A month or so ago, I was watching an episode of the new cartoon, “The Avengers.” (For the purposes of this article, let’s say my 4 year old was with me. Less pathetic that way.) Regardless, Captain America turned to Iron Man and said, “Leaders lead.” I’ve heard that line a couple more times in the ensuing weeks. I suppose it’s in the Zeitgiest.
The opposite sentiment, beyond ubiquitous, is, of course, “Haters hate.” Most popular in hip hop, but now everywhere, it refers to that ever-so-glib portion of the population that likes to tear down others’ efforts, but lacks the stones to put forth their own creations. And I used to be one of them.
Oh, how I enjoyed being a Ryan McGinley hater. I was so well suited to the job. Living in Greenpoint in 2002, when he was first getting traction, I saw a photograph at Priska Juschka in Williamsburg. The lovely Dakota, naked as the day she was born, was illuminated by flash while frolicking in the black ocean. OMG, I said. How hard is it to sell a photo of a gorgeous naked hot chick? Anyone can do that. Whatever.
Then, the legend grew. He too was from New Jersey, and ambitious. Plus, he was younger than I was. When I saw his solo show at the Whitney a couple of years later, my eyeballs almost liquidated in all the seething hater-dom. “Are you kidding me,” I wondered. “How is this different from Nan Goldin?” I fumed. “He’s just photographing downtown cool kids. BFD. Could it be any more derivative?” Yes, I was jealous. But it felt so good. Because in my heart, I was sure that I was better than he, and that was all that mattered. (Fools. I’ll show them all…)
Fast forward to 2012, and the release of Mr. McGinley’s brand new monograph, “You and I,” just published by New Mexico’s own Twin Palms. Can’t review this one, I thought. I’m the charter member of the Ryan McGinley hater club, and what’s the point of trashing his book? But then an odd thing happened. I checked back in with myself, and realized that I had, at some point, transcended the hate. I suppose, as I grew up, I realized that everyone walks his/her own path. Success comes to different people at different times, if at all. Mr. McGinley was an art star, and I was just some guy. C’est la vie. And that’s when I got very curious to see this book.
Yes, it’s filled with photographs of naked pretty young things. (Far more boys than girls, if that means anything.) But so what? It’s not like he’s selling these things at a porn shop. There are easily more than a hundred plates, shot over a ten year time range. What I mistook long ago as cynical booty-peddling has clearly become the artist’s obsession and passion, as valid as anyones’. In book form, it all makes sense.
Certain symbols are repeated, fireworks, falling, caves, rivers, trees, motion, all as backdrops or partner effects to the nude youths. (Or as Joe Pesci might say, the nude “Utes.”) Much as I once saw these subjects as hipsters trying ever-so-hard, in “You and I,” it’s hard not to imagine them as nymphs or wood elves, perhaps Roman gods on a time-traveling vacation throughout the American West. (Where it seems much of the book was shot.) Yes, it all happened, and these are real people, but they don’t seem so. The allegorical/metaphorical nature of work shines.
The color palette is lovely, blues, greens, yellows. The mood is consistent, as is the shooting style. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to hang most of these photos on the wall, (particularly the cum shot, which you know has to be there,) but in book form, they’re pretty great. Definitely his own thing. Nan Goldin’s name never came up in my head, which says a lot about Mr McGinley’s evolution as an artist, and my evolution from hater to open-minded artist/writer/whatever-the-hell-I-am.
As some readers believe everything I examine is a suggestion for purchase, please do read the above carefully. You might enjoy this book, you might not. Clearly, the subject matter is kind of a love it/hate it thing. But at the very least, I can say that this book is well worth looking at, as it coalesces the vision of an important American Artist. (And now, my 27 year old self is dying a slow, painful death, somewhere deep within my psyche. Good riddance.)
Bottom line: Fantastic book, perhaps not for everyone
Full Disclosure: Books and scans were provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase. Please support Photo-Eye.
…she continues to identify as an amateur, or at least retains certain amateur tics. Her portrait subjects are centered in the frame and square to the camera. She shares details of her working process on her blog and eschews tightly edited, gallery-style installations.
