The Daily Promo: David Studarus

- - The Daily Promo

David Studarus


Who printed it?

Printing was handled by Anthony Wright, awlitho.com – he was a total pleasure to deal with, and does great work!

Who designed it?
Jennifer Rider was my designer.  When we first met, I was intrigued because she has worked on a lot of fine art and gallery publications.  She’s also currently working with me on a few other pieces that are for leave behinds, a new biz card, and an email promo.  We’re really focusing on having everything work together to support the brand.

Who edited the images?
Both Jennifer and myself.  I started off with maybe 8 images I told her had to be included, then she selected the rest from within a larger body of work I gave her.  She put a lot of effort into the pacing and flow of this piece!  This is the first time I’ve ceded that much control, but I’m really happy with the outcome.  This particular piece lent itself to that process; for the next piece I’m doing, I’ll provide a tight edit and then let her work out how to best use the images together.

How many did you make?
1500

How many times a year do you send out promos?
This year I am planning for 2 larger, significant, pieces (this being the first).  I also have some ideas for a few very small run targeted pieces.

This Week in Photography Books: Anthony Hernandez

 

There are more photo-books out there than ever before.

The market has proliferated, with the advent of crowdfunding, and publishers who will make you a book if you’ll pay their fee.

So if you’re planning on joining the crowd, I’d recommend you ask yourself a few questions first.

Why do I think my work needs to exist in book form?
Who is the potential audience?
Why will it be necessary for people to buy it?

Occasionally, I like to get you guys thinking about the reasons behind this photo-book industry I cover each week. By now, my tastes are well established, if broad.

One week, I’m praising pictures from the 19th Century, and the high quality of the packaging in which they’re presented. The next week, I’ll big up a little ‘zine that looks like it was made by some very talented teen-agers.

Any type of book can be excellent, if it gets the right balance of content, form, and intentionality. And I’ve interviewed several artists who prefer books, for their permanence, to exhibitions, which are ephemeral.

I love a good show, myself, because it allows scale to become a far more valuable element. Just as people go to the movies to see things on the “really” big screen, I like that in museums, I can see paintings that are 40 feet long, or photographs 8 feet high.

The book’s strength, in addition to longevity, is that it’s intimate. You control the experience in a more personal way. No pushy crowds. No bumping into people in the elevator. No dirty looks from the uptight gallery staff.

You can turn the pages backwards and forwards. Skip ahead. Or dash back to a favorite picture.

But in general, photo-books are linear narratives. The viewer will pick it up, start at the beginning, and carry on through to the end.

Therefore, what you do or don’t tell someone at the outset determines the context in which they understand your work. Some books want you to guess what’s going on, (like last week’s offering,) others ask you to read dense, academic essays before you even get to peek at a pic.

If I’m thinking about these things as a reviewer, I expect you to consider them before you spend the money to make a book.

What are you trying to say, and to whom are you speaking?

Given what I know of Anthony Hernandez’s work, I was a little surprised with what turned up in the mail the other day. The folks at MACK, in London, were kind enough to send me a copy of Mr. Hernandez’s new book, “Forever.”

I reviewed his excellent Amon Carter Museum exhibition, “Discarded,” last year, and was lucky enough to interview him a few months later about his retrospective at SFMOMA. (Since closed.)

He grew up in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, and has been making some pretty smart, considered, and at times beautiful photographs in and around LA for most of his life.

Much of his career has focused on examining the secret haunts and hidey-holes of the city’s homeless community, and the bleak public spaces left for those without Maybachs and mansions in Beverly Hills.

“Forever,” I learned, is a project in which he visited homeless encampments, boxes and jimmy-rigged shelters, and laid down where people sleep. Or where they catch a few minutes of rest, in the midst of the stress-horror-show that is life on the street.

Then he photographed from that vantage point.

I was entranced, as he said, “If you stop, and start thinking about, where I am? How can I be sitting here, or laying down on this bed, you won’t be out there. You won’t be making those pictures.”

I think it’s vital to know that about the photographs, to truly appreciate them. Some are too dry, or too reminiscent of things I’ve seen before, but others are absolutely perfect.

Like the twenty, beat-up, sad-looking copper pennies in perfect rows, sitting atop a thin strip of curb, set against the less-shiny brown of the pebbly dirt.

I think it’s amazing, visually. You can sense how deeply he stared at it. And then, you think, why would anyone living on the street leave money like that?

Are pennies now that worthless?

Or was the place tucked-away-enough they considered it safe?

Maybe they took off in a hurry, or were too high to remember the change?

It’s only one picture, and there are seven or eight I thought were that mesmerizing. Like the matchbook. The brick wall. The concrete block wall. (He does walls well.)

And, most of all, the curled, slightly faded portrait of a weepy-looking young girl. A studio portrait, made somewhere, by someone.

It’s taped or glued to the front of a hollowed-out concrete block. Presumably, in this context, it’s the first thing someone sees after they wake up, and the last vision before closing their eyes at night.

The picture is screaming in my ear: This is the last place I’d ever want to end up. The worst spot in the world. Alone, sleeping on rocks, thinking of the daughter I left behind.

Or maybe she’s dead? And the grief drove her father or mother insane?

The book is set up in such a way that it’s difficult (or impossible) to acquire this context, before looking at the pictures. I suspect it’s intended for art world people, who already know what his work is about.

They bring the knowledge with them, as I did. And I think MACK figured the book buyers would be cool with it. No didactic description necessary.

We can agree to disagree.

There’s only a bit that really hints at it, in the book’s closing essay by Judith Freeman. She uses a style in which the narrative and interview bits are jumbled together, distinguished only by font style.

Her words say, “To find a bed or chair, a place you can sit, look out from their point of view.” As it shades towards inscrutable, on first reading, I’d say they’re still assuming people will know what’s going on.

There is nothing wrong with making a book for art collectors and photo geeks. Most established photo book publishers are definitely going for just that market.

But, setting aside one’s preference for knowing versus guessing, I think it’s a very cool book. The best pictures are almost perfect examples of the anti-aesthetic.

Of ugly beauty.

I know from our interview that Mr. Hernandez was friends with Lewis Baltz, (RIP,) who was a genuine master at that skill. Composing so well within ugliness, mastering tone and texture, amid garbage and industrial spaces, that beauty emerged despite itself.

Design-wise, I have to give a shout out to the patterned purple cover followed by a rich, red, inside-cover paper . It’s pretty gorgeous, and makes me think of tailors on Saville Row with a taste for the naughty.

It’s a pretty interesting contrast to the glumness inside, and hearkens back to earlier in this article. Every choice you make, when you build your book, reflects your intention.

MACK, as a publisher, tries to make art objects. They don’t see books as information dissemination vehicles, but rather art itself. And art objects, unlike opinion columnists, need not explain themselves.

