This Week In Photography Books – Olivia Arthur

by Jonathan Blaustein

“You can’t kill an idea,” said the great Sherlock Holmes. (As played by Benedict Cumberbatch.) How true. It’s the reason behind censorship, gulags, and Ministries of Propaganda. It’s also the reason that information has become one of the world’s most prized commodities.

Stories are ideas, as well as information. They’re the core methodology through which human knowledge was disseminated before writing. Early humans had stories, and, of course, pictures. It’s always been thus, and unlikely to change.

That’s why we, as photographers, have spread to all the globe’s corners, looking for stories. Personally, I’m not sure why people get so enraptured by tales they’ve heard and seen many times before. (Though that is how children learn: through repetition. Ask any parent who’s seen Madagascar 42 times.) Furthermore, some would believe there are only a few meta-narratives that keep repeating in an endless loop.

I think that’s why Stacy Kranitz kicked up such a shit-storm with that CNN debacle a few weeks ago. Like it or not, whatever her reasons, she delivered images that re-enforced what people already thought, and had seen before. We’re all familiar with depictions of Appalachia, seen through the white shroud of a KKK douchebag. Been there. (Jörg Colberg had a nice reaction to this as well.)

No offense to Ms. Kranitz, of course, but I’m more interested in seeing things I haven’t seen before. (Yes, I know, I’m repeating myself. But not everyone reads the column each week. Forgive me.) When I choose a book to write about, you can be assured that I found it fresh. I look at a lot of books, and many are good, but lack the proper spark for my curiosity. Others, like Olivia Arthur’s new volume, “Jeddah Diary,” published by Fishbar, give me a perspective I’d not encountered.

Ms. Arthur spent time in Saudi Arabia, hanging out with several bubble cultures of women. I’ll spare you any sort of Western proselytizing on why the subjugation of women’s rights in the Muslim world is any of my business. Some would dismiss anything I said as the mark of Cultural Imperialism. (If you doubt that, just ask Pieter Hugo, who defended himself from such attacks in our comment section a few weeks ago.)

Where was I? Right. Ms. Arthur’s book. It’s powerful, personal, and innovative: a difficult combination to conjure. She uses text well, introducing the photos with a bit of backstory, and then including blurbs opposite the pictures as well. I must say, that’s the path I think I’ll take if I’m able to publish a book of my own work. Words and pictures, not one or the other.

But this is a photo blog, so let me at least give the images their due. We see women covered by black abayas, sitting in kitchens and on sofas. But we also see seductive glimpses of flesh, legs in particular, that riff on the supposed reasoning behind the big “cover up” phenomenon. Remove the temptation. Kill the serpent.

Ms. Arthur’s most interesting formal invention, though, is the way she chooses to obscure the faces of women who need the protection. She makes a print, then blasts it with light, and rephotographs it. The scattered glare mars any facial recognition, while imparting a metaphorical discomfort to the viewer. Really smart, and also visually compelling.

The book also delves into hypocrisy, that most human of conditions. The subjects in the book apparently find loopholes through with to party and booty shake, via private beaches and estates. Apparently, it’s OK to show off your belly-button-ring on holiday in Lebanon, but not in the comfort of one’s own home if there are any men around. Typical.

Bottom Line: A fascinating inside view into a hidden society

To purchase “Jeddah Diary” visit Photo-Eye

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.

Facebook will go bust and take the rest of the ad-supported Web with it

- - Blog News

At the heart of the Internet business is one of the great business fallacies of our time: that the Web, with all its targeting abilities, can be a more efficient, and hence more profitable, advertising medium than traditional media. Facebook, with its 900 million users, valuation of around $100 billion, and the bulk of its business in traditional display advertising, is now at the heart of the heart of the fallacy.

via The Facebook Fallacy – Technology Review.

Still Images in Great Advertising – Hunter Freeman

Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.

When I was at The Martin Agency, I had the pleasure of working with Hunter Freeman on many of occasions.  Hunter has always had a great knack for mixing humor with high production value and this campaign for the San Francisco Zoo is no exception.  When I reached out to Hunter, he and his rep Heather Elder were excited to talk about this ad campaign for twofifteenmccann.



 

 

 

Suzanne:  There are so many elements to this campaign, how did you shoot them and later composite?

