Category "Working"

Art Producers Tell All

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AP 1: I never look at mailers.
AP 2: I look at every single mailer.
AP 3: I got a bottle of tequila!

All joking aside, Heather Elder has an awesome podcast you should be checking out called “Dear Art Producer” where she’s asking the questions all professional photographers and reps want to hear the answer to. If you’ve been in this business long enough most of it is pretty reassuring stuff that we already know: some read every email, some look at every promo, some don’t. There is no magic bullet and you keep all channels open and active to reach them. There are a few surprises too like a mixed bag on use of instagram and that motion is not coming out of the broadcast department as much as in the past and they are looking for photographers who can do it all fast and loose (cheap).

Give it a listen and drop a comment if you find anything surprising. Looking forward to more of these.

The Best Work I Saw at the Denver Portfolio Walk

 

Tick tock, goes the clock.

Tick tock.

It’s counting down the minutes until I need to pull out of my driveway tomorrow.

(Tick tock.)

It’s an early departure to drive 5 hours to Denver, fly to Charlotte, change planes, and then end up in London on Thursday morning.

(If everything goes as it should.)

I’d by lying if I said I was back to normal after the NYC/NJ and Portland double-double.

I’m not normal at all.

But, (and this is a big BUT,) every now and again, being jet-lagged can be a good thing. Like my wife said, right now, for me, it’s the equivalent of hair of the dog.

Since I already feel like that, I should be able to get a lot more accomplished. (If I don’t sleep, so what? I’ll sleep for a week when I get home.)

If I get hungover, so what?

I won’t drink again for months.

London and more await, but first I have to get through SO MANY THINGS on my To-Do list, then pack, and then wake up before dawn too drive over the Rocky Mountains.

The likelihood of the sun being in my eyes as I drive East over La Veta Pass tomorrow? 100%!

All that hustle to get to Denver, because the flights were 1/3 the price of flying out of Albuquerque, which is two hours closer to my house.

$500 vs $1500?

One is doable, the other is not. (Editor’s note: I did pay to upgrade my seats later today, as they were going to put me in the middle, near the toilet, with no overhead bin space.)

So Denver International Airport it was.

The Mile High city.
Home of the Broncos and the Denver Nuggets.

A boom-town for sure, but are they all, these days? The good ones, I mean?

It is one thing I’ve begun to notice, as I’ve traveled around the past year or two. It seems like Denver, San Diego, LA, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland and NYC are all booming.

Cranes everywhere.

Perhaps it’s time to extrapolate all those numbers about the rapid urbanization of America? I mean, I can’t speak to Des Moines, or Little Rock, or Baltimore, but I just read that they’re expecting 50% of America living in 8 states in the coming years.

That’s nuts.

People flock to places like Denver because of the confluence of economic opportunity, world class leisure activities, high-end-bougie-lifestyle, like-minded politics, clean air, (for now,) and (at this point) we have to mention legal marijuana too.

Denver just grows and grows. (Higher and Higher.)

Ask anyone who’s been around the Rocky Mountain West the last 25 years, and miles of what were once open prairie or farms, all along the I-25 corridor, have become suburbs to the point that distinct cities have nearly merged.

The Colorado Springs-Denver-Boulder-Ft.Collins metropolitan area is massive, with a serious population, and it’s nearly seamless in 2019.

(Nearly. There are still a few pockets in between, and even in places like Boulder, farms still maintain micro-pockets, like Gunbarrel.)

I was last up in Denver in late March, as you may know, because I wrote about my exploits here. It was a travel piece, sure, but it also set up the premise of today’s article.

In order to visit a few friends, I drove up to Denver to attend the open portfolio night at the Month of Photography 2019, which took place in downtown Denver on a Saturday night.

I parked in a spot that while convenient to the hotel bars, seemed like it would feel sketchy by the end of the night, and sure enough, I was griping my pocket knife like it was a Hattori Hanzu sword.

But that was the end of the night.

I turned up at the space, and after heading up the stairs, I met a very large crowd. The event was definitely well attended, but there was little of the pushing and shoving that you get in other cities. (Maybe none? I’m not sure anyone pushed or shoved at all.)

Almost immediately, after saying hi to a lot of people, I decided to look at the work seriously, and I met Stephanie Burchett, who reminded me we’d hung out at an after party at Medium in San Diego last October.

(For the record, as I learned the other week in Portland, I always remember a person’s name, work, face, or the circumstances under which we met. Sometimes some of the above, but always one.)

Stephanie had recently graduated from an MFA program in Tucson, and was displaying a small fabrication of images on both sides of the border wall.

I asked if it was a mockup, and she seemed surprised, even though she admitted she made large scale installation in grad school.

It was only meant to be what it was, she said. And I kind of like that, as its intent makes it weird and a little sad. Throw in the video-still she showed me from a grad school show, in which she facial recognition tagged white people in lynching photos, and I knew there was material in Denver to publish.

I told Stephanie that if I could find even a few more people to feature, I’d do an article. Then it became a game and a race, because my friends had worked all day, and wanted to leave to party.

Needless to say, there were enough people, or there would be no article.

 

So rather than go in order, which we never do anyway, I’ll tell you about Ellen Friedlander.

Ellen was one of those few people who stick in my mind, because these days, I try to publish as much work as I can. Very rarely, I’ll say no to someone, and then think about it afterwards, because I feel like perhaps I should have given them the benefit of the doubt.

Ellen qualifies, as I met her at Medium in October as well, (small circuit, the portfolio reviews,) and we spent the entire 20 minutes, or most of it, doing critical feedback. I spent so much time telling her how to improve that I didn’t really get to evaluate her work properly.

Well, here Ellen was, and with her daughter and sister to boot! I got to tell all three that I regretted not helping her, and then I offered to publish her work on the spot.

There was a very happy woman before me, it’s true, but she also said that the critique had been very helpful, and that her new work had grown as a result.

A win win for sure. As to the pictures, they’re street photography horizontal composites, as Ellen spent years living in Hong Kong, and traveling the world.

Chris Sessions was a good sport about my smash-and-grab approach. My friend and colleague, Jennifer Murray, the Executive Director of Filter Photo told me I needed to see his stuff, and within ONE photograph, I knew we were good to go.

Chris is doing a long-term personal project on Charros, Mexican horse riders in the greater Denver area. The image of the dude hovering in air may be one of the best individual photographs I’ve ever seen at a review.

A lot of what I saw that night was not to my taste, which is not uncommon in non-juried reviews. The community spirit and vitality are as important as anything. But it does mean that the good work jumps right out.

Especially when the light/color/sky leap off of an indoor table, at night, under artificial lighting conditions.

That’s what happened with Kevin Hoth.

I saw the images, told him who I was, and said I’d like to show them just for how beautiful they were.

Aren’t they?

Speaking of beauty, I thought Angela Faris Belt poetic landscapes were also gorgeous. Exquisite.

But then I learned they depict ancient, endangered Bristlecone Pines, and she photographed with expired Polaroid film.

Normally I’d write more, but sometimes it isn’t necessary.

It’s funny how sometimes you need to travel to see people from back home. (Not far, in this case.) I went up to Philip V. Augustin’s table like a shark, as he’s a Santa Fe guy, and I’ve seen his work many times over the years.

I wanted to look at some of his perfect gelatin silver prints, made of real light shapes in the studio. Coincidentally, I saw a few on the wall, framed, at Obscura Gallery in Santa Fe last Thursday, and they were really sharp.

Last, but not least, (as I often say,) we have Carl Bower, who I met on the portfolio review circuit 9 years ago, and probably hadn’t seen in 6 or 7 years.

I’d known Carl for his work about beauty pageants in Colombia, but this work was very different. The images were presented with text on the white background, as Carl was asking people to discuss their Private Fears, as he used his art to combat the same.

 

NYC in the 21st Century, Part 1

 

I’m just back from New York, and am off to Portland tomorrow, where I’ll be when this article drops.

(Yes, I have a headache.)

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and there’s plenty more to come, so today it’s time to tell you what I observed, as a journalist, in New York and New Jersey earlier this month.

It’s important to date it, because in 2019, these places I know so well have finally stood up tall and joined the 21st Century.

Proudly.

They’ve developed, or grown, in ways that feel authentic, and at times exciting. (As someone who grew up and lived there.) It’s a funny word to use, development, because among a certain political class, it’s almost always seen as a bad thing.

Gentrification –> Development = Low-income residents getting pushed out.

That’s normally the equation, and I get it. (My MFA thesis project in 2004 was about corn fields in my suburban hometown getting turned into McMansions.)

Sure, it was a Dutch farming village for 300 years before my parents got there, but I didn’t want those farms to become more suburbs.

No more people like me moving in to spoil it!

I gentrified the Southern end of the Mission District in San Francisco in 1999, and then Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 2002, and left both places as they were getting too trendy.

Hell, Jessie and I moved back to Taos in 2005 expecting hordes of Gen Xers to follow us, but instead it’s been the Millennials who’ve gotten in on the action in the last three or four years.

All of which is to say, I’ve been a gentrifier, and one who took pains at each new farm that was plowed under for another house like my own.

In general, over the course of my life, I’d say I tended towards the condemnation of massive real estate developments, and appreciated when things stayed the same, as they did in San Francisco for 10 years after I left.

But now, the San Francisco skyline has been ruined by Salesforce, the local culture is supposedly all about tech bros, and I’d have to think hard about how many people I know who live in the city these days, rather than in the surrounding area.

New York City, though, is something different. (As is New Jersey, which we’ll get to in Part 2.)

Yes, it’s my home turf, and I’m biased. I’ve written before that I grew up able to see the Twin Towers from my hometown, gleaming across the bay.

I took it personally when the towers were destroyed in 2001, but I think something of New York’s soul was taken too. Not that it’s people were cowed, because that will never happen.

(Not in my lifetime, anyway.)

Old New York near Herald Square

Rather, the skyline was ruptured so badly, and then the local politicking, which is always dirty in New York, kept the Freedom tower from getting built FOREVER.

Really, you can look it up.

When did the Freedom Tower open to the public?

(Rare Google break…)

OK. I’m back. 2014.

That’s when the first tenant moved in.

It took New York City 13 years to replace it’s iconic Southern anchor to the skyline.

And even then, the building is just OK.

In the interim, there was a phase where some very average looking, minimalistic residential super-towers were built, which made the city lean wrong, and all that visual weight went towards the super-rich, with their part time crash pads. (I accidentally wrote cash pads, which is a good Freudian slip.)

