Posts by: A Photo Editor

The Goal Of Tech Companies In Photography Is To Generate More

- - Blog News

they see photography as a communication tool. Like words. A language to interpret. While professionals certainly do not ignore photography as a communication tool, they also see it as a product . The finality of a photograph, for a pro, is to sell it. The finality of a photograph, for a tech company, it to generate more. What they sell is a continuous, uninterrupted stream. They do not care about individual images, they care about scale. A photograph is only as good as it effect on other users.

via Instagram knows more about photography than you | Photo/Tech.

Pricing & Negotiating: Book Cover For Politician’s Memoir

by Craig Oppenheimer Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Seamless and environmental portraits of a prominent politician.

Licensing: Use of up to two images on the front/back cover of a book with a print run of up to 200,000.

Location:  A state capitol building in the Northeast.

Shoot Days: 1

Photographer: Corporate and portraiture specialist

Client: Large publishing company

Here is the estimate:



The publishing company was working with an active politician to create and distribute his memoir, and they asked the photographer to capture a few seamless and environmental portraits for the front and back covers. The assignment was pretty straightforward, but they needed the shoot to take place within a few days in a non-local city to the photographer, and given the subject, we knew that the photographer would have very little time to actually shoot the subject. These factors put upward pressure on the fee since it required a skilled photographer to work in these conditions and complete the project within a very tight timeframe.

The photographer completed a nearly identical project for the same publisher a few years ago, and while he couldn’t recall the print run of the book, the publisher agreed to a fee of $8,500 plus expenses. A quick chat with the publisher’s art director led me to believe that they were willing to pay the same amount this time, but they hoped to keep the bottom line around $15,000. The fee sounded healthy for the print run, but it did include two images, and I anticipated that their contract might include rights that would put additional upward pressure on an appropriate fee.

Just for reference, I did check the fee against a few pricing resources. Corbis suggested a rate of $1,258, but their options max out at a print run of 30,000. For a print run higher than 30,000, they ask that you contact them. Getty suggested $2,325 for a print run of up to 250,000 including electronic distribution, and Fotoquote suggested a rate up to $2,835 for a similar print run. If I didn’t know what the publishing company paid previously, I may have priced the two images around $2,750 each, and then added on a creative fee of a few thousand dollars, which happens to bring the fee close to $8,500. This (along with previous experience) reassured me that the fee was appropriate.

Photographer Travel/Pre-Production: The photographer planned to fly to the location the day before the shoot, and since the actual shooting time would likely wrap before noon, he planned to catch a flight back that same day. Additionally, he’d spend a considerable amount of time beforehand to coordinate his crew and make travel arrangements. We figured that getting there and back would add up to a full day, and added on a second day to account for the pre-production.

Assistants: Both assistants would be driving to the location from a major metropolitan city, but since the location was still a good distance from them, we figured they’d drive up the night before the shoot as well (bringing us to one shoot day, and two half-travel days). The first assistant would be responsible for renting an SUV and coordinating the equipment rental, so we added an extra day at a lower rate for him to do so beforehand.

Hair/Makeup Stylist: This is typically much lower than the rate I’d include for a hair/makeup stylist, but they were local to the remote location and offered to work a half day at this rate. We originally anticipated that the stylist would travel in with the assistants, and I’d typically anticipated a day-rate of up to $1,200 if that was the case. However, I wasn’t going to argue with the local stylist’s rate, especially since we knew the travel expenses would likely put us over the client’s suggested budget of $15,000.

SUV Rental: This covered three days to rent a large SUV big enough for the two assistants and the equipment ($475), fuel ($100) and insurance ($125).

Lodging: While we probably could have gotten away with a cheap hotel around $100/night (or less), we anticipated having to pay higher rates since the reservations would be made just a day before traveling. I figured $200/night for three rooms would be plenty.

Equipment Rental: The photographer would bring his camera and a minimal amount of gear, but the first assistant would still need to pick up a backup body with multiple lenses ($500), a roll of paper and stands for the seamless backdrop ($100), as well as various lighting/grip equipment including backups ($1,500). The backup equipment pushed the rental fees up a bit, but when you only have a few minutes with a subject, you better be prepared if your equipment fails.

Airfare: Rates for flights were about $500, and I anticipated paying $50 in baggage fees both ways.

Shoot Processing for Client Review: This covered the time it would take the photographer to download, edit, color process, rename files and deliver a web gallery for the publisher to review.

Selects Processed for Reproduction: The photographer would further process the two final images that the publisher selected, and he anticipated it taking less than an hour per image.

Miles, Parking, Meals, Taxi, Misc.: I included a $75/day/person “per diem” to cover meals for the photographer and his assistants for both the travel and shoot days ($450 total), as well as $100 for the taxi the photographer would take to/from the airport and $200 for unanticipated miscellaneous expenses.

