Click to make bigger.
No…anything is game these days. Recently National Geographic ran a series from my Echolilia project and, due to their standards, they wanted to use the raw files, unretouched. We agreed and ran them unretouched, and I don’t think anyone noticed the difference. It’s so easy to get wed to perfection and sometimes, in the end, no one notices.
Just finished reading a fantastic series of posts (6) by QT Luong about his journey from amateur to professional photographer. What makes the series so fascinating is his honesty and his analytical way of looking at how photographers make a living. If you have the time today it’s worth checking out the whole series even if a personal stock photography business is not your cup of tea. I’ve pulled out a few interesting nuggets from each post for you:
Sure, in the late 90s, my mountaineering images had appeared in various specialized magazines, but the thrill back then was more in climbing the routes and getting published than anything else. For instance, when Climbing Magazine published on a double spread my picture of the summit ridge of Mt McKinley (incidentally taken with a P&S Camera, the Yashica T4), it was the memento of being there and creating that image in difficult conditions which brought the most satisfaction. To submit images, you had to label meticulously slides (by writing or printing on the mount), stuff them into slide pages, and send them around, hoping that they wouldn’t get lost or damaged in the process. When your images would come back, weeks, or most often months later, you’d have to refile them carefully in your folders. It’s not something that you wanted to do by yourself on any large scale.
I began to progressively increase the time I’d spend to develop my photography business, reducing my work hours proportionally to the progress of that business. I first took leave without pay, then officially changed my work status to part-time, with the limitation that I needed to put 50% of the time to keep benefits. My approach was to operate at a constant income level – which actually requires an increase in income, once benefits are factored in: if during a given year I’d make with photography the equivalent of, let say, a month of work, then the next year I’d work one month less. Within five years, my income from photography had exceeded my (hypothetical) full-time income in research. I stayed at SRI one more year, to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. At that point, I didn’t have enough time to work even 50% at SRI, take care of the photography business, and take care of my family, so it was actually with a sense of relief that I resigned from SRI and became a full-time photographer.
Photography has become such a difficult business that I recommend such a path to anybody whose work is flexible enough. I was certainly fortunate that this was possible for me. In fact it was one of the reason I stayed in academia. In hindsight, I must say that this prudent approach probably limited what I was able to achieve, for in the recent years, the photography business has become considerably more difficult. If I had jumped in 100% ten years ago, I would have been able to take advantage of a window of opportunity which has since then disappeared. I could have also used a couple of years on the road before our children were born. However, this is merely hindsight. I wouldn’t have been able to predict that my novel approach to the photography business ( I will elaborate in future posts) would work that well, like I was unable to predict that a start-up company whose name is now synonymous with internet search would do so well. When they approached me in the early 2000s, I turned down their interview offer, as I was already too focused on a future in photography. Maybe I have not arrived to a better place, but so far the journey has been interesting…
It is often said that a photographer with great work but no promotional plan will make less money than a photographer with average work and great promotion. So if you are trying to make a living in photography, promotion should be a priority.
Be aware of what others have done, study and understand what has worked and what didn’t for them, but don’t automatically try to copy their efforts. Your photography is what it is because you are unique. So should be your promotional efforts.
Creating beautiful and meaningful photographs is hard enough, but making a living of them is even harder. For most who manage to do it, there is not a single source of income, but rather a wide variety of income streams that hopefully accumulate to form a large river.
my photography income is almost entirely based on the sales of prints and licenses of images created on self-assignment, through this website. The mode of operation of the business was therefore the following: I visited on my own locations of personal interest to me, created photographs there, published them on terragalleria.com, and waited for visitors to find them.
The internet has transformed how we access and consume information. Potentially anyone with a computer and a connection from around the world can see your images around the clock, opening up for the first time a line of direct communication between artists and art buyers. People do not visit your website because you handed them a business card, but because they somehow found it on the internet. Yet, this seemingly random mechanism can sometimes provide a number of viewers comparable with traditional media, at an extremely low cost. This makes the internet the first affordable medium for pull marketing.
