In the McCurry case, fortunately, there was a very different take. A.D. Coleman published a letter written by Robert Dannin, who worked at Magnum and with McCurry in the late 1980s. Dannin squarely puts the onus on the publishing industry in general, and on National Geographic in particular. These are the kinds of discussions we — as the general public — are rarely exposed to. But to me, it seems completely obvious that we have to talk about this aspect of photojournalism, which is immensely important: the role of the publishers (who might or might not also still commission work). Given McCurry’s photographs are such kitsch, why are they so widely coveted by the likes of National Geographic? What does that tell us about the publishing industry?
Posts by: A Photo Editor
As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects because they are the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director, photo editor, or graphic designer. This new column, “The Art of the Personal Project” will feature the personal projects of photographers using the Yodelist marketing database. You can read their blog at http://yodelist.wordpress.com. Projects are discovered online and submissions are not accepted.
Today’s featured photographer is: Craig LaCourt
How long have you been shooting?
I’ve been working in the industry for over 17 years, but really started pushing my own photography in the last 4 years or so.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I did get a BFA in photography from Western Michigan University, and that set a good foundation for how to address things in so much as building groups/series of images, but from a technical/professional aspect it’s the years of working as a digital technician and assistant that taught me the ropes of how the industry works.
With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
I’ve had a broader project of shooting the creative people I meet in my community of Red Hook, Brooklyn for quite some time (hence my Instagram handle @redhook_shooter) and I’d known “Guitar Matt” through the great network of people for a bit before this. I moved my studio into the building he had been working in and we thought it was time to do something as I wanted to do some artisan small business based projects and he could always use new images for his own. We concepted and shot it over the course of a couple days.
How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
This particular project was one of several I wanted to incorporate into my new site/book when I sat down with Karen D’Silva to re-assess what I’d been presenting. She really liked this project in particular.
How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
I usually know before we are done shooting the first day. Most of my personal projects are collaborative in so much as I feed off the people I shoot. It’s such an adrenaline rush when you are on the same plane, but sometimes things just don’t “have it”,
Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
I almost always think of shooting as potential portfolio. Sometimes I overanalyze it into something bigger (production wise) than it really needs to be. I recently took a personal trip with a friend who is a motorcycle builder and we went from Denver to Austin for a motorcycle show. I usually would have brought cases and cases of lighting gear and cameras to treat it like an ad production. This time I specifically rented a small camera and a couple lenses and that’s it. I just tagged along to whatever he wanted to do so I didn’t have to plan any production or blocking. I just shot what I saw. It was a nice breath of fresh air and I think it helped me come back really excited.
Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
Sometimes I feel like I got into the game a little too late with social and my photography. I’d always kept the two separated. So now I’m trying to push myself to keep ideas flowing onto Instagram and making an effort to keep it fresh and updated.
If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
Not really yet, no. I’ve not figured out the formula for getting that to happen yet. One person I shot for an ad campaign last year has literally MILLIONS of followers on Instagram. I’d love to get over 500 now, ha!
Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yes, I just did a pretty big (for me) hard promo push in the spring. I find this is still a very important step in our photography world. I’ve gotten some good feedback from the people that viewed it. For those I haven’t heard back from yet, my hope is that I have planted a seed of interest in their minds regarding the type of work I do.
I’ve lived in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn since moving from the rocky shores of Lake Superior. I like to ride motorcycles on curvy roads or strap a snowboard to my feet when the opportunity presents itself. I try to catch a Red Wings game here and there with my wife, Shami, and my daughter, Mihika.
In my free time I’m always down for a great conversation over a hoppy beer with my dogs at my feet. The best talks are after a really fun photo shoot when we are spent but running on adrenaline from making something special.
People have called me a nice guy.
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 establishing 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 feed with helpful marketing information believing that marketing should be driven by a brand and not specialty. Follow her on twitter at SuzanneSease.
What are some photographs that you believe everybody should see?
There are so many photographs and digital images in the world today that instead of adding to the lists of things that everybody should see, I’d suggest a different exercise. I believe that most people would see more clearly if they took the time to look more closely… ideally at an old photograph that many people have held over many decades. In the digital era it strikes me as critically important to recognize the difference between a photograph (a physical object) and a photographic image (one that can assume new characteristics specific to the device on which it is seen, but which has no material presence), and that once you’ve really looked at a photograph you’ll have new tools to approach both photographic objects and images.
What are some of the most interesting things about the history of photography?
For a variety of reasons (cultural, economic, social, technical), throughout the history of the medium a significant percentage of the greatest photographers have been women. In fact, it is possible to tell a coherent history of photography featuring only women artists…
Read More Here: Sarah Meister – Quora Session on Jun 27, 2016
Believe it or not, in the last four days, three different people lectured me about the relationship between the amygdala and the hippocampus, two powerful, oppositional parts of the brain.
(And yes, that is definitely the longest opening sentence in this column’s history.)
But it’s also true.
Under pressure, the primal amygdala, of fight or flight fame, supersedes the hippocampus, which controls higher functioning.
(Essentially, when we’re triggered, we can’t think straight.) Our body chemistry, which often speaks to us in the form of emotion, runs the show when we’re stressed out.
It’s fact, and new studies demonstrate that our brains actually rewire, based upon repeated stimulus. If you’re bugging out all the time, that becomes your brain’s default hardware.
For months, you’ve read along as my teaching situation, in which I was repeatedly doused with cortisol, bled into other parts of my life. It’s hard not to be grumpy and short-tempered, or at the least allow some of life’s joys to pass you by.
So many of us work a lot, or stay connected throughout the day/month/year.
Do you sometimes wonder if you’re not having enough fun? Or appreciating your children properly?
I know I do.
So many of us are photographers, but how much time are you putting into aping your kid’s joy, getting down on the ground to make memories, rather than just pressing the virtual shutter on your Iphone?
I’m thinking here of the new photo/children’s book, “A-B-Cheeeese!”, recently published by Paul Schiek at TBW Books in Oakland. It’s pretty random, relative to what we normally review here, but also a bit of HGH to beef-up our fun-deprived muscles. (Especially in yet-another tragic week.)
I’ve reviewed a couple of TBW offerings in the past, and interviewed Paul last year as well. Though we’d never met, when I got to Oaktown last month, he picked me up at the airport so we could grab some In’n’Out burger, and watch the Golden State Warriors on TV at his place.
We’re two odd ducks, as artists, in that we’re both huge sports fans. He was immersed in it, growing up in Wisconsin, as was I in New Jersey, so the idea of catching a game, in the Warriors hometown, was too good to pass up.
He pulled up to the airport in a blue truck, and I immediately went to the back door to throw my bag inside. Mid-toss, I realized there was a little human being blocking my flight path. It was a pretty, 2 year-old-girl with big brown eyes and whimsical curls, and I was lucky not to crush her with my travel bag.
“Dad,” she said, “who’s THAT guy?”
And that was my name for the rest of the day. “THAT” guy. Young Rosary warmed to me eventually, and we had some fun for a few minutes.
But then the game turned, and before we knew it, the Warriors were down 40 points. They were getting destroyed. Embarrassed even.
In case you don’t know, this season, the Warriors broke the NBA all-time record for most wins in a season, with 73. They’re accustomed to having their way with the opposition, not being annihilated on national television.
So by the time I left, there was bad-sports-juju in the air, and I forgot my copy of the book, along with a strap from the aforementioned luggage. Paul kindly sent both to me, back in New Mexico, because I really wanted to show this book to you.
It was made in honor of little Rosary, so it says, and she’s also listed in the back, as a Creative Consultant. (It makes me wonder if there aren’t some child labor laws being broken here.)
But what exactly is “A-B-Cheeeese!”?
It’s a play on the classic children’s book conceit of having one letter of the alphabet be represented by a word, image or phrase.
I still remember the Dr. Seuss version I read to my son when he was an infant. Big A, little a. What begins with A? Aunt Annie’s alligator, A A A.
Big B, little b. What begins with B? Barber, baby, bubbles and a bumblebee.
Here, each letter is paired with a word, and a historical, vernacular image that Paul purchased on Ebay.
A is for automobile, B is for bath time, C is for curious. F is for fish, and H is for Hello.
The pictures have been scanned, and are presented in the middle of a blank white page. But the text page color varies, blue for black and white, pink for color.
Some of these picture grab me more than others, but they all make me sad, on some level. Because a few of these kids are probably dead by now, or at least very old themselves. These anonymous stories are someone’s memories, and out of context, our vulnerability to time still shines through.
But it’s also hopeful, as the book is literally made for one child, yet shared with many, which was the plot of some early Neal Stephenson novel, the name of which I’ve unfortunately forgotten. (Sorry Neal!)