Bottom Line: Cool, well-designed, but slightly inscrutable take on homelessness

To purchase “Forever,” click here

If you’d like to submit a book for review, please email me at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com

Personal Projects: John Huet

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this new revised thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist: John Huet

About 20 years ago my wife and I moved to Manchester-by-the-Sea, a small coastal New England town north of Boston on Cape Ann. With a population of about 6,000, not a lot happens here. The small town aspect of living here has made it a great place to raise our family. I doubt that many people were even familiar with Manchester-by-the-Sea until the award winning film starring Massachusetts’s native, Casey Affleck, came out last year.

I’ve been photographing this town for as long as I’ve lived here, and after seeing Manchester by the Sea, I went back and took another look at some of my images from the vantage point of the movie. I’m always inspired by the quiet beauty of this little town, and that’s a big part of what this body of work is about for me.

See more of this project by clicking here.

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 establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.

Pricing & Negotiating: Pharmaceutical Portraits

Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Portraits and photojournalistic manufacturing lifestyle images

Licensing: Unlimited use of all images captured in perpetuity

Location: On location at a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in the Northwest

Shoot Days: One

Photographer: Northwest-based portrait and lifestyle specialist

Agency: A Small Northwest-based agency

Client: A mid-sized pharmaceutical company

Here is the estimate:

pricing and negotiating wonderful machine, estimates for shoot production, shoot production estimates, executive producers who do estimates, estimates for photographers, wonderful machine production company, examples of photographer contracts, Jess Dudley executive producer, Pharmaceutical Portraits

Creative/Licensing: One of our Northwest-based photographers reached out looking for help pulling together an estimate for a library shoot for a local mid-sized pharmaceutical manufacturer. The agency had contacted the photographer requesting a quote for a one day shoot on location at one of their client’s manufacturing facilities. The project called for 12 setups: four environmental shots of the facility/labs, seven photojournalistic lifestyle images of employees “at work” and one lit/staged portrait. The client required unlimited usage of the library of images. We see a lot of projects along these lines, but this project was a bit unusual because the 12 setups were relatively specific. They didn’t seem to offer a lot of opportunity for variations (as opposed to more dynamic scenarios that may allow for a greater degree of variety in the space, subjects and available actions/activities). Shot one, in particular, was much more carefully composed and art directed because it would be used in trade ads, while the other 11 shots would only appear in collateral pieces. After speaking with the photographer about the hefty shot list, we wanted to make sure the client was aware that it was doable, but perhaps a bit ambitious, and that the day may require some prioritization if we were unable to move around as freely and quickly as expected.

Library fees can start around $7500 a day and will often include unlimited or perpetual usage of all images captured. It should be noted, however, that “library” does not necessarily mean unrestricted use (although it did in this case), and may be used to refer just to the volume of imagery. Accordingly, it is important to make the initial assumption that the client is willing to limit the use in some way. Often, clients are willing to limit either the duration of use or quantity of images for a library shoot, so it is best to begin the conversation with that assumption in mind to avoid inadvertently “giving away” more than necessary. Unfortunately, this was not one of those instances, and the client did, in fact, require unlimited, perpetual use of all images captured. Interestingly, the ambitious shot list helped to minimize the value of the library because the photographer would have to move so quickly from one shot to the next that the variety captured would be severely limited. Additionally, five of the 12 shots were very specific and didn’t allow for variations of any substance. Factoring the volume of shots, limited production footprint, type of client, intended use (including the very specific trade ad shot) and otherwise straight forward nature of the shoot, I set the rate at $10,000 for this shoot.

Client Provisions: I was sure to note exactly what the client and agency would provide: locations, staff “talent,” staging area(s), wardrobe, props, releases and necessary technical and safety advisors. The advisor was important to highlight since we wanted a client rep to be on set to ensure the facility and staff were up to snuff from a technical and safety standpoint. There’s nothing worse than wrapping up a shot and finding out that the subject was supposed to have been wearing safety goggles, so we were sure to put that responsibility on client’s shoulders.

*Tech/Scout Day: Due to the challenges associated with accessing this particular facility, the client was unable to allow for a tech/scout day. It’s generally a very important part of a production such as this, but unfortunately, our hands were tied.

Assistants & Tech: I estimated for a first assistant and a digital tech for the shoot. All but one shot would be captured using available light, and mobility within the facility was a concern, so the smaller the crew footprint, the better. The photographer wanted to tether a laptop on a tripod, so we didn’t need a full workstation rental from the tech, hence the lower rate.

Equipment: I estimated one day of gear rental from a local rental house including a DSLR system, a backup body, a handful of fast lenses, a small lighting and grip kit and a laptop to tether.

Styling: I included one stylist to manage basic hair, makeup, and wardrobe needs for the staff and talent. The talent would be wearing a branded uniform which the client provided, so we didn’t need to do any wardrobe shopping.

Shoot Processing for Client Review: This covered the photographer’s time for the initial import, edit, color correction and upload of the entire shoot to an FTP for client review and final image selection.

Selects Processed for Reproduction: I included basic select processing as a lump sum based on 150/image in this case. This protects the fee in the event the client ultimately selects more or less than 12 images.

Casting and Talent: Since the portrait concept called for a relatively tight shoulder up shot of the talent, they agency was comfortable with a digital casting and reviewing recent comp cards to make their selection. The casting fee covered the photographer’s time to reach out to a couple of local talent agents to request current head shots and share them with the agency for review and selection. The talent fees, in this case, were quoted by the local talent agency. Though this is a very reasonable fee for the usage, we’re often able to negotiate slightly lower fees. The fact that this was for a pharmaceutical client put a little bit of a premium on the talent cost.

Mileage, Meals, and Miscellaneous: Finally, we estimated for miles, meals for the production at the on-site cafeteria, and a bit extra to cover any unanticipated miscellaneous costs.

Results: The photographer was awarded the project and luckily, both the client and agency were very easy to work with, and the facilities proved to be as manageable as we had hoped, all of which allowed the photographer to crank out the entire shot list in a normal 10-hour day.

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing a project, please give us a call at (610) 260-0200. We’re available to help with any and all pricing and negotiating needs—from small stock sales to large ad campaigns.

The Daily Edit – New York Times Sunday Magazine: Damon Casarez

- - The Daily Edit

The New York Times Sunday Magazine

Photo Director: Kathy Ryan
Photo Editor: Stacey Baker
Photographer: Damon Casarez
read about the story here

Heidi: Did you bring this story to the magazine or did you conceptualize the idea and bring to them?
Damon: The photo editor Stacey Baker brought this story to me. I believe I was assigned this project based on the success of my previous assignment work with them on boomerang kids across the country as well as an assignment on LGBTQ canvassers. Boomerang kids was a series of moody, mostly interior portraits and the canvasser story was shot in a South L.A. neighborhood in front of homes the volunteers were canvassing.