Looking South from the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel

Nowadays, in 2019, finally, I’m thrilled to report that New York City has grown in exciting and beautiful ways. (Revitalizing growth that sometimes gets a bad rap, I think.)

In my experience, New York City has become a global tourism Mecca. In the sense that, like Paris, it now belongs to everyone.

And sometimes that comes at the expense of the locals.

Certainly, Manhattan, Brooklyn and now probably Queens are not affordable for “regular” people. Not unless you live “all-the-fuck-out-there” by the ocean.

And even where I’m from, in New Jersey, or in other outlying areas like Long Island or Westchester, the cost of living is high across the board. (Food, rent/home prices, transportation…)

Manhattan just adopted congestion pricing for the first time, to charge people for driving in the heart of the city, and the cost of tolls at bridges is nearly $20 as is.

In particular, though, I’d like to discuss Hudson Yards, the new mega-development by Stephen Ross, which recently opened in what used to be called Hell’s Kitchen on Manhattan’s in Midtown’s Far West Side.

Approaching Hudson Yards from the North

It was supposedly built on a $1 Billion platform over a railyard, and I’ve seen that tactic used in public parks in Chicago and Dallas to good effect. (In Dallas it was over highway, but still…)

Hudson Yards has gotten panned, from what I’ve heard, because it really was built for rich people, and tourists. (I guess I’m kind of the latter, these days.)

 

Looking East towards Old New York

Looking West to Hudson Yards

Looking up at the Hudson Yards skyscrapers

There are something like six new blue-glass skyscrapers by Starchitects, and they surround a big public courtyard with the the Shed, a public art space, and the massively expensive “Vessel,” a glowing bronze public art project for which you have to get a free ticket.

The Vessel

Getting the shot for Instagram

View from inside the Vessel

Looking down off the platform


It is literally a stairway that goes nowhere, built to be an Instagram backdrop, and it does that job well. I was little confused by the physical placement within the city skyline, if it’s meant to be iconic, but then I noticed this ad in The New Yorker, which about sums up the demographic.

The Vessel is apparently visible from New Jersey

On the lower levels of one of the buildings is a huge shopping mall and food court featuring very expensive and/or trendy brands. (Muji is not fancy, but it is cool.)

I understand my point may be somewhat controversial, but I’ve been to that part of town, over the years, and it was a bit of a wasteland.

I can also attest, at 45, that New York has always been about money.

It’s the heart of Capitalism, for crying out loud.

So as a former resident, and now regular visitor, I accept that it was always going to become too expensive for people like me to actually live there.

Hell, I don’t want to live there.

The air quality and weather suck, and it’s too busy for every day.

But seeing such beautiful, gleaming buildings in Hudson Yards, it inspired me.

They’re gorgeous.

And everywhere you look, including in odd places like the Lower East Side, there are new-looking skyscrapers that balance the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, and support the Freedom Tower, which was never meant to carry downtown alone.

(Brooklyn has tons of new hi-rise buildings too, so many that when my father-in-law last visited in 2004, there were none, he confirmed.)

Sticking with Manhattan, though, Hudson Yards blends right into the northern end of the High Line through Chelsea, which is itself a phenomenal piece of design and public space.

Whereas in the past, right at the junction between the two, there might have been a locally owned pizza place, now, it’s a restaurant by Jose Andres and the Adria Brothers. That’s a massive change, and I can see how some people might hate it. (I still miss the ubiquity of a great slice.)

Between the architecture that’s grown around the High Line, like the Zaha Hadid masterpiece, to the nature planted within it, the High Line is always popular, and rightly so.

(We went twice, and each time it was wall-to-wall people, speaking countless languages.)

The High Line ends in the new Whitney, which conveniently flows into Hudson River park, which goes south along the waterfront along the city.

Looking North from the beginning of the High Line

Zaha Hadid building along the High Line

It’s fantastic, frankly.

And none of it was there when I moved back to town in 2002.

I haven’t mentioned Hurricane Sandy, yet, which hit in 2012, but that was a real punch in the nose for the Tri-State Area.

Given that New York is a money town, between 9/11, the following market crash, the 2008 crash, and then Sandy, the city was properly down on its knees.

Maybe not like the big bad 70s, but New York looked stale, visually, and I’d argue maybe it was.

As cities like Shanghai and Dubai raced towards the future, New York seemed stuck in the past.

But no longer.

On a Pier looking South towards the Freedom Tower

These days, I think it’s pretty badass that New York has opened itself proudly to the world.

It’s thriving, and looks pretty great too. (Except for the garbage on the streets, because New York is always gonna New York.)

There’s so much more to tell, (including a few anecdotes about AIPAD,) but we’re nearing 1500 words, and I’ve got photos this time!

There’s no need to over-do it, so I’ll run it back with Part 2 next week.

Have a good one.

The Art of the Personal Project: Stephen Tayo

- - Personal Project, Working

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.  

Today’s featured artist:  Stephen Tayo

Featured on CNN 

Tayo, who grew up in Ikere-Ekiti, Nigeria, and now lives in Lagos, is not a twin himself, but he wanted to tell “a story that identifies my tribe.”

“It was really important for me to establish how twins are seen in our culture,” Tayo said in a phone interview. “Other tribes see twins as an abomination from the precolonial era onwards, but the Yoruba see them as a blessing.”

For Tayo, “Ibeji” signifies a more conceptual and multivalent approach to portraiture in comparison to the street style photography that has landed him on Vogue.com, Dazed Digital and Nataal. His subjects, friends or members of his wider community, were photographed at their homes or out on the streets of Lagos over a six-month period.


To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Instagram

The Best Work I Saw at the Medium Festival of Photography: Part 1

 

My kids are 6 and 11.

Right in that sweet spot where all the older people you meet say, “Cherish this time. It goes by so quickly.”

Seriously.
I’ve heard that a lot.

My wife and I are trying to appreciate it, but as my son told me the other day, (with respect to the natural beauty that surrounds him in Taos,) it’s hard not to take it for granted.

One thing I’ve discovered, one trick to make it last, is to try to make more memories.

To do it on purpose.

As a photographer, I’ll be honest, I don’t mean taking more pictures. (I might regret not doing more of that, I suppose, but whenever I have the camera out, I feel like I’m not living in the moment.)

Rather, traveling with my kids makes memories.

When we’re out of our natural environment, our senses sharpen, and we imprint more memories in the brain.

My wife and I realized that so much of our existence, living on the farm with the kids, was about the day to day. It was fun to go through, but not much stuck up in the cerebral cortex. (I’m guessing. It’s likely another part of the brain that stores memories, but I was lazy and didn’t bother to look it up.)

A couple of years ago, we made a conscious effort to plan more trips, even if it was staying overnight in a hotel in Albuquerque. (No offense, Burque.)

Visiting cousins in Colorado is an easy one, so we do it more.

Whether it was the Barbecue place we discovered off I-25 in Colorado City, (Shout out to Obies,) or the October blizzard on Theo’s birthday, or that great Thai joint we found in Boulder.

More experiences, more memories.

Along that line of thinking, for the first time ever, this past October, I had the idea to invite Jessie and the kids along on my trip to the Medium Festival of Photography in San Diego, and somehow we made it work at the very last minute. (Really cheap flights being the main reason.)

I’d already booked a rental car, and a hotel in ABQ to leave for an early flight, so it didn’t take much to make it work.

I did forget one minor detail though. (But we’ll get to that.)

This now the fourth time I visited Medium, at the Lafayette Hotel in North Park, and 5 years ago, it seemed like a transitional neighborhood. It’s inland, so it was less shiny than all the other parts of the city I’d seen.

In late 2018, though, there were gleaming-modernist-condo-projects everywhere, and a sparkling gentrification vibe that was unmissable. There were still some homeless people, as it’s a California-wide-problem I’ve written about many times before, but the overall impression is now of hip-trendy-neighborhood.

(For example, parking went from free to $5 to $10 to $18 per day.)

As I’ve said before, there are many excellent, affordable restaurants in the immediate vicinity, so if you visit Medium, you can eat very well on a budget. (Shout out to Mama’s Lebanese, Luigi’s pizza, and Bahia Tacos, all on El Cajon Blvd.)

Regarding my problem…I mentioned that I had it all planned out…but for some reason, I just assumed I’d get a room with two beds.

It was crucial to my delicate plan, yet I’d made no preparations at all.

So I checked in to the hotel, agreed to pay the parking, and just as I turned to leave, with my family smiling behind me, I casually asked, “The room has two beds, right?”

And I turned back to the front desk.

“No, sir, it doesn’t,” he said. “I’m afraid those rooms are booked.”

I stopped.
Crestfallen.
Downcast.
Uncertain.

“But, but, they’re here. My family. I’ve never brought them along to anything, ever. But this time I did. And I never thought to ask about the beds. How stupid of me. Can you please help?”

The young, Latino man behind the counter was handsome, and polite.

But there’s one key detail I may have left out.

His name was Jesus.

“Can you help me, Jesus,” I asked?

I swear.
I’m not making this up.

Jesus looked at me, with beneficent eyes and said, “Let me see what I can do.”

His hands flew across the keyboard, gracefully.

Tap. Tap. tap.
Tap. Tap. tap.

“Well, would you be OK with a family suite out by the pool? It’s all I have. No charge.”

“Thank, you, Jesus,” I said. “Thank you.”

And sure enough, there was a chalkboard on the wall for the kids to draw, two big rooms mere steps from the beautiful pool, (one with a bunk bed,) two bathrooms, two TV’s.

I’d say that Jesus was the nicest person in San Diego, but that might be an overstatement. Because there are so many nice people in San Diego, it would be hard to just pick one.

Honestly. They’re that nice.

As this is the first of two pieces about Medium, I’ll come right out and say it: San Diego might be the nicest place I’ve been in America.

The weather is great. The people are friendly. The beaches are gorgeous. The food is amazing. The views are spectacular. The traditional Mexican-American and other immigrant cultures are strong.

Honestly, if you set aside my general-California-critiques that I won’t reiterate here, there is nothing not to like about San Diego. (You could say traffic, sure, but the apps these days let you know what you’re in for, and suggest alternate routes, so even that is not quite so depressing as it used to be for me.)

In the end, I got my family memories, thank you very much. It all worked out just right.

(Normally I’d give you details, but I’m keeping those bits for myself.)

The point, rather, is that when we get out of our routine, out of our towns, and our regular lives, we enrich ourselves, and keep a more detailed record in our memory banks.

