.

I had been communicating with Dave via email, because I was such a fan of “Rough Beauty.” He’s such a nice guy. I saw him walk by with Alec Soth. Now, I live in Hollywood, and am around famous people all the time. It doesn’t affect me whatsoever.

But I saw Dave Anderson walk by, and I said, “OH MY GOD.” I was totally star-struck, and started screaming, “You’re my favorite photographer.” I made a total ass of myself.

JB: In front of Alec Soth.

SB: Yes, this is the funny part. I’m sorry to Alec Soth, because I have a great respect for him, but I was screaming, “Oh my God, Dave Anderson.” He was so excited that someone recognized him, much less next to Alec Soth he said, “Wait, I want to look at your work.”

So I brought him back to my car, he looked at my portfolio…

JB: In your car?

SB: In the trunk of my car.

JB: You had a portfolio review, impromptu, in the trunk of your car? That is the origin story to your art career?

SB: It is.

JB: Oh my God. I’m not even saying OMG. That’s a straight up Oh my God.

Listen up people. There’s the lesson right there. You gotta hustle. We don’t say this stuff for our own edification. You gotta shake and bake.

SB: It’s true. But I wasn’t planning it. I’m not a hustler. Something told me, “Put your portfolio in the car today.” So I did. And Dave went crazy, and snuck it back into Photo LA, which you’re not supposed to do. He brought it to one of his galleries, she looked at it, and in 2 seconds, I was signed.

End of story.

JB: OK, I’m really glad we’re having this conversation. Because I’ve never heard that before. There are a lot of people out there waiting for something like that to happen to them, and I tend to think those things don’t happen, ever. And that pinning one’s hopes on random discovery is not a particularly viable strategy.

You’re now telling us, “You never know.”

SB: You never know. You never know. That’s how I got discovered. That gallery sold me like crazy for a few years, and more galleries came, and that was it.

JB: Let’s talk about the work itself. You made mention that you build your own cameras. But the cameras you build are not super-hi-tech machines. They’re made out of plastic and tape?

SB: Yes. They’re total pieces of crap. They fall apart. I have to carry tape and Ducco cement with me whenever I go out.

JB: What is the allure of such a process?

SB: The allure is tied to the conceptual reason of why I began this. I didn’t just say, “Oh, I want to make my own camera.” That would have been insane. There had to be a fundamental reason why.

The why is because I was looking for a way to re-create my unconscious world. I suffer from night terrors. Do you know what that is?

JB: Not really.

SB: Mine started at 4 years old, after a severe trauma. What they are, basically, are severe nightmares that you cannot wake up from. You just can’t. And they’re detrimental to your waking and unconscious life.

My Mom was very smart. She was artistic, and a musician, and she decided to help me try to work out these night terrors by drawing and painting the dreams I had from the night before.

The process really worked, so she used that through-out my childhood. They came back in my 30’s, when she was tragically killed.

JB: I’m sorry to hear that.

SB: I decided to work out the effects of the night terrors by photographing my dreams and nightmares, because photography was my main source of creativity at that point. I tried every single camera known to man-kind. You name it, I tried it.

Nothing looked like what I was trying to communicate. My Dad was an engineer and inventor early in his lifetime. He would always build things in the house that were absolutely crazy. When I took my problem to him, he said, “Why don’t you just make your own cameras?”

I’d been working with toy cameras, and realized how they were fundamentally made. Very simplistic creations. So I decided, why don’t I take some time to take them apart and rebuild them. Teach myself how to create a camera.

That’s what I did. Then, I created my own lens, and it all came together in 2005. I did this one test shot of my dog’s nose entitled “Blue’s Nose”, and realized, “That’s what I’m going for. That really looks like my unconscious world.”

That’s how it all began.

JB: That’s amazing. I don’t profess to have begun this process of becoming a journalist with any intent, or any skill. I still bristle at using the word to describe myself. But if I were any good at the job, I would not have missed the two opportunities you brought up to discuss some heavy stuff.

You just told me you had a major tragedy at 4, and then your Mother was tragically killed. There’s a part of me that likes to pretend I don’t hear these things, but then I feel like I’m not really doing my job if I ignore openings for serious discussion.

Let me put that to you in the form of a question. Are you interested or comfortable discussing either of those things
that you mentioned? Or would you rather we just keep going?

SB: (long pause.) I can kind of talk about it. (pause.) I don’t like to talk publicly about what began these dreams. Because it’s pretty shocking. It’s probably not for public consumption.

JB: Like I said, we can move on.

SB: But my Mom… it happens whenever anyone dies. That’s when my night terrors are created again. There’s no telling when they’ll stop. I’m in a real bad phase right now, where they’re coming almost every night. It’s crazy.