As for favorites, I love fish, and laughing, and piñata and quack. I love reading and waving and xylophone.
But yellow is the best.
I bet if this kid had one do-over, that special 1970’s super-power, he’d make this picture disappear from reality in a poof.
Because he’s got the crazy-eyes.
These days, that picture would get posted on the dude’s Facebook page, and it would be there for every prospective employer to see. Forever.
Here, in the book, it’s being ogled by strangers, and I’m sure the guy will never know.
I like that this photobook is a children’s book, a gift for a daughter, and a new piece of history to age, with its already- old, forgotten histories inside.
This was a big week, let’s be honest. A horrible thing happened in Orlando, and for once, I didn’t devote an entire column to the Terrible Tragedy of the Day. Not to belittle such things, but it’s genuinely awful that these events happen around the world with such tragic frequency these days.
In light of all that suffering, a cute/cool little book with a premise built on love seemed the right choice for today.
Don’t you think?
Bottom Line: Poignant, hybrid photo book/children’s book
The short film “Joe” highlights Riis’s work in the Yellowstone ecosystem, but it also exposes a much more relatable side of him—the struggle to find balance between life and a job that has basically become his life. “Is my work worth spending more time on my work than my girlfriend?” he asks in the film. “Is my work worth essentially dedicating my life to it? And that changes from time to time. Sometimes I think that, and other times I think: You know, I should just pack it in. I should just go into town and get a job, and actually have a real relationship.”
If your focus is on what’s wrong with the marketplace, and you’re caught up in the illusion that there’s no way you can succeed because of an overcrowded market, that’s full of young people who don’t know photography, then that is the reality that you create. You will live inside of that fantasy and your business will suffer.
If your focus however, is on developing the most competitive body of work you can produce and you then take the necessary steps needed to consistently sell and market your work, then you are laying the groundwork for the success that you seek.
Source: Selina Maitreya
Shoot Concept: Still life images of ingredients on white
Licensing: Unlimited use of four images in perpetuity
Location: A studio in New York
Shoot Days: 1
Photographer: Food/still life specialist
Agency: Medium-sized, based in the Northeast
Client: Packaged food manufacturer
Here is the estimate:
Creative/Licensing: The agency kicked off the project by describing a need for isolated close-up ingredient shots with “high appetite appeal” based on new variations of their flagship product. They had four new products, each of which required a unique image featuring ingredients of the flavors. The ingredients would be shot on white, and they’d ultimately be composited together with a textured background and a few other design elements.
The intended use for these images would be for product packaging, and there was a very limited chance they would end up in advertisements, although the products themselves (with the images on the packaging) could end up being integrated into other marketing pieces. It was apparent that the shelf life of the images would likely be a year or so as they refresh their product’s packaging somewhat frequently, but despite the intended use, the agency/client requested unlimited use of the four images in perpetuity.
With the intended use in mind, I wanted to price each image between $1,500-$3,000 based on previous experience with similar projects/clients. In this instance, we were given a budget of around $13,000, and given the potential expenses, I knew that would force us to tighten up the creative/licensing fee. After fleshing out the rest of the estimate, we ended up coming in at $6,500, which based upon the straightforward nature of the project and the photographer’s experience level, still seemed appropriate.
Assistant and Digital Tech: We included the cost for one assistant to lend a hand with grip/lighting, and also added a digital tech to ingest and display the files for approval on-site. The digital tech’s rate included his time at $500 for the day, plus a workstation rental at $600/day.
Food Stylist and Assistant: In addition to the food stylist’s time on set, she would also need a day beforehand to shop for the ingredients, and she’d have an assistant with her on the shoot day to prepare and organize the food. We included a few hundred dollars to source plenty of options, and this included a bit of a buffer in case any items needed to be special ordered and/or shipped in.
Studio Rental and Equipment: This rate afforded a studio with a kitchen and plenty of space to prep and shoot the ingredients. The photographer would be using all of her own equipment, rather than renting gear, and was comfortable waiving any equipment fees in order to stay within the client’s budget.
Lunch Catering: We anticipated 2 client/agency representatives to be on set, as well as the 5 crew members, and included $50 per person for lunch catering.
Mileage, Parking, Meals, Misc.: The photographer would be traveling from a few hours away, and we wanted to make sure we included supplemental funds for transportation to/from the studio, as well as parking and unanticipated expenses that might arise.
Color Correction, File Cleanup, Clipping and Delivery of 4 Selects by FTP: The agency would be handling the compositing of the images with the other design elements and backgrounds, but they needed the photographer to do some basic processing and create the clipping paths for each shot. I felt $150/image would be appropriate for this work.
Results: The photographer was awarded the project. Right before the shoot, the scope of the project changed a bit, and there was a need to bring on a prop stylist (at $800/day) to source a few surfaces, plates, bowls and utensils. The agency also ended up needing more help with the post processing than originally anticipated, and the photographer hired a retoucher who worked through 4 rounds of processing, clipping and color alterations, which added about $3,000 to the final invoice.
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 large ad campaigns.
Penelope Umbrico is one of the most forward-thinking, successful photographic artists working today. I heard her speak at the Filter Festival in Chicago last year, and she was kind enough to agree to an extensive interview earlier this year. You can see her work on the wall at the Mark Moore Gallery in LA, April 16-June 18, and at the Milwaukee Art Museum, May 5-August 7.
Jonathan Blaustein: How did you get started as an artist? Are you a lifer? Were you making things when you were four?
Penelope Umbrico: I was making things when I was four, yes.
JB: What was your four-year-old art like? Were your stick figures particularly dynamic?
PU: I can’t really remember. There are a few things I do remember having made. A set of bookmarks which featured tiny, little, extremely detailed marks with watercolors. Repeated marks, over and over again, which is oddly relevant to the work that I do now.
PU: And a dollhouse that I made out of found objects. Which is also relevant, actually, as it was all repurposing stuff. Things like spools and matchboxes. Things that I could find became the furniture, and I also remember a set of figurines that I made out of bobby-pins. So I guess I’ve always been repurposing things.
JB: Have you always made stuff, or did you do it like all kids do, move on, and then re-find it later. That’s what I meant to ask…
PU: No, I’ve always made stuff. I remember, as a kid, my family would be downstairs watching television, and I’d be up in my room making stuff.
JB: I saw in your bio that you went to art school in Canada.
JB: That doesn’t seem to be a common phenomenon, for Americans, so it struck me that there’s this whole SCTV, subversive comedy thing. Countless Canadians to who came to America with this skewed, almost twisted perspective that seemed to do well here.
Given that your work is subversive and edgy, I wondered if you thought that stepping out of America like that had anything to do with your evolution? Maybe that’s random?
PU: That’s interesting, because I actually grew up in Toronto, Canada.
JB: You did? Ok, I wondered, but Wikipedia said you were born in Philly.
PU: I was born while my parents were going to music school at Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. They got jobs in the Toronto Symphony so I grew up in Toronto.
But I’ve never made that connection before- that there’s a subversive, Canadian element in the work of Canadians who move to the States. It’s a healthy outsider skepticism of corporate culture, maybe?
I would guess most American artists are skeptical of corporate culture as well, but maybe Canadians are more so (laughing.) Canadians definitely have a skepticism of America.
JB: What was your work like before the Internet? Your art is so connected to digital reality…
PU: Well, I moved to the states in ’86. But before that I went to Ontario College of Art, as it was called when I was there. My major was Experimental Art – which I guess was the equivalent of new media today – but we also had to do conventional stuff like life-drawing, printmaking, dark-room photography. I think my final project was a grid of dried peas that I hung, at eye level – ha ha, all round things in a grid.
JB: Organization and structure. I love it.
PU: Yeah. I also made a project, I remember, that was a total failure. I wanted to suspend glycerin in oil, so I made this plastic cube. I thought if I filled the thing with oil, and then injected glycerin into the center of it, because the glycerin and the oil are the same weight, the glycerin would create a perfect sphere in this cube. I tried it, and it didn’t work at all.
JB: Sounds cool.
PU: But “Experimental Arts” then was mostly video. It’s interesting, one of the things I remember most about the video class was the first half concentrated on how to organize cords. How they needed to be organized and wrapped properly. And at around that time, one of the instructors asked me to draw a computer, because I had done a lot of illustration and drawing. He needed it for something, and I thought, “What does a computer look like?” This was 1978, ’79, and he kind of sketched out one of those early Apple 512k machines.
JB: When did you start working with Photography?
PU: Not seriously until I was doing my MFA in Painting at SVA.
