A logical trajectory for blogs is that they start out free and prove there’s an audience for the content, then they slowly improve the design, photography and writing so that they can improve their audience numbers and create an environment that’s conductive for advertising. The higher quality the content the higher quality of advertising you can attract and potentially you can charge a subscription as well. This is no different than the origins of Rolling Stone and Outside Magazine (as examples only because I know the history quite well), although I would argue that their content had to start out at a higher level because the cost of printing and distribution meant that you couldn’t easily correct mistakes or quickly roll out new content as the audience reacts.
So, I was not surprised to see Mashable, a blog with 20 million unique vistors per month and 4 million social media followers, advertising for a Photo Editor to “help take its on-site images to the next level.” (here) There are rumors that CNN is interested in buying the property for $200 million (here), so maybe it’s more to do with that than anything else. Regardless, I believe we are headed to a new era online where the quality of content becomes more important (unless you only want t-shirt advertising) and blogs battle it out for advertisers. It only remains to be seen if the quality will reach the heights that Rolling Stone aspired to when they realized they were onto something.
Seeing Houck’s show and subsequently investigating a number of other emerging photographers working in similar ways has convinced me that this “thinking like a software engineer” is a big white space that stands open for artistic exploration. As an approach, it applies a wholly original conceptual framework to the medium of photography, while still allowing for connections to traditional ways of seeing. I was intellectually and visually impressed by Houck’s projects; while I think the Aggregates are the meaningfully stronger of the two, I can’t remember seeing a set of underlying first show ideas that felt so promising.
via DLK COLLECTION.
Known for a mix of celebrity and lifestyle portraiture, Australian Andrew Southam maintains a very honest and revealing blog for a working photographer. July 22-27, he’ll be teaching a course at the Santa Fe workshops called “The Fashion Portrait.” Among the techniques he uses to keep his work fresh, Southam regularly shoots on the streets of his adopted home of Los Angeles. He treats the exercise as a kind of sketch book to look for new ideas that he might try to recreate on a set when there’s no time for experimentation. Grayson Schaffer spoke with Southam about his upcoming workshop and how he keeps searching to reinvent himself.
Grayson: Have you fully embraced American culture? I think it’s sort of ironic that some of the best work of an Australian photographer is quintessential Americana.
Andrew: In Australia we’re sort of colonized by American popular culture—film and television. So if you’re a moderately sensitive kid you’re absorbing all of these American notions of masculinity, beauty, and heroism. It’s all pretty profound if you’re destined to be a photographer. Then I married an American girl. I have an American son who’s eight, so I’m deep into the sports world with him. I never played basketball as a kid, but I’m at all of his games and practices.
Grayson: With your workshop, are you focusing on portraiture or this kind of lifestyle? Is that seamless for you?
Andrew: Here’s how a I came up with that. They asked me if I would teach a fashion workshop, and I’ve always felt like a little bit of an imposter in that world—fashion. Fashion photography is a narrow cul de sac. If you’re going to be serious about it, I think you need to live in NY or Paris and eat, drink, and sleep it. I was never that fascinated by it. I began as a portrait photographer in Australia, and it was tough to make a living, because when you’re assigned a portrait you might get one or two pages. So I kind of drifted into fashion as a parallel career because then could get an eight-to-ten page story and the cover. Then the celebrity culture sort of blew up and that felt like a really natural place for me because I was always more interested in the person than the clothes . But you still have to have hair and makeup and a stylist, and you have to know something about how it all fits together. So when Santa Fe asked me to do a fashion workshop I had to explain to them that I really honestly wasn’t a pure fashion photographer but that I would feel comfortable teaching something called A Fashion Portrait, which is largely what I do. They’re portraits that have some sort of fashion knowhow with elements of hair and makeup. The clothes matter a lot in those pictures. That’s how I came to that. It felt like that was something I could teach and something I knew about.
Grayson: Is the styling part of the course
Andrew: Yeah, they get a local guy who’s great and he works really hard for us. With a dozen people in the course, that’s a lot of girls to do hair and makeup on. He worked in New York and Paris before he kind of drifted out to Santa Fe. It’s great for people doing the workshop to use talented stylists. Even if they’re not destined to become professionals they will leave the workshop knowing more than they would.
