This Week In Photography Books – Javier Arcenillas

- - Photo Books

by Jonathan Blaustein

Let’s be honest: last week’s column was long. The week after I agreed not to mess with the format, I went and added 10 paragraphs to your reading load. Forgive me. (Even my Dad had to read it in two stages.) I thought it was worth it, as the chance to hear from such talented publishers was too good to pass up. But this week, allow me to rectify the situation. We’ll keep it short, just to maintain the balance. Book review only. No rambling personal narrative. (Until next week.)

When I visited New York last Fall, I saw some posters strewn around Williamsburg. Intense and more than a little scary, they advertised a project called “Sicarios,” which was showing somewhere in Brooklyn, I believe. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it means Hitman in Spanish. (Or Assassin, if you prefer.) There are a lot of them running around Mexico and Central America, as the skill-set is in high demand.

So when the book ended up in my pile, (by Javier Arcenillas, published by FotoEvidence in Brooklyn,) I was relieved and disturbed at the same time. While I would normally drop into a story about the dangers I faced traveling in Guatemala back in ’99, I won’t go there today. Got to honor the promise above. But the photos in this book offer a stark, black and white vision of the red bloody mess going on down there at present.

Is this book for everyone? No. Definitely not. It’s a collection of gruesome, troubling and poignantly tragic photographs. They’re expertly rendered, and may or may not lead to any sort of social change. But they do, for certain, bring humanity to what is, for many, an abstract Geo-Political problem. The US can swing it’s military dick around the Middle East all it wants, but that doesn’t make the drama to our South any less real, or horrifying.

It was only two weeks ago that we collectively meditated on the concept of suffering with Donald Weber’s new book “Interrogations.” He left much up to the imagination, which was what lent a talismanic power to the publication. “Sicarios” does not. Which is why it’s not for everyone. But for those of you who hunger to stare down the ugly “truth”, this book might offer a sumptuous repast.

Dead bodies, naked streetwalkers, scowling psychopaths, blood trails down the side of a car door, young kids strolling through their perilous reality without a second thought, women crying in hand-me-down American T-shirts (West Virginia- No Lifeguard At The Gene Pool,) barbed wire-topped prison walls, cowboy hats, machine guns, machetes, crucifixes…it’s all there. Does this sound like fun? I sure hope not.

But, if you’ve read any or all of my previous columns, you’ll know that I don’t believe Art must always be pretty. Quite the opposite. Dave Chapelle once did a skit on his show called “When Keepin’ It Real Goes Wrong.” This book pretty much nails the concept. A cycle of violence, once kicked off, is hard to stop, no matter where in the world you live. Some places, as Malcolm Gladwell has mused, have it worse than others. Cultures of revenge and blood lust. Guatemala is such a place.

So let’s end this now, shall we. After all, I guaranteed you a short piece. This book is worthy of your attention. Mr. Arcenillas is laying out the gory bits for all to see. It’s up to you if you feel like looking. I won’t judge you either way.

Bottom Line: Super-hard-core book, not for the faint of heart

To purchase “Sicarios” visit Photo-Eye

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.


It’s the people you know who give you work

- - Blog News

…photo editors or creatives got to know me from production calls. I wasn’t handing out business cards on the shoot [as an assistant]. I showed up, did my job, showed people I was the guy who could get things done. That’s when my conversation with clients began, and when I called them up later [about work], they remembered who I was.

Michael Clinard’s Professional Transition via PDN

The Daily Edit – Friday

- - The Daily Edit

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Runner’s World

Design Director: Kory Kennedy
Deputy Art Director: Marc Kauffman
Photo Editor: Andrea Maurio
Associate Photo Editor:
Renee Keith

Photographer (first image): Trevor Dixon
Photographer (second image): Michael Lewis

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted

Still Images In Great Advertising – Kevin Griffin

Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.

I reached out Kevin Griffin when I saw this incredible campaign by Chemistry for The Irish Examiner. I liked the diversity of the images and felt they were creatively shot for each concept. I also liked that the way social issues were not hidden but in your face.