Hunter: It’s such a smart, funny campaign, and making sure that we had all the elements was key.  We talked quite a bit about what exactly we wanted to shoot, in order to create the strongest images for the campaign.  I scouted the locations, as well visiting the animals at the zoo, and, along with the Ads, we came up with a plan for shooting everything as efficiently as possible.  Many people were giving a lot of their time, and I didn’t want to waste a second of it.

On the day of the shoot, although the schedule was tight, we had no problem moving from one shot to the next at our location.  It really demonstrated the value of the pre-production time we spent scouting, talking over the ideas of what to shoot, etc.  On a separate day after the interiors were shot (it was vital to know the specifics of the scene, such as lighting, perspective, all the details of the POV), I photographed the animals at the zoo.  What a crazy, fun, wild day!  Does anyone realize how noisy penguins are?  How curious they are?  How about how soft Koalas are?  It was a wonderful day, and just a ton of fun to be around the animals, not to mention their keepers, who are the most dedicated and caring people.

Suzanne:  Knowing your quirky sensibility, how much did you add to these concepts to take them over the top.  I see your personality all over the penguin with the papers. True?

Hunter: Yes, for me, the most fun is in having all the characters act like everything is just normal, as though working with animals happens every day.  That’s what makes it funny to me, since it’s just so incongruous that a penguin would need to make copies.  I mean, really, right?  And how the heck did it make those copies?  Jump up and push the buttons? Creating an image that invites the viewer to think/consider about what’s going adds to the fun.  The wrong thing in the right place is great definition of humor, to me.  So, I made sure that everything looked like just a normal day at the office… if your co-workers were giraffes and koala bears, that is.  Boring meetings, cubicle hell, and paperwork… always paperwork.

Additionally, I worked with Adam Moore at Sugar Digital to create the color palette and look of the finished ads.  He is a talented artist, and had wonderful thoughts about how to make the shots really stand out.  He and I share a sense of humor about this kind of shot, and his ideas were beautifully implemented.  The believability of the ads is seamless – the giraffe (for example) really did look like it was stuck in cubicle hell, working on spreadsheets.  “Oh, the humanity!!”

Suzanne:  How has shooting this campaign done for the fundraising for the zoo and how has it done in the award shows?

Hunter: These ads gained a lot of attention, which was exactly what the SF Zoo wanted.  It’s too early for the award shows, but many blogs and sites have picked it up.  Everything was working together for the zoo for these ads:  The availability of space in the WSJ was a real plus, and the result of our collaboration allowed them to connect with the kind of donors they need, with smart, targeted ads.  And personally, everyone I’ve talked to about them responds really well – they really think they’re funny.

Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.

Hunter Freeman likes finding the art in commerce, the humor in a landscape or the uniqueness in a personality. He also likes movies, long walks on the beach, and clichés. Notwithstanding that stuff, agencies such as Martin/Williams, TBWA Chiat/Day, DDB and Crispin Porter (and companies such as Apple) still have come to him from all over the US for a point of view that includes humor, creativity, and a willingness to work as hard and as long as it takes to do the job. Really. All kidding aside.

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.

Review Santa Fe: Photographers Listing

- - Working

Hot on the heels of Jonathan’s post yesterday about the Fotofest portfolio review I discovered that Review Santa Fe has their listing of Photographers whose portfolios made the cut up on their website. I’m pointing it out, because it’s a great resource for anyone who hires photographers for a living. When that was my job I would take time out each week to troll the internet for new talent and running across anyone’s curated list was a great find and could easily suck up an hour of your workday, but would result in a couple new bookmarks.

Any of you who made the list, congratulations and good luck next week. I’ll be around (not reviewing) so come say hi. The website is quite easy to navigate, because you can quickly click to the next photographer (bottom left) and each one is only represented by a couple images. Plus, it lists where they live which is incredibly helpful.

http://www.visitcenter.org/reviews/photographers_listing/review_santa_fe_2012

I must assume, that I failed miserably

- - Blog News

I blew it. I was lost. I don’t know anymore today what the right answer is. In retrospect the problems are the same today as they were then and I am not sure I have learned anything. The light I use is revealing and penetrating. It may be, but it also may not be flattering. My instinct is to get close, when maybe it would be best to stay far away. I am not thinking of pleasing the subject, I am thinking of finding a way into the person I am photographing.

via The End Starts Here — Rodney Smith.