Grayson: About how a photograph is really a collaboration among everyone who’s on set?
Andrew: Yeah that American Dream series I did was with a stylist named Kelly Hill who worked for J. Crew and was a creative director for a long time. Just as a presence on the set, a stylist will have so many good ideas. There were shots in that series that she saw and I didn’t. Her contribution was irreplaceable on that particular project.
Grayson: Do you have any strong opinions on whether the styling should be sort of obvious or subtle?
Andrew: Well I think it really matters what your picture is and what you’re doing. For me it has to be subtle. If there’s any element of style in the photograph that announces itself overtly, then the photograph fails. If you think, Look at that hair or that crazy lighting, then, to me, that sort of defeats the image which is meant to be more of a feeling. In that American Dream series it sort of accrues picture by picture and adds up to something. But it’s never about, “Wow those jeans are so great on him.”
Grayson: Your first instinct is that it all happened naturally even though it was produced?
Andrew: Totally. That was the lovely thing about doing that project. We did three long days away from home. There’s something to be said about doing things where people are not racing back to their offices and their computers. Checking in with their agent every five minutes. My ambition now is to photograph people in what appears to be their lives and to try and make it as utterly real as I can.
Grayson: When APE spoke with you earlier, you were in the midst of a mid-career crisis and this American Dream project was your escape. Is this still what you’re pursuing?
Andrew: It’s shown me the way forward. It did get me some great work and it got me the biggest ad jobs I’ve ever done. I’m on my fifth shoot for Ugg Boots. (I shoot their men’s campaign.) They let me do my thing, and they really want it. They’ve allowed me to work in the capacity of a creative director, which nobody had ever let me do before. Obviously, I’d done that on my own shoots, but no one had ever paid me to conceive the shoot from the ground up. So now when I shoot I have that as a gold standard. Creativity is really is a muscle, and you have to keep working at it. I’d like it to be second nature but it’s still a bit like going to the gym when I leave the house with my camera.
Grayson: How important is the equipment for your work?
Andrew: I can only speak for the work I do. But I think it’s really about getting out there and taking photographs and deepening my understanding. Light, the way people appear—you need to practice that aside from work. Because when you’re on a set for real, you’re dealing with all these other things like the clock, a publicist, the client, hair and makeup, a stylist, and a lunch that’s late. But I went downtown the other day and took a bunch of street photographs. It’s like a notebook to me now: A guy looking over his shoulder in an interesting way.
Grayson: So you’re thinking, “Maybe that’s a look I want to try and recreate on a set at some point?”
Andrew: Absolutely. It’s incredible how the stuff that I find on the street is working its way more and more often into my job. I’m on this campaign to change my approach. If you and I were to go out now and take pictures of each other, it should be pretty effortless and fun. I want to get that feeling into my work. Otherwise it can become worklike. I want it to be like taking a picture of a friend, and I want to be unburdened by questions like, What does this magazine want? Who else shoots for them? What do they like?
Grayson: You mentioned that you’re trying to change the way you shoot. There aren’t many people in your position—well established—who are really shaking things up.
Andrew: Maybe shaking things up is too strong. I’m trying to get better at the things you saw in American Dream. That project was wonderful thing—almost in a way that makes it intimidating to go into the next one. In terms of changing: yes I am deep into my career—27 years—and I’ve found a groove. But I think I got so deep into the groove that it became frustrating and felt like I was doing less than I was capable of.
Grayson: The difference between a groove and a rut?
Andrew: Yes, well said.
Grayson: Can you explain a bit about American Dreams?
Andrew: It was me in that state of frustration dreaming up an assignment that I would love someone to assign me. So in the absence of getting the job that you wish someone would give you, you need to assign yourself. You have to be your first client. I know that’s tough and expensive and time consuming, but there are ways of doing it. You can cut corners. Enthusiasm is an infectious thing.
Grayson: So is that what you did, you leaned on people who you knew from more traditional shoots?
Andrew: The stylist from that shoot was someone I had a long friendship with. So I leaned on her, and she helped me find the talent, and together we found that car. The only other person on that shoot was my tech. I knew I’d be shooting a lot of images, so I wanted to have someone there making sure everything was safe. I paid him something, but certainly not his full rate. And it was a big adventure. The actors didn’t get paid anything; they did it for the pictures.