Results: Despite the fact that our estimate was above their suggested budget, the photographer was quickly awarded the job and completed the assignment two days later. While the publisher signed our estimate/terms, they also provided us with the following contract:


The formatting and organization of the contract was a bit confusing, and it seemed like a combination of a “fill in the blank” document (a lot of which was already filled out by the art director) and a “choose your own adventure” novel (especially section 4). In addition to some reformatting, I made the following changes:

– I noted that there would be 2 selected final images

– In section 4, I clarified that they’d pay the photographer $10,000 (his creative/licensing fee plus his travel/pre-production fees) plus expenses.

– I initially clarified that the rights included in section 5 were for a print run of up to 200,000. However, the publisher’s rights manager preferred to not include that language. He said “occasionally [we] exceed our estimates, and we do not want to find ourselves in violation of the terms of our own agreement if the book surpasses expectations.” We were willing to remove the language about the print run, but I wanted the photographer to benefit from the use of his photos in future editions (including foreign language editions) of the book. I revised this section to state that they can use the photos in the “initial English language edition” only. It could be printed and distributed abroad, but not in any other language.

– Further down in section 5, they asked to detail a pre-determined rate for subsequent paperback editions. We noted that the photographer would receive 50% of his creative/licensing fee for use of his photos on the first English language paperback trade or mass-market editions of the book. This was based on the agreed upon percentage from his previous project with the publisher, plus our experience and knowledge of other publishing contracts.

– Lastly, I noted in section 7 that the photographer would retain self-promotional rights to the images.

Here is the revised version of the contract:


The publishing company accepted our revisions, and the book will be in stores within the next few months.

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.

Getty Images Are Now Free For Online Editorial Use

- - Stock, Working

Last week news broke that Getty Images was making the majority of its collection available for editorial and acedemic embedding as long as they can append a footer at the bottom of the picture. The Verge reported that according to Craig Peters, a business development exec at Getty Images the ship sailed long ago as far as trying to prevent unauthorized use of their images online (story here) and their “content was everywhere already”.

Peter Krogh of The DAM Book has a different take on the situation. He speculates that the Carlyle Group, the private equity firm that has majority ownership of Getty is looking to cash out before a 1.2 billion dollar loan comes due in 2016 and given that Getty’s 2011 revenue was $900 million their profit is likely a small fraction of that and so they need to do something quickly to increase the value of the company.

Peter goes on to theorize that the whole embedding business is about gathering information which I agree can be more valuable than money to investors. You should read his entire post here:

You only have to look the Facebook purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp or the stock price of Twitter to understand that users are more valuable than revenue. So I think Getty is going to get on the user bandwagon by allowing free use of their images. What’s crazy about everyone getting on the user bandwagon is they all have the same plan to make money in the end: advertising. I think some simple math will prove that adding up all the minutes spent on an application times the current ad rates does not equal the valuation all these companies supposedly have. Getty is very late to a game of chicken with companies that have a tiny fraction of the overhead. All signs point to a writedown for the Carlyle Group in 2016.

Nothing Can Substitute Hard Work And Caring About Your Subject

- - Blog News

Nothing can substitute for hard work or, even more importantly, caring about one’s subject. Also, and this becomes probably more difficult as one ages and perhaps experiences less energy to be called upon when needed, one wants to try to be just a little bit better today than yesterday or last week, or last year.  It’s not one’s peers one needs to think about in terms of improving, it’s simply trying to be a little better than one was or has been. It’s not easy and it’s not in anyway guaranteed to happen. But it’s a goal one needs to pursue. It’s really competing with one’s self and being honest, to know if the work is up to par or maybe not.

via reFramed: In conversation with photographer William Albert Allard – Framework – Los Angeles Times.

Art Producers Speak: Topher Cox

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:

Anonymous Creative Director: I nominate Topher Cox. His book pretty much speaks for itself.

Mike Stoddard.  Rodeo series

Mike Stoddard. Rodeo series

Personal work

Personal work

Philips Healthcare.  All actors

Philips Healthcare. All actors

Alex S.

Alex S.

Cut Flowers

Cut Flowers

Black Angels Project

Black Angels Project

Charlie Vagabond, Skater, Travler

Charlie Vagabond, Skater, Travler

Philips Healthcare, All Actors

Philips Healthcare, All Actors

Philips Healthcare, All Actors

Philips Healthcare, All Actors

Playball Foundation, MMB

Playball Foundation, MMB

Wilnor Tereau, Haitian Footballer

Wilnor Tereau, Haitian Footballer

Welder, Maine, Bangor Savings Bank

Welder, Maine, Bangor Savings Bank

Cybex International

Cybex International

Bombay Beach, CA.  Post shoot walkabout.  If you have not been there yet you must go now before it is gone!!!!