Suzanne: I went to your site and you have an excellent body of work. This campaign required you to shoot in different styles. Was that a challenge?

Kevin: The biggest challenge was to show a certain continuity throughout the campaign. This was achieved by good art direction and good grading by the retoucher, iCraft.

Suzanne: This campaign is very political- how were they received by the public?

Kevin: They were very popular, the campaign highlighted underlying problems within Irish society, problems that are usually ignored.

Suzanne: And were you disappointed that Ads of the World did not include “Suicide” and “Mental Health”?

Kevin: No, I was not one bit disappointed. I think the whole campaign is strong. Lürzers Archive included “Mental Health” recently in their magazine.

Suzanne: Did the campaign get to the social issues that are highlighted in the campaign?

Kevin: Yes I think they did, I believe the pictures really do tell the story they are trying to portray.

Suzanne: I noticed in your personal work, you look at the world in a fun and quirky way- has that work helped you in your commissioned career?

Kevin: I love shooting personal work, this work is really for me. Not all my work is fun and quirky, we all see the world from a different perspective and I think this is the interesting part of any visual communication.


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.


LA Art Producers Discuss Industry Topics At Community Table

- - Art Producer

How cool would it be to get a group of LA Art Producers in a room and pepper them with questions about the business? And, not one of these panels where everyone is on their best behavior, but a cozy room filled with like minded professionals, where you can seriously discuss the state of the industry when it comes to finding and hiring photographers. Well, that’s exactly what Community Table, a series of blog posts based on a lunch Matt Nycz, Kate Chase of Brite Productions; Heather Elder, Lauranne Lospalluto of Heather Elder Represents; and and Alison McCreery of POP Blog put together.

So far there’ve been two installments: Part I: The Appetizer and Part II: The Main Course

Here are a few highlights:

There is a rise in the “pay to play” events where photographers pay a fee or pay into a program that allows them direct access to creatives and or art producers.  The organizers sometimes offer compensation to the reviewers in an effort to elevate the seriousness of the event and show a respect for the reviewer’s time.  What is it about these types of events that are most successful and what do you feel could be improved upon?  Do you see this as a positive trend and if not, why?

Here is how Jigisha got everyone thinking:

“In the past few years I’ve thought about this a lot because I’ve needed to strategize as my role as an art producer in an ad agency and as a department head. With regards to the pay-to-play events, I’ve thought about what is a conflict of interest and what is acceptable.

At first, I would get an offer to come look at and critique portfolios that came with a stipend. I knew the people putting the shows together were also charging the photographers to have their books reviewed, but I would do them. However, in the last couple of years, the books that came to me were photographers who didn’t need my critique, who were already quite successful and could call me and get a showing

Acknowledging that the pay-to-play events present a valuable opportunity to emerging photographers, Jigisha continued, “Then alternatively, there have been other reviews I’ve done for beginner and emerging books where I could be constructive and helpful. In this case, my time was worth it for them, if the photographer uses it as a critique to make their book better.”

Based on an evaluation of how much each side gets out of it, Jigisha now only participates when she feels it is not a conflict of interest. “I made the decision not to participate in events where the caliber of photographer is good enough to come in to my agency and be seen. But I will participate in the ones where I can use my experience to help them and they can maybe do a little more work and see me at my agency the next time and not have to pay.”


But back to eBlasts. “I like them and I don’t like them,” offered Melanie. “A lot of time I have to delete them every morning. But the email trend has helped cut down on the mailed promos. It now takes a week to get what I used to get in a day. I feel better about the impact on the earth.

“I’m the total opposite,” said Kristine, “I love promos and am guilty of not opening every email blast. Promos have always been a favorite part of my job. I just love them.”

And in conclusion, one final bit of advice from Cara.One thing the creatives ask us over and over is how they can make the eblasts stop. The eblasts should be targeted directly to the art producers.”

Make sure you check out both posts and look for future updates.

