One of the highlights of last weekend’s Telluride Photography Festival was seeing the work of Robert Glenn Ketchum and learning about the International League of Conservation Photographers. If your photography had the kind of impact Robert’s has just once in your career you would die happy. He does it over and over again with a multitude of grants from people who understand the impact photography can have in changing peoples minds. What really brought this idea home for me was watching the presentation by Christina Mittermeier, president of the iLCP, where she said the goal of their RAVE (rapid assessment visual expedition) projects was to “create tipping points around conservation issues using the power of photography.” Seeing the successes of both Robert and the iLCP emboldened my thoughts about the vast power of photography and its place in our future. Not just for conservation, but as a tool for reaching people in an increasingly crowded media space.
Photographer Ken Jarecke has a guest column over on the blog Tiffinbox where he gives us a brutally honest look into the life of an editorial photographer. His lack of motivation for making pictures over the last couple years stemmed from the constant worry and struggle to pay the bills.
It’s sad, because I didn’t become a photojournalist to get rich (I was never that crazy or misguided). I’m ashamed because much of my money problems were the direct result of poor or stubborn decisions that are completely my fault.
[…] Over the past few years, we’ve cut expenses, and eliminated most of the extras that come with family life, in my vain attempt to reinvent the editorial market and make things right.
A medical emergency with one of his children snapped him back to reality:
Ironically, being in this powerless situation has seemed to heal me also. I have no cares about my reputation, or my standing in the photography world. I should be totally freaked about the medical bills (on top of everything else), but instead they just don’t seem important. I just want to be a better dad and husband (I thought I always was, but I didn’t give any thought to the huge burden I had placed on my family).
Strangest of all, I also want to make some really good pictures. Go figure.
There’s still a giant smoldering crater where editorial photography used to exist. And, while I’m still optimistic about the future need for high quality editorial photography this serves as a gut check for the difficult road ahead.
According to a recent estimate by the C.D.C. an average of eighteen American veterans kill themselves every day. That number accounts for 1/5th of all of suicides in the United States.
Photographer Ashley Gilbertson goes inside the Department of Veteran Affairs in Canandaigua, NY where the Veteran Crisis Hotline is located (here).
I am floored by the dedication Ashley has shown to this subject. Bravo man, bravo.
Here’s a great resource many creatives will want to bookmark: http://www.500photographers.com
Most of the photographers will be familiar to everyone but it’s still a great place to go poke around and run into work you were only vaguely familiar with. Plus they’re only on #88 so there’s lots more to come.
500 photographers is a weblog that posts 5 active photographers a week for 100 weeks. The photographers can be from any discipline within the photographic range, but they have to be worth looking at and have a certain level of quality. When we get to number 500, we will have a deep database of great photographers.
I found this Julius Shulman documentary in my Netfix queue. If you have a subscription you can watch it instantly and if you have the ipad app you can watch it on that. Looks fantastic. Might be a good way to hide from the summer heat.
Here’s an interview with the director:
“Another drink-related shot I’m afraid. I love this corner. It stands on the boundary between the street market of Brick Lane and London’s financial district. The corner gets good light, a wide range of people passing by and it also happens to have a quirky pub on the corner which lets you take your drinks outside and watch the world go by. One busy Sunday afternoon I was standing there pint of Guinness in one hand, camera in the other, not really expecting anything out of the ordinary to happen. Well obviously something did and I just happened to be standing next to the man who ended up falling on the tarmac. I don’t think anyone who has seen this shot has correctly guessed the chain of events and yes I have several shots of the drama as it unfolded so I could show you the whole narrative, but where’s the fun in that? I’m loathe to say precisely what happened other than to confirm that the lampost did not fall down of it owns volition. I like this shot so much because of its ambiguity. Much street photography can be very explicit but I like people to spend as much time as possible trying to work out of a very human puzzle. I was obviously thrilled that the guy’s girlfirend in a pretty blue dress came to his aid and that too red-clad cyclists were lurking ominously in the background. Needless to say, I have a hard job convincing anyone that this was set-up. Pure mindless reaction and getting my glass out of my hand so I could focus properly was the key here.”
More of these fantastic stories behind the image over on B (here).
I missed the premiere of this new Bravo show on photographers Markus Klinko and Indrani last night but if this review and these cringe worthy clips are any indication I don’t think I’ll be watching any of it.
Markus Klinko, the celebrity photographer who is one of its two stars, comes across as so genuinely appalling that he becomes appealing. The best actor would have a hard time faking such consistent neediness and narcissism. His partner and former girlfriend, Indrani, wins us over by exhibiting superhuman amounts of patience in dealing with him.
As long as viewers don’t ask themselves if they have anything better to do, they should have fun watching.
Markus is a skinny, very blond child-man who defers all adult decisions to Indrani and then second-guesses her choices. Though he’s extraordinarily fussy, he’s less a control freak than an out-of-control freak.
Indrani occasionally fights back but generally lets him get away with murder. Since she’s a former model, her equanimity is astonishing.
Here’s another entry from my series on photographers talking about how they made the break to go pro. I thought you might enjoy hearing about Kevin Arnold because his transition was from writer to photographer so he’s got an interesting perspective on the whole thing. I met Kevin when I was working at Men’s Journal where despite the fact that I rarely allowed writers to shoot stories I made an exception for him because he totally got it.