Bombay Beach, CA. Post shoot walkabout. If you have not been there yet you must go now before it is gone!!!!

How many years have you been in business?

When did I start. Hmmm, hard to say. I would say it has been a good 7 years now. Before that I was a freelance photo assistant, which is a whole business in itself. Shooting for your self while helping others out. That got me ready to break out on my own. It taught me a thing or two… or three.

My folks told me I was helping at my dad’s studio before I could walk.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?

I took a couple of classes (thank you Mr. Simon, TR and Doc), but I guess you could say I am mostly self-taught. I grew up in the photography business. My father was a photographer and my mother was the art director at Cosmopolitan Magazine. So my nursery was my father’s studio, and then when I got a bit older I would go to my mom’s office and play with my toys on the floor as my mother and Helen Gurley Brown would be looking at slides on the light box above me. I would go hang out on shoots all the time as a kid. I would watch and learn. That was my school. Not only how to shoot, but how to work with people.

I went to school and studied Psychology at Syracuse University. During the summers I would work as a photo assistant, studio aide, and stylist assistant. It was a great way to see the business from all sides. After graduation I busted my ass as a photo assistant for a long time. I went all over the world carrying camera bags and such. That’s an education!

One time I had a photo student ask me a bunch of things about the strobes and ratios, f stops etc. Sure, I know all that, but I told him, “brother, when it is too dark I turn them up, and when it is too bright I turn them down”. I think education is really important, but owning what you know and putting it to use is what is really important.

I did a short stint working at MTV. That taught me a lot about making budgets, the corporate life, and being in a cubicle for 8 hours a day.

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

As I said previously, I grew up in it. It was kind of the family business it is the business I know. I still had to make my way up the ladder. No one handed anything to me.

So I wouldn’t say it was any one person, it was all the photographers I knew as a kid. I loved what they did.
Funny thing is that when I told a bunch of them that I was going to be a photographer they all suggested I do otherwise. They told me the photo days of the 80’s and 90’s were long gone. It is true, but it is whole new era….an exciting one.
I love to keep it simple. I have always loved the work of Richard Avedon, Paolo Roversi, Bruce Weber, and Irving Penn.

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?

One thing I love is the opportunities of the digital era and how technology is constantly changing and improving things. I can shoot stills for a client and shoot video at the same time. That way their stills and video match in style and vision exactly. They love it, I love it. I get to see my photos come to life in video.

You have to look around you all the time, see what is out there, look online, look in magazines, see what you love and try to bring it to your vision. Make it your own. Growing up in NYC everything was constantly changing, I think you have to do that with yourself. Reinvent yourself all the time, but keep your true self in there.

One thing about photography is that it takes you to places that you would otherwise never go and meet people you would never meet. I find that to be so inspiring. Every model or subject has a story, every place has something new to offer. I find inspiration there.

Photography has taken me all over the world. It has shown me so many things and opened so many doors.
If I go somewhere on location for work I make sure to get up early and stay up late to wander around. I am lucky to be there, and I find inspiration from what is around me at all times.

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

My job is to take what the client and creatives want, and translate that into my photography. I have to bring all that info and pull it down to a moment in time that may last 1/1000th of a second. That is my job. “Hold me back”, no, I want to give them what they want. I want to make them happy. Making them happy inspires me. If you feel they are holding you back I feel you have to rethink what you are doing. Sure, this is art, this is vision, this is a piece of you…..but this is also work and a job. And your (my) job is to give them what they want….and maybe show them something they didn’t know they wanted. You can always do it both ways, your way, and their way. Then they can look to see what they like best. I did that for a big client of mine. I would shoot the way they wanted and then I would shoot the way I wanted. In the end, they liked my vision more. Now when you look at all their photography it is in my style. That didn’t happen over night, but over time they changed and reinvented their image. If you really get frustrated, then do some work on the side for yourself….which you should be doing anyway.
I hear about photographers who are difficult to work with or get mad at everyone on set. What is that!? We are so lucky to do what we love for a living. We should get down and kiss the ground every day to be thankful. Hold me back, ha, I should be throwing rose petals at their feet as they walk into their office everyday for giving me the opportunity to live like I do. Right now I am sitting in my sun filled studio next to my sleeping dog while my kids are healthy and happy at school and my wife is at work….I have nothing to complain about. My work gave me this….and my clients gave me this.

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

The internet is an amazing thing. You can show your work to folks all the time. You can show them things in bits and pieces. Over time they will remember you.
I hated carrying my portfolios around from place to place. I would pick them up and realize that no one had even opened them up. That sucks….BUT, you have to keep picking yourself up and keep going. Some will give up and some will make it.
AND….I have an agent:-) She is great at getting my work out there. It really helps to have someone give you a kick in the ass too when you are feeling down. She knows the ins and outs of how things work.