So as a New Year’s resolution, get out there and visit a festival in your local area in 2019!

Photo festivals like Medium are great places to make friends and create networking opportunities, to hear artist lectures and see exhibitions.

It’s a no brainer.

As usual, when I go to these events, I reviewed a slew of portfolios, and gave critical feedback when I was asked. Sometimes I might help photographers brainstorm about what to do with a project.

But I always write an article or two for you guys, so you can get a sense of what I’m seeing at the portfolio review table.

Which brings us to this part of the story, where I show you the best work I saw at the Medium Festival of Photography in October 2018.

As usual, the portfolios are in no particular order, and the projects ranges in style dramatically, which is always the most interesting thing of all.

Daniel Kariko is a professor at ECU in North Carolina, and was the first person I met, if my memory serves me. (It’s weird writing three months later, I must admit, but I’m good with the recall, and took solid notes.)

His images were made with electron microscopes, and zero in on the super-mega-pixel detail of insects faces. In light of news about the potential insect apocalypse, these pictures are important both as documents of a disappearing world, and visual reminders of why protecting the environment is important.

I was pleased to see Janet Holmes again, (we’d met at Filter in Chicago,) because I’d previewed her project “Rescued Chickens” in Critical Mass, and gave it the highest possible score. She featured vegan women who rescue chickens, and the chickens themselves.

As she writes, “How do you decide which animals are family, and which are food? Why are we surprised to see a rooster gazing out the kitchen window or a hen investigating the laundry? After all, chickens are present in most homes, as flesh and eggs, just not as individuals with personalities of their own.”

Really, I couldn’t love it more.

Mark Lipczynski, a commercial an editorial photographer, was visiting from Phoenix. I didn’t love one project he showed me, but as so often happens, I offered to look at his other series, because you never know.

When he emailed me a link to his pictures in the American West, I happily clicked through. The photos are witty and fun. What’s not to like?

Brian Van de Wetering is a SoCal artist I met at a previous review and published here before. (As I recall, he’s a part of the Aline Smithson mafia, and those students always marry strong craft with a personal intention.)

I didn’t review Brian’s work directly this time, but met him in the aisle during the portfolio walk, and he told me about his new project, in which he exposes photograms in direct sunlight.

The resulting images are scanned, and really, they’re just so beautiful. People think I’m a tough critic, and I guess that can be true. But I’m happy to enjoy visual objects for their own pleasure when they look like this.

 

Wayne Swanson did the double-double with me on the 2018 festival circuit, as we met at the Exposure review in LA in July, and I published a set of his images that were made with a pinhole polaroid. (I believe.)

This time, we got into something more personal. Wayne suffers from spinal stenosis, which I must admit has afflicted both of my parents. My Dad had 3 major spinal surgeries, including two fusions, and my Mom had a fusion surgery as well.

My uncle just underwent his second.

A lot of Baby Boomers have dealt with these structural problems, which can lead to debilitating pain, and affect lives deeply.

The pictures are dynamic.

And speaking of personal, big shout out to Christina Angarola Hsu, who had images of her triplet girls, in the years before two of them took extremely ill.

She only showed me photographs from a segment of their lives, and said she hadn’t been shooting for quite some time. I asked her if she had more, and if she’d consider shooting again, so we could see the girls now that they’re older, and thankfully healthy again.

Christina dug into her archive so I could show you this terrific selection today. Keep shooting, Christina! And I’ll bring you guys Part 2 next week.

The Daily Edit – ESPN: Randall Slavin

- - Working

 

ESPN

Creative Director: Chin Wang
Director of Photography, Print + Digital: Tim Rasmussen
Director of Photography, ESPN The Magazine: Karen Frank
Deputy Photo Editors: Kristen Geisler, Jim Surber
Senior Photo Editors: Nick Galac
Photo Editor: Kaitlin Marron
Associate Art Director: Linda Pouder
Photographer: Randall Slavin

Heidi:  Did you shoot this specifically as a cover or was it an outtake from the feature?
Randall: I was asked to shoot portraits at the 2018 ESPYS of 100+ victims of sexual assault who were receiving the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. So I had a portrait studio set up in the green room to shoot the former gymnasts.  It was extremely taxing emotionally and creatively as we only had 2 hours to do all of them and i try to make some personal connection to everyone I shoot, even more so with portraits like this.

As I was set up the people from ESPN said “as long as you are set up feel free to try to shoot anyone you can get into the studio.” So before and after my shoot with the gymnasts I was able to pull some people into the studio for quick portraits including NFL hall of famer Jim Kelly, The Villanova Wildcats , and a few other people, and I had seen Odell Beckham Jr. around the green room and with his bleached hair and his black and white Gucci shorts outfit I was aching to shoot him.

I’m not a big NFL fan but I’m a fan of interesting characters. I had told someone who was working the event to try to wrangle Odell into the studio. The night wound down and nothing, the broadcast had ended and the green room was emptying out.  I told my crew to pack it up as it had been an extremely long day. We were taking down strobe and packing up lenses when my friend poked her head in and said
“Odell is on his way.”

I  hurriedly told my boys set everything back up just as OBJ walked in w a drink in one hand; after quick introductions he stepped on the paper.  At first it was pretty normal; then I told him to reach out to me to infuse some energy into the shot. (that was the cover shot) I asked him what his newest tattoo was so he lifted up his shorts to show me the jungle scene on his leg.

He had a new diamond inserted in his incisor so he loved snarling his lip to show me the sparkling cross. When I’m shooting these portraits I get really close to the subject as I’m usually shooting these at 24mm. It feels very intimate and personal. He was leaping and jumping. We only shot about 30 frames but I knew we had something special. and then he asked me for camera, “my turn” he said so we switched places and he took my picture. Odell shooting me leaping and goofing around. Its not usually my vibe but it had been such a difficult day, I was a bit punchy knew Odell and I had just shot something special, so sort of in a way to thank him and not ruin the good energy that we had going I did it. 10 later minutes later it was over and he grabbed my phone put his number in it
“text me these pictures,” and he was gone.

I turned to Alison Overholt and Tim Rasmussen the EIC and photo editor for ESPN THE MAGAZINE with a  big smile on my face.
“You know,you just shot our NFL preview cover,” Allison said.
“I did?”
“We have been trying to get Odell to do a cover for us but we weren’t able to make it happen.”

Did you always see this in B/W?
I always intended this to be black and white, I’ve never even looked at it in color!

The Art of the Personal Project: Agnes Lopez

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The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  Agnes Lopez

Over the past year I worked with filmmaker Eric Torres, directing a documentary about Filipino food and the Filipino chefs in Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville has the largest Filipino population in the Southeast, yet Filipino foods are generally absent from the area’s culinary scene.

As a food photographer and a second-generation Filipino-American, I want the next generations of Filipino-Americans — and all food lovers! — to see and taste the rich and delicious culinary culture of the Philippines.

Our documentary, #MORETHANLUMPIA: JAX Filipino Chefs, is in the final stages of filming and will premiere in October at a special screening at the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville, Florida.

There is a global Filipino Food Movement taking place right now, and believe it is time for the city of Jacksonville to join it. We want people to see that our food is more than just lumpia and pancit, and that serious Filipino culinary talent is already here in some of the most revered kitchens in the region.

The JAX Filipino Chefs documentary is part of a larger campaign to highlight the incredibly skilled and accomplished Filipino chefs of Northeast Florida who are looking to share flavors and dishes from their backgrounds and imaginations, inspired by their culture, through events, pop-up dinners, social media, and community outreach.

You can see the teaser trailer for the documentary and read about the chefs at jaxfilipinochefs.com and @jaxfilipinochefs on Instagram.

James Victorino, Executive Pastry Chef, One Ocean Resort

Jojo Hernandez, Executive Sous Chef, The Florida Yacht Club

Leni Rose Magsino, Pastry Chef, Valley Smoke Restaurant

Melanie Cuartelon, Sous Chef, Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa

Rick Laughlin, Chef de Cuisine, Salt at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

Wesley Nogueira, Executive Chef, Khloe’s Kitchen

To see more of this project, click here.

To attend one of their events, click here

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

 

#DiversifyTheLens: Why Your Brand Should Hire More Female Photographers

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Guest post by Amy Cooper, Owner and Artist Representative at Trove Artist Management

The current boom of female-first initiatives is transforming the creative industry, providing opportunities for women to find mentorship, addressing discrepancies in pay, and helping women rally together to drive new policies and practices. Actions such as the 3 Percent Movement50/50 Initiative and #TimesUpAdvertising have thrust these issues into the spotlight and gained significant attention and traction.

But we can do more.

Women photographers are still grossly underrepresented when it comes time to hire for big advertising campaigns and magazine covers, despite the fact that women account for:

·  roughly 50% of photographers and advertising industry workers

·  80% of art and photography school graduates

·  the majority of art buyers and photo editors

One report indicates that male photographers account for as high as 96% of advertising photographers. With a quick glance at the top photography representation agencies in the U.S., it’s clear that women comprise only about 10% of those agency rosters.

A Call to Action

“This movement is a specific request for advertising agencies to include at least one female photographer in each triple-bid.”

There is a huge population of highly talented, underutilized female photographers who are ready to put their unique vision to work. It’s time we create policies at both the brand and agency level to ensure they are given the opportunity to do so.

Introducing #DiversifyTheLens.

This movement is a specific request for agencies and other media to include at least one female photographer in each “triple-bid,” or make female (and non-white) options at least 50% of the consideration when selecting image-makers.

Doing so will not only help level the very uneven playing field for women photographers, but it will also benefit business across the board.

Female Photographers Click with Female Consumers

“…with the unprecedented rate at which women are amassing wealth and influence, it’s almost insane from a business perspective to misunderstand them.” – 3 Percent Movementmission

Women influence more than 80% of consumer spending, but more than 90% of women feel that advertisers do not understand them. To reach and influence the female consumer, advertising imagery has to portray them authentically, reflecting their motivations and needs. Female photographers have a unique ability to do this, and not including their perspective, especially in the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, is not only a missed opportunity, but a massive business (and cultural) failure.

A Cultural Shift

Getting more women photographers working requires effort on the part of both the creative talent themselves, and those with the power to hire them. Typically, female photographers are less aggressive in marketing themselves and seeking representation than their male counterparts. This is something I am actively working to change through Trove Artist Management’s programs and my personal consulting practice, helping women learn to stand taller, pursue opportunity and promote themselves more confidently.

