Are you following the Magnum photographers road trip “Postcards From America“? They’re almost halfway in and look to be headed towards Tucson. Check it out if you get a chance, it’s quite cool.
Are you following the Magnum photographers road trip “Postcards From America“? They’re almost halfway in and look to be headed towards Tucson. Check it out if you get a chance, it’s quite cool.
Condé Nast Publications, whose stable of magazines chronicles the American zeitgeist as meticulously as any anthropologist, has reached an agreement to lease one million square feet at 1 World Trade Center, giving ground zero a much-needed corporate anchor with a proven ability to attract other businesses.
…the negotiations involved reams of traffic studies and security discussions, to ensure that its black cars (more than 100), its racks of designer dresses and its well-shod executives would be able to pass swiftly each day through the police-imposed security zone that is to surround the complex.
via, NYTimes.com thx, Mark.
When I started out as a photographer, all galleries had an inventory of frames. All that was required was to send matted prints to the gallery and they popped them in their frames. The costs of shipping and flying the artist in for the opening were also absorbed by the gallery. Digital imagery (and the economy) changed that system, as prints became large scale and no longer uniform.
via L E N S C R A T C H.
APE contributor Jonathan Blaustein told me about acquisitions of his work by the State of New Mexico and Library of Congress. I wanted him to write about it, because like me I’m sure many of you are curious how this whole process works. He was reluctant to write about it and be too self-congratulatory on the blog (he is paid to write for APE), so I asked him a few questions instead.
APE: Tell me what the acquisitions were?
JB: The State of New Mexico recently purchased a unique portfolio of the entire “Value of a Dollar” project for the State’s permanent Public Art collection, at market value. The Library of Congress purchased a portfolio of the project as well, from the 16×20 edition, which will reside in its permanent archive, and be accessible to the public online and in person, I believe. I’ll be delivering the work to them in the next month or so, so it’s not in their database yet.
APE: Can you give me a brief background on how you got into fine art photography? What was your path to get where you are now?
JB: I picked up a camera for no particular reason back in 1996. I was moving back to New Mexico from New York, and bought some black & white film before I took a solo cross country drive through the South. I was hooked immediately, and decided to go back to school to study photography at UNM, since I was a state resident, and it was cheap. The program was fine art based, and I studied with Tom Barrow and Patrick Nagatani, who were both steeped in conceptualism. So from the beginning, I used photography as a means of creative expression. After Albuquerque, I lived in San Francisco and started showing my work in local galleries and art spaces. From there, I moved back to New York to get an MFA at Pratt, which totally rocks, and then came back to New Mexico in 2005. I’ve been fortunate that we have a great collection of talent, resources and photographic institutions out here.
APE: I know nothing about acquisitions, so tell me how important they are to fine art photographers?
JB: I think most artists would like to have their work collected by museums and institutions. It offers credibility, and the opportunity for the public to actually interact with your work. Also, it’s tough to sell work nowadays, so public acquisitions can be a great source of income. In this case, the size of the two acquisitions was equivalent any of the biggest grants or fellowships around, so now I’ll be able to pay the bills, and catch my breath for the first time in a long while.
APE: What is the process like, how do you get on someone’s radar for an acquisition? Walk me through what happened to you in these cases?
JB: Well, as I wrote last year, I attended the Review Santa Fe portfolio review in 2009 and 2010. The first year, people really liked “The Value of a Dollar,” but nothing popped. Last year, there seemed to be a bit more buzz around the project. I had a twenty minute review with Josh Haner, an editor for the New York Times Lens Blog, and he said he’d like to publish the work on the spot. I also had a review with Verna Curtis, a curator from the Library of Congress, who was really taken with the series. She said she’d like to figure out a way to acquire it for the collection, but that it would take a while to sort out the logistics. So I followed her instructions as to how to stay in touch, and it played out over the course of six or seven months.
The State of New Mexico purchase came out of a great program that we have here that’s run by an organization called New Mexico Arts. Each year, they buy work from New Mexico artists through the Art in Public Places acquisition program. They put out an online call for entries, and I submitted some work. A friend who’d been funded before suggested that I email some of the staff directly to introduce myself and get some advice, so I did. As a result, the director of the program ended up on my email list.