Grayson: How would you say that project helped you improve? Maybe tuning up your autopilot for when the rest of your brain power is consumed by working on set?
Andrew: Yeah and that autopilot thing, that’s what I’m trying to work towards. An effortless flow. And it’s a life’s work. You achieve it momentarily and then extraneous circumstances will get in the way. But once you know what that feels like, it’s definitely something to aspire to or conspire to make happen.
Note: We’ve partnered with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops to interview several of their instructors for upcoming workshops that we find interesting. If you want to join Andrew in Santa Fe for “The Fashion Portrait” go (here).
I’d rather see so much stuff I don’t like (plus the things that I do like) than live in a world where all I see is what conforms to my current taste. What an incredibly boring and tedious world that would be, a world that would never give me a chance to move beyond that which I currently enjoy!
Strick’s case should serve as cautionary tale for photographers entering into agreements with corporations that insist that disputes be settled by private arbitrators rather than a court of law. “I am devastated by today’s ruling by Judge Lichtman, our JAMS arbitrator, and feel that I have truly been denied ‘my day in court’ as the merits of this case have yet to be heard,” Strick said in a statement issued following the arbitrator’s ruling.
via PDN Online.
I used to live in Albuquerque. Great town. It’s like a big chickenwire grid of concrete, wedged between some mountains and volcanoes. (Bisected by the Rio Grande to boot.) I’ve always seen it as a smaller, cooler, much poorer LA. (Cooler b/c it’s perfectly unpretentious, poorer b/c it lacks natural resources, unless you’re counting dirt.)
I might still be living there if it weren’t so soul-crushingly hot in the Summertime. 5000 feet above sea level, once it cracks 90 degrees, people get angry. (I call it “angry hot.” Creative, no?) From May through September, you can see waves rising off of the melting asphalt, and insanity rising off of peoples’ brains. Just driving down the street, you become hyper-aware of the pissed-off lunatics zipping around, looking for trouble.
Many years ago, I recall losing my sh-t in mid-October, well past the “normal” season for heat-induced misery. A friend and I were hiking in the mountains East of town, and it was all too much for me. The unrelenting burn on my skin, well into Autumn, sent me into one last seasonal rage. I shook my fist at the sun, like the old grandpa who used to mutter and curse at Dennis the Menace. (Mr. Wilson?) “Damn you, Sun. Enough already. I’ve had it. Get off the stage and let Fall have some time, will you? Stupid Sun. You’re not even a big star. No one would care about you if you didn’t, you know, provide for all life on Earth. Asshole.”
My rant had no effect. We made it less than half a mile up the trail before I quit, seduced by the allure of air-conditioning on the car ride home. Oh well.
Most people, across the world, have developed a sure-fire way to beat the heat. Get out of the city in the Summer. Duh. Go someplace with some cold water, and hunker. Genius.
Just the other day, I was dodging rocks, submerged in some small rapids in the Rio Grande. Beautiful, majestic, and less than 10 minutes from my house. Yes, it was convenient, but really, I would have driven a lot further to circumvent my sweat glands.
Given that it’s pure Summer now, with even the 4th of July behind us, (mmm, hot dogs,) I thought the least I could do was offer you a virtual respite from your own version of Summer hell. (If you’re in India, Australia, or Argentina, feel free to dismiss me as a hopelessly ethnocentric American. My apologies.)
Today’s journey comes courtesy of Evzen Sobek. His 2011 book, “Life in Blue,” was published by Keher Verlag, and ought to transport you somewhere entirely new. (If you have, in fact, Summered in the Czech resevoirs of Nové Mlyny, then you’ll have to visit another website. Maybe Colberg has something fresh today.)
The volume, square and solid, meanders through the subculture of people who ring this collection of lakes. The palette, no surprise, is suffused with blue, and yes, we see a lot of thick, shirtless Eastern European dudes.
The images are tightly composed, and indicate the use of blazing flash into the sun. Both are pretty standard tropes of contemporary art photography at the moment, mainly because they work. They give a viewer pause, as there’s an import to images that are so carefully crafted, and the added light gives additional vibrance to any and all color.