In the meantime, I encourage those of you with the hiring power to help facilitate this shift by searching harder to fill more of the gaps in the photo industry, advertising industry and the professional world at large with talented, hardworking women–and pay them what they’re worth.

“I want to further amplify this message by asking celebrities, fashion designers and influencers to specifically ask for diversity in photography when they are being featured or creating campaigns.”

My hope is that other photographers, creative directors, art buyers and editors will join this movement to ensure that more campaigns truly #DiversifyTheLens. I want to further amplify this message by asking celebrities, fashion designers and influencers to specifically ask for diversity in photography when they are being featured or creating campaigns.

My goal is that we all share this challenge widely so that more female photographers can be recognized and rewarded for their talent, which will benefit us all.

Together, we can make a difference.

Helpful Tools and Resources

To help you find the talent you need and spread the #DiverifyTheLens mission, I’ve compiled the below resources:

·     A list of my favorite female photographers

·     Alreadymade, a directory of established commercial photographers curated by Jill Greenberg

·    GirlGaze an organization dedicated to closing the gender gap, founded by Amanda de Cadenet.

·    Women Photograph a listing of female photojournalists

·    #DiversifyTheLens Ambassador materials, including a guide to disrupt the underrepresentation of women in photography and downloadable campaign photos.

This list will be continually updated as I find and develop additional resources for women in the creative field. Please bookmark this link and share to help us build our database.

Have a resource of your own? Let me know about it!

Join the Movement

Hiring more female photographers and having their perspective fairly represented will not only benefit photographers, but the entire creative industry, the global economy and women everywhere. To take it a step further, I believe that the creative vision of women in the marketplace will help us understand women, and each other, better and connect us in a way that is sorely lacking and needed today.

If we work together, it can happen.

By sharing this article, spreading the #DiversifyTheLens mission and seeking out more female talent for your own agency or projects, you can help shift the creative culture.

Thank you.

Sign on to join the mission to #DiversifyTheLens and we will send you an ambassador guide as well as occasional updates.

Written by Trove Artist Management founder Amy V. Cooper in collaboration with Mary MaguireErica Boynton, and Jennie Trower. Special thanks to Cindy Villanueva.

The Art of the Personal Project: William Coupon

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The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist:  William Coupon

THE APPEARANCE OF PORTRAIT IMAGES:

When you are taking portraits the main thing to remember is you are capturing the veneer, the mask.   However, within that context you are also making a declaration, if you are fortunate, of a certain insight into the person.   Faces are like Jungian models ~ they are symbols only.  It is entirely up to the viewer to digest and make their own decisions about who these people really are.  It’s mostly point of reference.

When you photograph celebrities, the viewer has pre-conceived notions of the person.  They are recognizable.  We feel we know them already.  In fact, the celebrity is so used to being photographed that they oftentimes fall into a more familiar pose, and they have a tendency to appear more like “forced naturalism.”

With the many people ~ the non-celebrity ~ that I have sought out for portraits, they are much more raw, much more spontaneous in spirit.  And much more mysterious.   They are mostly unfamiliar with the process, as compared to a celebrity, who would tend to stereotype their own appearance.   It’s as if they, too, like the viewers, have already recognized their own preferential veneer, because it corresponds with their own self-image.

A common person does not have that burden of trying to “be someone.”

I have been lucky to have photographed a fair assortment of noted personalities as well as the unknown, the unfamiliar, since 1978 at Studio 54.  I then went to the Mudd Club and then on to making many cover shoots for the New York Times, Smithsonian, Esquire, The Washington Post, CBS Records, Apple, HP, and the Robin Hood Foundation.  In the end, I like them both, but shooting a celebrity for a Rolling Stone cover is very different from being in the villages of Italy or Brazil, or Panama, or Mexico.  Their masks are more raw, yet sometimes even more fearful, as their unfamiliarity with that type of environment makes them a bit unsettled, and because so, far less hidden.

Aboriginal Man

From a series on The Traditional Dutch, from Scheveningen, Holland, reminiscent of the early Dutch paintings of Rembrandt and Holbein

Haitian Mother & Child Photographed in Jamcel, Haiti

Kayapo Chief

Beauty Contestant photographed near Mountain Home, Arkansas

To see more of this project, click here.

To Pre-order this book, click (Amazon) here

Or here (Barnes & Noble)

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.  Or Instagram @suzanne.sease.

 

Dora Somosi’s Journey From Photography Director To Photographer

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aPhotoEditor: Can you tell me how you came to work at GQ?

Dora Somosi: I studied art history in college, and I had aspirations of being a photographer, and my incredible, but very practical, Hungarian immigrant parents encouraged me to find a career that would make it possible for me to support myself. I didn’t want to abandon photography, though, so I got a job at Magnum Photos—the agency that owned the archive of a photographer I idolized, the Hungarian photojournalist Robert Capa. I like to say that Magnum was my graduate program in photography history. My time there overlapped with Natasha Lunn and Justin O’Neill, both currently brilliant photo directors, plus uber-agent Liz Leavitt, David Strettel of Dashwood Books, and Chris Boot of Aperture—all formidable influences at the start of my career in photography. It was a brilliant time to work there—because of my co-workers, of course, but even more because of Magnum’s 50 internationally renowned photographers. I got to work with them every day, and every day was hilarious and inspiring, working together as a cooperative, even if sometimes all those talented and strong-willed people in one place made it operate more like an uncooperative. After the experience of being an agent at Magnum, I knew I wanted to be on the assigning side of photography, and so I worked my way through magazine photo departments until I landed my then dream job as the Director of Photography at GQ, working with the design force, Fred Woodward.

aPE: GQ had such a strong reputation for photography during your tenure, can you tell me why it was such a focus for the magazine?

DS: Thank you for saying that. I worked on the visuals for GQ for a decade, and it means a lot to receive praise for all that I accomplished during my tenure there. I was fortunate to arrive at GQ when Jim Nelson was just starting out as editor-in-chief, and he invested a lot of money and attention on modernizing the GQ brand through the use of photography. He let me build a roster that could include a wide breadth of visual styles — Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Martin Schoeller, Robert Polidori, Ben Lowy. He also gave me the latitude to develop new talent in fashion photography while also being as ambitious as possible with the biggest names in the industry.

aPE: After working with such talented photographers, what made you think you could become one?

DS: I didn’t set out to become a full-time photographer after I decided to leave GQ. It happened organically. I left in large part because I wanted to spend a lot more time with my family and more time outdoors. Maintaining work-life balance everyone talks about had become untenable for me. At the same time, I had identified myself for so long as a successful working woman, and my identity was completely bound up in that professional success. I felt really lost for that first year. That’s when I started taking my own photographs, documenting our family time together in upstate New York.

Once I developed a new body of work, I began sharing it with friends and trusted former colleagues. I feel lucky to be surrounded by so many strong women who appreciated the work and who backed up their words with assignments, shooting artists and interiors and travel destinations.  It was incredible meeting all those other creative women who weren’t at corporate jobs, or on paths to their next job, and who were also successful and fulfilled. In my previous career, I’d come up through institutions, in the editorial and commercial fields. My evolution as a photographer has taken a very different path. My work is personal, and primarily landscape photography—pretty much the precise opposite of glossy shoots for which GQ is so renowned.

aPE: Tell me about your journey from hiring photographers to becoming one?

DS: I was introduced to black-and-white printing at an early age by my step-grandfather who was an accomplished amateur photographer in Hungary, where I was born. I remember pouring over his documentary photography dating back to World War II, in particular, the Russian occupation of Hungary. I’ve been taking photographs since high school, and I studied at ICP when it was still a dilapidated mansion on the Upper East Side. I published work in magazines and had one brief stint as a set photographer on low-budget movies, including one with Michael Showalter. And I took lots and lots of portraits of friends and other people I knew.

When I left magazines to go back to making my own pictures, it was a means to find an identity for myself, one that was just for me and wasn’t tied to being a mother or a wife or a picture editor. I had a successful side business consulting for photographers and independent brands, so I had the room to explore without the pressure of having to sell work.

I learned post production and master printing, and I educated myself about the technical side of making fine-art prints. I studied with Ben Gest at ICP—a brilliant fine art photographer and the most patient teacher I’ve ever known.  I was taking landscapes and still lives, then printing them large scale. In the beginning, they were pure homages to nature—the healing power of the natural landscape, and a sort of love letter slash thank-you note to upstate New York for rescuing me at a crossroads in my life.

But then the 2016 election happened, and suddenly nothing looked as pretty to me anymore. I poured my feelings into my work, digitally manipulating the landscape, and once I started to mess with the images, I could feel my voice emerging as a photographer. That body of work resulted in my first show in Brooklyn, Altered Landscapes. I had a lot riding on that show—I was worried that if I didn’t sell any prints, it would be a clear sign that I should give up. Instead, my show nearly sold out, and my pieces are now in the collections of trustees from renowned art institutions, business leaders, accomplished interior designers wonderful former colleagues from GQ. That show gave me the confidence I needed to keep at it.

aPE: Can you reflect on what it feels like to now to be on the other side and pitch yourself as a photographer?

DS: Well, that has been a real revelation! I wish I’d been this vulnerable while I was a picture editor. To know what it feels like to spend years pouring your heart and soul into this collection of images, and then show them to someone who’ll spend maybe 15 minutes flipping through them with you. I now understand just how thick-skinned you have to be. I always think about my mentor, the late George Pitts, who I worked with at Vibe Magazine and who gave every photographer all his time, his care and his insight. I think his decency came in part because he had his own work, and like all of us he was surely a little fragile about how people reacted to it, and so he treated everyone’s photographs with the care he’d like to receive himself. I’m learning on the fly just how brave you have to be now just to create a body of work from scratch, but also share it with the world, in galleries, in meetings, on social media—everywhere. I’m also seeking out teaching opportunities at places like SVA, mentoring students and working with photographers to help them achieve their vision. When I was working in magazines, I didn’t have the luxury of that kind of time. Now I do and it helps me connect my experiences in agencies and magazines with my current practice.

aPE: Tell me about your show at NeueHouse in LA?

DS: This will be my second solo show, and this time I’m working with a curator and a whole team of people, which is very exciting. Making my photographs is pretty solitary work, so this is a welcome break from that—a chance to collaborate with other creative people on a larger show for a wider audience. This show will focus on a body of work I made in Mexico City. These images, like my other work, begin with a layer grounded in reality, in this case, architecture, and then through color collage, they build into a fantastical, hyper-real expression of my interaction with the city, its people, and its kinetic energy. There are strong influences of Josef Albers’ work in Mexico, the colors from Luis Barragán homes, and the Bauhaus movement.