Has finding a decent photographer become easier or harder in the digital age?

- - Blog News

It’s so much easier. I haven’t called in a book for years.

I also think there are more decent photographers working today than there were 10 years ago. The economy has weeded out the field somewhat. I see a wide variety of photo styles being accepted by clients today, which brings photographers into the commercial fold where previously they wouldn’t have had a market.

Chris Peters, Sr. Art Producer at Colle+McVoy via, Wonderful Machine Blog. thx, Neil

Perhaps Many Photographers Don’t Understand The Value Of Usage

A reader sent me this story, so that it might instill confidence in young photographers like herself. I think you will find that it does that:

I worked with one of the local college’s ex-students on a shoot for a magazine editorial about a year ago. The ex-student lied about having my permission and gave the image to the college, which then used the image on a billboard advertisement that wraps around a 20 story building on a very busy road in the city. It is a recognizable image of mine, and shows the faces of two models from a local agency. It was actually one of the models who spotted it first and I received a very embarrassing phone call from her agent who asked me how that shoot ended up on a billboard.

I went online and researched some suggestions of how I could handle this, but I couldn’t find much available. Crawling through some forums, I found that a few photographers had their images stolen and placed on a billboard, and they charged $500 for the use. The billboard was already up there for 1.5 months and it was supposed to be up there for 3 months total. I called the model agency and they told me that they ended up with $1500 for each girl for a year’s usage. They said that they knew the figure was low, but at least they would receive some pocket money.

I also consulted with a couple of local creative agencies who also offered some advice. They were helpful at first, although once they started talking to the college they decided to back off. I think they probably thought it wasn’t worth it (despite that I offered them the incentive of a commission). They were perhaps scared of losing a potential client over a nobody photographer like me.

So I spoke with the college directly and they asked me to come in to discuss this and negotiate a pay-out. I didn’t want to go in – I couldn’t see a reason to apart from them using this opportunity to intimidate me. They were a little manipulative over the phone, suggesting that my photograph would potentially be featured there for 12 months and it would be great exposure for me if I didn’t charge too much. I offered them $1500 per month, which they thought was ridiculous (I thought what they paid the model agency was ridiculous!). They told me the billboard space was only costing them $2700 per month. So I said I’d seek further advice and come back with a figure. They were desperate to get me to come in.

After much research, I found that it’s tricky to put a price on usage. I found the best advice to be 10 – 30% of the marketing budget (from small to large scale). In this scenario, they hadn’t commissioned this shoot and it wasn’t just about using my image, it was also the humiliation I went through explaining to my team members (particularly the model agency) how the image got into the advertiser’s hands. It also concerns the disassociation of my image to me (now known as the face of that college and it impacts my professionalism – even the creative agency that I sought advice from assumed I stupidly gave the files to the college (I had given them to the ex-student to use for his portfolio).

So I went with my gut instinct, and ended up charging them a figure that I thought was fair. I wrote them a letter a week later, explaining my situation, the inconvenience this has caused me, my humiliation to those involved, and that I thought after all this the figure was fair. I stuck with this:
2.5 months and they take the image down – $1500 per month = $3750
3 months – $1500 per month, $4500
12 months – $1250 per month, $15000

In the end, they decided they wanted my image for 12 months. After a few emails back and forth, I ended up settling on $9000. That’s ok, it’s a little less than what I was asking for but it’s a little more than 30% of their budget for the billboard space, I didn’t want to pursue this any further so I was happy to settle on that. They even offered me the incentive for future work with them.

After a google search, it seems like this problem occurs often and perhaps many photographers don’t understand the value of usage.

Confessions of a Veteran Spring Training Photographer

- - Blog News

Are things better now than there were 21 years go? Has technology made my job shooting spring training easier? Yes. Being able to look at my pictures on the screen on the back of my cameras during a game allows me to know if I have a certain image in the can so I can move on to the next subject. The image quality is terrific and the ease of delivering the files back to the office is a dream.

I’m glad I’ve been around long enough to work through all of these changes.