How long did the assignment take and what type of direction did you get?
The project was about a week of shooting in Boston and the surrounding cities with 1-2 shoots per day depending on the schedules. The direction was pretty simple from their end; create a strong, natural interior portrait of each family/subject and also create an exterior portrait that’s a bit more formal outside of their homes. After reading the article and taking some notes, Stacey and I talked about having consistency with the exterior portraits and being a bit looser with the interiors. Working with the Times mag is always an amazing experience because they will give some simple directions and trust you to do the rest.

What were the determining factors for interior and exterior images?
The challenge of the interior part was walking into a space I’ve never been in and meeting families I don’t have much info about and creating a dynamic family portrait in a way that is comfortable for them while still being visually interesting and revealing. But, that’s also the challenge of almost every portrait assignment. When meeting each family, I would take some time to talk with them so that we were both comfortable with each other and then we would start to figure out what would be a natural space for them to be photographed. One goal for the exterior shots was to have an option where they would all be executed in the same manner for possible layout options. They were of course open to me doing other options for the exterior but their direction worked out best visually.

How did you handle the dynamic of kids, multi-subject shoots and families? Did you take more frames, direct a bit more?
This was my first assignment with families and multiple kids in a confined portrait setting. My assistant and I would try and make things easy as possible by having lighting tested and ready for the family. The struggle with photographing kids is trying to get their attention to us at the same time and having them be still. One of the kids would be playing and making faces at me while the younger one would be running out of the frame! Sometimes you have no control and let them do what they’re going to do and it works out better and becomes a more natural photo. What helped was taking some breaks to release some energy and showing the kids my camera and having them take a couple of frames. We also had to negotiate with some of the kids. If we were struggling to get the shot, I would tell them that we would only need 5 more frames and they could go play and it would work. Once we had the kids in a good place, we shot a burst of frames to try and nail the shot. It was a super fun learning experience.

The Daily Promo – Norman Maslov Agent Internationale

- - The Daily Promo


Norman Maslov Agent Internationale


Who printed it?
The Agency promo catalog was printed in Asia in coordination with The Workbook.

Who designed it?
Designed by Anita Atencio at the Workbook and our upcoming promo-catalogue has been revised by the Workbook’s new designer, Andy Carey. The booklet is an expanded extension of our Workbook directory advertising.  

Who edited the images?
My photographers submit images to me and we discuss what we want to showcase each year. I edit the order. 

How many did you make?
2500 copies each year. Mailed to creatives nationally and given out at portfolio shows. 

How many times a year do you send out promos?
This is the one full agency group mailing we do once a year. The only one that includes all of our talent. Other mailings throughout the year are separate pieces from the individual artists. 

Where did you get the buttons made?
Buttons made by the Busy Beaver Button Company in Chicago. Designed by Scott Miller

What photo is on that button and why?
The photo is an image that has been a primary part of our identity for over twenty years. We have modified its use over time depending on the application. Hats are an ongoing part of the Agency’s image identity. The round button version was adapted by designer Scott Miller. 

Tell us about the Hat theme.
We’ve been doing the Hat Cover theme on our promotional catalogs for about 12 years. Each year I select one of my photographers to create the wrap around cover/back image. I send them a selection of my hats and they can concept and shoot anything they want with any of the hats as long as it fits the booklets design and front and back cover needs.

This Week in Photography Books: Jim Jocoy

“…it was like the only thing left that made any sense was to try and bash your head against it and hope to wake up somewhere new…”

 

Unlike other book reviewers, I detest opening my articles with a quote. In all the years I’ve been writing this column, I think it’s the second time I’ve pulled out this trope.

Why now?

Well, when I woke up this morning, (Wednesday,) I learned that President Trump had just dismissed FBI Director James Comey.

He had his personal security guard deliver a letter that basically said, “YOU’RE FIRED!!!”

It finally happened.

“The Apprentice” and the government of the United States of America have finally merged into one massive entity, all in the service of money and power.

I’m in a tough spot, myself, as I spent a year and a half before the election warning about our now-lunatic-Commander-in-Chief. And given the ridiculous nature of what’s transpired since he won, I find myself reluctant to continue the barrage here.

It all seems so pointless.

A few months ago, when everyone was talking about how “unprecedented” this all was, I scratched my head, and asked, “What about Nixon?”

I even asked my father directly, as Nixon’s break-in buddies were indicted on the day I was born, March 4th, 1974.

How is this not the same, I wondered?

“No, this is different,” Dad said then, though I suspect he’s since changed his tune. (Though in fairness, he has said for months he thought a 9/11-style special commission would eventually be empowered to look into the Russia mess, leading to Trump’s ouster.)

To be clear, I’m no sage, as I certainly didn’t predict the Donald would win. And I’m wrong often enough, so this is no ego-trip.

Rather, it’s the honest admission of an opinion columnist that I’ve reached the point where the degree of absurdity has exceeded my capacity to ruminate.

Sure, he must think, let’s fire the one guy who has the power to indict my buddies. Maybe no one will suspect my motives? And even if they do, at this point in time, there are no human beings alive who can stop me. So I’ll just have a private meeting in my office with the very Russian operatives that caused this whole mess to begin with.

What does a simple, rural, photo-book reviewer have to say that will stand up to a Hollywood-nightmare-plot-gone-wrong-from-which-none-of-us-can-wake-up?

The answer, my friends, is Punk Rock.

I was never a Punk Rocker, if we’re being honest, even though my cousin Jordan caught on to The Clash and all that good stuff while I was still bopping my head to Billy Joel.

My parents would play Donna Summer all night long, as the Disco era and then the early-80’s-one-hit-wonder phase dominated our 8-track, and the car stereo.

I wore my Izod shirts, and let my mother comb my hair like a good boy. I grew up playing sports, in the suburbs, and didn’t even know my parents hated Reagan until I was older.

“Just say no, Nancy Reagan? Ok. If you say so. Good boys don’t smoke weed.”

That was me. (Then.)

Punks were true rebels. They stuck pins through their flesh, and wore ripped clothes. Nowadays, I’m pretty sure you can spend $1000 on a pair of pants that are sold covered in fake mud.

Back then, in the late 70’s, after Nixon’s fall, this country was hanging on by a thread. (Sound familiar?)

And kids responded by throwing up their hands, saying “fuck it,” and then vomiting on each other. Or pissing in their own van.

Mohawks and skinny jeans and a sense that the world was too crazy to change. Political organizing was for squares, man. Punk was about violent music, fighting with your friends, and living with the calm assurance that the grownups running the world were morally and financially corrupt.

(Sound familiar?)

Rather than claim my current ennui stems from a Punk Rock ethos I’ve never possessed, I’ll just admit this rant was inspired by “Order of Appearance,” a new book by Jim Jocoy, recently published by our friends at TBW Books in Oakland.

I’ve interviewed their publisher Paul Schiek before, and that man, unlike me, is Punk Rock. He lived it, and told us so. He met his buddy, Mike Brodie, (he of the train-hopping punk photographs,) at a party where I’m pretty sure the pink puke was fresher than the beer.