The earliest photographs were really looking at consumer culture, moving through it in a virtual way. I think all of the photographs that I‘ve made deal with ‘virtually’ occupying another space.
I’ve never been interested in going out on the street and taking photographs. I’ve always been interested in the illusionary spaces that we, as a culture, create for ourselves.
Does that make sense?
JB: It speaks to the way you see your through-line. But I’d love to talk about appropriation for a moment, which is another constant in your work.
I appropriated images from the Internet for a project in 2006–7, and I remember when I first started, it felt kind of naughty.
For you, did it ever feel improper?
JB: There was never a moment for you where you thought what you were doing was transgressive, as opposed to natural?
PU: I think it depends upon how one defines transgressive, and in what context is it transgressive.
PU: I actually think all art is, or should be, to a certain degree, transgressive. I take that as a given and don’t think very much about it.
For me, what drives me to make work is stuff that affects me, and makes me question why it’s there. I’m seeing things on the web that, and whether it would be transgressive or not, I have to work with them because they’re asking questions of me that I can’t ignore.
I’m thinking, “What is going on here?” And then I have to look at it closer. And since I’m finding something going on there that is not the original intent of the images, I feel I have absolutely every right to use them.
The simplest example of this is a set of canvases that I had printed at places like Costco and Kinkos of that iconic image of the sun rays coming down in Grand Central Station. You know that photograph?
PU: If you do a web-search of it, there are four versions of it that nobody really knows who the photographer is. If you look for the attributions for these four images, a multitude of different titles, names, dates, licenses, copyright-holders claim title. Poster companies, photo-stock sites, souvenir manufacturers etc.
And often, the image will have a company’s logo right across it claiming copyright. In my mind, this ungrounded claim to ownership, which would have most people believe the corporate entity actually does have the right to ask you to pay to use the image, begs to be tested.
The fact is, that image is in the public domain – it’s old enough that nobody owns it. Everyone has, or should have, the right to use it. I’m appropriating, yes, but those copyrighters are also appropriating. And they are hindering creative fair-use, I am not.
JB: To me, you’re the edge of this, in how much of it you do, and the way in which the digital universe is subsuming reality in many ways. I was curious how you got started, and it sounds like you never felt wrong, from day one.
But do you think that copyright is an outmoded concept? Should it exist anymore?
PU: I think it needs to exist in certain contexts, for sure, but I think within the art world, no. (pause.) That’s a very simplistic answer.
I think authorship is a given in an artist’s work. There’s an element of a work of art that has an inherent sense of having been authored to it. It has the signature of the artist… without actually being signed – I mean, this can register in the work’s form or style, or its concept, or they way it engages a context… but it’s there.
Copyright in relationship to an artist is a different issue than to a photographer who is hired to make photographs, for instance, in service to an industry, and the livelihood of the photographer is dependent on that industry.
The difference between those two photographies is so great that to lump them together and ask does copyright apply is an almost impossible question to answer. There are so many fields within it, and they have such different structures and markets.
Does that make sense?
JB: Let’s be honest. It’s a tricky subject. The reason I asked is that you’re sitting on the edge of what can be done with it. With respect to your famous project about the Suns from Flickr, I haven’t yet gotten to see the installation, but I look forward to it.
You’re also speaking about aggregating and searching with that project. I’d think some people think it’s cool as hell that their Suns ended up in your work, and nobody will ever know. But it is a touchstone topic. Not everybody thinks it’s OK to take that.
Maybe I do, and you do, but we’re speaking for the purpose of an audience that’s going to have some skeptics in it. That’s why I wanted to ask these questions.
You always thought it was OK to take the Suns, and in so doing, you made a piece of contemporary art that is highly relevant to the way we live today.
PU: But I’m also not just taking the Suns. What I’m doing is, I have multiple levels of…
JB: I know. It’s crazy. Here’s how I remember it, from your lecture at the Filter Festival in Chicago: You showed images of the Suns, the installation of the Suns, then you found pictures of people standing in front of the installation, as if they were standing in front of a sunset backdrop, and THEN, if I remember correctly, you found pictures of people taking pictures of the people who were photographed in front of the installation.
PU: But you’re jumping ahead.
PU: That’s true. There are multiple iterations of the work. One has sort of come from another, but before we even get there, there are multiple filters that I’m using in my own conceptual framework that will allow me to use an image, or not.
JB: Sorry to have interrupted. We’d love to hear about it.
PU: On Flickr, I search for sunset. There are millions of them. So the images are fairly large, and they have lots going on in them.
One of the filter criteria for me is the sun has to be able to be decontextualized on its own – I need to be able to crop it out of the picture without anything from the Earth interjecting into it – in order to get a lack of subject in the image. In my cropping, it’s just the Sun that’s being depicted, with no reference to where the subject who’s taking the photograph is standing.
Number 2, the sunset image has to be iconic. Not a purple sun with black clouds, or a black-and-white-filter arty pic. I’m not interested in other photographer’s idiosyncratic, individualistic points of view of what a sunset is.
What I’m looking for are those kinds of collective, iconic ideas of what a sunset is. Right now, we can picture what that is, right?
PU: Orange-y yellow, with the sun hovering just above the horizon. That was the other filter: it had to look like a script.
JB: A cliché?
PU: A cliché, yes. I think that cliché is a really interesting word. It’s something that we all know. For me, the word scripted is maybe more how I would describe that cliché, I guess.
I think of it as kind of a script, rather than a cliché, because it’s following a certain set of patterns.
You get the camera. You see that the sky getting a little darker. You imagine there might be color in the sky. You might go to the place where you could see more sky, and everybody’s doing this at this moment. And instead of sitting there, and really enjoying that sunset, you’re snapping it.
The snapping, the whole act of it, is kind of a scripted behavior that we’ve followed for years and years.
JB: But you wouldn’t call it Universal?
PU: I would call it Universal on a certain level, although I don’t like the word.
JB: (laughing) You don’t like the words I’m using.
PU: Well, the reason I wouldn’t call it Universal is I don’t assume anything is Universal. It’s certainly collective. Universal seems too over-arching.
JB: How about this, I’ve got a real short word: Why? Are you interested in why people feel compelled to do this, collectively?
PU: (pause.) I think at the beginning of this project, I was kind of shocked. We have one sun up there in the universe. One Sun – warm, singular, life-giving – and the first search I did in 2006 found 554,000 images of it… in this digital, electronic, blue-light virtual space. That in itself was odd and strange. It was something I couldn’t ignore.
JB: We both know that underlying the entire digital reality, is just string of ones and zeroes. An endless, unimaginable block of binary code. Just like you said, there’s one Sun in the Universe, it’s one star of billions.
If one were to have that Gods-eye-view of stars in the Universe, it would look like just a pattern of dots.
This idea of pattern and structure underlying all of the things that you photograph, it seems pretty connected to the way you use organization, structure and rigor to comment on it. It’s all just one big structural metaphor, no?
I wanted to throw that “Why” at you, because when I heard your lecture, it was all about what you were doing. Everyone has a different perspective. I like to dig into the “Why.”
What is the meaning of these metaphors? Why do they make so much sense, and why do they speak to so many other people?
PU: The “Why” of it does speak to, is a kind of exploration of, what it means to be digital, or to feel digital; to be a number in the world; the sense of the subject-less-ness of existence in this kind of a consumer web context.
In the act of making, sharing, and consuming images, it seem like the more one shares images of oneself, the less one exists in the world. This sharing seems like a manifestation of an anxiety or fear of disappearance.
You started to point towards the “Why” when you were raising the issue of the iterations of this work. For me, the project of the suns was about erasing the individual.
In the project with the sun, I am using an image that speaks to the intended individualized position of those photographers, but I am erasing the subjectivity I find in the image to point to the subjects’ inadvertent, unintended, participation in a collective process.
PU: The second part of the project, with people in front of the sunsets themselves, further extends this questioning of individual agency. Here technology is erasing the subject because the camera technology is exposing for the sun.
And in witnessing thousands of these silhouetted subjects, the individual disappears. When you see a big installation of this work, you can identify with those disappeared people because you yourself have been in this exact situation.
Perhaps the next time you stand in front of a sunset and have your picture taken, you’ll better understand that sense of disappearance…. Or you’ll be more aware of it. For me, that’s the why of it. If that makes sense.
JB: That’s kind of what I’m getting at. You chose a symbol, this powerful orb that represents our ephemerality in so many ways.
People look at a sunset, and they think it’s beautiful, and the colors are pretty, but you’re really staring at a star from the face of a planet. And your time on this planet is almost a statistical anomaly. None of us is here at all, relative to Deep
Time, so we can talk about Flickr, and collective behavior, and I think that’s all true.