[…] It’s fair to say that Ms. Strauss has accomplished more in the past decade than many artists do in a lifetime. With more gumption than wherewithal, she spun a single idea into a magnum opus.
via Review – NYTimes.com.
Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
In today’s feature, I reached out to Bryce Boyer, because the ads he shot show great lighting, clever concepts and the importance of showing your talent to an agency and creative person using a pro-bono campaign to establish a working relationship. The pay off can be huge, many times better than spending thousands on a direct mailer. Creative people look at award winning ads and find photographers to shoot their paying jobs. In the the begining of my career as an art buyer, Jim Erickson would shoot our creative work with little budgets and it was great creative work that got The Martin Agency and Jim Erickson on the map. It is best to look at some assignments based on how they can help the future of your career.
Suzanne: I would assume this ad is a pro-bono project for Burns Marketing? Is that true?
Bryce: I worked with Burns Marketing to create these images to promote entering work into The Denver Fifty (Note: The award show is tonight), a unique advertising competition sponsored by Ad Club Denver that celebrates the region’s fifty best ideas. To honor the spirit of this contest, we developed posters behind the concept “Great Ideas Can’t Hide.” In other words, if you won’t submit your ideas to this show, Ad Club Denver will find them. That’s why every poster has a creative individual who is suddenly aware that someone is stalking them to take their idea.
Through this process, I had the privilege of teaming up with Jennifer Hohn, a fantastic art director at Burns Marketing, who was in charge of developing a marketing campaign to get creatives to submit ideas. This was my first time working with this agency. It gave me an opportunity to further expose my work to them and the Denver ad community. Fortunately, the posters were scooped up in blogs nationwide. Score!
And as a bonus, I thought this was a good time to give back to this vibrant, active ad community. I believe my creative energy should sometimes do more than move products off shelves. Twenty years from now, I want to look back and see my body of work with a sense of pride. So every year, I partner with a few non-profits that I share common values with. It’s a responsibility that has returns that benefit the soul, not the checkbook.
One more quick note about pro-bono work. There is never a convenient time to do something for free. To make it work, I have to schedule it just like any other job and give myself a real deadline. It’s easy for me to do it in my head, but a deadline makes it happen in real time.
Suzanne: Tell me about the lighting on this as the drama of the image makes the viewer stop versus a great headline with supporting image.
Bryce: For years I have built a style around complex lighting that requires a sizable crew and carts of equipment. This job had no budget, so I wanted to keep it simple. Most shots had one Kino for the key light, a Lowell DP casting a shadow from a foam core cut out of the pursuing “shadow man,” and a small Lowell Omni for fill.
But this wasn’t a one-man show. Jennifer art directed all aspects of the campaign. I pulled a favor from a Denver modeling agency called Radical Talent. I wanted to use actors instead of print models. It worked out great. We also shot a video spot edited by Stephen Zinn, had special effects added by friends at Spillt, and final color was donated by Post Modern. The print retouching was also provided by XYZ Graphics. Even though we had no budget, the whole campaign felt like it was a large job because I was surrounded by such an incredibly talented team.
Suzanne: Since this ad was targeted to creative people, did you see an increase in awareness to your work? Increase in work?
Bryce: Absolutely! I didn’t follow it too close because I shot this a week right before my son Aaron was born. At this point, I unplugged and vicariously watched the rest of the team perform the final touches. I work with a lot of local agencies and I’ve seen the posters pinned to walls all over which I find extremely gratifying. Since returning to the studio, I’ve been slammed…in a good way. I have no doubt that most active creatives in Denver saw the posters and this project will lead to more work in the future.
Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.
Bryce Boyer is a commercial photographer based in Denver, Colorado who specializes in photographing dynamic images of people for ads and a few select magazines. Clients include Chaco, Olay, Miller/Coors, Johnson & Johnson, Cricket, The Brown Palace, Denver Children’s Hospital, Visit Denver, and The Sports Authority.
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.
