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Dan Winters Interview – Part 3

- - Photographers

Dan Winters interview part 3. Part 1 is (here). Part 2 is (here).

Rob: So when did you move to Austin?

Dan: We moved in 2000. I knew going into this that there’s no market in Austin. There are a lot of photographers here…

Rob: It’s amazing how many photographers there are in and around Austin.

Dan: Yeah, we have a pretty amazing photo community here. There are ties down here, but really there’s “Texas Monthly”, that’s about it.

Rob: What’s amazing, though is the Creative Directors that came out of Texas Monthly. Fred came from there and DJ and  Scott Dadich.

Dan: I was always envious of the relationship Seliger and Fred had and I had it to an extent with DJ, and we did some really good stuff together, but I never thought it matured to where we both had hit our stride. Now I feel like I’m on my game and I feel like it’s a culmination of all the stuff that preceded this. That happened when Scott and I started working together. The funny thing about Scott is how much younger he is than I. I think the first time I met him he was 23 or something, but for some reason it just gelled, and I think it was partially due to his tenacity, because some of the stuff we shot I was questioning what it was going to be like. Like that barbecue thing, it looked like an insect collection and I’d studied entomology since I was nine, even went to California State Fair and won once in high school.

Rob: Wait, you studied entomology? Ok, your style is starting to make more sense to me.

Dan: From the time I was nine until I was 18, I studied entomology under George Merriken. I wanted to be an entomologist, but realized they don’t get paid anything. I could make more money as a photographer. When George died and his wife donated his entire collection to a couple universities I flew up to California, and set up a studio in her house and documented the entire collection on 8 x 10. I shot them all the same way using a little set I built.

When I showed Scott those he called me to say, “Why don’t we do barbecue and do it like those insect collection photos.” And right from that moment I felt like we were on the same page. I really feel like I will always work with him, he’s a very close friend, he designed my book.

Getting him to design the book was a project in and of itself. He and I had started two books already, and we had one of them almost done, a black and white street photography book. So I had always said, if I get a book deal, you’re designing the book. So, I got this phone call from Aperture, and they said, “We want a book with you and we want to send some people down to your studio in Austin, what’s your schedule like?”

They have a two-year, first look deal with me and I have several books that I’ve been working on including a bee book.

meat

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Dan Winters Interview – Part 2

- - Photographers

Dan Winters interview part 2. Part 1 is (here).

Dan Winters, September 1989, New York City

Dan Winters, September 1989, New York City, photograph by Kevin Amer

Dan: I worked for Chris for exactly a year. When my year was coming up, and I said, ” two more months left.” And he’s like, “you’re really going to stop?” and I said, “yeah, I want to shoot.” The entire time I had worked for him, every weekend I was shooting at his studio because he would go to his house on the North Brook Long Island with his wife, and I would have friends come over and shoot portraits of them and do lighting. I built my portfolio while I was working for him. So when I left him, I started going to night meetings.

Rob: A year. that’s pretty fast isn’t it? Sounds like you were super ambitious

Dan: Yeah, I mean this is my life. I had that place in Little Italy for only three months, and then I found a room in Brooklyn in Park Slope. I was dying to get into the city, so I found a shit hole, we called it the hell-hole. It was this building on Lake Street and Hudson in TriBeCa, which at the time was like no man’s land. There wasn’t even a restaurant, you couldn’t do anything. You had to ride your bike over the canal to get Cuban food.

There were three of us in this place, I had one room and my darkroom was in my room and I slept on a futon so I could fold it up and shoot. I’ll never forget opening my eyes when I woke up and looking at chemistry that’s on my shelf.

Rob: [laughs]

Dan: This was a really interesting time. Throughout the history of magazine photography, there had been individual voices but there was more of a different schools of photography. You had the “Geographic” school, the “Life” school and the “Esquire” school of photography. So the magazines were dictating the look, to a certain extent. And photographers were really kind of like scurrying to fit in so that they could be shooting for that magazine, rather than a photographer really trying to hone his own voice and get it published.

So, in the ’80s, I feel like a lot of individualization started to happen with guys like Seliger, Chip Simons, Eisler, Karen Kuehn. Then there was Bill Duke and Matt Mahurin, who did tons of stuff for “Rolling Stone” and were really trying to really individualize. And some of it was based in technique, which I always feel like is a little bit shallow, because I think, when you rely totally on technique, if you have the waif-y, alabaster-skinned model, and you have the right background, you have the right lights, and you have the 8-by-10 Polaroid, you can make this kind of picture. But if you take any of those elements away, you don’t get that. So that’s really technique-based. It’s not like vision.

Heisler was a big influence on me. He could do anything. He was shooting still-life objects and portraits and all kinds of stuff. He did this great photo essay on the Olympics with this amazing portrait of Louganis diving off the high-dive, in infrared four-by-five. I’m like, “Oh, that’s amazing shit.” I was just like, “Wow, this is great!” So that’s where my head was. My head was in New York. My head was on this work.

I built this portfolio up and started to take my portfolio around. It was a custom box, with loose prints, all black and white. You dropped it off, you waited around, you picked it up, you took it somewhere else, because I only had one. So I went to Metropolis Magazine, the design studio that did it was Helene Silverstein and Jeff Christensen, because they didn’t have an in-house art department. They had a studio called Hello Studio, which was awesome, cause when they answered the phone they’d say, “hello studio.” Which always cracked me up.

What I’d do is I ‘d go to the newsstands, to look at magazines and figure out where my work could fit, which I think is very important for a photographer to do. So I would drop off my book. Then ride my bike over to the Cuban restaurant that I used to live at, then I went home and the red message light was beeping on my phone. I picked up the message. And it was Jeff, at Metropolis. He said, “This is Jeffery, you dropped you book off here a few hours ago, I have a couple of assignment for you.”

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Dan Winters Interview – Part 1

- - Photographers

danwintersDan Winters is one of the most recognizable, awarded and sought-after editorial photographers in the world. I’ve worked with him a number of times, even visited his studio in Austin, but it wasn’t until I got the chance to interview him that I fully understood what makes him tick as a photographer. I think you will really enjoy reading what he had to say.

Rob: So how are things with you? Busy as ever I’m sure.

Dan: I feel like the greatest gift I’ve had, is the fact that in 26 years, I’ve never not been busy. Honestly, I think the key to that has been, treat every assignment as if it’s your first one, you know? I think there is a misconception, especially that students have and I really make a point when I speak at schools to talk about the fact that you never really arrive. You are always working towards something but you never stop. I think there is this crazy idea that you get somewhere and then everything is cool.

Rob: OK, so can we go back to the beginning? I really want to hear how you got started in photography.

Dan: The first exposure I had to it was when I was in 4-H club, I was 9 or 10. We had an instructor who was a military photographer during Vietnam, and he was really passionate about it. He had a full darkroom set up at his house, so he headed the photography project.

Once I graduated from high school, I started going to a junior college that had and still continues to have the same instructor, John Gray, who was incredibly influential to me and several other guys like Matt Mahurin. I still go out to my old alma mater, Moorpark College, and give lectures and I talk to him all the time. He’s still a mentor. He studied under all the people who started the New Bauhaus School in Chicago. You know, Moholy-Nage and Manray, Siskind, Callahan; they were all in Chicago at the Art Institute. And John studied under them. And so, he brought that to educating which, you know, is lacking in institutions that teach photography.

So early on, I started to just devour everything I could about early photography and early processes. John’s a talented photographer but knows his life’s calling is to educate and to inspire. So when I was at Moorpark, that was huge for me. That was like, you know, the floodgates opened and it was just profound. Then I went to Munich, and went to film art school at the University of Munich film department.

Rob: Wait, why did you go study film?

Dan: I was really interested in photojournalism, and documentary photography, which was what I was doing early on. And, for some reason I wanted to study documentary film. And they had this legendary department. Herzog was on the board, and Fassbinder, at one point when he was still alive, was on the board. It was this great thing I’d read about. I’d studied German in high school and in college, and I thought it would be this great adventure. I was doing carpentry while I was going to junior college and I saved a bunch of money but school didn’t cost anything. Material cost but if you get accepted into a German school you don’t have to pay for it because tuition at state universities is free.

I actually felt what was inspirational to me about Germany was a little bit romanticized. I had this idea that I would go over to a foreign country and study. And I’d read Hemingway, and I’d read Orwell, “Down and Out in Paris and London” and “A Moveable Feast, ” which are about them living on nothing in a foreign city, a little bro’ thing, with them. I was doing odd jobs, and I shot some stuff for the “Deutsche Zeitung,” which is the German version of “The New York Times, ” some freelance stuff. I was hustling.

