This Week In Photography Books: Margaret Morton

by Jonathan Blaustein

Sometimes, you’ve got to mix things up. Even though it’s harder than sticking with what you know. I like easy as much as the next guy, but it CAN make a person complacent.

Just look at McDonalds.

Why did it become a massive capitalist behemoth? With tens of thousands of locations? Because you only have to be smart enough to walk up to the counter, or drive up to the window, and point at a number.

I want combo #2.
You could grunt, and it would still work out.

If you can string together enough syllables, in proper order, to say, “Combo #2,” and you can cobble together enough pocket change to pay the $2.99, then you can have yourself a burger, some fries, and a highly-sugar-and-caffeine-laden beverage.

What could be easier than that? And as to the cows that go into that burger? Why bother to make them run around a grassy pasture? Why not just let them stand in their own shit, all day long, until it’s time to kill them?

What’s easier, letting them stand where they are, or going to the trouble of designing a cow-exercise program?

No contest.

But just the other day, I was reminded why the hard way promotes growth. I was headed in to teach my second straight class in the new semester: “Beginning Digital Photography.” I asked for an extra class, THIS class, in fact, because I can teach it in my sleep. I know my patterns. I know my lectures. Cold.

No drama at all.

Except there were only 5 students in the room, instead of the usual 25. And the University didn’t want to cancel. So, on the fly, I realized I’d have to re-tool everything I know, in order to keep a very small room entertained and enlightened for 2.5 hours straight, for 15 weeks.

My first thoughts were based in fear and frustration. My desire for the lazy way was screeching in my consciousness, like a wolf that just chewed off its own leg to get out of a trap. Then, I caught my breath, and realized I had no option but to make it work.

I began to ask the students questions I normally wouldn’t. I established a completely new vibe, and laid down ground rules. By the end of class, we were all laughing, and I was excited as hell.

Often times, change is forced upon us. We resent it, and then realize it was in our best interest. This time, I went through the stages of grief in warp speed. Which allows me to give you my high-minded advice all the quicker.

What does that have to do with a book review, though? I’m glad you asked. Because, as always, I’m trying to reach a cogent point before I’ve hit 1000 words, and your attention span begins to wane.

Today, I want to highlight “Cities of the Dead: The Ancestral Cemeteries of Kyrgyzstan,” a new book by Margaret Morton, recently published by the University of Washington press. That’s a long title, yes, and it likely gives you a clue to its subject. Not a lot of room for surprise.

This book is one that I’ve looked at several times before, and decided not to review. (Yes, I know we’ve had this conversation before.) But this morning, I changed my mind. (And not because I’m out of books, which has been the motivation in years past.)

No, I decided to write about this book because I chose to change my criteria a bit, to keep things from getting stale. This book is not inherently exciting and dramatic, and I don’t think the pictures will change your life. They’re not brilliant, nor are they particularly innovative.

Before you hate me for damning the book with faint praise, let me continue. The pictures are kind of washed-out, bleached, and bereft of people. They’re not razor sharp, nor are they showy. The tonal range is minimal, so they don’t grab you in the guts either.

But they are consistent, in their tone and compositional style. They keep coming at you, like the less-talented fighter who out-works the flashy favorite. (Hello Buster Douglas, what are you doing in 2015?)

They transport you somewhere else. Somewhere quiet, where everyone’s already dead. The aesthetic reinforces the content, and there is a distinct narrative structure. You start far away, pull in very tight, and then drift back out again.

Very smart.

Perhaps I fall victim to shiny visuals, or off-beat and absurd concepts? I show you books that are edgy, or already famous, or that reflect an arty style you’ll like for sure.

This book, however, does something that I’m always asking for, despite it’s grayscale production: it shows me, (and you) something I’ve never seen before. Frankly, even in this ever-more-connected world, I suspect it depicts something almost no one has seen before: vacant cemeteries, in the form of mini-cities, in the hinterlands of Kyrgyzstan.

That’s about as far off the beaten path as anyone can get these days. I wouldn’t even know how to fly there if I tried? Do you route through Tajikistan? Or am I a fool, and everyone knows that Uzbekistan is the best layover, what with their killer mutton stew?

Kidding aside, these pictures have a sere, world-weariness that didn’t seduce me. It put me off, even though I was inherently curious. But I never forgot the book, so I came back to it again.

It’s not the grand vistas that grab you here, it’s the details. Is that a scalp nailed to a wooden post? What do the rams horns mean? The deer? Are these competing warrior clans, with different spirit animals?

The stars and sickles jut up into the sky, whose color we can’t know, as we’ve been denied the opportunity.

Why the cages? What do they mean? Is that a desiccated eagle? Or a falcon? How hard is it to train a falcon anyway?

This book is not something I’d normally review, and I think that it’s healthy for me to keep expanding that definition. It does have a lot to offer. And it’s my job to sit still long enough to share that appreciation with you.

Bottom Line: Austere publication highlighting graveyards at the end of the line

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Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.

The Art of the Personal Project: Ted Catanzaro

- - Personal Project

As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects because they are the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director, photo editor, or graphic designer. This new column, “The Art of the Personal Project” will feature the personal projects of photographers using the Yodelist marketing database. You can read their blog at http://yodelist.wordpress.com. Projects are discovered online and submissions are not accepted.

Today’s featured photographer is: Ted Catanzaro

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How long have you been shooting?

I’ve been shooting photos since high school. My parents were very supportive about photography. One of the bedrooms of our house was converted into a darkroom and there were always cameras and photo magazines lying around the house. Our encyclopedias were the Time Life Library of Photography. My brother went to Ansel Adams’ workshop in Yosemite for a couple of summers when Ansel was still alive. I remember my dad talking to him on the phone a few times when we were building our darkroom. I had an incredible photo teacher at Palisades High – Rob Doucette. A bunch of kids in his classes went on to become professional photographers. I still keep in contact with him on Facebook and see him surfing a couple of times a year.

Are you self‐taught or photography school taught?
I learned the basics about photography developing, printing, and the history of the medium—in high school, and I did my undergraduate and graduate work in fine art at U.C.L.A . Again, I was lucky to have great instructors at UCLA like Mike Kelley, Chris Burden, Roger Herman, and John Divola. Robert Heinecken was the head of the photo dept. We rented a loft from him in Culver City. During my years at UCLA we had visiting lecturers like John Baldassari, Lewis Baltz, and Gary Winogrand.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
Originally, the blog was a way of posting images for friends and families, just to share what we’ve been up to, what it’s like to have five boys, and it sort of became a creative vehicle for me. The writing along with images sort of developed into the life of the blog. We put a link for it in our website just because it was the easiest way to navigate to it.

The blog is the first category I go to on anyone’s website. I’ve had my blog for about seven years now and there are certain themes and stories that are recurrent. They usually involve being a dad/husband, coffee, music, surfing , gardening, cooking, camping, or going to Kauai.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?

I’ve had the blog since 2008. I try to update every week or so. I try to stay away from direct work postings or behind the scene stuff. If I do post about an assignment I try to keep it more personal.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
That’s hard to say, The most popular project on our website is our Holiday Card section. It features our holiday cards from the mid-1980’s to the present.

I’ve got a couple of other projects I’m working on right now, like my surfer tailgate portrait project, a Homeboy/Homegirl story, my Punk rock project, and my Dead Rat project. All of these get some airplay to some extent on the website, Insta, Tumblr. Etc… and I’ll see where they go.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?

It’s different, and I’d be kidding myself if I thought we actually got booked for shoots based on the blog, but every client we work for tells me how much they love reading the blog and looking at the photos. Ever since then I’ve geared the portfolio/ website to my personal work. Our new website design makes it really easy to create a new project or story.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?

I use Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr and spend way too much time on all of them. There’s something weirdly satisfying (and perverse) having my images being stored on a phone in someone’s pocket halfway around the world.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?

No, I wish, but it’s really rewarding when someone says I love your blog, I spent an hour on it, or, that last blog posting made me cry.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?

Yes, most of our promos/marketing uses our personal images from our blog.

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Ted Catanzaro is the Ted of Ted & Debbie, a photography production team based in Los Angeles. They have 5 boys and 2 guinea pigs.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

The Daily Edit – Bon Appetit: Alex Lau

- - The Daily Edit

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Bon Appetit

Creative Director: Alex Grossman
Photo Director: Alex Pollack
Assistant Photo Editor: Elizabeth Jaime
Senior Food Editor: Alison Roman
Photographer: Alex Lau (opener only )
Photographer: Jarren Vink (inside spreads )

 

Is there any interesting backstory to that photo?
Funny that you ask. This seemingly simple opener was the subject of huge debate and drama for about three weeks in the office. There was some clash between our editors on what exactly an olive oil fried egg should look like. Some thought that it shouldn’t be too crispy and burnt around the edges, while others insisted that it was simply a quality of frying an egg with this method. It was definitely one of our more difficult openers to work on, mainly because it took a long time for the staff to come to a consensus on the shot. 

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How many eggs did you cook to get this image?
Our lovely and patient senior food editor Alison Roman probably cooked about 15 eggs for this.
Is an egg something you’ve shot several times as a food photographer, if so is it a challenge to make it different?
I approach eggs the same way I photograph food in general. The end goal is to make it pretty, so lighting is incredibly important. Sometimes soft light is key, while other times harsh light gives it that pop. It really depends on prop styling, what surface you’re shooting on, and ultimately how the egg is cooked.
Is there a staff kitchen you have access too?
The photo studio that I do all in-house work in is connected to the Bon Appetit test kitchen, where we constantly develop recipes for our print and web issues. A common question I always get as a food photographer is whether or not the food I shoot is actually edible, and not a glued concoction of plastic. I don’t know how other publications work, but the recipes are cooked, sent out to me to shoot, and then immediately go straight into my belly.
Do you always have a food stylist/prop stylist for your shoot?
Not all of the time. When I’m shooting in the office, I usually have one of the test kitchen editors helping me out in terms of food styling. As for prop stylists, I’ve never had the opportunity to work with one. Most prop styling is a collaborative effort between me, our photo and test kitchen editor.
Where does you love of shooting food come from?
It probably stems from my love of eating everything all of the time.
Can you cook?
Not compared to my coworkers, but I’d like to think that I’m half decent at preparing meals.
Your style is very observational rather then pretty food photos. Describe your approach to shooting food.
I didn’t really start shooting food until January of last year, despite having done photography for 5 years. I have a background in documentary photography, which I think definitely has transferred over to my approach to photographing food. I usually like to photograph food just the way I’ve found it, mainly because I’m terrible at food styling.
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Is this a Sazerac? Did you have one?
That’s Merrill and Co’s Two Stones cocktail, which consists of rye, East India sherry, curacao, and bitters. I did, and it was delicious.

