I don’t check email on the weekends. No FB or Twitter either. I don’t have to worry about who wants to “talk” to me in New York, or New England, or even New Mexico. (Sorry, Dad.) Furthermore, I’m off the clock from 5pm to 8am each day. Try it some time.
Our brains weren’t designed for 24/7 contact and communication. Not even remotely. Every time you get a nice email, or a complimentary comment, your brain drops some dopamine or seratonin. (Mmmm, yummy brain juice.) Conversely, each time someone bitches at you, drops one more deadline on your head, or inundates you with sarcasm, your mind rolls out the adrenaline and/or cortisol.
Either way, your chemistry is working overdrive, all day, every day. I can’t wait to see what the cumulative effect will be, as this has never before existed in human history. We’ve all become a bunch of glorified lab rats, looking up at an unkind Universe, waiting for our next sign. (Ping, ping, ping.)
It’s none of my business if you choose to listen to this advice. I’m sharing it, because that’s what I do. For the last ten months, I’ve been talking to you each week. You can tinker with your routine, or not. I was as addicted as anyone, before my wife enforced these rules. Now, I’m happier, saner, and more productive.
Photographers, in particular, were not intended for such a life. Pre-digital, back in the day, it would have seemed absurd to any decent lensperson to suggest they allow themselves to be interrupted, constantly, while trying to get some work done. Our workspace was sacred: The Darkroom.
In the end, my decision to walk away from my Duke degree, (and the great likelihood of financial security,) was an easy one. Up until my time in the photo department at UNM, I’d never worked hard at anything before. School came easy, as did certain aspects of sports. If I wasn’t good at something, that was that. The idea of practice was not yet embedded in my head. Then came the darkroom.
At 23, for the first time, I could and did spend 5, 6, 7 hours at a time slaving away. The quiet, the sickly-sweet chemical smell, the soothing safety light, together they seduced my latent work ethic. Previously lazy, the darkroom engendered a marriage between my passion and my patience. I took it as a good omen, and devoted my life to the craft. (Especially when a color darkroom opened up a block from my apartment in San Francisco. The photo gods can, in fact, be kind.)
Now, we live on our computers. We tell people how proud we are that our digi-prints finally look as good as gelatin silver. And the world will never be the same.
As such, I was fascinated by “Darkroom,” a new, over-sized monograph by Adam Bartos, recently published by steidldangin. (A partnership, I believe.) Rarely before have I seen someone produce a work of nostalgia, without the sentiment. The project is devoid of emotion, while clearly bowing at the temple of the past. Tough combination.
The book is immaculate; even the cover image is perfectly rendered. High class production values have certainly gotten my attention lately. (Take it for what it’s worth.) We obviously don’t all have the dollars to spend, but a few extra grand can do wonders in the right hands.
The premise of the book is straightforward: photos of lived-in darkrooms owned by American photographers. A peek at the thank you note in the back indicates that several of them are high profile, and a couple are even folks I know here in New Mexico. So it has an insider appeal, as well as being a super-well-crafted look at a part of our collective history.
Compositionally, the images are very formal. Shiny film rolls, lined up here and there, posters that were rarely seen, as so much work was done in the dark. It evokes Thomas Demand a bit, with it’s cold rigor, but that prevents the whole project from devolving into a treacly mess. Nicely done.
I’ve got to think that many of you would love this book. Whether as a reminder of your salad days getting a contact high off the fixer, or as a hint that it’s time to put down the f-cking iPhone. Either way, this one is a keeper.
Bottom line: A very well-made trip down memory lane
Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.
Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.
Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
I ran into these ads on Adsoftheworld.com and since they caught my eye, I knew they would catch the eye of the consumer. Shot by Christoph Martin Schmid, I think they are funny and quickly to the point. The campaign does make you think about who shops on line and whether you want to be anonymous or protected from a Tammy Faye Baker makeup artist (see example of what I mean by this reference).
Suzanne: Christoph, you are based out of New York, Berlin and Cape Town. Each of these locations are very different in the advertising they do. How do you position yourself for those cultural differences?