JB: I’m very sorry to hear that. On behalf of the readers, we offer you our empathy. Given that I already busted your chops before I turned on the recorder about the very dark and serious look on your face when we began…I think I have my answer about where that was coming from.

My apologies for any insensitivity to your plight. With my obnoxious jokery.

SB: Don’t be silly.

JB: I’ll consider that apology accepted. Listen, the pictures are dreamy. I can’t imagine looking at them, and not using that word. They’re blurry and soft-focus. But they’re also very, very beautiful. Skylines, skyscrapers, the Santa Monica pier. Dynamic and epic subject matter, rendered beautifully. Exquisitely attractive.

SB: Thank you.

JB: But we’re talking about a root cause that is the opposite of beautiful.

SB: You’re touching on an interesting subject that I had a conversation about last week. How come they end up beautiful, and not ugly?

JB: Maybe not ugly. But they don’t feel conflicted. I teach at-risk youth, and I always talk about the idea of using the artistic process to take negative psychic energy and channel it into something positive.

The channeling itself is positive, but oftentimes, the end product might not be. How does that work for you? Is it intentional, to have the pictures be lovely? I’m not saying you need to be Joel-Peter Witkin, but to me as a viewer, they’re 180 degrees from dark and scary.

SB: There’s a reason for that. When my Mom started this process, when I was 4 years old, she actually told me to re-interpret them in a positive way, so that I’m actually re-writing my unconscious existence. And it worked.

It somehow patterns my brain to think more positive than negative. Ultimately, this kind of process helps me stop the night terrors. I’m re-creating my world in a more positive way.

JB: Is it important to you that the viewer of your photographs is privy to your process? If so, how do you go about communicating that additional information?

SB: It does not matter to me, because I honestly didn’t get into this for any other reason. I started creating these images for myself. It’s my own psychological process to purge what’s going on inside of me and create art.

I didn’t plan to be in the fine art world. I didn’t even know what fine art was, until it sort of fell in my lap. So it’s not that important until people start asking me questions, and that always happens.

“Why do you create cameras? Why are you creating this image?” You have to be honest with your viewers. It comes from a serious spot. I could say, “Oh, I like to make blurry pictures.” But then I’m not honoring what I’m really doing.

Once the conversation starts, I have to be frank about where it’s coming from. But it doesn’t matter to me if you just buy it because you think it’s pretty. I don’t care.

If it means something to you, and you want to put it on the wall, if it brings something to your life, that’s great.

JB: Understood. Wow. I rarely get uncomfortable in these interviews. I like making people uncomfortable.

SB: I’m honored. I made you uncomfortable.

JB: I get the video experience via Skype, but the readers don’t. Your turmoil is flashing across your eyes on a semi-regular basis. I’m responding to what I’m seeing, as well as what I’m hearing. And other people don’t have that luxury.

Thank you for sharing this with our audience. I’m always on a soap box. My readers know this. I practically live on my high horse, telling everybody else what to do.

The reason why I do this is because I was a very unlikely candidate to become an artist myself. This process, over the last 17 years, has enriched my life in every way I can think of. And helped me grapple with my own demons, such as they are. Thankfully, and admittedly, they don’t derive from any hard-core trauma.

Even though I try to enliven the writing with humor, I’m very serious about why art helps a lot of people. We build a super-structure over the process: buying and selling, talking and promoting.

Oftentimes, we confuse the value of the super-structure with the value of the process. I feel like you have very cleanly explained to people the way it’s supposed to work. And then dangled this carrot out there, that even random people can be discovered. Which is a myth I try to quash, but there you go.

We’re telling it like it is today. Are we not?

SB: We’re trying.

JB: Fast-forward again, and you’re doing very well. You’re represented in a slew of galleries, show a lot, and just took home an award last week from the Palm Springs Photo Festival. Best in the reviews, is that right?

SB: Yup. That was a shocker.

JB: Well, you also had that happen once at PhotoNOLA, so I’m not sure if it was an actual shocker.

SB: Wow. You do your research.

JB: No, I just have a really good memory. Where are we headed here? We’re headed to teaching.

We’ve talked about why and how you do what you do. And what the pictures look like. But teaching is an entirely different beast. One need not be a great artist to be a great teacher, because the skill sets don’t always overlap.

You’re going to be teaching a workshop this summer at the Santa Fe Workshops, and they’re sponsoring this interview series. Your workshop is called “Visual Narratives.” What does that mean, in your words?

SB: “Visual Narratives” is about communicating your own personal narrative, visually. Digging deep inside of yourself, and being able to identify a consistent thread that is within all your images. And be able to create a body of work.