Brad Mangin via Raw File |

The Daily Edit – Tuesday

- - The Daily Edit

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Creative Director: Adam  Glassman
Photo Director: Katherine Schad
Art Director: Jaspal Riyait
Deputy Photo Director: Christina Weber

Photographer: Todd Marshard

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted

Michael Grecco Combats Illegal Downloads With The Electronic Version

- - copyright

I heard from Michael Grecco about his new ebook on lighting and wanted to know more about finding the original book on torrent sites and how that spurred him on to create an electronic version. Here’s what he had to say:

In 2006, I released a book that grew from a very well received lecture series called “Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait” that I gave at the Photo Plus Expo. The goal of the book was to describe what I had learned about lighting over the course of my career. In writing the book I made the decision to hold nothing back. The book went on to be a best seller, briefly hitting number 291 on Amazon (out of the millions of books they have). We sold over 30,000 copies worldwide. I was thrilled with the results and, to this day, the book continues to sell

A few years ago a friend recommended that I start a “Google Alert” for my name and projects. Google will send you an email anytime you are mentioned on the Internet, which is an amazingly useful tool to monitor the Internet coverage of yourself and your projects. I discovered that “Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait” was very popular on torrent download and share sites. At the time, I just smiled and thought there was little to do about it; I guess it was just nice to be popular.

Then I thought, why not offer the book digitally? My book agent checked the contract and we both agreed that I had retained the electronic rights. When the book was first published by Watson Guptill (great publishing house- they did a fantastic job!), no one understood the value of digital rights, so the issue never made it into the contract. I consulted, my 19 year-old son, Dakota, who is into game design, to see if this was something he could program. Dakota did the coding of the book; we worked together on optimizing the images in size and resolution so that they looked great. We also re-did the lighting diagrams, taking them up a notch by giving them more details and making them read better on the device. Then we added a bonus chapter for purchasers of the eBook.

In retrospect, I understand that the torrents were infringing my book, but as we investigated, some sites actually did not have the book available- they were just using the name to entice people to subscribe to their torrent site. Researching who actually had the book, and who did not, was a huge undertaking. But what I realized was that these sharing sites were telling me that there was an unfulfilled demand for a serious photography book, in an electronic format, about lighting. We expect, with the eBook release of “Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait,” for the electronic theft to disappear as photographers find the original–and superior–version available at an affordable price.

If the book continues to be successful, we are looking to provide other photographers with our publishing and marketing infrastructure to help them publish their books electronically through our newly formed company, Naked Editions. I am curious to learn what your readers think.

The Daily Edit – Monday

- - The Daily Edit

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Runner’s World

Design Director: Kory Kennedy
Deputy Art Director: Marc Kauffman
Photo Editor: Andrea Maurio
Associate Photo Editor: Renee Keith

Photographer: Adam Voorhes

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted

This Week In Photography Books – Karianne Bueno, “Haiiro”

by Jonathan Blaustein

It’s either ironic or pathetic, (depending upon your POV,) but I didn’t consider myself a photo book expert before I began writing this column last September. Sure, I love photography, and have devoted the last fifteen years of my life to its practice, but I viewed books as a by-product of the process. A result, if you will. Clearly, my thinking has evolved since then.

It seems that every photographer on Earth wants a photo book these days, though many wouldn’t be able to explain why. We did a guest post on the subject by Joanna Hurley of Radius books six months ago, but people are no less obsessed with the subject now. So I thought I’d use this week’s musings to delve deep into the meaning of Why?

Closing my eyes, I can easily recall the first time I pulled a photo book off the shelf in the UNM Fine Arts library back in 1997. Two months into my studies, I was bored, and stalked the aisles of the library with nothing better to do. I stopped, for no good reason, and pulled out “España Oculta,” a book of photographs by Cristina Garcia Rodero. She documented the surreal insanity of Spanish cultural rituals for fifteen years, and the magical book was the result. As good as the pictures were, (and they are brilliant,) the idea of that kind of dedication, over time, was what most impacted me.