Some photos are witty, like the guy holding the sausage sculpture, or the dim-bulb-looking dude, in a camo T-shirt, staring at a newly constructed book shelf like it contained the secrets to the Universe. (Despite the implied narrative that he built the damn thing.) Others are poignant, like the swans coasting through the misty water, or the shore-line memorial to someone who must have drowned.
Most, though, fall somewhere in between. Curious and thoughtful, they encourage careful contemplation. Not because they’ll “change your life,” but because it’s a pleasurable experience. The cool blue, the gentle breezes, the crackling of fish skin on the barbecue. Let’s leave it there, shall we? Hope your Summer is going well. If you’re chilling on the water somewhere fabulous or absurd, feel free to tell us about it in the comment section below.
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.
“I was under the impression that I was going to be photographing athletes on a stage or during press conference where I would take their headshots for our archives,” he explained. “I really had no idea that there would be a possibility for setting up a studio.” It was the first time AFP had been invited to participate in the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Media Summit, which was held this year, in May, at a Hilton Hotel in Dallas.
I work for a news agency and I wasn’t taking pictures for a Nike ad
Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
I know I can’t find all my favorite examples of still images in great advertising in the award shows or Ads of the World. Sometimes I like to find more recent work that is being seen currently, so I check blogs and websites of folks who have either caught my eye in the past or agents I respect. I stumbled upon the work of Peter Rad with Brite Productions and his work for The Brooklyn Academy of Music campaign. I think this campaign really spoke to me because a lot of my marketing ideas for my clients “just hit me”. I feel that inspiration can hit you at the most unique moments because as artists we see something and trigger an idea.
Suzanne: This campaign is very layered and therefore stopping the viewer in to looking a little close. When I look at your website and see the Open Orange campaign, Ballantine’s Scotch Whiskey, Skyteam and your editorial work, I get a true understanding on why you were selected for this campaign. But I would assume that you had a lot of input into who was featured and the “inspiration” of “just hit me”
Peter: I’m very grateful to have worked on such a campaign. One of the smart things that BAM and McGarry Bowen did is to bring the prospective photographers in very early in the concept stages of the campaign. This makes perfect sense, and I truly believe that if more agencies did this, they would get better results across the board. It helps tremendously when technical and logistical problems can be resolved before the idea is fully realized. To me it’s a show of strength and self-confidence from the creative team… the key to collaborative art, be it commercial or fine art.
With the tagline in place – ‘BAM – and then it hits you’, bidding photographers were given a bunch of performance images from BAM’s archive. These we mostly stage images… dance, theatre, music, etc. There were also some film stills included. Our job was to consider these performance images, and think of ways in which they (the characters within) could be included seamlessly, in a broader New York scene. We also had to somehow connect the performance with the protagonist in the tableau – the person who is remembering their ‘BAM moment’. At first; this made me a little nervous, because all of the stage images were lit with theatrical lighting. I initially thought that might limit the variety of environments. In the end though – and this is in part a testimony to the sophistication of today’s theatrical lighting designers – this challenge was instrumental in stirring up ideas and scenarios that I may not have thought of had the lighting already had a scenic context. Suddenly stage lighting becomes, a car headlight, or lightning, or light reflected from windows at sunset, etc.
Initially I was asked to draw 8 scenarios with a view to 6 ads being produced. However, as the excitement of the process grew, I found myself making many more drawings. In the end they increased the ad count to 11. That’s so rare. Usually the numbers are whittled down, not expanded on.
Suzanne: Your personal work is very thought provoking on the social and cultural aspects of people in different ages and places. Is this of interest to you? I know from your bio you love to document the honesty of environments but you seem to like to capture them? Where does this come from?
Peter: My initial foray into photography was what you might consider ‘old-school’. I used to paint and draw, but then my uncle introduced me to Polaroid cameras when I was little. Later that prompted me to switch to photography as a medium. I was already painting in a figurative style, so the transition was fairly seamless. From an early age, I was interested in people and how they relate to each other. When I started studying photography in college, I was immediately drawn to the work of documentarian artists… Diane Arbus, Alfred Stieglitz, August Sander and Robert Frank, among others, were strong influences. I was always drawn to the gutsiness of real emotion and body language in documentary style images, especially when used in conjunction with something slightly off – a seemingly displaced person or object, or the moment before or after the ‘decisive’ moment. To that end The Surrealists and Dadaists were other favorites.