For W. Eugene Smith 90% Of The Image Is Done In The Darkroom

- - Working

At least fifty percent of the image is done in the darkroom—I think Gene would say ninety percent. The negative has the image, but it can’t produce the image completely, as the photographer saw it—not as Gene saw it. You have to work it over and over with the enlarger, you have to burn it in, you have to hold back areas—this detail down here or over there.”

Karales continued, getting more specific about the technique: “Gene always liked to get separations around people, figures, and that was always done with potassium ferrocyanide. It was the contrast that made the prints difficult. Gene saw the contrast with his eyes, but the negative wouldn’t capture it the same way. So he would have to bring the lamp down and burn, and then if that spilled too much exposure and made it too dark, you would lighten it with the ferrocyanide. You had to be careful not to get the ferrocyanide too strong, and yet you couldn’t have it too weak, either. If it took too long, it would spread. So I would blow the fixer off of the paper so ferrocyanide would stay in an area, and then dunk the paper right away to kill the action. Or if you wanted something to go smoother, then you left the fixer there. It was extremely delicate and complicated, but we got it down pat.”

via In the Darkroom with W. Eugene Smith.

This Week In Photography Books: Christopher J Everard

by Jonathan Blaustein

Have you ever heard of Sasha Grey? Maybe?
Maybe not.

As it happens, she’s a young actress from California. I first saw her in Steven Soderbergh’s taut little film, “The Girlfriend Experience.” She is lithe, Sasha Grey, with long, fine dark hair, and oil-black eyes. Those eyes are world-weary like Scarlett Johansson’s, but not in that same I-grew-up-in-New-York-so-I’m-smarter-and-cooler-than-you sort of way.

Do you know what I mean?

She was hard not to watch, Ms. Grey, as she played a very expensive call girl who provided a particular service: she pretends to be her John’s girlfriend, beyond just sexing him up.

Her acting is languid, sure, but again, it’s hard to look away. She was oddly mesmerizing. Then I saw her during her multi-episode cameo on “Entourage,” which I’m loathe to admit I ever watched.

At that point, I’d already learned her somewhat-but-not-really shocking story: Sasha Grey was a porn-star, despite her small boobs and overall lack of looking the part. What did I think, when I first heard the news?

That poor girl. She must have gotten all worn out. Apparently, she’d made a tremendous amount of movies, in which she often had sex with multiple partners at once.

My first thought was not, “Good for her. Making something of herself. Commodifying her compelling sexuality. Way to go. The American dream in the making.”

No. I half-worried that she was tarnished goods.

At no point did I consider tracking down some of her X-rated material online. That seemed a bit like peeking through the curtain at your neighbor undressing, as I’d first seen her in a “mainstream” film, though she did get naked, as I recall.

Can we all agree that my reaction was strange? Or maybe not strange, as it’s normal to be embarrassed by pornography, even though most people use it in some form or other.

No, my reaction was not strange. It was inappropriate. Yes, that’s the right word. I was practically Puritan, which is unpleasant to admit.

Our collective guilt at our carnal urges, and the manner in which we occasionally satisfy them via visual means, was the cause of the awkward thoughts I had vis a vis Ms. Grey, and her choice of professions.

My bad, in retrospect. More power to you, Sasha. (Because I’m sure you’re reading this, right?)

It’s one of the great hypocrisies of our time, the way we all engage in the same kind of behavior that we’re all pretty sure is wrong. I think the subject is worth investigating, which we can easily do via “Denied Reality- Episode 1: Our Industry,” a new book out by Christopher J Everard, published by Interlife Pictures.

The artist sent me a copy, suspecting that I might like it. If I didn’t know better, I’d think some people were paying attention with respect to the types of books I prefer. Because this one hit the mark in almost every way.

Mr. Everard is based in London, and is British by birth, near as I can tell, though he did spend many years living in the US. So his predilection for our culture is understandable, as is his curiosity about our prurient interest in sex, which he deems a “Denied Reality.”

Open up the book, and there are a succession of well-made-but-not brilliant images that come without an explanation. So I thought, “Gee, I wonder what I’m looking at?”

As if he perfectly anticipated the question, the very next page had small black and white thumbnail images, with well-written captions. I had a desire, and the book satisfied. (No pun intended.)

It appears that this book is a research-based, first-person narrative exploration inside the porn industry which is based, primarily, in Los Angeles. As the book is being released while Larry Sultan has his retrospective at LACMA, he is referenced appropriately within.

This is a book that speaks to photo-book-geeks, because it varies up its delivery like a crafty pitcher who can no longer throw the heat, so he has to keep the batters on their toes.

Immediately after a few more photos and caption pages, there’s an honest, hilarious essay by Daniel Blight. It’s also in a first person style, and breezy, without being pretentious. No art-speak, but lots of references to masturbation, smoking hash, and improper behavior.

Basically, it was the exact style I like to read. Mostly because I also like to write that way, as you well know.

This book, unlike almost everything I review, was one I had to put down and come back to. Because there is good, engaging writing interspersed throughout. It’s too dense to breeze through it like a normal photo-book, or read it in one shot, unless you’ve allotted the proper time.

In that regard, it’s different from what I normally see, which is something I’m always begging for in this space. Do it differently. Make the book into an experience I/ we’ll remember.

Mr. Everard seems to have interviewed a lot of subjects in the industry, walked red carpets, attended award banquets, traveled to Arizona to meet some professionals living outside the LA bubble, and road-tripped to Utah, after he learned that its residents are the highest per capita consumers of porn in the US. He actually mentions statistics in several places that suggest that most of the Red States/Republican States/States with the highest rate of church-goers actually top that list year in, year out.

Hypocrisy, anyone?

The conclusion reached, and perhaps dispensed a few too many times, is that the people in the pornography industry are hard working Americans. They bust their humps (no pun intended) to put food on their table, support their families, and have time on the weekends to play with their kids. They’re great dads, moms, and children.

The industry supplies jobs, and pays taxes. It is an American success story that we all pretend doesn’t exist. Because we are ashamed of ourselves; not the people who supply our fix. They deserve better, the artist suggests.

All in all, it’s a great book. The pictures within, which contain surprisingly few “nasty” images, and even fewer boobs, are not the type to blow you away. They’re not AMAZING. Just really good, particularly in illustration of the overall narrative.

But they don’t need to be more than that. It’s the book we judge, and the way in which the text and images support each another, and the pacing, degree of information, accessibility of the concept, it all makes for a genuinely excellent experience.

Mr. Blight has another great piece at the end, mocking Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” and I’m still not sure if it’s a reported story, or if he just made it up. There’s even a “Designer’s Cut” edit of pictures that wouldn’t have otherwise made book. That’s extra content that you get if you’re special, and buy this particular edition of the book. Extra stuff, like those porn sites are always offering, so I’m told, if you’re only willing to drop your credit card number.

Bottom Line: Honest, smart, very-well executed look at the things we like to see, but never discuss.

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The Art of the Personal Project: Cameron Davidson

- - Personal Project

As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects because they are the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director, photo editor, or graphic designer. This new column, “The Art of the Personal Project” will feature the personal projects of photographers using the Yodelist marketing database. You can read their blog at http://yodelist.wordpress.com. Projects are discovered online and submissions are not accepted.

Today’s featured photographer is: Cameron Davidson

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How long have you been shooting?
Professionally since 1980 – 34 years.  I started shooting as a 10th grader with an Agfa Isolete I found in a closet.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Mixture of both.  I studied on my own through high school by constantly going through Modern and Popular Photography annuals and by studying the work of the photo gods of that era – Arnold Newman, Jay Maisel, Ernst Haas and Pete Turner.  I also did the indentured servant route by working with several DC based photographers – the most notable being Ross Chapple, an exceptional architectural shooter who taught me how to light. 

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
I have worked and shot in Haiti since 1999.  I was on the board of the NGO Community Coalition for Haiti and shot many of their projects.  The work I shot for CCH between 1999 and 2012 documentary in approach.  This project was shot for a new NGO, Goals Beyond the Net and I wanted to slow my approach down.  The goal was to stay in one place – the soccer field in Jacmel and shoot portraits of the players over four days.  My goal was to take one lens, one strobe and one camera and keep it simple.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it? 
I shot the project in the summer of 2013.  I started showing it that winter and was fortunate to place second in the portraiture contest for the National APA contest.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working? 
I pre-planned what and how I was going to shoot.  I was committed to the project before I flew to Haiti and knew that it had to work.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
I like it  – it shows a different side of me.  Many people think of me as an aerial photographer and I have always been more than that.  I love shooting portraits and showing a personal project that shows a different approach to me is always a positive.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
I do use Instagram and Twitter.  Tumblr is the blog right now but that is getting ready to change when I launch my new web site this winter. 

Instagram is only black and white images shot on the road or on assignments.  Usually, behind the scenes pictures, found objects or views from helicopters.  Twitter is a mix.  Articles I found, links to stories about photography or web sites.

instagram.com/camdavidsonphoto

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If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
Nothing has ever gone viral.  I’ve seen quite a bit of my aerial work posted to the click-bait sites – you know they type – 25 most interesting aerials views of the world or 10 sites to see from the air.  That type of site.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yes, I have.  I printed with MagCloud, a retrospective of sorts.  It was called 13 years, and it is available light portraits shot in Haiti for CCH. 

STATEMENT:
The portraits in the Goals Beyond the Net project were shot over one week in Jacmel, Haiti in support of the NGO.  The goal was to shoot portraits of young soccer players who are enrolled in the GBN program.  I wanted clean and simple images without posturing that reflected the honesty and drive of these young players. 

The images have been used to increase donations, as gifts to donors and for promotion for the NGO.  I made prints of each person I photographed and send them to Jacmel.  Two months later, I was given a box of handwritten letters – in French, Creole and English thanking me for the photographs.

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Cameron Davidson’s passion for photography took root in his teens when he found an old Agfa Isolette camera at the bottom of his closet and began looking at life through a lens. It blossomed further, when he discovered the contours and contrasts of a world measured by altitude and sheer natural beauty from the rear cabin of a turbine helicopter.

For more than thirty years, Cameron developed the artistic skills that have helped him to become an acclaimed aerial, environmental, editorial, corporate, and fine art photographer. Simplicity and elegance make his work transcendent. He has photographed locations and people in 49 states, 6 Canadian provinces, and 29 countries. His compelling aerial images of North American landscapes and cities have graced the pages of publications ranging from National Geographic to The Washington Post. His six books – Chesapeake; Washington DC from Above; Chicago from Above; A Moment of Silence: Arlington National Cemetery; Over Florida; and Our Nation’s Capital: An Aerial Portrait – embed character and personality into the grandest and simplest photos. His eye for the visual has opened boardroom doors to many premier corporate assignments, including annual reports, as well as high-profile editorial venues. A partial list of his clients include ESPN, Money, Audubon, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Wired, Vanity Fair, AARP, Dominion Resources, General Dynamics, M&T Bank, Virginia Tourism, SEIU, Standard Life, and some of the top advertising agencies in the world.