I started to realize that this has been an incredible experience, but I’ve – I don’t want to say I’ve thrown away the last year and a half of my life – but certainly I could have probably been moving in the direction that I wanted to be moving more rapidly if I hadn’t gone. But, now I look back on it, and it was invaluable to me to have that experience. I think living abroad for anybody especially Americans because you tend to grow up a little bit myopically, is a great experience. So, anyway, I didn’t finish school there. I went for about a year, a little under a year and a half, I guess. Then I came back and I got hired by a local paper. It was a 35,000 daily.

Rob: And this is in California? Where?

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Newsweek and New York Times Magazine Redesigns

- - Magazines

Magtastic Blogsplosion has reviews of the Newsweek (here) and New York Times Magazine (here) redesigns. Newsweek is worth paying attention to as Tina Brown was named EIC after it was merged with The Daily Beast. Tina famously broke the ban on treating photography seriously in The New Yorker by hiring Richard Avedon. That was after she put Vanity Fair on the map. Of course that was a different era in magazines and now that we have the internet to contend with who knows if she can right that old ship.

Magtastic says the photo editing is well done and the journalism is solid but there’s some “poor-taste news-related gossip” sprinkled in there that weakens the whole package. Personally, I really like the idea of combining the far reaching seo baiting Daily Beast with serious journalism and photography of Newsweek. And, I agree they should stay separate. Online should up-sell the magazine and drive traffic to the newsstand for important stories. Now that the entire issue can be downloaded to an pad or phone, the online presence should drive that not invade it. Combining forces does not mean you have to mash it all up, instead attract the different audiences and sell them something.

The New York Times Magazine famously doesn’t have to compete on the newsstand with other magazine so they can do whatever the hell they want inside. That leads to outstanding journalism and photography within an “aimless” (as magtastic calls it) overall package. The review the review of the redesign goes on to say the there’s a surprising “lack of hard-hitting photojournalism” and the “images are small and feel distant, used more to break up the page than to illuminate the story.” That’s going to be a real shame if this redesign uses photography as decoration for some art directors grid. In this day and age printing images at less than full bleed in a magazine is a complete waste of time. Let’s hope they come to their senses.

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Working at the National Enquirer Is Just Like Working at Any Other Newspaper — But Weirder

- - Blog News

The writing in the tabloids sucks. You know it and I know it — and so do the people who work there.

Well, at least the copydesk knows it. I’ve never seen a media outlet so dependent on its copyeditors. The writers turn in real crap, their editors fix only some of it, and the copyeditors do the rest. That’s standard operating procedure.

At daily newspapers, the copyeditors are often an afterthought. Reporters and editors don’t really talk to them. But at the tabloids, the best journalists work the copydesk — and the editors and reporters are almost as afraid of them as they are of the attorneys.

via Michael Koretzky – HuffPo.




Keith Gentile – Agency Access

- - Marketing

I had the opportunity to talk with Keith Gentile who owns Agency Access, about marketing for my business awhile back. His company and others like it are vital to photographers marketing themselves, but I quickly discovered there was more to his business then just selling lists. I’m always surprised by the photographers I talk to who don’t know you can buy a list of Photo Editors, Art Buyer and Creatives who hire and buy photography. And, those who are on the list generally don’t know anything about this side of the business either. So, I took the opportunity to interview Keith and transcribe it for the blog. [Full Disclosure: I never ended up doing anything with Agency Access.]

APE: I wanted to just start at the beginning. How did you get started
 in this business and what was the beginning like for you?

Keith: Well, I had just turned 19. I was working for the two owners that created Agency Access back in ’96. I just jumped into the mailing operations. I was stuffing envelopes and helping out with the mailings. Back then, they only sold lists and did the mailings 
together right then and there. It wasn’t a company where you could buy a list and do what you wanted to. The mailings had to be done in house.

APE: Was it always Agency Access? Was always geared towards
 advertising agencies?

Keith: Yes, it was always geared toward advertising agencies. It was created by a rep and a businessman who provided the funding. They were two friends, and they targeted ad agencies because the rep. thought, “Wow, it’s so difficult to maintain your own database. Maintenance is a whole job within itself. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a service that would maintain the database and do the stuffing and the labels just for artists and reps?”

In ’96, direct mail was a lot stronger. Lots of people were doing direct mail and it was very, very effective. It’s still effective now, but it was more effective before email hit the field.

So his theory was, “Wow, I don’t want to do it. I would love for someone to maintain and update my contacts.” The main goal was to keep a quality database and keep it as updated as possible, while tracking these people wherever they went. There is so much movement in the industry. People are jumping around from agency to agency and magazine to magazine.

APE: Now the lists, as far as selling lists and direct mail,
 that has been around forever, right?

Keith: Sure. Lists and direct mail have been around for a long time but they were not specified to the ad agencies, magazines and corporations hiring artists. In our industry, selling of Creative lists, the originator would be Steven Langerman and Creative Access. Steve founded Langerman Lists. At that time Langerman Lists had been around for about 15 years. He would produce labels and sell them. He was probably one of the inventors of the specialized list service and he made a really good business out of it for himself.

With Agency Access the partnership between the rep and the businessman eventually ended. Then the businessman was working alone. As a result, I took on more responsibilities and became more involved in doing direct mail, research, and sales. Then, I was actually managing the data. I just got into it and really enjoyed it a lot. At the time, I was also in school majoring in business and the 
business wasn’t doing that well. I didn’t think the business model was correct for the company. 

I ended up buying out the previous owner in 2000 and I was able to implement the things that I really wanted to do: building the website and turning the database into an online Rolodex. I felt that it would be more beneficial for people come in and maintain their own contacts and search independently. We also started selling lists on floppy disks, labels and eventually in email form. People no longer had to do the mailings with us and they could purchase a list to do what they wanted. This was the turning point for Agency Access.

APE: And there was nobody else doing that at that time?

Keith: Adbase, which is probably our leading competitor, was definitely doing it around ’96 as well. Denis Kane, of Adbase, had a
 partner who was very big into programming. They launched their site way before I even had the opportunity. There were others providing lists as well, Langerman Lists, Workbook, Creative Access. Those were probably the four main competitors who we were up against. 

It just kind of evolved from there.

APE: So, I’m gathering that you’ve got to have a passion for this type
 of business.

Keith: I guess I do. I was a worker. I was there at 7:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night. That’s what I liked to do. I was young and
 still living at home and had a lot of passion for what I was doing. I wanted to see it succeed. My farther once told me “good things happen to good people,” but I also know if you work hard good things happen for you as well.

 The deeper we got into this database, the more I started to realize that I didn’t want to be a database service. I wanted to have a database because I knew the importance of it, but I wanted to mold the company more into a promotional agency specifically for the artists and reps. 

This way, photographers, illustrators, and reps, could use our services to do more rounded marketing, not just, “Oh, here’s the 
list, go do what you want,” but rather “Hey, we have the lists, we can do your mailings, we can do your emails, we can do your printing, we can do the fulfillment,” and it just evolved more from there. 

Every year, we just kept adding more and more services, like the consultant services, telemarketing services, PDF portfolio services and creating this one-stop shop.

APE: What’s the telemarketing service? I’ve never heard of that.

Keith: The telemarketing is basically where we make phone calls. Typically, once an email is sent out, we’ll call the clicks, opens, or we might possibly call the customer’s dream clients.

APE: You’d call them for the photographer?

Keith: Yes, on behalf of the photographer.

APE: [laughs] That sounds like a photographers dream. I think that the
photographers would say cold calling is the worst thing, but anybody
 would say that right?

Keith: Yes, it’s scary. It’s not an easy thing. You have to have a certain knack for it. You have to have thick skin because for every ten people you call, you may only get one person who gives you a good response. We have a call cycle that we do. The photographer picks 25 people they want us to call and we put a script together.

Do you want us to source portfolio reviews? Do you want us to source meetings? Do you want us to send the PDF portfolio? Do you just want to get your name out there and get them to go to your website? So, it’s up to the customer what they want us to do.

APE: That’s amazing, I never heard of that.

Keith: Yeah, and it’s a fantastic service, and it brings marketing back down to its roots, personal relationships.

APE: Well, no it’s no personal, because you’re calling on their behalf, but…

Keith: Well, they don’t know it’s us. We are calling on behalf of the client as if we are in their studio. So Rob, we’d be calling on behalf of your studio, and I would be like your studio manager.