I asked Kevin to take us down his path as a writer and talk about where photographer entered the picture then how he found his groove and what steps made this a viable career for him. Here’s the story:
My interest in photography began when I was studying philosophy at the University of British Columbia. At the time, I was heavily involved in climbing and was going on a lot of mountaineering expeditions to South America, the North Cascades, and the Canadian Rockies. For me, these trips were as much about the beautiful places we would travel through to get to the climbing, as the climbing itself. In Peru, for example, we hiked for days to get to remote mountain ranges. The people and landscapes we passed through on the way were stunning and unusual because there was no real reason to go there unless you were on your way somewhere else. At the time, I was reading a lot of outdoor and climbing publications, and I was inspired by the imagery and stories. I was inspired to bring back my own images and words, so I weaseled my way into getting a few stories and photos published. Luckily, there was a local magazine in Vancouver called Coast that was desperate for content. I used them to hone my craft and gather tear sheets, and eventually started writing for larger national publications in Canada.
I had absolutely no training in photography, but people seemed to respond to my images and they were good enough to convince a few editors to hire me as a writer and shooter. I did this fairly extensively for the travel section of the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper. My focus, though was on creating a career as a writer and editor. To be honest, I had no exposure to professional photographers and I never really considered it as a career option. When I think back, I’m not even sure why. I obviously had a general awareness that people shot for Nat Geo and for the climbing magazines that I read, but it just never occurred to that it would be a viable career option. I suppose I was good at writing and had some training in it, and therefore it was the obvious path. Anyway, I eventually became the editor of Coast when it expanded to become a national magazine, and I went on to at-large editing positions at other magazines, including Explore and Adbusters.
At some point, I was offered an editing position at a large national magazine in the US. This should have been the pinnacle for someone looking for a career in outdoor publishing. But it wasn’t. It was then that I realized that I didn’t get into the field to sit at a desk while all the freelancers reported back to me on the amazing trips they were assigned to do. So I broke free and began freelancing full time. I started to get sent on better trips for bigger magazines in Canada and the US. I still had a keen interest in photography, but was focusing my career on the written word.
When I did travel on assignment, I almost always traveled with photographers and I started to meet a lot of pro shooters. This is when the door opened for me to photography. I wanted to do what these guys were doing. It was more compelling for me. Plus, to be honest, their job paid better and seemed a lot more fun. During the trip, they were able to be physically more active because they were out getting images, rather than doing interviews. And after the trip, they would head home, edit the images, send them off, and then start on the next project. Meanwhile, I would have weeks of writing work ahead of me when I got home. I’m a decent writer and I believe strongly in the power of the (well) written word, but writing itself never came easy for me. Writing on deadline was torturous for me. Shooting, on the other hand, was pure joy. I’m a very visual person and shooting came very naturally to me, unlike writing. I was always shooting on my trips when I had spare time – which in retrospect I can imagine only drove photographers nuts. But eventually a couple of guys, Tyler Stableford and Steve Casimiro, looked at what I was shooting and encouraged me to pursue it. Traveling with these guys also made me realize how much I wanted to be doing their job rather than mine
This was 2004, and I decided to develop a plan to make a transition from writing to shooting. I knew I couldn’t just jump into photography and abandon writing, because I had to still pay the bills. More importantly, I knew that my writing and editing gigs open a lot of doors for me that would help fast-track my photography career. At this point, I had a lot of great contacts in various editorial departments, and I was also invited on a lot of press trips to test various outdoor gear (this is one of the things I wrote about). Between assignments and these trips, I was able to travel to unusual places like Iceland, New Zealand and the Canary Island on someone else’s dime. Places I would have never been able to afford on my own. I would always make sure I had a few extra days to focus on shooting once I finished my assignment, and in this way I developed a portfolio of travel and outdoor images. When I was home, I started taking night classes to learn about lighting and some of the technical sides of shooting. Eventually, I managed to start getting assignments from national magazines to write and shoot stories (e.g. Men’s Journal, etc).
It’s funny because once I got to this level, my background as a writer actually started to work against me. One of the most challenging things for young photographers is figuring out the business side of things. How to get your images in front of the right people. How to bring back the right mix of images that a magazine editor needs to run the story. These are hard lessons to figure out, and being on the inside as a writer and editor gave me a huge lead. I was traveling a lot and meeting a lot of photo editors. But on the flip side, I was also pigeonholed. Photo editors don’t like hire writers to shoot and vice versa. It’s very territorial. I found that people assumed that if I could write, then I couldn’t also be a good photographer. To be fair, it is very difficult to do both well on the same trip, and it is also rare to find people who do both well. Writers and photographers are also paid differently – photogs in general make quite a bit more – and I found that the different departments, especially photo departments, needed to justify this. So, while I was assuming the would be happy to save money by having the same person do both, this wasn’t always the case. I think a lot of photo editors didn’t want to go down that road because they didn’t want their publishers to then start pressuring them to hire writer/photographers for the precise reason that there aren’t very many who are good.
Overall, it was frustrating for me to come against that wall after such a great start. I eventually started separating the two crafts, pitching stories as a writer or as a photographer. I also started to focus my shooting more on commercial photography. I did this for a couple of reasons: the more I learned about the business of photography, the more I realized that the money is better in commercial work and there is greater freedom to go with those budgets. I still really enjoyed editorial photography, but I figured that if I could make more from commercial work, then I could pick and choose my editorial projects based on interest rather than financial need.
I believe strongly in the value of personal projects. As a commercial photographer, I get to do some great work on assignment, but the fact is that a lot of that work ends up getting watered down in terms of creativity. Even clients who appreciate good imagery have to cover their basis. They are usually spending a lot of money and need to make sure they tick off all the boxes – having the right product used by the right demographic in the right environment. In the end, the imagery can be good, but it is rarely something the pushes your creative boundaries. I find that clients will hire you to do the work you love, but they need to see it first. Convincing a potential client to shoot in a particular style or to shoot particular subjects is hard. But if they see the work and it is good, they respond.
