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.
Michael Wolf was not happy about a move to Paris that he had to make with his wife who had a job offer there in 2008. He felt that a city that had been photographed as much as Paris and was full of clichés had nothing to offer him as a photographer.
He started exploring the city using google street view, one thing led to the next and he started photographing the scenes he saw on the monitor. It turned out to be a totally different way of looking at the city.
He’s been asked many times “when does a google street view picture become a Michael Wolf picture” and he says “as soon as I determine how I crop the image.”
Find out more about Michael Wolf and his process in this fascinating profile by Foam:
More can be found on Foam For You.
Foam For You is an online resource which features professional photographers providing inspiration and advice for amateurs looking to improve their own work. At the core of Foam For You’s content is a series of extended films about the work of three internationally renowned artists: Michael Wolf (USA), Jessica Backhaus (GER) and Melanie Bonajo (NL). They have given Foam exclusive access to their working practice in three fifteen minute documentaries. They explain the thinking behind their work and, in particular, how it relates to themes taken from different issues of Foam Magazine, in which their work appeared.
we have not even started to assess what digital photography could do once we stop treating it as a slightly improved version of analog photography. Digital photography essentially is not well understood at all. Our thinking of digital photography conforms to our thinking of analog photography, even though in actuality the inherent properties of the two often are very different.
A story in Business Insider titled “Meet 9 Incredible Instagram Users That Advertisers Are Dying To Work With” got me thinking about photographers producing a stream of content and how that can easily attract lots of followers. It’s easy to be dismissive of social content because the quality can be quite low (sunsets and boobs seem to do quite well) but the trick to attracting followers is to be reliable and consistent.
The Sartorialist is a great example of someone who has attracted a large audience by being there for them day in and out.( Note, he also pioneered street style blogging so there’s more to it than just daily postings.) J Crew sent him on an 8 city tour… to produce a stream of content for them (here).
I’m also reminded of a recent effort by Craig Cutler to “create new personal work once a week, every week, for a full year, no exceptions.” That effort was turned into an exhibition and no doubt put him on everyone’s creative radar for reliably producing content that will attract fans to a brand.
You should be thinking about projects that can show your ability to reliably produce content. Brands need you.
I think the biggest technical hurdle with film these days has nothing to do with cameras, lenses, or workflow – it seems to be that all too often the quality of the screenplay (or more to the point the quality of the story / storytelling.) It is after all about STORY and HOW WELL you tell it.
Photojournalist and Academy Award Nominated filmmaker (Hell and Back Again) Danfung Dennis and his fledgling immersive video company Condition One just received half a million in seed capitol from tech visionary Mark Cuban. As was first reported on GigaOm in a story titled “Is Condition One the future of video? Mark Cuban thinks so” Danfung just graduated from TechStars’ New York class last Thursday and is “embarking on a pilot program with Mercedes, Discovery Communications, XL Recordings, The Guardian and Popular Science.”
You can download an app showcasing the technology in the itunes store (here). It’s exciting to see a photographer pushing the limits of technology for storytelling.
Dennis believes this video can be used in a number of settings, from live music and sporting events to more traditional documentaries. He said creating video with Condition One results in a much more transparent portrayal of an event or story because it doesn’t involve traditional editing and framing techniques.
“There is less control and less ability to filter and it’s harder to construct a narrative,” Dennis said. “We’re taking the power of a still image and the narrative of film and marrying it with virtual reality to make a new experience that’s highly interactive.”
If you are finding it hard to get work as a photographer, there’s no reason why an agent can do any better, we can usually open a few doors but we’re not miracle workers.
Known for his humor and pitch-perfect execution, Chris Buck is go-to photographer for any magazine that’s trying to illustrate an abstract concept. Ahead of Buck’s Santa Fe workshop, the first week of July, Grayson Schaffer interviewed the 48-year-old New York–based photographer on the subject of creativity and, specifically, how Buck has so damn much of it.
Grayson Schaffer: What are you working on right now?
Chris Buck: We’ll I’m actually not sure how to answer that question. I’ve got a couple of editorial things. Just finished shooting and now I’m preparing for another. One for GQ, and I’m trying to shoot for The Guardian weekend magazine. I’ve got a book coming out in the fall so I’m prepping for the release of that.