APE: Wow, I’m just suddenly realizing that I’ve gotten those calls before.

Keith: Yes, so we call on behalf of the photographer as if we’re working with them. It doesn’t come off too well to say, “Hey, we’re from Agency Access, calling for this person.” By doing it this way you can develop a personal relationship. 

Once we make a connection, whether it’s setting up a meeting or a portfolio request or a PDF portfolio, then we supply a report to the client with the results.

 It gives them a breakdown of the people we called, the responses we got, and the people who want you to reach out to them with a portfolio, a PDF portfolio, or those who are interested in a meeting.

 Then the photographer jumps into an already established relationship. The photographer has an easier time communicating with the Creative because they have already accepted the communication. This service is our third step, implemented in our five-step program, of how we envision our service to work for a customer.

APE: Give me that five-step.

Keith: The five-steps start with building your list and sending emails. Then step two is evaluating your opens and your clicks. Your opens are people who may be interested in working with you. The clicks are the people who basically, checked it out and went to your site. In most cases these are warmer leads.

 Then we take the clicks, and we do what is called the “small lot print run”– where you can print only 100 cards, let’s say. They are very cheap, it ranges between $100 to $250 depending on the size. You can get 100 of these cards printed, and we do the fulfillment and send it to the people that clicked or opened your email. That’s one week later.

 One week after that, we do our telemarketing. So we’ve sent an email, One week later we’ve also sent a direct mail. One week later, we call them up on the phone. That would be, technically, step three.

 Step four, to us, is getting a leave behind portfolio book like a blurb book, or a paper chase book, or creating a PDF portfolio with Agency Access, or getting them a special promotion on your own. The telemarketing qualifies them to receive a portfolio so you can actually send that off to them. That’s what we would qualify as the fourth step.

APE: So you’re drilling down; you’ve had your big list, and now you’ve 
got a smaller list, and now you’ve got an even smaller list…

Keith: Exactly, you’re drilling down at each step and getting to the main people of interest. The fifth step is really an overall “have a marketing person.” Either it’s you, an assistant, your wife, your husband, or it’s Agency Access. We actually have a program called the “Campaign Manager,” where you work with someone in-house.

 You also work with a consultant on things like image selection and making sure the execution of this plan is done properly. It’s very, very, important to have a marketing plan, and sending an email is not a marketing plan. You can’t market like that. You need a solid plan with aggressive follow-ups as email is just not enough.

APE: [laughter] Yeah! You’d be surprised at how many photographers think it is.

Keith: If people buy these lists and send out emails, and then say “Oh, it didn’t work.” There’s a reason why it didn’t work. That’s such a small piece of the puzzle, and there are so many elements.

 The five-steps break down spans from net-branding with an email to tangible branding with direct mail — something they can touch. The telemarketing would be referred to as the voice branding. Within those three sets, they’ve seen your name and your brand name, or at least heard your name and your brand name three times. 

By the time you’re qualifying them to receive a leave behind portfolio book, your actual portfolio book, the PDF portfolio or setting up a meeting, they’ve seen, heard or touched your name three times. As a result, you’re starting to build a relationship with them which is key.

The fifth and final element in “Building that Marketing Campaign” – is that you’ve built a relationship with the Creative and you didn’t just spam them with a lot of email. You actually went down the line and built a relationship.

 They may or may not have a job for you right then and there, but, Rob, in like five, six months when you call them up again and you say “Hey, it’s Keith Gentile Photography,” or whatever, they will give you the time of day because you have built a relationship with them. That’s what my company wants to do for the artist is build relationships, and not just throw spaghetti on the wall.

 We want to narrow it down to five core people that are going to give them jobs for the rest of the year. This way they can actually 
maintain and be a photographer, and survive in this kind of market as a business.

APE: It’s obviously changed so much over the years, I mean, since ’96 
till now. Email came on and now email’s a lot of noise, right?

Keith: It definitely is.

APE: A couple of years ago it was too bad. A lot of people were not 
feeling like that’s a great way to market, but it seems like I hear a
lot of stories of creatives getting 100 emails a day and photographers reporting not too many opens from their email campaigns.

Keith: Sure, sure. There’s always going to be that issue, and I’ve been hearing that for the eight years we’ve been doing email, “Are you sure it’s OK? Is it spam? It’s not effective.” We’ve heard Creatives say it, too. No matter how many Creatives say it, there are so many Creatives that use it and hire. They definitely do, and I’ve heard it before. I’m not denying the fact that it might have been better eight years ago when it first started, and more effective, but it is still a vital part of a marketing plan and it needs to be done.

 You’re just looking for one percent. That, to us, is a good effort on the email promotion and is effective, because now you’ve seized that one percent. Now you’ve got those 30, 40, 50 people that clicked, you have a base to work off of.

 Now, you’ve narrowed your list down and you could actually start getting more direct marketing on those core people. You can spend more marketing dollars on 40 people, than doing a direct mail of 10,000 people.

 I’m still a huge believer in email and I don’t deny the fact that there’s been some shift in it. Also, there has been a lot more noise lately, but it’s still an effective way to market, and I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere anytime soon.

APE: And do you see direct mail becoming stronger, now that more 
people email because is just so cheap to do.

Keith: Yeah, a little. The reason why people stopped doing the direct mail is because email was so cheap. Direct mail is still effective, from the standpoint of someone being able to touch something and pin it on the wall or put it in their cabinet to keep for awhile, but it costs more. 

I’ve dealt with consultants, that were art buyers, and they showed me all their printed pieces and these promos were 15-16 years old, so the life span on a direct mail piece is so much longer than an email where you can easily delete it.

We see our mailing department increasing in the last few months.

APE: You do?

Keith: Yes. Not a lot, but a little bit. I think it’s the right move if they can call for it in their budget. But with direct mail, you can’t do it once a year. You have to do at least quarterly direct mail promos to the same people.

 If you can’t afford a larger direct mail four times a year, then you might want to go with the small lot and send the direct mail to only 
the people that opened and clicked on your email. I do recommend it, because I do see it — it just has a longer lifespan than email.

 I feel like the Creatives kind of missed the element of getting the direct mail and looking and touching it. Yes, it’s still a lot of junk mail to look through for a Creative, but believe me, a lot of these Creatives hire talent from these mailings, and they hire talent from email too, no matter what they say they do.

APE: OK. You’ve mentioned spamming and you’ve mentioned junk mail.
 Basically, you walk that line, that fine line, between being a spammer 
and providing a service that people need. How do you walk that line?

Keith: Well, I guess I use those terms because we hear them so much from our customers. The people in our office, we don’t look at it in that way, but we hear it so much because that’s the fear of the photographer. “Oh, if I’m sending all these emails, they’re going to think I’m kind of spamming them.”

 But, these are people that are opting-in to receive email promotions from talent. These are people that are industry-related. If you’re 
going to take our lists and try to promote something that has nothing to do with the photography or the Creative industry, that’s what we consider spam.

If you’re going to send a photography promotion with a good image, and well-branded design, we feel that to be real marketing; that’s real marketing emails. That, to us, is not spam at all.

APE: Do you kick people off the list if they’re not using it in the
 right way? I don’t know if you can do that.

Keith: Yeah, that’s kind of a fine line. What we’ll do, is we’ll contact the customer and we’ll try to offer them help. Especially, if we see someone marketing and we don’t think they’re going in the right direction with their branding or design. It’s a very difficult phone call to make, but we feel like we owe it to them if we’re going to be providing this service.

APE: I mean, don’t you have to protect your list? You have a list of
 opt-ins, and they can opt-out, right?

Keith: Yeah, they can. You need to protect the value.

APE: You have to make sure that people using your lists aren’t causing
 Creatives to take their names off it, right?

Keith: Correct, and I think that’s why we decided not to quickly jump in to a self-serve service like our competition does. When you do emails with Agency Access, you deal with a real person — an email engineer. They produce your template with you. They help you brand it. They really see everything before it goes out.

 So if we actually see some issues, we can address that issue before it goes out. We don’t want to send out an email promotion that isn’t going to be effective for the customer or for the Creatives on our list.

APE: How do you verify your list? You have 50,000 contacts worldwide.

Keith: The verification is a process that’s set up with the research department and we have about 24 native-speaking researchers in-house. We have half of them here in the US, and half in Glasgow, in the UK, who do the international data.

APE: So you have 24 people whose job is to simply research.

Keith: Yes, and their job is to call these companies every 12 weeks. We have a system in place where every morning when we
come in, it shows us what companies are 90-days old. This indicates that they “haven’t been called in 90-days.” That’s our 12-week cycle.

