The Tree of Life is a film whose scope and ambition rival that of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

- - Blog News

“In all the movies I’ve done, I always worked with a set of rules — they help me to find the tone and the style of the film,” he says. “Art is made of constraints. When you don’t have any, you go crazy, because everything is possible.” He says his previous movies were dictated by rules such as using only one lens, or shooting the entire film at T2.8.

via American Cinematographer.

Why Does Everyone Think They Need A Photo Book?

- - Book Publishing

A few weeks back I participated in Santa Fe Center’s Portfolio Bootcamp, a workshop they created to help photographers with their portfolio and portfolio presentation. The beauty of this event for me, was the diversity of the instructors: from editorial, to book publishing to curatorial. I always come away with a better understanding of how the other parts of the industry work. There was a great talk on the artist statement given by Katherine Ware Curator of Photography, New Mexico Museum of Art and Joanna Hurley President HurleyMedia, Co-Founder of Radius Books. You can read a summary on Joanna’s blog (here) which I recommend checking out if you need to write an artist statement.

As I was leaving the portfolio review session I overheard Joanna and Maggie Blanchard, Director of Twin Palms Publishers remark to each other how incredible it was that everyone wanted a photo book published. That stuck with me when I got home, so I decided to email Joanna and ask her “why does everyone think they need a photo book” and here’s her answer:

It’s interesting that in this digital age photographers still want a printed book of their work. They believe having a book will give them credibility as artists, and will open the door to opportunities and recognition with museums, curators and the general public.

That desire for recognition and acclaim is not new; what does seem new to me, looking at this from a perspective of 35 years in the publishing business, is that desire often overtakes perspective, and the sense of where one really is in one’s career as an artist, that is, where the work is, and whether or not it is truly ready for a book. While doing a book at the right time and in the right way can jump-start or revive a career, if you do a book too soon or at the wrong time, and without any kind of creative team behind you (such as a publishing company), then it can look like vanity because there has been no one objectively vetting the work and helping you shape its presentation into a coherent, well-designed narrative.

In our age of instant gratification and immediate communication, it is only natural for people to think that recognition of their talent should be accelerated as well, which can lead to the idea that projects may be ready to publish before they are. This rush to market––or bookmaking––can become detrimental to the development of an artist’s voice, and gravitas, and distract from thinking about and making the work itself. By the same token, the ease of communication and the many venues available to artists for sharing their work online can foster a wonderful dialogue that in the end can deepen and strengthen it.

In the end it boils down to the artist’s sense of himself and his creative process and when it is truly complete for a particular body of work. I do believe that a sense of self-awareness and perspective on one’s work are among the qualities that distinguish a truly great photographer or artist of any kind. I am mindful of a quote by Georgia O’Keeffe in talking about her work painting flowers, “to see a flower takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”

Photographers are definitely thinking of photo books in a different way than publishers. The large majority of photographers whom I talk with are relatively oblivious to the constraints under which publishers operate; they see it only from the vantage point of wanting a book and thinking they (and the world) are ready for it. They don’t understand that publishing is a business, so publishers are always looking for what will sell. For the large publishers, it’s generally either going to be a retrospective of a major artist, or a book on a well-known and perennially interesting subject.

The larger publishers operate much more like multi-national corporations (which most of them are), and thus have layers and layers of bureaucracy. It’s much harder for a single editor or even the publisher of a particular imprint such as Bulfinch, which is part of a larger company (Hachette), or even Abrams or Rizzoli (which are also owned by large, European conglomerates) to get permission to take a chance on a relatively unknown photographer or unusual project because of one simple fact: sales. Whereas those publishers need to sell upwards of 7,500 or 10,000 copies of a book to make it work financially for them, a smaller press can be quite happy with sales of 2-3,000––and often the decision to publish at a small press is made by one person.

That is definitely a big difference from the way the business operated when I first entered it. Now it’s the smaller presses who can be more nimble, and can take a chance on the work of an exciting, new talent who is presenting material and process in a new and very exciting way. The editors and publishers of these smaller presses basically act like curators. Their buyers are basically collectors of their books, and often so trusting of their taste, that these publishers can make someone’s career by their decision to publish them, in the same way that a curator can catapult someone to prominence by including their work in a show.

Lucas Gilman On Nik’s Color Effex Pro

This is the debut of a new column where we talk to pros about their equipment and techniques.

by Grayson Schaffer

Last week, San Diego–based Nik Software released the fourth version of Color Effex Pro, their popular Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture plugin. Like Photoshop actions, CEP4 allows photographers to quickly combine multiple small adjustments into different treatments or filters. But unlike actions, and even its own previous versions, CEP4 has a stand-alone user interface that makes adding and blending multiple enhancements fast, easy, and intuitive. We spoke with Denver-based adventure sports photographer Lucas Gilman, one of Nik’s beta testers on CEP4, to find out how it integrates into his workflow. Gilman was recently featured on Good Morning America discussing a shoot of Jesse Coombs first descent of Oregon’s 100-foot Abiqua Falls.