Last fall, the New York Times followed through and published “The Value of a Dollar” on the Lens Blog. The story went viral immediately, and I had 500,000 hits to my website within a week. It was unexpected, and totally insane. I sent out an email blast about the Lens Blog publication and the viral mania, and the AIPP program manager responded to my email, saying he’d like to talk about acquiring a portfolio of the work. It took 5 months of patient follow up, and then I got the meeting in February of this year. We negotiated and shook hands on a deal that day, and it was all wrapped up within a couple of months.
APE: What’s next? Obviously, like with commercial and editorial photography, success begets success so how do you capitalize on this?
JB: It’s a good question. I’m hoping the momentum continues, but it’s tough out there. Like everyone else, I’d really like to get the photographs on the wall in New York. It’s the center of the Art world, obviously, as well as the rest of the photo industry. But lately, my primary focus has been on making new work. I’ve been busting it out in the studio since January on a follow up project so I can take advantage of the publicity, and the fact that people will probably pay attention to what comes next. It seemed important to come up with a new idea that would be as good or better than the last, so that I don’t end being the Dollar guy like some early 80’s one hit wonder. I’d also like to establish a solid relationship with a dealer in one of the prime art markets, like New York, LA, London or Berlin.
Really, I think that many art photographers are trying to re-evaluate what success even means in 2011 (See Aline Smithson’s recent post on Lenscratch). This photo series connected with countless people across the planet through the Internet, and the ideas have continued to resonate. So I’m also asking myself if my goals should extend beyond the gallery and museum wall, into a more active role within the politics of food.
This Wednesday, May 18th I will be on a panel with an Art Producer, Creative Director and Art Director at the offices of TBWA-Chiat-Day in LA to help answer the question “why we hire you.” The event is being put on by the LA chapter of APA and Andrea Stern of SternRep. More information can be found (here). I’m excited to talk about the way in which I used to choose and hire photographers and also impart knowledge gained from 3 years of blogging about the subject. The rest of the panel is strictly advertising folks (Jigisha Bouverat, Director of Art Productions TBWA\Chiat\Day; Mike Kohlbecker, Associate Creative Director/Art Director, Crispin Porter + Bogusky; Jake Kahana, Art Director, 72 and Sunny), so it will be interesting to learn about their processes and report back what I find out.
I found this story on TechCrunch about banner advertising quite interesting (here). Companies originally saw online advertising as a way to drive consumers to make a purchase, but they quickly discovered that traditional display ads yielded very few hits. The average banner ad generates 0.2% CTR (click through rate). You can see in this graphic from 2008 that while marketers still believed and wanted the internet to drive traffic they were starting to come around to the idea that creating awareness, familiarity, consideration and loyalty were just as important.
The story, written my Mark Suster a VC at GRP Partners goes on to point out that banner advertising is horrible at creating any of this awareness that advertisers seek online. The solution to this problem is integrated advertising. You don’t have to look further than The Strobist and Joe McNally to see integrated advertising hard at work in the photography industry. Savvy marketers have caught on to the value of endorsement and product placement for creating awareness and they’ve latched on to two early movers.
What really caught my attention in the story was the value of in-image advertising as a form of integrated media. GumGum a company I’ve written about before places advertising on top of images and delivers a 2x industry average CTR. Another company with Google backing called Pixazza places product advertising inside the image.
What does all of this mean for photographers? Something I’ve long argued: photos will eventually out-strip all other forms of communication online. Their ability to deliver information quickly in a crowded marketplace, makes them extremely valuable for marketing, advertising and storytelling.
“There are no more discoveries to be made,” Elisabeth Biondi tells me on the opening night of the fourth annual New York Photo Festival. “Anyone can take a picture now, so it’s forced documentary photographers to have a more personalized vision.”
I post a lot of quotes from interviews with your customers (PE’s, AB’s, AD’s) here and I wanted to point out something that’s rarely mentioned. Listen to what people say, but trust your gut and your numbers and always experiment to find things that work for you. Everyone (except experts in the survey field) asks questions that lead the interviewee to the answer they wanted in the first place and people generally give answers that are idealized. They say photographers should do X, Y and Z, but then ignore those directives when in an actual hiring situation. Here’s a great example of what I’m talking about:
You’re with Walmart. It’s 2009, and you want to do something new, something transformative, to out-innovate rival Target. You have a sense that Target is cleaner, better designed, less cluttered. Walmart aisles are crammed, packed, an infinite jumble of product.
So you’re thinking of launching an uncluttering project. Strategic. Huge. Millions of dollars. But before you make any changes, you want to float the idea by customers.
So you conduct a survey, asking customers: would you like Walmart aisles to be less cluttered? And they say, “Yes, now that you ask, yes, that would be nice.” And you check the box by “customer input” and report back, hey everyone, good news, yes, customers like the idea.
Walmart spends hundreds of millions of dollars uncluttering their stores, removing 15% of inventory, shortening shelves, clearing aisles. Yes, it’s expensive and time-consuming, but this is what customers said they wanted, so you barrel through it.
You’ll never guess what happens now. (Actually, you’ve probably already guessed, but it sounded better to say you’ll never guess.)
Sales went down. Way down. I mean waaaaaay down. I’m talking, from the beginning of that project until today, Walmart has lost over a billion dollars in sales. (Yes, billion with a “b”.) It’s actually closer to two billion dollars of sales they missed out on, and maybe more.
Needless to say, the executives in charge of the project have been fired, and Walmart is spending yet more money to return to its original, time-tested strategy of offering a huge (albeit cluttered) inventory at low prices.
What people say isn’t always the same as what they do.
“Good work comes from humility, not presumption.”
— Peter van Agtmael
“His artful eye and his sharp mind make him one of the most exciting young photographers working today.”
— Kira Pollack, Time Magazine
A story in TechCrunch EU highlights a blowup over the ToS (Terms of Service) of Twitpic the photo sharing app for Twitter that many people use to share breaking news images from their phone–images like Daniel Morel’s Haiti images and subsequent lawsuit (here) and also the first image of the plane landing in the Hudson river. TwitPic amended their terms to coincide with an announcement that they’ve partnered with news agency WENN to sell the images people post. According to thenextweb.com, “The new licensing deal ensures that users retain the copyright but by uploading photos service, the company is able to exploit the photos for commercial gain.”
The changes to Twitpic’s ToS that will impact users the most as reported by Hawke’s Bay Today are:
“…you hereby grant Twitpic a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of…” and “…after you remove or delete your media from the Service provided that any sub-license by Twitpic to use, reproduce or distribute the Content prior to such termination may be perpetual and irrevocable.”
Twitpic is not the only photo sharing app with heinous ToS’es. According to thenextweb.com:
picplz users agree to, among other things,
“the right of the service “and its affiliates a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable and fully sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content in connection with: (i) providing and promoting the Service; and/or (ii) exercising the rights granted in these Terms.”
Both stories point to MobyPicture as the solution for photographers who want to retain their rights. According to TechCrunch EU:
They’ve just now tweaked their ToS conditions thus:
All rights of uploaded content by our users remain the property of our users and can in no means be sold or used by Mobypicture or affiliated third party partners without consent from the user. This means Mobypicture will NEVER sell the rights to your shared photos and videos. Your content is yours!”
As these companies try to figure out what they can get away with and how they can become profitable it’s important for professional photographers to voice their opinion to help them understand the needs and concerns they have for using their service. It looks like deleting your Twitpic account and moving to MobyPicture is a good way to do that.
“We’re in the midst of an industrial revolution,” added Gideon Mendel. “It’s two continents colliding [still and video], and we don’t really understand what’s going on. But it feels like the first wave has already crashed – multimedia is almost a dead term today.”
In a very personal interview with VII The Magazine, photographer Ashley Gilbertson, opens up about the effects of war on soldiers and their families, himself, and the country.
If you show me one more picture of a soldier kicking in a door I’m going to blow my head off.
via VII The Magazine.
One of the biggest projects I’ve worked on, both in terms of production expenses and licensing fees, was a shoot that I estimated and produced recently for one of our Midwest photographers. Though he’s mostly known for his phenomenal portrait photography, he was asked by a major ad agency to submit a quote to shoot the print campaign for a newly rejuvenated sports car brand. The agency’s art director called the photographer after she saw an editorial project he had shot. (I love when that happens!) We later found out that not only did the photographer’s style catch their eye, but his magazine shoot actually provided a lot of the inspiration for the campaign’s concept. It goes to show that even with big agencies, there are times when the creatives are open to collaborating with photographers on concept development as well as execution.
Shoot & Licensing Needs
The process started with the photographer brainstorming with the AD to develop a clear concept, and me discussing the licensing needs with the art buyer. Then the photographer and I agreed on the production elements we’d need to bring together in order to support that concept and the way the photographer wanted to shoot it. Unlike the typical hero shots in the desert, this project was based on gritty, urban images executed in a more documentary style, with real people found on location. The cars would need to look pristine, but the personality of the campaign needed to be “fast and rough around the edges.” Given this approach, we weren’t going to have a standard shot list with comps to work from. Instead, the photographer and I planned to create (along with a location scout) a guide full of hip, young, bustling locations. That, along with a client-provided list of angles to shoot the cars from, became our literal and figurative roadmap for the shoot. The photographer and art director agreed on shooting for three days each in two different cities. The photographer planned to work with minimal lighting equipment for maximum mobility.
The client had an immediate need for 20 images, but expected to use additional images in the future. They planned on using them in a variety of ways, primarily web/social media, but also in collateral material and print ads. They asked us to quote on exclusive, worldwide use of any kind, forever. With my head firmly around what we had to do to create the pictures and how they were going to be used, I got to work on the estimate.
When the logistics of a shoot and the licensing of the images are more cut and dried, I tend to lump the creative and licensing fees together. But the more spontaneous approach to this production and the open-ended licensing needs of the client warranted a different approach. It made sense to quote the shoot days and the licensing independent of one another so we could add time or images without renegotiating the contract. So I created one estimate page detailing the creative fees and production expenses, and a separate page detailing the fees for usage.
The photographer and I settled on $2,500.00/shoot day for his basic creative fee. But what about the licensing fee? There were some factors to consider. The agency and the client were both pretty big players. The client was going to get a lot of use out of the pictures, and they stood to gain a lot from them, all which suggested a solid fee. Applying slight downward pressure on the value was the fact that the photographer didn’t have a long track record with automotive advertising, the spontaneous nature of the shoot made the campaign a little risky for the client, and this campaign was only one of several that they were producing for that brand. After consulting my usual pricing guides and agency contacts, I chose to price the first 20 images at $80,000 (effectively $4,000 each), with the option of the next 10 at $3,000 each and the 10 after that at $2,000 each.
This is actually a departure from my usual strategy. I normally value additional pictures at somewhere between the prorated fee and the prorated fee plus expenses. In other words, if you were to shoot five pictures for a $5,000 fee and $2,500 in expenses, prorating the fee for additional pictures would be $1,000 each ($5,000/5). Prorating the fee plus expenses would be $1,500 ($7,500/5). I figure that if the photographer is productive enough to generate additional ads from the same shoot, he should get some consideration from the fact that he’s saving the client money they’d otherwise have to spend on expenses for a future shoot. So I might normally value the additional pictures at $1,250.00 each. However, in this situation, the initial selections were most likely to be the ones used in ads, and if they ended up using 20-30 pictures beyond that, those later pictures were going to more likely be used for the web and social media. So in order to encourage as much of that as possible, I chose to discount those additional pictures.
The first assistant would be traveling with the photographer and would be responsible for organizing the gear in advance of the shoot and upon return, which amounted to 13 days:
As the producer, I would be attending the shoot. I would be responsible for managing the locations, location scouts, vehicles, talent, lodging, travel arrangements, and of course putting together a production book with all of the maps, routes, locations, travel, comp and contact info. I figured my time on the project, from start to finish, would take 15 days:
Finding good locations was going to be crucial to the success of this shoot. Our plan was to initially have a scout in each city spend two days taking snapshots at as many locations as possible that might be appropriate. The photographer would review the scouting report with the agency to narrow down a list of locations the photographer would then scout in person the day or two before the shoot. (Not surprisingly, it wasn’t too long into the first day of shooting that we spotted a cool location that wasn’t on our list and deviated from the plan.) Two location scouts (one in each city), two days scouting on their own, one day with the photographer.
We budgeted for three days of precision drivers, which included one day at the track, and one day in each of the two cities. These drivers were necessary to do anything that either pushed the limits of the car or safe operating conditions. If you ask me, I could drive as well as they could, but I didn’t have the same credentials or insurance. After a few recommendations from our local resources and a cursory search on the local film office database to make sure the recos (agency speak for recommendations) were experienced, we booked our two drivers.
Security, Locations & Permits
Our location scouts both had experience with permits, location fees, and police/security in their area and helped me with those numbers. We ended up blowing most of this budget on one day when we decided to shoot at a racetrack (they are not cheap, nor easy to rent). Luckily, we didn’t need to spend much for our other locations. The rest of the budget paid for an off-duty cop to close down a roadway when we decided to shoot a little boy peering into one of the cars from the street. Safety first. Our scout had worked with him and was able to line him up the night before.
Talent & Wardrobe
In keeping with the fast and loose approach of the shoot, and since we were only going to use people as space filling elements, we decided to use found talent and outfit them with their own clothes. We relied our local resources to call in friends, family and colleagues, and we street-cast a handful of others. During the scout day we’d decide whether or not we wanted people to populate a particular shot and set our local resources loose to call in a crowd. On the shoot day, if we saw a group of kids or good looking couple walking down the street and felt like we could fit them in, we’d ask for 30 minutes of their time. We wanted to keep it real, fun and casual to help the pictures come off as authentic as possible. We paid most of the models $100.00 each (which we recorded on the model release).
When you shoot this many images, you have to account for a significant amount of time to process the raw images after the shoot (usually between 1/2 and 2 post-processing days per shoot day depending on the complexity of the processing and expectations of the client). I usually quote $1000.00/day for post-processing. In this case the photographer was doing the processing himself and wanted to charge a higher rate.
“Reasonable” is what I aim for when I’m putting together any estimate. I don’t want to ever give the impression that we’re wasting the client’s money on anything unnecessary. But I also don’t want to risk looking like I haven’t thought of everything. Even though I want the estimated expenses to be lean, I want to include enough fat in them to account for the unexpected, hence the roundness of the numbers. After a few tweaks here and there, the client approved everything—though the photographer ended up signing the agency’s purchase order instead of them signing our quote, which is not unusual. We did the shoot, and the client ultimately licensed 40 images.
5. Don’t give up.
Persistence will eventually pay off.
via Greg Benson Blog.
This Friday is the big SPD (Society of Publication Designers) Gala where the winner for Magazine of the Year will be announced. Additionally there’s a whole slew of awards for photography: Cover, Entire Issue, Section (single and multiple issues), Feature and Service, Profiles, News/Reportage, Travel/Food/Still Life, Fashion Beauty and Trade/Corporate.
Download the list of nominees (here).
I wrote about the new Getty contract in early April (here) and there was some excellent discussion in the comments about the whole deal, so I thought I’d bring this latest announcement by the American Photographic Artists (APA) to your attention. In a statement the APA said “Adopting baseless, self- imposed deadlines and threatening to terminate contributors who do not accept changes to their existing contracts is not acceptable. As a community, we cannot continue to ignore Getty Images’ efforts to intimidate and strong-arm contributors, and we must not allow Getty Images to force contributors into signing these new contracts under duress.”
The APA contacted Getty through their lawyers asking them to extend the deadline and make clear to all contributors that not signing the agreement will not result in the automatic termination of prior agreements or removal of all their images but Getty refused to respond.
The signing deadline has passed, so I’m wondering if the APA is going to file a lawsuit.
You can download the statements (here).
UPDATE: The AOP (Association of Photographers) agrees with APA that “these changes are unacceptable and that the ‘solutions’ that Getty Images has offered are entirely inadequate and fail to resolve even the most basic concerns.” Read it (here).