It’s their responsibility for that date to call those companies: update their addresses, emails, contact titles, new people, people 
that aren’t there any more, changed websites, phone numbers, faxes, whether or not they hire illustrators, hire photographers or
 purchase stock photography or illustration. They go through a scripted method for each company that is due to be updated that day.

That’s just a continuous daily battle. The companies that were updated today, now they’re 1-day old. Tomorrow, when they come in, the ones that were 89-days old are 90-days old. You won’t find anything in our database that hasn’t been called in a 12-week cycle.

APE: That’s pretty amazing.

Keith: Yeah, it’s a big task. It’s probably the biggest challenge here.

APE: Is that where people will opt-in or opt-out of the list?

Keith: Correct. If there are people there who are already listed with their email address and they ask to be removed from the list, then yes legally we have to remove them from the list. Typically, not many people will opt-out of direct mail, but they will opt out of email.

APE: I’m curious, because it seems like direct mail is so much
 different than email, because with direct mail you can’t really
 opt-out can you?

Keith: Yes, the Creative can send a letter to the photographer and ask to be removed. The photographer will have to take them off their list. They can also call us and ask to be removed from the database too but we will fight to keep them. The value in our service is the more data we have, the more opportunities we provide for our customers. 

We explain why we’re doing it and nine times out of ten, people will say “OK, leave me on the direct mail, but maybe on the email, take me off.” If they want to be removed from the list, we do have to remove them. We have to respect that.

APE: One thing, just from having been on the other end of the list. It
 just was never clear to me about removing. I mean, you want to be
removed from some photographer’s list, but you want to still be open 
to receive people you’ve never heard of. You get a few emails from
 somebody and you’re like, “I really don’t want to ever get another
 email from that photographer again, but I would like to still be
 open.” It doesn’t really seem to be an option, does it?

Keith: With us there is and I’m glad you asked that, because that’s one thing that not many people know about. We don’t really market it, but it’s one thing we’re very proud of, because I think we’re the only company in our industry that allows this.

 We have a double opt-out system on our email. Any email you receive using the Agency Access system, when you opt out, it says “Would you like to no longer receive promotions from this photographer?” Then, underneath that, “Would you like to unsubscribe from the Agency Access database completely?” This gives the Creative the option to stay on the list while removing themselves from the individual’s list.

APE: Wow. Are you the only ones that have that?

Keith: As far as I know.

 Other companies that do not do this have a huge unsubscribe rate because they don’t allow for it. It’s funny, what you said is the mentality of the Creative on the other side “I don’t want email unless it’s good email.”

APE: Yeah, only good email. [laughs]

Keith: That’s why email will never die, it’s still effective.

APE: My fear of opting out was that I would never get anything again.
Yeah. So I just never opted out, and ended up deleting them, and it’s
 one of these things where it’s like “Argh.”

Keith: We did that right from the beginning, and I think that’s why we were able to keep such a strong email database.

What’s great is that the system recognizes that, and the next time that person goes to send an email, even if they put that person on the list, it will not allow it and it automatically scrubs the email out.

APE: YDo you think you’ll start collecting Facebook and Twitter
 addresses for Creatives?

Keith: You may have just given me a good idea.

APE: Yeah, it’s basically the opposite of direct email. You put
something out there and you have no idea how many people saw it.

Keith: It’s funny. It’s totally true. To bring it back to personal communication — blogs are great to learn more about a photographer, as a person. Of the people that we’ve spoken to, and we have done some research, typically it’s the art directors/creative directors that are more interested in Facebook and blogs. Where the art buyers and the photo editors don’t necessarily have that much time to read the blogs, and look at Facebook, and stuff like that so they stick to more traditional promotions such as direct mail, email and portfolio sites.

APE: Tell me about the videos and white papers that you’re doing 
inside the site?

Keith: That’s the “Inspiration Section,” it’s a member’s area where we have white papers from different consultants, and different marketing experts in the industry. They’re very small, very basic, easy to read, simply and they get the point across quickly. We also did some telemarketing dialogue guides, because we do understand that not everyone is going to hire us for telemarketing. These are simple scripts to show the photographers and illustrators what to say when they call up, if you are going to start doing calls on your own. Then we added some educational audio MP3’s too.

APE: How can you help photographers with the face-to-face meeting; 
landing that, and what’s your ideas behind that?

Keith: First of all, the idea is getting the point across of what our database can be used for. There is still this blockage out there that
 companies like myself and others are only for email and direct mail.

 It’s so much more than that; to know what art buyer is at what agency, to know what company has the Dell computer account. That’s such important information.

APE: Do you have that information?

Keith: Oh, absolutely. The brands in our database for ad agencies allow you to look up Fed-Ex and we’ll let you know BBDO in New York is the lead agency on that account. You can look up any of the major brands in our database. And, they’re linked to what agency is working on those accounts.

 So, it’s like this huge, online “Rolodex” of information, and I think we need to get our customers more comfortable with calling and setting up meetings but that is how we help them get the meeting. If they know this information, they can book the correct meeting. We have this success story with a photographer who wasn’t really doing much email or direct mailing. He was just calling and calling. The guy set up so many face-to-face appointments. Within three months — it was weird because it was so crazy — he got 10 jobs; 10 assignment jobs within a three month period, from calling up and setting up appointments using the rolodex and brand database search.

APE: I’ve met guys like that, too. They get you on the phone and you 
can’t “not” take a meeting with them. Then, they get in your office
 and you can’t “not” give them a job.

Keith: That’s what photographers need to add to their marketing. I know, not everyone can do it, like you said. The more they get
 familiar and comfortable with that, and realize that, “Hey, I’m not just a photographer, and it’s not just based on the talent. It’s also
 based on how I can run a company, and how I can do marketing, and how I can do sales. And, how I can talk to these Creatives and actually communicate with them, and show them that I’m an organized, business person that would be right for the job.”

APE: How do you reach your customers? It’s through direct mail?

Keith: Sure we do. We practice what we preach.

National Magazine Award Winners In Photography

- - Awards

Winning publications with the words “New York” in the title: New York (4 awards), The New Yorker (3 awards), The New York Times Magazine (1 award): 8 — via The Fix

PHOTOGRAPHY / PRINT
Honors the effectiveness of photography, photojournalism and photo-illustration in support of the editorial mission of the magazine

Winner: Vanity Fair: Graydon Carter, Editor for March, September, November Issues

Finalists:

* GQ
* National Geographic
* The New York Times Style Magazine
* Vogue

PHOTOJOURNALISM
Recognizes the informative photographic documentation of an event or subject

Winner: National Geographic: Chris Johns, Editor-in-Chief for “Shattered Somalia,” photographs by Pascal Maitre; text by Robert Draper, May

Finalists:

* Foreign Policy
* National Geographic
* New York
* Virginia Quarterly Review
* Time

PHOTO PORTFOLIO
Honors creative photography and photo illustration, including portraiture

Winner: The New Yorker: David Remnick, Editor for “Portraits of Power,” photographs by Platon, December 7

Finalists:

* National Geographic
* New York
* Out
* W

The rest of the winners can be found (here).

Ethan Hill On Photographing Roger Ebert

- - On Set, Photographers

A reader asked if I would query photographer Ethan Hill about his recent shoot of Roger Ebert for Esquire. You can read the story on the Esquire website (here) and Roger’s reaction on his blog (here). I asked Ethan to describe the assignment, preparation and shoot:

It was a lucky set of circumstances that I was able to do this shoot at all. I had a slow year last year like just about everyone did and had embarked on what was for me a pretty aggressive promo campaign to try to generate some new work. I think it was the right combination of timing and subject matter of the images on the mailer that I was able to do this shoot.

The difference between the portrait of Roger and most of the other editorial stories I get to work on was the obvious level of sensitivity that was required to how Roger and his wife would feel about having cameras in their home. I had a long conversation with my editor about what Esquire was looking for in getting out of the portrait and also a long conversation with the writer. Chris [writer] had spent two days with Roger and was able to describe the layout of the house, what the rooms looked like that Roger spends most of his time in, what some of his daily work routine’s are….descriptions of things that would be possible picture ideas. It was obvious to me that Chris had a great amount of admiration and love for Roger, and had come away from meeting him a changed man himself. The best stories you get to work on do that to you. What was different about this shoot was that I got to have such an in depth conversation with the writer prior to the shoot, and the feeling of care and protection that he has for Roger, the desire that the shoot with a photographer he’s never worked with before go smoothly was palpable. I personally find that level of admiration for ones subjects infectious. I already loved Roger….I’d watched his program with Gene Siskel on TV when I was a kid….but both Chris’ and Michael’s [my editor] enthusiasm just made me want to do this better than usual.