Grayson: What does Color Effex offer that regular Photoshop can’t?
Lucas: It allows a photographer who maybe doesn’t know the technical side of Photoshop to make some really nice changes without having to become a Photoshop master. If you know how you want the image to look, it allows you to do that without having to understand layers or masking.

What’s new in this latest version?
It’s a lot faster and incorporates multiple enhancements on an image within one control pane—what they call recipes. In CEP3, if you wanted to use the Brilliance-and-Warmth filter to add a bit of saturation, you’d do that, and if you wanted to add another filter, you’d have to reopen the image in CEP3 and add a second filter. In this version, you can do multiple enhancements. For example, I like the Tonal Contrast filter; it really brings out the detail in things like snow, rocks, and water. Then I’ll add Brilliance-and-Warmth. It creates a nice, pleasing warmth that doesn’t just look like someone popped the saturation up in Photoshop.

So the algorithms here are more complicated than just mixing Photoshop actions?
Under the hood, I don’t know technically how it all works, but from a photographer’s perspective it allows me to enhance color and saturation without it blocking up and losing detail or looking like a blob of color on the screen. You can also save your recipes so you can reproduce them consistently over a body of work.

With software now making it so easy to give photos these looks, what does it mean for photographers who have built their careers on a certain look?
That’s an open question. I mean the iPhone’s Hipstamatic Prints can do a lot of these looks—whether it’s sepia tone or bleach bypass—that people have spent years and years in the dark room perfecting. It means that photographers have to not only be smarter and produce better images constantly, they also have to understand what the visual trends are and how to consistently deliver to clients.

Is this kind of software good for professionals or bad?
The Nik software in particular allows photographers to remain focused photography and not on the back-end work. It allows people to spend their time going out and doing photography and not being a lab tech.

Here are a few examples of photos Gilman has retouched using Nik filters:


I used Viveza (another Nik product that works specifically with color) to build a mask over the reds on the rocks. It allowed me to bring out the detail and contrast in that rock, which was a bit muddy and shaded. Then I added CEP’s Tonal Contrast filter.

I used the Tonal Contrast on that one, again. You choose the range that you’re changing the contrast on. When you change the contrast in Photoshop, it changes globally—in the highlights, midtones, and shadows. With Tonal Contrast, you can select any or all of those three. So I boosted the contrast on the highlights to help the snow pop on the dark sky. And then I went into the midtones to change the contrast selectively [to bring out the lichens on the rocks]. It’s just three different sliders instead of having to mask off those specific areas.

I try to get the white balance right in the camera, but, especially in snow, you’re often left with a bluish cast. I output it as close as I can from the raw format into tif format, but it’s never perfect. Nik has a filter called Remove Color Cast. It’s like auto-white-balance in Photoshop, but this one seems to work. It removes the color cast without changing the exposure. This way, it you’re not losing any data. For snow and watersports, I can’t afford to lose detail in my highlights. But it’s always a battle.

Again I use that tonal contrast filter, which allows me to keep a lot of detail in the rock. That was in a deep dark canyon. Being able to bring out the detail in that rock without changing the contrast globally really helps to make the image work. [This photo was shot] right after a rainstorm and a shaft of light was landing directly on those greens. That’s why they’re almost nuclear. With the Nikon cameras you can also choose custom profiles. I shoot in “vivid,” which is similar to what Fuji Velvia would have been back in the day.

Don McCullin’s War With Guilt

- - Blog News

McCullin has spent many years battling the psychological after effects of war, trying to balance the quest for excellence in his work with the horrors he’s witnessed.

“It really messes you up,” he said. “It’s incomprehensible the way human beings can slaughter each other in front of you. And you take it home with you. And it’s like you haven’t cleaned your teeth in several months, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

via CNN.

This Week In Photography Books

- - Photo Books

by Jonathan Blaustein

Three raccoons turned up dead here on the farm in the last few months. Most likely the dogs got them, though I suppose it could have been the coyotes. Coons are surprisingly big, and unfortunately the first was in the early stage of decomposition near where some friends set up a campsite earlier this summer. It made for a pungent evening, and for that I’ve already apologized. Co-incidentally, I got to take a look at a new book, recently released, called “More Cooning with Cooners,” published by the Archive of Modern Conflict in London, edition 500. They gray hardback, (with a black stripe across it like a raccoon’s face) is a collection of images from the mid-60’s, taken by an anonymous American hunter/photographer. It’s a little race of a narrative through a subculture of corn-cob-pipe-smoking, tough looking dudes who hunt raccoons with dogs, and collect the pelts for pleasure, (and presumably the marketplace.) If I had to guess, I’d say this book was published as the equivalent of an ironic mustache, but I don’t care. It’s funny, fascinating, and manages to capture the spirit of a little world that would be otherwise opaque, and lost to time. Of course, if the dogs keep bringing down the coons out here, I might be tempted to start grabbing some pelts myself.
Bottom line: Ironically awesome

Visit Photo-Eye to purchase “More Cooning with Cooners”.