This was certainly the case with the ski patrol project I did last year. I’d been wanting to shoot a project like that for a couple of years, but it took some time to find the right subjects and to make everything happen logistically. Eventually, I shot the project on Whistler-Blackcomb Mountain focusing on the avalanche patrollers on Blackcomb Mountain. I know a few of the guys personally, so this helped me get in the door with the people in charge. Safety is the primary concern here, and these guys aren’t exactly keen to have a photographer tagging along while they travel over dangerous avalanche-prone terrain throwing explosives. One of the things I love about this project, and one of the things that makes the imagery unique I believe, is that shooting it took a variety of skills, both technical and physical. As a photographer, of course, I had to have the technical skills to capture the images as I imaged them. But equally as important in this case were my physical abilities as a skier. Without the ability to ski and travel safely with these guys in the mountains, I just wouldn’t have been welcome. I had to actually prove my skiing and avalanche safety skills in order to get the green light from the team leaders.
A year after starting the process of getting official and unofficial permission, I ended up shooting the project just by luck during some incredible storm weather. During my first day of shooting, it has snowed heavily overnight and was still dumping furiously in the morning as the team headed out. I quickly abandoned the idea of changing lenses – doing so without getting snow in the camera was impossible. Because of the deep snow, the going was tough, so I quickly also realized that I had to travel as light as possible if I was going to keep up and be allowed back to shoot more days. I ended up doing the whole project with one lens and one camera, which was an enlightening experience after years of packing tons of gear around. Within an hour, my autofocus quit working as well, so I had to focus manually on the fly through a fogged up viewfinder. At the end of the day, I quite honestly had no idea if I had anything good. There hadn’t been time to even glance at the back of the camera for exposure, let alone content. In the end, some of the best images were from that day. I shot two more days after that, and was lucky to nail some heavy avalanche conditions both days, which meant the patrollers were working hard and doing stuff that sometimes only happens a few times a year (e.g. Heli-bombing).
In terms of marketing, that project has been a revelation. Clients and potential clients have responded incredibly well the imagery. The fact is that no one would have hired me to shoot something so raw and un-produced. Yet, almost everyone comments on how much they like the reality, the raw editorial feel of the imagery. Some clients have gone so far as to actually reference the material in designing their own upcoming shoots. It’s amazing how many times in the last six months I’ve heard people say something like, “this is exactly the type of imagery we’ve been talking about creating for our upcoming project,” or “ this is exactly the style we’ve been talking about moving towards.” It’s funny because I didn’t think about any of this when I envisioned the project. I just went out and shot it how I wanted to shoot it. Somehow that has ended up matching up with the direction that a lot of people are looking to take their outdoor imagery. I don’t know if this is just lucky timing, or if the project itself has created some of this momentum. But it is certainly interesting. In some ways, it makes planning my current personal project harder. Because once you’ve had such a strong reaction to a project, it’s hard not to let expectations come into play as you plan the next one. It’s hard to just focus on creating what I want to create again, while completely ignoring the commercial potential for the work.
If you want to speak in terms of direct results. And to be clear, I don’t think a personal project has to or even should garner any concrete results for it to be worth doing. For me, though, this project opened a lot of doors. Creatively, it is a culmination of where I’ve been taking my imagery, both commercial and personal, in that it is embodies a certain unstaged reality that I love. I think it added a uniqueness to my portfolio that wasn’t necessarily quite there yet. I’ve just signed with a rep in New York (Robert Bacall Representatives), and if you ask him, I think he would say that this project contributed to him signing me. As I mentioned, it has also garnered a lot of interest from potential clients, some of which is starting to turn into actual work. And even more directly, I ended up licensing some of the images to two companies for ad campaigns, The North Face and Gore-Tex. Both company’s products are used by the patrollers and are therefore all over the images. I certainly didn’t plan this when shooting the project (in fact, when I began planning the project a year in advance, they were wearing different uniforms). But I did show these companies the images once they started to receive a lot of attention. The fact is, the cost to license these images, while good for my business, is far lower than what it would cost to plan and produce a shoot like this. And even if you did spend the money, it would be hard, if not impossible, to create the kind of authenticity I was able to capture in this real-life scenario.
Once I started down the commercial photography road, I quickly realized that I wasn’t satisfied to just settle for local clients. A lot of Canadian photographers (I’ve worked out of Vancouver in the past and now in Whistler), tend to focus on the local market. The problem with this as I see it, and this was the same when I worked in editorial as a writer, is that our market is incredibly small compared to the US market. As a result, I’ve always focused on the larger North American market. The way I see it is that just because I live here, I don’t have to work here. Obviously, this is different for a studio photographer. I like to shoot on location, and while my back yard is beautiful – after all, this is why I live here – I get inspired by new locations. When I was writing, I actively marketed myself to North American and global publications and had good success. When I decided to focus on commercial photographer, I took the same no-borders approach. I had been shooting for a while and getting good editorial work, but I realized that to have success in the commercial photography world would require a lot more knowledge and experience than I had at the time. Knowing this I decided two things: to find a business mentor who had that experience, and to work with the same photography consultants as more established shooters.
That was two and a half years ago, and both of these things have been invaluable in getting my career to where it is today. I’d say that the most valuable “big idea” that helped me along the way was the idea that one needed a vision as a photographer. When I started to work with consultants, I had a lot of good images in my portfolio, but there was no clear vision that differentiated my work from the next outdoor shooter. Selina Maitreya, in particular, was key in helping me find my vision in the work I’d already shot. I think that one of hardest thing as a commercial photographer is to choose what images you are going to show the world. Heck, this is true even for fine art shooters. If you show everyone everything, even if all of the images are amazing, no one knows who you are or what makes your vision unique. Through many stages of editing and much talk of what inspired me, Selina really helped me hone in on what made my work unique. This not only helped me in creating a portfolio that left an impression on potential clients, but perhaps more importantly helped cement that vision in my head so that I could focus my own projects on what I wanted to be shooting. It’s a bit of a cliché, but you really do have to show people what you want to shoot, not necessarily what you have shot or can shoot (the patrol project only solidified this for me).