As far as just the nuts and bolts go…a date was set with the editor. After having the conversation with Chris I had a list of specific things to look at [for example, the library, the office, the living room, etc.] when I arrived at the house. I had a brief conversation with Roger’s wife on the phone about a week before the shoot was going to happen just to address any concerns that she might have. The shoot itself was done like any other shoot I’d do. I’ll look around and put a list together that I approve with the person I’m photographing. I find the list a helpful thing to do because it serves as a map for the day everyone involved knows EXACTLY how the shoot will go. I set up a shot with my assistant standing in place, and then I’ll go and get the person who is the subject of the piece to step in front of the camera. I’m slow on the set up but fast when I actually shoot, so I find it helpful on a day where there are many set ups [I think we did 5 with Roger] to try to leave people be as much as possible so that they can get their own work done while I set up the next shot. It allows you to stay and shoot longer and not have your subjects get irritated with you.

The pictures are only as good as the elusive dance of a subjects willingness to give something intimate and meaningful of themselves, and a photographers ability to recognize that at that very moment a gift is being given to them. Roger is undoubtedly a very generous person. It’s strange to me to think about being in Chicago in December, and drinking coffee with Roger and his wife, and the snow that had started early that morning that would make us miss the flight back home that we were meant to be on that same nite. This one in particular just felt like a personal shoot, something I was working on in collaboration with Roger, Chris, and Michael. Then the story runs and it takes on a life of it’s own….Rogers fans get to hear from him again and people have opinions and it becomes much bigger than that quiet snowy afternoon. I just feel really lucky that I got to be a part of this.

Ebert-hill

A New Model For Old Media And An Old Model For New Media

- - The Future

Maggwire.com, a company I’ve written about before, has a plan to charge users for a subscription to a channel that sounds really good to me. There should be a way for magazines to sell content in pieces, so people can assemble their own based on their interests. Also, it’s a good way to recapture the readers they will lose when they finally raise the subscription and newsstand prices. The New York Observer has a brief story (here) on the three former Wall Street investment analysts—Ryan Klenovich, 24, Jian Chai, 26, and Steve DeWald, 24—who started Maggwire.com and who want to “do for magazines what iTunes did for music.”

Here’s the pitch: Offer users a year’s subscription to a “channel” where they can get premium magazine content from a series of relevant magazines, for, say, $1.99 a month, with an additional 99 cents per magazine that they want to add to the package. The publishers would keep 75 percent of the profit, and Maggwire would get the rest.

McSweeney’s, which began in 1998 as a literary journal, edited by Dave Eggers, that published only works rejected by other magazines, has grown to be one of the country’s best-read and widely-circulated literary journals. They’ve just announced that No. 33 (available for preorder here) is to be in the form of a daily broadsheet. Yeah, a newspaper that will be 112 pages all in color along with a 112 page magazine, a 116 page books section, a pocket sized weekend guide and 3 pull out posters. The NYTimes reports:

The pages will measure 22 by 15 inches. (Pages of The New York Times, by comparison, are 22 by 11 1/2 inches.) Called San Francisco Panorama, the editors say it is, in large part, homage to an institution that they feel, contrary to conventional wisdom, still has a lot of life in it. Their experience in publishing literary fiction is something of a model.

“People have been saying the short story is dying for a lot longer than they’ve been saying newspapers are dying,” Jordan Bass, managing editor of the quarterly, said in an interview on Tuesday. “But you can still put out a great short-story magazine that people want to grab. The same is true for newspapers.”

As the crusty old corporate magazines continue to die there are people out there forging a new path.

PanoramaPRFINAL110309-1

Sam Jones Interview Part 1

- - Photographers

Sam with Polaroit_1I consider Sam Jones to be one of the top photographers in the country at shooting men. And there are plenty of people who shoot men as people or fashionable or sexy but very few who shoot them “manly,” which is something I love about Sam’s photography. So, that’s a very thin category that I put him in and of course he does a lot of things very well but I’ve worked with him a lot on covers and feature stories because he was at the top of that list. I also discovered that he loves to surf, so I put him on some portrait and cover shoots with the big surfers that worked our really well for me. I also noticed something when working on set with Sam that really makes a difference when he’s shooting celebrities. He knows a lot of Hollywood insiders and not just actors, but the cinematographers, editors and sound guys who are respected by actors for their craft. He’ll get into a conversation at the beginning of a shoot with the subject and start talking about the industry, the people they both know and you can see the I’m-on-a-shoot patina start to fade away. Sam made a critically acclaimed documentary in 2002 on the band Wilco called I Am Trying to Break Your Heart and was rumored to be working on an Infinite Jest movie with David Foster Wallace at the time of his death.

samjones1

Here’s part one of the interview:

APE: Tell me how you got started and how you got into shooting actors and doing the Hollywood thing?

In college at Cal State Fullerton I was a photojournalist at our college newspaper and they had a really good daily newspaper that won the equivalent of the pac 10 competition of newspapers. That led to being a stringer for the associated press, where I worked for over 3 years covering news, sports, and entertainment. I moved to downtown LA and lived 2 miles from the bureau and just threw myself in it. I actually had one stretch where I shot for 61 days without a break.

APE: Did you know before college that you wanted to be a photographer?

No, not at all. I was in bands and always thought I was going to be a musician and make records. I was doing both but I got so busy with photography. Working for the AP was amazing, because we were photographing the national news. You weren’t sent in if it didn’t have some kind of national appeal and in LA we had the Dodgers, Raiders, Lakers, UCLA, Academy Awards, Riots, Savings and Loan Fraud, Courthouse Stakeouts; ­that whole era was just crazy. If it was national news and it happened in LA you were expected to shoot it. That was 1989 – 1992.

The Associated Press had a syndication company called AP Wide World at the time and they would syndicate the images we shot to magazines. They would take the photos that stringers made for very little money and resell them to publications like Vanity Fair. They resold some of my Los Angeles Riots images to VF, and the actor Tim Robbins saw it. He was getting ready to direct a movie called Bob Roberts at the time, and he wanted those kinds of photojournalistic pictures to publicize his movie. So, he found me and called up and asked if I knew how to shoot actors. Part of the AP job was you had to go to those 20-minutes-in-a-hotel-room-with-Harrison-Ford-and-make-a-portrait-of-him movie junkets. I was always doing that stuff so I told him yes, no problem.

So, I got hired to be a still photographer on Bob Roberts and got to shoot the movie poster and the whole thing. He had a bunch of big actors playing small rolls in that movie like Susan Sarandon, James Spader and John Cusack. During the shooting of the movie I would pull these actors aside and make large and medium format portraits of them.

APE: Wait, is it common that someone shooting a movie is going to be making portraits on the side too?

No, I don’t think that it was, but this was not a normal shoot at all. Tim wanted the film to have a very realistic feel, so he let me do a lot of my shooting, especially of press scenes, from wherever I wanted. This included being able to walk into the scene, shoot without a blimp, and even bump the cinematographer during press scrums.

APE: You were in the movie too?

Oh yeah, the back of my head is all over the movie. He wanted me to be like a press photographer who was assigned to the beat of this politician [Bob Roberts]. They would set up the scene for a press conference and Tim would go “does this look right?” I remember once telling him that the person handling the press conference should not be saying “you there” because they would know everyone by name.  I told him to use reporters first names, and they actually changed the script to reflect this advice. I was having a blast and was thinking this still photography gig is awesome.

Then I got my rude awakening. Someone referred me to New Line Cinema for another film, and they said we’ll give you a job being a still photographer on this movie but it shoots in Chicago and we can’t afford to send you there so you have to work as a local. I had to call an acquaintance that I went to school with to ask if I could sleep on his floor for $100/month. It was freezing and the crew was pretty shitty to me.

APE: So, you went from acting in a movie you were shooting and giving the director notes to just another guy on set?

Oh yeah and on the Tim Robbins movie his cinematographer was Robert Altman’s cinematographer Jean Lepine and he totally took me under his wing. I used to come in and ask him how he was lighting this scene, why are you doing this, why are you doing that, why are you changing all the bulbs out? I learned so much from him and looking back on it I was probably a total pain in the ass, but he was so nice. So the main people I talked to on set were the DP, Producer and the Actors. Then I go to this job in Chicago and I’m persona non grata. It’s winter and all the shoots are night shoots, the blimp is freezing to my face and the camera would just stop working. It pretty much sucked, and I barely got paid a living wage.