Cameron has lived in Virginia, Texas, and Michigan. He now resides in the community of Alexandria in northern Virginia. Reach him at 703-845-0547 or via email.

Goals Beyond the Net: http://goalsbeyondthenet.org

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

The First Conversation Is No Longer About the Photography It’s About the Photographer

- - Working

Photographers Rep, Heather Elder, has a conversation with her photographers every year defining creatively and financially what a successful 2015 will look like. She has a post up on her blog notesfromarepsjournal.com with two very important trends happening in our industry: http://notesfromarepsjournal.com/2015/01/13/want-to-know-what-we-told-our-photographers-about-2015

These trends reveal a change in the conversation she has with creatives where it is now assumed that anyone being considered is 100% right for the project and has the talent, vision and skills to pull it off.

Now, instead of scrutinizing your work, it is about how much can you shoot? What is your vision for the photography? Do you have similar libraries to show the client? There will be a lot of moving parts, how will you produce this project? Are you willing to negotiate? And, will they enjoy being on the production with the photographer?

And social media is a natural conduit where these conversations can begin. Many photographers have the chops, but are not having the conversation with their potential clients. Here’s a post to push you in the right direction.

The Daily Edit – Mark Peterson: Men’s Journal

- - The Daily Edit

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Men’s Journal

Creative Director: David Schlow
Director of Photography: Catriona Ni Aolain
Art Director: Todd Weinberger
Deputy Art Director: Kim Gray
Deputy Photography Editor: Jennifer Santana
Associate Photography Editor: Amy McNulty
Photographer: Mark Peterson

Did the magazine know you were from Minnesota and did that have an influence you being awarded the job?

When Catriona Ni Aolain the director of photography at Men’s Journal contacted me I think she assigned me because of my series Political Theatre. So I was looking forward to going back to Minnesota and photographing Jesse “The Body” Ventura.

Had you met the subject previously?

Yes. Jesse Ventura was a pro wrestler in the 80’s in Minnesota.  One of the first things I photographed when I started was pro wrestling.  Then a decade later when Ventura was elected to office in Minnesota I went back for Newsweekmagazine to photograph him.  He was always a great show, as a wrestler or Governor.

Describe your interaction on set.

I meet the former Gov. at his country club so that I could photograph him golfing. It was a cold raining November day in Minnesota so Jesse said he wasn’t going to play golf.  So we just wondered around the clubhouse looking for something that was visual to the story. Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura was talking nonstop about politics and himself so it was hard to concentrate on what I was doing.  Jesse is a true American Character…larger then life.

I love the range or scale shift in the Political Theatre gallery. Do the subjects realize you are shooting them that close or even register you are there?

The politicians know the press is there as there can be dozens of us trying to get a answer or a photo.  It’s like a kids soccer game where everyone surrounds the ball and just kicks at it.

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Is some of your close up work a result of the event “scrums”? 

I started to take very close pictures of the Gov. Christie because he has a reputation of being aggressive and I wanted to show that.  One of the first pictures I took for the Political Theatre series was a tight shot of his mouth while he was shouting at someone.  I wanted to show his aggressive appetite.

In a few words describe this body of work for us, how do you chose the edits, the direction, how calculated is this?

I started the series Political Theatre in reaction to a Tea Party rally on the lawn of the US Capitol.  The pictures I took didn’t show how fake the event was and how it was just a stage for politicians to get on TV.  So after that I started to shoot the pictures with my DSLR and then run them thru my cell phone apps to give them a dramatic look. I am trying to have fun with a subject that at times can be very boring and staged.

Work from Photo NOLA, Part 3

- - From The Field

A couple of months ago, in this very space, I joked about being terrified to mock ISIS. I, who likes to make fun of almost anything, was afraid to offend those homicidal maniacs. And I said as much in a book review.

Around the same time, I also wrote a column proudly proclaiming my Jewish heritage. (Though with a last name like Blaustein, there’s only so much you can do to deny it.) I said, at the time, that my people have targets on our backs, often from those aforementioned lunatics, (and their ilk,) and that it felt a tad uncomfortable to out out myself as a Jew so publicly.

It’s 6am now, far earlier than I normally write, but I woke up before the sun, and started thinking about the Charlie Hebdo massacre last week, and the subsequent attack on a Kosher grocery store in Paris. Psychopaths lashed out at journalists who communicated through humor, and at Jews.

I’m far from the action, thankfully. Thousands of miles away. But it stuck in my mind this morning, and it won’t let go.

The sheer depth of the tragedy is mind-boggling. The anger, the hate, the efficiency with which those lives were taken. Since Cain killed Abel, and someone else wrote it down, most of the world has agreed that taking someone’s life is the worst thing you can do.

We human animals have a limited lifespan. We know this. For the most part, we choose not to think about it. When a person kills another, they rob them of their future. They steal their soul. Out of spite.

When it is done simply to shut someone up, or because they choose to call their God by another name, it seems even more heinous.

Now, I haven’t Tweeted “Je Suis Charlie,” nor have I changed my Facebook profile photo in solidarity. Not to disparage anyone who has, but to me, it somehow felt hollow. What difference will it make, I thought? Who wouldn’t be in support of these victims, who died for freedom of speech, a concept I’ve defended, so many times, in this very space?

Yesterday, I wrote a good opening to this article. It was about a coyote who walked right up to my house, just outside the sliding glass door. His coat was thick, resplendent, even in winter. (It practically glowed.) I relate to those coyotes, so I always pay attention when they present themselves.

He trotted away when he heard my iPhone beep, as a text had come in at that moment. So I wrote a piece about how he was turned off by technology. And how I turned off my technology this Christmas break, and suggested you consider doing the same, when you can.

But this morning, as I couldn’t sleep, I began to compose this new version of the article. In my mind’s eye, I imagined those poor people being killed. (The result of watching all that violence on a marathon of Soderbergh’s excellent “The Knick” this weekend, perhaps?)

I remembered that this column, in which I spout off each week, is a sincere privilege. Rob gives me the freedom to speak my mind, to a very large audience of people who live around this huge planet of ours. It is unique, this 21st Century experience, in which one can talk to so many, who ingest the information, instantaneously, for free, on their screens.

I was ready to slag it off, in a column, this Internet of ours, and remind you how vital it is to unplug, from time to time.

But today, I chose to pivot, even though this introduction has so little to do with the amazing time I had in New Orleans, at Photo NOLA, nor the terrific photography I saw, which I will soon discuss. The photos will be there too, below these words, for your perusal.

I decided, however, to make use of this platform, yet again, to pontificate. The forces that utilize terror and violence to silence people rarely win. Even in the totalitarian regimes like the Soviet Union, there were some who chose to make art, and write. Underground networks disseminated information.

Though of course fear drove the masses silent. Would I have the courage to speak my mind in such circumstances? It’s doubtful.

I chose not to provoke these monsters, who pull triggers as a way of lashing out, and the brave men and women at Charlie Hebdo shared no such reservations. They knew they had targets on their backs, and continued to do their work, and bring humor into the equation.

They died for their beliefs.

Today, let’s all salute their efforts.

Rather than suggest there is no link whatsoever to those sentiments, and the photographers I will highlight now, I’ll just write what ought to be obvious: when you make art, and share it with the world, you’re really communicating your ideas in image form.

Visual communication is a massively powerful methodology, as it needs no translation, as does French, when it wants to be understood in English. When these artists came to New Orleans, and shared their work with me, they hoped that I’d put their pictures up on a website for countless people to see. In fact, I was able to do that for the vast majority of people I met, because the quality of work was so high.

I take this responsibility seriously, and it gives me great joy to promote their work on this space, where I so often goof around while trying to discuss serious issues. I do hope you enjoy the work, and as I said last week, the book reviews will return next Friday.

On to the photographers.

Bruce Morton had a big smile on his face, the entire time we sat together. And every time I saw him thereafter. It’s easy to understand why. Bruce got an MFA in the legendary Arizona State Program back in the day, studying with legends Bill Jay and Bill Jenkins.

But he gave it up shortly thereafter, to get a more practical job. He built a landscaping business in Phoenix, which was his focus for many years. (Imagine how hard it must be to work outside in that heat, all the time.) But about 8 years ago, he decided to rededicate himself to his photography.

He packed up and moved back to his original family home in a small town, Bowen, in rural Illinois. He’s currently working on several projects at once, all focusing on the local population and cultural landscape. I liked all of his work, as well as his attitude, which screams passion and joy.

These pictures are from his mini-series “Bowen,” though I could easily have shown you some photos from his other projects a well.

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Sandra Klein is a member of the Aline-Smithson-LA-photo-mafia, which I chronicled at length in my two-part series on the Medium Festival last year. Those folks are doing some impressive work, and have built themselves a supportive community that speaks to the power of Aline’s teaching ability and force of will.

Sandra showed me two projects, the first of which I’m sharing here. She has a background as a print-maker, and these images reference that medium heavily. She photographs plants and cacti, and then weaves them into a constructed aesthetic that also includes actual sewn thread. The addition of the 3-D manipulation, alongside her genuinely excellent color palette, left me impressed.

There was also a group of pictures made in Japan, which I found much-less-resolved. But there was one picture, of a park setting in falling snow, that was so beautiful and Zen that I questioned whether she needed anything else. Sometimes, one perfect picture is enough.

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Gloria Baker Feinstein is a photographer based in the Mid-West as well, yet showed me a project made in Uganda. She visited a village there 8 years ago, on a tour with an NGO, and fell in love with the place. As a result, she formed her own non-profit to support the community, and goes back for 3-4 weeks each year.

I thought the pictures were extremely well-made, and communicate a warmth that stems from her knowledge of the people and the place. They are the antithesis of photographs made on a one-off visit to a Third World locale, where people step off the bus, snap a few frames, and then head on to the next destination.

Gloria also showed me some newer, black and white work made in a community in Eastern Kentucky in which she’d spent very little time. As such, I thought they compared poorly to the work that was richly developed over many years. We agreed to disagree…

Beauty Salon

Blue Wall

Boy Climbing Wall

Bra Salesman

Children's Shoes

Church

Evalyn

Girl in Red Dress

Girls Bathing

Girls in Sunday Dresses

Green Mirror

Lake Victoria

Mother and Children

Newspapered Walls

Raindrops on Window

Sunlight on Face

Three Grandmothers

Finally, yes finally, I come to the two artists whose work I looked at after my official 24 reviews had come to an end. First, I peeked in at Monika Merva’s new project. She and I have a few friends in common, and I had heard of her project “The City of Children,” which was published as a book, and has been exhibited widely.