Christoph: Specialised in story telling I look at 21st century citizens independent from their locations and culture. In fact there are certain patterns in behaviour and life-style I observed that seem globally valid nowadays. In my approach of an assignment my main weapons are humor and precision. Only the exactitude in the staging of a scene, the shaping of the characters and the careful choice and setup of the background assures that the message intended can be universally perceived.
Suzanne: When I go to your site I see the urban scenes and think that collection was the reason you were hired to push the concept even further. Do you agree?
Christoph: I am fascinated by human nature in all it’s comic absurdity and the compression of the urban space produces some of the most hilarious stories. In my personal work I have developed a conceptual approach and visual style that attracted the agency to see that translated into their campaign. The task was to shape two characters that all viewers can relate to. Everybody should be able to say: ‘yes, I know that kind of a situation’
Suzanne: You have been professionally shooting for over 20 years. Do you think that clients are aware of what you can produce verses seeing it on your website?
Christoph; The work on my website is not related to any advertising job. This work just represents my approach to photography and storytelling. I find it important in order to stay ahead of the zeitgeist to keep progressing through personal work. And whether it is one of my own projects or a job I get asked to participate in, the creative process starts always with the conceptualisation of the image.
So when I get involved in an advertising project I first try to enter into communication with the agency creatives who came up with the initial story. When I feel I have understood the intention of the script I offer my ideas to develop the idea further and to help translate it into the reality of a photo or moving image shoot, bringing in my experience from my personal work.
Suzanne: Working in multiple markets do you think we in the USA play it too safe and don’t take risks like the other countries do?
Christoph: No, not at all. The US advertising industry still is trend-setting on a global scale. I like the dry sense of humor I find in many TV commercials and print campaigns. And since my recent arrival on the US market last year, I already had the chance to work with some very talented agency creatives to produce some impactful work for US clients. The socio demographics of the US and the daring ambition of its citizens in their pursuit of happiness make fantastic material for storytelling. And storytelling is a powerful format to convey an advertiser’s message !
Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.
Christoph’s early career in Paris encompassed fashion editorial and advertising work as well as some photography for the music industry. After spending five years in Paris, Christoph moved to New York where his passion for visual storytelling found purchase in the film industry. He studied at NYFA (New York Film Academy) and returned to Europe two years later, to settle in London, where he directed television commercials whilst keeping his passion for stills photography alive. Christoph divides his time between Berlin, Paris and Cape Town and is fluent in English, French and German.
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies.
If you assume the role of a camera operator, DP or even a director – you will be in a work for hire position in most markets. Position yourself as a producer – shoot if you want to – and direct – but realize that you’ll be just one rung on the “content ladder”.
via Journeys of a Hybrid.
There’s nothing like an intern who covers the music business (NPR’s All Songs Considered) admitting she doesn’t buy music (I Never Owned Any Music To Begin With) to get the internet re-fired up about paying for stuff, business models and the survival of artists in the middle of the information revolution.
The arguments can be divided into two oversimplified camps. Those who think market forces should be left to decide the fate of artists and their income:
Musicians (and as a member of Gang of Four I include myself here) don’t automatically deserve to make a living. They are not a special subset of society that should be supported at all cost.
Like many, many people who have had their lives or businesses upended by the Internet, his nostalgia runs so deep he wants everything to be the way it used to be. Ain’t gonna happen.
And, those who think people should behave ethically or be forced to behave that way:
fairness for musicians is a problem that requires each of us to individually look at our own actions, values and choices and try to anticipate the consequences of our choices. I would suggest to you that, like so many other policies in our society, it is up to us individually to put pressure on our governments and private corporations to act ethically and fairly when it comes to artists rights.
This leads us to a similar argument in photography after MediaStorm announced a new pay per story business model (Why We Switched to a Pay Per Story Model) we have similar arguments in both camps:
Pay Per Story is not a silver bullet strategy. It’s not a self-contained, all encompassing business model that’s going to right all that’s wrong with the editorial sector.