So, I did that and got another New Line job doing a film called Loaded Weapon and I’m a pretty friendly guy so I made friends with Sam Jackson and some other people in the cast and crew.  New Line says they’re going to put me up to do the poster. Then they came back to me and said Emilio Estevez doesn’t want you to shoot the poster he want’s Bonnie Schiffman to shoot it. I was a kid at the time, like 22 and I got kind of pissed off so I walked up the Emilio and said “hey man why didn’t you want me to shoot the poster.” I’m sure he was like, what is this still photographer doing talking to me? After that I decided I wasn’t going to do any more still jobs, because I basically don’t like doing jobs where I’m not wanted. With photojournalism there was a little of that, but being the still photographer on set there was a lot of that. It takes a totally different kind of personality. I think the photographers who do amazing work on films are stealth people who like not being seen and staying in the shadows getting the picture and not talking to anyone.

APE: Yeah, not asking the DP why he’s lighting something a certain way or helping the director with a scene.

Yeah, exactly. If it wasn’t clear what my calling was after that, it was clear it was not doing something behind the scenes.

samjones9

APE: So, how did you move past that?

I just started flying to New York and meeting with people. I don’t know if it was just out of stupidity, but when you call a photo editor and they say portfolio drop off day is this and pickup day is this and if you’re out of town FedEx it to here, I just figured my portfolio didn’t have much of a chance of being looked at. I decided I’m just going to go there and tell them that I’ve flown here all the way from LA just to see them. I picked my ten favorite magazines and told them I only have one portfolio and I’m only here for 3 days, so If I drop it off I won’t have it for my next meeting. It worked. Maybe they took pity on me, but I had a lot of face to face meetings, and Entertainment Weekly ended up giving me my first magazine job.

APE: How was your book at the time? Was it a decent book?

It was all 4×5 chromes in these black mattes so you had to look at them on a light table, but 4×5 chromes were impressive to look at. I had Tim Robbins, John Cusack, Susan Sarandon and Gore Vidal. It was pretty much a mixture of the film stuff and some AP portraits.

Then, I started getting little tiny jobs at magazines. My first EW job was a parking space. I had to shoot Tom Arnold’s parking space. It was the dumbest job ever. He was feuding with some other actor over a parking space.

APE: And, you crushed it [laughing].

Oh my god, I must have shot 20 rolls. I brought lights and grabbed some security guard and said ok you walk through the background. I lost sleep over the parking spot shoot thinking, I’ve got to impress them.

APE: Right, you were thinking this has to be the best parking space they’ve ever seen in their life. And it was, right?

Quarter page in the back of EW. They ended up using the shot with the security guard’s feet in it.

APE: And they called you the next week to shoot Tom Cruise?

Ha, No. I moved from parking space to Doogie Howser and that was 1/4 page as well. Then there was also a bunch of business stuff that I was shooting. There were some AP environmental business shots that I had blown up in my portfolio, like the president of Bank of America, that kind of thing. So I ended up getting work from some business magazines right off too.

APE: I think a lot of people want to know how you go from 1/4 page of a parking spot to shooting the cover?

You know what it is? The photo editor sees the whole shoot and so it’s not just the one picture in the magazine that they judge you by. I shot features for a long time before I got to shoot a cover. Even when I was doing a 1 page shot I was always trying 3, 4 and 5 setups. I was shooting like it was a cover and full feature because you never know, it could get bumped up. I think there was a couple photo editors early on at Time, EW, US and Premiere who just started making a case to their Art Director and their Editor that this photographer is working his ass off and is good and they should let him do it. That was the case with me, where someone finally said we should give him the cover, or at least I remember it being a cover try. I think back at what I made actors do for 1 page, because I was telling them it might be more pages, so we need to shoot more setups and try a bunch of ideas and we had extra clothes and locations ready. I was syndicating my pictures with Gamma Liaison at the time and because of all these setups, I actually had several syndicated covers before I was assigned an actual cover. So, those tear sheets were in my book and that helped me out as well.

APE: I recall a really big cover run you had at Esquire and GQ. You seemed to be the cover guy for those magazines.

It was funny because there was a period where I was shooting covers for both, and often in the same month. I don’t think that went over too well.

APE: I don’t think it would really. How did you pull that off.

I didn’t have a contract with either one so in my mind I figured it wasn’t a problem. I had originally thought having a contract was the way to go, especially since a lot of photographers that I admired had them, but for me, it turned out to be a better thing not to have one. I never wanted to have to shoot an assignment I wasn’t interested in, just because I was contracted to do so.

APE: It seems like a lot of actors and publicists have a list of photographers they want to work with, so how much does it help to be on an actors list? Like Clooney, I’ve seen you shoot a lot of George Clooney covers and heard you two are friends.

samjones6That cover with the hats for Esquire was the first shoot I did with him and he didn’t know me from Adam at the time but the magazine suggested me and he said ok. Then I shot him and we had a good time, so we developed a pretty good working relationship. I will say I feel lucky to have done so many shoots with him, because he is not the type of guy to demand a certain photographer. He’s a lot more low maintenance about that kind of stuff. However, he has been very loyal, and he will ask for me when he has a commercial shoot in Japan or something like that, and I’m very grateful for that.

APE: Ok, but on the other hand if I have a Clooney shoot I might hire Sam Jones because I know I’ll get more than 30 minutes, because you guys are friends.

That’s true, but there’s also the other side of that. A magazine isn’t always going to want the same photographer to shoot the same actor, and I get that. No magazine wants to be told they have to use a certain photographer. I have certainly lost out on jobs where the magazine wanted to use me, but the actor requested someone else, so it works both ways. I have, like a lot of photographers, a few actors that regularly request me, and it is great to have that security of knowing you will be asked to do a lot of shoots with that person.

APE: What about the publicists who are pushing certain photographers?

There’s publicists who really know their job and who really want to match up the right photographer with their client. If you’re an actor, one of the things you expect your publicist to do is make sure that when the cover comes out and you’re on it, that the shoot worked out. That is a publicists job, so I understand the really pushing for a photographer they trust. However, this focus can become rather narrow, and it is tough to lose a job you know you are right for because a publicist stayed with a familiar choice. Anyone that’s been taking pictures in Hollywood is so used to not getting the job for some weird reason that makes no sense. You have to accept it too. I was just on hold for two weeks for a movie poster, and had even started production on the job when the lead actor informed the studio he wanted to work with another photographer who is a good friend of his. You have to just say ok, because I’ve been in the position where I’ve done that to another photographer, so it all comes around. And then sometimes you will be in a situation where there’s several actors and publicists involved and one actor says they want to use a different photographer, where the other actors and publicists may not even know or care about the decision, so it’s crazy.

I understand the element of sucking up that goes on, I’m just not very good at it. I always try to come at it from the perspective of making great pictures, and making sure the magazine, or client gets what they need. This may mean pushing for more risky set-ups or pushing the actor a bit to try something new, which can be uncomfortable for some publicists.

APE: That’s probably removed you from a couple lists.

Yes, but also it’s kept me working in the editorial environment, where pictures need to be more than just safe and pretty. I always loved working for magazines because that’s where I started and you go out and spend a day, or a few hours, with an actor and a writer spends a day with them as well and you photograph them at that one moment in their lives where you try to get something that’s revealing, interesting and compelling about them. If the story and pictures work well together it’s still one of my favorite things to read. I always want to be able to do that.

Part 2 tomorrow.

samjones10

Santa Fe Photographic Workshops and Outside Magazine

- - Workshops

I wanted to give a quick plug to Hannah and my former colleagues at Outside who’ve finally collaborated with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops Director, Reid Callanan to create their own series of workshops with magazine contributors (here, here and here); an idea I had at one point that’s almost as good as the one where I proposed writing a blog. The workshops were always a bright spot of working in the relative isolation of Santa Fe as they brought high caliber photographers to town–I first met Dan Winters, Antonin Kratochvil and Keith Carter after the workshops. Instead of just a plug I thought I’d ask Reid a couple questions.

Can you give me a little background on the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops and your involvement?

After working 14 years at the Maine Photographic Workshops and doing every job that business had to offer, I felt it was time to venture out and start my own business. So, in 1990 I moved with my young family (wife Cathy and son EJ) across the country to New Mexico to start the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. This year we are celebrating 20 years in business. It has been a great success — due mostly to picking the right location at the right time, hiring an amazing staff of energetic and dedicated people then getting out of their way, and convincing the most creative and influential photographers worldwide to join us as teachers for our week-long workshops.