Monika said that after the all-consuming nature of a specific, successful project, she was showing a group of pictures that she took simply because she wanted to click the shutter. There was no over-arching narrative beyond, “I am a photographer. I made these photographs. Have a look.”

At the end of a long slog, I found the pictures refreshing, along with her willingness to free up her process, simply because she could.

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After that, with my brain cells mushier than a freshly baked burger bun, I met with Margo Cooper. She’d approached me earlier in the day, swearing that she’d wanted to get a review with me, but the lottery had not been kind. Margo told me she’d heard through the photo-grape-vine that I was a “very nice person,” and might I be willing to look at her work after everything was done?

I’m a sucker for a compliment as much as the next guy, and in this case, I do try to be as nice as I can to everyone. So how could I say no?

Unfortunately, as I was so crispy, and Margo is high-energy, our meeting was a bit tense. These things happen. But when I got a look at her gelatin silver prints, of photos made in poor rural communities in New England, I said yes right away. (And that’s what we’re publishing.)

Apparently, Margo is an attorney, a public defender in particular, and makes photographs of these folks, and of blues communities in the Deep South, as her outlet. She’s committed to long-term projects, which you can see as some of her subjects age in the pictures. I didn’t have too much to say to her at the time, but I think the photographs below speak for themselves.

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Hanging Out

Girl with Blanket

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Summer Day

Girl on a Swing

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Tristing Place

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Hide and Seek

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The Art of the Personal Project: Ryan Heffernan

- - Personal Project

As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects because they are the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director, photo editor, or graphic designer. This new column, “The Art of the Personal Project” will feature the personal projects of photographers advertise in LeBook. Check out his link at http://www.lebook.com/ryanheffernan. Projects are discovered online and submissions are not accepted.

Today’s featured photographer is: Ryan Heffernan

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Grape Harvest

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How long have you been shooting?
9 years

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Mix of both. I went the liberal arts route for undergrad but spent two seasons after working at the Santa Fe Photography Workshops. I consider that time to be photography school. Growing up with a photographer father immersed me in that world from an early age as well.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
Growing up in St. Helena, CA it was amazing to watch the valley transform into a massive production every harvest. I wanted to explore the contrast between wine as a luxury good and the hard labor that went on behind the scenes.

The project took me to Mendoza, Argentina and Tarija, Bolivia in addition to the Napa Valley.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
3

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
Tough to say. I plan to continue shooting this project for many years to come, so it’s hard to define where they begin and end.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
It feels pretty similar in the end. I’m always trying to make the most interesting images possible.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
Yes, mostly Instagram although I’m not prolific.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
Not yet.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
I haven’t promoted them in print.

Born and raised in Northern California as the son of accomplished still-life photographer, Ryan was immersed in the world of photography and design from an early age. Today Heffernan is an advertising photographer and commercial director, based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico and San Francisco, California. He specializes in photographing people in their landscapes, aiming to tell unique stories and works for diverse clients ranging from Adobe Systems, UBS, Leo Burnett, The Martin Agency, and New Mexico Tourism to Outside Magazine, GQ, McGarrah Jessee and a host of others.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

The Daily Edit – Dan Saelinger : Men’s Health

- - The Daily Edit

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Men’s Health

Creative Director:  Tom O’Quinn
Photo Director:  Jeanne Graves
Photo Editor: Don Kinsella
Photographer: Dan Saelinger
Stylist: Dominique Baynes

What sort of creative direction did you get from the magazine? 
I’m very fortunate that often times when clients approach me the direction is relatively open ended.  I think they are very aware when hiring me of the type of work I produce and that it requires a lot of thought and creative decision making on my end to make it successful.   Don Kinsella (the PE on the project) just asked the the images feel energetic and interesting and hit home the point of the content.  

What was the initial idea and how did you develop it?
The story was about paths of success to a better career and the magazine initially approached me with an overall idea of an office worker taking off or being propelled in some fashion and tasked me with creating a set of three images. As if often the case with an ambitious project we had to take into consideration budget restrictions and Don and his team decided it best to create two great final images rather than sacrifice quality to make three.  Don and I had a couple creative chats and were able to verbally narrow things down pretty quickly and settled on the idea of a guy in a jetpack and a chainsaw cutting through a cubicle.
How do most of your ideas come to life? Is there a sketch process?  
There is definitely a sketch process for the majority of my work.  I find it helps to build trust in the final concept and works as a great tool towards pushing a client into a riskier endeavor.  Also being that I’m located in Portland now I think it eases the fact that the client won’t be on set and sets up for expectations better. Generally I ask the client to provide headlines and text.  I try not to get bogged down too much in the literal aspect of the story and try to pull out key ideas or phrases to help form ideas.
Is there a certain time of day or situation when your best ideas surface?
 I like to let things digest and normally sit on it for a day or two as the the ideas will often come late at night or while driving to work, sometimes even in the shower (the best ones always do).  Either way I like to let things brew, I find when forcing myself to sit down and sketch I often don’t get anywhere.
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How long did it take to build the sets?
Most editorial budgets require us to condense time wherever possible and my team and I have become pretty darn efficient on set builds.  I keep several rolling wall flats in my studio, a variety of flooring and background props so that we can assemble these on short notice.  The challenge on this was really building the cotton rocket effect so the stylist began a day prior building a frame out of chicken wire. Otherwise the rest was assembled and shot the same day.
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Since a lot of your ideas are conceptual I’d imagine you have your team of prop stylist and set builders. What made you chose this prop person?
I’m fortunate to have built a tight knit crew out here in Portland and have a couple of go to people for different tasks.  The stylist on this particular shoot, Dominique Baynes has a similar background to myself as a NYC transplant out here in Portland.  So she understands the demands and limitations of an editorial project quite well.  This shoot required the building of the cloud effect which she’s very experienced in and has done for me before as well a building a jetpack on a tight budget and fortunately she has knack for making the impossible possible.  In general we have a similar aesthetic as well which helps in creating this kind of complex conceptual work efficiently.
I love the analogue nature of this work, what made you refrain from compositing layers of images?
I have a general philosophy with my work to do what ever I can in camera.  I’m an absolute fanatic of all things props, so if it can be made and we can afford to do it will go that route.  While I’m a big user of photoshop and am incorporating CGI more and more into some of my work I think things can often get a bit cheesy and over processed looking.  There’s definitely a certain charm to an image with a traditional analogue approach and I try to make sure which ever way I go it was a choice based on creating the best possible image for each particular assignment.
Did you choose cotton rather than fog juice or any other special effect because it would have been to hard to control and last.
Not really.  I’ve done a lot of stuff using fog effect and it can be manipulated pretty easily in photoshop, and much more forgiving if its not captured perfectly in camera.  It was purely an aesthetic choice on my part.  I think the image is much more successful because of how the rocket smoke was handled, its really integral to the overall analogue feel I was aiming for.
Any particular difficulties along the way?
Not so much that anything that was super difficult – there are always a couple surprises in this line of work.  Often when I do conceptual work its there is something we do for the first time, in this case we had to figure out how to chainsaw the cubicle wall.  Of course it wasn’t simple as just taking the chainsaw to it. there was quite a bit of precision sawing and dissecting as well as drywall thrown at the chainsaw while in action to give the effect of it actually cutting through.

Pricing & Negotiating: Motion For Small Business Service Company

by Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Testimonials, man-on-the-street interviews and b-roll video of an annual corporate conference

Licensing: Web Collateral use of one 2:00 minute edited video

Location: Hotel conference center

Shoot Days: 1

Photographer: Portrait, Lifestyle and Motion Specialist

Agency: N/A – Client Direct

Client: A Small Business Services Company

A few months ago, one of our California-based photographers asked me to help her pull together an estimate for a motion shoot. Although the photographer had a long-standing relationship with this particular client, they’d never asked her to provide motion coverage. The client asked her to shoot four testimonial interviews of the executive team, man-on-the-street interviews of the other attendees and b-roll footage of the event in general. Ultimately, the client wanted to put together a 2:00 introduction/about video for their corporate website to loop on a flat screen at trade shows (within the context of the website). The client would be providing the shooting space, interviewers and scheduling the executives. The client also reserved a room for the testimonials so that the photographer could work in a mostly controlled environment with plenty of available light.

Since we were working directly with the client and providing the editing services, this presented a great opportunity to limit the licensing to their very specific needs (it is not uncommon in the motion world to work under a work for hire agreement or grant unrestricted usage). We seized the opportunity and put together an estimate including limited usage of the final piece.

Based on the needs of the client, we decided to price this out as a two-camera shoot including the photographer/director who would run camera 1, and a DP to manage the minimal lighting and run camera 2. In this case, the DP would be working under the instruction of the photographer/director and sign a work for hire agreement (much like a second photographer on a still shoot), to streamline the licensing process for the client (and photographer).

To arrive at the licensing fee, I took into account the intended audience (trade), limited use (collateral only), shelf-life (this event takes place every year, and the finished piece would likely include footage of current clients, who may not be clients next year) and level production (the team really only needed to show up and shoot). I also considered how much a comparable day of still shooting would yield and what a comparable licensing fee would be for those stills. After weighing all of the factors, we landed at $5,500 for the photographer/director’s creative and licensing fee. Since the client understood relative licensing values on the still side, they were comfortable negotiating limited licensing terms on the motion side as well. Not all clients are as flexible with regard to motion, but it’s always worth the attempt.

Here’s the approved estimate:

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Grip: A grip is the motion world equivalent of a first assistant, though they are typically more specialized. They set up all the grip equipment and manage basic lighting under the direction of the director or the DP. Complex lighting or electrical work may require a gaffer. In this case, the photographer planned to shoot mostly available light and would only need a couple of florescent light banks for the testimonials, so a single grip would suffice.

Director of Photography: As I mentioned above, the DP would be running camera 2 and helping to manage the lighting. A DP is generally more experienced and has the expertise and wherewithal to operate independently of the director. Their rates vary based on the nature of the project and level of involvement required. In this case, we got a quote from a colleague experienced in corporate motion work.

Audio Engineer: Like location scouts, audio engineers have pretty standard rates, regardless of where they’re based or the details of the shoot. $800 covers their day rate and basic recording equipment.