GS: Is that top secret?
CB: No, it’s a series of portraits of celebrities in which they’re not visible. Environmental portraits. The celebrities are hiding in the environment.
GS: Very cool. You’re sort of known for having a never ending stream of original concepts in addition to great lighting and execution. How do you come up with this stuff?
CB: You know, I guess I always have my eyes open. To some extent anyone who does interesting work it feels like there are interesting things that could be done or should be done that aren’t. Eighty percent of our culture out there is either not interesting or annoying to you. The other 20 is actually kind of interesting. But even within that you always feel like there are interesting things that aren’t being done. I think creative people kind of feel like they want to fill that void.
GS: So your creativity comes from noticing absences?
CB: Just trying to makes things more interesting where they may be underachieved. I’m sure people look at my work and feel that way. Sometimes they achieve great things with my work and other times they don’t. But the story still needs to run. What I’m striving for is to do something that’s a little new and exciting and maybe a little magical.
GS: But you also have a sort of humorous, highly irreverent sort of thing going on too—the Ken dolls for instance. Are you naturally irreverent?
CB: You know I never really intended to make pictures that would be perceived as being funny. I’m the kind of person where if I see a joke, I can’t help but put it in there. The humor ends up being subtle because they aren’t gag photos. Recently a person described my work as dead serious but totally funny at the same time. The work is clearly serious in intent and visually ’m trying to execute in a way that tells the story and is visual at the same time but it’s almost sort of like when you’re a young man and you’re not athletic, you sort of have to be funny if you want someone to pay attention to you. I’m just translating my juvenile class clown thing into my photograph. It was never intentional, I just can’t resist putting in a little humor.
GS: When most people try and execute a humorous photo, it’s usually too obvious and over the top and, as a result, fails. You seem to hit the right balance every time.
CB: Well thanks. I think it’s probably because humor isn’t the first aim. To make something a little odd and interesting. If humor can be slipped in, than it works. But many of my photos, I don’t feel like there’s humor in them at all. Like the series of hidden portraits, people are going to think those are really funny. It’s great, it’s certainly the most subtle humor ever. It’s like when a comedian comes on stage and people start laughing because they associate them with their previous work.
GS: For people who are going to come to your workshop, I would argue that you can’t teach that sort of spontaneity and creativity. What do you think?
CB: It is a portrait class, that’s the area I’m most interested in. And it’s called “The Surprising Portrait,” but my definition of surprising is not as narrow as one might imagine. I’m not looking for people to shoot more like me. The aim is to help them make portraits that will be surprising for their audience in whatever way that might be. It’s still looking to nudge them a bit and do something a little more adventurous. To engage with their subject. I’m very much about the finished picture and not about the process. Interacting with your subject is important but only insofar as it leads to better portraits. Different people do that in different ways. I’ve met great photographers who deal with their subjects by shooting them very differently than I do and they get great portraits. But there are certain things that lead to better portraits fairly consistently.
GS: Are you one of those light, funny, chatty guys?
CB: I think I vary it up. Sometimes I’m chatty, sometimes I’m quiet. But they’re all going to the same end. I’m looking to set my subject up in a way that gets the reaction I want or need from that particular session. Sometimes it’s relaxed and comfortable, sometimes it’s bossy and manipulative. Sometimes I want them to be uncomfortable. It depends on what it is. Sometimes I’m looking to establish that this is my shoot and I’m in charge. When I was initially shooting, as a young photographer, I was doing that, but it was less self-conscious. I have an end goal of this kind of picture and I’ll do whatever I have to to get there. It was sort of instinctual. But now I think it’s a little more self-conscious, though there is certainly still an intuitive aspect. The subjects are largely ready to go on the ride. I had my portrait taken yesterday by a former intern, and I recognize the fact that it’s their job to put me in the place they need to get the shot they want. Particularly with celebrities I think people often look the the celebrity to direct the shoot and that’s a very difficult road to go down. Most of them just want to be told what to do. They’re the passenger and as a photographer, you’re the driver.
GS: In your class, will you cover any of the technical side?