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

OK, Here is where I am supposed to say “be true to yourself”, right?. Yes, be true to yourself. Make your style. Refine that style. Show that style.

BUT… remember there is A LOT of money riding on these shoots. There is so much time put into them before you even came into the project. Clients are quick to move on if they don’t like the work. There are a lot of other options out there. SO, they also have to see that you can do what THEY need.

I had a client tell me the other day that last year was their best year in sales ever and that it had a lot to do with my photos. Holy crap! How happy did that make me feel! That is also a lot of pressure. Better sales mean that they can keep all their workers and stay open. All those workers can keep their jobs and feed their families. Not only here where they make the product, but also all over the world where the parts are made or the metal is …wait…how do they make metal?
Anyway you get the idea. You have to show yourself in the work, but that work also has to work for them.

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

Of course. I love to shoot. The money is the bonus. With digital there should not be anything holding you back from shooting everyday. There was a time when I had my fridge stocked with film. I was limited by choosing to eat or processing my film. Now, you can shoot, shoot, shoot.
It doesn’t have to be a big production. You can keep your camera next to your bed and shoot before your feet hit the floor if that is your thing. But it is fun to put something all together and see it come to life.

How often are you shooting new work?

All the time. And even that isn’t enough. Shoot to live, Live to shoot.
If It is not on a CF card yet, it is in my head. Sleeping can be difficult at times because you are thinking about what you want to shoot and how you are going to make that happen.


Topher Cox grew up in New York and now lives outside of Boston. No longer a huge rock star in Japan, he lives in a house with a white picket fence with his wife, two kids, and a dog. No minivan yet.

They all get back to NYC often for work, friends, and family.

Topher is represented by Katherine Hennessy at
His work can be seen there and on his website

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.

Failure Must Become An Essential Part Of All Our Work

- - Blog News

there are very few photographers who are so securely established that they can afford not to experiment in order to adapt to the new rules

failure must become an essential part of all our work; if you’re not failing it means you’re working in a comfort zone and as the visual world changes at breakneck speed, to live in a comfort zone is itself a failure! However, don’t bet the ranch on any single experiment: try many things and be prepared to fail often but in little ways

via Photo Expert Stephen Mayes on the Changing Future of Photography.

The Selfie heard all around the world

- - Blog News

If any one needed a confirmation of where photography is heading, last night was a prime example. Relegated to taking full length fashion shots behind barricades, or shooting the stage from a balcony, pro photographers were by far outclassed by attendees taking and publishing their own images using their cell phones. They could only watch as publications worldwide went to twitter to find and publish the best images. If it wasn’t for the glamour aspect of having rows of Tuxedo dressed photographers continuously flashing the red carpet as celebrities bathe in the sweet flow of mass admiration, it is probable that the Academy would dismissed them all and let the participants photograph the event. After all, they make no money from the pictures taken and it does cost a lot to organize their presence.

via The Selfie heard all around the world | Thoughts of a Bohemian.

I Like The Composition Of A Picture More Than I Like The Subject

- - Blog News

“I would take a street photograph if I happened to have the right camera at the right moment but I almost never do. I have nothing against reportage. People have accused me of being afraid of doing it. And, I figure, that’s probably true.“But it’s also to do with composition. I like the composition of a picture, the dance of colours and shapes across it, more than I like the subject. I love whatever subject I’m working on at the time because it’s taking me into the picture. When I’m done with the picture, I’m probably done with the subject. Some might say that’s a bit hostile and bit detached. But I go with my impulses and it seems that the art of composition is a great art.”

via New artistic directions for photographer Jeff Wall in Amsterdam –

Art Producers Speak: Vytautas Serys

- - Art Producers Speak

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

Anonymous Art Buyer: I nominate Vytautas Serys. His landscapes are outstanding, his last show in Berlin has received complements (even though it was packed) and atmosphere during the opening was just great.