People told me I wouldn’t find a true style for five or ten years, if not a lifetime. It’s held true. Just when I think I have it where I want it, I look back and think it’s crap. I would stress patience and not paying too much attention to other people’s work. Shoot because you love it; shoot the stuff that resonates with you.
I try to shoot in a way that pleases me and hope to connect with art directors and photo editors who resonate with the same things. Those are the relationships that will be fruitful and the jobs that will turn out well.
via The Great Discontent: Eric Ryan Anderson. thx, Charlie
I’ve been following Jake Stangel’s career for several years and noticed recently that he signed with Julian Richards and this month shot a feature in Esquire Magazine. He’s been very active online helping fellow emerging photographers, previously with his forum Too Much Chocolate and now a series of posts on his blog “the four most important things you can do to become a professional photographer“. I thought we should check in with Jake and see what’s going on.
APE: Tell me about yourself and how you got started as a photographer?
Jake Stangel: I was that dude in high school whose hands always reeked of D-76 from processing tri-x and printing in the darkroom without tongs all day long. I was fortunate to go to a public school that had a great photo program and provided all the black and white film I could shoot. Photography is just literally how I’ve identified myself since I was 15 years old, it’s been ten years now. Just constantly shooting, constantly out and about with a camera, always loving it. There’s never been a day I’ve been “over” photography, and I feel really fortunate to have that kind of relationship with the medium.
I went to NYU/Tisch photo for college, really hated what the majority of the photo program was about throughout my freshman year. A bunch of 18 year old egos with pretty shitty work (myself included), listless crits, an even more listless curriculum (I hear it’s gotten better, this was in 2008). And it was expensive. I couldn’t see myself there for 3 more years, so I got out of there ASAP after my freshman year.
However, I did stay within NYU, and followed my own educational path by enrolling in a school called Gallatin, where you can create your own major. I studied photography, marketing, economics, American Industrialization, and did a whole lot of writing over those last three years in college, which was seriously fundamental. I also studied abroad by doing a semester with NOLS in Central America for full credit, which took me about as far from NYC and civilized life as one can get. I would very much advise studying a well-rounded group of subjects in college, stay aware of what’s going on around you, cause there’s alot more than photography in this world.
Living in NYC was also paramount to my development as a photographer, and I got to intern and assist for Jeff Riedel and Richard Renaldi. Both of those experiences were fantastic and I learned heaps. These internships were utterly fundamental in solidifying my desire and motivation to become a photographer myself. I got so excited and happy to be on shoots, I knew I wanted to go for it. So, if college kids are reading this, work for photographers you love and respect. Doesn’t matter how big-time they are, though it’s helpful if they are working!
What does biking across the country (three times!) have to do with becoming a professional photographer? Shouldn’t you be assisting or something?
So I’m a little deranged (or very sane) and love cycling and traveling so much that I’ve ridden a bicycle East to West across America three times over three summers, twice while still in college in 2007, 2008, and once after I graduated in 2009. About 3 months and 3,000-4,000 miles each time. Usually 50-65 towns along the way. Lots of on the bike and off the bike time.
Every summer, the camera became my journal. The trips were just as fundamental to my photographic development as anything I did in college, and built the foundation upon which I still shoot: exploratory, narrative driven, environment-focused, mood-oriented, engagingly quirky photos that are based on wonderful light and interesting compositions. Everything became part of a visual diary, and a cause for exploration with a camera.
These exploration-quests set the tone for me to always be present on the real, live moment, the situation, the snippets of life/human interaction/engagement that mark our lives, our personal experiences, our memories. It lets me shoot quickly, loosely, and lightly. It also lets me jump between locations alot quicker, and allows me be on the lookout for great light and settings to shoot in, and not worry about all 9 strobes firing or wishing I hadn’t planted all my lights in one place.
These trips were also a phenomenal way to build a giant body of personal work, which I was aware of going into it, and really tried to take advantage of every day. Almost every ride and every experience was a “William Eggleston, eat your heart out” kind of day.