“This is about [failed] business models, not morals,” says Mike Masnick of Techdirt, and I agree. [source]
– David Campbell
There’s a lot of talk in photoland how you can’t really charge money for this kind of multimedia, and anyway, it would be wrong to turn this into a moral issue. I actually don’t subscribe to that idea. It is a moral issue, because we are talking about the income of actual human beings here
Of course, the photo business is a bit different than the music business. But the basic, underlying problem is the same: Unless there is an increased willingness to pay for content online, the livelihoods of content creators are in danger. In the long run, this means that if this current situation does not change, a large fraction of the content currently online will simply disappear, and the web will become dominated by corporations that can afford to give away some crumbs for free.
– Joerg Colberg
There are many parallels that can be drawn between music and photography. In the past both benefitted from a high cost to create and distribute the work, which created a monopoly and allowed them to ignore market forces. The biggest problem is that consumers have been trained to expect these very expensive products at very little cost. So, while I agree that it’s nice to have market forces in play and the monopolies disappearing, the monopoly will continue if we don’t retrain consumers to pay artists for their work. The long tail and freemium mostly benefit corporations that can afford to let pennies add up to dollars.
If you want to live in a world with artists you have to support them. I think that attitude is slowly catching on.
Susan White has been named Vanity Fair’s new photography director. White had been with Vanity Fair for over 20 years before leaving last year for a stint with Trunk Archive as its executive director.
When I’m not shooting, I will spend entire days organizing receipts and invoicing, returning emails/phone calls for future jobs, planning the next promo, printing new pages for the portfolio, updating the website… the list is truly endless. And then it repeats itself. I’m still learning to cope with the fact that I will never feel completely caught-up and there will never be an end to the non-shooting work that a photographer has to manage.
Remember back in 2010 when Domino’s Pizza received a makeover from CPB called Show Us Your Pizza that mirrored the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty where you go behind the scenes with the evil photographers, retouchers and prop stylists to see how they fake everything (APE story here)?
Well, McDonalds is jumping on this seemingly never ending bandwagon only this time the photographer is not evil. The “behind the scenes at a McDonalds photo shoot” shows that they are simply being helpful in arranging the ingredients so that they are visible for the picture. Love the new twist. Look for this trend to continue.
Anyone know who the photographer is in this video?
Describing his approach to his projects, Webb said he doesn’t do much in-depth research in advance. “I’ll read some fiction to get a taste of the place, and maybe read some guidebooks,” he said. “I bring books with me, and read them while I’m there. I want my visual knowledge of place to grow at same rate as my intellectual knowledge.” The danger of knowing too much before he goes, he says, is that it primes him to make images that represent aspects of the place, according to what he’s read, at the expense of what he might experience.
I hated scary movies as a child. My twisted cousin Jordan showed me “Altered States” as a 6 year old, and followed with a low-budget flick about a monster that lived in the sand and swallowed beach-goers whole. (I lived 7 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.) Oh well.
There was a period in college when I sampled the bloody genre, starting with “The Shining.” I pushed it a bit with the Scream series, defying my nature watching Drew Barrymore get hacked to bits with a very sharp knife. Not fun. It continued through “Seven” (Gweneth Paltrow’s head in a box,) and came to an abrupt end several years later, thanks to “The Blair Witch Project”.
I was traveling abroad when the movie dropped, and so missed the enormous, watercooler, pre-Internet hype here in the US. (Ring, Ring…”Hello, Tabitha?” “Yes.” “It’s Ashley.” “Oh, Hi Ashley, what’s up?” “Sweetie, I saw this super-scary movie last night, called, like, The Blair Witch, or something. I almost crapped the floor. You have to see it.) As I avoided the first wave, I decided to block it all out, every last syllable, until the proper time.
Several months later, I was living in San Francisco, and my girlfriend (now wife) was leaving town for a few days. Jackpot. I rented the movie, unplugged the phone, shut all the curtains, and pressed play around 10 pm. So. Scary…So. Very. Very. Scary. Please. Make. It. Stop.
