I wanted to take a moment before we get to cranking out blog posts in 2012 to recognize all the awesome contributors here at APE.
The Daily Edit, is a column I think will someday outgrow APhotoEditor. The idea was sparked by conversations with advertising art directors who told me they love editorial photography and my own need to get back to what I loved about photo editing. Looking at lots of pictures. I never gave a second thought to how they were made or what the steps were in the hiring process or what was it exactly it was about the photographer that caught my attention. I just looked at pictures and hired people who made ones I liked. So, I hired Heidi Volpe to go to newsstands and browse the magazines. Whatever she found interesting (a magazine you didn’t expect to have good photography, a new take on an old subject, a photographer she’d been following getting hired by a magazine she respected, pictures that rock), she bought and took a picture of the layout for me to publish. The best part is, I never know what it will be until I look first thing each day. Heidi has great taste and her reaction to images is based on years of experience working at magazines as a creative director, plus she loves editorial photography like I do. I hear from photo editors all the time how much they love it, so I know we’re on the right track.
Jonathan Blaustein started writing for me over a year and a half ago. Originally, he was visiting some photography events and interviewing people working on the fine art side of things. Recently though, he hit his stride with writing that is highly entertaining and self aware. I really love going inside his head as he visits art exhibits and pages through photography books. I’ve spent plenty of time looking at pictures, exhibits and books thinking, WTF, people like this. Jonathan has been expanding my mind and helped me see the underpinnings of this crazy genre. An unexpected bonus has been the recognition his own work is receiving, giving us and inside (the head) look at a career on the move.
Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease were plucky enough to realize I had a bunch of photographers hungry for information about advertising and if they helped me find answers the goodwill would pay dividends. What started as a column called “ask anything” where questions and answers were exchanged anonymously and honestly has evolved into Suzanne Sease with a series of “state of the industry” posts and a new column looking at great advertising images. What I absolutely love about this series is how connected she is. She gets people at the top of the food chain to answer questions! I’ve also gained an appreciation for the difficulties facing advertising photography, but Suzanne handles it with such aplomb and a no BS attitude to boot.
Several years ago I asked a photographer I was talking with to send me the estimate for the job they’d just won. I said I was going to black out the identifying information and post it up on my blog to see what people thought. Well, I can only remember a couple other posts that set off a firestorm of comments like that one. I tried to get my hands on more estimates without much luck until the people at Wonderful Machine contacted me and said they be happy to provide them as a monthly column. It was a perfect match because I needed more estimates and they provided an estimating service to photographers. What I truly love about this column is how gutsy it is. Very few people could withstand the scrutiny of thousands of photographers looking at and downloading their latest estimate. Special thanks to Jess Dudley for keeping it alive.
So, here’s to the contributors, all your postings are honest, heartfelt and gutsy. My original mission, to talk about photography from inside the industry is alive because of you.
I will often leave many versions of an image up on my studio wall for days or weeks and the ones that get “tired” get taken down. Those that keep speaking, keep surprising, are the ones I select. Really strong photographs can never be owned or fully understood formally, narratively, or intellectually. They resonate outside the edges of the frame, and continue to speak over time.”
Homeland Security issued a directive that confirmed it is legal to video record or photograph federal buildings.
Police in New Hampshire continued to use their state’s wiretapping laws to arrest people recording them, even though the charges never stick.
A Miami man was told he was guilty of a felony for photographing a whale.
Police in Long Beach, California admitted that they are trained to harass citizens who are not taking photos of “esthetic value.”
A little-known law in Washington D.C. was exposed, which allowed police to arrest people for standing in one area for more than five minutes taking photos.
Pennsylvania cops continued to hold on to the myth that they could lawfully arrest people on wiretapping charges who record them in public.
And many many more on pixiq.com
A great photobook will distill a greater truth out of the photographs inside, a truth that requires careful looking and reading, a truth that might not even be fully true. Redheaded Peckerwood does this masterfully and beautifully.
