Photography Is So Easy It’s Ridiculous

- - Working

Yes, photography is so easy it’s ridiculous and that’s what makes it so hard. In the end it’s not so much about making the pictures it’s what you do with them. It’s about process, having an idea, making the pictures and then giving them life.

It seems to me that so many photographers have a very narrow view of process. Because the image making part is so captivating, so seductive, it’s easy to make the pictures with no idea in mind and no end in sight.

Source: Harvey Benge: Paul Graham – photography is so easy it’s ridiculous

The Daily Edit – Garden & Gun: Andrew Kornylak

- - The Daily Edit

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Garden & Gun

Marshall Mckinney: Design Director
Maggie Kennedy: Director of Photography
Margaret Houston: Associate Photo Editor
Braxton Crim: Assistant Art Director
Photographer: Andrew Kornylak

Did you stay up with Michael for 24hrs cooking? Was that to honor something historical for the story
Twitty was cooking food in the way it would have been done by enslaved cooks on Antebellum plantations in the South. Roughly: Dig a huge pit, burn a fire down to coals and slow cook meats over a screen of sapling logs. This process starts in the afternoon, takes all night, and Twitty and a group of helpers would alternately chop wood, prep food, cook, and doze off by the light of the hot coals and oil lanterns. So there was a lot going on visually all night. I shot the interview with Twitty for the video a little after midnight I think, during some down time. In the morning the action really started. More food was cooked in kettles and pans. By mid-morning most of the food was cooked and had to be put together, and people started showing up for the feast.

How hard was it to stay awake, what was the biggest challenge?
It’s wasn’t hard to stay awake because there was so much going on and we wanted to take everything in. It was good to have Erik Danielson assisting on this shoot, we have a lot of fun. I recall there was good whiskey about.

Did you shoot the video and the stills?
Yes, I shot both the video and the stills, and edited the video as well.

How hard was it to shoot the video at night?
I had brought along a set of tungsten lights and we got lucky with a power source near the cooking area. Two floods made enough light to work for stills and video and the color temperatures worked well with the fire and gas lanterns so I just left those on all night. For the interview I bounced one of the floods off the interior of a canvas tent to light Twitty softly.

What type of direction did you get to from the magazine? were they on set with you?
They were not going to be on set. We knew writer would be there along with possibly a lot of press, bloggers, and maybe another video crew in the morning. That’s when we decided to make it a night mission. I had some conversations with Art Director Marshall McKinney where we visualized what it might sound and look like: slabs of meat over coals at night, singing and chopping wood, period cook wear, all tied together by Twitty’s deep insight and humor. Other than that: The unknown. Possibly chaos. I’ve done many features for Garden & Gun and I like that they trust me on these kinds of shoots because they are the most interesting. I also know that if I work hard at it, whatever I come back with, Marshall and their team will make it sing.

How did this story idea come about?
The M. Twitty story actually came about via Twitter. Michael Twitty reached out to one of our editors suggesting he had an interesting cultural event coming down the pike and was curious if it might be something we’d want to cover. With a little follow-up we discovered that Michael was a food historian and cook and that he’d be the centerpiece of a unique culinary experience wherein he’d recreate a plantation style fete (on the grounds of a former working plantation called Stageville in North Carolina) exactly how it might have been performed some 300 years earlier. In doing so, the narrative explored southern foodways and their direct connections to Africa and the Caribbean but also the skill, determination and time it takes to pull off a meal with the resources available in antebellum times.

Since it was a 24 hr shoot what other multi media elements did you want to incorporate knowing you’d have such rich content?
Because the cooking itself would take at least 24 hours we knew we had something special, an event that would unfold slowly and simmer and offer up a rare opportunity for the right photographer. Without a doubt my photography director, Maggie Kennedy and I knew motion would play a key role in the storytelling. A shoot like this is a blend of portraiture, reportage, food and motion. That’s a heavy skill-set but in the end the choice was easy. I’ve worked with Andrew Kornylack for a number of years and I knew this would be right in his wheel-house. Andrew is an adventurer, a climber, a traveller but most importantly a curious and gentle soul. This shoot wasn’t exactly hanging from the side of a cliff in Yosemite but it would be an adventure all the same. Plus, given the cultural and emotional sensitivities surrounding the event we wanted to have someone present who could engage in the proceedings and document them with a modicum of decorum. You know, fit in.

