“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. What if you’re practicing it wrong?”
Sometimes, I like to watch the grass grow. It’s pointless, I know. Impossible. Still, I enjoy it. Sitting still. Listening to the quiet. Learning patience.
Perhaps some are born with more patience than others. If that’s the case, I was at the back of the line. It’s been a slow process, (not ironically,) but I’m finally getting the hang of things. Like a good Zen koan, it’s not a lesson to be learned quickly.
Earlier today, I found myself picking through the remnants of my book pile. Yes, it’s time for a re-up at photo-eye. I’m headed there tomorrow, but that doesn’t help me today. So I decided to take another look at a few books that I’d previously dismissed. Maybe if I just take a bit more time, my opinion might change?
The first couple were still boring, so no dice. Then I came to Viviane Sassen’s “Parasomnia,” recently published by Prestel in Germany. I’d already picked this one up, (and put it down) twice, so I was not optimistic. But hey, you never know. (Plus, I think she was included in MOMA’s “New Photography 2011,” and those guys are never wrong, right?)
The first couple of passes were hard for me, because this is one more project where someone from the First world goes to visit the poverty of the Third. Been there. Done that. And the narrative is non-linear, if one could call it a narrative at all.
This time, though, I slowed down, and realized that the book opens with a short story by Moses Isegawa. Normally, I breeze right past stuff like that. (Don’t you?) But today, practicing my patience, I started to read. It’s about eleven pages or so, nothing too time-consuming, but thoroughly engrossing, and 100% necessary. The story follows a teen-aged boy as he wakes up to another morning of hardship in Uganda, 2011. Dreamy and poignant, it sets the tone for the pictures to follow.
But I’m not sure that “sets the tone” is the right way to put it. This book needs the story. It gives us a time, a place, a backstory, and a vibe. The photos to follow need to be seen in the context of a desperately poor place, racked with violence and natural disasters. The streets smell like urine, kids sit on the side of the dirt roads with their willies hanging out, beer halls rage music all night, jerry cans filled with water must be carried long distances, and opportunities are tragically scarce. People die. People disappear. Heat waves radiate up off the asphalt, such as there is.
You have to read the story to understand Ms. Sassen’s vision. That makes the book a collaboration. Which is interesting. Most essays are throwaways, added to help the publisher feel more comfortable about the possibility of some ROI. Honestly, I’ve heard enough about the importance of bagging a big name to write an essay that no one will read.
And what of the pictures? Are they less good for needing Mr. Isegawa’s context? Not sure I can answer that question. I need to think on that a while. But I’m not here to judge her artistic cannon, fortunately, just a book. And I’m glad Ms. Sassen was wise enough to begin her book as she did. (And that I was forced to be patient enough to appreciate it.)
The photographs range from portraits to still lives to obviously staged situations. Each type of image repeats, thereby moving solidly into the symbolic. Young African men and women, staring at the camera, intently. Caucasian people, hiding from the stark sun with towels and leaves over their eyes. Flowering trees to prove that life goes on, and burnt stumps to remind us that it doesn’t.
Vegetables left to rot on the ground. Tomatoes and corn. Why would that happen in a place with hungry people? Too many pesticides? Was the owner taken away by government agents, his/her possessions dropped behind? We see a freshly-dug grave, several shrines, and a red plastic bag hovering above a concrete tomb.
There are no guns, no machetes, no blood. But we do see a young man in a red shirt sitting in a blue chair that has been tipped onto the ground. And another photo, this one from the cover, of a body floating in the river, face down. Dead? You can’t tell.
I’ve said the in past that I don’t Google to get a better understanding of a book. If I’m supposed to know something, I expect it to be there for me to parse. But in this case, I did look up the word “Parasomnia,” just to be sure. It describes certain sleep disorders, from night terrors to sleep-walking, that afflict people who don’t sleep well enough. It leads to delirium, I suppose. But it also fits perfectly with the surreal but familiar feeling of this book. Not a bad title, given what lies within.