So seeing this book turn up in the mail, from his imprint, made sense to me. I’d never heard of Jim Jocoy before, nor did I know this book was about Punk Rockers.

But it didn’t take much time to figure that out. The vibe, the style, and people were all just right. The book, however, denies us any dates, times or places until the end.

It’s sly, but a sticker affixed to the shrink wrap contains a quote from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, so I guess that’s the only clue that sets the scene, until the captions.

The book features a look at the original Punk scene in San Francisco in the late 70’s. Mr. Jocoy, like many a photographer before him, was the guy in his crew who liked to take pictures. (I’m guessing, but the proof is in the pudding.)

These photos, which were recently scanned from nearly-40-year-old slides, feel like they’ve been rescued from some old age home for Punks.

Can you just imagine?

The furniture would all be ripped. The carpet smelly. The fridges filled with only ketchup and a few stray cans of PBR, and the nurses would give you your pills at random times during the day, just to screw with you.

Some pictures are sharp, others blurry, and the color palette is vibrant, but not hyper-real. The blue of dyed hair, the ochre of Allen Ginsburg’s man-purse, the yellow of a club wall all feel like they were made in a world of chemical color.

The San Francisco I knew when I lived there, from 1999-2002, was on a roller-coaster ride of consumption and decline. The dot com boom, the dot com bust.

The San Francisco of these pictures was more dire, as there was no Internet. No email. No cell phones. No one to have your back, unless they were standing right beside you.

The photographs don’t scream action. They are more structured than that, though we do have an up-the-crotch vision of a dancer, probably at some club on Broadway. (The caption confirms as much, though I guessed b/c that’s where the go-go bars have always been.)

There’s an overturned car, a dude bashing an ambulance with his head, and a bevy of people passed out from whatever cocktail of booze and drugs they chose that evening.

I can’t say I’ve never seen anything like this before, as other books by TBW have mined the same broad territory. (Rebellious or down-scale white folks. Like “Lost Coast,” which we also featured.)

But what I like most about this book is that it’s not broad. It’s super-specific. These were the kids, and musicians, that responded to 70’s America with disdain, and an arrogant sense of their own righteousness.

They weren’t trying to change the system. Rather, they chose to opt out, in their own way.

These days, we don’t really have that option. It’s hard to hide when you’re bombarded by information and noise, no matter where you lay your head.

Which is why I opened this review with a quote. Sometimes, we do all want to “…bash your head against it and hope to wake up somewhere new…”

So if you’re feeling that way this week, take comfort. You’re not alone. And also remember, they got Nixon in the end. Trump might be on top now, but history has a way of flipping the script.

Bottom Line: San Francisco OG Punks, back in the day

To purchase “Order of Appearance” click here

If you’d like to submit a book for review, please email me at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com

Personal Projects: Ashton Ray Hansen

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this new revised thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist: Ashton Ray Hanson

Van Life is a new project I am excited to work on. This project focuses on the lives of individuals who have left their homes to explore this beautiful planet by means of modified vans. These people come from all over the world and are from all walks of life. What wonderful people I have met so far!

Personal Project, Guanella Pass, Van Life, Lifestyle, Colorado, Camping, Mountains, Rocky Mountains,

Personal Project, Guanella Pass, Van Life, Lifestyle, Colorado, Camping, Mountains, Rocky Mountains,

Personal Project, Guanella Pass, Van Life, Lifestyle, Colorado, Camping, Mountains, Rocky Mountains,

Personal Project, VanLife, Kathleen, Greg, Idledale, CO, Colorado, TinyHouseTinyFootprint, Morrison, Lifestyle, Documentary

To see more of this project, click here

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 establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.

Jerry Saltz: My Life As a Failed Artist

- - Working

But then I looked back, into the abyss of self-doubt. I erupted with fear, self-loathing, dark thoughts about how bad my work was, how pointless, unoriginal, ridiculous. “You don’t know how to draw,” I told myself. “You never went to school. Your work has nothing to do with anything. You’re not a real artist. Your art is irrelevant. You don’t know art history. You can’t paint. You aren’t a good schmoozer. You’re too poor. You don’t have enough time to make your work. No one cares about you. You’re a fake. You only draw and work small because you’re too afraid to paint and work big.”Every artist does battle, every day, with doubts like these. I lost the battle. It doomed me. But also made me the critic I am today.

Read More: Jerry Saltz: My Life As a Failed Artist

The Daily Edit – Shea Evans: Technicolor

- - The Daily Edit



Shea Evans

Heidi: How has this style evolved into your editorial and commercial work?
Shea: After building up a small amount of these images, I began to wonder if they might have some commercial applications for product shots.  Once I had five or six images to show, I reached out to a creative director I had worked with previously.  This was really casual, just over text (her preferred mode of communication), “Hey, I’ve been working with this style recently, I haven’t seen it around before, if you think you might have a client that it would be a good fit for, I’d love to work with you again”.  Just so happened that she was looking for a new style to match an imminent project.  We ended up working together to craft four images for her client in this color shadow style.  The end client was thrilled with the unique look and used the images as large storefront window posters.

What type of feedback are you getting from the personal body of work?
I’d say the feedback has been positive.  Certainly, with this type of work, the reaction has usually been “whoa!”, but part of that is because it’s such a departure from my previous work, which has a very natural, real and organic feel to it.  This has none of that.  I had a previous personal project, Deconstructed Flavor, that always seemed to excite people.  It leads to a lot more interviews than it did actual work (though I sold some prints and did do a commissioned cover).  But interviews can be great marketing, so I think if nothing else personal work can help in that way.  I don’t think you can really do personal work with an eye to turn it into jobs, it’s just not going to be genuine that way.

How did this style develop?
I started this particular project not as personal work, but more an exploration of technique.  I had had an issue on a shoot with mixing color temperatures from ambient and strobe light sources and so I began experimenting with using gels on my lights to try to match up temps, and really just see what my options were.  I had only used a warming gel here and there in the past but didn’t have much knowledge beyond that.

Pretty quickly into experimenting though, I started to notice the shadow effects I was getting out of combining gels.  And I started to play with multiple gels and subjects.  I got completely distracted from my original purpose.

Just on a creative level, it felt good to completely go away from my style of “real, natural, organic”.  In this way, my personal work has served as a kind of release valve for built up pressure by being boxed in by my own commissioned work.