Impressions from FotoFest

- - Art, Portfolio

by Jonathan Blaustein

My feature articles run long. Have you noticed? If it’s not a book review, you can count on me to get verbose and intricate. Conversely, I also love to rebel. So let this be the first brief feature piece, a quick recap of my time at FotoFest (Session 3) this past March.

I suppose I could start with my objectives: to meet with and show work to international curators, and also to get to know some of the curators and collectors in the Houston scene. Unlike my previous visits to Review Santa Fe, this time I was not out to make friends. Just to take care of business. (And I assumed I’d get to hang out with a few interesting photographers as well.)

The trip was a breeze, less than 2 hours on a plane from ABQ direct to Houston Hobby, the Southwest Airlines hub. It’s far closer to downtown than George Bush/IAH, and very efficient, so I’d recommend you use it if you can. It’s an easy-but-not-cheap cab trip to the Downtown Doubletree, where the FotoFest is held. I was told by some colleagues that it’s best to stay there, if possible, and I’d concur.

Upon arrival, I spotted Kurt Tong and Dana Popa in the lobby, both in from London, departing from Session 2. After a quick hello to them, I looked down, and my suitcase…was…gone. Rather than freaking out, like I might have in the past, I sprinted outside and rummaged through the back of the first cab I saw. There is was. So let that be a FotoFest lesson for you: keep your eyes on your business.

How can I condense four solid days of 24 meetings, both official and otherwise? It was exactly what I was hoping for, and perfectly run. Efficient, friendly people in charge, with co-chairs Fred Baldwin and Wendy Watriss offering warm greetings at the first evening’s cocktail party. These people have it down. Clocks are set to FotoFest time, so you always know when your next review will run. Extra reviews are called out, and despite the first-come-first serve notion, I never saw it be anything but smooth.

The reviewers hailed from all over the world, and so did the photographers. (As an example, I met with reviewers from England, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Korea & Argentina.) I was impressed to walk by tables of people and not hear English. FotoFest is also not juried, so the quality of the work ranged pretty heavily. I saw some things that were amateur, to be blunt, but so what? Those people were there for their own reasons, and seemed to be having fun.

Houston is a cool place, too. That’s one thing that caught me off guard. Here in New Mexico, we often have a bad opinion of Texans, though we tend to see more folks from around the Dallas area anyway. But Houston people were down-to-Earth, and the place had a distinctly Southern Vibe. Not a lot of TX accents either, which seemed strange.

Downtown, where FotoFest is located, is a big, wealthy grid. Buildings are like mini-cities, with built-in food courts, malls, and air conditioned skyways between them. I totally want to go back and see how many city-blocks I could cover by abusing those things. (Sorry, off-topic.)

I said I’d be brief, right? I was able to meet some wonderful people from the Houston museum, non-profit gallery, and collector scene. Kind, interesting professionals who work with one another to keep their community lively. Judging from the water features running along the gleaming Light rail tracks, and the ridiculous number of super-extra-double-shiny-skyscrapers, it’s not hard to figure out that there’s a lot of “funding” in this town.

From what I saw, Houston supports the arts, and the arts are happy in Houston. I was able to visit the Menil collection, which is free, and brilliant, but not the MFAH or the Houston Center for Photography. Both are thriving institutions, and it seems like there’s a long list of other museums in town too. (According to the plaque in the airport, at least.) I went on a brief gallery bus-tour via FotoFest, but didn’t see enough to get a sense that the galleries are equally hopping.

I’m not going to name drop my reviewers this time, but I will say that the people I met were professional, smart, honest and curious. (No attitude.) Very few of them had seen the portfolio I had with me, despite the fact that it has been around for a few years. My new work, debuting this week, wasn’t quite ready, so I didn’t bring it. I purposely wiped it off the Ipad, so I wouldn’t cave to pressure and show un-finished work. Plus, the impending project seemed to offer me a great reason/chance to follow up.

I think I got a lot of value out of the FotoFest experience, even though it does cost a fair amount. Lots and lots of conversations with people from other places. New connections, new opportunities, and untaxed beer. Highlights included an evening stroll through the streets with a few friends, and mugs of cold cheap Modelo Especial at an outdoor restaurant on a balmy night. And, of course, the Monday evening party, hosted by HCP at Cadillac Bar, a Texas Honkey-tonk, replete with a dancing Mexican Elvis not-quite-impersonator-house band.