There’s been a ton of best photobook lists this year and I was thinking it would be interesting to see which books are common to most lists. Well, it turns out someone actually went out and did it. EyeCurious has “pulled together 52 lists” of book published in 2011 and the top books are:
1st Place (19 votes)
– Redheaded Peckerwood, Christian Patterson (Mack)
2nd Place (14 votes)
– A Criminal Investigation, Yukichi Watabe (Xavier Barral/Le Bal)
– Illuminance, Rinko Kawauchi (Aperture)
3rd Place (10 votes)
– Paloma al aire, Ricardo Cases (Photovision)
4th Place (9 votes)
– Gomorrah Girl, Valerio Spada (Self-published)
5th Place (8 votes)
– A, Gregory Halpern (J&L Books)
to see the complete list visit eyecurious. Also, an interesting comparison with the list of best selling photobooks:
1. Simply Beautiful Photographs (National Geographic)
2. The Great LIFE Photographers (Little, Brown & Co.)
3. The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (LIFE)
4. One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001, 10 Years Later (Little, Brown & Co.)
5. Portraits of Camelot: A Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House (Abrams)
Time is like an apathetic teenager. We see it as linear, because it’s easier for our brains that way. But many of us know it’s relative. That information does us little good, though, when we’re late to work, and Grandma in the car in front of us is savoring every last second. At twenty miles an hour.
The only thing to match the monotony of the march of time is the certainty of change. The second law of thermodynamics and all. We like to think we stay the same, remain true to ourselves, but it’s just an illusion, no more real than a flogborgibbit. Change is the normal state of things, far more natural than a charge of flip-flopping, but the very epithet tells you all you need to know about most people’s view of the inevitable.
I’ve come to accept and even relish change, myself. I enjoy the opportunity to work on my faults, to modify my behavior, whether it be evolution or revolution. I’ve had it both ways, massive epiphanies that alter my soul in a day, or a slow, daily slide into sloth and misery. (Freshman year at Duke, it took only months for a skinny, mostly well-adjusted goody-goody to metamorphose into a fat, drunken ball of insecurities who…well, we’ll save that one for another time.)
Change is a function of time, and time is the bedrock of our chosen medium, photography. Light is the more popular sibling, as time is far more challenging to manipulate. It’s difficult for photography to match video when it comes to processing duration, but difficult, as we’ve often seen, does not mean impossible.
It’s probably not surprising that I’d bloviate on this subject, what with the end of the year upon us. I’m either the most philosophical blogger in the world, or it’s biggest jackass, and I suppose we’ll each have our own opinion on the subject. But I have seen a lot of photographs this year, and written about most of what I’ve seen. New York, twice, LA, Washington DC; not a bad lineup. Ironically, for two years running, I haven’t been able to shoehorn some of my favorite work into an article. Despite the thousands of words, there just wasn’t room in the narrative thread for great photographs, by the same photographer, in both 2010 and 2011: Rineke Dijkstra.
So here at APE, we’ll now christen a new feature, “The Best Photographs I saw in 2011 that I Haven’t Already written about yet.” Rolls off the tongue nicely. Here we go.
Last year, it was at the Met, in a fantastic curated show that included a copy of Ed Ruscha’s “Every Building on the Sunset Strip.” Somehow, I ended up writing only about John Baldessari, and Ms. Dijkstra’s incredible series about a young refugee girl got left on the cutting room floor.
This year, I saw her work at the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA), on a sunny summer San Diego sojourn. (I was always a sucker for alliteration in school. Easy way to score points with the teacher.) Back in July, I snuck down from my beach abode in North County to visit an exhibition of the Bank of America permanent collection, curated by MOPA’s Executive Director, Debra Klochko. (And in case you were wondering, B of A did not cover the admission cost, thereby missing out on a relatively inexpensive way to burnish their horrible public image.)