I’m surprised by the caliber of photographer that teaches at SFPW. You have commercial and editorial photographers in their prime, who probably don’t have much experience teaching amateurs or time to develop a curriculum. How do make it so it’s easy for someone like that to come teach?

One of the foundations of this business is to bring the best photographers in the country to teach workshops. We have been fortunate to have people like Albert Watson, Mark Seliger, Brigitte Lancombe, Platon, Jim Nachtwey, and Nadav Kander join us. Teachers at this level can attract working pros to take their workshops. We prepare our instructors by scheduling their week for them in advance. We have a formula, honed over 20 years, that works incredibly well of: daily critiques followed by assignments followed by shooting and then more critiques of the images just made. The instructors follow this structure and work with each participant to improve their vision and craft. Lectures, demonstrations, and discussions led by the instructors round out the intense week. So, the Workshops staff provide the overall structure for the week enabling each guest photographer to focus on imparting their years of experience and inspiring the class to create new images. As long as the guest photographer is open and giving of themselves and follow our lead, their teaching week is a success.

Do you attract a lot of semi-pro photographers to these workshops?

Our core audience right now are advanced amateur photographers – people who have a passion for photography and are willing to spent their free time and money to follow their dream of becoming a better photographer. These folks don’t make their living as photographers. We also have a healthy audience of emerging and professional photographers who take workshops for two main reasons – to improve their technical skills and/or to rekindle a love of imagemaking that may have become lost while building their careers. And pros come to take workshops with photographers whose work they find inspiring–like Chris Buck, Jonathan Torgovnik, Joe McNally, and Karen Kuehn to name a few of our guest instructors this past summer.

What are the traits and skills that photographers who are good teachers have?

All great teachers are articulate, caring, thoughtful and have their egos in check. If they can’t get outside their own box and be open to what their students are doing in the class, they won’t be successful as teachers.

One criticism I have of just teaching people technique and leaving out the business part of being a photographer is the potential that students will not understand the value of photography and not grasp their responsibility to the photographic community to help it remain a profession. What are your thoughts on this?

Since almost all of our instructors are professional photographers, they understand the importance of discussing business practices and the financial value of an image in their classes. I wouldn’t say it’s a major part of their workshop week (unless you are taking a workshop with Mary Virginia Swanson), but it does get the point across that images are valuable and need to be protected and treated as such. I think our audience places a high value on photographs because of their commitment and passion for photography. And, they also understand how difficult it is to make a really great image, so selling images for $1 is not the right thing to do. I do believe that it is our responsibility to impart this message to our audience.

Have you seen enrollment dramatically rise with the explosion of public’s interest in taking pictures?

Our enrollment has seen slow and steady growth over 20 years. We haven’t seen a dramatic rise because this wouldn’t match with our business and marketing philosophy of steady growth. Likewise, we haven’t seen a dramatic decrease in our enrollment because of the recession. I believe in moderation in all that I do and have placed a high value on this practice in my business. There is not much that is overly dramatic nor explosive about the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. We do what we do very well and will continue to be successful for years to come.

What have you got coming up that you’re excited about?

Besides working with Outside Magazine to produce a series of week long workshop with some of their key contributing photographers (Jake Cheesum, Jeff Lipsky, and Paolo Marchesi), we are also offering workshops this Fall in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This will be the 9th year we are moving our workshop operation to this amazing colonial town and producing 12 workshops with the likes of David Alan Harvey, David Hobby, Sam Abell, Greg Gorman, and Paul Elledge, to name a few. I know travel to Mexico has gotten a bad rap the past couple of years, but San Miguel is a safe haven that is easy to get to. We wouldn’t be going if we didn’t feel it was totally safe. It’s such a great venue to explore photographically and also to build a closer relationship with your own imagemaking process.

Teru Kuwayama- Working In A War Zone

- - Photographers

Over on Gizmodo (here) Teru has practical advise for photographers headed into the war zone:

The daily mechanics of photographing in a “war zone” don’t have much to do with photography—mostly it’s about getting from point A to point B without getting your head cut off, then finding a signal and an outlet.

For what it’s worth, here’s some advice for first timers heading out to the badlands.

Wear Your Seat Belt… it’s the traffic that’s most likely to kill you.
Learn How To Say “Hello” and “Thank You” and To Count To Ten
Stop Looking For the “Front Line”—It’s a Mirage..”battlefield” has been replaced by the “battlespace,”
Equip Yourself With the Right Gear… Avoid the faux-commando stuff …Bring plastic (not your credit cards)… Pack your go bag – AKA, your grab bag, jump bag, snatch bag, bug-out bag, etc.
Embedding Has Both Perks and Consequences… You can spend an entire deployment embedded with the US Marines in Diyala or Helmand, but don’t fool yourself that you know anything about Iraq or Afghanistan—what you’ve seen is the inside of an armored bubble.
Get In Shape Before Deploying… I’m hauling a backpack that’s more than 50% of my body weight.
Fixers: The Tour Guides of War Reporting… don’t trust them blindly… many of the ones I’ve worked with are dead now.
Don’t Follow the Pack…by the time it’s “news,” it’s pretty old.
Visit Lightstalkers.org… sharing network of people who do inadvisable things in sketchy places.

teru

Found it on Exposure Compensation.

Michele McNally Answers Readers Questions on Talk to the Newsroom

Some good questions coming in for Michele McNally over on the NYTimes website. I reprinted a couple I like here but there’s still time to send her a question and more to read ( here).

Ms. McNally joined The Times as director of photography in June 2004 and was promoted to assistant managing editor in July 2005.

Before joining The Times, Ms. McNally was picture editor of Fortune Magazine from November 1986 until May 2004. Previously, she was picture editor of Time Life’s Magazine Development Group. She began her career as a sales representative for Sygma Photo News in 1977.

Q. Besides superb picture-editing abilities, what are the most important skills to have in your position?
— Lauren McFalls
A. Here’s a list, not necessarily in order. An ability to assess talent in others so you can surround yourself with great people. And an ability to build the team, get the team members excited and let them grow. Gaining the trust of the team is also important. A love and a nose for news — and endless curiosity. The ability to handle extremely stressful situations — the hardest being when you have people in dangerous places. Being flexible and ready to go in any direction at any time in an ever-changing world. Being collaborative. Being willing to take risks and being unafraid of failure. Lastly, the housekeeping of managing a budget.

Q. Nowadays everyone is a photographer it seems and newspapers are encouraging the public to send in their on-the-spot photos for publication. What, then, is the future of photography? Will there be professional photographers in 10 or 20 years? If so, how competitive will the field be and how would you recommend someone get his foot in the door?
— Bruce Wood
A. Mr. Wood: Your question is important and of the moment. As I view the images coming from Iran that are being posted all over, I am reminded and indeed pained by the fact that a skilled visual journalist has not recorded many of these events. This situation in the hands of a truth-seeking photojournalist could be extremely powerful, and not a mere “digital document.”

It seems obvious to me that the presence of a mindful storytelling photojournalist is sorely missed. I am indeed troubled by not knowing the sources of these pictures and their agendas, the disclaimers from the agencies providing them, and the validity of the captions — let alone the addition of “best quality available.”

It brings to mind the amazing work of Gilles Peress from Iran, in 1979-80 and his book “Telex Iran: In the Name of Revolution.” Surely a visual interpreter like Peress and many others would provide pictures that would have more impact and staying power.

Photography is indeed a highly competitive field — now. Photographers come to publications in various ways. Though I don’t recommend sending me a “shoe” in a box, saying you want to get your foot in the door! I hope that wasn’t you.

Know the publication you want to work for. Sounds easy — but I do get e-mails, and mailers that are not appropriate. Then find the right person at that publication for the work that you want to do.

Go to photographic workshops — it is so much easier to see a picture editor who is not facing a daily schedule. When you show a portfolio ask, only if they like the work, who else they could reccommend for you to see. When a picture editor gets a referral from another picture editor from a magazine or another paper about a photographer, it is noted.

Q. What happened to the good old days of photojournalism? You know, first-class airfares, unlimited expense accounts, scotch with a magazine’s picture editor in his office on Friday nights?
— Matthew Naythons
A. Hi Matthew: Yes, I do remember those days — robust ad revenue, 500-page magazines, monthly expense accounts that surpass yearly these days, off-site meetings in Lanai, catered gourmet dinners on closing nights, and yes showing pictures to the editor in a bar! I remember getting 5 figures for pictures that weren’t shot yet — and the competition so stiff the prices would escalate — and the picture editors not even knowing what their budget were. Wow, what a long time ago!