What are the brain twisting gear elements you are referring to in your comment?
The shadows themselves are related to lights and gels you choose to use.  That’s pretty obvious.  What isn’t obvious though, is that the color of the shadow is related to the gel of the opposing light, not the one casting the shadow.  Also, depending on what combination of gels you use, that affects the color combination of shadows, change one gel out and the one that remains will also be affected and won’t be the same shade in the new image.  In addition to this, power in your light source has a great effect on the color, from a deeper color to a more pastel depending.  On top of this, some gels are denser, requiring more or less power from a light, so any change involves this total recalibration of your lighting setup to achieve a balance.  Then there’s the middle shadow to consider.  If you have an image where the shadows overlap, that creates a third color/shade or shape element.  How do you want that to look?  Then there’s the shape of the shadows themselves, long or short?  How can you turn the subject to get a more interesting shadow or a less interesting one?  Is that shadow too distracting?  Is it too small?  This work has a much more fine line between “Cool!” and “Crap!” than I’m used to working with on my more “normal” tabletop food work.  On the other hand, it makes it that much harder for someone else can replicate.  Lately, it feels like everyone can offer a “window-lit looking food/product beauty” so it feels good to have a difficult shot like this in my offering to clients.

How do you see this work influencing your current brand and style?
I don’t know if it represents a departure point as much as a branch.  I’m not evolving into a new style so much as adding something to my toolbox.  Any photography is partially about light and how you use it.  I love playing with big soft light and also really hard light and everything in between.  I think this is just another option and an expansion of that knowledge of how to use light.

Are you concerned about having too wide of a range with your style and becoming fractured?
A little?  Certainly, it is a little hard working this into the rhythm of my larger portfolio book since it looks is so different.  On the other hand, I’m running a business.  I’m a photographer but what I sell is products.  Before this shoot, my products were, “editorial food beauty”, “food lifestyle”, “portraits of people in the food industry”, “environments in the food industry”, “product in the food industry in a natural setting”.  This simply adds “product in the food industry in a DYNAMIC UN-natural setting” to that list.  It’s still under the umbrella of food/product and I think if I keep it like that, I’ll still be “niched” while really being able to keep my options open for client’s needs.

How do you decide what style to use?
I think that simply comes down to client preferences.  What look do they want for their product?  This could simply be another look I could give them, but of course, I’d be happy to continue with the “natural look” as well.  I’m not in this to force my artistic vision on the world.

The Daily Promo: Elizabeth Cecil

Elizabeth Cecil


Who printed it?

 Hemlock Printing

Who designed it?
Claire Lindsey 

Who edited the images?
Melissa McGill  

How many did you make?
 100. Each booklet is 22 pages. The inside pages are recycled paper and the cover has a matte, soft-touch finish.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
 2-3 times a year

Are you booklets seasonal?
When we decided to create this small booklet for a promo, we went into the project planning to do a small series. We have done three booklets, Fall, Summer, Winter/Spring. It was fun to think about the booklets in a series and to tailor the work to somewhat represent the season. We did a small run with the intention of really targeting our audience with this special piece. We had great feedback, one being that people have kept the books. We hoped that they would stay with people and create a little visual library of the work. 

This Week in Photography Books: Sigrid Ehemann

 

“If you build it, they will come.”

Has such a line ever been uttered in the history of cinema?

How is it possible that one tiny part of an 80’s baseball movie, (when no one even cares about baseball anymore,) could have become a mantra for so many varied things in the ensuing decades.

Sure, “Field of Dreams” had both James Earl Jones and a peak hotness Kevin Costner, but I’d argue that one line is more meaningful than the plot of the entire film.

Ghosts coming back to play baseball?
Sorry.
Not remotely plausible.

But that one line, rather than just being a movie quote that nerds like to bandy about, is a philosophical conceit that can apply to life itself, industry, creativity, you name it. (For pure quotability, it’s always “Caddyshack.”)

If you build it, they will come presents the idea that sometimes, you have to commit to something before you know if it will work. Or even ever come to exist.

It’s like, are you the kind of person who would move to a new city without a house or a job, or does that seem unimaginable to you?

Are you willing to self-finance your next photo project, because you believe in yourself, or do you only do something once the funding is in place first? (Grant, commission, sales, whatnot.)

I’m thinking of such things, having recently returned home from the New York Portfolio Review, which is produced by the New York Times Lens blog, and is held each April at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, just up the block from the Times Building, near Times Square. (Shout out to the excellent CUNY hosts.)

I’m going to write about the best work I saw in the coming weeks, but straight off, I have to tell you guys that in a day and a half, I was able to look at work from photographers on five Continents.

That’s all of humanity, save for Australia.

I’ve reported here before that James Estrin, David Gonzalez, and the Lens team work very hard to build a diverse event. Their outreach efforts are extensive, and result in the most well-mixed room I’ve ever been in.

Ever.

It’s like the 7 train of photographic talent, and I actually paid my own way to get there. Because I think it’s that important to get the chance to hear stories from such varied places, filtered through the lens of such capable photographers. (And videographers, these days.)

The review is free, and the NYT carries serious weight, so you get people applying from everywhere, and even the breadth I encountered was less than in past years, I was told, as multiple photographers had visa issues under the Trump administration.

If you build it, they will come.
You put the intention out there, and see what follows.

I’ve told you guys many times that this column is now user-supported. What I get, I can write about.

And I recently lamented that so much of the column had been about historical projects or heavy political issues of late. I practically begged for someone to send me the kind of thing I often got at photo-eye.

Self-published, or small batch.
Funny. Absurd. Reacting to life’s surreality with a dose of the ridiculous.

Send me something like that, I asked.

And wouldn’t you know it, but “Bruno is a Celebrity,” a new, self-published 2017 offering from Sigrid Ehemann, from Dusseldorf, Germany, turned up in the mail this week.

Thank you, Sigrid.

I’ve been waiting for this for some time now. I love great production values as much as the next guy, and praise them often. But I’m a Marshall McLuhan acolyte at heart. (The medium is the message.)

Some books need to be slick, and some don’t. This one looks like it could have been made at a high end Kinkos. It’s bound like a book report circa 1997, if you were really trying to impress your teacher.

Except for the pink on the cover, which adds a touch of whimsy. (Kooky colors inside too.)

It quickly becomes evident that Bruno is a small dog. I’d call him ugly, but then I know people think chihuahuas are cute too, so I’ll accept he might be adorable.

The book is broken up with text pages, in all caps, that are of-the-moment-critical of our contemporary-digital-narcissistic-Trumptastic-surveillance-state-NOW times.

It’s nominally about Bruno, (also a Sasha Baron Cohen alter ego,) but is really about all of us.

HE BEFRIENDS HIS OWN IMAGES ON TWITTER
HE CURATES HIS OWN BREAKFAST
HE LOVES HIS CHAINS & LEATHER BANDS (Well, that one actually makes sense.)

I could quote most of the text, because it’s funny in the OMG-this-is-actually-happening-kind of way. It’s resigned to our Trumpian moment, but also manages to say Fuck You while still being irreverent.

Humor does that.

Other than just being silly pictures of cute, little Bruno, (who has 5,475,127 followers on Instagram,) there are also strange, appropriated-looking images. Like the preacher hands or the celebrity singers.