Equipment: $2200 covered costs for two DSLR camera systems, lenses, mounting and grip equipment and two florescent light banks. The photographer and DP owned all of the equipment and would be renting to the production at the market rate.

Editing and Color Grading: We got an editing quote from an editor who the photographer had worked with in the past. $1000/minute is a good rule of thumb for editing costs, but that can fluctuate with the content available, number of revisions, quality of footage and graphic elements required.

File Transfer: This covered the FTP and hard drive costs to share the content with the client for review throughout editing and delivery.

Groomer: We included a groomer to make sure the testimonial subjects (executives), who were supposed to arrive camera ready, looked their best. The groomer would handle basic hair and make up styling and wardrobe finessing.

Miles, Parking, Shipping, etc: This covered out of pocket expenses the photographer and crew would accrue between mileage, parking, crew meals, shipping costs and any other miscellaneous expenses that may be incurred.

Housekeeping (see the project description): I noted all of the production elements the client would be providing. In this case, we were relying on the client to provide the locations, subject scheduling and necessary releases. The client also planned to guide the subjects through their interviews, which under normal circumstances could fall under the responsibility of the director.

The client reviewed our first estimate and asked for a revision excluding the man-on-the street component. Although the team would be generating less content overall, the time on site wouldn’t change significantly (it would still be about a full day) and the deliverable, a 2:00 finished piece, wouldn’t be impacted, which meant the value of the licensing wouldn’t really be impacted either. If it were entirely up to me, I wouldn’t have adjusted the fees at all, however the photographer felt a small decrease was reasonable. We presented an option with a $1000 lower bottom line, all of which came out of the creative/licensing fee. Seeing that the decrease was marginal, the client opted for the original approach.

Results, Hindsight and Feedback: The photographer/director shot the project and the client has since come back asking to set up another shoot to capture similar content at their corporate headquarters.

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 big ad campaigns.

Work from Photo NOLA, Part 2

My daughter got a staph infection late last year. Right on her butt cheek. It was awful.

At first we thought it was a spider bite, but with two doctors in the family, we were quickly corrected. It rose majestically from her tush, like the Sangre de Cristo mountains jut out of the New Mexico high desert.

Not good.

I knew nothing of the malady, before it settled comfortably into our home. The treatment is gruesome, and entails painfully squeezing out the toxic, contagious puss, day after day. She was a good sport about it, my little girl. Before and after the treatment, twice a day, she acted as if nothing was wrong.

But during? O.M.F.G. She screamed louder than a coked-up bond trader trying to get out of a bad deal. “Help. Help. Please stop, Daddy. Stop. No, Daddy, no. Ayuda me. Ayuda me.” (That last bit was fueled by lots of Dora the Explorer, to keep her semi-occupied.)

It took weeks to make the whole thing better. Unfortunately, during the infection’s run, my wife Jessie and I were meant to get away for a couple of days in Albuquerque. It was the best we could manage, to celebrate our 10th Anniversary, which had come and gone at the end of May. (It was to be our first parenting break since before Jessie got pregnant.)

Little girl was just old enough to leave with my folks for a couple of days. We’d been looking forward to the trip, meager as it was, for month and months. And then, with the staph infection in full swing, we had to cancel.

No fair.

We dropped the kids off at my folks for just a few hours instead, and must have looked as down-hearted and miserable as Barack Obama on Election Day 2014. We were crestfallen. Disappointed. Borderline suicidal.

So my Mom suggested that we book Jessie a ticket to go along with me to New Orleans. At first it seemed impossible. Surely, the tickets would be too expensive. And they wouldn’t really let us get away for 5 days, when even 2 had seemed so impossible?

It couldn’t work, could it?

I’ll cut to the chase, and bring some brevity into an otherwise rambling narrative. It did work. The tickets were reasonable, and the plan came together tighter than a spendthrift’s wallet.

I swear, I never, ever would have imagined we could pull it off. But we did. Out of the depths of our sadness, deep in the pit of despair, came a genuinely amazing few days together in a magical city.

Leave it to preachy-yours-truly to make a lesson out of an article about the portfolios I viewed at the Photo NOLA festival last year. Isn’t that just like me?

But it’s a valuable lesson, from where I’m sitting. We really don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and sometimes, the nastiest problems lead to the best solutions. Even when things look bleak, they can turn around quickly.

It happened while I was at Photo NOLA too. A micro-version of the same type of scenario.

Jessie and I were waiting outside the International House hotel, along with a throng of other festival goers. There was a school bus due to take us to the New Orleans Museum of Art, where Emmet Gowin was about to lecture at the big NOLA Gala. The crowd grew and grew, as the bus was clearly late.

I was in the midst of a good conversation with Dewi Lewis, the English photo book publisher, so I didn’t mind the delay. Eventually, I was roused by the shuffling of feet, the groans of unhappiness, and the piercing yell of Jennifer Shaw, Photo NOLA’s Executive Director. (Whom we interviewed here in early 2013.)

Apparently, the bus was stuck in unprecedented traffic on I-10. It was so late that it was not coming back to get us. People were left to fend for themselves, as the traffic had snarled up the entire city center, in addition to the Interstate.

The lecture started imminently. There was no clear plan of attack. Take a cab? Why? The roads were impassible, we were told.

Miss the lecture? Unwise, as Mr. Gowin is famous for his inspirational talks, as I said in the last article. But Jessie and I were dressed up, and there were so many nice restaurants within a few blocks. I contemplated blowing the whole thing off, but it left a sour taste in my mouth, like a turned tangerine.

Eventually, we decided to make no grand decision, but simply walk with the herd. Follow the crowd, which was headed towards Canal Street, with Jennifer in the lead.

I’m not much of a follower, but in this case, it seemed the wisest course of action. We tromped and tromped. All the while, watching the cars not move at all.

The bus and the streetcar were both shot down as options by people who knew more than I did. So we just kept walking, each moment taking us closer to missing the main event. Jennifer was keeping a cool face, but I knew she was seething inside. How could she miss her own Gala?

After 15 minutes, we came to a break in the traffic, and the street crowd thinned. “This is as good a place as any,” Jennifer said. So I launched into hero mode, and stepped confidently into the street with my right arm raised.

Sure enough, three minutes later, I spied a mini-van cab, and hailed away. He was free, and headed our way. By then, our group numbered 12 people.

The cabbie said he could take 5, and no more. Miraculously, another min-van pulled up in front of the first, and 5 people piled in. Immediately.

That left us with 7. The cabbie agreed to stretch it to 6, but no more. So we filled up, and left Jennifer Shaw standing on the street, looking so sad it almost broke my heart. How she kept from crying, I really don’t know.

“We can’t leave her here,” my wife said. “It’s not possible. Of all the people, she needs to be there the most.”

“It’s true,” I said. “We can’t leave her. Can you please fit one more,” I asked the driver? “Otherwise, we’ll get out.”

“Sure,” he said. “But only this once.”

I offered to sit on the floor, sans seat belt, and the day was saved. We stayed off the highway, and were there in 10 minutes. (With just enough time to chug two glasses of cava, so we’d have a nice little buzz for Emmet’s lecture.)

I’ll spare you too much gushing about how that man fired up the crowd. He spoke to the deepest motivations of why we make art. And he insisted, time and again, that if you’re not willing to trust your instincts, and accept that there are always forces at work, far greater than you… you’re in the wrong line of work.

I listened intently, absorbing the wisdom, and finally had to type some quotes into my phone, as they were just too good not to share with you.

“Hold constant to the stars that seem to be organizing your life.”

“Do you have room inside yourself for what religious people call the Holy Spirit?”

“Speak out of your feelings.”

“Don’t put anything off.”

“The sun doesn’t care what we’ve done to the Earth.”

“You have to make all the mistakes yourself.”

I’ll end there, as Emmet did. I’ve already gone on long enough that some of you will have skipped down to the photographs. C’est la vie. And as they say in NOLA, L’aissez les bon temps rouler.

On to the photographers.

Susan Berger showed me some of my favorite work I saw. It’s a strange project, in that it seems like someone would have thought of it already. She photographed Martin Luther King Boulevard. In 40 cities around the United States.

Look closely, and you notice that in almost every case, the street was dedicated in an African-American neighborhood. But not always. She uses the street sign often, but not always. Sometimes, there’s a statue, or a hair salon named after him, or a low-income housing project.

Evocative stuff. I loved that she shot it medium format, black and white, and presented gelatin silver prints. All that work, it makes a difference.

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Francis Crisafio had another project that I loved. He teaches photography in an after school program in Pittsburgh, and has been doing it for years. His efforts are genuinely creative and collaborative.

He showed me several interlocking projects he does with the children. In one case, he shoots portraits of them, and makes prints. From there, the students make self-portrait drawings. Then, they hold them up to their face, and he shoots new portraits, with the drawings standing in for their faces.

I really loved those photographs, many shot in front of the classroom blackboard. There were other incarnations too, including some self-portrait collages the students make. All in all, a very impressive showing.

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Jen Ervin also showed me a collaborative project, though it was evident only in her words. The pictures didn’t really indicate the process. She shoots her children, at a family cabin in the woods, but she claims the entire family is responsible for the work.

Jen uses an old school Polaroid Land camera, and the small, unique black and white prints had some of that famed Southern Lyricism. They were very lovely. (And reminiscent of Sally Mann, who’s casts a long shadow down South.)

We discussed the fact that she’d been encouraged to make larger edition prints, by scanning and re-printing the originals. The copies were just that, far less effective than the one-of-a-kinds. Not sure you’ll agree, but I encouraged her to slap a big price tag on the Polaroids, and show and sell them exclusively. I saw no reason to water down the project by showing an inferior version. Do you agree?

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Ben Marcin is a photographer from Baltimore, and he first showed me some pictures that were straight out of “The Wire.” He did a typological project in which he shot individual B-more row houses, detached from anything but the context. I’d seen them before, as they were published on so many blogs around the Web.

His follow-up project, which I’m showing here, was also made amidst the poverty of his home city, and would likely make good old David Simon proud. Ben, who’s a confident sort, and loves to hike, trekked around the homeless camps that he said pop up almost anywhere there are some trees and grass.

He photographed these humble shacks and dwellings, which resonate with tragedy and resilience. He told me that he went back to each of these locations, and in every single case, the structure had been destroyed, razed, or burned to the ground.

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Rebecca Drolen showed me work in fortuitous circumstances. Apparently, one of the people I was meant to see was a no-show, so Rebecca won a quick lottery for the slot. I knew nothing of how it came to pass, but was thrilled, as I thought her work was some of the strongest I saw.

She studied at Indiana University, with Osamu James Nakagawa, whose excellent book we featured earlier in 2014. So I knew her training was solid.