By the time I got to grad school, I started to consider my social background more, and how it related to why I take pictures – I came from a large religious migrant family in Australia. I began to think more about how the themes of psychology, relationships and home/place might factor as foundations for my images. As much as possible I try to bring these ideas into my commercial work. Ultimately my images don’t end up looking completely documentary in style, as they’re staged and mostly lit depictions of a suggested reality. I stage a scene so that it can be ‘documented’ (in the more traditional sense of that word) within a controlled environment. In that regard, what I do is very similar to how movies are made. I direct and record the happening. The only difference is that I end up with one frame, not a reel of images.
Suzanne: Do you think that being a faculty member for the Master’s program at School of the Visual Arts has kept your mind open listening to the young minds of your students??
Peter: Without a doubt, teaching is a great way for artists to retain a verve and open-mindedness, necessitating a solid knowledge of the artistic dialogue currently taking place in, however also considering the past and (for the seers) the future, and how these tie in to contemporary investigations.
Teaching is very much a two way street. The teacher, who believes that teachers teach and students learn, is missing half of the equation.
Beyond this context, I feel that I’m constantly learning from crew and cast members on shoots. My ideas are always solid going into a shoot, but teaching has taught me that the interaction between two people is always educational for both parties. It keeps me open to a greater range of possibilities.
Suzanne: I love the fact that you are a busy working advertising, editorial and fine art photographer. I feel that many photography schools are filled with tenured professors who didn’t make it as professional photographers and therefore instructing their students with old school philosophies of advertising when the game has changed so drastically. Do you agree?
Peter: Let me see, how do I answer this diplomatically… it’s true, the old school methods of teaching photography are restrictive because they draw more from history than the present and the future. This was very much the case when I was in college. We were taught a craft, and asked to consider an artistic approach for our work. However it was left up to us to source those artistic influences, based on their teaching us what took place in the past. For those who didn’t make the extra effort, their work often reflected the work of historical photographers, and didn’t flourish in the context of fresh ideas. This is precisely the reason why I decided to come to New York and to SVA to study. Their faculty was a ‘who’s who’ of renowned working artists and theorists. This kept us (and them) on our toes, and required of us to engage in a substantial understanding and knowledge of what is currently taking place in our choice field of art. We’re a bit spoiled here (in New York) in that regard, because it’s a major center for photography. I’m encouraged to see that more educational institutions are adopting this fresher approach.
Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.
Peter Rad lives in New York, and works internationally as an artist and commercial photographer. His award-winning work has received critical acclaim worldwide, and is featured extensively in top-level magazines, high profile advertising campaigns, and fine-art exhibitions. Drawing from his background in painting and a passionate love and understanding of the moving image, Peter directs his characters and carefully manipulates environments to create images that retain a realist honesty in their documentation. Through his thorough execution of lighting, this documentation is embellished with a hyper-reality and theatricality. He also often scripts dialogue for the actors in his images, resulting in a filmic style of tableau photography. The images have become well known for their narrative quality, as well as a unique ability to highlight that most interesting split-second moment just before or after an action takes place. Peter’s versatility and depth as a narrative image-maker is further evidenced in his portraiture and landscapes, which surround and expand on the main scene studies. Aside from his advertising, editorial and fine art work, Peter has been a faculty member in the MFA Photo & Related Media department, at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
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.
At around $4 billion, a Getty deal would be among the larger private-equity transactions this year. Investment bankers say credit is available at reasonable interest rates, but buyout firms still need to put up around 30% of a deals value in cash, which limits their ability to pursue very large deals. …these firms feel confident about Gettys business, which is stable and brings in regular cash flow…
Internet criminals are using a website called “Kickstarter” to bilk friends and families out of money for terrible, ill-conceived, and unnecessary “personal projects.”
via, The Onion.
I shoot a ton of shit assignments that I hope nobody ever sees. It’s just the reality of the situation. That’s not to say you can’t make good work in tough situations, but sometimes, the cards are stacked against you.