Since then, I have relied on my own vision to further hone my portfolio (and now my reps input also). I guess a good analogy was that at the beginning of the process I was in a round-a-bout with all kinds of avenues open to me – all kinds of avenues that interested me. Working with an outside person helped me to pick a road and say, “this is the road that is for me. The road I’m going to go down with my brand of imagery.” This isn’t to say that I don’t shoot unrelated projects, but I don’t necessarily show them to the same audience. At first, I was pretty strict about this. My commercial portfolio online was restricted to just that imagery. Now that more people know my style, I find that adding some outside projects helps keep them interested and doesn’t necessarily water down my portfolio. But to be honest, this isn’t something that I’ve methodically researched. Just a gut feeling and a reaction to various comments.
On the business side, having a mentor was equally important during that junction in my career. It’s one thing to develop a good portfolio and the production skills required for large-scale shoots, but you have to also learn how to run a business. I had to learn what financial risks were worth taking (when money is well spent on gear or marketing, and when it’s not, for example), how to quote fairly, how to price stock, and how to bring in consistent income. If you don’t nail this part, you can’t stay in business long enough to keep shooting. In the short time I’ve been doing this I’ve seen a number of photographers quit the business or fail to stay in business. And these were people who I considered well-established, people I looked up to when I started my own career.
Smoke Bath is a collection of photographs and art work loosely based on the theme of camping/ nature/ exploring. The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency that provides free summer vacations to New York City children from low-income communities. The goal of smoke bath is to showcase the work of artists that are inspired by nature and raise money for freshair.org in the process.
This is one of those cool projects where there are lots of names you’ve heard of and many that you haven’t. You can click around and check out work until you find something you like then visit their website and add them to your list (if you’re the sort of person who keeps lists of photographers for a living). Very Cool.
I received the following question from one of my readers:
I have a question for you. I got hired to photograph an annual report for a nonprofit company called [Redacted]. I got the gig through an organization called Taproot Foundation which is an organization whose goal is to link up creative professional with non-profits and such to work on pro-bono projects. This is going to be my first annual report shoot and I am very excited about it. I think that this may be a career path that I would like to pursue. Do you have any idea how to go about looking for work shooting annual reports? I haven’t the slightest idea where to start. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.
Here’s what he had to say about it:
I can tell you that my experience shooting the Annual Review for Highbridge Capitol Management was very rewarding. I was able to participate from the very beginning, working closely with the designers, writers, and the marketing department. Together we came up with a visual concept that would illustrate what the firm is all about. This is unusual for me, as I’m often hired for editorial work based on my photographic style. With this project, I actually adjusted my style to suit their needs, so it was fresh for me and I think the results were pleasantly different from other annuals.
The client is absolutely thrilled with the final product and has been showing it off to others in their industry. So hopefully I will be shooting the next one, and perhaps pick up some new clients along the way.
This is the interesting part. I actually first came in touch with Highbridge through an editorial assignment for Institutional Investor Magazine. The budgets are tight there, but they have given me interesting assignments, so I always try to make it work. Once I was up at Highbridge, I got to know the folks there and they got to know me. Since hedge funds don’t typically produce annuals, they did not have a lot of experience with photographers. This gave me an opportunity to let them know what I could do for them, and the timing worked out perfectly.
As for advice to your readers questions, I would say a few things. First off, you have to look for opportunities wherever you can. Six magazines that I shot for regularly closed last year. The industry is going through some painful changes right now and one has to be resourceful. Also, once I had the job, it was great to push things in a new direction…”off brand” if you will. I put away the lights and took a new approach that I had been shooting a lot of personal work with, but had not fully realized with my commercial work. This kept the shoot very new and exciting for both me and the client. Word of mouth will be your best friend in this realm, so if you nail one annual, chances are you will have an opportunity to do another.
The iPad has the potential to save the magazine industry, may become an important marketing tool for photographers but is a complete waste of time (good for consumers, bad for work).
A lot of ink has been spilled over the anticipation, launch and criticism/joy over the iPad and now that the dust has settled I wanted to offer my own take on the device.
My first thought with the device out to the box was to use it as a way to get work done when not at my desk. I ran into two major problems with this. 1. It’s difficult to carry around because there’s no handle and it doesn’t fit in your grip so well. 2. It sucks to type on and if you spend all day typing emails like most people these days, you will add hours to your work day trying to type on this thing. So, basically it’s worthless for work. I can’t imagine a single photo editor using one and given the fact that most businesses are many years behind in even updating browsers it’s unlikely in a corporate setting it will be used for anything except testing.
Another big issue with using something like this for work is how bad the web surfing is. I don’t find it to be very quick online, the size of the screen compared to the real estate most sites are using causes lots of problems and lack of support for flash makes the online experience full of holes. Now, I really don’t want to debate the flash vs html in the comments here but I think there’s a lot of misinformation about the two. First of all flash is not going anywhere online. Here’s a couple articles that address this (Giz Explains: Why HTML5 Isn’t Going to Save the Internet, The Future of Web Content – HTML5, Flash & Mobile Apps) and most experts seem to agree (“I’m often asked “Will HTML5 replace Flash?” on the Web. The quick answer is no.” – TechCrunch story) that flash cannot be unseated as one of the
standards widely adopted languages on the web.