To give some numbers, in the year 2009, terragalleria.com received 5.7 M visits. This was measured using the great Google Analytics, which offers (since 2008) the most accurate site statistics because it automatically disregards numerous visits by the search engine crawlers, unlike for example Webalizer. That year, we sold 267 prints and 148 licenses, which actually generated more revenue than prints. So it took 21,000 visits to sell a print and 38,000 visits to sell a license. True, if we had priced our licenses and prints at a lower point (prints currently start at $350 for the smallest sizes), we would have sold more, but that would have meant more work. We were pleased enough with the balance of revenue and work at our price point, which catered to high-end buyers, but this choice has to be different for each photographer.
Artwork is not a commodity, therefore priced accordingly, and seldom bought as an impulse purchase. On the other hand, search engine users are fickle. In my case, the majority of them stay less than a minute on the site. The majority do not visit any other page than the one they landed on, returning immediately to the search engine page (this is called a “bounce”).
as a photographer, your ultimate goal should be to create superlative photographs, lots of them, that are good enough to make people want to link to you. So it comes down again to great work: the best you can do to improve your SEO is to go out and photograph.
Happy Tuesday after the holiday. If you want to kill a little time today and have a laugh check out the “I’m an Art Director” xtranormal video:
I know there are lots of funny ones out there, leave your favorite in the comments.
I awoke to the bleating ring of the landline, ruining a perfectly good dream. Lacking coordination, I smacked at the phone, glancing at the clock as I pulled the handset to my ear. It was 6:30 in the morning, Pacific Standard Time. Too early for good news. On the other end of the line, my mother started yelling at me. She was crazed, like a fanatic speaking in tongues. “We’re under attack. We’re under attack. The towers are gone. The towers are gone.”
“Mom,” I replied, “calm the fuck down. I can’t understand what you’re saying. There are no aliens. We’re not under attack. And it’s really not funny.”
“Oh, Jonathan, it’s so horrible. We’re under attack by terrorists. They flew airplanes into the twin towers, and they’re not there anymore. They’re just gone. The Pentagon too,” She finished. “Turn on the television. You’ll see.” So I did.
I would have been there, like so many people reading this, but I almost chopped my thumb off while opening a can of tomatoes. (Lots of blood.) The incident, or accident, occurred just after I was accepted into Pratt, in early 2001. The recovery was such that I deferred a year, planning to move to New York in July of 2002 instead. So if not for the jagged edge of a Muir Glen tomato can, I would have been living in Brooklyn during the tragedy. But I wasn’t. My girlfriend and I were living in San Francisco instead, 3000 miles away, and only heard about the thing after the fact. Kind of the opposite of having been there.
It’s ten years later, and if there’s anything I’ve learned in my life, it’s that people like round numbers. (This from the dollar guy.) The memorial services are done. The names of the victims were read. Candles were lit; Tears absorbed into shoulders and hair. And of course, the anniversary exhibitions are up on the wall. It so happened that I was in New York in the end of October, and had the chance to see the September 11 show at MoMAPS1 in Long Island City, Queens, just across the river.
I might have neglected to mention that the particular New Jersey suburb in which I was raised was just a few miles down the road from Atlantic Highlands, the tallest point on the East Coast (At a meager 300 feet or so.) We had hills in my town as well, and were close enough to the bay to see the Twin Towers presiding over the city across the water.
My family rarely went into New York, it being the dicey late 70’s and early 80’s, and I was a bit of a wimp about the whole thing, truth be told. But those towers… I saw them at least three times a week. Two big, phallic, shiny symbols of the wealth and power of Wall Street, New York City, and by extension, the United States. They dominated. And now they’re not there.
The skyline has seemed imbalanced to me ever since, the midtown skyscrapers taunting Wall Street, perhaps enticing a Napoleon complex that begat the Great Recession. And, really, what has changed? We take our shoes off at the airport. We color code our fear like stripes on a lollipop. Fanatical loonies tried to blow up airplanes with bombs in their shoes, underpants, and even a printer cartridge. But so far we’ve been lucky.