The show will also highlight my floral work, which will also be on view at ICFF in May. This work has parallels to the Mexico City work in terms of its use of saturated colors, and the tondo format. The florals—records of moments both happy and sad—achieve an eerie sense of perfection, fragile and fleeting, whose authenticity is meant to feel dubious. The flowers, though ravishing in life as in death, serve as the vanitas: a reminder of the inevitability of change. I invite viewers to look with attention at such seductive natural beauty without forgetting all there is to lose. And finally, there will be a preview of photographs I am currently at work on—seascapes, meditations on the horizon inspired by Hiroshi Sugimoto. The simplicity of the seascapes is meant to draw the viewer’s attention to the building blocks of our existence, and the ease with which we can squander the most fundamental elements of life, water, and air.

The Color of Air, an exhibition of new and recent work exploring architectural and environmental abstraction will open at NeueHouse Hollywood on June 28, 2018.

See more of my work at dorasomosi.com
and through IG – @dorasomosiphotography

Jeff Stockwell on Testing

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Interview by Andrea Stern of SternRep

Jeff Stockwell is a car + lifestyle photographer based in Long Beach, California.  His client list includes Mercedes, Adidas, Vans, Car and Driver, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Cadillac and more.  Jeff came into this business about four years ago and hit the ground running bringing in big name clients quickly. As his rep, I have to believe it is in part because he tests often. He constantly provides me with new images and keeps his portfolio fresh always having new work to show off. I wanted to do this interview with Jeff about his testing because I see it as one of his greatest strengths and something that really sets him apart from the pack.

Andrea Stern: Why do you test so much?

Jeff Stockwell: Well, I guess there are a couple different reasons. I test a lot because I feel like every time I test I get better at shooting.  Being behind the camera is the only way to learn. I try to push myself beyond what I normally create, approach something different styling wise, use a different location or a different model.

In this day and age with Instagram, it can be hard for a photographer to be banging out content all the time, so sometimes you have to shoot things for yourself.

People want to see new work.  If you are trying to be a commercial photographer and you come out with work every 6 months, and your stuff looks the same all the time, that’s a problem. You have to keep yourself relevant.   That’s what creatives want to see, they want to be inspired by someone. They want to get a sense of your commitment and passion for photography and they also want to know what you shoot on your own time.

What is it that you, and no one else, would bring their shoot to take their project to the next level?

Andrea Stern: Recently you did a test where you hired a model and a producer, got a permit for a location and had the images professionally retouched, this is a big investment, what was the inspiration and motivation that led you to do this level of testing?

Jeff Stockwell: That’s what it takes now. This test in particular I was going for a different age demographic. A lot of my work has highlighted young people. From a creative’s perspective, it might be hard to imagine an older person in my work and I wanted to show what I could do.

I pushed my boundaries by using an older male model, someone with a prestigious and refined look, a high class overall feel, and rented a really nice car etc. I even got hair and makeup for a guy, which is uncommon.

The permit was not very expensive and the stylist, hair and makeup artist and producer all offered their time for the test, for their own portfolios. I spent the bulk of the money on renting the car, my assistant, lunch/coffee etc.

Andrea Stern: Right! The producer, Courtney Zupanski had actually reached out to me around the time this test was happening. The timing was perfect and I asked her if she wanted to help with your test. Rather than just “helping” she ended up taking the initiative to go out and find a stylist, location scout, organize hair and makeup, sent out a call sheet, organized lunch and was there all day at the shoot. She blew us away and is now bidding on a job with Jeff, because of how impressed we were with her.

Andrea Stern: Did you have a budget for your test?

Jeff: No. But it did end up costing over a 1,000. It was an investment. And definitely worth it.

Andrea Stern: How did you plan for your shoot?

Jeff: I scouted the day before. I knew what the light was going to look like at what time and where.

I had two specific shots I knew wanted to get in my mind.  But generally, I like to keep it off the cuff. I might look at some inspiration the night before, but I want it to be my own vision. I want it to be real and fresh.

Andrea Stern: How did the shoot go?

Jeff: Images came out great. It was the exact look and feel I was going for. It is kind of crazy because when it came down to the actual time that we shot it took four hours. And I shot a LOT.

Andrea Stern: Do you enjoy testing? Why?

Jeff: I really do love it.  It doesn’t feel like I am going to work.  I especially enjoy testing after all the hair and makeup is done and the clothes are on…all that stuff. I despise the other part of it, which is contacting people and trying to get people lined up, but the creative aspect I love.

Andrea Stern: What is your attitude around testing?

Jeff: Some of the tests you are going to do are not going to work out. You have to be able to be like, ok that did not go as planned, next time I am going to scout more thoroughly or know what I am getting myself into, reach out to an agency and get better models, etc. You do tests to learn.

Andrea Stern: Have you ever had a test lead to paid work? If so, what?

Jeff: It’s a little bit hard to say but I do have an interesting story about that.

Recently, a production company for Adidas sent out a mass email to about 30 reps, looking for a photographer for an upcoming product/lifestyle shoot in LA.

I put together a PDF of all the athletic and sneaker work I had done. I had recently shot a test with a basketball player and the images turned out really well.  I had never done an athletic test quite like that before, and it definitely filled a need in my portfolio.

And you know what, out of thousands of photographers…I got hired.

So, it’s kind of hard to say whether that test “got” me the job, but when the job came to light, I had the right thing to put forward, and they liked my work.

Andrea Stern: One piece of advice for photographers?

Jeff: JUST GO TAKE PICTURES. ALL. THE. TIME. You aren’t going to learn unless you are behind the camera. Pick up the most basic camera and just go shoot.

And always bring what you do best to the shoot. Not just what is asked of you!

To see more of Jeff Stockwell’s work: www.Jeff-Stockwell.com

Project produced by Courtney Joan Zupanski (www.CourtneyJoanZupanski.com), styled by Luke Langsdale, hair/makeup by Nicola Hamilton, model Travis Marshall, Next Models, and retouched by the awesome Gloss Post Production team. (www.GlossRetouching.com)

 

Celebrity Shoots Count

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Guest Post by Cybele Sandy, August Image

This piece arose from the blowback I’ve recently had from artists on the subject of shooting celebrity. The reaction was so severe that I felt like my extremely proper Post-Colonial West Indian delivery was somehow morphing into the vilest of curse words. This is my unequivocal stance on the subject: Celebrity Shoots Count. Perhaps in this era of Kardashian dominance, the idea has morphed into an unappealing, congealed mass. The majority of my career has skewed toward working with celebrity art, so I have had considerable experience with the genre. In other words, I’ve seen first-hand the propellant power of a celebrity shoot.

I know that there are photographers who insist on channelling their efforts toward fine art, or to the gravitas of contemporary photojournalism, and that’s a terrific goal. You should be aware, though, that relying on your fine art portfolio to shop for paying commissions (be they advertising, custom content or entertainment buyouts) can be a risky proposition. Fine art can be challenging for the viewer to interpret, especially given the environment of a quick go-see with an art buyer. An image of a recognizable celebrity can compellingly deliver your aesthetic. It doesn’t have to be Angelina Jolie, but there should be immediate name recognition. A buzzy stylist, up-and-coming musician, hot new model or emerging fashion designer can do just as well.

Celebrity editorial dovetails nicely into the career facets I’ve spoken of previously: personal work- >editorial work-> advertising/commercial projects-> licensing. In other words, bringing the aesthetic honed from personal work to a celebrity shoot may lead to more editorial and commercial projects, with the editorial being of huge benefit to your licensing archive.

[Sidebar: When awarded a commission, always give serious thought to whom/what you shoot. How will this serve my career? Will this work for licensing opportunities down the line? In the words of my Glorious Leader, William Hannigan, licensing is a photographer’s 401K.]

Here’s why:

1. The recognition factor provides an instant point of connection between yourself and the reviewing photo editor/ art buyer.

2. It’s nice segue into the messaging you want to leave behind in terms of your art: talking about your experience shooting said celebrity can break the ice and calm any nerves you may be feeling.

3. It provides an immediate boost to your social media profile and buzz for your brand.

4. They provide an “in” to the PR world and to publicists who hold a tremendous amount of leverage in terms of who gets to shoot.

5. It provides a terrific, real-world test for your nascent team. Can they hold their assigned ground in a pressurized situation where there isn’t a whole lot of time to deliver the money shot?

However, this is all predicated on a recognizable celebrity. It doesn’t have to be Angelina Jolie. It can simply be someone with a strong pop/ cultural profile- the star of a hit tv show or a fashion/ media personality.

Things to Bear in Mind For Celebrity Shoots:

Pre-Shoot:

  • I’ve worked on shoots that have gone extremely well, as well as shoots that have been extremely painful. Do your homework. Ensure that you know the sublime to the mundane- what’s their upcoming project, what sort of music would they like to hear on set?
  • Ensure that all the players have a clear understanding of all of the elements before-hand. The theme of the shoot and looks to be worn, as well as hair/ makeup should have been agreed to prior. This will forestall on-set drama. (Not always, but we live in hope.)
  • It’ll be stressful, so make certain that what is in your power to control day-of-shoot is done well: being on-time and set up early will go a long way toward keeping the environment calm and upbeat.

On-set:

  • Keep the chatter to an as-needed basis. Save that great joke for your buddies at the bar.
  • Art Streiber, during his lecture at this year’s PhotoPlus, delivered these words of guidance: “Treat celebrities like ordinary people and ordinary people like celebrities.” Keep it cool and respectful, yet make sure that you maintain control of the set.
  • Everyone working in sync is the very best demonstration of credibility that you can offer.
  • Make sure you have the contact information of all of the players before they leave.
  • A great on-set experience is the shortest route to being recommended by a celebrity for other editorial and even for advertising jobs.

Post- shoot:

  • Gratitude makes for good karma and certainly, a good old-fashioned paper Thank You note can count for a lot these days. Certainly send one to the celebrity and his/her publicist, as well as the assigning editor. A print from the shoot is always a nice takeaway.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that music & film festivals are actually a nice segue into the genre for my photographers. It’s resulted in relationships that have led to more incredible opportunities in more intimate settings, and the art itself becomes a calling card. The Shayan Asgharnia image of Erykah Badu below (shot at the Roots Picnic Festival) is what made me reach out to him. In its turn, it was part of a body of work that I showed the veteran agent Angela De Bona on my ‘phone over lunch, which in turn led into her signing him for assignment representation.