After I moved to Portland, OR from NYC, I was able to leverage this portfolio alot, and it helped kind of pull me up out of assisting a little quicker. But that said, I was shooting a crap-ton of personal work every day in Portland too.
I recognized that personal work, and developing a comprehensive portfolio of reportage-y, on-location work was the key to getting commissions. So I just went for it. Assigned myself what I wanted to shoot, then showed that work around, then got actual assigned work that nicely overlayed on top of it.
Seems like you’ve hit a new chapter in your career. The forum you started for up and coming photographers (Too much chocolate) is dead and you signed with a major rep. (Julian Richards). Tell me about it?
Yeah first of all, a goddamn hacker that took the site down. I didn’t pull the plug on it. I was getting pretty overwhelmed trying to maintain it at the end of last year while shooting, and planned to put it on hiatus, but keep it live, as a reference. Then this hacker came in and destroyed it. I’m beyond bummed, it was like 2.5 years of my life and hundreds of hours of time on the site. I think I’m just going to upload a tombstone on the homepage.
I met Julian through my genial photographer friend, Alex Tehrani. I was shooting some snowboarders riding halfpipe in 2007 in Stratton, Vermont for a small snowboard magazine. I was being totally dumb/gnarly by shooting with a 4×5 Toyo camera, which is the worst cause it slows down the process about 15 times, and you just hope the rider is in the right place, took the right line you prefocused on, etc. When a shot comes out, it’s worth it, but you’re so gripped the whole time you’re shooting, thinking about the money sinking through your hands.
Anyway, Alex comes tromping down the pipe in ski boots with a 5D and a huge sloppy grin on his face, and he’s like, “Dude! What the hell are you doing?!?”. He was there shooting Shaun White or Kevin Pearce, I think, for Men’s Journal. A friendship was born.
Alex became, and still is very much a mentor to me. I love him for that. He’s got such a great attitude and life outlook. Alex had been with Julian forever, and over time, sometime in 2009 I guess, he introduced Julian to my (nascent and early) work. So from there Julian and I got to know each other in late 2010 or so, and I quote-unquote “signed” with him in the summer of 2011. It was a totally pleasant, totally slow and totally natural process. Like childbirth. I’ve been told.
Julian’s great, I’m pumped. There were so few agents I took a liking to, where the roster was fantastic and the overall vibe wasn’t “we’re gonna turn you into a slick, photo-taking machine and you’re gonna shoot for Mercedes-Benz”. I really love Julian because he lets all of his photographers be themselves, and he really finds work that snugly fits right along with our personal, natural style, as opposed to jamming a square peg in a round hole.
What’s going on in the northwest, some kind of photography movement? Every time I check out someone new and cool they’re from the NW? Maybe you guys have a gang or something?
Well I moved to San Francisco in the summer, around when I came on board with Julian, but the two happenings were unrelated. I moved cause I wanted more sun, really, and I felt like Portland was definitely limiting my chances of getting work and being as visible as I wanted to. I’d have great meetings with photo editors and at the end they’re like, “where do you live again”, and I’d say “Portland!” and they’d be like, “oh…”. So I split. But I still love Portland.
Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver also have smaller and more transparent communities, where everyone knows each other, whereas in NYC and SF you start to not have that. The Northwest is rad because everyone there is incredibly grounded and centered, they’re much more in touch with nature, the rent is cheap and the coffee is also really cheap yet terrific, and most people grow beards, which helps in some way I haven’t yet ascertained.
So, is everything starting to click for you now? In the first chapter I detected angst, like “when is this career going to start,” but now you must be feeling pretty good?
Well, it’s not like I just stepped into the club and everything started to pop off. It’s been alot alot alot of struggle and getting the angle of my Kangol hat just so and there have been lots of rainy mornings spent getting out of ruts and staying positive and directed. Just tons of hard work. That’s all I can really say. Everyone who you see doing well has worked incredibly hard to get to where they are in their career, they’re all on the grind.