Others, of dog toys, seem like they could have been shot for this book.

I love this thing, because it feels hot off the presses. Because it is hot off the presses. Rather than just being one more set of opinions on a screen, (like this one, I know,) it’s a bound group of pictures and words.

A book.
Old school.

When a man gets to be President who bragged about grabbing women by the pussy, why can’t a photobook say, about a dog, for crying out loud, “Bruno loves to fuck beautiful bitches.”

2017 is definitely that kind of moment.

Later, on another text page, we see

HE HAS MET DONALD TRUMP & HIS FAMILY
DONALD TRUMP IS SUCH A WONDERFUL ICON
HE LOVES THE PRESIDENTS HAIR & DANCE MOVES
HE ADORES THE PRESIDENT’S CURRENT WIFE
HE LOVES PRETTY SPICY, THE PRESS SECRETARY

This book is about Bruno.
And it isn’t.
It manages to push ideas, and critique culture, while also having fun in the process.

Kudos, Sigrid.
Keep up the good work.

Bottom Line: A fun, cool, silly self-published book about Bruno

To purchase “Bruno is a Celebrity,” click here

If you’d like to submit a book for review, please email me at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com

Personal Projects: Evan McGlinn

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own.  I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before.  In this new revised thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find.  Please DO NOT send me your work.  I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist: Evan McGlinn

I was originally asked to travel to Newtok, Alaska for a major US clothing company that wanted to rebrand itself as being an environmentally savvy and green. I was told to write a story and take dramatic photographs to document how Newtok, Alaska was sinking into the sea because of rising global temperatures and melting permafrost.

When I submitted the story and the photographs, the CEO of the company thought it was too depressing and she requested that I remove any mention of “climate change” from the article.

I asked that my name be taken off the article.

Many of my pictures – the ones showing garbage strewn about the town and muddy seawater amongst crumbling wooden boardwalks – were omitted from the story. “Don’t you have any images that are happier?” I was asked.

No I do not.

The situation in Newtok is more dire than my photographs could possibly convey and I have posted the original draft of my story on my website so that people can understand what is happening all across Alaska and the northern part of the globe. Similar stories are playing out in the Solomon Islands and other coastal regions of the world. We ignore these stories, and these images, at our own peril.

To see more of this project, click here

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 establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.

The Daily Edit – The Hollywood Reporter: Christopher Patey

- - The Daily Edit

The Hollywood Reporter

Creative Director: Shanti Marlar
Photography&Video Director: Jennifer Laski
Deputy Photo Editor: Carrie Smith
Photo Editor: Kate Pappa
Photographer: Christopher  Patey

Heidi: What type of direction did you get from the magazine?
Chris: This shoot came in last minute (as they often do) so there wasn’t a ton of direction from the magazine in this case. Kate Pappa was the assigning editor. I received an email and a text from her on Thursday morning at 10:30 to see if I was available to photograph Carmine Caridi on Friday afternoon. Kate then gave me a quick rundown of Carmine’s story so I could get a good grasp on the tone that they were looking for in the photography. However, due to the time constraints, Kate had to work fast to find an affordable location that was easy for our subject to get to. Our first option fell through and we ended up at a restaurant/lounge at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. With no time to scout, we basically had to get to the location 2 hours before the shoot and figure it out.

What tools do you use when you are covering a subject that’s been in a difficult situation? How do you get the shoot started?
A handful of small things get tweaked for instances like this. Having a bit of a quieter set with a smaller crew definitely, helps keep the environment feeling intimate. Our photo crew was just me, Kate, a photo assistant, and a groomer. The writer was also there to interview Carmine after the shoot. We also keep the music and our conversation toned down. In situations where I’m shooting somebody related to a sensitive or emotional story, I try to speak with them for a little bit before we shoot to establish a bit of a rapport with them and also get a feel for how they would be comfortable being photographed. However, a subject like Carmine has been around the entertainment business for a long time so I know he just wants to come in, have his picture taken, and be finished as quickly as possible. Once he gets on set it’s all business. I quickly introduce myself and explain my plan and the different setups I’d like to shoot. If he and his publicist are on board then we get right to work. I showed him where and how I would like him to sit and we’re off. I can’t remember for sure but I think he forwent being groomed too.

You caught some unguarded moments in these images, was your conversation about his departure from the film academy?
There wasn’t much conversation between him and I during the shoot. Mostly just direction. I gave him different eye lines and tweaked small things with posing and posture. He knew exactly why he had come there that day and the gravity of the story was definitely on his mind which showed on his face. The writer, Scott Feinberg was also on hand and was stepping in at small windows of time to get his conversation with Carmine going between my setups. That helped keep him in that frame of mind throughout the session.

Outtakes from the shoot

How did you set the tone for the shoot? 
I did not speak with him directly about the story because I didn’t want to insert myself into the writer’s interviewing process. If I start asking him about details of the story right before his interview it could make him feel like he’s repeating himself when Scott started his line of questioning. In that situation, I felt like it wasn’t my place and I didn’t need that interaction to make the picture I wanted to make.

 I simply made sure to have my setups dialed in with solid test frames of my assistant to give Carmine a good idea about how the photo was going to look. The combination of the moody light and the standard dead-gaze of a seasoned photo assistant were perfect to portray the vibe I was going for. It was also necessary to be as ready as possible when he arrived so we could get everything we wanted in the short amount of time we had. There wasn’t a moment to waste on moving lights once we got going.

Was the reflection from the desk a hint at self-reflection or a happy accident?
The reflection on the table was something I found during our pre-light. I originally just wanted a shot with a bit of a longer focal length with some tables in the foreground to give the picture some depth. After a few tests at different angles, I found the reflection and I felt like it added something important to the fairly dark picture so we ran with it. I would love to say the idea of self-reflection was in my head when we were setting it up but honestly, that hadn’t crossed my mind before deciding to do it.

The Daily Promo: Kate Mathis

Kate Mathis


Who printed it?
GHP Media

Who designed it?
Jaspal Riyait, Design Director for Martha Stewart Living, who designed the book that this image was created for. She came up with all of the great graphics ideas, how they would work with the folds and appear inside the clear envelope.

Who edited the images?
This was self-edited, with some feedback from creatives in the industry. I had been wanting for a long time to do a promo in some kind of fold-out poster format and thought that images from this project would be perfect. Ultimately I went with a single image, with the reverse side being text and graphics only.

How many did you make?
2000

How many times a year do you send out promos?
At least twice

Was this image part of a bigger series?
This image is from a book project I did with Livia Cetti who is an amazing botanical stylist and crafter of paper flowers. Titled “The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers”, it was just released this month. Each chapter features beauty shots of a different flower along with complete instructions for making. The image I ended up using for the promo was one of many that we shot in a gorgeous, abandoned building in Hudson, NY that is in a beautifully distressed condition… peeling paint, cracked plaster and rich color everywhere!

