As a Photo Editor there’s nothing better than running into a curated list of photographers when you’re out trolling the internet for ideas. On a snowy day when not much is going to get done in the office I would spend a few hours adding photographers and ideas to my personal list. Here’s one from Andy Adams of Flak Photo fame called 100Portraits. Also, worth visiting Flakphoto.com and the gallery section to see a ton of images that he’s published with links to the photographers website. Good stuff.
Michael Shaw launches a redesign of BagNews, one of my favorite blogs about photography:
“Our interest in ‘reading the pictures’ and revealing layers of political and social meaning remains stronger — and now, broader — than ever.”
He’s got an all star lineup of contributors too. Read about it (here).
Agents have been using blogs as tear books for some time now. I think Redux was one of the first with their blog reduxpictures.com/blog and now many agents have some form of the tear/news/announcements blog: bigleo.com/den, llreps.wordpress.com.
A few have taken it a step further like the Glasshouse Images stone-thrower.com blog where Jacqueline interviews their photographers along with photo editors and art buyers and the Art and Commerce Production artandcommerceproduction.com/blog where they combine photographer news with go-see’s. There’s a similar approach over on Stockland Martel’s blog stocklandmartelblog.com where Kristina combines industry news with the goings on of their photographers.
Finally Bernstein and Andrulli have turned their entire website into a blog ba-reps.com and I have to say the results are quite nice. An emphasis on social marketing may be in the future for everyone working in media. Check out the Crispin Porter + Bogusky website: cpbgroup.com where they pull content about the agency from youtube, twitter and blogs.
Here’s a list of blogs I’ve been reading recently. It’s always changing but some of these may be new to you:
http://spoonfedatlanta.com/ (I always use this as an example for people of a way to use a blog to promote yourself as a certain type of photographer)
I’m sure I missed a few.
Alec Soth wrote a seminal photography blog (here) then one day up and quit. And, I’m not talking “hey, I’m getting tired of this shit I think I’ll pull back a bit,” I’m talking Bermuda-triangle-sudden-radio-silence quit. I always figured the man’s got his reasons and we’ll leave it at that. But, after you’ve been on the sharp end of a blog for awhile the reasons present themselves and I started to develop theories about it. I decided to ask him “what’s up.”
Ok, so why did you quit blogging?
Well, first let me say why I started blogging in the first place. A couple years ago I had an itch to talk about creative issues. My son had just been born and I figured I wouldn’t be getting out much. More importantly, my career as a photographer was going really well but so much of my time was focused on the business side of things. While I was grateful to be making a living, I was becoming increasingly frustrated that all I talked about was prices, editions and so on. I took up the blog as a break from the business side of art. And it turned out to be a fantastic venue for that stuff. You know that feeling you have as a student where you are so hungry for knowledge and inspiration – that was the way I felt with the blog. It was great. Soon there was a sizable audience. This was flattering and cool, but it changed things. Rather than being my creative journal, the blog started feeling like a magazine. It started becoming another business. Every day I was getting dozens of emails from people showing me their work. I just couldn’t keep up. It also started affecting my real life relationships. One time I traveled to New York and was too busy to see a show by a friend of mine. The fact that I didn’t see her show and write about it on my blog, well, she hasn’t spoken to me since. It was ridiculous. As much as I loved the venue, I didn’t need the grief.
Your blog is still cited as one of the best on photography and you’ve not made a post in almost a year. Do you think any photographers will come around and usurp your title?
Of course. I’m sure it has already happened. The truth is that once I quit blogging, I also quit reading blogs. I needed to get out of the loop.
Most photographers have trouble with self promotion and so a blog probably looks like water torture. How did you deal with it?
I’m not a fan of using blogs for self-promotion. I’m as guilty as the next dork for having used my blog to talk about my new show, new book, whatever. But those were the weakest posts. You can smell self-promotion from a mile away. The good stuff would always come from genuine curiosity. If artists take up blogging just to promote their careers, their blogs won’t be worth much more than spam.
What are you up to these days?
I have two personal projects in the works. One will be ready this fall, the other in the fall of 2009. In 2010, the Walker Art Center is organizing a major traveling show & catalog. And I’m still doing plenty of editorial. I just finished a four part series for the Telegraph Magazine.
Any chance you’ll take up the blog again?
I have fantasies. I recently bought Larry Towell’s new book and was so thrilled with it. I really wish that I could go to town on it like I once did on my blog with a Tod Papageoge book. But if I go back, it will likely be on a different site. David Alan Harvey and I have been toying with the idea of functioning like columnists on the Magnum blog. Maybe I could manage being a columnist – but I’m pretty burned out on being the publisher.