We have a bi-racial President now. That’s big news. And geeks run much of the known world. (Seriously. Mark Zuckerberg gets laid on a regular basis. Enough said.) We went to war, twice, and are thoroughly in hock to the Chinese. All because we had to have those two wars, and some tax breaks to boot. Not a lot of value out of those purchases, if you ask me.
Now it’s nearly 2012, and so we might ask, with all the 9/11 hullaballoo, “Why an art show?” Why go to the trouble to collect items from around the world, paint the walls, pack and unpack the shipping boxes, spend a fortune on Fedex, re-write press releases until your carpal tunnel gives you a migraine, just to invite some people in once the lights are on, to look at some photographs, videos, paintings, sculptures, and drawings?
Why indeed? I suppose, as I describe the work I saw that day, the answer will become evident. One would hope.
Lets’ be honest: these articles always seem to run long. I’m aware of that. Perhaps I have a hard time expressing myself in few words. Who knows? In case you don’t feel like reading to the end, let me break it down succinctly. If you live anywhere near New York, you ought to go see this show. How’s that for brevity? Just go. Swipe your Metrocard, drop the $10 at the front entrance, and go inside.
The exhibition begins on the second floor of the former school building, and the wall card announces that almost none of the work was made in response to the September 11 attacks. Much of it was even made before the event. I was curious, and a tad dubious, to tell the truth. If the work was decontextualized, then clearly the curator’s POV would dominate the show. The entire exhibition would be one giant installation by Peter Eleey, the curator in charge. Pretty ambitious.
Normally, in these reviews, this would be the point where I meticulously detail each and every thing I saw. But I don’t want to do that. It seems forced, as I sit here at my kitchen table, 2000 miles and six weeks removed from the actual experience. There was a surreal poetry and magic to my time in the September 11 exhibition, and I’d rather try to recreate a fragment of it. I can conjure the best of that day in my mind, easily, so let’s start there.
One of the first pieces to slam me in the belly was a pair of framed, 4 foot square bulletin boards affixed to the wall, replete with pin holes, staples and paper scraps. (“Nothing prevents anything,” -07-09, by Harold Mendez.) Each sat on the wall on opposite sides of an entry way, like lions guarding the gate. Bulletin boards? If I saw them in a gallery in Chelsea, I’d probably giggle, and shake my head at how far people will go to be the first to call something art. But here, in this context, they felt empty, vacant, purposeless, forgotten, as if they were hanging in an Elementary School during Summer session. I thought about the kids who started that Summer, in 2001, with Dads and Moms, and then, shortly after Labor Day, they were gone.
Normally, we see work like this in quiet. People in galleries and museums are more silent than a tennis audience. Here, though, in this very room, there was music piped in. A grand, emotional, film score, by the great John Williams. (Yeah, the guy who did Star Wars.) A wall card explained that the music was the theme from the forgettable Mel Gibson crap-fest, “The Patriot.” (Which was apparently then appropriated by Barrack Obama during his 2008 victory speech.) So. Ironic. That. My. Head. Almost. Exploded. All the same, the emotional music definitely made the viewing experience more poignant.
What else? In the middle of the room, there was a nearly 20 foot long sculpture on the floor, made of ash. Long and narrow, the material was configured into the undulating form of a lunar-scape, with faux mountains and valleys seen from above. Astonishing. It looked a little like a 3D, gray-scale version of one of Motherwell’s Spanish Elegy Paintings. But it gets better. A look at the wall text explained that the ash sculpture, by Roger Hiorns, “Untitled 2008,” was actually an atomized passenger aircraft engine. Ash, the dominant symbol of that horrible day, here literally made out of a plane engine. That’s about as good as it gets.
Except that it was just a part of a larger whole, the gestalt of the entire gallery. The ash led the viewer, like a psychedelic arrow, straight up to a George Segal sculpture called “Woman on a Park Bench.” A lady sits, eternally, white patina over bronze, on a black bench. Waiting. The sculpture has been placed before a vaulted archway, and is backlit, like a knave in a Gothic Cathedral. It’s not hard to see her as a symbol of a grieving widow, immobilized by sorrow. Forever.