Another talented artist I represent, Taili Song Roth, managed to capture an arresting, classic image of Clint Eastwood at the Palm Springs Film Festival.

So the takeaway is: take a step back from your less than savory view of this genre of photography. There are ways to approach the work in a smart, credible manner that will not hurl your artistry onto the funeral pyre.

And you will come to realize that it is in fact a sound investment, one that will prove to be a strong, long-term ally to brand-building.

Erykah Badu/ Shayan Asgharnia/ AUGUST

Clint Eastwood/ Taili Song Roth/ AUGUST

The Best Work I Saw at Photo NOLA: Part 1

 

I’ve been to New Orleans four times in my life.

Each visit, I’ve gone in December. It’s not entirely a coincidence, as that’s when the Photo NOLA festival takes place. (I’ve attended in 2012, ’14 and now ’17)

Despite the fact that New Orleans is situated on the Gulf Coast, and is reputed for its lovely winter weather, two of my visits were met with freezing-rain-ice-storms that made me want to cry in a pillow.

(The other two times I was met with humid, sunny, 70-80 degree weather, so I guess it all depends on luck.)

The fact the weather was awful this year was mitigated by the fact that I’d planned the trip with little time scheduled outside the International House Hotel, where the event is held each year. (It’s just a few short blocks outside the French Quarter.)

Mostly, I was either in the hotel or adjoining conference center, or safely ensconced inside a bar/restaurant/museum/gallery/party/Uber. So any whinging I now provide is mostly for comedic effect.

There was a brief moment, the first night, when I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the heat in my hotel room, and I actually did cry into a pillow, but beyond that, I had a smashing time at Photo NOLA last month.

Like many portfolio review events these days, Photo NOLA is run by a non-profit, in this case the New Orleans Photo Alliance, which is a member-supported organization. (We did an interview on the subject years ago with Jennifer Shaw, if you’d like to learn more about it.)

So Photo NOLA is imbued with a sense of mission, and everyone clearly loves being a part of such a vibrant local photo community. Like Filter in Chicago, another of my favorites, this festival puts heavy emphasis on socializing, as they have several parties and events lined up, including a gala at the New Orleans Museum of Art, and a yellow-school-bus-led gallery tour.

Photographers have a lot of choices these days, as far as review events to attend, so I think the fact that you can have so much fun at Photo NOLA, in addition to the fact they clearly get a few reviewers each year who normally aren’t on the circuit, makes it a very wise place to invest your obviously-limited resources.

(If you’re one of the few out there who’s doing really well, getting rich off of being a photographer, you can ignore the previous comment, but have the decency to keep it to yourself, OK?)

For whatever reason, I had a lot of people visit the table this year who were looking for advice and feedback, but weren’t quite ready to be shown here. I do the best I can to help, obviously, but only publish work in the column that demonstrates a high degree of craft, if not concept, over 8-10 pictures.

As such, I’ll show you a handful of projects today and next week, and then we’ll be back to the book reviews. I attend most of these events in the summer and fall, so this will be the end of the review stories, for a while.

As usual, the photographers are in no particular order.

Ok, they’re in no particular order beyond the fact that I’m starting with Jared Ragland. His work was the most complete, compelling project I saw, and I voted for it for the Photo NOLA prize.

Jared used to work with Pete Souza in Obama’s White House. (An era that now seems like Martin Sheen’s TV presidency, for all the similarities it shares with contemporary reality.) But Jared is originally from Alabama, and returned home to turn his attention to the meth epidemic that is ravaging the NE part of the state.

The pictures are genuinely visceral, as they make a viewer feel uncomfortable. They show something decidedly ugly, and real, but the strong aesthetics give the ride a bit of turbo boost. Additionally, Jared worked with a sociologist to give the project a sense of academic rigor.

Brilliant stuff.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.
jaredragland.com

Ellie Ivanova had a new take on a subject matter we’ve all seen before: war re-enactors. It’s not hard to see why people are drawn to the subject, as it’s incredibly visual, and also goes pretty far down the road of creating the impression of time travel.

I feel most photographers neglect to really push the element of time in their work, so when the clothing and props are already there for the taking, it’s not hard to see why people with cameras get curious.

Ellie is from Bulgaria, but based in Denton, TX, where she got her MFA degree. She is using a fairly original analog technique to make prints that don’t look real, using some strange acid trick. The chemistry acts in funny ways, and eats away at the emulsion, so the visual effects enhance the emotionality, I think, and also imbue the subject with a bit of originality.








I first saw Amilton Neves‘s work during the portfolio walk, and stopped in my tracks, as it is clearly compelling. Luckily, he had a review with me the next day, so I got the full backstory.

Amilton recently moved to Tampa from Mozambique, where he was both a photographer and an anthropologist. Back home, he became intrigued by a community of women who’d been encouraged to write letters to Portuguese colonial soldiers during a war of independence in the 60’s and 70’s.

Portugal was eventually ejected, after 500 years of Colonial exploitation, and the women were deemed enemies of the state. Surprisingly, they’re still demonized, all these years later, so Amilton photographed them in their homes, and gained access to some of the letters as well.

I think it’s a striking project, and look forward to seeing what he comes up with down there in the craziest state in the Union. (Keep f-cking that chicken, Florida.)

Jo Ann Chaus and I got along swimmingly. She’s a Jewish grandmother from Northern New Jersey, and we openly discussed how hard it can be to focus on a career in the arts, coming from that local culture. (I’m sure I wouldn’t be an artist today if my folks hadn’t left for Taos in the 90’s.)

Though I admit women of her generation doing self-portraiture-based projects is a bit trendy at the moment, (which I told her,) I found an honesty, and visual strength, in many of these pictures, and heartily encouraged her to continue, and push it even further.

Lisa M Robinson and I go way back, as she used to be married to my friend Ken. (Who featured in the ridiculous Marfa article series we published in 2012.)

Lisa, who’s represented by our friends Klompching Brooklyn, got a lot of traction years ago for her project, and Kehrer Verlag book “Snowbound.” They were lovely, meditative, large format images, which she followed up with a series about the sea.

Though I know she was not enamored of Tucson on first site, apparently she made her peace with the desert, because I think this new group of pictures, Terrestra, rocks. I saw it at the portfolio walk, and the prints, trimmed borderless, were the best I saw in NOLA. (The show is up at Klompching as we speak.)

All images © Lisa M. Robinson/Courtesy of Klompching Gallery, New York

We’ll end today with Rich Frishman, a funny guy who’s based in Washington. I was talking with Frish Brandt, the Director of the Fraenkel Gallery, who was my table-mate, when Rich walked up to my table, and she said he was her brother.

They both smiled, and I was totally sure they were spontaneously busting my balls. You know, two people who get in on the joke immediately, like improv performers.

But no, they insisted, her name Frish came from Frishman, the two hugged, and then she told me he should have been a better big brother when they were young. (He confirmed as much.)

In all my years reviewing, it was one of the most surreal little moments I’ve had. (Is there a book in that? All the craziest stuff I’ve seen at portfolio reviews? Probably not.)

Rich’s pictures are panoramic visions of Americana, shot across much of the country, and are meant to be printed very large, so people can dive into the details. The photos are obviously likable, and kitschy, but I told him the more visually compelling they were, the more people would engage with his vision.

©Rich Frishman
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

©Rich Frishman
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Allen’s Filling Station on US Route 66; Commerce, Oklahoma
©Rich Frishman
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

©Rich Frishman
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Total solar eclipse over McDonald’s; Baker City, Oregon
©Rich Frishman
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Midway Drive-In Theatre; Quitaque, Texas 2016
©Rich Frishman
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Segregation wall at Templin Saloon; Gonzales, Texas 2016
The wall was constructed in the early 20th Century and is decorated with an original pre-1929 Dr. Pepper logo.
At the time of its construction (circa 1906) only Caucasian customers were allowed to sit in the front of the saloon. All Hispanic, Latino and African-American customers had to sit behind the wall.
When the saloon was remodeled and re-opened in 2014 the wall, no longer used for its original purpose, was retained as a historical reminder.
©Rich Frishman
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Stark’s Sporting Goods in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin features an assortment of items, including boats, booze and bullets. One stop shopping American-style: shots of whiskey and shotguns.
©Rich Frishman
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

See you next week with more great photography. (If we don’t get nuked first…)

The Best Work I Saw at Review Santa Fe, Part 2

- - Working

 

Everyone I know hates this time of year.

People get sick.
It’s cold and gray.
The dried grass is brown, outside my window, taunting me for lack of snow.

Trying to turn my SAD upside down, I recently started limiting my time on social media, and replacing it with a strenuous 45 minute hike up the hill that rises above our family farm.

It sounds like a headline from the Onion, I know: “Bougie artist discovers exercise is better then sitting on your ass!”

But seriously, I’ve decided to trade the incessant internet chatter for bird calls, and the occasional barking dog. (Until it’s frozen and icy, I’ve made myself a good trade.)

Not sure it would work for you, but since when have I been shy about giving advice?

Today, on the hill, there was a moment that took my breath away. A raven, (we have many) was soaring in the sky when all of a sudden, in an instant, he tucked his wings in and dove down.

It was straight free-fall, but he/she was totally relaxed. It was only for a couple of seconds, and then the wings were out again, but it was so graceful, the nosedive.

Falling, effortlessly, because it’s much more energy-efficient than doing anything else.

I thought immediately about falling into this, the hardest part of the year. Then end, when my family is always crisper than a bagel that’s been left in the toaster for too long. (Translation: very crispy.)

There are so many jokes we could make about 2017, this endless year, but Twitter, (which I’m cutting down on, wink wink,) has been ablaze with them.

Here are a few of mine.

2017 has been longer than Donald Trump Jr’s collective community college transcript.

If 2017 were a greeting card, it would say, “Hey, Fuck-face, why do you think you deserve a card? Nobody deserves anything in this world, unless I say so. Life is difficult, and merciless, and only the strong survive. Get used to it!”

If I got to write one tweet, pretending to be President Donald Trump, wrapping up 2017, I would write: “Who needs #280? Hillarys a witch. And a LoseR! Burn her. Obamas muslim. Access tape faked, just like the news. See you in 2018. Trump out!”

Ok. Ok.
I’m done.

I think it’s a bit cathartic, for me, making fun of a sad situation. But let’s turn that frown upside down.