I have a unique way of teaching that’s very psychological. Most of my students think they went to the shrink’s. They call me “The Psychiatrist.”

It’s a very interesting class. I love it. It digs deep into each person’s personal world, and teaches them how to bring back their unique qualities: what they’ve experienced, what they’re passionate about, and put it into a visual element.

JB: Does that presuppose that everyone is interesting?

SB: I think everyone IS interesting. I suppose there’s someone really boring out there, but I haven’t met them yet.

JB: You’re talking about a framework through which you approach strangers, basically. And a set of assumptions you bring to the table to then teach those strangers. What types of questions do you ask people to get them to share private, secret, interior information?

SB: I have a way of working where I ask stream-of-consciousness questions, and you have just a few seconds to write down the answers. By looking at all the answers together, in a group context, we’re able to put a map together of what makes that person tick. And what they’re really trying to say, whether they know it or not.

Questions that seem vague and unimportant, but they’re very specific, once you put the map together.

JB: What happens if someone comes to your workshop with perfectly anodyne and average pictures of flowers and birds? The most typical and uninteresting set of pictures you might imagine.

SB: (pause) You have to ask them about what is really inspiring them, and why is it flowers, or bees, or whatever it is they’re taking pictures of. And what is it that they want to do with that? I always look at the person’s aspirations for the image, and where they want to get to, compared to where they are with their image making today. Because if I succeed, tomorrow they will start the process of making images they aspire to create. And as a teacher, there’s nothing more rewarding to witness than growth in your students.

For instance, I was always inspired by Impressionists, my entire childhood. Somehow, that informed where I went. My work is Pictorialist based, but I didn’t know what a “Pictorialist” photograph was until maybe 10-15 years ago. But I did know what Impressionism was, and was inspired by the images.

The Impressionists informed my work, and what I was trying to say, so I ask people, “What type of art form are you inspired by, and what really gets you going?” To me, that’s a vital clue about where a photographer aspires to achieve with their work. Does that make sense?

JB: Of course. It was a slightly rude question, but you answered it positively. It’s not easy to get people to open up, and then you have to build trust within the group. Group dynamics, and making sure your pupils respect and trust each other, is important as well. The environment they’re in, and whether they feel secure or insecure in the group, will also determine how far people get in a short span of time. Would you agree?

SB: Yes. I think this is where the stand-up comedy comes into play. (laughing.) I just love people, and I love making them laugh. I love having a true conversation with someone, and digging in to what’s important.

That’s what my classes are about. I don’t accept a vague answer. I really keep digging at people.

I’m from the Mid-West. I talk to everybody.

JB: Well, according to that philosophy, I let you off the hook earlier in the interview. I didn’t keep digging until you broke.

SB: That’s different. I’m not paying $1200 to get to the next level.

JB: (laughing) Touché. We’re talking about inspiration. Outside of the New Yorkers, you Angelenos probably have access to the best art in the US. Or maybe the Chicago girl in you would quibble? (pause) Oh my goodness. I read it in your eyes. Honestly, people, she did not say anything. I did not edit this part at all. I read it in her eyes. She may live in LA, but she was like, “Aw, hell no.”

SB: Chicago.

JB: There it is. Chicago. Hot dogs, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Never leaves your blood.

SB: Pizza.

JB: Pizza. Let’s not go there. You guys use more cheese, the New Yorkers have crispier crust. Truce.

Where I was headed was, where do you like to go look at work in LA? How do you keep yourself juiced up, with all that great art at your fingertips?

SB: It’s funny, but it’s mostly when I’m traveling. I hate to say it. That’s when I have time to go to the museums. I always hit up MoMA and the Met and everything, when I’m in New York.

Who has time when you’re actually here? It’s sad to say, but I’ll go to the Getty and LACMA, when I can. I get a lot of juice going to gallery shows. Artists that I wouldn’t have a chance to see.

I recently saw a great show over at Kopeikin Gallery that was really inspiring. Kevin Cooley. Do you know him?

JB: I saw his videos at MOPA in San Diego. Dynamite.

SB: Unbelievably inspiring show. There’s always a great show going on in the galleries here in LA.

JB: You use the galleries more than the museums?

SB: I think so. When I go to a museum, I get lost. It’s a commitment. I only allow myself that time when I’m out of town, not when I’m here.

1_Bridge To Nowhere

2_the approach_burnstine

3_circuitous_burnstine

4_ the road most traveled_burnstine

5_suspend

6_Threshold

7_in the midst

8_at the edge of darkness

 

SFPW_APhotoEditor_Jan2014