And in case you weren’t paying perfect attention, all of the above is simply one gallery in a much larger exhibition. I can’t think of a more touching tribute, and yet it was the work of the curator, as much as the aggregate artists. If you don’t believe me, just look up George Segal on Wikipedia. He died in 2000.
I enjoyed seeing a painting by Maureen Gallace, a drawing by Mark Lombardi, and a photograph by Thomas Demand. All good, for sure. But the next great thing was a worn, black suitcase on the floor, sitting in the corner of another gallery. It reminded me of the room of shoes at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Israel. Those little, human details that bring Geo-Political horror down to the human level. Seeing the suitcase, we can imagine it belonging to some random guy who never made it back to Penn Station with his claim ticket. Or sitting on a sidewalk somewhere, after having been blown out an open window.
It was a piece of found sculpture by Lara Favaretto. The object was part of an ongoing, obtuse project where she buys one suitcase a year at a flea market, locks it, and then never opens it. Just the sort of boring conceptual project that gets far too much attention, but in this context, it was brilliant.
Diane Arbus, perennially popular, was represented on the wall with “Blowing Newspaper at a Crossroads, NYC, 1956.” The photo was dark, fuzzy, abstracted and a bit menacing. One I’d not seen before. Here, it spoke of the itinerant trash roaming the empty streets in the aftermath, hours after everyone still standing had gone home.
In a similar vein, a room otherwise full of black and white images and objects contained a dash of color, courtesy of William Eggleston: “Untitled (Glass in Airplane, 1965-74). A single plastic cup of Coke sits on a lowered tray table, backlit by gleaming light streaming in through the window. Anywhere else, it reminds of a stained glass window. Pretty. Contextualized, it puts you in the first person position of someone sitting on one of the planes, quaking at the thought of the crazy dudes holding box-cutters in the cockpit. What a horrible fucking way to die.
Elsewhere in that gallery, the walls were covered by a collection of B&W photos by John Pilson, from the series “Interregna” from 1998-2000. Mr. Pilson apparently worked for an investment bank in Lower Manhattan, across the street from the WTC, and made documents of the office experience in the late evening and early morning hours when no one was around. They were literal, and well-made, but in the show, one thought immediately of the empty offices, abandoned while people streamed screaming down the stairwells in the moments after impact.
To finish it off, a white pedestal sits in the middle of the room, with a glass vitrine on top. Inside, “Snapshots from Baghdad,” from 2007, by Roman Ondak: A matte black disposable camera with undeveloped, exposed film. All black, it looked a bit like a gun, just another way to shoot. Undeveloped, it spoke of unfulfilled potential. Baghdad, it reminded of the War rounded up like a posse in the victims’ names. And that was not the only Iraq reference in the house.
From there, I wandered upstairs, towards an abandoned looking section of the Museum. I ran across a man, coming in the opposite direction, who snickered, “It’s nothing but empty rooms. You might like it more than some of the art.” Classy. I pushed on anyway, and found that he was right. Empty rooms only. Early stage installation in progress. The galleries were the same as the ones below, but they lacked the life, the light, and the energy of a finished exhibition. A small moment, I gained even more appreciation for how much work it takes to make the trains run on time.
From there, I descended a few flights of stairs into the basement. As this was once a functioning school, the basement contains the innards of the structure. It’s cold, and feels like the opposite of every gleaming Art Museum you’ve ever visited. It also contains, for now, one of the single most powerful art installations I’ve ever experienced. No. Exaggeration. Necessary.
The boiler room is where it’s at. Down a few short rickety stairs, you enter the physical-plant-nerve-center of the former public school. It’s dirty, cold, and cave-like. Creepy doesn’t quite do it justice. In the far corner, I saw some speakers, a chain hanging from the ceiling, and a place to sit down. So I did.
The speakers were blasting some random, ambient sounds; unfamiliar and disturbing. I sat there, waiting, thinking, and then all of a sudden, I saw the flash of a shadow. My neck swiveled, and my liver almost imploded. No lie. Frightening. But I stayed. A minute or so later, there was a clanking, crashing sound, and another shadow flash. Bang. The hanging chain started to sway, so I knew that I hadn’t imagined it. Slowly, I realized that I was sitting in a simulacrum of a dungeon. Abu Ghraib? Some nameless CIA black-site hole-in-the-ground in Afghanistan? Does it matter?