  

This Week in Photography Books: Per-Anders Pettersson

 

Well, this is embarrassing.

I could pretend it didn’t happen, I suppose. That would be the smart move.

Instead, I’m going to admit that I just got two completely different artists confused. Sure, that happens sometimes. But when you tell one person you like their work, when you’re really thinking of another, you should probably keep that to myself.

But since when do I do the conventional thing?

When I recently got an email from Per-Anders Pettersson about his new book, I conflated him with Anders Petersen, whose books I’ve reviewed in the past.

Sure, they’re both Swedish, and their names are nearly identical, but still, that’s definitely a party foul.

My bad.

I didn’t even figure it out until I began leafing through the excellent new book, “African Catwalk,” by Per-Anders Pettersson, recently published by Keher Verlag. Once I started flipping through the pages, it didn’t take me long to figure out something was amiss.

Anders Petersen typically makes edgy, black and white pictures of drunks at the bar. I’ve seen a few of his projects, including his partnership with JH Engstrom. The pictures are unflattering, and unsparing, but very engaging.

This book, on the other hand, featured extremely colorful photographs of various fashion weeks in Africa, shot over a number of years. I scratched my head a few times, trying to figure it out.

For context, just yesterday, I forgot my cellphone at home and had to drive all the way back to get it, then I got out of the car without putting it in Park, and finally, later in the day, I sat on my favorite sunglasses and broke them.

In other words, I’m not exactly operating at maximum efficiency these days, as my brain is more compromised than Jim Comey’s moral compass.

So, Per-Anders, my apologies.

It wasn’t until I went to the book shelf, and picked up an Anders Petersen production from MACK, that I figured out where I’d gone wrong.

Because while that Swedish photographer is known for capturing the downtrodden, in all their liquored-up glory, this book came from a far more optimistic and empathetic place. It’s all about documenting, and publicizing, the grassroots fashion scene in Africa.

With respect to the pictures here, there’s not much I can say that the jpegs below won’t tell you. The book is filled with cool, well-made, fascinating, behind-the-scenes photographs of a culture none of us would likely penetrate. (As Mr. Pettersson is based in South Africa, he has home court advantage.)

And despite the evident glamour, the essays within indicate there is a massive DIY element to the various fashion scenes. This is an art movement of the people, by the people, and for the people.

What’s not to like?

There’s a quote in one of the essays, by a UN Ethical Fashion executive Simone Cipriani, in which he says, “An African designer is similar to an artist, insofar as he or she smells the wind that blows among the trees of society. African fashion tells the story of society: its positivity, creativity and capacity to do a great deal with scarce resources.”

Personally, I’d quibble with saying designers are “similar” to artists.

They are artists.

As such, this book basically codifies the energy driving these thriving scenes. There is not a lot of money to be made in African fashion yet, we’re told, but the market is being built over time.

The marketplace came up several times in the writing, which is not surprising, as fashion is also a highly capitalistic venture. That’s the part that people tend to focus on the most: the money. (We can’t really think of fashion shows without imagining the wealthy, famous folks occupying the front row.)

This book, however, celebrates makers. It highlights talented, committed people who are working hard, far from the international spotlight. We get to see the team-work inherent in this field, and I suppose ogle some beautiful people in the process.

Basically, this is a very cool book that shows us things we haven’t seen before. It’s stylish, colorful, dynamic, and very well-produced.

Good thing they can’t knock off photo-books at Zara, or this one would be churned into a fast-fashion equivalent in no time.

Bottom Line: Excellent, positive book highlighting African fashion

To purchase “African Catwalk,” click here

If you’d like to submit a book for review, please email me at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com

 

Personal Projects: Kevin Arnold

- - Personal Project

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own. I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before. In this new revised thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find. Please DO NOT send me your work. I do not take submissions.

Today’s featured artist: Kevin Arnold

A Farrier’s Craft – Artist Statement from Kevin Arnold

I’ve always loved to shoot people engrossed in an activity. I like the raw emotion that I can capture. When I was younger I was drawn to shooting adventure sports for this very reason: there was always an opportunity to capture a variety of genuine human feelings. Whether determination, fear, joy, contemplation, exhaustion or something more ephemeral, I found that these emotions lived close to the surface when people were stretching themselves mentally and physically.

Over time I’ve become more interested in finding this emotion in other facets of life, as well. The key, for me, is that the person I’m shooting is fully invested in what they are doing. And no one is more devoted to his or her movement than a truly skilled craftsperson. You can see the depth of their expertise, their skill and the years they have invested in their craft not only on their face, but also in the efficiency of their body and the movement of their hands. I love the challenge of trying to capture that deeply instilled choreography in a photographic image.

My eldest daughter has been riding horses for many years, and we now own our own horses and barn. But I can still remember the first time I watched the farrier at work. At the time, I didn’t even know what a farrier was, and I was astounded at the timelessness of his craft. The horseshoes, the wooden bench and leather chaps, the tools, the kiln – the anvil! It’s Old World, having stood the test of centuries of technological revolutions. Working by hand with each horse to sculpt their feet and shape each shoe to complement their stance and gait is still the way to get the job done. It is a craft that is as needed today as ever, yet is refreshingly untouched by modern technology. Dave wears his experience in his hands and face, and I knew the first time I saw him at work that I would need to photograph him.

I did the shoot in the winter – it happen to be one of the coldest days – because I knew that the steam from the hot shoes and the horse’s breath would add a quality that just wouldn’t be there on a warm summer day. There is a sense of dedication and old world charm in the black and white moody imagery, that for me matches the farrier craft so well.

To see more of the personal project click here
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 establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty. Follow her at @SuzanneSease.

Drone Imagery from Archeologists in Jordan

 

For my seventh birthday, my parents took me and a few friends to the movies.

In case you’re GenZ, “the movies” was a physical place, a theater really, where you’d go to see films and buy candy. These moving pictures would be projected onto a very large screen, and you’d watch the movie, in its entirety, in the company of total strangers.

Weird, right?

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” was such a big deal at the time, it’s hard to come up with a contemporary cultural parallel. Maybe if Drake and Rhianna had a son, Raptor, who grew up, was in a band with Ivanka Trump, and they had an affair, which led to another child, (the one born to Raptor and Ivanka Trump,) who grew up to be President.

Like Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, his Indiana Jones reeked of charisma. It was the old Hollywood story: people either wanted to do him, or be him.

And Indiana Jones, in case you are under 20, was actually an archaeologist.

A scientist, for God’s sake.

He was a classic cinematic hero: handsome, dashing, brave, he could fight, had a trademark bull whip, and battled Nazi’s for a treasure bestowed by God himself: the lost ark of the covenant.

There must have been thousands of young boys who grew up in the 80’s wanting to be archeologists. Indy made it seem sexy, and thrilling, and I’d bet almost anything there are a ton of  “scholars” sweating in the field today because of those Steven Spielberg stories.