But it also seems that there’s a reason people do it, and a reason why your piece was so powerful. That’s because it’s also connecting to a perfect symbol of Deep Time. When you say we’re disappearing, I agree, but I think there’s a double-meaning there that’s interesting.
PU: That’s a really interesting way of putting it. I never thought of the notion of Deep Time in relation to those people clicking away, taking photographs. I think the consideration of Deep Time you’re talking about may actually concern people who AREN’T taking pictures of the sunset – the possibility of sitting in front of the sunset without actually taking a photograph – it’s pretty rare now, right?
I’m wondering if taking the photograph is to deny yourself the sense of Deep Time: “I got the picture. I got the sun.” It’s a way of owning an object that you actually can’t own – the photo trophy thing.
JB: It seems to be a pretty powerful impulse. Because the easier it’s become, and the more cameras are in everyone’s pocket, the more global the obsession has become. I have photographed in the real world, as well as doing conceptual stuff, and I know that joy.
It’s probably futile, but I think it comes from a deep desire to stand up to time. To freeze it. To capture it. Keep it. Hold it.
PU: Yeah. And in the manic sense that we’re experiencing it now, it actually presents itself as an anxiety, I think.
JB: An impediment.
PU: Yeah, sure. And I also participate in this capture, keep, hold, by the way. I photograph all the time, and I also make photographs that I’m not appropriating for my work. But in general, the photographs I take are the same as everyone else’s.
JB: Do you feel guilty about it? Or conflicted?
PU: No, not at all. But I don’t share them. (laughing.)
JB: (laughing.) OK.
PU: As soon as you put something on the web, you’re crossing a threshold from the personal to the collective. No matter how personal an image is, if there’s another image somewhere that shares the same subject and approach, it becomes part of a phenomenon.
The other side of it is people who won’t put pictures online for fear of being exploited. I know someone who won’t put pics of her kids on Facebook because she’s afraid of pedophiles, or something.
JB: Weirdos. Right.
PU: For sure. And there are those who’s kids are definitely going to be embarrassed by their parent’s Facebook posts later in life. Two sides of the equation – of the severity of what it means to do either – participate or abstain.
JB: When you first did this, Flickr was a big deal.
JB: So as your project has aged, the way people read it changes. Does anybody still use Flickr?
PU: Yeah, in 2006, it was where everybody was putting stuff. And it was a useful platform to find all kinds of different photographs by a large cross section of users. I think it was mostly family photo-sharing. Now, if I’m looking for sunset images, all I get are stock-like photographs. People do use it, but they’re all photo geeks.
I’ve got a story for you. My sister came and visited me a couple of months ago, from Canada, and we were sitting outside. It was a full moon, and she had her iPhone out, and asked, “Why I can’t take a picture of the moon the way I see it with my eyes?”
I explained you need a good camera with long lens and got my 5D, took some pics and showed them to her on the camera display. She was impressed, thinking I was an exceptional photographer, until I proved not by suggesting a search on Flickr – I had no idea, but I imagined there would be thousands there.
Typing in “Full Moon,” resulted in the most incredible thing. Thousands upon thousands of full moon images came up. The relationship to the Suns from Sunsets from Flickr project was striking, because anybody, really, can take a picture of a sunset and have it look great, but you can’t take a detailed picture of the Full Moon unless you have pretty good camera equipment.
I started to dig in to the Flickr posts, and read them, and it was fascinating because there were more than 1 million of these full moons, with descriptions about how the photographers took the photograph – “I used this camera, and this lens at this F-stop.” and you have the sense it’s really about getting the picture. Right? I got it.
PU: But the face of the Moon never changes for us. All the images are essentially the same. And, this is the other amazing thing – half of them are licensed as rights reserved. Which means these photographers see their images as exceptionally different from the rest, and therefor worthy of licensing protection. And this is based solely on access to equipment, since the form or concept of these photographs is not exceptional in any way.
For the project at Bruce Silverstein Gallery, I contacted 654 of the rights reserved Flickr photographers, through Flickr, and asked for permission to use their rights reserved images of Full Moons. I wanted to create a wall of them in the gallery.
If they agreed to the conditions, they gave me their name for a credit, and agreed to the pricing structure if the installation was sold – that is: the gallery gets half, I get half, and in this case, they would get a quarter, and I would get a quarter of the percentage of their image in the entire installation: one 654th.
JB: We can pretend to do the math, and just keep going.
PU: Yeah, yeah. So of the 654, I got 84 replies with permission granted, plus a few no’s. One guy said yes, and then wrote back retracting his permission after looking at my website. And the rest I didn’t hear back from. I replaced all the images from people who didn’t respond with full moon images that had Creative Commons licenses. So there is a wall of 654 full moons of various sizes – in all cases, I downloaded the highest res file that was available on Flickr and this determined the scale.
So your question about Flickr. It really has changed since I started using it – it has become a stock-photo site.
JB: So the meaning of the work changes. Let’s say you’d never done this, but nobody else had done it, and you got the idea in 2016, you would use Instagram.
JB: The way the format ages, and these things have such short shelf lives, becomes a part of the project. For example, anybody who’s in the industry at all heard years ago that Facebook claims ownership of everything you post, so nobody puts their artwork up.
Some people are going to get angry at you, but what you’re doing is no different from what Facebook is doing, and they’re the most popular communication platform on the planet.
PU: It’s a trade. Facebook is offering something to you in an exchange. You get to use the platform, in exchange for letting them use your images.
JB: Which they’re never going to do anyway, realistically.
PU: Actually, I heard, I forget where, that someone saw their image in an ad for something. I think what you’re raising is a really important point.
One of the things I think about a lot is making something concrete at a moment when you know it’s going to change in a year, or five years, or a week. Using Flickr for me right now is kind of amazing. It becomes a kind of record of a very specific time.
And the whole project is in some ways about recording time.
JB: Craigslist. Ebay. These things too have aged. I’ve got a really cheesy segue, and I’m going to go for it, but you’re either going to giggle, or you’re going to think, “Oh my god, why am I talking to this dude?”
You talk about Full Moons. You brought it up. But you showed work in Chicago in which you found photographs of television screens that were being sold on Craigslist. And you have screens with reflections in them of naked people. Hence the Full Moon segue. You’ve got pictures with naked people reflected in the TV screens.
PU: (laughing) That is pretty cheesy.
JB: It is. And yet, as an interviewer, sometimes you have to segue. You know?
PU: Weirdly, I did not find any butt pics among the Full Moons images on Flickr. Nor reflected in the screens of TVs on Craigslist.
JB: You only found boobies and vajayjays? You can tell I have a 3 year old, because I say the word vajayjay.
JB: I found it to be so ridiculous and absurd and funny. Your talk was very serious, and your ideas are rigorous, but that is ridiculous. That A, it exists, B, you found out it exists, and C, you made high art out of it.
But people might not know about this project.
PU: The project itself is not about that, right? It’s about how people are selling objects they don’t want anymore – objects that used to be the height of entertainment technology, and are now like dead bodies in their homes. They’re really useless, lifeless things.
Part of it is thinking about attachment to objects – why not just stick it out on the street. You have to imagine that the object could have value to someone else. But where does the value lie in that equation?
And in this scenario, the people who are selling these objects get caught in them. In the last photograph of these objects, the reflections of people, living-rooms, bedrooms, beds…
JB: But why would any sane person take that picture stark naked? It’s crazy.
PU: First of all, you have to know there are not that many of them. Over the past 7 years I’ve gone to every city on Craigslist, and searched though every “TV for sale” listing in those cities, and every once in a while I’ll find something like that.
JB: Because you’re looking for it.
PU: Because I’m looking for it, and I’m hoping to find it.
JB: Right. But as far as human behavior goes…
PU: Well another part of it is that the technology of smartphone cameras used to be 1 or 2mp when I first started finding images on Craigslist. There would be a very small photo of a television, and when I downloaded it and enlarged it, it would be very pixelated.
But now with 5mp, 6mp smartphone cameras, people are taking the same pictures, in their bedrooms, and uploading what looks to be the same size file, because Craigslist takes it, and puts it in the same little image field as a 1mp image.
JB: Compressing it.
PU: Well, when I download it, I get this 5mp image. I’m not sure if they’re actually compressing it. I guess they must be to some extent. You probably know people who have cameras that can take very big files, and they have no idea.
Someone will send you an image that’s like, 20mb, of their cute dog for you to look at on your iPhone, when a 1mb file will do.
I think there is that aspect of it. And also, people don’t see themselves in the images. They’re not looking for it. They’re selling their TVs and they’re not thinking about anything else. What I find are unintended, inadvertent reflections.