One point that seems to get everyone fired up is html vs. flash in building websites. I have my own reasons for choosing flash, but I’ve seen horrible and awesome in both so there’s really no point in debating it. Each has its benefits. I will say that flash changed the website viewing experience for photo editors which up until Livebooks started building sites was excruciatingly horrible. I’m on record saying how much I loved flash sites as a photo editor way before I got into building websites. I’ve seen some excellent html sites but the ease at which you can build a site in html leads to many, many more diy’ers creating junk and leading to an overall feeling among photo editors that html sites were low class. One thing worth noting from all the hubbub about the two languages: “few people realize is that while H.264 appears to be an open and free standard, in actuality it is not. It is a standard provided by the MPEG-LA consortsia, and is governed by commercial and IP restrictions, which will in 2014 impose a royalty and license requirement on all users of the technology.” So, there’s more trouble brewing for video down the road.
For Looking At Pictures
The iPad is awesome for thumbing through images. The guardian eyewitness app, which showcases some of the best news photography is an excellent example of this. You scroll through a selection of images with the flip of a finger and can turn the captions on with a single tap. Horizontal images seem to look the best and holding it in the orientation feels natural to me and seems easier to do the swipes and taps.
The big question on everyone’s mind seems to be how can a device that shows off photography this well be used to land jobs. Since I don’t think you will find many PE’s and AB’s using one it’s more likely that a photographer will have one at a meeting or in their kit on set to show additional work. And, I think for showing off multimedia this will become the de facto portfolio as it seems nearly perfect for that. Some people have suggested shipping them around like portfolios and I’m not sure that’s such a great idea. You’ve got to worry about the battery if the thing is accidentally turned on, you’ve got to prepare for people who are technologically inept and I don’t think there’s a way to take over the device and not allow other uses besides looking at the portfolio. The other problem with an iPad as a portfolio is how hard it is for people to change their ways. Someone who is used to great success finding the perfect photographer for a project by calling in books is not going to trust a new method immediately. Also, you’ve got a pretty small screen compared to most books as Zack Seckler over on The FStop points out:
I got in touch with four art buyers at top ad agencies and they all seem to agree that print still offers a superior viewing experience. A glowing screen just doesn’t compare to big beautifully printed images on luxurious paper. If a client is looking through books, deciding to whom to grant a big budget project, a 9″ screen won’t hold up well against rich detailed prints nearly twice it’s size.
Check Zack showing off the image and video capabilities:
For The Magazine Industry
I’m pretty optimistic on the iPad as a savior of sorts for magazines and newspapers. First off, it really is a consumer device. Horrible for work, but awesome for watching videos, looking at images and reading text. It doesn’t hurt that surfing the web is not so great too. In fact a closed environment like this is perfect for publishers (a closed system also prevents content from getting ripped off). And, here’s the thing, this is what magazine people do best, package content. The challenge is whether they can create a workflow and design template that allows them to create stories that flow from print to all the different devices that will soon be available. Dell is building a 5 inch tablet (here), Google has one (here) and European publishers are backing a WePad of sorts (here).
I checked out several magazines on the device and my favorite by a long shot was Time. The Popular Science app has been receiving the most buzz because they set out to redefine how a magazine behaves on the pad and take advantage of the technology but I found myself gravitating towards a traditional magazine experience only enhanced. Time nailed the navigation, you swipe sideways to advance through the issue you swipe up to read more of a story, you rotate the device to activate some of the advertising. The photography looks stunning and the packaging of content is perfect for something like this. The other magazines I checked out on the iPad: Dwell, Outside and the Zinio Reader magazines were a disappointment and amounted to not much more than scanned pages. I’m guessing everyone is cautious to see if the device actually gains traction.
Here’s an overview of the Art Direction by Brad Colbow:
The linchpin to the whole deal for magazines is reach of the device. All of the magazines have been roundly criticized for their pricing which is something I’ve touched on before. It’s sort of like magazine companies saying you have to install a $500 newsstand in your house and then pay them $5 an issue to deliver magazines. It seems absurd to me, but I wonder if someone will break ranks and show how many eyeballs you can attract with pricing. The WePad is looking to bundle with content so you essentially pay for subscriptions to major publishers and the pad comes free. This is the business model that will surely get these things in the hands of lots of people. Of course this all relies on advertisers responding to the traditional method of display advertising which will never be back to the levels it once was. I do think there’s more of an opportunity for consumers to be exposed to advertising in this situation and certainly this kind of advertising has the opportunity to be more interactive and interesting.
The iPad is perfect for those 15 minute to 1 hour interactions you love magazines for. If magazine publishers can figure out an efficient workflow, attractive pricing and the devices can reach critical mass we will have a savior on our hands.
via, lens culture. Brilliant!
Still life photographer Mariano Pastor shoots product images in his studio for L’Oreal, Givenchy, Schick and Lancome.
He recently launched a website and business called Via U! where “smaller companies can get the same quality photography he creates for his Madison Ave. clients at a price affordable by the common man.”
The site is pretty slick and allows you to pick a background, then pick a composition (or even compose it yourself in a 3d layout modeler) then you ship him the product with some simple instructions and voila, download your photo the next day.
What’s it all cost? Nothing.
He shoots it for free and if you like the shot you pay $112 (half price introductory offer), for all rights.
I like the premise of serving an undeserved market (mom and pop need a killer shot for their local newspaper) and certainly product shoots at $250 a pop or less (at least editorially) is not unheard of. And certainly many companies have built in house studios for this very reason, but just selling images to everyone for a flat fee, regardless of the use seems like a bad deal for photography.