How hard was it to award this assignment, I’d imagine you need just the right person. What was it about Andrew that struck you?
In the end, Andrew came through brilliantly. He gave unto the event that which it required, everything he had. The photography answered all our needs and the motion work helped capture the essence of the experience. For example, what standing over an open-pit of coals latticed with water-soaked sapling branches bent under the weight of pork ribs looks and feels like at 3.30 in the morning when delirium starts setting in and the birds begin to chirp. He worked along Twitty hour by hour and served up compelling images and content that can only be described as a feast for the eyes and ears.

Did you have a sound person or did you handle all aspects of the video production.
I handled all the video and sound myself, with the help of Erik Danielson who is an excellent assistant and great with lighting. I did the video edit, working closely with Assistant Photo Editor Margaret Houston.

The Daily Promo – Kevin Arnold

- - The Daily Promo

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Kevin Arnold

Who printed it?
It was printed by Hemlock Printers in Vancouver.

Who designed it?
Peter Ladd, who’s is a partner in Pendo Creative in Vancouver. I also worked with them on creating my new identity and website last year as well as the little photo man.

Who edited the images?
The promo grew out of me wanting to use the inside image. Peter and I did an initial edit on the additional images, and then I looped in my wife, Brooke. She is my go-to editor for portfolios and promos. Not only does she have a great eye for editing, but she also understands who I am and what I’m about as a photographer (sometimes better than I do myself).  She is amazing at being very honest with me if an image just doesn’t cut it. I can’t say I’m always as amazing at taking that advice, but between us the edits usually balance out perfectly.

How many did you make?
We sent out 500 to a select list of people that I really want to work with. I might do a second run of another 500 because it was so well received.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
It’s not always consistent, but I try to get something out twice a year.

How did this promo develop?
This was a fun promo because the concept for the promo grew out of an image I wanted to use rather than the other way round. More typically, one would create a promo and then select the images for it. I shot the inside photo of my friend Shea sitting in a redwood, when we were working together in California last year. I’ve always really liked it personally, but it wasn’t until much later that I decided to include it in my portfolio. As soon as I did it started to really resonate with people. My rep, Cynthia Held, was on the road showing my book in New York and Chicago, and she called me up right after that trip to tell me how much people were responding to that particular image. I knew I wanted to put it out there more and also knew I wanted it to be bigger than a typical postcard image. Something people might hold onto for a bit. The other images used in the promo were shot while I was doing a series of personal work in Tofino, British Columbia, so it’s a very personal promo overall. In the past, I’ve usually shown more client work on my promos because they are going out to potential clients.  I love this new promo because it turns that idea on it’s head. I’m interested right now in showing work that truly reflects who I am, what I love to shoot, and where I’m headed. I want my potential clients to see that work up front because I want them to be inspired by it and then collaborate with me to create something in the same vein for the clients.

This Week In Photography Books: Geert Goiris

- - Working

by Jonathan Blaustein

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

In other words, we have what we have. If the sun shines on a patch of desert, and there are no solar panels to collect the energy, it will be absorbed into the dirt.

I recently read that if we burn all the fossil fuels currently embedded within the Earth, seas will rise by 200 feet. Cities, at least those on coasts, will be obliterated.

No matter how many times these scary stats are bandied about the Interverse, so little seems to change. Today, South Carolina is under water. Tomorrow, perhaps California will be aflame.

So few of us do anything potent with such information. Our brains, small as they are, focus on the day to day. Putting food on the table. Paying the rent or mortgage. Buying some beer at the corner store.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

But then, some Art tries to put it in our face, like Christopher Nolan’s flawed but ambitious “Interstellar,” which pre-visualizes an Earth that no longer produces food for its inhabitants.

Is such a future imminent? I certainly hope not.

But sometimes, I look at a photo book, and it does make me wonder. Even if that’s not the “subject” of an artist’s work, the visual impact kicks off my imagination, and I begin to worry.

We’re not being hypothetical today, though. (We seldom are.) I just put down “Prophet,” by the Belgian artist Geert Goiris, published by ROMA, and I’m about ready to hide under my white kitchen table and pray for the best.

Not too long ago, I gave away the secret to the kind of work that will often provoke a review. Abstracted, edgy, metaphorical, referential without being literal. Artsy, if you will.