On a very big wall, right behind the admission desk, was a seven image photo series, installed sequentially, by the aforementioned famous Dutch artist. Each featured a handsome young Frenchman named Olivier Silva, who was about to embark on a stint in the French Foreign Legion. (Insert random French joke here.) The framed prints, all largish, were exhibited in a temporal sequence that transpired between 2000-3, during Mr. Silva’s military service.
In the first image, we see a skinny, innocent looking 17 year old, (give or take) with a full head of hair. Unquestionably, his eyes say, “Oh shit. I’m not so sure about this.” In the next, from the same day in 2000, he’s just had his head shaved, and has got the camo outfit on. His look says, “True, I’m not sure about this, but I suppose I’ll give it a shot.”
Number 3 is from a few months later, still in France. Now he’s got the face paint, is rocking the shaved head thing, and he’s trying to be tough. Definitely seems sad. And on to the next. Here, Olivier is in pristine dress, but still looks like he misses his Maman. By now, his face has filled out a bit. Same month, about to ship out.
The fifth photograph, almost a year and a half later, and now we’re in Corsica. (Chasing Mafiosi?) Homeboy is wearing the most ridiculous Foreign Legion cap, like something out of a Peter Sellers movie. Squinting into the sun, his shoulders are fuller, and he has the vibe that he could have killed someone by now, but probably hasn’t. The burgundy epaulettes are just too much. Finally, a bit of humor.
Next to last, and the guy looks like an action hero. You start to wonder, did Ms. Dijkstra know it all along, that the skinny kid had the movie star looks right beneath the surface? It’s the first time you think about her, as the first five were so natural, and the expressions so believable. By the way, he’s in Djibouti. (Between Ethiopia and Eritrea, two countries that don’t like each other very much.) And that last bit of farm-boy is still there. Barely.
For the last photo, Olivier Silva is looking directly into the camera, his drab marine colored T-shirt offering more about his character than his dead, militarized eyes. Inscrutable. He’s been thoroughly socialized through the system, they’ve made a good soldier out of the boy. Ready to kill, if necessary. It’s July of 2003, three years after the process began.
And then it’s over. And you begin to think, those expressions, the clues I read to deduce Silva’s character, they’re something the photographer has created. They’re a window into a linear, stop-motion jaunt into some random guy’s history, sure. It happened. But the series toys with the notion of the document, and with my immediate faith that what I was seeing was real, beyond the interpersonal connection between the young Frenchman and the artist, Ms. Dijkstra. Tremendous stuff.
I didn’t end up writing about it this Summer, because I skipped San Diego for the bustle of the Megalopolis up the coast. So there you have it. “The Best Photographs I saw in 2011 that I Haven’t Already written about yet.” Happy New Year.
Still Images In Great Advertising, is a new column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
Today’s sample is from International Agent, Michael Ash and his talent, Kenji Aoki. Sometimes an ad can feature a simple image shot beautifully to grab the attention of the viewer. These ads not only got the attention of the viewer but judges from several award shows:
Suzanne: I have never heard of Wing. I researched them and see they specialize in Hispanic advertising. Pantene is a large brand, how did you all get considered for this ad campaign?
Michael: Wing is one of the top 20 agencies in Hispanic advertising and have been a great client. The Pantene ads were done for a test market but were very well recieved in the award contests.
What I like about this campaign is that it take ordinary items and pushes them. There has been a decrease in creative product advertising so I think because this is clean and creative it got noticed by adsoftheworld.com. Kenji has always pushed the product. What advice can you give for photographers who want to shoot products but need to be better than their competition?
Light, design and simplicity for me are always the key.
What made you sign Kenji Aoki?
I’ve been with him for 4 years and he moved to NY last November. The secret is that he is magic. No one shoots like him. And, I’ve put him in front of all the right people for editorial and advertising plus I think he is amazing.
Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.
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.
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.