Rebecca pulled out some black and white self-portraits that she told me were all about the relationship women have with hair. Ever the blunt reviewer, I told her that didn’t seem so significant to me, as her pictures were charmingly surreal. Yes, I thought of Magritte, but that’s a great reference for any artist.

They were just so weird, but also well-done. I loved them, and think you will to. We’ll feature the rest of the photographers next week, and then bring back the book reviews.

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The Art of the Personal Project: Neil DaCosta

- - Personal Project

As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects because they are the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director, photo editor, or graphic designer. This new column, “The Art of the Personal Project” will feature the personal projects of photographers using the Yodelist marketing database. You can read their blog at http://yodelist.wordpress.com. Projects are discovered online and submissions are not accepted.

Today’s featured photographer is: Neil DaCosta

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How long have you been shooting?
12 Years, the first half was strictly snowboard images.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I have a degree from RIT, but that only teaches you the basics. I learned the most from self-teaching after entering “the real world”.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
The other collaborators and I had talked for a while about doing a Mormon project. We were not happy with their meddling in California’s Proposition 8 and their views/actions on homosexuality in general.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
The shoot only took one day. We released it the next week, I think. We wanted it to be released while Romney was still running for President.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
Not long. If I am not feeling it, I scrap it and move on to the next one. That doesn’t mean I don’t get a few images out of it that I might be happy with, but I know whether it is worth pursuing longer-term or not.

The toughest part for me is not sharing a project prematurely. I am working on one now focused on guns. I really want to start showing of the photos I have, but know it will be better if I wait until I feel like it is a complete body of work.

As for the Mormon project, by the first frame, we knew we had something good.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
To keep my sanity intact, I combine the two. I see my portfolio as an extension of my character, but I also understand that it has to be geared towards getting work. When I see a hole in the portfolio, I then come up with a personal project to fill it. As an example, talking over my portfolio with my rep, it was decided that I needed some images that had younger faces, multiple people, a motion piece, and production value. I then started to brainstorm on how I could have fun within those parameters. My series Teenage Angst was the result. Although I will never enjoy dry walling, every other aspect of that project was a blast and I am proud of showing those photos/video in my portfolio.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
Constantly. It is a free way to get your work out there. I haven’t personally dabbled in Reddit too much, but other people have posted my work on there and it gets a lot of hits. Mormon Missionary Positions got as big as it did because of Reddit.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
As prefaced above, the first day the Mormon project got released, a well known Redditor (is that even a word?) posted it on there and it went crazy. It crashed our server and we had to upgrade it in the middle of the night. The first day it had over a quarter million views. And in the past two years it has entered the ebb and flow of the Internet. A blogger in Turkey will post it and all of a sudden there are 3,000 hits in a day from there.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yes. With this project I made a promo piece that I sent to a few targeted people that I have worked with previously or really want to work with. With inspiration from the cut out bibles that you can hide a flask/gun/contraband in, I bought about 50 Books Of Mormon from the local Mormon bookstore. I then cut holes in them and glued the pages together. In the holes, I dropped a stack of photos from the project. Attached the project’s artist statement and sent them out.

It is weird though, I still haven’t been hired to shoot any paying Mormon jobs!

Artist Statement:

Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, are sinful and undermine the divinely created institution of the family. The Church accordingly affirms defining marriage as the legal and lawful union between a man and a woman.

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A visual discourse into the relationship of state and church.

Neil DaCosta is represented by Held & Associates http://www.cynthiaheld.com

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

The Daily Edit – Vanity Fair: Sam Jones

- - The Daily Edit

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Design Director: Chris Dixon
Photo Director: Susan White
Photo Editor: Ron Beinner
Photographer: Sam Jones
Set Design: Matt Davidson
Producer: Carol Cohen

I have to ask the obvious, is that a set?
Yes. We built that set for the shoot. We carefully measured the elephant’s width and height, then created the set just four inches bigger keeping in mind the proportions of the magazine spread, where the gutter fell; it was all calculated out ahead of time.

How was the elephant, was she easy to work with?
Tai was a 46 year old and very intelligent. She arrived with her wrangler and our adjustments were very subtle, like parallel parking a car, moving 3 inches here and there, she was responsive and so easy.  A situation like this can be fraught with peril as you can imagine, thankfully it was a great day on set.

How did the talent react when you talked about shooting him with the elephant?
I knew from working with Bradley on the Hangover posters that he loved animals, that put me at ease. Once we brought her in, they spent time connecting and getting comfortable around each other. Of course the wrangler was always there to watch over, that said Bradley was comfortable and trusted her enough let her wrap her trunk around him and lift him over her head.

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View the BTS about the shoot here

How did you explain the shoot to talent and the magazine?
I didn’t. This clearly goes against conventional wisdom not to tell talent you plan on shooting them with a six ton elephant but I thought telling someone about the picture ran the risk of this idea getting shut down.

We all see images in our mind when something is described, that’s uncontrollable.

Once a visual is stuck in someones mind whatever it may be, it’s difficult to have them see what you see or alter it. Our own visual catalogue comes into play, and everyone has a different reel.

Past experience has taught me to show people rather then try to explain. We went ahead and had the entire set built, rented the animal and then when talent walked in they saw exactly what was going on. If for some reason Bradley shut down the idea, the worst that could happen was VF rented an elephant for the day.  As I said earlier, I knew Bradley liked and connected with animals, I simply focused on that.

I’ve developed a strong relationship with the magazine.  Here I had this great opportunity to create a unique image, it’s not often those projects roll around, so when the resources and creative freedom present themselves, you make the most of it. The magazine trusts me, which is a great position to be in, what really underscored our relationship was me suggesting to them this is a black and white photo and they agreed.

When I shot Martin Short with the cats I remember how highly trained animals can be. For that shot the wrangler could signal the cat to pretend he was peeing. Knowing that, I asked the wrangler to direct her to curl her trunk and open her mouth as if she was going to trumpet, that detail takes the photo to another level with Bradley sitting there looking rather annoyed.

How much time did you have for this shoot?
We had a day of set building and a prelight day, the actual shoot day was about six hours in total; Bradley had a hard out at noon.  Originally we were going to shoot this in NYC,  we had a full day with talent shooting in Central Park, then the shoot switched to LA. That change of plan gave me time to come up with this new idea. I had a week to get the set built, fully comp up the idea and get creative approved with the magazine.

My team arrived on set at 4:00 am, Bradley came at 6:00 am, and we wrapped on time.  I was pleased to have such commitment on his end to come that early and dedicate himself to the shoot. It’s not often things align like this, it’s great when the opportunity arises.  It’s all about knowing when everything is there for you to make the best picture possible and there’s no excuses of why it didn’t turn out the way you wanted.

Work from Photo NOLA, Part 1

- - From The Field

It’s Wednesday morning. I’m sitting at my kitchen table, where I like to write. Outside the window, the snow has just begun to fall. White flakes drop from the sky like so many perfect coins, tossed into Trevi Fountain.

In the black wood stove, piñon logs gurgle as their latent energy is converted into heat. The flames crackle too; the only sounds I hear in this otherwise silent, winter world.

It’s the Holiday Season, and we’re all getting ready to shut things down for a little while. To spend time with our families, perhaps take a vacation. Do our best to regenerate for 2015.

Just this morning, I was thinking about that word. Holiday. Clearly, it stems from the two words Holy and Day. Holy? That’s a word that’s been mostly bled of meaning, outside of true believers.

How might we re-interpret it, bring it down to Earth, give it a connotation that seems more relevant in our confusing, futuristic, and yet anachronistic times? (2014 being the year in which territorial land grabs became popular again. Just like the old days.)

As I said last week, I live in a magical place. This is known. The big mountain to the East is revered as sacred by the local Native American Tribe. They see the land as Holy.

Others, hippies mostly, call that same mountain a vortex, one of the few places in the world where energy carries mystical properties. Or maybe you’ve heard of the Taos Hum, which is not an actual topic of discussion here in town.

Regardless, there is enough evidence, personal and historical, for me to call this place special. When you live here, you realize that not all things can be explained. Science is great, but some knowledge comes from elsewhere. Just like the Big Bang is much like any other creation myth.

Once you’re comfortable assigning magical properties to one place, it’s not so hard to do it to another.

But where?

I’m willing to put the great city of New Orleans on that list too.

During my recent visit, I found there were some odd similarities between this little mountain town in the High Desert, and that classy city in the Louisiana swamp. (Odd, but true.)

I’d guess it’s because each locale was not founded by Puritan America. New Mexico was a Spanish Colony before anyone had ever seen Plymouth Rock. The French built New Orleans, and the resulting gorgeous architecture speaks to their legacy.

Here, the Catholic tradition believed in Saints. Mysticism was real. Penitentes whipped themselves in small mud huts. Those aforementioned Native Americans, even today, perform ceremonies that amalgamate animism with Catholicism. Spooky, beautiful stuff.

I know nothing of Voodoo, myself, but New Orleans clearly has a history of religious mashup too. Slaves from Africa mixed with Acadians. Local Native American tribes were thrown into the mix, resulting in parades filled with African-American “Indians.”

Americans came late to this particular party.

That’s a long introduction, I’m well aware. But this is to be my last piece for 2014, so I thought I’d go down swinging. Plus, the luxurious snowflakes have put me in a thoughtful mood.

My trip to New Orleans a couple of weeks ago re-enforced these ideas. There is something special in the air there, and it’s clear I’m not the only one that thinks so. It’s a tourist mecca for good reason. You don’t just go for the food and the drink and the chance to see flashed boobs. (I saw none.)

You go because in such places, we can be reminded that it’s a good thing, that the inexplicable exists. Who wants to live in a world where all the answers are at our fingertips?

Not me.

Google is great for offering up the illusion of omniscience. But it just that, I assure you. Illusory.

I’m betting you’d like some evidence.
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When the time came to leave, my wife and I hopped into a taxi cab. Immediately, it was clear that our loquacious driver was that type of local. Witty, charismatic, and dripping with down-home wisdom.

When discussing the propensity of professional football players to find themselves in trouble, he pointed out that we all have the capacity for violence. And murder. Those guys are just people, like the rest of us. We all have our stresses, which lead to bad decisions.

“Pressure bursts pipes,” he said. How true.

As he continued, one story hilariously leading to the next, I happened to look down at his name. Lucien.

Lucien? I rubbed my temples. That was the name of the cab driver I had when I last left town, back in 2012. He even made it into the story I wrote, published on this very blog.

Could it be? What were the odds?

I mentioned my theory about why people loved New Orleans so much. Because the locals, as much as they cherish their culture, are happy to share it with everyone. They clearly relish the fact that people revel in the spirit of the place, and take a smidge of it home with them. (As opposed to places like Taos, where each new visitor wants to shut the door behind them. And the descendants of Conquistadors give tourists a good mad-dog look whenever they can.)