CB: I’m really focused on the aim of the picture. For me, I do a lot of post work, but the look is still natural. Sometimes I’ll shoot with natural light and do detailed plates and put the plates together in post, so the picture will look photojournalistic, but it will actually have been put together with a number of plates. The experience I want for the audience is largely pretty traditional and natural, but I’m not shy about using technology in the execution or in post to achieve the experience for my audience as I want it. The same thing for many of the photographers taking my class. I don’t have any pretense that the way I do it is “the way.” As long as the finished work is engaging for the audience. I never want the technical to upstage the work. For instance, Cindy Sherman’s work is very technical but it doesn’t get in the way of the work.
GS: Who should take your class?
CB: People who know they’re on to a good thing but are having a hard time closing the deal. It’s for people who have that vision and they want that vision on the page through their images.
To join Chris at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops for “The Surprising Portrait” go (here).
Note: We’ve partnered with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops to interview several of their instructors for upcoming workshops that we find interesting.
Robert King, a photojournalist for the Polaris photo agency, says that he, “had never seen anything like it.” At forty-five, King is hardly a beginner. He started out in Sarajevo, and any photographer will tell you that the Yugoslav wars were no cakewalk. He also covered the conflict in Chechnya, a “dirty” war, like all the rest. But nothing could prepare him for the things he saw in Syria. He had to overcome his emotions to bear witness to them: “If you let your tears blur your lens, you’re useless.”
I’ve always wondered what would happen if I ran into a week where I had nothing to say. If you read my interview with Rob, published Tuesday, you’ll know a bit more about why I’m so fried. Endless deadlines, heading back to Christmas, when I digested the biggest of all: our daughter is coming at the end of August. No extensions possible.
The last time I was this burnt, I made a joke about a de-sanguinated chicken. (I was pretty proud of that one.) Today, I doubt I could drain the blood from a stink bug. And then the house would smell.
I hope you’ll forgive my wallowing, but I just don’t have it in me to be witty or profound this week. It’s hot, my kid is complaining in the next room, and I just want to teleport to the Costa Brava and drown my exhaustion in a pitcher of sangria. A bowl of garlic clams would be nice too.
Before the crash, Americans would head in herds across the Atlantic to Europe each Summer. I’m sure there are still a few people who can afford the airfare, (not including expense accounts,) but I don’t know any of them. My memories of living La Dolce Vita seem like a something out of a Woody Allen movie. Charming, but off.
In 2012, most of us only jet to the Continent if someone else is footing the bill. It’s like a game of musical chairs; if you’re still standing when all the Kickstarter funding has been disbursed, you’re S.O.L.
You’ll have to trust that I don’t plan these things, but we’re going back down a similar road as last week: the Artist Residence. I love it when themes come together. It makes it seem like I have more forethought than I actually do.
Tod Papageorge is a photographer, and also the head of the photo program at the Yale School of Art. Yes, the same folks I accused of running a photo mafia. It’s true I speculated that they might off me for shedding light on the Skull and Bones nature of the operation. Fortunately, their assassins haven’t hit the mark just yet.
Of course, I’m kidding. It’s hard not to respect an institution that consistently promotes sustained excellence. But as to Mr. Papageorge, he was fortunate to have his stay in Rome covered by the American Academy. Artist Residences are a hot topic, mostly because the allure of lounging on someone else’s dime is rather strong.
The artist lived in the Rome for a time in 2010, and “Opera Citta”, published by punctum, is the result. I’m not going to say this is a brilliant book, because it’s not. It’s very well-made, with the block of images released from the spine. They open out in a continuous fold, which is a very enjoyable way to experience the pictures. The paper is durable, so you don’t have to fret about ruining your purchase.
What I like best about this one, beyond the high-class production value, is that you can tell Mr. Papageorge really grooved on his time in Rome. It’s a vibrant place, one that has to meld together locals with multi-millennia roots, hordes of tourists that occupy each Summer, and newly integrated immigrants, who are changing the demographic of the country. It’s a magnificent city, but also a bit of a theme-park. (I’m not the first to posit that the Earth’s post-card mega-cities now belong as much to the world as to their local residents. Seriously, how many of you actually live in Manhattan?)
The book captures the cultural mashup very well. The images are not dramatic, in the conventional sense, but belie an insightful curiosity, and subtlety of vision: The fidgeting gestures of a group of nattily-dressed businessmen cavorting in a piazza. The light of grace on a old woman’s face as she catches her breath on the sidewalk. The glean of sweat on a tatooed shoulder at the beach in Ostia. The calm of a little girl sleeping in her father’s arms at Termini Station. Lovely stuff.