If anything, and I’m sure there’s a business term for this, there was a definite tipping point where I had the ability to channel all the commissioned work I was getting back into my portfolio, and that let things snowball alot. I was no longer having to make personal work to get assignments, my assignments were getting me more assignments. So its almost like all these magazine jobs were doing my marketing for me, because not only did it all become portfolio material, but was turning up in print, and it helps you stay top of mind alot more.
Part of an artists job is to edit during their lifetime. The fact that she made the decision not to allows full exposure. And the rarity of this collection is that it’s a complete archive: the good, the bad, the learning curve, the thematic themes that cropped up. So it’s actually very fortuitous she didn’t edit. Artists are known to be their own worst editors.
by Wonderful Machine CEO Bill Cramer.
For about six years now, I’ve been shooting assignments for AARP. I’ve mostly worked for their member newsletter, AARP Bulletin. And more recently, I’ve shot a few things for their website. They also have a nice magazine called AARP The Magazine, which has a paid circulation of over 22 million according to Audit Bureau of Circulations. The subjects they have me shoot tend to be senior citizens (as you might imagine) and the stories cover just about anything, from nursing home romances to social security swindlers.
Recently, photo editor Bronwen Latimer hired me to do an environmental portrait of a guy named Bob Dunn, who each year flies from his home in Delaware to play Santa Claus at a mall in Oklahoma. (Interestingly, I learned from him that there are three main companies who are in the business of representing professional Santas, and until recently Kodak was one of them.) The photo was for a story on seasonal workers and Bronwen asked me to make a picture of him at home in his Santa suit. I’m not sure how many photographers would think to put AARP on their list of dream clients, but I’ve always enjoyed working for them. Everyone there is really nice, they pay pretty well, they have a pretty reasonable contract and they have a massive audience.
I’ve found that a small percentage of magazines I’ve worked with over the years have no contract at all. In those cases, I send them mine. Of the rest, about half have a contract that governs assignments into the indefinite future, while others, like AARP, send out a contract for each assignment. When I do get contracts with no time limit, I tend to add an expiration date. Here’s the AARP.org contract (click to enlarge):
Here’s how it breaks down:
1) Assignment. Who my assigning editor is and how the pictures will be used.
2) Description and Logistics. Who the subject is and when the shoot is scheduled. I can’t recall if it was the case here, but I frequently get calls for shoots that have already been scheduled. I find that some clients like to lock down the subject first, then find a photographer who’s available on that date. In cases where I’m already booked for that date, I’ll ask the client if I can check the subject’s availability for another available date rather than turning down the shoot, and often that works out.
3) Due Date. Strictly speaking, my normal schedule to turn around a web gallery is 48 hours. But as a practical matter, I deliver it as soon as I can. I don’t necessarily charge a rush fee even if the client asks to see it sooner than that. My normal turnaround time for reproduction file preps is another 48 hours and I frequently do charge rush fees (usually 75.00 additional for 24 hour delivery).
4) Compensation. I normally get 600.00 or 650.00/day plus expenses (assistant, digital fee, mileage, parking, tolls and meals (when appropriate) for assignments for The Bulletin and AARP.org. Many publications pay based on the actual space the photos occupy in the magazine in addition to or instead of a day rate. But space has never been a consideration because the pictures tend to be small in the Bulletin and on their website. They’re capping the expenses at 700.00, which I think is reasonable for web assignments. They seem to have a bit more latitude on Bulletin assignments (and I suspect even more for the magazine). Most contracts will establish that the photographer is an independent contractor rather than an employee, which is fine. However, there may be situations for some photographers who work at the client’s office/studio and with the client’s equipment, that then should be paid as an employee, with the client matching the payroll taxes.
5) Use. Even though the Assignment paragraph says that the picture is for “online and other digital media,” the Use paragraph says that AARP can use it “in any media provided that the photographs remain associated with the Assignment Article.” It’s vague to me whether that means any AARP publication or whether they’re referring just to AARP.org. They can use it for promotional purposes. Third party use is extra. Even though I think it could be more clearly written, I chose not to try to correct it. However, I’ve seen many cases where magazines offer very low budgets and ask for lots of use beyond the basic first print use and I’ll usually strike most of those extras.