If you’re a professional photographer there are 4 reasons to have a blog and 1 good one not to:
1. Community Building. Talking about the industry, helping photographers just starting out, linking to sites and news about photography you think the community would be interested in. This is a great reason to have a blog and a big reason why blogs are popular, bringing people together from all over the planet who are interested in similar topics.
2. Marketing. You can use a blog like a big promo card and post tears, new personal projects and generally just pimp yourself out to whomever might be stopping by. Google seems to be ultra sticky when it comes to blog posts so just posting your name with an image from your portfolio or the city you live in with genre you shoot will probably attract some clients. I have been known to type professional, photographer, Juneau, AK into google from time to time.
3. News and information. You can use the blog like you would a newsletter and let people know where you’re going to be and what images you just added to your stock library so someone visiting because they like your landscape photography can discover that you just had a portrait session with Angelina Jolie and the images are available for syndication.
4. Building a fan base. Talking to your fans, who at this point are mostly amateur photographers and giving them photography tips and telling stories about your experiences on assignment has turned into a real moneymaker for some photographers. It’s important that you have something to sell your fans like a photography book you wrote or a lighting seminar you give.
1. Posting things that will get you un-hired. Mostly just bad photography that you wouldn’t put in your portfolio (this is still your portfolio) and weird rants that might make me think you’re someone I don’t want to forge a relationship with. The biggest reason to not have a blog is that you have nothing interesting to show or say or you’re just not the type of person who likes to sit at a computer and write because you’d rather be taking pictures.
At this point most of your clients aren’t going past the first dozen pictures in your portfolio so a blog is not a “make or break” deal. Although, in one version of the future I see media companies building communities of people who are interested in a topic and they’re helping consumers edit through all the crap and selling advertising into the different content that’s created and photographers who blog become a valuable asset and a reason to give an assignment in the first place.
So, whatever your reasons might be for starting a blog remember that it’s still your portfolio and there will be client rooting around from time to time and google never forgets (college grads are finding out the hard way about this) so, whatever you do don’t post a rant about the goddam CFO and the Editor’s crappy story ideas and the Creative Director’s shitty layout and expect Condé Naste to be calling.
There’s a few agent blogs out there worth checking out. AVS (anonymous agent blogger A Visual Society) is posting more infrequently but promises good stuff on the horizon. Redux has been blogging for awhile and they use it the way I think most agents will, as a tear gallery and honestly that’s just fine with me because I don’t always get the chance to check out all the magazines on the newsstand and I love a good tear or two. Wonderful Machine has a been doing a similar thing for awhile now too.
The two newest additions to the Agent blog scene are Leah Levine at L2 Agency (I helped out on this one) and Kristina Snyder at Snyder and Co. Here’s my list add any more in the comments and I’ll update. More the merrier as far as I’m concerned.
If you’re a Photo Editor, Art Buyer, Art Director, Director of Photography, Creative Director or Agent I will help you install wordpress for free. The only cost will be around $9/year to register your domain name and the $8/month hosting fee. You can even do it anonymously if you like.
Here’s what you need to do to make it happen. Register a website name. I use namesecure.com but if it needs to be anonymous you’ll have to use godaddy.com which is a little tricky because they keep trying to sell you shit as you buy the name. For both registrants just skip all the extras they try and sell you and change the registration term to 1 year (or longer if you don’t want to renew every year) but on the godaddy registration choose the deluxe registration which includes the privacy so nobody can see who registered the name.
Next you have to find a host for your wordpress blog. I use bluehost.com but I hear mediatemple.net ($20/month) is pretty nice. I had a big problem with my host when I had people vote for a photographer to receive the free consultation because they put a load limiter on everyone’s account and mine maxed out and kept shutting down. Curiously the next day the CEO of bluehost.com announced they were increasing the amount of traffic a website can receive, so we’ll have to see if they fixed the problem when I do something that will drive heavy traffic like that.
Once you get a host I’ll tell you how to point your domain there and then I will need to access your account to upload the wordpress blog. Make sure you use a password that you can change once I’ve done all I need to set it up. Hopefully I can get a bunch of new industry blogs started this way.
Email me to get started: rob(at)aphotoeditor.com
I thought I’d air this place out a bit and offer a little transparency in an attempt to move the conversations we have here on to the next chapter. I’m sensing a vibe of suspicion among a couple readers and commenter’s and I’ll offer a little transparency in an attempt to clear the air and make things right. I’ve tried to avoid writing about what I do for a living, what my plans are and in general not turn this into a place where I solicit work but I think that can sometimes make people suspicious of my motivations for doing all this work in the first place. I’ll be very clear, I wouldn’t do this if I thought it wouldn’t lead somewhere. I don’t think anyone knows where blogs and free services offered on the web lead. We’re figuring that out as we go.