"Winter's Fairytale" - chilly moonlit lanscape in Sweden

“Winter’s Fairytale” – chilly moonlit lanscape in Sweden

"Warm in the Cold" - colds of Sweden, published by National Geographic

“Warm in the Cold” – colds of Sweden, published by National Geographic

"Sunscarf" - soft tones in Antelope Canyon, USA

“Sunscarf” – soft tones in Antelope Canyon, USA

"Mosaic" - colours of Iceland that soon landed on the pages of GEO

“Mosaic” – colours of Iceland that soon landed on the pages of GEO

"Monumental Sunset" - soft sunset tones in Monument Valley, USA

“Monumental Sunset” – soft sunset tones in Monument Valley, USA

"Man and Sea" - Atlantic coast in Portugal

“Man and Sea” – Atlantic coast in Portugal

"Majestic" - grandness of nature in Iceland

“Majestic” – grandness of nature in Iceland

"Gentle Touch of a Cloud" - rainy day in Iceland

“Gentle Touch of a Cloud” – rainy day in Iceland

"Eye of the Earth" - otherworldly colors in Yellowstone National Park, USA

“Eye of the Earth” – otherworldly colors in Yellowstone National Park, USA

"Deep Painter's Dream" - magical greys in Yosemite National Park, USA

“Deep Painter’s Dream” – magical greys in Yosemite National Park, USA

"Blue Eyed" - playful blossoms in Lithuania

“Blue Eyed” – playful blossoms in Lithuania

"At the Foot" - big lake near bigger mountains in Canada

“At the Foot” – big lake near bigger mountains in Canada

"Artwalk" - interactive art installation in Maastunnel, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

“Artwalk” – interactive art installation in Maastunnel, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

"A Look to the Past" - passing a little hill in Lithuania

“A Look to the Past” – passing a little hill in Lithuania

How many years have you been in business?

Technically, it all started with my first camera, which was a present for my 10th birthday. It got stuck in my hands and has been there ever since. There was only one button, but it was enough to land me the role of photographer in our 4th grade fashion show. When referring to income generating photography, since 2012.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?

Both. I began as a teenager in an effort to achieve images that would be at as good as on postcards seen in shops. Then it became about creating something more. Later, I started attending various classes and university courses. I also studied myself, and continue to do so, from books, photographs and other photographers, with whom I am constantly surrounded, or randomly meet on the street. I see learning as a never-ending process.

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

Creative vibes, as well as support from my family, friends and fans, played a very important role in my motivation. Magnificent nature and high quality publications have always been the biggest source of inspiration for me. At some point, there came a moment when I knew it was time to move into this profession myself.

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?

New people reveal new perceptions, new environments create new ideas and new stories bring out new points of view. Placing myself in dynamic environments, traveling and meeting different people allows me to keep a continually fresh view towards life. When I am taking a photo, I always ask myself if it is worth hanging on my own wall.

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

People are different and so are their ways of thinking. It is wonderful when there is a creative match and luckily, most of the time, I end up in such situations. Working in a good team is always rewarding. Some clients have different vision and needs. Then I have to adjust, forget my ideals, and do what suits their preferences best.

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

It is about doing what I adore and remaining enthusiastic. It is also as much about creating as about sharing, listening and hearing who wants to see what. I prefer exhibiting true passion and finding creative ways to advertise. E.g. sending self-made cards, rather than store-bought ones.

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

Tastes differ. One cannot satisfy everyone. One good relationship brimful of mutual understanding is much better two average ones. Create your own thing, do what you like the most and search for the right clients. As there are plenty of artists, there are also many buyers who always want to see something new and unique… something that has not been seen before and cannot be predicted.

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

Yes. We live in a majestic planet, where hidden beauty surrounds us all the time. Whether skiing or climbing, my camera is always in my backpack and I constantly search for the moment as well as new points of view and unique angles. I also like to take short, half-day, even 2-3 day long photographic explorations of a particular area or phenomenon, which usually ends up as a little, narrated photo story.

How often are you shooting new work?

Regularly. It can be a planned photo shoot or a spontaneous outing. If I see a bunch of people playing in a mud pool at a festival, why not to jump right into the middle and take some shots? Some moments cannot be planned.


Regularly acknowledged by competition judges and publishers such as National Geographic, GEO, etc., Vytautas Šėrys is an explorer who could never imagine his life without the outdoors, traveling and photography.

His soul is constantly seeking for new points of view, true local experiences and ways to translate them into images freezing the magic of the real moment.

After living in Lithuania, Netherlands, Sweden, and Italy, Vytautas chose Berlin, Germany as the next stop in his journey through life.

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.

Empowering Photographers to Embrace an Uncertain Future

- - Blog News

This digital environment has created whole new ways in which we can interact. And we need to be stimulated to do that, inspired to do that. We need to look at new models that do it in ways we haven’t even imagined before.

We know the community has felt stuck in some ways, threatened in others, because of limited economic resources. This field is not being supported in the way that we desperately need for photography to continue to connect us in a world that is fractured and that we need to understand better.

It is incredibly important to not feel disempowered but to feel re-empowered.

via NYTimes Lens Blog.

Jason Langer Interview

- - Photographers, Workshops

Jonathan Blaustein: I noticed on your bio that you were born in Arizona, and raised in Oregon. But it looks like you lived on a kibbutz in Israel for four years. Is that right?

Jason Langer: Yes, but that’s not really pertinent to anything. That was in 1973, and I was seven.

JB: You were seven?