6) Recording. Not sure if this applies to “behind the scenes videos.”
7) Deliverables. They ask that the photographer add metadata to the images. That’s unusual, but perfectly reasonable. (Now I just have to get into the habit of doing it.)
8) Representations and Warranties. Fine.
9) Miscellaneous. The agreement lasts as long as the term of the copyright to the photographs. I’ve never seen that before. It’s fine though, and I don’t know that it makes any difference. We will all be long gone. AARP returned a signed copy of the contract to me, which is really nice. Typically, whoever sends the contract signs it last. In cases where the photographer sends a client their contract, the photographer shouldn’t sign it first, because if the recipient makes revisions, it looks like the photographer agreed to those revisions.
Santa was a good sport, as you can see:
Here’s how they used it: http://www.aarp.org/work/working-after-retirement/info-09-2011/holiday-jobs-for-retirees.html
Here’s the invoice and model release (click to enlarge):
Invoice comments: I always refer to the date of the contract on the invoice so it’s clear which contract applies to that job. I have a full-time assistant, but I find most magazine accounting departments want to see an assistant invoice anyway, so I just create one. I usually charge magazines 300.00 for a web gallery and 25.00 for basic file prep. I normally only charge the client for meals if it’s a full day shoot. This one was just a few hours, so even though we had lunch on the way, I didn’t bill it to the client (though I did pay for my assistant’s meal.)
Release comments: I’m not sure what the “good and valuable consideration” would be in an editorial situation like this, but I don’t normally pay subjects for magazine shoots unless they’re hired as professional models. The release says that the model “understand(s) that AARP owns the copyright to the photos.” Not sure why it would matter why the subject would need to understand that. It contradicts the photographer contract.
Interview: When I cornered Bronwen for an interview, she deferred to MaryAnne Golon who was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. MaryAnne is Consulting Director of Photography & Multimedia for AARP. And for those of you who don’t know, she has had a very accomplished career as a photo editor, including running Time Magazine’s photo department for a while and winning lots of awards along the way. She will be on the POYi jury this year for the University of Missouri and she is an advisory board member for Facing Change: Documenting America (www.facingchange.org), “a group of seriously talented photojournalists and writers creating a historical look at America during these turbulent times.” You can read more about MaryAnne at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MaryAnne_Golon.
I know that AARP hires photographers for AARP: The Magazine, AARP Bulletin and AARP.org. Does AARP use photography in other ways or for other products?
AARP assigns original photography for the magazine, the Bulletin, and the website based on established industry editorial rates and licensing. Other areas of AARP may assign photography for advertising, marketing, and promotional uses across all platforms including print, broadcast, and the web. The Brand area of the Association handles celebrity ambassadors and experts and assigns accordingly either for specific uses or as work for hire.
I’ve read that AARP has over 50 million members. Roughly how many people see the magazine, the bulletin and the website?
All 50 million members of AARP receive AARP, the magazine, and AARP The Bulletin by mail. Web usage by members has been on the rise. Here are some interesting factoids from 2011: AARP.org has 5.5 million unique visitors every month with 825 million individual page views.
How frequently do the Bulletin and the magazine come out?
The Bulletin publishes 10 times a year and the magazine 6 times a year.
How do you describe the Bulletin in terms of the format/paper, compared to the magazine (tabloid, newsletter?)
The Bulletin is AARP’s nimblest print vehicle and is intended to be newsy. It is printed on a high grade newsprint and can very much be seen as a newsletter. The magazine is bi-monthly and is printed on high quality stock and is a glossier lifestyle publication.
How much does the Day Rate vary from photographer to photographer or from project to project?
There is little variation of the day rate unless rights beyond editorial are negotiated up front. The magazine day rate is $800 per day and the Bulletin and website pay $600 per day.
Space has never come up for The Bulletin because it tends to use photographs fairly small. Does the magazine pay space over the day rate when they use a lot of pictures from an assignment or large pictures?
There is no space over day rate at AARP. The rates are comparable or above industry standards and include non-exclusive online and one-time print rights for the publications.