Responding to that theory, Lucien said, “It don’t cost anything extra to be nice.” Which was the exact same thing he said two years ago, on which I quoted him.

That sealed the deal. The heavens had intervened. Chance reared its head, and then went back to sleep, allowing some Holy Spirit to give my wife and me the perfect escort to our plane.

Call me crazy. Call me a hippie. I don’t care. Just don’t call it a coincidence.

As artists, it’s important that we be willing to suspend our disbelief, from time to time. After all, our calling is alchemy, not science. Creation is messy, and can not be written up into an algorithm.

The keynote lecturer at photoNOLA was the great Emmet Gowin. This was more or less the crux of his lecture, which had everyone transfixed. I took notes on my Iphone, but think, this many words into the article, that I’ll save that conversation for the next piece.

I saw so many good projects at the portfolio review that I will be writing three stories, so there’s plenty of time to meander into the bigger ideas that motivate us. (The good stuff, as far as inspiration goes.)

Rest assured, the New Orleans Photo Alliance, the non-profit that runs Photo NOLA, does a bang up job. They run a terrific festival, and showed me a hell of a good time. I’m thrilled to have seen so much to share with you, and will commence with that now.

Before I stop musing, though, I’d like to wish you a magical Holiday season. May you get all the gifts you desire, and let’s hope some of them don’t cost anything at all.

On to the photographers.

As with the articles about the Medium Festival, I’m not putting these fine artists in any order. We’ll look at some this week, and the re-start the process in 2015.

Larry Colby is a photographer from Boynton Beach, Florida. This is his second career, as he was originally a financial planner. But he’s all in on photography, these days, and his work was the first I saw.

Larry photographs in a local soup kitchen, which feeds a collection of Central and South American immigrant communities. He’s been focusing primarily on the children. Their portraits, in particular. I encouraged him to step back a bit, give us the cinematic equivalent of establishment shots. But also to dig deeper into the issues of poverty and immigration on a grander scale.

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Jan Arrigo is a Southern photographer who did stints in the publishing world, including a stretch at Oxford University Press. Jan has spent 20 years photographing animals in zoos, at night, with the intention of publishing a book. It all began with the kangaroo picture, which she took after getting boxed by one of the creatures in Australia.

We discussed whether she ought to try to market the project as a children’s book, which was her original intent, or try to make something for the mass market. Alternatively, she’s also considering doing a small-run photo book for the photo community.

Clearly, she’ll have to decide where the project will fit best, and what’s most important to her. Then it will be easier to accomplish her goal. But all good books need good photos, and I thought these were pretty cool. Even better, her leave-behind was a box of animal crackers covered in small versions of her photos. Very clever.

A black bird perched on a tree outside a window appears as if from a dream in this black and white photo portrait taken in Orlando, Florida.

A Florida raptor stares intensely ahead in this black and white photo portrait by Jan Arrigo.

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Black and white photo portrait of a flying monkey by Jan Arrigo.

A snake stares into the camera's lens in this Jan Arrigo black and white photo.

Two bear cubs show their claws in this fight captured by Jan Arrigo in a black and white photograph.

A Louisiana brown bear stares into the camera in this black and white photo portrait taken at the Audubon zoo in New Orleans.

A male lion pants under a moonlit night in this landscape photo portrait.

As if posing this Western Lowland gorilla gazes into the camera in this black and white photo by Jan Arrigo.

Two black birds react to a photographer in the Florida Everglades in this black and white photo.

This black and white photo portrait of a large white rhino shows him eating an herbivorous diet.

Black and white photo portrait of a boxing kangaroo by Jan Arrigo.

Brad Hamilton was visiting from New York. He’s been working on a project that attempts to add a digital, 21st Century twist to classic street photography. Not unlike Barry Frydlender, he mashes up multiple images, taken over time, into one frame.

I was intrigued by the fact that Brad often chooses neutral backgrounds, out in the real world. He sets himself in front of construction sites, places where a large swath has been painted white. Then he shoots tens of thousands of pictures, so he said.

The photographs enable him to create narrative or symbolic connections. He often titles them by the street corner that he adopts as his temporary home.

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Ashley McDowell is a young photographer from the Boston area. She studied photography at Syracuse, where she worked with Doug DuBois.

Ashley’s work is as personal as it gets. She’s been working on a long-term project that focuses on her sister’s heroin addiction, and the havoc it’s wreaked on her family’s collective life. Some images were fraught, and others were too subtle for the subject matter, I felt. The lists, held up in several photos, represent the items her sister stole from her family.

The best work is so personal that it allows an artist to tap right into the collective unconscious. The more honest we are, the more likely we are to tell a story with which many others can relate. I thought Ashley’s strongest images were well on their way to creating the type of empathy with tragedy, and addiction, that will captivate an audience.

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Bob Bright is a long-time commercial photographer based in Los Angeles. And he’s a life-long resident as well. One of those people who remembers when the megalopolis felt like a small town. When the dreams of the world were focused on Hollywood. Fame. Glamour. A better life.

Bob’s photographs parallel that by looking at the aging architecture and infrastructure of LA. He’s got a great medium format digital camera, and the high-resolution, modernist renderings match well with the faded, modernist glory. As we sifted through the project, finding the strongest through-line, I felt the metaphorical qualities begin to shine through.

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Finally, we’ll end with Leigh Webber. As I wrote last week, I mostly treat these meetings as critiques, these days. I’ll tell people immediately if I can publish their work here, or pitch it to the Lens Blog. No secrets about that, so I don’t leave tension hanging in the air.

It allows me to ask questions about why someone has come to the table. Where they are in their career. What type of feedback I can offer to be as helpful as possible.

For Leigh, it was difficult. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina, and has been shooting commercially, and doing weddings, for years. That’s her comfort zone.

She came to Photo NOLA, though, to introduce her work to a fine art audience. She knew nothing about it, and was taking a chance. Putting herself out there.

What she showed me was understandably jumbled. There were five different groupings of two or three pictures. Nothing coherent, but all well made. And everything focused on her son, as he grew up.

I told Leigh if she wanted to go through her archive, when she got home, and find a consistent voice, I’d be happy to take another look and see if I could publish it. Many photographers would have seen that as a rejection, not a challenge.

Leigh, true to her desire to grow, and learn new things, took me up on the offer. She sent the edit I’m showing now, which has something of the wild spirit of youth, mixed up with a mother’s love. I dig the photos, and hope you do too.

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As always, the lesson is not to settle with what you know. Not to get lazy with your skills. I hold myself to the same standards, and am working on some new ideas for next year. Things I currently have no idea how to accomplish.

That’s where we find the good stuff. All the best, and see you next year.

The Art of the Personal Project: Mike Marques

- - Personal Project

As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects because they are the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director, photo editor, or graphic designer. This new column, “The Art of the Personal Project” will feature the personal projects of photographers using the Yodelist marketing database. You can read their blog at http://yodelist.wordpress.com. Projects are discovered online and submissions are not accepted.

Today’s featured photographer is: Mike Marques

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8_WEB_LKatsetos

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How long have you been shooting?
12 years professionally

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I am a graduate of The New England School of Photography in Boston.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
Personal work is what keeps me going so I am constantly thinking about topics and concepts. At that time, I wanted to have a Connecticut focused topic that needed more attention than it was getting. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, CT Chapter had been a client of mine for a couple years and I attended one of their fundraising events. I came across a book, published by the national chapter, that had portraits of people across the country diagnosed with MS. Not one person was from Connecticut. The number of diagnosed CT residents was about 6500 then.

I contacted the chapter about creating a book on a local level. At first, there was push back because publishing a book costs money and they weren’t interested. I had to change my approach. All I asked was for them to let me photograph some residents to show them where I was coming from. They started to understand my view of wanting the local community to see that MS is close to home. After meeting with the communications director a few times she agreed to reach out to some residents.

I personally did not have any connection to the disease and was not too familiar with it. There is no cure and it affects everyone very differently. I knew this would present its challenges and force me to think outside of my wheelhouse.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
At the beginning it was just about creating a few portraits. We put the idea of a book aside and just focused on one resident at a time. The MS chapter came up with lists of names of who could be photographed and we discussed which stories which raise the most awareness. I spoke directly with my subjects before photographing them and talked about how MS has affected them and what they have done to still live the life they want to live. MS affects people differently both physically and mentally so the approach to each portrait was new every time. One of the earlier portraits was of Karen Guarnaccia (in wheel chair, sitting in front of sliding glass door). MS has had a large affect on her physically – some days getting out of bed was not an option. The final image was Karen on a good day. I arrived at the MS office a few days after the shoot with a 16×20 print of Karen. The director finally realized the type of images I wanted to create and the impact they could have in our community. We started meeting on a regular basis to discuss possible subjects. We reached out to well over 100 people, many of which did not want to take part for various reasons. At first we set the number at 25 portraits. When we hit 25, there were some things the images had not addressed so we kept moving forward.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
We started shooting in September of 2010 and the last portrait was taken in December of 2013. We sometimes went a month without photographing anyone. Between me traveling for assignments and the chapter having busier times throughout the year, scheduling was often difficult. Also, we did not shoot much in the summer months due to the most common symptom of MS being heat sensitivity.

Something I decided from the very beginning was that whatever was to become of this project, the final images needed to be shown together as a whole. There are so many stages and severities of the disease that one image alone could not tell the whole story. This idea led us to word “mosaic” – each portrait is strong on its own though everything together reveals an even bigger picture. Word started to get out about the project so we did release a few images that could be used for press and social media.

In February 2014, we had a gallery opening to reveal i am a MoSaic and to show gratitude to those who took part. Many had not seen their portrait until the day of the gallery opening. Some people’s MS had progressed since their portrait was taken. There were many tears, some of sadness and some of joy. It was a wonderful day and a truly humbling experience.