Flash forward to the insanity of our present, and many photographers see a photo book as a marketing object. (Drop mad cash with a publisher, never recoup your investment directly, but hope to reap the rewards in the long run.) Recently, I bumped into a photographer, whose book I reviewed, who admitted to spending nearly $30,000 on his project. He felt it was worth it, as the book opened new doors for his business, and enabled him to be taken more seriously. Another photographer, with whom I spoke the same week, also told me he had to raise significant funds with the same publisher, and viewed his book in a similar light.

Alternatively, I have a cousin and an uncle who are passionate amateur photographers. Each time I visit, they corral me to view their vacation exploits, expertly printed and bound, through the wonders of Blurb’s online publishing interface. What would once have been the realm of scotch tape and plastic sheathing is now bound together in a hard-cover book. “Daytona Beach Spring Break 2012” sits on the shelf next to Diane Arbus. (How’s that for Post-Modern?) So forgive me if I was a tad cynical about the publishing process when Rob tapped me to write this column last Summer.

Earlier this month, as you might have guessed from all the hints I dropped, Rob sent me to London to check out the scene. It was beyond fantastic, and I promise to share the visions of splendor before too long. (After I get back from FotoFest, if you can wait a little longer.) Luckily for you bibliophiles, I was able to interview two of the world’s best book publishers on consecutive days.

On a Thursday, late in the day I arrived, I met Aron Mörel of Mörel Books at a street side cafe in West London. I turned up late and flustered, as I couldn’t find the place, despite ascending from the Underground a mere 5 blocks away. Being British, he was gracious about the whole thing, and the interview was blissfully casual.

Though young, and relatively new to the publishing world, Mr. Mörel has worked with some of the best artists and photographers in the business, including Thomas Ruff, Ryan McGinley and Boris Mikhailov. He’s also published books by fashion photographers Craig McDean and Terry Richardson. Big names, yes, but surprisingly small books. Mostly soft cover, from what I’ve seen, and each project is tightly bound together by a concept.

What knowledge bombs did I solicit? Well, according to Mr. Mörel, a great book is a work of art. Not only that, but an affordable one. Who has the ducats to buy a print by Thomas Ruff? Next to no one. But many, if not most of us, can scrounge together $40 or $50 to buy a book. He sees the book itself, not only the images within, is the art object.

Back home now, 5000 miles away from that chilly London sidewalk, I’d have to say I agree. We chatted for a while about how Mr. Mörel got into the business, (a love of photography and poetry,) and my burgeoning theory that boobs sell books. (He agreed.) He also opened up a bit about his DIY style. Once the shipments arrive from his printer in Istanbul, he sometimes puts the books together himself, at home. (He once hand-folded several thousand covers in two days.) As a final thought, he said he looks at every submission that comes in, and encouraged photographers to send him an email, as he loves to see new things.

The next morning, jet-lagged, hung over, and not-yet-showered, (how’s that for TMI?) I had a meeting at MACK books, the new-ish imprint that released Taryn Simon’s huge book, and Gerry Johansson’s “Pontiac.” (With imminent publications by Thomas Demand and Paul Graham.) If you suspect I was a tad intimidated, you’d be correct. Fortunately, after they buzzed me into the building, the stairwell smelled of a strand of funk and mold not found in the United States. (I suppose an old city has old odors.) The stench, added to strewn boxes everywhere, grounded me, and helped me cross the threshold into one of the new bastions of the publishing world.

I stepped into the medium-sized office, flooded with natural light, and interrupted a staff of six, hard at work. I’d arranged for the visit with Poppy, the gracious PR person, who met me at the door and introduced me around. Then she led me in, offered me a “fake” espresso, and sat down for a little chat. Not intimidating in the least. How refreshing.

Shockingly, after I asked my very first question of Poppy, Michael Mack, the man himself, gracefully spun around in his swivel-chair to answer my query. Just like that. Had I intended to get a personal interview? Of course not. It just happened.