 

 

Last year, I reviewed a show of Michael Wolf photographs at Bruce Silverstein in New York. The exhibition was broad, and included many a large-scale mega-print, but I was most interested in some small images of Tokyo metro-riders, their faces squished up against the window-glass like an inverted version of pressed ham. The photos are both voyeuristic and intimate, which is no small feat. As a man who left New York partly because my soul was slowly erased by too many hours spent underground, (watching the rats copulate), I relate to something primal in these photographs. But they’re also fantastic as a method of resuscitating portraiture, because you really haven’t seen a group of pictures just like this before. Needless to say, the photos have re-surfaced, in the proper small scale, as a book called “Tokyo Compression Revisited,” published by Asia One and Peperoni Books. The plates are meditative and absurd at the same time, which is a terrific mix. And the back cover features a dude giving the finger to the photographer, which must have happened more than once, right? Think about it. You’re squeezed from all sides by strangers, some salary-man has his armpit smushed up inside your nostrils, and then you look out the window at some gaijin photographer documenting your misery? You’d give him the finger too.
Bottom line: Spot on

Visit Photo-Eye to purchase “Tokyo Compression Revisited”.

 

 

Capitalism is built upon the premise of forward progress and growth. And yet, one of the great clichés we have is “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That’s quite the conundrum. Fortunately, the artist Simon Norfolk had the brilliant idea of visiting one of planet Earth’s most recalcitrant places, and at the same time, revisiting a previous photographic vision of a mythic backwater: Afghanistan. “Burke + Norfolk” is a large, navy and gold colored hardcover that was recently released in conjunction with an exhibition at the Tate Modern in London, published by Dewi Lewis. First off, I’ve rarely seen an artist work with both color and black and white with equal facility. The contemporary color photos of Afghanistan are striking. But the gem, for me, is the repeated juxtaposition of John Burke’s historical group portraits and cultural landscapes with contemporary images presented in the same faded, weathered style. Rare is the artist that plays with our temporal expectations this well, and in so doing, passes along a strong message: We don’t have things figured out any more than we did a hundred years ago. Societies, and Empires in particular, keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I hope we’ll keep that in mind the next time some asshole like Dick Cheney suggests we invade Iran, or North Korea, or Venezuela, or Mars. Most likely, somewhere with oil.
Bottom line: Innovative

Visit Photo-Eye to purchase “Burke + Norfolk”.

 

Full Disclosure: Books and scans were provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase. Please support Photo-Eye if you find this new feature useful.


why we should be hopeful in this media moment

- - Blog News

I’m optimistic because the shift to digital is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink media business models. Once rich content can be distributed globally at virtually no cost on platforms that have billing relationships already established (iOS, Android, Kindle, etc.), we can experiment wildly with who pays and how much.

Chris Anderson, EIC at Wired via Advertising Age.

The 2011 Magazine A-List

- - Magazines

Here’s the annual Advertising Age list of hot magazines for 2011:

No. 10: The Economist
“increased its paid subscriptions another 5% in the first half and grew total paid circulation 3%”

No. 9: This Old House
“custom video series for Walmart, Home Depot and Jim Beam helped increased digital revenue 25% year over year”.

No. 8: The New Yorker
“single-copy sales rose 1.2%, despite a $1 price hike”

No. 7: National Geographic
“Newsstand is up 5%; ad pages are up 14%”

No. 6: Monocle
“Revenue is rising; profitability arrived last year”

No. 5: Vanity Fair
“99% of Vanity Fair’s subscriptions are paid for directly by the subscriber”

No. 4: Garden & Gun
“ad-page growth on a tear, circulation still climbing and a National Magazine Award for General Excellence”

No. 3: Food Network Magazine
“ad pages through October surged 13.8%”

No. 2: Time
“16.1% newsstand gain”

The Magazine of the Year: Vogue
“increased its January-to-October ad pages more than 9% — to 2,125”

The Editor of the Year: Tyler Brule, editor in chief and chairman, Monocle magazine
“Monocle charts the media trend that’s e-free, profitable and going global.”

The Publisher of the Year: Kim Kelleher, worldwide publisher, Time

Law Firm Going After Photographers Shooting In CA

- - Just Plain Dumb

A California law firm is using an often ignored part of CA labor law to go after photographers, producers and advertising agencies. On the website for the Muse Law Group under the heading Model Rights they state that:

Under California Law, actors, as well as print and commercial models are considered employees, which means they are protected under the same labor laws as any other employees. Yet the entertainment industry frequently treats the talent differently from other employees, or does not treat the talent as employees at all, routinely violating California’s wage laws. For example, in California, actors must be paid on the first pay period following the completion of the actor’s work; and print models must be paid on the last day of the shoot, even if the work lasts only one day.