If you saw the headline today, you’ll know this article is the second, (and final) installment of a brief series about the best work I saw at Review Santa Fe 2017.

We’ll begin with Amy Lowey, who was my last meeting at RSF. We were both fried, as it was the end of the festival, and there was a moment where I thought it was going to go wrong.

But before you know it, we course-corrected, and had a deep conversation, in which she showed me work I found captivating. In particular, her black and white digital prints, on what seemed like a coated rag paper, were exquisite.

Her story was a sad one, as Amy has to be a care-taker for her husband, who has a degenerative, and likely fatal disease. It takes a toll, as one would imagine, and she goes for nature walks to calm herself down.

Amazingly, and symbolically, Amy has zeroed in on trees in the forest, particularly ones with symbiotic connections to other trees. Wow. I’m choking up just thinking about it.

Like Amy, Ward Long is a recent graduate of the excellent Hartford low-residency MFA program.

I spied his prints, with the side-eye, as I walked along at the portfolio walk on Friday night. The quality of his image-making, likely with a big camera, caught my fancy. I’d say it’s a part of that Southern-poetic-aesthetic, and having looked at his website, I feel comfortable making that call.

I had a similar experience with Mitsuharu Maeda’s work, in that it grabbed me as I walked down the busy aisles at the Santa Fe Farmer’s market, battling the throngs. (It really is an excellent venue for this sort of thing. Kudos!)

As Haruki Murakami is likely my favorite author, I’ve always been a sucker for elements of Japanese culture. In particular, imagining the cold northern mountains of Hokkaido.

So I was always going to like these snowy pictures.

Melanie Metz had recently moved to Santa Fe, so it was nice to meet a new member of our Northern New Mexico photo community. (Welcome, Melanie. Lucky for you, there’s no official hazing ritual anymore, after the Bad-Burrito-Incident of 2010.)

Melanie had some cool photographs of her hometown in Florida, which was not-too-far inland, but had all the horse-farm vibe of a Deep South or Western ranch. We discussed that I preferred her color to her black and white work, and I suggested it was normal for one “eye” to be more advanced than the other.

But she’s still pretty young, so I’m curious to see how Melanie’s work evolves over time.

Oren Lukatz, an Israeli, had some really interesting pictures of Israeli military soldiers, often with dogs. I questioned the addition, as it seemed random, but Oren told me the dogs are drafted too, just like the humans. Even better, their “master,” the solder who’s in charge of them when they retire, gets to keep them as a pet.

Pretty cool.

Finally, last-but-not-least, we have Kiliii Yuyan, whom I did not meet at all at Review Santa Fe. He was there, and he reached out a bit afterwards to say he had wanted to meet, or get a review, and it didn’t happen.

Several times, in the past, I’ve included such people in the round-up, if I liked their work once I checked out the website. In this case, it was hard not to like.

Kiliii is an indigenous artist from the Arctic, making work from inside his community, rather than from an outsider’s perspective. That’s another conversation I won’t make us rehash, after the big series in Summer 2017, but clearly these pictures have something extra.

Do yourself a favor and watch some of the videos on his site as well. Talk about getting into a meditative state? Like a diving raven?

I think you get the point.

Generations of Iñupiaq ancestors lie in this snowy cemetery in Utqiagviq. Says Jana Harcharek, “We are proud to be Iñupiaq. When our ancestors look down on us and see us living with our culture, we feel we know who we are.”

As Iñupiaq have become deeply enmeshed in a market economy, traditional crafts have become important for families to survive on. This polar bear is being carved from a walrus tusk, and is donated by hunters to artisans in the community.

Elder Fannie Akpik stands in front the Barrow cemetery, where many of her family members rest. When Christianity was adopted by the Iñupiaq, it marked a major change for the culture. Today, the social forces of global media and communication mark another cultural pivot. Fannie Akpik is a strong advocate for regaining cultural identity and language through education in Iñupiaq schools.

Polar bear skulls and seal harpoons rest against the wall in an Iñupiaq home. Native life in the Arctic is lived with little separation between indoors and out. Time spent indoors is often just preparation for days away on the sea ice.

Six-year old Steven Reich examines his father’s umiaq, or skinboat used for whaling. His father Tad, captain of Yugu crew, expresses nervous excitement to bring Steven out whaling on the ice for the first time: “I am proud of my son; he’s here to learn to be a hunter.”

High above the Arctic Circle on sea ice a mile from shore, an Iñupiaq whaling crew watches from a blind for a passing bowhead whale by the light of the moon. The Iñupiat have hunted whales here for at least 2,000 years, but the forces of climate change and globalization are rapidly altering the culture of this remote region.

Floating on the Arctic Ocean, a towering piece of multiyear sea ice rests. Not long ago, the majority of sea ice looked like this– meters thick and capable of supporting great weight. For Iñupiaq hunters, the thin ice that covers the sea now is significantly more dangerous than just a decade ago.

Iñupiaq elder Foster Simmonds has been a whaler since he was a child. Since then, whaling has seen subtle changes.

A rare calm day out on the Beaufort Sea belies the instability of the sea ice– day by day vast sections break away and float along with the current, often stranding subsistence hunters.

An umiaq, or whaling skinboat, waits on the edge of the ice for gathering arctic ice fog to pass. Iñupiaq whaling crews wait patiently on the sea ice for months, enduring subzero temperatures, howling winds, and incessant freezing fog.

Polar bears present an ever-present danger to the whalers when out on the ice. Attracted to the scent of fresh blubber, they prowl the edges of camp, but are usually scared off by rifle shots and noisemakers. During whale butchering many people stand guard against the bears circling nearby and keep children close to camp. This bear at Akootchook’s whale was one of thirteen seen in a single day.

As a baby whale is discovered in the process of butchering, the hunters have a moment of silence. For scientists studying bowhead whales, the baby is a unexpected gift, as hunted whales afford the only opportunity for researchers to take direct samples and measurements. Much of what is known about the bowhead has come from the traditional ecological knowledge of Iñupiaq whalers.

The Art of the Personal Project: Michael Weschler

- - Working

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this new revised thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist: Michael Weschler

Sometimes, when we’re looking closely enough, time stands still, reminding us to stay grounded.  There are few people I’ve met who are as present and in the moment as Ray.  The tragic accident that paralyzed his body has empowered him to move beyond the things we take for granted, like crossing the street, and to accomplish tremendous feats of incredible athletic ABILITY.  We are all fighting battles, but there are few heroes like Ray who raise the bar and through their triumphs, help us to change our perspective.

Ray Diaz, Team USA Paralympic Sled Hockey All-Star

Ray Diaz, Team USA Paralympic Sled Hockey All-Star

Ray Diaz, Team USA Paralympic Sled Hockey All-Star

Ray Diaz, Team USA Paralympic Sled Hockey All-Star

To see more of this project, click here

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s. After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.

The Best Work I Saw at the Filter Photo Festival: Part 3

 

It’s a tough week to be a man.

My gender has not come off well recently, what with the “me too” movement proving that almost every woman in America has been groped, molested, raped, or abused in some way during her lifetime.

Totally disgraceful.

As my own wife typed those words into Facebook, in conjunction with so many friends and colleagues, there’s not much I can do but shake my head and wonder how we got here.

Because where we are is pretty fucked up. (I should also mention the recent, horrifying news about the murder and dismemberment of Swedish photojournalist Kim Wall, which is the worst story I’ve heard this year.)

Then today, in the very same week, Women Photograph came out with a set of statistics that show just how few gigs at the major news organizations are going to women.

The numbers are awful.

I’ve said many times I’m a strong feminist, as my wife went to Vassar and Smith, and educated me since I was 23 on the ways of the patriarchy. As I’m now 43, you can imagine how many times I’ve been schooled on the depth of misogyny here in America.

I may have morphed into a super-liberal, highly conscious male in 2017, but I grew up a suburban-Jersey-boy, obsessed with sports and girls, so it was no given that I’d get where I am.

It took a lot of intervention from the Smith posse, and I’m forever grateful.

In fact, I can still remember what it was like, visiting Northampton back in 1998, partying with all those lesbians. I knew nothing of “butch” and “femme,” or “top” and “bottom,” and was seriously insecure to be in a crowd I didn’t understand.

In the beginning, I struggled with how to handle it. Frankly, I was uncomfortable, and out of my depth. But there was also something thrilling about encountering worlds so different from my own.

Then we moved to San Francisco, and were hanging out with the Bernal Heights lesbian crew all the time, and soon what had seemed strange became a part of my normal life. (In particular because these women, soon-to-become social workers, were such kind, impressive, intelligent people.)

Over time, my repeated exposure allowed me to relax, and begin to appreciate that these ladies were remarkable. Sure, they were different than I was, but at some point, we’re all people.

Now it’s 20 years later, and I am a much healthier, more grounded and accepting person, in particular because I had exposure to people of different races, classes, and sexual orientations in the ensuing years.

That opportunity to mesh with people, outside my Taos bubble, was one of my favorite things about my visit to Chicago, at the Filter Photo Festival last month. (This will be our final post on the subject.)

Because this last bit of synchronicity may be the best of all, and it was directly connected to who sat down at my portfolio reviewing table, ready to show me some work.

It began with the last review of Saturday afternoon, when I was pretty fried from all the looking and talking. A young man took a seat, introduced himself as Matt Storm, and began telling me a bit about his background.

From the first moment, I thought, “It appears he’s transgender. Like he used to be a woman. I hope it will come up in a natural way, so I don’t end up looking like an asshole.”

I gently made some further observations, and asked a few appropriate, polite questions, and it turned out I was correct, that Matt was cool with discussing it, and that I managed not to make a fool of myself.

The work is pretty genius, and I don’t use that word flippantly. Turns out, Matt’s grandfather passed away earlier this year, and they were close. So Matt came up with a project in which he impersonates his grandfather, while wearing the dead man’s clothes.

Even better, the pictures are hilarious, absurd, subversive, and perfect. In fact, in some of the photographs, Matt has posed in front of family pictures in the background that include him, as a young girl, if you know where to look.

I can’t imagine a smarter investigation of gender in America, and the fact that it is funny, rather than strident, is not coincidental.

The next day, in the morning, Kris Sanford sat down across the table, and also had a project looking at issues in Gay America. Kris had made black and white portraits of gay Americans in their homes, back in 2000, (before Will and Grace,) before there was even a widespread discussion of gay issues in our broader culture.