JB: I found it to be ridiculously amusing and interesting that such things ever happen, much less that in your obsessive searching…
PU: You live in a place where it snows in the Winter, but some people live where it’s 90 degrees in the Winter. And 120 in the Summer. Maybe they’re just walking around with no clothes on?
JB: I guess we’ll never know. That’s the beauty of it, right? That degree of anonymity? But you’re also photographing broken armoires, and useless remote controls, and screens.
The Sun, and the Sun installation, are so completely aesthetic. That’s why you’re choosing it. It’s the most scripted symbol of perfect aesthetics. But then these things, like the broken-down furniture, they’re so anti-aesthetic.
They’re not beautiful, but they’re interesting. Sometimes, pure aesthetics are important to you, and other times, they appear not to be. What do you think about that?
PU: I don’t think of the Suns as being pure aesthetic. I guess some people do, because that’s why they take the photographs.
JB: Almost everybody. You may not, but that would be a very common way to describe a sunset.
PU: A sunset might be purely aesthetic, but you talked about the depth, and the Deep Time relationship to it.
JB: I think your piece is beautiful. Most people would.
PU: But part of what you think is beautiful is what it means to stand in front of that many images. It’s conceptual, not aesthetic.
JB: It’s conceptual, but it’s also about pattern and repetition and color.
PU: Of a particular subject.
JB: The repetition of a circle, in that many ways, with the variation of powerful digital hues. I don’t want to disagree with you…
PU: If they were paintings, I could agree with you that it’s pure aesthetic. But because they come from this many different photographers, who are asserting an insistence of presence, in this context, I feel like it’s first and foremost a conceptual work. That just happens to be aesthetically interesting.
JB: That’s what I’m saying. That piece is aesthetically interesting, along with its conceptual rigor, while others almost go 180 degrees in the other direction.
JB: That was the crux of the question. What does it mean to you that some of the projects utilize aesthetics, and others give a middle finger to it?
PU: I actually think that all of them utilize aspects of aesthetics. I think the desk project, or the television project, with the flashes, are incredibly beautiful. But because you don’t…(laughing)
JB: Well, I haven’t seen them in person. But I don’t want to get caught up in semantics.
PU: (laughing) I know, I know.
JB: And I certainly don’t want to insult you.
PU: No, no. It’s just that the conversation about aesthetics, to me, maybe it’s more about taste and style, that we’re talking about.
I mean, I get really excited when I see all those little remote controls – or “universal remotes” as they are often sold as. I really love them. I think they’re kind of amazing. And I love that someone has gone to the trouble of arranging these remote controls into a kind of little box of a photograph. The fact that I could find these, that they exist, was enough for me to think about them as a work.
So though the idea of used universal remotes– the almost ontological condition of the term in relation to digital communication and being – is what drove that work, when I put them all together there was something tantalizing and delectable about these tiny little arrangements people are making.
For me, it’s conceptual, and formal. They function on the same level. It’s a different kind of form than the aesthetic you are talking about with the suns, but I am thinking about the form in the work. I just don’t get excited or feel the motivation to work with something unless there’s more to it than that.
JB: That, I totally get. I guess where I was going, and then we can shift, it’s almost like looking at Robert Rauschenberg vs Mark Rothko. To me, the tradition of anti-aesthetic is strong, in the history of Art. Ugly-beauty, there are so many words for it.
JB: They wouldn’t call it ugly-beauty if it was just ugly. Using anti-aesthetic is a powerful way to communicate.
There are so many Rauschenberg pieces where you’re not going to feel that sense of calm sublime that you might feel in front of a Rothko. But then again, Rothko went and killed himself, so it’s not as if he was such a calm dude.
But let me use that as another segue. I would love to talk forever, and ask about all your inspirations, but one of the artists that came to me, preparing for this interview, was Gerhard Richter.
Are you a fan? Or if not, who are some of the giants that really inspired you?
PU: (pause) I love Richter. I think the Atlas Project is great. The Baader Meinhof paintings are brilliant. His relationship to photography, history and time is more interesting to me than the multiple aspect, if that’s where your question was going.
JB: It was instinctual curiosity. It struck me that he might have been someone that influenced you.
PU: It’s interesting about influence. People always ask, and I can never narrow it down. I could almost say everybody. I know that’s way too general. But I don’t think there is any one artist who influenced me more than anyone else.
JB: Sure. When we’re looking, there are many. But when I’m thinking about where someone is coming from, it’s fun to be less obvious. With all the categorization, and repetition, we could say Ed Ruscha. He’s someone who also crosses boundaries, and is forward thinking. He utilizes anti-aesthetics as well as aesthetics.
PU: Maybe Ruscha would be better. Definitely West Coast Conceptualism was a huge influence. It’s interesting, raising the question of anti-aesthetics. I think it comes back to your first question about being from Canada. West Coast to East Coast is a little like Canada to US.
JB: We’ve covered so much. Maybe end with an advice question? Now that you’re in a place where your work is ubiquitous, and so well-received, it seems like you’ve “made it.” Do you feel that way? Do you feel like people are always looking for more, or have you reached a point in your career where you feel satisfied with your success, and critical reception?
PU: It’s kind of strange. I’ve been making this work since 1986. That’s a long time. The fact that it is being well-received now is kind of a shock to me. Especially in the Photo World, because for so many years, I was considered not-relevant – i.e, not a photographer by photography-world standards.
And so maybe now that actual photographers are also using digital media, and art is on the web, the relevancy of my work is being understood in a different way. But I haven’t gotten used to it yet.
So I don’t perceive myself as having ‘made it’. I’m not really sure that exists. I don’t really know what that means.
JB: Of course it’s an abstracted phrase. I do think in a world, with social media, everybody always sees what everyone else is doing.
You can’t go on Facebook or Twitter without being bombarded by people saying, “Hey, look at me. Look what I’ve achieved. I’ve had this show, or that book.”
I feel like it almost creates an endless loop of ambition. That’s why I asked that question. Even if it seemed random.
Does anyone ever reach a point where they’re satisfied?
PU: To me, being satisfied that way is not why I do it. I’m not really concerned with that. It’s great that my work is selling a bit now. That means that I don’t have to teach so much. You know? That’s what it means to me, really. I’m not doing it for that kind of notoriety, so it’s not something I think about.
PU: I don’t know if that makes sense.
JB: Of course it does. It’s actually a lovely ending. You’re doing this for your own reasons, and however one defines success, it’s not driving your creative practice.
PU: The reasons are more about being in dialogue with the other things that are going on. I’m always a bit cautious about the idea of the insular artist, who doesn’t care what other people think – the idea that you’re just doing it because you have to do it.
Of course, there’s got to be a necessity in what you’re doing, or you shouldn’t be doing it. But at the same time, if you’re not in dialogue with everything else that’s going on – socio-cultural/socio-political conditions, other artists, other photographers – it isn’t very relevant.
For me, the dialogue is what makes it worthwhile. And the idea of success in terms of “having made it” isn’t part of that dialogue.
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.firstname.lastname@example.org
Anonymous Art Producer: I nominate Jay Reilly. He embodies the SoCal aesthetic not only in his photography, but also his personality; laid back, easy going, always smiling. This shines through in his interactions with his talent and consequently his photographs. His use of color and light capture the eternal glow of California and all it represents.
How many years have you been in business?
I have been a professional photographer for about 13 years. Before that, I was involved in tech marketing/advertising.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a major in Administration of Justice, then attended 1 year of law school before realizing I am more of a creative person than a litigator. I am self-taught in photography.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
After law school I worked for technology companies in the marketing world and spent many hours looking through stock photography sites for images that we needed for our projects. Rather than specific photographers that were personally inspiring, were the quality and variety of images that fascinated me. More than merely appropriate for the project I was working on, the content was great, the composition was strong, the life in the images was real. I just felt very connected to certain stock agencies and knew that I could create these images as well, maybe even better with my own style, technique and creativity. I was inspired by the ability to create something beautiful and inspiring that also has commercial application. My photography from day one is intended to sell.