JL: Yeah.

JB: I didn’t do the math. So it’s not pertinent in that your seven to eleven year old self has little bearing on your current self?

JL: I would say.

JB: So it doesn’t matter at all.

JL: No. I discovered photography in 1982, and I came back from Israel in ’77. I discovered photography when I was in seventh grade. I was twelve.

JB: You were twelve years old, and when most people were trying to steal their Dad’s Playboys, you were working out how to use a camera?

JL: Well, I was doing that too.

JB: I’m not surprised, given the preponderance of nudity in your work, but we’ll get there. What was it like to start making art that young in life?

JL: I was hooked from the first minute I saw a print develop in the developer. It clicked, and I knew it was me. The chemicals felt familiar, and soon after, my mother bought me a darkroom kit from the old Spiegel catalogue. Do you remember that?

JB: No. It’s either before my time, or I never saw it.

JL: It was like an oversized JC Penney or Sears Catalogue. They had a 35mm enlarger and 8×10 trays. She bought it for me, and I cleared out my clothes and built it in my closet.

There was no running water, so I would bring buckets of water up and mix my chemicals in a completely unventilated room. When I was out of chemicals, I would ride my bike down to the local photo store. I was one of “those” kids.

JB: Did you have to earn your allowance to buy your toxic chemicals? Or did you set up a lemonade stand?

JL: I would imagine I had an allowance to begin with, and then I got my first job when I was fourteen or fifteen. I cleaned a vintage clothing store after they closed at night.

JB: What about the lack of ventilation? Are you less intelligent than you might have otherwise been?

JL: (laughing.) Maybe it unlocked the key of me always being crazy? I don’t know.

Langer_Bow, 1999



Langer_Figure no. 186, 2009

Langer_Figure no. 253, 2011

Langer_Go-Go Girl, 1994

Langer_Moonrise Over Montmartre, 2002

JB: It’s a great chance to segue. In your work, you seem to walk right up to the edge of the dark side, without seeming to cross over. You photograph at night, and there’s an element of mystery and surrealism.

But you seem like a fairly sane and normal guy. I always find that dichotomy interesting. Are you crazier than you appear to be, or does your crazy funnel right into the pictures?

JL: I’ve made a point of exploring my crazy, haunted side in photography. That’s a crucial issue that I’m trying to work out now in middle age, raising two small kids and trying to retain some of that artistic absorption. In life, you have to choose your path. You can’t do everything. You can’t be a great musician, painter, photographer, and a father, husband, architect – whatever you want to do.

You have to choose where you want to spend your time, because there’s only 24 hours in a day. I’ve gotten good at switching gears.

I chose the path early on of fine art photography. I wanted to create photographs that had personal meaning for me, out of an urge that I had, rather than commercial photography. That’s probably why you might think I’d be a crazy person – I put a lot of investment into self exploration.

At the time, though, there was nowhere for the work to go but under my bed. But I chose fine art photography to be the ruler of my life. Furthermore, I stuck in spiritual fulfillment, and meditation, but I also chose getting married and having a family.

And as you know, once you choose that, it’s a really huge commitment.

JB: Doesn’t get any bigger.

JL: A lot of what I do now is try to carve out every possible minute of the day to allow myself time to do my personal work. As we’re bombarded every day with more and more media, I find I have to make a concerted effort to fall away from the rest of the world, and its responsibilities where possible.

Does that answer your question?

JB: Yes and no. It’s like a mirror, in that I can certainly relate to your situation. But you dodged the question, a bit, as to whether you’re psychotic, in the inner levels of your mind.

But I can understand why you’d dodge it. It’s a slightly offensive question.

JL: No, no. It’s fine. I’d say that having chosen marriage and family has put me more on the side of “normalcy.” Because I do want my kids to grow up in a stable house that is focused on education and fun, not on psychological exploration – not at this age. I try to come out of my cave at least once a day… (laughing).

With that in mind, I have to find ways to go to the dark side on my own. For me, that’s been leaving the house, going to other cities and countries, and just being in a contemplative, exploratory space.

I try to balance both.

JB: What is it about the night that excites you?

JL: Early on, I realized that if you went out at night to photograph, everyone would be gone and your experience would be transformed into the other side of life. There’s a whole other part of reality that is in many ways parallel to our subconscious.

When things are covered up in darkness, it activates our imagination. Having an absence, our instinctual need is to put a presence there. I tend to put in a contemplation of the other: what is beyond our life in a conscious state. Sexuality, which is mostly suppressed, aloneness, death, centeredness – the parts of ourselves that we don’t let out on a daily basis.

Being on the streets, I don’t know what’s out there. I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I investigate.