The experience was real, and confusing. Then, I looked up at the ceiling and saw skylights onto the street level. The room sits below the sidewalk, and whenever a Queens resident or visiting passerby walked over me, I heard the crash. When they walked only near the skylight, shadow no sound. Are. You. Kidding. Me.
After a few minutes of simulated torture, I walked back up the stairs, and looked for the wall text explaining the music. (If you could call it that.) Stephen Vitiello, the artist, once had a studio given to him through a residency program. In the World Trade Center. 91st Floor. He recorded the sound of the building swaying in the wind during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
I’m running out of exclamations here to describe my overtaxed brain, upon reading that information. The swaying, creaking, buildings, no longer in existence, providing the backdrop for a simulated torture chamber, representing a major war that was launched because the buildings were destroyed by terrorists from another country. Well played, Peter Eleey. Well played.
After that, emotionally drained, I spent the better part of a half an hour trying to get permission to take the one photo I’m including here. They’re beyond strict about prohibiting photography, so you really will have to go see this for yourself. Then I walked through the freezing Queens rain, and dropped down underground again to grab the subway. The train’s recording, with each stop, reminded me that it was a World Trade Center-bound E train. As if I could forget.
The State of the Industry, is a new column where Suzanne Sease speaks with advertising industry professionals and influencers to discuss what’s happening and where we’re headed.
Gregg Lhotsky is a well-respected photography representative with the acclaimed Bernstein & Andruilli. Gregg and I have had the pleasure of working together when I was at The Martin Agency and have been friends ever since. I admire Gregg’s eye for talent, his professionalism and the fact that we both grew up in Baltimore, Maryland (same age but never knew each other).
Are clients requiring more and more rights and optional images from still photo shoots?
Yes. Sometimes it seems like a land grab. Often the weakest link are the AE’s who don’t really understand usage.
How many of your current clients require the estimates to process through cost consultants? Do you see more clients using them or realizing they don’t know what they are talking about?
I am seeing less of this lately. Perhaps it is because when clients do use CC’s the CC’s usually do not have an understanding of what things actually cost and waste a lot of time and money on randomly asking for line items to come down.
Do you think our buying society is educated and appreciates the quality creative advertising or is it the “you tube” and reality show mentality?
I spend a lot of time educating younger buyers these days. First, most of them will not pick up the phone and would rather email which is difficult when you are trying to estimate or negotiate a job where nuances can be lost via email. Second, if I had a nickel for every time I had to describe why a stylist needs prep days or what a location van is for. Sometimes I think that they just hired someone, gave them a desk and said go for it!
What are your thoughts on trying to make a product become a viral sensation? Do you think this is the future or will it phase out?
I believe that it is here to stay. There are so many more outlets now that the brands need multi platforms and voices to be seen and heard.
What percentage of print work is your company doing today compared to 5 years ago? Or even a year ago?
We are pretty diversified so we still do a lot of print but also a lot of new media.
Should photographers and illustrators learn the motion medium?
What advice would you give someone who only does print (still) work?
Gotta have some other things in your tool kit (i.e. motion) and do it well!
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.
While the digital age has brought a nearly insatiable demand for entertainment news, that hasn’t translated into a bonanza for paparazzi, Woody says. Major media companies are increasingly involved in the celebrity news business, building up their own paparazzi outfits, buying up smaller ones or paying less for independent images.
via CNN.com, thx Jeff.
If you’re taking some time off this week and next you might consider this interesting copyright development that Josh Blumental pointed me to:
The Copyright Office has been asked by Congress to study the obstacles facing small copyright claims disputes, as well as possible alternatives. Specifically, the Office is to undertake a study to: (1) assess the extent to which authors and other copyright owners are effectively prevented from seeking relief from infringements due to constraints in the current system; and (2) furnish specific recommendations, as appropriate, for changes in administrative, regulatory and statutory authority that will improve the adjudication of small copyright claims and thereby enable all copyright owners to more fully realize the promise of exclusive rights enshrined in our Constitution.