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 am constantly creating new images, and I consider it a labor of love to continually feed my portfolio with new work. Shooting tends to come in waves. For a stretch I will be busy working for clients, and then in between such jobs, I can fill my portfolio with what I want to shoot. Once the clients call again I can focus on making their images, but it is especially rewarding when clients see something I have shot for myself and say – exactly! Interplay between clients and photographer is an important part of the process. What I shoot for the clients comes from my images as well as the client’s vision.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
First and foremost I am shooting to serve the clients. I tend to get hired because someone saw an image I shot and it resonated with them for a certain project the client had in mind. But then after time and discussion that image that they love becomes something else and something of its own. I like to take direction from creatives and clients. If I feel strongly about an idea or a position, I will communicate that position or try to shoot it for myself, time permitting.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
Overall my approach is much more modest and guerrilla in nature, but that has been successful for me. I am unrepresented and therefore I do most of my own marketing and horn tooting. I try to keep my cost and initiatives modest while implementing effective yet practical means to have creatives see what I am shooting. Using social media has been successful. I try at first to develop potential client relationships casually online, but ultimately what is important is to ask for a meeting or a real face-to-face connection. Shooting great content is only half of the equation. These images need to be seen by the right people.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
Well, I have to remind myself all the time that my images do not need to be perfect. There is this adorable trend of honest snapshots in advertising that looks perfectly imperfect. But what it’s about is the authentic moments that happen in life. The moments in-between the big moments that mean a lot. I am always reminding myself to look for and capture these split seconds. Don’t worry about the untamed imperfections; just keep shooting.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
I am always shooting new images. In addition to creating new work, I am looking to collaborate and create with others. The many types of photography I shoot I can produce successfully on my own. This might include travel, documentary, certain lifestyle imagery, sports, surfing photography to name a few. But to grow other areas of my portfolio, it is desirable that I collaborate with others to create something compelling and unique. These areas may include fashion, portrait, and larger production lifestyle work. I would welcome association with a magazine, a producer or a fashion stylist. So some of these collaborations become artistic endeavors and are very similar to shooting for a client or focusing on a project.
How often are you shooting new work?
Depends on how busy I am. I love shooting new material but if the clients are calling then I am shooting for clients. But as soon as these jobs wind down, I immediately dig in to focus on new work. Sometimes it takes a little momentum and energy to make that happen. But in many ways it’s like surfing (another one of my passions); sometimes it’s no fun to put on a cold wetsuit and brave the winter water.. but once I catch that first wave, I am energized. From then on I can paddle and surf all day! The same is true for my reaction to new work. It takes a little manufactured energy to get to that first shoot, but from then on, I am riding the energy wave and excitement which carries me to the next shoot!
Clients and agencies hire Jay Reilly, acknowledging his ability to produce and create authentic imagery that supports, communicates and propels the brand or organization into the future and toward the desired goals. Jay Reilly has a team of creative professionals ready to mobilize and meet your creative needs. Producer, stylist, location scouts and casting professionals provide the right mix of talent and skill, and they look forward to making your vision a reality.
A partial list of Jay Reilly’s satisfied clients include: Nike, Sony, TD Ameritrade, Tate&Lyle, Splenda, Chandon Domaine, Bristol Myers, Cal-Poly State University, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Parade, Design Bureau, O’Leary, Gyro, Pollinate, Private Clubs, Riviera, San Diego Magazine and many more.
Jay Reilly is based in Carlsbad, California between Los Angeles and San Diego California and shoots wherever needed. He can be found anywhere from San Francisco to New York. Jay Reilly works unrepresented and determines his own budget and cost for a shoot. Call at 760.525.5172 to discuss a project.
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 artist, photographer and director takes us inside his London studio — discussing death, beauty, and the works that mean most to him
Shoot Concept: Images of large advertising displays in an airport
Licensing: Internal collateral use of up to 16 images in perpetuity for the client and portfolio use for the agency
Location: An airport in the northeastern United States
Shoot Days: 2
Photographer: Corporate, portrait and architectural specialist
Agency: Medium sized, Midwest based
Client: Global Agricultural Company
Creative/Licensing: The client wanted to photograph publicly displayed advertisements in an airport that the agency recently helped them develop and place. We’ve estimated many projects like this before, and while they typically come with tight budgets, those budgets are often justified by a low level of production needed to capture the content. This one was a bit different in that it came with an elevated level of production and unique logistical challenges, but the licensing was comparable to other similar projects, and was limited to internal collateral use by the client, and use of the images on the agency’s website as part of their portfolio.
There were 16 displays that needed to be photographed, and I felt that image #1 was worth $2,000, image #2 was worth $1,000, images #3-#7 were worth $500 each, and images #8-#16 were worth $250 each. That brought me to $7,750, which I thought was appropriate for the licensing and one day of shooting, but I felt that the additional shoot day warranted a bump to the fee, so I added about $2,000 to account for this, and then rounded back down to an even $9,500 which I thought would be more palatable.
After calculating a fee, I put pen to paper on the expenses, which as I mentioned, were based on a high level of production. For this kind of shoot, it’s rare that a client would have a big budget, but at the same time, they wanted to shoot professional talent in a major airport before and after the security checkpoint…not a simple task. I assumed they’d want to do this project with a really small footprint, but upon speaking with the art buyer, I learned that they anticipated a crew inclusive of the photographer, multiple assistants, a producer and a groomer, on top of the talent and agency representatives being present. I anticipated we’d need to scale down after presenting these costs, but regardless, we had to show them what it would take to executive the project as requested.
Photographer Scout Day: Part of the logistical challenge for this project was that some of the displays were before the airport security checkpoint, others were beyond it, and the agency wasn’t quite sure exactly where each display was. We therefore included a scout day to help dial-in these details.
First Assistant/Digital Tech and Assistant Days: The photographer’s first assistant would be doubling as his tech, and he’d be shooting to a very mobile laptop workstation. We also included a second assistant to offer an additional set of hands to help move lighting and other gear around to the various locations throughout the airport.
Producer Days: The local pool of producers was bare, and the specific producer that the photographer and agency hoped to work with was actually based out of town and would be traveling in. In addition to the travel, scout and shoot days, I included adequate prep and wrap time for the producer to coordinate the project. Working with an airport can prove to be incredibly time consuming due to security measures, especially when you aren’t working on behalf of an airline or the airport itself who could otherwise provide access and connections to ease the process. I therefore wanted to make sure we included enough time to accommodate the potential headache.
Equipment: I anticipated that the photographer would need to bring along $1,500 worth of grip, lights and cameras/lenses per day, over the course of two days.
Location Fees/Permits and Airport Staff/Escort Fees: This particular airport actually happened to have a bit of information on its website regarding commercial filming and shooting, some of which was based on the time on site (with dictated hours of shooting), and some of which was based on the number of people involved. For a still photo shoot (rather than video) with more than five people on site, they listed a location fee of $1,000 per day. They also listed various personnel at hourly rates, including operations officers, police officers, fire marshals, engineers, electricians, and “other” support staff. Based on this information, I anticipated we’d need staff listed at the $75/hr mark for 8-10 hours over two shoot days, plus some time on the scout day. I felt $1,500 was an appropriate starting point, but noted that it was TBD and elaborated in our delivery that this would need to be dialed-in as the project progressed.
Catering: Based on previous experience shooting at airports, I knew our catering option would be limited to the airport’s internal food services company. I included $60 per day per person for up to 13 people (including the crew, talent, and agency representatives).
Mileage, Parking, Production Supplies, Misc.: I included $50/day for parking, and figured we’d need to cover at least three cars for the talent, and three cars for the crew (they’d likely carpool rather than each drive individually). On top of that, I included $300/day for tables, chairs, walkies and other supplies, as well as $100/day for general miscellaneous expenses that might come up.
Insurance: I anticipated that the airport would require a certificate of insurance, and that their requirements would likely eclipse what a typical photographer’s policy would cover. I therefore included $1,000 for the photographer to increase their policy as needed.
Producer Travel: As I mentioned, the producer would be traveling in, and I grouped their expenses into one line item. They’d require three nights of lodging (around $200/night in this market), and I included a $50/day per diem and about $100 for their mileage.
Shoot Processing for Client Review and Selects Processed for Reproduction: The first assistant/tech would be handling the major leg work of organizing the files, but I included a few hundred dollars for the photographer to do an initial edit and provide a gallery to the agency. On top of that, I included $150/image for the photographer to process their 16 selects.
Casting from Cards and Adult Talent Days: As opposed to a live casting, the agency was interested in casting talent based on their headshots, which made sense since the talent would likely be unrecognizable anyway. This fee included the time (likely spent by either a producer or a local casting agency) to request headshots from multiple talent agencies based on certain demographics, organize and deliver the results, and then correspond with individual talent agencies to book and confirm the talent. Since they’d be unrecognizable, I figured $400-$500/day plus a 20% agency fee would be appropriate per talent, and noted that this cost would be billed directly to the agency.
Groomer Days and Wardrobe: The talent would be bringing their own wardrobe based on specs provided by the agency, but they requested for a stylist to be present to make sure they looked presentable. I included a rate that would allow us to bring in a stylist from another city if the limited pool of local stylists happened to be unavailable.