Bottom Line: Very cool book, if you don’t mind Euro-envy
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.
“The more times I see something, the more confident I feel about showing it in the gallery.”
Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
￼Suzanne: I like to check blogs of the agent’s I respect and look at the work they are showing from their roster. I came across this campaign for Puma shot by David Stuart, represented by Blake Pearson and Visu Artists. I went to David’s website to see his work and why he was chosen to shoot this campaign. His work seem very UK to me so I was surprised to see he was right here in the States. And nice to see his conceptual work used in American advertising.
David Stuart: It’s interesting you mention that, I’m a fan of UK advertising.
Suzanne: I was pleasantly surprised to see another talented photographer from Atlanta. It seems as if the city really nurtures creativity because of The Portfolio Center, SCAD and The Creative Circus. Do you agree being around creative people nurtures creative photography?
David: Absolutely, getting to personally interact with other creatives can have an enormous influence on an artist. There’s no doubt that those schools have had a positive impact on the city and everyone here- as well as elsewhere. There are so many great talents that have come through the schools here.
Suzanne: This project was done for Puma’s in-house creative department and it is refreshing to see creative work coming from in house corporate. How did they find you? And how much input did you have in the campaign?
David: The project came through a connection within the VISU group. The concept was already approved and ready to go when the ball was handed off to me, so my job was to interpret. I collaborated with the retoucher, Scott Dorman, closely on this project and quite a bit of research went in to making sure all the technical aspects were correct; we looked at scale of car/driver in relation to people, how many pit crew members, what tools does a Formula One pit crew have, etc…. We explored angles, lighting, and last but not least, all of the little details, like how many crew members were pulling off a shoe, should a crew member be running or pointing; the details can make or break it. On an interesting side note, PUMA flew someone in from Germany to bring us the steering wheel and helmets; the price tag for a Formula One steering wheel is somewhere in the neighborhood of $140,000, a driver’s helmet $7,000.
Suzanne: I love the texture and feel of the track. What went into making the BG?
David: I went to an actual race track and photographed the track looking down from a lift, the tire burn marks and the paint lines are all real. Things were enhanced a bit in post to bring out the texture.
Suzanne: I noticed a campaign on your site with giant children running through a city. Did that campaign help you secure this campaign?
David: I’m sure it didn’t hurt having the Children’s Hospital campaign to show. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was to show the kind of work that you want to get.
Suzanne: You have created work for many great causes like Children’s Hospital, United Way, Union for Concerned Scientists, etc. Have these non-profit campaigns helped you secure higher paying creative work?
David: I recently completed a project for Girl Scouts of America that I was awarded based on another project that I shot for a non-profit. It always feels great to help good causes and every project is an invaluable learning experience.
Suzanne: It looks like you have mixed personal work with assignment work on your website. Is that correct?
David: For the most part the work I show there is assignment, but some of it is personal.
Suzanne: I hear you’re in a band. What do you play? Has your love of music affected your photography?
David: Yes, I play guitar. Music has always been such a huge part of my life and I’ve recently begun to study jazz. I suppose I approach a photo shoot in much the same way I would a live performance; there’s a great deal of planning and preparation that go in to shoot, but at the same time ( just like in jazz) you leave room for improvisation. Music on the set can have a big effect on the mood of a shoot, I’ve found that James Brown is always a good for late afternoon pick me up.
Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.
David Stuart was just ranked by Luerzer’s Archive as one of the top 200 Advertising Photographers Worldwide. His clients include Puma, Coca Cola, New Balance, ESPN, United Way, Children’s Healthcare and Simmons and Girls Scouts of America. David is based in Atlanta and lives with his wife Lara and son Gavin.
“It took a 14-hour day, multiple Korean tacos, a two-foot tall pit crew, David Stuart, and a few spare parts to complete the PUMA Mercedes AMG campaign. David’s passion and attention to detail were critical to the outcome of the project. All parties involved – including the Mercedes drivers – were thrilled with the final images. Without David (and those tacos) this campaign would not have been possible.” Jason Woz – Art Director, PUMA Internal Creative Team
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.