And this book hits that sweet spot for sure.

No words. No obvious connection between images, but the themes are there if you’re willing to look. Masks. Ice. People suited up for an eternal winter? Asteroid-like objects occupying lawns, or the center of a home.

Portraits encased in glass. Snowscapes rendered in night-vision-green, or eerie, screen-glow-blue. Greasy chicken feet and necks. A bottle of water, caught in the exact tipping point between standing and prone. (Tipping point, get it?)

These pictures are cool as hell. Rarely have I seen color and B&W images mixed together this well. And the end notes state that the work was shown at Foam in Amsterdam earlier this year, which comes as no surprise to me. (Though I do wonder about the music-accompanied-slideshow that happened in Paris, which is also mentioned.)

A title page, at the end, gives us hints, like “Breach,” “The Future,” “Black Friday,” “Forecast,” and “Torrent.”

Are the end times ahead? I sure hope not. I’ve got two young children, and I’d feel like quite the asshole if I were a part of a generation that left them to rot.

But we can’t know what comes next. That’s just a part of the deal we accepted when we emerged from the birth canal. And while it might not have been Geert Goiris’s intention to put me in such a mood today, his pictures did it just the same.

Bottom Line: Edgy, eerie pictures of the world we inhabit- for now.

To Purchase “Prophet” Visit Photo-Eye

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The Art of the Personal Project: Tim Tadder

- - Personal Project

As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects. A personal project is the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director/photo editor or graphic designer. This column features the personal projects of photographers who were nominated in LeBook’s Connections. http://www.lebook.com/timtadder

Today’s featured photographer is: Tim Tadder

Las Muertas

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How long have you been shooting?
I spent 4 years as a photojournalist before entering the advertising world in 2005

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Both. And, it’s complicated. My father was a professional photographer in Baltimore so I grew up around the craft. During my 5-year stint as a high school teacher I picked up a camera as a hobby during my vacations. In 1999 I left teaching and started freelancing at the local newspaper. After two years grinding doing community news I went to graduate school for photojournalism at Ohio University. That lead me to California and eventually to the advertising industry.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
The Las Muertas projects was inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos.

Two things came into play that inspired this project. First and foremost a wild fire burned homes and land very close (across the street) from our studio. It turned the landscape into this apocalyptic wasteland that I would pass daily. There was incredible beauty in the destruction, I knew I wanted to feature it, I was not sure how.

Then Halloween happened, and I saw people in costume walking the sidewalks past this barren landscape and a light bulb turned on. Being in Southern California, the Dia De Los Muertos holiday is very much an influence and the landscape was the perfect setting for featuring the subject matter.

Dia De Los Muertos is on November 2nd each year and its is a day in Mexican culture where the dead are remembered and celebrated. It is said that on that day the dead are able to walk through purgatory and visit their earthly haunts. The wildfire destruction to me, represented this purgatory. So that stage was set, and the rest of the project seemed to come together from there.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
This was just a one day shoot followed up with a couple of days of postproduction. This is concept based not documentary so the time invested is more in the conceptualizing and pre/post production. Less time shooting more time planning and refining.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
That varies, there are things I spend a lot of time on that never work and something’s I spend a few days on that work really well. Time for me never determines the success of the project, because my projects don’t require months and months. I don’t have that kind of personal time to invest in my work. Between being a husband, father, and running a business I feel that my days of long-term projects are on hold. I find that the projects I can do are shorter an well thought out, which affords me the ability to keep my priorities central and my life balanced.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
I don’t agree with this point of view. I feel that my personal work should be my portfolio. That’s who I am as a visual communicator. My work is personal, and I pour my soul into every job I do, so if there is a disconnect between my personal work and my portfolio, I feel that my voice will be inauthentic. I want to inspire creative’s with my vision and my personal work is the vehicle.