The most common question I get is people asking if I’m a trust-funder or millionaire. No, unfortunately I’m not. I have to work for every dime like most of you. I have occasional photo editing, casting and consulting jobs to pay the bills and I’m living unbelievably cheap in Tucson, AZ with a family member. This will change when I move to Durango, CO around May 25th.
Next, most people probably want to know what I plan to do with this blog and all these readers. It’s changed several times since I began because honestly I didn’t set out to create a mainstream photography blog so for pretty much the whole time I’ve done this the answer has been “I don’t know or care.” When I started blogging I only wanted to teach myself how to blog, then it became a fun way to rant about work, then it grew to became very large and time consuming so I started to think I might need to get some advertising on the pages and try to make a living off all the time I spend writing and moderating the comments. I just couldn’t see myself hawking any type of photography equipment here so I gave up on that. It didn’t seem like a very good match for this site.
So, I finally decided very recently that the best way for me to make a living is to offer other products or premium services for a fee. It’s an idea that many web companies employ, you offer a few things for free to drive traffic and to create your own advertising platform and then you sell a product that a small percentage of the visitors are interested in. I’m not ready to discuss what those products are but I can say the blog will remain open and free and I’ll continue to do things like the free promos, media phonebook and photo rank as a way to support the community I’ve created and keep people coming back. As much as possible I’d like the blog to continue to be a place where conversations happen. A few readers have noted that the comments are more informative than the posts and I love that there’s so many people willing to share their experiences and ideas. I’d like that to continue as long as possible but I can’t pay rent with comments or notoriety so I’m developing products that hopefully will.
I’ll note here that I’m very aware that my thoughts on the industry and ideas on how people should behave will slowly lose relevance the longer it’s been since I’ve worked at a magazine. I’m cool with that. I hope other Photo Directors will take up blogging (email me and I’ll set you up for free and give you advice on how not to get caught) to provide that in-the-moment perspective and I’ll continue to interview people and give my opinion on the news and make posts that I feel are relevant. People who no longer find any of this interesting are free to leave. I’m not trying to create a monopoly here or write sensationalist material to drive up traffic. The blog has to evolve into something written by a former photography director. A few readers have commented on how they liked me so much better when I was anonymous and working at a magazine. I’m not going back so let’s hope someone else comes forward.
There’s been recent discussion about my previous anonymity and I’ll explain why I started my blog anonymously. First off, I always told people who I was when they asked. I wanted it to be an open secret. I was only keeping it from my employer because I had a contract that prevented them from firing me without a payout and this could have easily been voided if my blog was discovered. My family and I had moved all the way from Santa Fe to New York and that was my safety net. I’m actually uncomfortable talking about it now because I’m still bound by a non-compete and other contract terms until May 16th.
I offer anonymity to my commenter’s in the hopes that people will leave interesting tidbits they wouldn’t otherwise for fear of something getting back to their employer or client. It works most of the time but in a few cases it’s used for personal attacks. I try and prevent that from happening by patrolling the comments and will block people I think are real disruptor’s and remove comments that are intended to be evil. That being said I’ve decided anonymous commenter’s can remain anonymous forever. I’ll never track you down and if I inadvertently discover who you are I will never tell anyone. The same goes with emails people send me. All are confidential unless you personally tell me I can reprint something. I hope that helps. I recently tried to track someone down (technically I can’t track an IP address only guess who it might be based on city and state) because I wanted to ask why they were leaving nasty comments and I wanted it to stop. I’m not going to do that anymore. If it becomes really aggravating or disruptive I’ll just delete the comment or block the commenter. Additionally, if you impersonate someone who posts here I’ll just delete the comment or let everyone know it’s not the same person.
This leads to the final topic for spring cleaning, my thin skin. I’m going to do a better job of allowing criticism and dissent to my opinions without immediately firing a comment back. As I said before I’d like the posts and comments to be a conversation and other points of view are encouraged. I don’t want to get in the way of that happening.
Jacko has a new post (here), Heather Morton’s blog keeps getting stronger (here), Joerg is still going strong and always good to read (here), Robert Wright is still doing insightful posts (here), AVS has added some new material (here) (finally!), I’m really enjoying The Year In Pictures (here) and then Rachel Hulin is finding her voice (here) and I’m enjoying that as well.
If you want to receive an email with posts in them as they go up you can subscribe here or over on the sidebar.
UPDATE: Goes to a search page after you sign up but everything works. You will get a confirmation email to respond to.
Sending a little link juice out to…
I haven’t read it yet but I’m told by a very good source that A Visual Society has an excellent photographer interview up (here).
What’s the Jackanory has a new book (here).
Photo Rank is repaired again (here). Two people told me the registration wasn’t working and I discovered another 30 or so that tried and gave up when I looked at the database. Should be working now and that’s a good example of how 1 customer complaint is equal to about 15 people.