I’ll never know if I’d have been as terrified if I’d heard what the movie was really about. (Lots of implied evil, lots of scary trees, lots of shrieking.) Sometimes, hype can kill art’s spark. Give people too much context going in, and the element of surprise is lost.
Just last year, I noticed a similar phenomenon with Christian Patterson’s book “Redheaded Peckerwood.” One day, I’d never heard of the dude. Then, his name was everywhere. (“OMG. U Must C This Book.”) Somehow, I never saw a copy, and never read one of the many, many reviews. So I decided to wait.
Then, in March, I found myself sitting in the lovely, bright offices of MACK, the book’s publisher. Poppy, the super-nice media contact, handed me a copy, with several other sets of eyes peeking too. “Here,” she said, “have a look.” The first page was scanned, hand-written text. No way I could read it with her staring at me like that. I flipped a page, looked up, and saw her eyes watching me watch the book. No good. “Forget it, Poppy,” I said. “I’ve waited this long, knowing nothing, so I’ll just wait for the impending Second Edition, and give it my proper attention.”
And here we are.
I grew up in New Jersey, which is Springsteen country. He wrote “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” a mile from my house, and his imprint was everywhere. The first time I met him, I asked him to play “Blinded by the Light” at an upcoming concert. (He passed.) His music was everywhere too: unavoidable. I can recite the first few lines of many a song, from memory, including “Nebraska.” Which was inspired by the killing spree wrought by Charles Starkweater, and Caril Ann Fugate, his teen-aged lover and partner.
As was “Badlands,” the excellent Terrence Malick film. (Damn, Martin Sheen rocked that jeans jacket. You go, dude.) As was, as you might have guessed, “Redheaded Peckerwood.” Sex and violence and the thrill of the chase. Not hard to figure out why this story keeps metastasizing through different narrative forms.
So, now that I kept a perfect media blackout, what do I think? It’s a pretty terrific book. Worth the hype. Buy it, tuck it away, and it will probably be worth more than you paid for it. Why?
Because Mr. Patterson and his pals at MACK have created an object that does justice to the book format. Words, photos, graphics and more. Do you remember the interview where Michael Mack said a book ought to be an original expression of an artist’s vision? They’ve accomplished it here.
The book opens with some handwritten context by Fugate, as I’d previously mentioned, and then a map to provide the necessary geo-tag. After that, it’s a straight myriad of photographic styles. Historical imagery, studio shots, landscapes, color images, black and white, more text, some paper inserts that reference the racism and politics of the 50’s, and a few random images of boobs thrown in. (Boobs sell Books.℠) The narrative is non-linear and ambigiuous enough that most of the photos can be appreciated on merit, while still giving a sense of time, place, and emotion.
I do love the emotional quality of the images. This is not a happy story. The two kill Caril’s 2 year old baby sister, for goodness sake. As you turn the pages, even when you’re staring at a dry and not-terribly-on-message image, you still feel the icy sadness, the eerie emptiness, the morbid curiosity of the rubber-necker.
This edition closes with a mauve, stapled insert that matches the lining of the book. It contains two essays that explain in words what Mr Patterson communicates very well through imagery. I started to read them, (and they are good,) but then I stopped. They didn’t tell me anything I needed to know, at least nothing that wasn’t implied by this terrific book.
What’s the lesson for the rest of us? Mix it up. Both in the creation of a project, and in the editing of the book. Simple, repetitive through lines are boring, and, perhaps, passé. Do your homework. And don’t shy away from those grand, dramatic meta-narratives, the kinds that can’t be extinguished by the ravages of time.
Bottom Line: Fantastic book, worth the hype
Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.
Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.
There is a difference between being a good photographer and being a successful photographer who runs a great business. I know lots of amazing photographers who are broke. The difficult thing about the photography business is you have to apply yourself just as hard to both the photography and business aspects. If you’re painfully dedicated to just one, that still doesn’t guarantee you anything. Now, if you are truly dedicated to both, then you’re very likely to succeed as long as you’re smart about what it is you’re doing.