Do you have any thoughts about how editorial photographers are going to have to adapt generally, to the changing marketplace?
Freelance editorial photographers will need to develop multiple client bases if they have not already done so. The editorial market is shrinking in the journalism realm, but growing in other areas including lifestyle, fashion, and portraiture. I think social media is a great tool for freelance editorial photographers to link out to their websites and highlight their recent work. Twitter and Facebook are the giants of the social platforms. LinkedIn is a more serious business-oriented site for posting. There are available platforms, such as Tweetdeck, that freelancers can use to post simultaneously to several sites at once to market their work.
If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, contact Wonderful Machine.
One of these assignments was to photograph the Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky, which resulted in one of Newman’s most iconic images, although at the time it was rejected for publication.
For New York–based William Hereford, 27, the former assistant of Chris Craymer, the breakthrough came two years ago with a short video called “Cooking Dinner”. Hereford calls the three-and-a-half minute clip “a technical test, an attempt to shoot video that acts like a still photograph.” He overlaid typography—the recipe instructions for roasted duck—onto the scenes so that the overall effect is sort of like a moving cookbook. The clip was viewed more than 30,000 times and led Hereford into the fuzzy and exploding world of advertorial—sponsored videos that give the viewer something both beautiful and useful but ultimately exist because they’ve got product to move.
GRAYSON: Explain the evolution of your business.
WILLIAM: After “Cooking Dinner,” the CEO of Meyer Corporation called my cell phone and left a message. That was unique; it was a sign of the developing market for this kind of thing. They said, “We really like this but if we just turn it into a commercial, it’ll never get as much attention as your original piece.” I told them I thought we should create content that looks like it was “sponsored by” and not “created for.” Now I throw those words around all the time when I meet with clients. If you want to succeed on the Web, the content needs to look as though it is sponsored content and not content that you created to advertise your specific product. Soft sell, soft sell, soft sell.
Or else make the hard sell. Everything in between is just crap. Some clients call and say, “We don’t want to push the product too hard, but we want to make sure it’s about the product.” And I always say, No, No, if you want to do this, either don’t be ashamed that you’re selling something (like these Old Spice commercials that are going around) or else produce something that looks editorial. And that’s what Anolon wanted. We shot 18 videos for them. The idea was just to show the product being used and shoot something that’s really beautiful to drive traffic to their site. I thought it would be great if we could let each consumer walk away with a service element—a recipe (See the videos here.).
GRAYSON: So what did Anolon do with videos?
WILLIAM: They used them as sponsored content on Saveur’s website [of which Hereford is also a contributor]. If readers of a magazine’s website like the content I’ve created, they’re also going to like the content I’ve created for Anolon. It makes sense for Anolon to advertise with Saveur; it makes sense for Saveur to pursue Anolon. That coupling allows us to have bigger budgets and create better content. I don’t think this was possible before Web videos.
GRAYSON: Where’s the market for this stuff?
WILLIAM: I recently went to a Women’s Wear Daily conference, and I was the only photographer there. It was all marketing people. There was a price to get in, so it was a big investment for me. I thought it was so perfect. I met someone who asked why I was there. I said, Last year 80 percent of my income came from advertorial.
GRAYSON: How do you price this stuff? Who’s to say what it’s worth?
WILLIAM: It’s still the wild West. The print industry has a pretty good structure, but well-produced video just costs more to make. You can’t shoot it with a still camera wrapped around your shoulder and hope that it looks great. Everyone is scrambling. You’ve got to create these pairings between products and editorial in order to get a budget that allows you to do it right.
Almost any half-decent reproduction of the Game of Madness or Blind Woman conveys their power. A photograph by definition is a reproduction rather than an original, a reproduction that carries and confronts us directly with an actual chemical trace of a human being in a particular place at a particular time. If we pause to think about that for a moment, we must admit that this is awesome, but it is an awesomeness of a totally different order to the painterly wonders of a Holbein or a Rembrandt.