I emailed Mariano to ask him what happens now that L’Oreal says they’d like to pay $112 for a picture? He said “L’Oreal loves the price.” Natch.
When I asked him if he was worried about the backlash from other photographers for selling product photography based on the time it takes to make a picture not the usage he responded with:
How the business of commercial photography is changing is a subject that I considered a big deal while planning Via U!.
All in all what you have going now is what economists refer as “disruptive technologies”. The automobile for instance proved to be pretty disruptive for the horse and buggy industry. The digital camera and photoshop has made possible for a large number of people to achieve results previously unattainable. Digital distribution globalizes the market.
What you end up with is a tsunami of pictures that results in lowering prices. Wonderful for photo buyers, grim for photographers.
You may make the argument that Via U! makes it easier for our client’s to work by charging a flat fee and doing away with usage rights. And we do… no negotiations. That is nice.
However, our policies are also simply reacting to the forces unleashed by technology. Similarly Getty and Corbis are struggling to deal with microstock for the same reasons.
Can’t say I’m complete surprised by this. I know product photography was one of the categories hit hard early on when companies started doing the shots internally so maybe this is just the natural progression of a photographer competing for the bottom dollar there, except something doesn’t feel right to me. Doing this kind of thing for small companies seems like a smart play, delivering the same price to billion dollar companies seems rotten.
Last week Gerard Butler was on Leno and Jay picked up the copy of Men’s Journal that Jim Wright shot the cover and feature of him for and asked about the opening image. Gerard launched into a funny description of the shoot:
I’ve worked with Jim in the past so I shot him an email to get a little more background on the shoot. Also, I know Jim recently moved to NYC after many, many years living and working in LA, I also asked him about a strange phenomenon that seems perfectly normal when you live in NYC “flying photographers out to LA all the time.”
To be honest, I wasn’t the first choice for the shoot. Unfortunately, for him, the other photographer blew out his back and couldn’t make the journey to LA. The week before, I had shot the Bruce Willis cover so MJ came back to me and asked if I’d step in.
Gerard Butler’s publicist is an old friend of mine so the trust level was running high for the shoot. Myself and the crew met up with Gerry at a secluded house in Malibu and we went to town. Gerry was up for anything. We’re were aiming for the normal guy approach; trying to show various sides of his personality. Luckily,whatever challenge I threw out there, he literally dove right in. The ocean shots were a blast and a battle at the same time. I asked him, “If I go in; will you go in?” Gerry comes back with, “Follow me!”. We’re were onto something as this was the first shot of the day. Thank god that my one assistant, Sean Costello, stands about 6’6″ because he saved the camera every time. The guy whose camera that didn’t survive was the guy who was hired to shoot the B-roll. I had assistants watching the waves. He didn’t. Hence, no B-roll of the shoot. My two other assistants literally saved me from getting swept away.
We got the shots and headed up the beach and Gerry leans down and sticks his face in the sand and we just kept going until he was completely covered. Then back in the ocean, then to the hot tub. Which was needed because we were both freezing by that point. The hot tub was not a planned shot. But again, I threw it out there and we got some amazing underwater shots. Eyes open in hot water. I couldn’t believe it. At this point, I felt like I had the shoot in the bag and I hadn’t even done the cover image yet or brought out the three bikini models. Plus we hadn’t even broken for lunch yet.
I’d been in LA for about 18 years, working my way from PA to assisting some of the worlds greatest image makers of the last twenty years. Everyone from Herb Ritts to Michel Comte to Peggy Sirota whom I worked with exclusively for almost five years. She was a real mentor to me and gave me the confidence to do my own thing. My career has gone well, knock on wood, for the last 12 years. This past winter I moved to NYC to be with my girlfriend and near family. I switched agents as well to NYC based Bernstein & Andriulli, so most of my work was coming out of or based in NY. But as fate has it, once you move to one coast they want you on the other, so much of my time lately has been spent flying back and forth. Last month a three day trip turned into three weeks as people got word that I was in LA. I don’t mind it, I just wish someone can explain it to me
I’m working on a new series of posts talking to people who’ve recently made or are in the middle of making the transition to full time photographer. Spencer Heyfron was someone I got to know as Jake Chessum‘s first assistant. And, to be honest his name stuck with me primarily because I had to book flights, hotels and rental cars for him and Jake (was never on location with them). He’s very fitting for the first post on this subject, because while working in NY mere days into anonymously starting this blog, I made a post that “Spencer had flown the coop” after I noticed a big feature with his pictures in Esquire that made we want to immediately hire him. That was several years ago, but I thought I’d catch up with him anyway and see how it all went down.
APE: Tell me how it all started for you.
Spencer Heyfron: I was in college in England studying cinematography, and changed in the last year to photography because I just preferred it. I graduated and I had no ties, so I just came over to New York, really straight away. That was 1997.
APE: What made you decide you should come to New York, was it just to quick start your career?
Spencer: I really liked David LaChapelle’s work and when I was at college, his work was everywhere. In my local library in England, I found David’s home address and just came over, on the plane. I had nothing to lose, I just said, “I really like your work can you give me a job, or I am going to go home on the next plane.” And he gave me a job, as an assistant.
APE: You called him up and said I want a job and I like your work?
Spencer: I actually didn’t call him up, I went to his studio. It sounds kind of stalker-ish, but I was quite prepared to turn around and spend a few days here, then go home. But he said, “My second assistant just left, my first assistant has a room if you want to use that”, and yeah, I was away.
APE: So, do you think it was good timing, or was part of it that you showed up at his front door?
Spencer: I think it was good timing and I was just totally honest, like “I really, really, really like your work”. I think I interned for a week at the studio and they realized I wasn’t weird, or crazy and then I was there for, maybe, two years.