It was also a function of the films I saw when VHS first came out. Films my mother would show me, like “The Third Man,” “Frankenstein,” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” With those films, there was always a singular male figure against the world, which is also a major theme of film noir.

JB: You became the lone man, wandering the dark city streets, alone? You chose to become the living embodiment of these metaphorical characters in these stories that activated your imagination?

JL: Yeah, I think chose is a good word. For instance, for many years I chose to teach, and then I chose to not teach. So the fact that I’m doing this workshop in Santa Fe is actually unusual.

There are many opportunities to be involved in other aspects of photography these days. You can run workshops, you can teach, be in photographic management, work in camera stores, be on juries, write about photography. There are all of these things to do, and I’ve been very conscious of not doing those things, and keeping my emphasis on photographing.

There are so few hours in a day that I put every spare ounce of energy into making pictures. Because life is just too short.

JB: When I first started studying photography in ’97, there were still teachers talking about the methodology you’ve adopted. Having five or six dealers around the world representing your work, each selling a certain amount a year. Getting books with reputable publishers. And that would sustain itself.

You’ve done that. You’re repped around the world, you’ve had two books put out by Nazraeli, and another coming out with Radius. You kind of seem like a throwback. How do you feel about that term?

JL: I would say that 2013 was very much a year of coming to terms with the new world. It was a chance to see whether my methodology still works for me, or whether it can be changed and still be just as fruitful.

I was always under the impression that not everyone is an artist. Those people that are really dedicated to it and have something to say, end up doing it. Of course in photography for decades there was a technical hurdle that people had to get over if they truly loved photography. Those people became artists. Now, I guess there’s no hurdle, so everyone’s an artist?

Also, I always felt that to become good at anything, you’d need to work on your craft for at least ten years – if you wanted to get good at what you were doing. I never wanted to get published too early, or show in galleries too early. I wanted to wait until my work was good, so I put it under the bed for years and years, until I was ready to show it to someone in the industry whom I respected.

Now, I can’t think of any young photographer who approaches it like that. Today, it’s pretty much “BANG” and it’s out there.

Last year, I asked myself if there are merits to that. Is there a new methodology to becoming an accomplished artist that is not the slow method? What I do is now considered “slow” photography.

To me, that’s absurd. It’s just photography. But in comparison to what is happening now, I guess it is kind of a throwback.

I am starting to experiment with taking digital pictures. And instead of gaining emotional distance from my work, and letting it steep over time, I’m making photographs, coming back to my studio, loading them up on the computer, and immediately editing.

I’m trying to see if that yields good results or not.

JB: You’ve used the phrase “under the bed” a few times already. I keep thinking, that’s where the monsters live. Under the bed. I can’t help but think there’s a connection there.

Do you feel like you use your creative practice to connect the nether regions of your psyche to the light?

JL: I’ve always been interested in the subconscious. The photographers I’ve always connected with early on were night-time and symbolist photographers. Artists that didn’t hand you the meanings; they remained ambiguous.

I love films that have ambiguous morality, because I like to be able to contemplate and think about something for an extended period of time.

So I would say yeah. The monsters, the demons, sexuality, suppressed feelings, darkness, the unknown. All of those things are compelling to me. I’m interested in those secret rendezvous late at night.

JB: We haven’t mentioned the word audience yet. I think it’s become more of a factor in what artists are thinking about when they put their work out in the world. We consider the relationship that develops between the object on the wall, and a group of strangers.

What do you want people to get from your pictures?

JL: This brings up an interesting question between the dichotomy of the old way and the new way. I feel that the audience is there to follow you. You are the person who is in charge of discovering things about life, making them into visual subject matter, and giving them to the world.

Your discovery of the world is paramount, and either people will like it, or they won’t. They will buy it, or they won’t. You will either capture the public’s imagination, or you won’t.

Your job is to be an artist. Now, there’s a new element, in which there is a feedback between you and the audience about what they think of your work. There’s more of an opportunity to talk to the people you’re showing the work to.

But I have to say, I’m not one of those people so far. We happen to be living in a time when public taste has gone away from what I do, and I have to just be OK with that- the pendulum swings.

With what I do, the viewer has to spend time with the photograph, inserting their own experience into it.

JB: Did you ever watch Beavis and Butthead, when it was first on TV, back in the day?

JL: Yes.

JB: Did you think it was funny?

JL: Not really.

JB: I had a feeling you were going to say that. But I am who I am, and sometimes I just can’t help myself. When you said the word “inserting,” I actually heard Beavis and Butthead giggling inside my head.

JL: When Beavis and Butthead were on, I was watching “The Third Man” and “Annie Hall” and “The Great Escape.” I was interested in those kinds of movies, so I was not watching MTV.

JB: I can understand that. And I can also understand why you didn’t think it was funny that I laughed at that word. It shows that we’re on parallel tracks right now.