I almost wish I could ask an archeologist.

What if I could?

Yorke Rowan is an archeologist who works in Israel and Jordan, and he and his project partner Austin (Chad) Hill, have an exhibition currently on display at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. It features their aerial drone photographs of petroglyphs and archeological sites in “The Black Desert” of Jordan.

I stumbled upon a web description of the exhibit, and the OI was kind enough to put me in touch with Yorke, so I could learn more about the show, and see some pictures.

First things first, when I asked Yorke about my Indiana Jones hypothesis, he threw dirt on the fire immediately, because he said he was too old for the movie to have been seminal.

But he disputed that an archeologist’s job included “going in, stealing things, and running from the natives.”

The duties are far more mundane, apparently, as he described the work as “trying to make sense of the junky, broken parts of ancient people’s garbage.”

Just when I was beginning to believe him, (about the job being over-hyped,) he told me the story about how, back in the 80’s, he’d lived in Egypt, and then traveled on transport trucks down the Nile, all the way to Khartoum, Sudan.

For fun.

As soon as he arrived, he got word, (having called his parents collect,) that he was due in Sicily for his first big dig, so he turned around and headed back the way he’d come.

No.
That doesn’t sound romantic or dangerous at all.

His project partner, Chad, who grew up in the 90’s, was addicted to remote control aircraft as a kid, in Northern New Jersey. His father was into the hobby, and Chad has been flying things since he was 3.

From what I can gather, Chad knows about as much about flying drones as anyone out there. As he’s in his mid-30s now, and began putting 35mm cameras on balsa-wood planes when he was in High School, I’d say his street cred is solid.

I asked Chad if he felt like a cross between Indiana Jones and MacGyver, and he laughed. But then he said, deadly serious, “I enjoy that description, but I would not actually describe myself as either Indiana Jones or MacGyver.”

OK, then. We’ll play this straight.

Yorke and Chad have been working for years at two sites in “The Black Desert” of Jordan. Apparently, the aerial view is extremely important in archeology, so photography has always been a key component to the work. At the end of each season, it’s important to chart the changes in the site you’re working, so before/after mapping is a must.

They used to hire planes, helicopters or hot air balloons, which was extremely expensive. This in a field of diminishing resources, as it sounds like academia is strapped for cash, just like the photography world. (Though Yorke was clear to state their support from the Oriental Institute is substantial.)

At one point, when they were working in Israel, Chad had the idea to jimmy-rig a drone, like he’d done when he was younger.

“This was 2011, and I said, ‘Hey, when I was in High School, I did all this aerial photography myself. We could buy our own equipment, put a camera on a model airplane that we can buy locally in Jerusalem, and take our own aerial photography at the end of the season.

We can do it whenever we want, we would have our own control over it, and it would cost us less than one time of getting this professional company to shoot for us.’”

“So we did that,” he said. “The first year, we bought an off-the-shelf model airplane, and mounted a GoPro to it. I flew it fully manually, as this was not a high-technology drone.”

These days, they still use some homemade technology, but DGI gave them a Phantom 3 quad copter, and Chad confirms its ease of use is the main reason behind the super-popularity of drones.

“The newest crop of drones, you have no experience, you go and buy a $1000 drone. You watch a couple of videos maybe, and you press a button and the drone will fly. You can intuitively make it go where you want it to, and if you get into trouble, you press a button and it will return to you, and land,
without you having to figure out how to make it land.”

“The barrier to being able to effectively control them has dropped dramatically
in last 5-6 years.” In the old days, he said, “you needed to know a lot or you would crash.”

What first caught my attention, when I looked at the pictures and video they sent me, was the fact that the Jordanian desert reminded me so much of the volcanic fields outside my window here in Taos. The pictures were familiar and exotic at the same time.

Beyond the initial jolt, I was myself entranced by the formations on the desert landscape that looked like Nasca Lines, the famed geoglyphs in Peru.

What could those be?

It turns out, the low rock walls are called “kites.” Unlike the Nasca Lines, which were actual images meant for some deity in the sky, kites are not visual at all. Rather, they were Neolithic hunting traps that run for long distances in a given direction.

The kites, designed between 7000-10,000 years ago, funneled gazelles, like a crude maze, towards an ultimate spot, (or killing field,) where our ancient forebears could hunt with relative ease. Some kites even used the edges of the basalt mesa tops to hem in their pray.

“One of the things I find most fascinating about the kites,” Yorke said, “is that not only did they take a lot of planning and thought about where they’re going to go on the landscape, and how they’ll go up the side of a mesa, and spread out on top, using the edges as further barriers so the the animals can’t escape that way, or they fall down the side of a cliff.”

“What’s more amazing even than planning that, and setting it up across the landscape for kilometers, is that we’ve started to realize they’re linked. There are actually chains of these kites going hundreds of kilometers across the desert, all of them open to the East, which must be the migratory patterns of the gazelles.”

Yorke, Chad and their colleagues did not discover the kites, which were first spotted by English pilots flying mail between Baghdad and Cairo in the 1920’s. But their drone technology makes it that much easier to make photographs of them, which can be used as scientific evidence, as well as art.

They have discovered some interesting things, in particular that huge slabs of basalt were actually roofs on pre-historic houses. The size, and difficulty moving such slabs, implied people spent more time in the inhospitable climate than one might imagine.

This also suggests there was more water there than there is now. One site, the Wisad Pools, is so remote that the team has to take an extra vehicle with them, each time, in case the main transport breaks down. Two flat tires at the same time might be a death sentence, so the archeologists plan ahead, even if the extra car ends up mostly serving as a wind block for the kitchen.

Though the drone technology has enabled this work to exist, and the archeologists to function on smaller budgets, it turns out that the drone revolution is creating some serious backlash. They reported that drones have recently been banned in Kenya, and one of theirs was confiscated by the Jordanian government, despite their previous openness to the technology.

“The downside in general, is that there are so many drones, it is not wrong to be concerned about them being used by bad actors,” Chad said. “Those people who don’t know any better. Who don’t think bad things will happen to them using their drone, and don’t think the rules should apply to them.”

“And one thing we haven’t talked about is that even though lots of these new drones fly exceedingly well, they also occasionally fail. They tend to fail at some point, and they can be dangerous. They have fast-moving blades that can cut you, and they can fall out of sky and into people.”

I still remember the time my family and I were given a drone demonstration above our horse pasture here in Taos, a couple of years back. My kids were cheering on the little flying machine, as if it were Indiana Jones running away from that huge boulder.

Run, Indy. Run!

But I was pretty impressed too. It made me think of the future, in which we’re obviously living. (Now that flying cars are real.)

It makes one wonder what our ancestors, 10,000 years ago, fresh from a gazelle hunt, might think if flying robots descended from the sky?

Maybe someone will write that one up as a screenplay one of these days? I don’t know about you, but I’d pay to see it.

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