APE: So, for two years you were his second assistant. How was that, did you learn a lot from him?
Spencer: Oh my God, I learned more the first day than I had in my whole college years. It was so crazy, the difference between learning it academically and theoretically at college and then being the real world. The first week, just, so crazy. I can remember the first job was Dolly Parton. I learned so much that day, the whole process of a commercial photo shoot really.
APE: And, how was David?
Spencer: He was great; he was actually like his images, kind of exciting and crazy and so into it, completely into it when he is shooting. Playing loud music with so many people working. It was really a good time. I thought that was what all photographers were like [laughter].
APE: You thought they were all crazy and played loud music?
Spencer: Some shoots would go on for 20 hours and that was considered normal. Anything after that was like a holiday. It was really hard work.
APE: And, was he good about sharing information about what was going on or you just kind of soaked it all up?
Spencer: I think I just soaked it all up. I learned more from his first assistant, David was more like the director who would come in and say what he wanted and everybody would make that happen. And then, you know, David would shoot it and be orchestrating it. It always worked out, it always looked great.
APE: After two years, you decided to move on?
Spencer: I was working with a bunch of other people. When anyone from England would come over I would be working for them. And I started working for Jake during that time.
APE: So how do they get to know that you were someone to call as an assistant?
Spencer: I think having David on your resume is pretty good. I went around to a lot of the agents. I had a list, as well, of photographers that I wanted to work for. And Jake was on that list, so I went around to their agents and said I was an assistant that was available.
APE: So, pretty aggressive trying to land with the right people. Do you see other assistants do that kind of thing?
Spencer: I think so. I get a fair amount of assistants emailing me, just saying “I’m available and I want to assist you.” I think that is the only way to do it, right, to really go for it. Actually, there are so many assistants at this point, since I first came over so I’m not sure it still works.
APE: And so, tell me about working for Jake? You worked for him for how long?
Spencer: Nearly five years. He’s great. Compared to David, it was night and day. It was a lot more laid back and there was a lot more communication. I learned so much from Jake, just so much.
APE: And you were his 1st Assistant?
Spencer: Yeah, in the end I was his studio manager as well, which helped me transition to being a photographer.
APE: And how did that come about?
Spencer: He just got busier and busier and he needed somebody permanent. And I became first assistant and in the off days I would be working the studio and it was just like a mix of the two. Even when I left about three years ago, and he was still getting busier and busier. Now he’s with Art and Commerce.
APE: And you saw his career rise and got to see how he handled it but also how he worked with his subjects as a photographer.
Spencer: One of the best things about being an assistant is that you find out what sort of photographer you want to be. You then get to see how different photographers act and how they react on a shoot. So with Jake anything he shot, no matter if it was a celebrity or somebody on the street he was very respectful of them, he treated them like human beings. That’s the key to his work. He’s talking to people and they’re very comfortable with him.
APE: Can you give me some other things that you took away from working with him that influenced you?
Spencer: It’s a business. I think that’s a key component in this industry. When you are in college and you’re thinking about what sort of photographer you want to be, what you want to shoot, how you’re going to shoot it and how you’re going to put your personality into the work, that’s all fine but in the end it’s totally a business. Jake taught me that. And, he always came back with the goods. Do you know what I mean? He always came back with what he would have decided to do and he would shoot extra and have lots of options for himself and for the client.
APE: How are you able to do that when you’re pressed for time? Or the subject doesn’t give you a lot of time?
Spencer: Well, obviously, it’s time-dependent but he also taught me how to shoot very quickly, like, a few different shots in five minutes.
APE: That is quite a contrast from David then.
APE: So, tell me about the transition. When did you know you were ready to make the transition? And how did you do it?
Spencer: I think I was more than ready. I was getting a bit too comfortable and I think that it wasn’t a challenge any more. I realized I’ve got to go off or I never will.
I had been doing personal projects while when I was with Jake. I’d fly out a few days earlier and do some personal work. And then he would come and we’d shoot. And we were on our own as well. We’d go out somewhere traveling because he’d always been shooting personal stuff. And I’d go with him. And he’d let me take my camera and do what I wanted to do.
And he was very good about contacts as well. He’d say, you need to call this person and show your book. He helped me put my book together as well.
APE: Some of the people I’ve talked to say the transition is nearly impossible, because you’re comfortable and making a living, then you have to go to not making a living.
Spencer: Well, I think it was a little bit of denial on my part. I didn’t think it was going to be as hard as it was, it really is hard.
APE: So, that helps. Not knowing how difficult it might be.
Spencer: Exactly. Yeah and it’s very rare that it’s immediate. I was really fortunate. Because a lot of the contacts I had like “Newsweek,” “ESPN” and “Esquire” gave me work.
APE: And what about landing Look Book, tell me how that happened?
Spencer: Well, I worked with Jake on it. And I didn’t think it was challenging him anymore so he gave it up. And I think there was somebody else before me, as well. I don’t know what happened there. So, they called me up one day and asked if I wanted to shoot it and they weren’t sure if I would even want it. To me, it was the most fun job.
APE: I think it’s really high profile, in the media world too.
Spencer: Exactly, and when you walk up to somebody and say we’re shooting for NY Magazine look book they know exactly who it is. It’s just amazing, it’s a very high profile job. I was floored when I got it. I was really excited.
APE: And, so, that’s probably a great promotional tool for you.
Spencer: It’s so great. Most of last year, I was asked to do white background stuff, which was great because when I first went out with my portfolio it was all environmental.
It’s a fun job, really. It a hard job to do, because of the logistics of having a white background on the street, especially when it’s freezing, and the wind is blowing like we’re in Kansas. But it’s just so rewarding.