Many things have changed since that time, budgets have been slashed, newspapers and magazines have folded, and staffs have been cut. Along the way something else happened — the birth and rise of digital photography and the wire agencies getting more competitive and hiring really strong photographers. It became easier to cut the photo budget when you no longer had the expense of film and processing, and did you really need to send someone so far, at great expense, when the wires had the fastest transmitting abilities and had accumulated a great new roster of photographers? All that said, we did not have the Web back then — and it is a very visually hungry medium. There are new ways to showcase photography these days, and different, exciting ways to tell stories. I guess we will just have to use our budget for newsgathering and forgo the (admittedly missed) perks.

Discover and Cultivate Talent

- - Magazines

The winners of the Hearst 8×10 Photography Biennial were recently announced (here). I was struck by how novel it seemed for a company like Hearst who publishes magazines like; Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR, Marie Claire, O, Popular Mechanics and Town & Country to hold a contest that “is an international competition to identify and promote new and emerging photographers” where they think the winners are “rising stars who will play an important role in the future of magazines, media, the Web and the worlds of design and photography.”

It used to be an open secret that one of the most profitable names in the television industry, HBO, went to great lengths to discover, develop and take chances on unknown talent. Many of their biggest hits came from unknown writers they took chances on (here) or discovered through one of their contests.

So, why don’t magazines do the same? Besides the obvious lack of vision at the top of most publication it’s likely because they don’t realize their future depends on finding talented people and attracting them to magazines over other mediums. The history of magazines is littered with ultra talented writers, photographers, designers and editors and somehow I think in the last 10 or more years many of these people may have gone into advertising instead and now with all the potential on the web who knows if they will find their way into the magazine industry.

I once worked at a magazine that built their reputation with a handful of extremely talented writers who all eventually moved on. I often wondered how they planned to find the next group of talented writers who would define the next phase of the magazine. Now that I think about it, talent scouting might have done the job. This Hearst Biennial seems like a good step in that direction for photography.

picture-2

The winning photographers are:
Andy Freeberg
Louie Palu
Benedikt Partenheimer
Brad Carlile
Edith Maybin
Nicholas Prior
Mark Kessell

Life.com Launches

- - Magazines

picture-1

The new Life.com just launched and it’s worth a visit to go peruse some great old photography. I think they’re planning on simply using it as a portal to sell Getty images, but it’s nice that they put a decent user interface on it and created edited material to check out.

This is from the press release:
“More than 7 million photos from the Life and Getty Images photo collections are now available to consumers in the largest online photography site. The curated site features both rarely seen and iconic photos from the 1850s through today. More than 3,000 new photos from Getty Images award-winning photographers will be added to the site daily.”

Media Is Thriving, Media Owners… Not So Much

- - The Future

“For all the apocalyptic news about newspapers, there’s a distinction worth making: Newspaper owners are far more endangered than the medium itself.”

via MediaWorks.

It’s important to realize that media is booming right now. What’s broken is the system where crusty old men take the piles of cash they already had and make more piles from printing and distributing media. Of course part of the fallout here is that most of the media that’s being made right now doesn’t make any money. That will change. Nobody said reinventing the wheel would be easy.

Aric Mayer has a good recap of the publishing crisis (here) where you can clearly see how the decision publishers made to put all their eggs in the advertising basket is now going to cost them dearly. After all those years of watering down their product to attract a more general audience, lowering the subscription rate to boost numbers and producing pathetic advertiser friendly content it seems that most magazines not only no longer have loyal readers but now the advertisers are gone too.

If that’s not enough, in what amounts to a perfect storm for publishing all these laid off editors, writers and photographers will be creating original content with their free time:
Web-only news sites started by recently unemployed journalists– Media Shift

The tide will be turning quickly for small, independent, efficient content producers. The first bit of good news comes from Advertising Age (here):

“In the past several months, there has been increasing evidence that the most easily measured metric on the web, the click, is not the right metric to use for many advertisers. And that’s good news for publishers struggling to monetize their content with online ads.”

With the news that San Francisco will soon be without a major daily newspaper (here) some see a smoldering crater, I see thousands of tiny saplings starting to take root.

Magazines Try To Save Newspapers

- - The Future

Time Magazine’s former managing editor, Walter Isaacson wrote a heroic hail-mary cover story a week or two ago (here) endorsing a system of micro payments for journalism in an attempt to bridge that fast approaching cliff.

I like a couple of the ideas he brings up, namely clicking buttons to make payments instead of entering credit card information and charging micro payments to access day, week, month, year and lifetime subscriptions to media organizations.

Eventually there will be a brilliant solution hammered out (hammered as in media organizations are going to endure a serious ass whupping first). This quote says it best: “driving revenue while trying to re-invent a business model is a difficult thing to do, it’s like changing the tires on a moving truck.” Found that in the comments of a foliomag.com story.

I have several thoughts to contribute:

1. The monopoly is over. The cost of delivering advertising to to consumers along with words and pictures is now nearly zero. Advertisers paid whatever you told them to pay because the delivery method was expensive and complicated. Nobody gives a rats ass if the billionaire owners go somewhere else. Turning journalism into a break even industry is perfectly fine with editors, writers and photographers. I could go on and on about the decisions that are made by owners that put advertising and attracting easy readers first. My reasons for not reading Time Magazine anymore is certainly tied to their attempts to attract more readers (to serve to advertisers) at the expense of the quality of the product.

2. The cost to deliver the exact same product electronically should be a fraction of the printed version (I’m thinking 1/10th). If you’d like to buy me a computer (or other hand held delivery device) and pay my ISP bill each month then I’ll agree to the normal cost. Otherwise pass the savings I just gave you back to me.

3. Get off your high fucking horse. You’re no longer in control of the flow of information. Your sources have blogs, your readers have tweets and stories don’t end once you hit the publish button. Participation is mandatory.

There’s plenty of good punditry to read as well:

By Mark Fitzgerald, Editor and Publisher:

… Time itself looks more in need of saving than even newspapers that symbolize the industry’s troubles, like the Chicago Tribune or Chicago Sun-Times, both of which dropped pretty hefty packages on my doorstep Sunday.

By E&P’s count Time sold all of 14 pages of ads in the slim issue. Alan Jacobson of Brass Tacks Design puts it nicely at his blog with a trenchant piece that is far more worthy to be at the center of industry debate than Isaacson’s sort of obvious observations: “But its ‘Modest Proposal’ is delivered in a form that is remarkably modest itself — its 56 pages are barely thick enough to shim a coffee table, let alone support an entire industry.”

Bill Wyman on Hitsville:

But papers didn’t make money from subscriptions; the price basically covered the cost of getting multi-pounds of newsprint delivered to your door at 5 a.m.

… the more I think about it, the biggest problem the press has is that the evaporation of advertising has meant that the news it publishes has to stand on its own two feet.

Sure, back in the day there was some foreign news, some local reporting, some great reporters and editors sprinkled across the country. But let’s face it, most newspapers sucked in all sorts of ways, and one of the main ways was opting toward blandness and timidity wherever possible, as as not to offend the older folks subscribing to the papers.

Mark Hamilton on Notes From A Teacher:

So this is where my belief that micropayments offer at least a partial solution to the who-will-pay-for-the-news question runs up against cold reality. If you accept my idea of the three stumbling blocks, we need to devise a system that (1) allows for single registration for everything, (2) opens up the pot to everyone creating media with potential value, and (3) puts the user in control of establishing the value.

Mike Masnick on Tech Dirt:

… a piece by James Warren in The Atlantic, which you would hope would be a bit more intellectual — but instead makes the same old errors. Warren seems to imply that investigative journalism can only be done by newspaper reporters — apparently not realizing that the investigative reporting he’s talking about is a very new concept, rather than true “traditional journalism.”

Michael Turro, In Plain Sight:

newspapers cannot be saved. They are big bloated, convoluted corporate anachronisms that derive their strength and power from an economic model of news information that is in rapid and steep decline. These corporate entities were built and grew powerful in an age when new information was remote, precious, scarce, capital.

That age is over.

Today fresh information is immediate, cheap, abundant, available. News happens and is distributed in real time – worldwide – before lumbering outfits like the New York Times even have a chance to think up a catchy headline.

Finally Walter Isaacson on The Daily Show:

And finally the World Press Photo of the Year Award goes to Anthony Suau from a series of pictures he shot under contract for Time Magazine but they refused to print (story on PDN).