Bottom line: Cool book, reading required
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’ll be at Shoot LA on Saturday giving a workshop from 3:15 – 4:15 PM on Social Media Marketing. I’m going to get you pumped up to use social media for marketing your work and finding an audience for projects and ideas you have. I see that Andrew Southam has a discussion from 11:45 – 1:15 and there’s a bunch of other cool workshops and talks so it looks to be worth checking out. Come say hi if you’re going to be there, I always enjoy meeting readers.
More info here: shoot-la.com
I think that Hetherington’s images from Afghanistan will end up being THE images from this particular war; put them on the shelf with icons by Capa and Smith and the rest of pantheon of great war photographers.
via DLK COLLECTION.
Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
I first met Jazzmine when she was a studio manager for a New York City lifestyle photographer and wanted to go out on her own. She hired me to help her make that leap and present herself professionally. When Jazzmine showed me these “jib-jabs”, I thought they were perfect for this column and I asked her if I could include her. I want to illustrate that your still images can be used in motion and in a comically way. I also want you to be careful to “cap” your usage to protect yourself so you will have the possibility of additional compensation.
Suzanne: You shot this campaign for a local grocery chain in New York City. For the print portion you got a lot of character from real D’agonstino’s employees. Did you ever think it would inspire the client to create these “jib jabs”?
Jazzmine: Ha – Well, if I’m being honest, no. The D’Agostino shoot was my first time collaborating with the creative agency, Grok. I came in guns blazing to guarantee I nailed the lighting and I wanted to make everyone present feel as comfortable and happy as possible.
My mind was solely focused on the present. That being said, the men I photographed were definitely not short of character and Tod Seisser, the Creative Director, and I had a great time with them. Grok saw something more in the work and used it to their client’s advantage.
It definitely opened my mind to the importance of shooting more than less and the value of capturing spontaneous expressions when they come.
Suzanne: And this brings up a new trend in shooting for clients. When you shoot a campaign, you want to shoot more. How do you protect yourself in the verbiage on usage so you can be additionally compensated?
Jazzmine: You definitely want to shoot more than less. I feel the best photographers do, by default.
The industry’s outline of usage is changing and it’s smart for photographers to adjust their outlines to change with it. Clients don’t want to have to come back to you every time they have a new place to use your images. Instead, they’re looking to do full buy outs of the images for a period of time. Photographers can use this to their advantage and negotiate for a full buyout from from the beginning, which means happy clients, and happy photographer with the bigger buyout payment.
Additionally, its always best to be as clear as possible going into a project rather than drawing lines once it’s been completed. Every photographer should educate themselves on the types of usage and the rates that apply within different markets. When you have that basic knowledge you’re in a better place to negotiate. With D’Agostino, the initial usage was for print only. So when the animation came up, it was clear that it would require additional licensing and Grok contacted me.
Suzanne: As a photographer breaking out to full time, what advice would you give someone wanting to make the same leap?
Jazzmine: My advice would be to stay focused. Always be developing your craft and educate yourself to stay stylistically current, technically current and socially current.
It’s also very important to remain humble and learn from the people around you. When good things happen to you (and they will!), it’s definitely because you’ve been working for it. But it’s also because someone went out of their way to give you an opportunity.
A thank you goes a long way. Never fall into the trap of entitlement. And, prepare yourself as much as possible for the transition, but there’s never going to be a “perfect time” to make the leap. You simply have to take a chance to grow.
I recently saw a Henry Miller quote on www.vanderbiltrepublic.com that meant a lot to me:“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.” My short answer, Believe in yourself.
Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.
Jazzmine moved to New York at the age of 19 from Maine. By the age of 25 she was shooting her own produced campaigns. By the age of 27, her campaigns went international. Working with Tod Seisser of Grok, she photographed a portrait series for Taleo that was immediately written up in Adweek and ran in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Review and Business Week. But more exciting is that it ran in Germany, France and the UK.
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.
…photos that accompanied the article — of Asma al-Assad, her husband and two of their children at home in Damascus — were facilitated by an American public-relations firm working for the Syrian government. The firm, Brown Lloyd James, was paid $25,000 to set up a photo session with James Nachtwey, the famed war photographer…
via The Washington Post.