Since the original show, the images have been on display at the Connecticut State Capital in Hartford, The Grove – a co working space in New Haven, CT, and the Aetna world headquarters. I am currently working on putting together a fundraising event in Stamford, CT (just outside NYC) for March 2015. The images would be on display a few weeks before and after the event.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
Portfolio shooting has more of an initial direction and focus you are going for. I was ok letting this project take shape on its own without thinking too much about it. I wasn’t concerned as much about the photography but more about the communication and understanding going into a shoot. I do not work with models often, I photograph real people. With any portrait, there needs to be a level of trust between myself and my subjects. Putting something like MS in the middle of all of that presents a whole other element I don’t deal with often. Working this way changed the way I shoot – for the better – and helped me grow as a photographer.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
I usually post to my blog and that feeds into my Facebook and Twitter. There were numerous production and behind the scenes images throughout the years as the work was being created. Once the project was complete, I had a routine to post a few of the final images per week for a little over three months.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
We did get a good amount of traction from our initial social media outreach. Through that, I was able organized an NPR panel with three of the subjects and myself. I did a couple morning TV shows as well as numerous print media around the state. The MS Chapter continues to use these images for marketing and raising awareness in all media.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
I have created a promo piece specifically focused on i am a MoSaic. It is a 8.5” x 5.5” handmade book with images from the project and the story behind it. I also built a website dedicated to the project: www.iamamosaic.com

Project Statement:

i am a MoSaic is a collection of images portraying Connecticut’s many faces of multiple sclerosis. It is collaboration between photographer Mike Marques and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter. As a dedicated volunteer and supporter of the National MS Society, Mike has traveled around the state for nearly three years capturing residents living life as fully as possible in the face of MS. More than 40 residents of all ages, races, genders, and abilities were photographed. This is a unique and moving portrait of the many ways in which people live with this potentially debilitating disease. Together, the images become a composite picture of hope and resilience.

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Mike Marques is a portrait and lifestyle photographer based in West Hartford, CT. The images he creates are the result of the trusting relationships he builds with his subjects. When he’s not traveling on assignment, he can be found cycling the backroads of Connecticut or on a hike with his cattle dog. His clients include Connecticut Magazine, General Electric, Health Dialog, United Bank, World Wrestling Entertainment.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information.  Follow her@SuzanneSease.

A Visit To The Getty

- - From The Field

The phone beeped in the middle of the night. A text. Must have been Dad, I thought, shaking off my dreams. He wakes up at 3:30 in the morning. He must have sent me good wishes on the trip.

Jesus Christ, Dad. It’s the middle of the night. Give me a f-cking break.

I swatted at the phone to shut it up, and went back to bed. I was due up super-early to head to California, so I was none-too-pleased to have my anxiety-ridden sleep interrupted any further.

Parents.

When the phone beeped again, this time as an alarm clock, I rolled out of bed at 5. My eyes refused to open, like a recalcitrant clamshell. I looked at my messages, mentally composing a text to Dad that would have included some impolite language.

Except it wasn’t Dad. It was Southwest airlines. They’d texted me at 3:55 am to say my flight had been cancelled.

Ouch.

I had a serious cortisol drop, and tried to reschedule through the website, but that was useless. So before you know it, I was talking to a grumpy customer service rep, who’d been working straight through the night, trying to figure out how to salvage my trip.

At 5am.
Not fun.

(You try being civil and polite under such circumstances.)

When all was said and done, I made it to LA. But I routed through Vegas, and lost a bunch of time. Time I meant to spend at the J. Paul Getty Museum, looking at art, so I could report back to you.

They’d graciously set up a few meetings on my behalf, to have some of the curators show me work, as their photo exhibitions were changing over. They had to move things around to accommodate, and I had to apologize for the airline shenanigans. No harm, no foul, I suppose.

I only mention the drama because I’d been bragging to my wife the night before about how good I’d gotten at avoiding and managing stress. I’m a road warrior, I said, or something like that.

Which only guaranteed that things would go to Hell as quickly as possible. Cancelled flight? Yes. 25 minute wait for the rental car shuttle? Sure. 1 hour wait for the rental car? Of course. Construction on the 405 that rendered my careful directions useless? Naturally.

By the time I turned up at the museum, improperly dressed for the 85 degree day, I was salty and grouchy and spent. Not much good to the world, unfortunately. Much less as a journalist who was meant to at least APPEAR intelligent.

Luckily, for those of you who don’t know, the Getty Center is set on a hilltop overlooking all of Los Angeles to the East, and the Pacific Ocean to the West. It is as beautiful a setting as you are likely to find, for a museum, anywhere.

So I sat down for a few minutes, when I finally arrived. Caught my breath. Took in some sun. Breathed deeply. And I felt better.
Who wouldn’t?

My first move was to go to see Peter Paul Rubens’ gigantic tapestries in an exhibition that had just opened. Apparently, in the Baroque period, some Spanish royalty commissioned him to design 20 foot wide tapestries that depicted the victory of the Eucharist. The dominance of Catholicism.

Spain controlled the Southern Netherlands, which is now Belgium, and wanted to take over Holland, which was Protestant. The artist first made a series of phenomenal oil paintings, which were also displayed, and then had those pieces transcribed into cloth, on an enormous scale, by other artisans.

As near as I could tell, it was straight-up propaganda. (Nothing new, if you’ve seen European art before.) The Catholic Church was the prevailing power structure, and had plenty of funds, so it was a solid patron, albeit one with a clear agenda.

I looked at the work for a while, in the dark room, and then stepped outside and looked at the Pacific Ocean. I repeated the pattern two more times. In all my years of looking at art, visiting museums, and traveling around, I’ve never done anything like that before.

The fresh air helped me suss out my thoughts. The paintings were taut and packed with energy. Once translated into another medium as tapestries though, they lost the viscerality of the originals. What was forfeited in emotive power was more than likely gained with the impressive scale, as far as delivering the message. Fear us. We are coming to convert your souls. The Eucharist bows before no man. (Or something like that.)

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Soon enough, I found myself in the innards of the museum, still wearing my puffy vest in the 85 degree weather. At least it will be freezing in there, I thought, so I’ll be glad to have it. This place, unlike every other museum I’ve visited, was not chilled to perfection, though.

So I ended up sweating as the meeting got started.

Not. Very. Classy.

I took the vest off, allowed the air-con to do its job, and began to parse what was going on before me. Which I will report to you, finally, now…

The Getty had arranged for me to meet Nancy Perloff, a curator at the Getty Research Institute, who was putting on a large exhibition about World War I, and the propaganda imagery that flooded the Continent. (In honor of the Centennial.) She was interested in the visual language that was used to depict the War, but also the manner in which imagery was manipulated to present one’s enemies in unflattering ways.

The exhibit, “World War I: War of Images, Images of War,” has since opened, so you ought to go see it. I did not have the opportunity, I’m afraid. We were joined in our conversation by Mazie Harris, a curator from the photography department.

Ms. Perloff presented us with a 6-photo panel piece made in London in WWI. She said it was the only photography that was included in the exhibit, so they carted it over to show me. Very decent of them.

The images were made of a German dirigible that hung over London, in 1916, lobbing bombs down below. It seemed like an early version of a drone, where superior technology enabled one side to pummel another from a safe distance.

But those Brits were crafty, so the series showed the floating beast lit up from below by spotlights. And then it was shot down, probably by airplanes, though that was not entirely clear in the pictures.

The first two were straight black and white, then a third was more of a sepia color. The last three pictures, while the wreck descended in flames, were rendered in red. Totally expressionistic.

We discussed the photographer, H. Scott Orr, of whom I’d never heard. Had he made money off the images by releasing post cards? Ms. Harris showed us some provenance work she’d done, when other such images came on the market. We discussed the degree of research that goes into the job.

Curators are often seen as glamorous these days. Practically art stars, in the public’s opinion. But I must say, whenever I spend quality time, I see them as scholars and historians. Right there in LA, talking about history, war, culture, and research, it was clear that I was dealing with people who’d devoted their lives to discovery.

Were the flaming blimp pictures propaganda, I was asked? I thought not, because H. Scott Orr was just making his work; doing his thing. If he’d been commissioned, like Rubens, and supplied with a message beforehand, I would have said yes.

We wondered how the colors were achieved? As the resident photographer in the room, I suggested toning. I’d seen a heap of hand-colored Russian images at FOAM in 2013, and they look very different.

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

After a while, our discussion broke up, and Ms. Perloff and Ms. Harris moved along. Amanda Maddox, who’d been quietly doing her work, right there in the room the whole time, looked up from her notes and introduced herself. She’s also a photography curator, and was working on the new Josef Koudelka exhibition that has since opened.

She’d spent the better part of six years on the project, which was meant to be the first major, complete retrospective of the artist’s career. They’d given over their entire photography exhibition space for the show, which was also a first.

Ms. Maddox showed me “The Wall,” an accordion-fold book that Mr. Koudelka had made for “This Place,” the Israeli photo project we’ve discussed thrice in my book review column. Apparently, Mr. Koudelka’s solution to being invited was to focus on the wall dividing Israel from the presumptive Palestine, and then make only two copies of the book.

As they stretched the book wide, which would ultimately reach nearly 40′, I was reminded of that classic SoCal accordion-fold book, “Every Building on the Sunset Strip,” by the ultimate LA guy, Ed Ruscha.

At that moment, in walked Virginia Heckert, the chief photo curator at the Getty. I pointed out the comparison, and she mentioned the book review I wrote where I called “bullshit” on Mr. Ruscha for claiming he’d never heard of Stephen Shore, Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, or Nicholas Nixon. (FYI, Mr. Baltz has since passed away. RIP.)

I asked Ms. Maddox why Koudelka? If she was going to devote 6 year of her life to something like this, marrying her passion, work ethic, research skills, and all the other component parts, why him?

There must be a reason.

She replied that Mr. Koudelka had demonstrated a level of commitment she found fascinating. After he had to leave Prague for publishing anonymous photographs following the Soviet invasion, he based himself in London. But he soon began photographing the Gypsy, or Roma communities, for which he became famous.

For years, she told me, he was essentially homeless. Following the human migration, sleeping outside, where he could. He’d head back to London for the winters only, as it was too extreme to live outdoors. He’d given his life for his art, Ms. Maddox said, and so she was devoting a chunk of her own to honor that.

She also showed me some mini-accordion-fold books that he makes, by hand, and keeps in his back pocket. They’re his maquettes for book ideas, though they look as much like a Hello Kitty version of a photo book: adorable, and the kind of thing you want to touch. (They didn’t let me, though. Touch them.)

After a couple of hours, I let everyone get back to their jobs, and set out to do more of mine, which meant wandering around the museum until it closed, looking at art. Chatting up the people who worked there. Having a good time.

Honestly, the staff I encountered at the Getty were just so nice. And helpful. The folks at the info desk, the security guards, the coat check lady, the curators, media contacts. Everyone. I’m sure it takes a ridiculous sum of money to keep that place running, though with the name Getty attached, I doubt we have to worry about their endowment.

Aside from a fee to park, the museum is free. There is a vast amount of amazing things to see. Gardens to walk through. Views to take in.

If you live in Southern California, or are heading there any time soon, I’m telling you to go there. As soon as you can. I was embarrassed to admit I’d never been to visit before. Now, I can’t wait to go back.

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