Photographers Leading The Way

- - The Future

I’ve been thinking that National Geographic photographers are uniquely poised to discover all the ways photography can reach consumers next. They already have one of the largest built-in audiences and that yellow border is instantly recognizable by the masses as a source for great photography. Plus, Geographic has always been good about moving the photography and photographers they work with into as many mediums as possible (books, calendars, note cards, videos, lectures, workshops) so consumers are ready to receive whatever they’re offering next. The biggest asset these talented people have going for them is the individual picture stories in their archive can have 100’s of great images no one has ever seen.

Stephen Alvarez is turning his massive 15 year collection of images into a picture-a-day along with a short story blog. He’s got other plans as well so this is just the beginning of attracting a huge following, one picture at a time. Check it out here:


And then on Stephen’s site I discovered that David Alen Harvey is planning a New York to California road trip as a personal project to make a “portrait” of America and he’s invited everyone to help him make it happen. As in, help pay for lunch, gas and finding interesting people to photograph. Genius. You can hang out with David, watch/help him make pictures, learn a thing or two and buy him a turkey sandwich. Then, when it’s all over the people he’s met along the way and all their friends will be standing in line at Amazon to buy the book. Hell, I’d sell the magazine story to the highest bidder, it comes with a built in audience and a blog that gets 100 comments on a slow day.

Here’s what David has to say on his blog (here):
“here is the deal….offer me lunch and i give you a portfolio review!!….travel along with us and fill up my car with gas (getting expensive) and you might just get an almost free workshop, or find a great family for me to photograph and get a signed print (see how entrepreneural i have become???)….seriously, all of your ideas are welcomed..”

Look out crabby old media barons, photographers are leading the way.

There Are 8 Comments On This Article.

  1. Thank you for these fine examples.

    Why photographers think they need wait for some kind of door to open is beyond me. You gotta go and do it.

    More important, I think, is knowing what it is you want to do:)

    Perhaps that’s your next piece?

  2. Not wanting to sound like a whiner but still waiting for the promised review on the series I submitted to his pj contest last year… You know, the one which drastically changed rules right before deadline?… Again, not the whiner type here, just providing my precious feedback. If one wants to keep up to his hard earned merits one should keep it a bit more rigorous.

  3. Glen McClure ( in Norfolk, Virginia a few years back ( where he just asked for volunteers to show up to have their mugs made on 4x5s in black and white. The resulting show moved around to different venues in Virginia.

    David Allen Harvey’s idea seems even cooler since he’s fostering a bit of camaraderie as he does it. I’ll be keen to see both how the travelling show goes and what the final result looks like.

  4. I like the blog entry where Harvey gets evicted from The Kibbutz (his apartment building in Brooklyn) while he’s in India and friends of resort to using his blog to let him know what’s happening.

    When’s Harvey starting? Maybe you and itdoesntmatter have time to make-up (which I’m glad to see seems to be happening) and you two can challenge the Broenings to a top-rope battle royal and Harvey can photograph it for his project.

    Now that would tie all this up into a nice little bundle….

  5. @ Scott 03, a similar project happened in the UK by photographers John Reardon and Derek Bishdon in the early eighties. They set up a white backdrop and camera/tripod on a street and invited anyone to take a pic of themselves using a long cable release. I believe the work is in the collection of Birmingham Central Library UK.

  6. Turkey Sandwich

    Rick Smolan has been playing this game for decades, with his Day in the Life series. Snooze.

    I guess, on some level, it’s an interesting concept, but I’d love to see the Balance Sheets on these projects, to see if they are coming close to breaking even. Although they seek out corporate sponsors to underwrite the projects, so maybe that’s the avenue to take.

    Another ex-national ad photographer that I know has pretty much stopped shooting altogether, and gone into the publishing business. He approaches corporations for sponsorship; the corporations get thousands of free hardbound books, and give them to their customers as premiums. The books are varied; some are about college football programs and all related activities. Corporations eat that stuff up; anything with smiling faces, blue skies, and dog mascots dressed up in school sweaters. Now that’s what I call groundbreaking photography. Having said that, I’m betting that this photographer is making much more money in the publishing business than he did in the shooting business. But before anyone goes out and sells their Hasselblads, be reminded that you’ve got to have that certainly personality that’ll allow you to “talk the talk” to those corporate executives. More power to him, but it’s not for me. I think he shoots some of the assignments, and then hires young photographers to cover the mundane stuff.

    There’s lots of ways to make a living. But in terms of exciting, innovative photography, I find that 99% of these types of projects are dumbed-down, and geared for mass appeal, and border on sappy cliques. My bet is that most of them end up in the Sale rack, or marked down drastically.

    However, reading David Harvey’s post about his project, he seems well-intentioned, and he’s got his head in the right place. He seems like a quality individual.

    (For the record, the posts of recent days, I think, have sent a chilling effect on anyone reading here, due to the tracking topic. I’m hesitant to post anything; feel like I need to unplug my modem now and reset the IP Address. Not sure why; it just feels dirty in here; like a crime scene. Sad. I think there is a desire out there, for an informed, intelligent dialogue about this photography business, but the question is, how to do it and keep the quality high, and maintain the S/N ratio.)

  7. #6 Turkey Sammich;

    You come to realize that anything that is put in hard copy, public or private is really in the public domain.

    I’ve seen quotes from personal e-mails show up on camera makers websites, actually even seen quotes from my website end up on another photographer’s website, so there really is no “safe” way to offer opinions and share without running a risk.

    I think most of us that read this blog have a few stories about the ad, editorial and publishing world that would enlighten and though the intent might be good, the result is any quote taken out of context can be damaging.

    Even in dealing with clients I try to keep all controversial topics limited to voice communication, rather than a quick un edited e-mail. I’ve seen a few careers sunk on an e-mail that was taken the wrong way.

    It’s a fine line to put yourself out there and share for the sake of conversation, without accepting that there is risk, so most of the quotes become watered down, like the books you mentioned of dogs wearing high school sweaters.

    James Russell