Five and ten years ago we were wondering whether people would ever pay for digital media. But now the question isn’t whether people, young and old, will pay — it’s how the hell to figure out how much to charge them…
by Jess Dudley Wonderful Machine Producer
Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are advertisements intended to raise awareness of a topic and to change public attitudes (rather than sell a product), often advocating better health practices or safety. The typical patron of a PSA is a government agency or non-profit aimed at improving public welfare.
Recently, one of our photographers was asked to submit a cost estimate to produce some photographs for a PSA. Though the concept was simple and straight forward, the details were still a bit vague when the photographer contacted me for pricing help. Here’s what he knew:
- He’d been contacted by the creative director of a mid-size East Coast ad agency.
- The client was a large non-profit organization whose primary interest was in public education and health policy.
- The PSA concept featured a close-up portrait of a woman in a light filled, airy environment. About half the frame was negative space for copy, and there was a “gritty” treatment layer overlaying the image.
- The talent would be a real patient who had realized the benefits of the non-profit through improvements in health care practices.
- The use was described as a PSA that will be distributed on the non-profit’s website, possibly in print publications and in the form of posters hung in airports and train stations.
After reviewing the details and discussing possible production approaches, the photographer and I developed a list of questions to ask the creative director and got the following responses:
Wonderful Machine: Would you like us to cast the talent or will the talent be provided?
Creative Director: We’ve already selected the talent and determined availability.
WM: The comp hints at more environment than a studio sweep, would a white daylight studio work as a background?
CD: We’re open to shooting at a daylight studio. We just don’t want flat seamless. We want some texture to the background. A window, horizon, clouds. Something to subtly break up the negative space.
WM: What duration of use will you need?
CD: 3 years.
WM: What is the geographic distribution?
CD: Southwestern United States.
WM: Do you have a budget in mind?
CD: Nothing set in stone, but we need to mind our “Ps and Qs.”
WM: We think this can be accomplished at a studio in a few hours, are you expecting to shoot for more than about half a day?
CD: We only have the talent for 3 hours in the early afternoon. So it will have to happen in half a day.
WM: Will anyone from the Agency and Client be attending the shoot?
CD: Yes. Two people from the agency and one from the client.
Although the PSA would be displayed like a typical commercial ad, it’s purpose was not to generate revenue, but rather to promote public awareness. So it’s not worth nearly as much as a regular ad shoot. Additionally, the concept was straight forward, the talent would be provided and the shoot wouldn’t take more than 6 hours including set-up and break down, which is a consideration. BlinkBid shows the fee for regional Collateral, Out Of Home and Print Use at 2800.00 – 4000.00/year. Additional years aren’t discounted in BlinkBid’s Bid Consultant. So for 3 years they price this use between 8400.00 and 12000.00. Also, there’s no specific selection for PSA use in BlinkBid. Corbis doesn’t provide regional pricing, only national. They price the OOH Use at 1170.00 for the first year, Print Use at 7815.00 and Collateral Use 2550.00. To extend the use to 3 years, Corbis multiplies each of those numbers by about 1.66 bringing the total for this use to 18,456.00. They also don’t have a specific selection for PSA use. Adjusting for regional rather than national use might bring it down to around $10k which is in line with BlinkBid. This is really the kind of project where the fee could be anything, depending on the cause and how the photographer felt about it. After discussing it with the photographer, we decided that we wanted to come in at about 1/2 of the normal advertising rate, so we settled on 4500.00 for the fee.
Since the lighting would consist entirely of natural light, the photographer only needed one assistant on set during the shoot. The digital tech would provide an extra set of hands to help load in, set up and break down. During the shoot, s/he would man the laptop, wrangle images and process galleries.
The photographer owned all of the equipment he needed for the shoot. He’d be using a camera body (@250.00/day), two fast lenses (firstname.lastname@example.org/day), and some miscellaneous items like a reflectors, flags, silks and stands (@200.00/day).