For all the controversial, opinionated, and edgy things I’ve written in the last couple of years, I think I’m about to put it all to shame. Here, now, I’m writing my first ever “book not reviewed.” Huh? What does that even mean?
By way of explanation, I should say that I’ve been sitting on a pristine, unopened copy of the new Robert Adams trilogy “The Place We Live,” recently released by Yale University Press. Much as it is akin to career suicide to criticize, let alone mention the Yale Photo Mafia, I’m committed to the path of honesty. Rob encouraged me to speak my truth, and here it goes.
I love Robert Adams’ best work. It’s transcendent. I even drove 700 miles to see the prints on the wall in the reconstructed “New Topographics” exhibition in 2010. Leaving the gorgeous galleries, I announced Adams’ work to be the best, and my three cohorts disagreed. (They voted for Baltz. Who’s now a Facebook friend of mine. What is the world coming to?) Anyway, I think Mr. Adams’ Colorado landscape images from the 1970’s are as important as any group of photographs we have.
The best images manage to walk the line between cerebral and emotional, subjective and objective, wistful and angry, optimistic and pessimistic. One can truly sense the presence of a man, standing on a spot of earth, perusing patiently through glass. And of course, anyone who grew up in a suburb, and then watched the subsequent residents slowly absorb the nature they craved…the work hits home. It was as prescient as it was picturesque.
So why have I been unable to cut the seal on these three books, sitting on my stack for two months now? That’s the question I’m asking myself, now, watching the ravens float through the sky in front of the purple, snow-covered mountains. For some reason, my inability to puncture the plastic seems more interesting here than the books would inevitably be. I feel a bit like Cameron guarding his Dad’s Ferrari. Best not to even touch it.
First of all, there’s the cost, I suppose. $250. For collectors only. Then, there’s the sense of grandiosity. Three books at once? From an artist who’s already had so many books published through the years? Thirdly, there’s the fact that I’ve already been scooped by Alec Soth and Fraction Magazine, both of whom published Mr. Adams’ work in the last month. Finally, I must admit that the sense of rebellion at not opening them is just too great for me to overcome.
That’s why I’m going with the “not review” here. Then, photo-eye can sell them to someone who will cherish them forever. Just like I cherish the memory of that art exhibition in Tucson. I’m certain the books would be great, so let’s not assume that I’m being critical here, I’m just going with the moment.
The reality is, this package in front of me is just too precious. It’s intimidating, like the Torah that I had to carry during my Bar Mitzvah in 1987. There I was, in the midst of becoming a man, rocking the hair gel, and all I could think about was what would happen to me if I dropped that f-cking gilded scroll. I think you have to fast for 40 days if it hits the ground, but I could be wrong. The Hebrew School training is finally starting to wear off.
Maybe I’m just afraid to write anything negative about one of the photography world’s true gods. I saw a small exhibition of his work at the Nevada Art Museum in the Fall, and felt like everything after 1990 was just not up to snuff. So if I don’t open the books, I won’t see the failures, and then I won’t have to write about them.
Or maybe I just like the idea of doing the absolutely unexpected, and not opening the books on general principle? (Like I don’t root for Tom Brady on GP. He’s just a pretty robot.) Regardless, I suppose this is a first for “This Week in Photography Books.” Come back next week, and I promise to talk about the images inside a book, instead of just the box. And if I wake up with a horse head in my bed on Saturday, I suppose that will confirm that the YPM is alive and well. Any contributions, in memoriam of my career, can be sent to the World Food Programme, courtesy of the UN.
Bottom Line: I chickened out of opening the damn thing, but it’s probably awesome
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The day’s final presentation was eagerly awaited. David Lachapelle! Everyone was expecting slightly pretentious extravagance. We were going to show him, the King of Photoshop, what a “real” photo was. Every one was nicely surprised. Lachapelle was very much himself. Humble, funny, immensely cultivated, he shocked everyone! At the end of his interview, he showed us the making of his Pieta. When spectators realized there was NO photo manipulation involved, he triumphed!”
Jean-François Leroy via La Lettre de la Photographie.