Feedback: Overall, I knew this estimate would be too high for them, and while I anticipated a discussion regarding a decreased level of production, they specifically asked to see what it would take to execute a project in this way. Not surprisingly, that’s exactly what happened. We were basically asked to take a scalpel to the expenses, and see what we could do with a reduced level of production (they were willing to concede to 2 talent on one of the days, were ok without a groomer, mentioned that they might be able to pre-scout the location, and said they could handle the retouching). After discussing some options with the photographer, we decided that he could handle the pre-production (for a fee) if it just meant hiring one assistant, doing a simple casting from cards, and corresponding with the airport (no second assistant, groomer, catering, scouting, producer). On top of removing all of those items, we reduced the equipment, came down on the location fees (since it would be much fewer people on-site), noted that the escorts would be TBD, came down on the insurance and casting, reduced the expense for the shoot processing for client review, and adjusted the misc. expenses appropriately. These were certainly big cuts across the board, and here was the revised estimate:
Feedback: Despite the cuts, the agency hoped to trim the budget even further, by about half the amount. Fortunately, they were willing to concede a bit more on their end as well. Rather than 16 displays, they were hoping to capture just 6, which would help to make the project a 1 day shoot. On top of that, the agency was also willing to do away with talent, and just hoped to shoot unrecognizable real people as they walked by the displays.
We justified the decrease by dropping the creative/licensing fee from $9,500 to $5,000. I felt that the reduction of the additional day was worth a decrease of $2,000, and that the reduction of 10 shots was worth a decrease of $2,500. We also removed the casting and talent fees, and reduced the expenses across the board to account for one less day. Here was the revised estimate:
Results: The photographer was awarded the project, and given the light production footprint and the fact that the displays all ended up being before the security checkpoint, the coordination with the airport wasn’t too much of a headache.
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.
The quality and flexibility of the camera you shoot with can make a considerable difference in the finished quality and editing options for your video. Are you shooting on a $ 500 DV camera, a $2,500 DSLR, a $10,000 Full feature HD camera, a $25,000 RED, a $60,000 ARRI or are you shooting on Film? The pace of technological advancement in film and video is breathtaking and the features and capabilities of cameras are changing weekly. Bottom Line: You should be able to see the difference in the final output quality in more expensive cameras. If you can’t, then it’s not worth paying for. Your final delivery channel will also determine the need for specific cameras. Streamed video on the internet (where the vast majority of corporate videos are seen) doesn’t require high-end camera’s to capture your content because a lot of that quality will be lost in optimization for the web.Costs: You will spend between $25/hour and $400/hour or more depending on which digital camera package is used. Film cameras, lenses and stock will take you well over $1,000 /hour.Equipment. The more experienced video production companies tend to have a wide variety of tools and equipment on hand for each shoot. Do you need a track dolly or a jib-arm to create a shot with movement? Do you have a high quality field monitor to know exactly what you are getting (or not getting) as you shoot? Do you have all the necessary audio equipment (lav’s, direction mics, booms etc) to capture the audio you need? Lighting and framing are everything in video. Do you have lights – lots of different lights to accommodate a wide variety of shooting scenarios? Do you have a variety of lenses to create the specific feel you are after – wide angle, fixed focal length or Cine lenses for narrow depth of field, etc?Costs. Equipment cost can run anywhere from $25/hour to $100’s/hour or more depending on what specific equipment is required
You’ve probably seen and possibly heard the story of Eric Pickersgill’s body of work: REMOVED. How Eric noticed a family in a coffee shop all staring at their personal devices and simultaneously feeling disgusted dejected and realizing that he was that same family. So he created a series of images with the phones removed, “to show just how weird that can be”.
What you probably haven’t heard is what happens to a photographer when a series of images goes viral. And what can be done to harness some of that viral-ity to money and attention to the photographer whose images have been co-opted by the internet.
“It happened so fast. It still seems a little unreal,” Pickersgill chuckles. 2015 was already shaping up to be a great year for him as an emerging photographer, even before a friend at Business Insider asked to feature his work. Business Insider was the start. Views of Pickersgill’s feature quickly went from a few hundred to tens of thousands. A day later the work started popping up on other blog’s and online publications. How is a little hazy, as some of these early posts were used without an e-mail to him. This additional coverage helped push the work further; this is when sensible inquiries started. USE USE USE, WANT WANT WANT, e-mail after e-mail requesting images for publications we view every day.
The emails quickly ramped up to over 300 a day and Eric says, “money floated into my mind as an afterthought, but I soon realized I was going to need some help.” Almost without exception, the expectation was that images would be given for publication for free. He did not get too many “it will be great exposure for you” insults, but the sense was he would be eager to be published. And Eric was very eager to be published and a number of websites and blogs benefitted.
On the third day of this Eric called photo professional Julie Grahame, who he was introduced to by a mutual business friend. “I wasn’t sure the first time we spoke. I thought the work might just fizzle,” Grahame said. It’s funny to note that both Pickersgill and Grahame shared this thought upon first interactions before they agreed on working together. Pickersgill quickly came back around to Grahame after a day or so attempting the Internet solo. “Other countries started calling for the work. The Netherlands, South Africa, on and on.”
With so many inquiries on the table, Julie set out with Eric to prioritize those likely to have a budget. They agreed to just not get back to a bunch of people until they had managed the more practical clients. That was hard for Eric, he had to understand he wasn’t being rude, he was just staying sane. A couple of things likely slipped through the cracks, because it was so overwhelming, but they soon had several invoices out to various countries, and as each publication came out, they perpetuated the interest.
“Some clients I expected to have a budget said no, and when we refused to play, managed to find a little bit of cash”, says Julie of their interactions with clients. One German journalist said “I’m sure they do have a budget, I’ve just never seen it used” and then found them $200. They had to be creative and flexible – one client who Eric did an interview with had to process the fee as an equipment expense. With all the best intentions and efforts it is difficult to get a publisher to pay up-front but they did manage it on a few occasions.
Lots of people wanted interviews as well, but they still insisted on license fees for the majority of them. They also let go a bunch of websites who used images without permission that they felt it would be impractical to pursue.
“Collecting the money is the usual ongoing effort but we’ve done really well!”, says Julie, “I would like to add we have negotiated licenses that include an ad campaign, and a music video.” (As an aside, managing tax issues and incoming wire transfers from all over the world is a bit of a pain.)
There were also several requests for prints but Eric decided that “instead of jumping to make quick sales, he waited until he found a gallery who was interested in the work and who would then fulfill the print requests for him.” This manifested in an enthusiastic agreement with Rick Wester Fine Art, in New York within a month of going viral.
Family sitting next to me at Illium café in Troy, NY is so disconnected from one another. Not much talking. Father and two daughters have their own phones out. Mom doesn’t have one or chooses to leave it put away. She stares out the window, sad and alone in the company of her closest family. Dad looks up every so often to announce some obscure piece of info he found online. Twice he goes on about a large fish that was caught. No one replies. Eric is saddened by the use of technology for interaction in exchange for not interacting. This has never happened before and he doubts we have scratched the surface of the social impact of this new experience. Mom has her phone out now. This is Pickersgill’s story, this is how it all began.
The photos are deeper, they delve into a history of portraiture, and they are as sculptural as they are narrative. Pickersgill’s images bridge a gap between fine art and editorial. They are full of repose and gesture and curiously, the hands of the subjects with their devices removed, create a nebulous sense of vacuum. Composition informs the subject’s relation; tonality and print quality capture awkward moments of estranged intimacy. In Pickersgill’s own words, “I have a strong connection to the body and photographing people.”
REMOVED incites a certain sense of joy hidden in the images’ absurdity. That’s not to say they’re a joke, laughter ensues because the photos allow a viewer to realize just how complicated they’ve made themselves. There’s a freedom in that.
Eric’s future isn’t clear, but there’s a whole lot of potential. The work will continue, and so too will the obsession with REMOVED. As long as people need reminding it seems pretty clear Pickersgill will have subjects to photograph. The body goes on adapting and relying, submitting itself. And maybe that’s the ultimate realization the work can impart. I don’t get the feeling that his photos are trying to say put down the technology, but to grow with each other and to raise the platform. The blinking lights and fun little gadgets will catch up.
Shoot Concept: Lifestyle images of two friends interacting
Licensing: Trade Advertising and Trade Collateral use of two images in the US for two years.
Location: A residential property
Shoot Days: 1
Photographer: Portraiture specialist in the Northeast.
Agency: Medium sized, based in the Midwest.