Then, she went back, found the same people, and re-photographed them 16 years later, in color, as symbolic representations of change over time. (Those are my words. She’d probably say they’re just portraits.)

But as Matt is in his 20’s, and his pictures represent a certain of-the-moment-ness, Kris is in her 30’s, and the project seems to have a different vibe reflective, perhaps, of a different generation.

Finally, right after Kris, Zoe Perry-Wood met with me, and she’s also a lesbian artist making work about gay rights issues, but  of an older generation than Matt and Kris. In Zoe’s case, she’s been photographing Boston’s gay youth prom for 10 years, making studio portraits of young people celebrating in an inclusive environment where they can joyously be themselves in public.

Zoe mentioned that over time, she’s seen changes in the demographic. In particular, the students have started coming out younger, and there are now more transgender students than their used to be.

Through the pictures, we can see the way changes in the culture at large are reflected in the bodies and spirits of these young people. And the photographs are technically strong as well.

So as strange is it may sound to some of you, I’m now in the process of curating a 3-person show by these excellent artists. I think it’s important for people to look at, and experience, different perspectives, and even though I’m just a straight white guy, I’m hoping to use my energy and effort to help get the message out there.

Moving on, I saw Jim VanBibber’s work out of the corner of my eye at the portfolio walk. Someone had mentioned it to me, so I headed his way to see for myself. Pictures like this need little introduction, as Jim is making wet plate collodion portraits of Lucha libra wrestler toys.

So. damn. cool.

Alice Hargrave had a review with me, and I needed to focus, as there were some pretty heavy conceptual strains pulsing through the pictures. One set was actually a visual, abstracted representation of birds, made by color-coding the sound waves of their calls. (Trippy, yo!)

She also had pictures she made at night, of verdant spots in cities, primarily, and I thought they were lovely. Really great use of color, texture and mood, so that’s what we’re showing here.

Next, we have the work of Julie Pawlowski, who spent several years living in Shanghai. (Her husband worked for Smuckers, of all places.) Though she was only a temporary resident, Julie was impacted by the rampant development in her adopted city.

In particular, she noticed that as traditional neighborhoods were razed, brick walls were put up to block out peeping eyes, or curious feet. So Julie has made a photo series that examines the changes in the urban landscapes, and uses those bricks as a repeating motif.

Finally, yes finally, we end with a small artist book by Kevin Miyazaki. I met him at Review Santa Fe back in 2009, and have been an admirer since. (Kevin was one of the first people to organize a print-for-charity process, with his collect.give program.)

In this case, Kevin gave me his book, about taking a trip to Japan as a Japanese-American who doesn’t speak Japanese. It’s a hard situation to imagine, though it affects many Asian-Americans. Looking like you belong, yet being marked as outsider because of your dress, language, or inability to understand certain rituals or traditions.

The book is beautiful, and seems an appropriate place to end this month-long look into what I saw, and who I met, in the coolest city in America. (Chicago, in case you’ve forgotten.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Work I saw at the Filter Festival: Part 2

 

This might seem like a long story, but bear with me.

Back in the Spring, as I walked across Central Park with Patrice, a gray-robed Chinese monk stepped into my path, reached out, grabbed my hand, and put a wooden-beaded bracelet on it.

He was quick, like a Shaolin monk, before I could think to refuse.

So I said thanks, reached into my pocket and gave him a dollar. I turned to walk away, but in highly broken English, he pointed to his list, and showed me the previous person had given him $20.

I looked at him, he pointed at the list.

I said, “You want more money?”

He nodded yes.

I reached into my pocket, took out 2 more dollars, gave them to him, and then he blessed me. I bowed back, and moved on, not sure exactly how that had come about.

It felt really deep.

Later, downtown, my friend Felt mocked me, saying the whole thing was a scam, but it felt real to me.

Turns out, I wear that bracelet all the time. I’ve really come to like it. And I began to feel bad that I’d only paid $3, as it’s worth more than that to me.

Had I shortchanged a monk?
Isn’t that bad karma?

I swore the next time I saw a monk like that, I’d give him some more money instead, to make sure I was all good with the powers that be.

And sure enough, as I walked towards the lake in Chicago late last month, just up the street from the Art Institute, (with my friend Kyohei in tow,) who do I see but another gray-robed monk with a handful of bracelets.

I show him mine, thank him, and give him a few dollars. Again, like the last time, he asks for more, so I give it to him. But as I don’t need a bracelet, as I’m simply paying into the cause, he gives me a Bodhisattva blessing card that says “Work Smoothly Lifetime Peace.”

Then he bows in blessing, and we’re back about our business.

But since my spiritual moment slowed us down 2 minutes, by the time I got back to that very same spot, (after getting my press ticket,) I bumped into a photographer I knew in Santa Fe, 7 years ago.

I’d recommended she go to Chicago for her MFA, as I’d heard such good things about Columbia College, and she did. We said hello, and once she told me she was now the collection manager in the photo department, I jumped into journalist mode, and asked what the special places were to see?

It was she who gave up the intel on the secret Japanese galleries, and who later arranged to have the photography curator, Elizabeth Siegel, come meet us in the gallery to give us a little talk about Hugh Edwards.

How random, or coincidental, or meant-to-be is that?

Because I stop to give money to a Buddhist monk, because of my Jewish guilt, I get the inside scoop on some amazing Buddhist art inside the museum?

These are the things that keep happening to me when I’m in Chicago, and why I really can’t wait to go back. I’m sure different cities do this for different people. but I’m so comfortable there that I end up talking to everyone.

Inside the gallery in the Hugh Edwards show, (a terrific exhibition inspired by the Art Institute’s legendary former curator,) I started chatting up an African-American security guard.

She admitted she found the show boring, and I asked if it was because there were so many rectangular, black and white pictures in black frames with white matte boards, and she said, “Yeah, that’s it.”

I said I understood, and as my friend and I were both artists and professors, we were able to get excited for all sorts of geeky reasons.

I told her I’d give her one tip, and she could see for herself if it opened anything up about photography.

There is, in the exhibition, an amazing suite of about 10 Robert Frank prints from “The Americans.” (Hugh Edwards was the first curator in America to show the work.)

I told her about my favorite diptych, maybe in the History of Photography: on the left, a fancy car in Los Angeles, covered, shimmering in the fancy light, with the swaying palm trees. On the right, a dead body, covered by a dirty blanket, lying by the wintry side of Route 66 in Arizona.

Two strong pictures, yes, but the context supercharges them.

I said my goodbye, and walked deeper into the show to see work by Eugène Atget, and Duane Michals. There were daguerreotypes in the exhibit, and more.

Kyohei and I ended up talking about the show with an African-American couple around our own age, and some Asian-American schoolgirls.

Random, in-public discussion.
Yet again.

By the time we were ready to leave, the security guard walked up to me and said, “I went and looked at those pictures, and you’re right. That’s powerful right there.”

We all get off on photography, or you wouldn’t be reading this. (Except for you, Mom and Dad.) And when it leads to discussion, to dialogue, to a deeper understanding of the world we inhabit, then I’d argue the art form has done its job well.

So today, I’m glad to share the second batch of work from the the 2017 Filter Photo Festival.

Donna Pinckley, based in Arkansas, had work that I was sure I had seen somewhere, but I couldn’t say where for sure. The project had gone viral, she said, so it could have been any number of places.

Donna has strong, large format black and white images made of inter-racial couples, and includes text written on the bottom of each print. (Racist, nasty comments that people have made before.) It’s really strong work.

It reminded me of Jim Goldberg’s “Rich and Poor,” but Donna and I agreed that just because someone else had written on pictures, (as Duane Michals did also,) then it’s no reason not to do it, if the situation is right.

Mayumi Lake works at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she went to school, and showed me a couple of projects that weren’t quite right, for me. But art is subjective, and she clearly knows what she’s doing.

As is often the case, we might resonate with something else, in a different box, and that’s what happened here. Mayumi is Japanese, and these flowers she makes out of scanned bits of vintage kimonos are so cool.

Sleek and colorful, vibrant and personal. I liked them very much, and think you will too.

Kalin Haydon, a graduate student at Columbia College, showed me a project about bingo hall culture in Southern Illinois, as she grew up around such places. (We discussed the bingo hall sub-plot in “Better Call Saul,” and both agreed it’s stellar.)

I thought her strongest images were really tight, as they walked the line between being respectful, and showing a vision that might in some ways be perceived as pejorative.

It’s the hard part of doing a story from the inside, knowing you want people to appreciate what you do, and share your respect for the subject, while also being aware of the visual elements people are sure to find compelling or salacious.

Adam Davies was in from Baltimore, where he is an Artist in Residence at Creative Alliance. He presented a project of large format, urban, structural, architectural photographs that featured subtle use of graffiti. (Found, not made.)

There were certain perspectives that felt dangerous, like, “how the hell did he get up there?,” and overall I found them to be striking. I mentioned the few that I thought looked too much like other people’s images, but in general, think the work is excellent.

I met Susan Keiser, and showed her work here, after Filter in 2015. (She’s the first Filter alum to make it back into the post-festival round up.)

Her exploration of dolls fascinates me, as that would be a subject on my “cliché/don’t do this” list of things I’d give to students, if I had such a list. (I don’t.)

But I always challenge students to see if they can bring a fresh take to well-trod terrain, because who doesn’t like a good challenge?

This time out, Susan is shooting through ice, using vintage dolls from the 40’s and 50’s that she collects on Ebay. Even better, they’re small, so she has to use a macro lens to capture the scenes that she renders with the dolls.

Susan is also a painter, so the use of color and composition is right, leading to an overall creepy-but-not-too creepy vibe I really like. Crazy pictures.

Finally we have Allen Wheatcroft. Here, we return to that question of when are pictures appropriate or when are they exploitative? Or is it OK to be exploitative anyway?

Allen had street photographs from around the world that often (but not always) featured a lone figure in a crowd. Someone Allen described as off, or not-quite-right, but not hardcore junkies or homeless folks.

We discussed whether these people weren’t proxies for him? Whether he didn’t see himself as awkward or uncomfortable, unable to easily connect? Allen agreed that he did, and it was a really interesting way for me to understand the pictures.

He asked me if I thought they were too Bruce Gilden, or inappropriate towards the people in the images?

I don’t think so myself. I find them a bit intimate, and strange, and more endearing than critical. A bus driver in Stockholm? A guy on the beach in Chicago? More odd than off-putting.

We’ll end here today, with a group of pictures that represents some of the best the street has to offer…

Synchronicity.