They go on to say that failing to pay on the last day of employment results in a penalty equal to the average daily wage times the number of days it took to be paid with a maximum penalty of 30 days. In other words, a model you paid $1000 for 1 day of work, but waited 31 or more days to pay could be owed $30,000.

From what I understand the labor code they cite, California state labor code section 200-243, was created to protect migrant workers who are often hired and then released/fired. Seems reasonable except most businesses working with vendors and talent usually pay in 30 days (absurdly longer if you’re a magazine). I’ve been told by several sources that the law firm has sent out demand letters and there’s a rumor they are posting on forums like model mayhem to attract clients.

The California APA sent an email out to its members last night explaining what is happening and advising them that according to a lawyer they spoke with, to the best of their knowledge, there has been no legal decision made on the argument the demand letters are making.  The firm is hoping to settle, which is also indicated on their website where they say “We settle 95% of our cases without the need for court intervention.”

The CA APA goes on to say that you should contact a lawyer if you have been threatened with a claim. They also note that with talent that is represented by an agency the payment must go to the agency where there is a 30 day  re-disbursement of funds. Apparently the real danger is non agency represented talent who must be paid at the end of their shoot under CA labor law. Obviously, talent agencies that want to continue their relationship with photographers, producers and agencies are not going to do much about this, so I believe the real danger is with un-represented talent.

The Daily Edit – Wednesday
10.5.11

- - The Daily Edit

( click images to make bigger )

Bike

Photo Editor: David Reddick

Art Director: Shaun N. Bernadou

Photographer: Jordan Manley

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted.

Heidi: Did you propose this photo essay to the magazine or did they come to you as you are a regular contributor with them?
The images in the essay were actually part of a 3 day photo competition called ” Saint Deep Summer Photo Challenge” that is put on by Saint (Shimano) and the Whistler Bike Park. It is a competition modeled off of Whistler Blackcomb’s “Deep Winter” photo challenge that has been running for the last 5 years – I’ve participated in that winter event 3 times. The idea (for both events) is that 6 invited photographers go out and capture imagery over the period of the same 3 days, with one or more athletes. Then, the teams have to put together a slide show of the images for a crowd of about 700-1000 people in Whistler. A winner is judged by a panel of 5 judges.

Anyways, I’ve participated in a bunch of these kinds of events over the last several years, and always feel that the way to create a strong slideshow is to tell a story, and build a theme with the images – not simply stack together 3-5 minutes of action imagery. Prior to the competition I was thinking about themes that celebrated both the Whistler Bike Park (one of the necessary pieces of criteria) but told a story about people who work there. It occurred to me that the Bike Park trail crew seemed are a group of unsung heroes. Thousands of people rattle down the trails every day from May to October, and the creativity and hard work that the trail crew do to keep smiles on people’s faces largely goes uncelebrated.

Did you spend a full day with the crew?
I spent really only an early morning with the crew, starting at 7am at 711 where they grab their coffee and then drove up through the Bike Park with them and hung around while they did different work on different parts of the mountain. I was there until I think 10am when the park opens for the day.

How much did you shoot and was the edit hard?
I shot quite a bit, but the most time consuming images didn’t end up running in the Bike story. Those were point-of-view ones, where I mounted my camera to the hand tools, and did some digging myself to capture some blurred tools moving through the dirt – those were some of my favourites. Also I strapped a camera on some of the heavy equipment while it articulated. The edit was not too difficult.

I like the hand shot, did that direction come from the magazine? Did they ask you for details and scale shift in the images?
The hand shot if I remember correctly might have been spurred by what one of the guys said to me about his co-worker’s hands. I always try to donate a good chunk of time on any given shoot to the details. I think details can really aid in illuminating something about the larger story that I’m attempting to tell.

So, in short, there was no direction from the magazine. I have done 5-7 assignments for David Reddick who is the photo editor at both Bike Magazine and Powder, and I am a Senior Photographer at both. Most of the time I am assigned stories that I haven’t had part in pitching, though I pitched this essay after the fact to him. I thought the images were relavent since the Whistler Mountain Bike Park is the most famous of it’s kind in the world – it has quickly become a mecca of mechanized mountain biking, and the trail system there is a big part of that success.

What is your riding to shooting ratio?
I think I do a lot more mountain biking than I do shooting mountain biking. Ski photography occupies much more of my time through the year, and my ratio of shooting to skiing is tipped more towards shooting – but saying that, shooting both biking and skiing almost always involve being on the bike or skis to shoot.