Who do I think would benefit from going to the biennial event? To start, anyone who can afford it as a cost-of-doing-business. I don’t mean to harp on the expense, but we do have a broad audience here at APE. I don’t think FotoFest is realistic for most student photographers.

Beyond that, photographers who have a solid project and want to get it front of a bevy of global decision-makers, all in a brief period of time. Or perhaps others who don’t have a strong community, and want to get insightful feedback on some less- developed-work. I wouldn’t do that myself, I don’t think, but could see that being worthwhile for some. Given the well-oiled grind of a four-day-event, I’d definitely suggest that people be on top of their game

South x Southeast : a new magazine

- - Blog News

everyone said print was dead and I would have to publish online. I don’t think print is dead at all, but it never hurts to listen. So, we decided to publish monthly online first, for economics as well as discovery. The print edition was still on the drawing board as to frequency, content, etc. After the first issue my blatantly honest focus group all said, “This is gorgeous, but when’s the print edition coming out?” So, in December, we began producing print, a composite of images from our first quarter. Our print editions are currently produced on demand by HP MagCloud.

Read more on: La Lettre de la Photographie.

The Daily Edit – Tuesday
5.22.12

- - The Daily Edit

(click images to make bigger)

Elle

Creative Director: Joe Zee
Design Director, ELLE Group: Paul Ritter
Associate Art Directors: Daniel Fisher, Elvis Cruz, Jill Serra
Photo Director: Pippa Lord
Photo Producer: Julie Hammond

Photographer: Olivier Zahm

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

This Week In Photography Books – Bernhard Fuchs

by Jonathan Blaustein

Waiting for the sunshine.
Waiting for the sunshine.
Tired of the gray days.
Tired of the gray days.
Oh, but it ain’t comin’,
it ain’t comin’, Soon.
No, it ain’t comin’,
it ain’t comin’, Soon.

The above text is not actually an old blues song. I swear. It’s an ironic little ditty my wife and I invented while living in Brooklyn. The winters wore me down in an onslaught of gray. Yes, I was Vitamin D deprived, so eventually, we moved.

Here in Northern New Mexico, we get something like 330 days of sunshine a year. No lie. And the depth of our blue skies gives a primal satisfaction to humans and animals alike. (Well, I’m guessing about the animals. I can’t actually speak to them, despite rumors to the contrary.)

The thing about all that sunshine: it’s addictive. Like photography itself, which derives from light, the volume and quality of light become an addiction. (Try saying that five times fast.) I don’t know how people live without it in Portland, as even a few days of gray will start to get me down. Like now.

It felt like Summer in April this year, (Big Ups to Climate Change) but the last four days here have been cold and wet and gray. Bone-cold. Bleak. Monotonous. So I’m feeling depressed. Forgive me.

Given that I can’t do anything to make the sun burst through the clouds, I thought I might as well sink into the moment. Revel in despair. Oh, the misery.

As I sifted through my book pile, though, I came across “Farms,” by Bernhard Fuchs, recently published by Koenig Books in London. What’s that, you say? A book about farms? What’s so depressing about that?

Well, these farms were photographed in the sad, desaturated light of Fuchs’ adopted home of Germany. Not a drop of real color to be found in this one. (Well, beyond a touch of green grass, that is.) We see barns, of course, and hay piles, leafless trees, and a pitchfork that has seen better days.

The book is the metaphorical equivalent of rubber-necking at a car crash. Nasty, on the surface, but impossible to look away. I don’t know why people take pleasure in the anti-aesthetic, (myself included,) but they most surely do.

The photographs are well-made, as is the book itself. It’s wrapped in substantial-feeling canvas, which matches the palate of the images within. So much melancholy. So much ennui. Yet strangely beautiful. Quiet. Lonely. Dignified.

I see images like this here on the farm all the time. (In real life.) But I don’t point my camera at them. I’m too busy waiting for the good weather to come back. So let’s consider this the book review where I bitched and moaned a bit, and gave you the opportunity to say, “Hey, Blaustein, get over yourself. Summer will be here soon. I promise.”

As to the book, which ought to be more of a focus of my musings, it’s really good. I recommend it. But only if you have the mental fortitude to pick it up, revel in its sad light, and then put it back on the shelf. Better to go outside and take a walk after all.

Bottom Line: Beautiful and bleak

To purchase “Farms,” visit Photo-Eye

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.