Client: A pharmaceutical company
Here is the estimate:
Creative/Licensing: While the creative brief called for one scenario and a single hero shot, the client hoped to acquire rights to two final images of the talent photographed in the same scenario, but with slight changes to their expressions, props and camera angle. I felt the second image would be a bit less valuable, but different enough that they’d be able to use in unique ways or to present a different message. Taking that and my previous experience pricing similar projects into consideration, I priced the first image at $7,000 and the second image at $5,000. I typically try to determine the licensing value for a single year first, and then extrapolate to account for additional years. However, while I might typically add 50% to jump from one year to two years, I felt that based on the simplicity of the concept and the likelihood of a limited shelf life to these images, that the price increase wasn’t justified. I also found out during conversation with the art buyer that their budget was around 50k, and I wanted to present appropriate fees while still keeping this in mind.
After determining what I felt was an appropriate fee, I checked other pricing resources to see what they suggested as well. While Blinkbid calculated a fee around $15,000, FotoQuote didn’t have a rate that included all advertising and collateral use while also taking into account trade and/or consumer usage. Getty suggests a price of $4,800 per image for print advertising, but didn’t have a catch-all collateral pricing rate or the option for specific trade usage. Corbis offers a “Print Ad, Collateral and Web Pack”, which seemed to fit the requested licensing nicely, and suggested a price close to $15,000 per image per year, but also didn’t include an option for trade usage.
The agency asked for an option to expand the licensing from trade to consumer use within a concurrent time frame, and I felt that this increase should fall somewhere in between an additional 50% to 100% of the fee, or at least be as valuable as 100% of the first hero shot. I settled on $7,500 to make it a palatable option, while also realizing the agency would have to take into account increased talent rates (which I developed with our casting director).
Photographer Scout Day: We planned to do a walkthrough of the location before the shoot, so I made sure to include pre-production time for the photographer to attend.
B-Roll Videographer and Video Equipment: While photography was definitely the main objective, the agency hoped to acquire video content as well during the shoot. The video was to mirror the photography but capture very subtle movement of the talent. Given the limited creative responsibilities, I felt $1,500 would cover a camera operator who could also offer grip and lighting expertise. I anticipated that the $1,000 would cover his camera, a basic slider and video monitors for the client to view the content they would be capturing.
First and Second Assistants: We’d need extra hands on site, not only to help set up and break down, but to also assist with moving furniture around and putting it back in place alongside the styling team.
Digital Tech: I anticipated a tech to charge $500/day and added $750 for a computer workstation and monitors for the client to review the images being captured.
Producer: This included three prep days, one scout day, one shoot day and one wrap day. With a crew this size and lengthy list of logistics to monitor, a producer would be a key role to take on those responsibilities.
Location Scout, Location Fee: Upon initial discussion regarding the creative direction, the client was looking for a pretty straightforward and simple residential property. Since most location scouts have plenty of residential properties that would fit this bill in their database, I included one day to account for a file pull, and one day to account for extra time they might need to spend shooting new pictures of the location we chose or to find additional options. In the area where the shoot would take place, and based on prior experience, I felt a location fee of $2,000 would return a solid list of options to choose from.
Production RV: When possible, I always try to include a production RV for shoots like this to keep as many cooks out of the kitchen as possible. An RV would afford a place for the stylists to set up, space for talent to wait, an area to arrange catering, and a private area with wifi for the client if needed. Many RVs charge $800-$900/day, but then mileage, dumping fees, generator run time and other charges are often added on which add up quickly. I included a buffer and bumped the rate to $1,200 to be safe.
Live Casting and Talent: The agency requested a live casting (rather than casting from cards) and wanted to capture video of each talent to see how they presented themselves and interacted with others. I contacted a local casting agency who quoted $950 to cover their prep time, a half day for the casting, delivery of the results and booking of two talent (the rate felt quite cheap from a print production perspective, but similar to rates I’ve seen other casting agencies quote that primarily cater to the video industry). I also discussed talent rates with the casting agent and determined that a fee of $3,000 per person would return a decent talent pool to choose from.
Hair/Makeup Stylist: Since the talent count was minimal, we included a hair/makeup stylist without an assistant for the day.
Wardrobe/Prop Styling: The wardrobe requested was rather straightforward, and after a conversation with a local stylist, we were confident that they needed just one assistant to accomplish the project. We included two prep days, one shoot day and one return day for both the stylist and their assistant. We anticipated that $350 per talent would be more than enough to cover non-returnable wardrobe, and that $1,650 would be a good starting point for extra props to fill out a room in a residential property (tables, chairs, other small pieces of furniture, flowers, picture frames, vases, etc). Since some of these items would be rather large, we included the cost of a van to help transport everything.
Equipment: At the time of estimating, we were debating whether it would make sense to shoot with strobes and then set up continuous lights for the video, or if we should just use the lighting setup for video and have the photographer just shoot without his strobes. Either way, I was confident that $1,500 would cover the photographer’s gear should he choose to use it, or it could be added to the $1,000 already included for the videographers gear to help supplement that to include a lighting setup.
Shoot Processing for Client Review and Selects Processed for Reproduction: We included $250 for the photographer to do a quick edit and provide a web gallery, while adding $100 per image to touch up the chosen files and deliver them to the agency. I’d typically increase the rate for the gallery to $500, but we’d have a digital tech on site to help organize the assets and accomplish some of this work as it was being captured.
Catering: I anticipated catering to cost $50-$60 per person for the shoot day (including six agency/client attendees), and bumped it up a bit to account for potential meals during the scout day.
Mileage, Parking, Meals, Misc.: I included $100 for production books, $200 for miscellaneous expenses and mileage, and $300 for additional meals and parking for the wardrobe/prop stylist while shopping and returning everything.
Feedback: While we knew that our estimate fell within their budget, we also sensed that they might be interested in increasing the scope of the project. Sure enough, the agency came back and told us that they were interested in shooting another scenario with two additional talent during the same shoot day, and they asked for a revised estimate. This of course impacted many items across the board, and we put pen to paper and submitted the following revised estimate:
Creative/Licensing: In addition to capturing another concept, they asked for licensing to six images (three per concept), as opposed to just two. My first inclination was to double the price, but upon further consideration, I felt that the first image of the second scenario might be equally if not less valuable than the second image from the first concept. I had considered adding an extra $3,750 for image number three and $1,500 for image number four, and felt that the third image in each scenario didn’t bring enough value to increase the fee much further. While we wanted to bump the price to this amount, the photographer was eager to close the deal and wanted to offer a bit of a discount by capping it at $15,000 (we did however increase the licensing option to jump from trade to consumer use). Given the nature of the project, we agreed that this was still good for a one-day shoot, and I’ve seen similar projects land on similar rates while granting more licensing.
Live Casting and Talent: Since we’d be casting four talent instead of two, we increased the casting fee to account for more time to prep, shoot and book talent, and we increased the talent fees to account for two additional people.
Wardrobe: This also increased, but didn’t double since the outfits that were requested could easily accommodate more than one talent. So, instead of shopping for four unique outfits, many of the same items would be appropriate for multiple talent which I anticipated would result in cost savings. Interestingly, while I would have anticipated an increase to the prop budget since we’d be shooting in two scenarios, we felt that after analyzing some location options, that we’d be able to use many of the items already in the houses to set up a simple second scenario.
Selects Processed for Reproduction: This was a quick change to jump from two to six images, and to cover the time it would take to process more images.
Catering: I added an extra $60 per person to account for the two additional talent.
Production Insurance: Throughout the negotiation process, we learned that the agency had insurance requirements that the photographer’s policy didn’t specifically cover. The photographer would need to increase his policy and pay an additional fee to his insurance company in order to do so, and hoped to pass this cost along to the agency.
Results: The project was awarded, and the client opted to expand the licensing to include consumer use.
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 is how a promo is supposed to work. You open one and you are intrigued by the image so you go visit the photographers website. You really like what you see, so you file the promo away or tack it to your board, but then you head off to a meeting or go home for the day and immediately forget about the photographer.
Then the promos keep coming in (every month or two or three) and each time you are reminded how much you liked their work and each time you are enjoying the new image and then you begin to look forward to seeing the next one and then you start recognizing the envelopes when they come in. Eventually, you will hire them. This is how it is supposed to work and that why Sarah Wilmer deserves a special mention for sending promos in 2015.
The humble postcard is the ultimate promo. I believe it can carry as much weight as a book full of images and a poster that can block out the sun. It is a testament to your ability to produce a single (sometimes two) arresting image. For me the ultimate postcard image is beyond arresting. It has more questions than answers. It makes you want to dig a little deeper and figure out what this photographer is all about. See what’s really going on in that image that caught your attention. Here are the postcards that caught my eye in 2015: