APE contributor Meaghen Brown interviews Howard Bernstein about the most often asked question we get.
Considered among New York’s most respected photography agents, Howard Bernstein, has been keeping an eye on talented photographers for over 25 years now, and his artists management firm, Bernstein and Andriulli, now boasts a hot-list of clients ranging from Adidas to The New Yorker. We caught up with him for a bit of insight as to how the relationship between photographers and agents actually works.
MB: So how does it start? How does a photographer approach a rep?
HB: I think it kind of happens in two ways. Sometimes we’re approached by recognizable talent that we’re definitely already aware of, and in that case it’s a pretty straightforward email. Basically, “Hello Howard, I’d like to discuss possible representation.” And that’s usually fine, but part of doing our job is knowing who’s out there and what’s going on. The other type of email we get tends to be, “I’m looking for an agent, please look at my work.”
MB: What does a photographer do to get to the point where they’re even on your radar?
HB: It’s a whole host of things. It could be that they’re shown by a gallery that we recognize or follow. It could be that they’ve published books. It could be that they shoot for magazines and we’re seeing their editorial work out there. And then there’s just being contact with art buyers and art producers at various agencies. The point is that we’re aware of who’s out there and who’s shooting with who.
MB: Once that initial email has been sent, how are you vetting those photographers?
HB: I get many emails every day, and I used to be able to look through all of them, but that’s not really possible anymore. My advice to photographers is that their website be easy to navigate. Not a Flash site, and not one that takes time to load. If I’m not recognizing the person, it’s also helpful if their note to me is more in a traditional cover letter style where they’re saying why they want to be represented by us, not just that they’re looking for an “agent,” and also how they think they would fit into the agency. That’s very helpful.
MB: How many photographers can you take on at a time?
HB: Not too many. There’s only a few people every year that get hired. Our firm represents about 50 photographers. We also have quite a few agents so the ratio is about six or seven to one of agent to talent.
MB: Do you think that allows the agents to form a strong relationship with the talent?
HB: Absolutely, there’s no other way to do it.
MB: Do you ever have trouble with photographers saying “why aren’t you getting me any work?”
HB: There’s always that question when a photographer is busy or slow. I think we try to manage that with our talent as a collective process. The photographer and agent work together to take a look at everything- from what we’re doing to the work that we’re actually showing.
MB: What is your day to day interaction with your talent?
HB: It really just depends on the talent. There are photographers who we speak to occasionally when we have work, but they may be in Europe or other parts of the world. And then there are photographers that we talk to 15 times a day because there may be work that’s going on. With some talent we may be involved with the complete management of their career.
MB: I think you touched on this during the talk you gave in Palm Springs in April, but what are the right questions that a photographer should ask when seeking representation?
HB: From smaller agencies to larger agencies, the primary question is, “who’s the actual agent that will be managing my career,” which means asking questions like: How will they manage, and what kind of personal selling will they do? How often? Are they out there nation-wide or just in a specific region? Do they cover New York, LA, Chicago and Texas; or are they just in the Northeast? What is the business arrangement that takes place? How are agreements handled? What kind of marketing dollars are involved? etc. Sometimes people do their own marketing while other times agencies do their marketing as a group, so that’s something else to be aware of.
MB: And in terms of pairing a photographer with a client, how does that part work?
HB: It’s a combination of marketing your talent properly so the clients are aware of what’s out there and then, of course, name brand talent. There are people we represent that client are very aware of and about 80% of the time, they’ll call and request a specific photographer for a specific job.
MB: Would you ever take on a photographer who was fairly ‘green’ but very talented and had maybe written you a great cover letter?
HB: Definitely. There’s a photographer by the name of Jamie Chung. I saw his work at a portfolio review at a college and basically I signed him right of college.
MB: So is that another thing that you’re doing, looking within the realms of Universities and Colleges too?
HB: Usually at this time of year, all the colleges reach out to us- whether it’s SVA or Syracuse or College of Art- different colleges come to New York with their senior class, typically wanting us to see what the students have been up to and to offer whatever advice we can. These students are about to go off into the real world. The portfolio review I attended had to do with a class. I was asked to come in and talk to the class about the business of photography and I happened to see that portfolio.
Morel, in his memorandum of law, says that AFP’s defense would fail even its own policies. On the Getty Images’ website, according to Morel’s representatives, a document titled Copyright 101 states that one of the common misconceptions about copyright is that if “an image is on the internet, it’s in the public domain and I don’t need permission to use it.”
Here’s the most clearheaded explanation I’ve ever found of the TOS rights grab that’s become standard for any social media site where you upload your content (images):
In a world where sharing a photo is strictly a matter of getting another copy made and mailing it, or getting it published, copyrights are pretty easy to keep track of and these laws hold up pretty well. Sending a physical photo to your grandmother goes like this: you either put the picture in an envelope and send it, or you get a copy made yourself and send that.
Sending your grandmother an email photo, though, might involve copying your photo five or six times; first to Google’s servers, then to another server, then to an ISP’s CDN, then to AOL’s servers, then to your grandmother’s computer. As far as you’re concerned, this feels exactly like dropping an envelope in the mail. As far as copyright is concerned, it’s a choreographed legal dance.
And so these sites have to get your permission — a license — to copy and distribute the things you post. Just to function as advertised, they need your permission to “use” and to “host,” to “store” and “reproduce.” What they don’t necessarily need is the right to “modify” and “create derivative works,” or to “publicly perform.” That is, unless they need to make money. Which of course they do.
Read the whole post here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/you-dont-own-anything-anymore
It’s a common concern among professional photographers who contemplate participating in social media that these “rights grabs” run counter to how you conduct yourself in the real world and you shouldn’t participate. My concern is if there’s nobody using the service who understands licensing and the value or granting a license there will be nobody to raise a stink if they ever do anything that’s overreaching with their unlimited license. If enough professionals are involved their voices will be heard if that time ever comes.
I received the following mass email from Stephen Best, APA National CEO and I’m sure many of you did too but it looks important enough to bring up here
The United States Copyright Office has proposed “new fees for the registration of claims, recordation of documents, special services, Licensing Division services, and processing of FOIA requests.” This includes the registration of photographs using form VA through eCO or paper filings.
The basic change for photographers would be an electronic filing that now has a fee of $35 would go to $65. A paper filing that now is $65 would go to $100. APA is concerned that increased fees will deter the registration of images by photographers because of the higher cost.
Making the registration process more expensive is not a way for the Copyright Office and the Library of Congress to fulfill its mission “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” (U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8)
The Notice of proposed rulemaking on Copyright Fees is found here, 77 FR 18742. http://www.copyright.gov/fedreg/2012/77fr18742.pdf
The CO Office is providing an opportunity for comments before they submit the fee schedule to the US Congress for review. Comments should be submitted electronically to the Office of the General Counsel in the Copyright Office no later than May 14, 2012.
Comments are to be filed electronically and a comment form is posted on the Copyright Office Web site at http://www.copyright.gov/docs/newfees/comments/.
Let the Copyright Office know how strongly you feel. Submit comments to the US Copyright Office.
“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. What if you’re practicing it wrong?”
Sometimes, I like to watch the grass grow. It’s pointless, I know. Impossible. Still, I enjoy it. Sitting still. Listening to the quiet. Learning patience.
Perhaps some are born with more patience than others. If that’s the case, I was at the back of the line. It’s been a slow process, (not ironically,) but I’m finally getting the hang of things. Like a good Zen koan, it’s not a lesson to be learned quickly.
Earlier today, I found myself picking through the remnants of my book pile. Yes, it’s time for a re-up at photo-eye. I’m headed there tomorrow, but that doesn’t help me today. So I decided to take another look at a few books that I’d previously dismissed. Maybe if I just take a bit more time, my opinion might change?
The first couple were still boring, so no dice. Then I came to Viviane Sassen’s “Parasomnia,” recently published by Prestel in Germany. I’d already picked this one up, (and put it down) twice, so I was not optimistic. But hey, you never know. (Plus, I think she was included in MOMA’s “New Photography 2011,” and those guys are never wrong, right?)
The first couple of passes were hard for me, because this is one more project where someone from the First world goes to visit the poverty of the Third. Been there. Done that. And the narrative is non-linear, if one could call it a narrative at all.
This time, though, I slowed down, and realized that the book opens with a short story by Moses Isegawa. Normally, I breeze right past stuff like that. (Don’t you?) But today, practicing my patience, I started to read. It’s about eleven pages or so, nothing too time-consuming, but thoroughly engrossing, and 100% necessary. The story follows a teen-aged boy as he wakes up to another morning of hardship in Uganda, 2011. Dreamy and poignant, it sets the tone for the pictures to follow.
But I’m not sure that “sets the tone” is the right way to put it. This book needs the story. It gives us a time, a place, a backstory, and a vibe. The photos to follow need to be seen in the context of a desperately poor place, racked with violence and natural disasters. The streets smell like urine, kids sit on the side of the dirt roads with their willies hanging out, beer halls rage music all night, jerry cans filled with water must be carried long distances, and opportunities are tragically scarce. People die. People disappear. Heat waves radiate up off the asphalt, such as there is.
You have to read the story to understand Ms. Sassen’s vision. That makes the book a collaboration. Which is interesting. Most essays are throwaways, added to help the publisher feel more comfortable about the possibility of some ROI. Honestly, I’ve heard enough about the importance of bagging a big name to write an essay that no one will read.
And what of the pictures? Are they less good for needing Mr. Isegawa’s context? Not sure I can answer that question. I need to think on that a while. But I’m not here to judge her artistic cannon, fortunately, just a book. And I’m glad Ms. Sassen was wise enough to begin her book as she did. (And that I was forced to be patient enough to appreciate it.)
The photographs range from portraits to still lives to obviously staged situations. Each type of image repeats, thereby moving solidly into the symbolic. Young African men and women, staring at the camera, intently. Caucasian people, hiding from the stark sun with towels and leaves over their eyes. Flowering trees to prove that life goes on, and burnt stumps to remind us that it doesn’t.
Vegetables left to rot on the ground. Tomatoes and corn. Why would that happen in a place with hungry people? Too many pesticides? Was the owner taken away by government agents, his/her possessions dropped behind? We see a freshly-dug grave, several shrines, and a red plastic bag hovering above a concrete tomb.
There are no guns, no machetes, no blood. But we do see a young man in a red shirt sitting in a blue chair that has been tipped onto the ground. And another photo, this one from the cover, of a body floating in the river, face down. Dead? You can’t tell.
I’ve said the in past that I don’t Google to get a better understanding of a book. If I’m supposed to know something, I expect it to be there for me to parse. But in this case, I did look up the word “Parasomnia,” just to be sure. It describes certain sleep disorders, from night terrors to sleep-walking, that afflict people who don’t sleep well enough. It leads to delirium, I suppose. But it also fits perfectly with the surreal but familiar feeling of this book. Not a bad title, given what lies within.
Bottom line: Cool book, reading required
Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.
Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.
I’ll be at Shoot LA on Saturday giving a workshop from 3:15 – 4:15 PM on Social Media Marketing. I’m going to get you pumped up to use social media for marketing your work and finding an audience for projects and ideas you have. I see that Andrew Southam has a discussion from 11:45 – 1:15 and there’s a bunch of other cool workshops and talks so it looks to be worth checking out. Come say hi if you’re going to be there, I always enjoy meeting readers.
More info here: shoot-la.com
I think that Hetherington’s images from Afghanistan will end up being THE images from this particular war; put them on the shelf with icons by Capa and Smith and the rest of pantheon of great war photographers.
via DLK COLLECTION.
Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
I first met Jazzmine when she was a studio manager for a New York City lifestyle photographer and wanted to go out on her own. She hired me to help her make that leap and present herself professionally. When Jazzmine showed me these “jib-jabs”, I thought they were perfect for this column and I asked her if I could include her. I want to illustrate that your still images can be used in motion and in a comically way. I also want you to be careful to “cap” your usage to protect yourself so you will have the possibility of additional compensation.
Suzanne: You shot this campaign for a local grocery chain in New York City. For the print portion you got a lot of character from real D’agonstino’s employees. Did you ever think it would inspire the client to create these “jib jabs”?
Jazzmine: Ha – Well, if I’m being honest, no. The D’Agostino shoot was my first time collaborating with the creative agency, Grok. I came in guns blazing to guarantee I nailed the lighting and I wanted to make everyone present feel as comfortable and happy as possible.
My mind was solely focused on the present. That being said, the men I photographed were definitely not short of character and Tod Seisser, the Creative Director, and I had a great time with them. Grok saw something more in the work and used it to their client’s advantage.
It definitely opened my mind to the importance of shooting more than less and the value of capturing spontaneous expressions when they come.
Suzanne: And this brings up a new trend in shooting for clients. When you shoot a campaign, you want to shoot more. How do you protect yourself in the verbiage on usage so you can be additionally compensated?
Jazzmine: You definitely want to shoot more than less. I feel the best photographers do, by default.
The industry’s outline of usage is changing and it’s smart for photographers to adjust their outlines to change with it. Clients don’t want to have to come back to you every time they have a new place to use your images. Instead, they’re looking to do full buy outs of the images for a period of time. Photographers can use this to their advantage and negotiate for a full buyout from from the beginning, which means happy clients, and happy photographer with the bigger buyout payment.
Additionally, its always best to be as clear as possible going into a project rather than drawing lines once it’s been completed. Every photographer should educate themselves on the types of usage and the rates that apply within different markets. When you have that basic knowledge you’re in a better place to negotiate. With D’Agostino, the initial usage was for print only. So when the animation came up, it was clear that it would require additional licensing and Grok contacted me.
Suzanne: As a photographer breaking out to full time, what advice would you give someone wanting to make the same leap?
Jazzmine: My advice would be to stay focused. Always be developing your craft and educate yourself to stay stylistically current, technically current and socially current.
It’s also very important to remain humble and learn from the people around you. When good things happen to you (and they will!), it’s definitely because you’ve been working for it. But it’s also because someone went out of their way to give you an opportunity.
A thank you goes a long way. Never fall into the trap of entitlement. And, prepare yourself as much as possible for the transition, but there’s never going to be a “perfect time” to make the leap. You simply have to take a chance to grow.
I recently saw a Henry Miller quote on www.vanderbiltrepublic.com that meant a lot to me:“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.” My short answer, Believe in yourself.
Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.
Jazzmine moved to New York at the age of 19 from Maine. By the age of 25 she was shooting her own produced campaigns. By the age of 27, her campaigns went international. Working with Tod Seisser of Grok, she photographed a portrait series for Taleo that was immediately written up in Adweek and ran in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Review and Business Week. But more exciting is that it ran in Germany, France and the UK.
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.
…photos that accompanied the article — of Asma al-Assad, her husband and two of their children at home in Damascus — were facilitated by an American public-relations firm working for the Syrian government. The firm, Brown Lloyd James, was paid $25,000 to set up a photo session with James Nachtwey, the famed war photographer…
via The Washington Post.
Five and ten years ago we were wondering whether people would ever pay for digital media. But now the question isn’t whether people, young and old, will pay — it’s how the hell to figure out how much to charge them…