The photographer also had his own shooting space. He charges 500.00/day to rent the small studio which would be ideal for this shoot; white, with a couple nice big windows.
Since we were only shooting one subject from the shoulders up, we were comfortable working with a stylist capable of light wardrobe styling and hair & make-up. We budgeted a half day to buy 200.00 worth of wardrobe. We would ask the subject to bring some of her own clothes as well.
Since the crew and agency would be setting up for the shoot around lunchtime we included catering for the crew, talent, agency and client. Generally we’ll budget 35.00 per person for light breakfast and lunch but were able to trim it down to 25.00 per person since we wouldn’t be providing any breakfast.
Indexing is what that photographer likes to call it, but we normally call it Digital Capture and Delivery by Web Gallery for Editing.
Retouching hours to apply the gritty treatment layer to the image after basic processing.
Miles, parking, shipping, insurance and miscellaneous was pretty low since the shoot would take place at the photographer’s own studio.
Lastly, we made sure to clarify that the talent would be provided by the client or agency and that a 50% advance is required to initiate production. After attaching our standard terms and conditions we sent the estimate to the client.
Wouldn’t you know it, a budget materialized 10 minutes later.
WM: Just calling to follow-up on the estimate. Do you have any questions?
CD: What can we do to get this down to 7600.00?
WM: Right off the bat, one thing we might be able to do without is the additional wardrobe. Would you be comfortable relying entirely on the subject’s own wardrobe? (That would knock of 200.00 for the wardrobe and 325.00 for the stylist time.)
CD: Absolutely. I’ll ask her to bring a dozen tops.
WM: Are you comfortable reviewing images straight of the camera or do you need a separate display? (That would be 300.00 for a second assistant rather than 500.00 for a digital tech.)
CD: If it gets me closer to 7k, I’m cool with it.
WM: Aside from the licensing, there’s not much else than can be easily trimmed. Let me check in with the photographer to figure out a way to come shave off another 600.00.
CD: Great. Let me know what you can do. This is a hard 7600.00.
After contemplating the peculiar budget, we dialed down the use from 3 years to 30 months, reducing the fee and bottom line by an additional 500.00. The last hundred came out of the equipment rental line. Since he’d be using his own equipment he could bend a bit on the rates, particularly for the miscellaneous stands, reflectors, etc.
We submitted the revision, the creative director quickly approved it and the shoot went off without a hitch.
If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, contact Wonderful Machine.
Clients are always eager for new talent, and it’s a blessing when that “new” talent has 15 years of work behind them. With the market the way it is, it’s better to have somebody with a great big body of work to present upfront.
I’m a big fan of Magnum’s Postcards from America effort, whose latest project House of Pictures has ten Magnum photographers working in Rochester. The tumblr feed from Rochester is fascinating and not unlike the experience of sending someone out on assignment and unpacking the results in your office after it’s over… only this one is live. They’re half way through the event which is taking place from April 15 – 29, so now is the perfect time to jump in and look at the images already created and follow what’s to come. They’ve got updates on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook plus a Flickr group where the public can participate by tagging images “Rochester”.
With events like this Magnum is clearly taking a leadership role in defining the future of photographers on assignment. Not only expanding the minds of their members but also experimenting with social media, photographers working in groups and projects without boundaries. There’s a saying in silicon valley startup culture: “fail fast and fail often” that would be an appropriate manta for this effort and for anyone else who’s looking for answers to the future of media and professional photography. “Fear of failure stifles creativity and progress, so if you are not failing you not going to innovate.” (source). That’s not to say House of Pictures is a massive failure but rather that some of the things they are doing may not represent a way forward, but by experimenting they can see what works, measure the results and apply what they’ve learned.
There are similar efforts underway with other groups, most notably Luceo’s “Few and Far Between” and the ILCP’s RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition). I would advise everyone to pay attention and see what develops. Not only is the photography awesome to look at, it will get the gears turning in your head on where the future lies.
…the ‘decisive experience’ is now as meaningful as the ‘decisive moment.’
A Postcard From Rochester via « LITTLE BROWN MUSHROOM BLOG.