APE: Is there somebody there from the magazine to help you find the people?
Spencer: There’s always someone there from the magazine, like the writer, and together we choose everybody. We see something like from 15 to 25 people every time we go out every month. And they choose up to seven or eight people from that.
APE: Tell me more about your transition about how you marketed yourself. Did you go out and just meet with photo editors who I’m sure probably knew your name, right, ’cause you were Jake’s assistant.
Spencer: Some did, yeah, and I just went out and saw people. People were really kind, I’d go and see a contact and she’d say you have to see Lauren Winfield at “Fortune.” And then Lauren would put me on to somebody else, it was just like this ongoing thing.
APE: So how much of that is based on the fact that you’re Jake’s former assistant? Is that the key to getting your foot in the door.
Spencer: I don’t think it’s the key, I think it helps, I think there’s like three or four different things that can help you. I don’t know the ratio of those things but personality is very important. You have to be polite. Luck in is very important, you know, being in the right place at the right time. Also, your contacts obviously are very important. Finally your work. If you believe that your work has either your personality or the personality of the client, and you stick to it and people start responding to it and just keep on. It is really hard, the transition is really difficult.
When I have assistants now and we talk about it. I say, “it really is difficult, it really is and it takes time.”
APE: Tell me how your work has evolved from school until now.
Spencer: Well, at school I was still kind of over-thinking everything. I have an old friend from school and we talk about how in school before you could pick up a camera, you’d have to explain why you were doing it. Now it’s all digital you just get the camera and take as many pictures as you can then you decide how you’re going to get in there and edit them, rather than how you shoot things.
Also, I’m much more into like real people now and that’s kind of interesting to me because when you think you’re going to shoot the next “Vanity Fair” cover and when you actually shoot real people, I think it’s much more challenging because obviously they’re not professional models.
APE: Did you start out thinking you were going to shoot models?
Spencer: I think so, ’cause I think you assume you’re just going to be shooting fashion all the time, but I didn’t really think I’d be shooting portraits of real people, but it’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve done. Like with the Look Book.
My photography has changed from when I was at school, because of how much of a business it is.
APE: How has the business aspect influenced your photography?
Spencer: When someone rings up and it don’t sound like the most exciting project, you need to make the whole exercise a challenge. It’s a challenge to get something good of a politician in two minutes,
So it becomes a challenge and you can always look at that challenge and say, “ugh, I’ve got only two minutes with this guy” or you can actually say, “I might get something great from this guy in two minutes.” And it can become an exhilarating challenge or it can become a nightmare, and I’d rather it become a challenge, you know, it’s exciting for me, you have to adapt your work and still try and have your personality in the work come through.
APE: So, when you’re making the transition how do you fund the shoots? That must be difficult.
Spencer: Yeah, when you’re an assistant, it didn’t matter, you’re up in a nice hotel for five days with a rental car and meals out each day.
Then starting out some shoots you’d spend $6,000 or $7,000 and then not see that money again for three months. I had a few of those shoots that came in all at once and it was very difficult.
APE: That’s got to be tough.
Spencer: I was completely stretched with credit. But you know, they paid me, eventually.
APE: How long have you been with Kristina Snyder and how did you two meet up?
Spencer: About five or six months. It hasn’t been long, at all. I just did a very simple mailer to all the agents I thought were good and got a few responses and Kristina seemed to really be into my work.
APE: And that was it?
Spencer: Yes. Yeah, I mean that was really it.
APE: You make it sound so easy.
Spencer: I mean, it kind of was, I went to meet her and she was so into photography and I met with a couple of others and it was kind of a little bit more wishy-washy. They weren’t nasty in any way, it was just Kristina was so excited about it and I think that’s quite infectious. When you’re excited about work, I think it comes through.
APE: So it must have been a bit of timing there, because many agents are full, right? She was willing to take somebody on at that time?
Spencer: Yeah. Well she said “I’m full now. I’m not really looking for anybody, but I like you and what do you think?” And it kind of went backwards and forwards a little bit with the contract.
APE: So, the minute that you stopped assisting, did you not immediately go and try to find an agent? You waited until you had some clients and your work was beginning to mature a bit more?
Spencer: Yes, I remember I was talking to Andrew Hetherington about it, about how it was good when you first go out, not to be with an agent, then you pick up little jobs here and there. So, that’s what I did, and that’s how I got it started. So the first few years, I didn’t really actually look for an agent.
APE: And so now, is it your obligation now to get some assistants and give them the kind of training that you got and send them on their merry way eventually?
Spencer: I don’t know, I think I’m still learning. There’s not one shoot I’ve been on that hasn’t taught me something else. It’s a really great thing and that’s good for an assistant.
APE: So, now it’s been three years on your own, tell me how’s it going?
Spencer: It’s good. Every year it’s got better. The first year was kind of all right. The second year was really good. The third year was best yet.
I can understand why people are a little bit apprehensive about the industry, because actually it’s going through these crazy changes. But it’s been good to me so far.
APE: And is part of that because you started at the ground floor, there’s nowhere to go but up, right?
Spencer: I think so, yes. I’ve noticed really big names doing things that maybe they wouldn’t do five years ago, but what are you going to do? There’s simply so many people, so many people with the equipment now to do it.
I just think if you believe in your work, and your work has personality and you stick to it you’ve got a good chance.
And, I think that it’s very easy, when you see a lot people working around you in a certain kind of aesthetic to think, well, maybe mine’s not like that. Maybe I should do that, because that’s the cool thing to do. But if your work’s constantly good quality, which is what we all strive for, and it has that personality that you try and imbue in it, I think you’ve got a good foundation to go on.