But I have to say, I really appreciate what you do. And I’m glad that we live in a world in which so many perspectives are in the conversation.

You pose some interesting questions. How much can a person take on? Where should I be putting my time and energy? There are no easy answers.

JL: The greatest thing that I grapple with now is my love for photography in general, and how it is simultaneously exploding into all sorts of fantastic things, and being destroyed at the same time.

We’re so flooded with imagery that it doesn’t impact us the way that it did before.

JB: I hear you. I would love to talk a bit more about the way you teach, when you decide to do it. This interview is being sponsored by the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, and you’re doing a workshop there next month called “Shots in the Dark.”

You’ll be leading photographers out into the spooky evening, and the early light of morning. How do you approach something like that?

JL: My first instinct is to give the students everything that I have. I don’t just talk about what exposures you need to make night photographs. I share the whole philosophy I come with, which includes treating the students as artists. I encourage them to search within themselves for what I call “The Creative Spiral.”

Everyone has their own set of meanings, and a unique perspective about the world. The themes that they keep coming back to again and again – obsessions, perhaps.

What I try to do with my students is that every time they go around that circle, they get closer and closer to the center, so they can create iconic images for themselves that express what they really want to express.

We will go over all the technical things, and Photoshop. I teach students how to dodge and burn digitally, as they would in a darkroom. We’ll learn how to make beautiful, archival prints, and also talk about how to interact with people.

JB: If you go out shooting in groups, how are you able to convey the feelings of solitary joy that you experience in your own practice?

JL: One trick is specificity. I took a class out once to the Marin headlands, near San Francisco, and when we looked at the resulting pictures, everyone’s pictures were the same. They were all of the trees, the rocks, the paths, and the abandoned bunkers.

JB: I would think.

JL: It was a real disappointment. Once we looked at the work, and decided which aspects were the most successful, I had them go back and focus on just one thing. Then it got closer to what each person’s individual interest and message was.

Splitting up, and deciding which individual thing you want to focus on is a good way to put one foot in front of the other, and discover what you really want.

JB: You do quite a bit of work with the nude figure, so is that something you’re going to incorporate in the workshop? Will you be working with models?

JL: We are going to do that. There are apparently models that have worked with the Santa Fe Workshops for many years. We’re going to ask them if we can come into their homes, and photograph them going about their night: clothed, or semi-clothed, or naked.

We’re going to be flies on the wall, or voyeurs, and see what we can do. I like bringing that feeling forward we all know when we’re up working late, the rest of the world is asleep, and all is quiet.

JB: That sounds kind of crazy. I almost want to show up and peek through the window of the house at you guys watching the model make her evening tea in the buff.

JL: I did that in a workshop at the Newspace Center for Photography here in Portland. We photographed the model in the studio, and in their home, and we allowed each student to be the center of attention for a while. So the other students could learn from watching each other’s approach.

That way, everyone came out with unique material. I’m going to try to take it to a place where everyone can let their individual needs show.

JB: What a trip. And I’m sure you’ll be roaming the streets together, as that’s what your work is about. I noticed you’ve spent time in Paris, Berlin, New Orleans, and probably many other cities. A lot of the images have the vibe that you just stepped out of a dingy bar, where you ordered a pack of cigarettes and a bourbon?

Are you going to try to find spots like that in Santa Fe?

JL: We are going to work with some bars and establishments, and ask if it’s OK to come in as a small group of photographers. I’ll teach students how I do it in an unobtrusive, non-offensive way.

There’s so much to do in four days, I’m basically throwing out a lot of opportunities to do things, and I’m interested in seeing where the class wants to take it.


Sometimes You Get The Feeling That A Lot Of People Involved In Photography Don’t Really Like Photography

- - Blog News

The emphasis is on looking, on touching and taking pleasure in photography and I wonder if this is not part of a shift in photography into something a little more pleasurable than some of the hairshirt attitudes alive and kicking in photography.

Sometimes you get the feeling that a lot of people involved in photography don’t really like photography or even looking at pictures (Susie Linfield wrote a book on this). To make a cooking analogy, it would be as if a food critic was only interested in the nutritional values or the source of the ingredients and was not at all interested in the taste, the smell or the texture of the food.

via Colin Pantall’s blog: Escape from the Taliban and the World Press Photo.

John Stanmeyer Found His World Press Winning Image By Getting Lost In A Place He’d Never Been Before

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after a month traveling overland from a small village in Ethiopia, I arrived in Djibouti City. On my second day in the capital, I did what I often do when in a place I’ve never been before — walk about in the natural process of getting lost. While meandering along the beach, I came upon a group of people at dusk, all standing at different spots along the shoreline holding up their phones, some talking on them, others waving them in the air or just standing motionless.

via PROOF.

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