To start off, I asked Mr. Mack about Mr. Mörel’s theory, from the previous day, about a book being a work of art. He concurred, without a second thought. (But he hastened to add “I don’t think fashion photographers have the capacity to make a work of art.” Have fun debating that one in the comments below.)

Mr. Mack went on to explain that, to him, a great book has to be a unique, and equally important, expression of an artist’s work. It’s not just one more branded object to be commodified. (Which he likened to a product line: “Screen. Book. Wall. Magazine. Newspaper. Which is absolute crap.”) That’s the wrong way to go about it, he said. To further make the point, he held up a rainbow-colored copy of Paul Graham’s multi-book project, “A Shimmer of Possibility.” This, he said, was “a conceptual art piece in the form of a book.”

As this is the longest column I’ve written yet, (and I haven’t even gotten to a book review yet,) allow me to tie this back to the beginning. A book can be a family album. It can also be a marketing object. But, if you’ve set your aspirations as high as possible, a great photo book becomes the thing itself. It’s the opposite of what I foolishly used to think. The book is not the artifact of the process, the vessel that contains great photographs. It can be the ultimate expression of an artist’s vision, one that is as difficult to nail as a great film. (So much collaboration…)

Taken to the extreme, a great book might not even need to contain great photographs. Even a slightly-less-than-genius vision, if codified perfectly, can make a great book. Like “Haiiro,” a small, beautiful new offering by Karianne Bueno, recently published by Schaden. Yes, there was always a point to this column. Even if you lost faith five paragraphs ago.

“Haiiro” arrived in my book pile recently, and I was immediately drawn to it. It’s a small book, cloth-bound, with an image of the rooftops of a small Japanese village on the cover. The spine is covered by a thin piece of black elastic, like something off of my Mom’s phone book, circa 1986. The book is delicate and alluring, straight away.

Open it up, and it’s a vertical orientation, as the pages spill out accordion style. Green trees, a rice paddy, some girls by the stream, the Tokyo skyline, orange carp battling in a river, some more trees and water and buildings. No words. Then, a photograph of a trove of waterlogged documents, letters and such, depicted above an image of an empty apartment. Boom. The Tsunami reference sneaks up on you like a black-pajama-clad Ninja.

After that, an excellent, short, written narrative closes out the production. It’s inviting, so you read it. The tone and energy match the photographs, providing a glimmer of context for the artist’s travels, and then it’s done. Barely 15 pictures, and a page of words. You open it up again, test out the fold technique, and realize that it does stretch out like a screen. Better yet, it’s unattached. So you carefully, slowly, put it back together, and set it back on the shelf.

This book is as close to the expression of a poem as I’ve seen. It’s neither linear nor literal. It’s beautiful, remarkable, and the type of thing one would definitely pick up from time to time, just to recapture the mood. But the pictures are not terribly unique, and the printing is not the best I’ve seen. I’m not sure I’ll remember the photographer, but I’ll definitely remember the book.

Bottom Line: A perfect little visual poem

To purchase “Haiiro” visit Photo-Eye

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.

The Daily Edit – Friday

- - The Daily Edit

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Harper’s Bazzar

Creative Director: Stephen Gan
Design Director: Elizabeth Hummer
Photography + Bookings Editor: Zoe Bruns
Associate Art Director: Gary Ponzo
Senior Photo + Bookings Editor: Barbara Tomassi

Photographer: Liu Bolin, making of (here).


Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted

I quit the mass mailing habit cold turkey in 2007

- - Blog News

I think it’s safe to say that in most cases, mailing out promos offers pretty much the same return on investment as giving your money to the printer and paying him to set it on fire for you.

Granted, whenever I visit a client or creative, there are usually a few mailers stuck to the wall or sitting on their desks — but there are generally a lot more of them in the garbage. And often as not, the stuff pinned up is either from photographers they’ve worked with before, or shooters who’ve recently won awards or garnered some attention elsewhere and are therefore already on their radar.

via planet shapton.