The want to know “how copyright owners have handled small copyright claims” and look into obstacles and possible alternatives to the current process. That’s because, not all copyright holders have the resources to bring a federal lawsuit if there is infringement (more here).
There is a Submission Form that closes on January 16, 2012.
Rejection as a whole is not a great reason to run out and self-publish. I mean, think about it: “Everyone else hates it, so why not punish readers with it? To the Resentmentmobile!” But — but! — sometimes, the overall pattern of rejection does indicate value in self-publishing. Getting a lot of those “it’s good, but I can’t do anything with it” rejections tells you that the risk-averse industry isn’t willing to, duh, take a risk. So, you can absorb the risk and self-publish.
I suppose I have Japan envy. I’m a proud Jersey boy, yes, but sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong country. I’ve been a huge fan of Haruki Murakami for years, having read most everything he’s written. (I know, everyone else loves Murakami too.) But somehow, I relate to that inexorable mashup of techno-futurism, magical realism, Zen Buddhism, and comical absurdity. It feels like home.
I’m just about to finish “1Q84,” Murakami’s new mega-book, so if you spoil the ending for me in the comment section, I will hunt you down and end you. I’m a stone cold killer, if you didn’t know. This new story might not be as good as “The Wind Up Bird Chronicles” and “The Wild Sheep Chase,” but then again, it might well be. I haven’t decided yet, because I stopped reading towards the very end to write this column.
There’s just something so seductive about the idea that there is far more to our collective human experience than we can know. Other worlds, surreal portals, magical ears, beautiful Japanese women, I guess that’s what makes Manga so damn popular. Perhaps we all have Japan envy. And certainly, in the photography community, there’s no shortage of great work emanating from there, and no lack of foreigners who make the trek across the water.
Is there a point to these ramblings? Or better put, will I ever get to the point? Sure. Right here. “Blackdrop Island” is a new purple book I grabbed on my last visit to photo-eye. I was unfamiliar with the Swedish photographer, Klara Källström, and the publisher, B-B-B Books. I’m a sucker for an umlaut, so since she had two in her name, I thought it was worth taking home. (What, that’s not a good enough reason to do a book review?)
Ms. Källström visited Japan recently, probably Tokyo if I had to guess. She wandered around, at night, shooting photographs with a hell of a lot of flash. And somehow, she managed to capture that aforementioned Japanese Magical Realism Juju so perfectly, just so well, that now I wonder if there’s any point in going at all. Certainly not as a photographer in search of that mystery juice. She got there first.
I don’t know if you’ll all share my absolute love of these photos, but then again, I used to think I was the only one with the hots for Kate Winslet, and I was clearly wrong about that. And given that Murakami is a massive global hero, I’m guessing that there are a lot of others who secretly pine for a weird world of Two Moons and talking Sheep men.
Since I’m not now, and will never be the writer that Murakami is, it’s obviously easier to understand these pictures visually than for me to try to describe why they’re so freaking odd. But I’ll try. A gray tree bent over a small road looks like the whiskers cascading off of a witch’s chin. A policeman emerging from between two flash-blinded tree trunks looks like a guardian for the river Styx. Traffic cones look like robots, building bricks vibrate like Van Gogh brushstrokes, and a submerged fish-head looks like, well… a submerged fish-head. There’s a diptych of a man doing Tai Chi by the sea, and I swear it looks like he’s actually summoning the waves all by himself. Masterful stuff.
Normally I don’t bother writing about the essays in these photo-books, because if we wanted to read, we’d all just buy a Kindle. But this one contains some really well-written poetry by Viktor Johansson, printed in both English and Swedish. (But interestingly, not Japanese.) The poems have that same freaky vibe to them, and it’s fun to read them in Swedish, if for no other reason than to enjoy the weird sounds your mouth makes as you pronounce the words.
Bottom Line: Japanese-style Techno-Magically Awesome
Full Disclosure: Books and scans were provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.
…when people tell you they don’t have the money, they’re lying–they just don’t think it’s worth the money.
Your job is to show them that it is.
via Now This is Cool….