I get more projects based off my personal work than any other images. Literally we get assignments that the creative is my personal work with the logo. Clients and agencies sometimes fall in love with the visuals and they want to contract it for their own messaging. That’s what drives my revenue, the more personal projects I do the more commercial projects I get. It’s a simple recipe that works.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
I have never posted them on Reddit or Tumblr, but others have. Its crazy but the moment I release a new project it gets picked up and spread around the web quite quickly. If it hits Reddit, then game on, and the viral thing happens. We have enjoyed the success of some really powerful viral exposure, which always leads to magazine articles, TV interviews, and a zillion blog posts. Ultimately this leads to commercial exposure and success. The Las Muertas series has been featured around the world on tons of blogs and media outlets. Its been extremely well received in Mexico, and we are currently bidding a project based on this creative for a beer company. I am most proud that the Mexican audience likes the work.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
Yes see above. Las Muertas, when googled turns up tons and tons of results from news outlets and blogs around the world.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yes we use them for mailers and source book ads, as well as post on creative sites like Behance.net We share them with our audience every chance we get.

Las Muertas is a celebration of the Mexican holiday Dia De Los Muertos or “Day of the Dead.” Inspired by the beautiful designs and colors of the November 2nd festival, I set out to pay homage to the beauty of the tradition but to also put an environmental connection to the dead and their journey. This project was a collaboration between talented artists that believed in the concept and lent their time and passion to make it a success. The beautiful head dresses were made by the celebrated Dia De Los Muertos sculpture artist Krisztianna and the incredible wardrobe provided by stylist Julia Reeser.

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Tim Tadder is a Southern California based creative photographer and director with a strong sport and conceptual portfolio. Since 2012 Tim Tadder has published multiple personal projects that have enjoyed viral success. The most wildly acclaimed “Water Wigs” received over 1 million unique views within the first 24 hours of publication.

Tadder is often hired to produce images and motion projects with either a sport thematic or a conceptual visual challenge. Recent clients include, Mercedes Benz, Reebok, NFL, New Era, McDonalds, Merck, Capri Sun, Modelo, Tecate, Bud Light, Avia, WD-40, Kia, Proctor and Gamble, Walmart

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies.  She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information believing that marketing should be driven by a brand and not specialty.  Follow her on twitter at SuzanneSease.

Dewi Lewis Interview Part 2

Jonathan Blaustein: How do you define great? What motivates you? What do you think is interesting?

Dewi Lewis: It’s almost indefinable, isn’t it? For me, great work is work that excites me. If I see something that I feel is fresh, and has something to say, I think that’s quite important to me, rather than photographers just producing aesthetically pleasing images.

What encourages me to publish something is when I’m surprised and exhilarated by it. It’s as simple as that, really.

JB: When I think about your program, the words “Social Documentary” come into my mind. Do you think that’s a fair description?

DL: There are a number of the books that certainly come under that category. But there are also some that really defy it, I suppose. Some are firmly placed within a “Photography as Art” environment.

But I would say I’m more likely to respond to documentary work than conceptual or abstract work.

Taking it forward a bit, I’ve done many landscape books over the years, but usually those landscapes are saying something about the social or human condition. For me, they need to have that level, otherwise they’re not very interesting.

JB: We might call it cultural criticism?

DL: Yeah. Essentially. I’m looking for projects that say something about our culture as it’s lived today.

There are books we’ve done that have a more historical perspective to them. But essentially I’m really looking at what’s happening in a period that you could bracket by two or three years, at any time.

I’m really interested in the human aspect. Why do people do the things they do? And it’s probably no more complicated than that, actually.

JB: That was the impression that I got. And you find projects by word of mouth, I’m sure. You work with some artists multiple times, like Phil Toledano.

And you look at work at portfolio reviews. But I also noticed on your website that you do accept unsolicited submissions, if people follow a certain set of rules.

DL: Yeah, we get recommendations from other photographers. We work with people we’ve worked with before. But we also have 2 open submissions each year. Generally, one in May, and one in November. Anyone can send in work.

What I don’t like, and what is a real problem, is people sending through Dropbox. Links, and all the rest, throughout the year.

I really do like to focus it down to these two periods. It’s surprising. Most of the work that comes in from open submissions is not that interesting, I have to admit. But you do find things you’ve never come across before. Photographers who are totally unknown. And that’s kind of interesting.

We do about 20 books a year, and I would say it’s pretty rare to get more than 1, maximum 2 from open submissions in a year.

JB: Your website was almost shockingly honest. I’ve never done this before, but I want to read back to you some text from the site. If you’ll allow.

You said, “We’re increasingly finding that we can only publish established, international names, projects with major exhibitions, or those that come with sufficient funding to underwrite the risk. There are now only very few first books that we’re able to do with emerging photographers.”

DL: Yeah.

JB: That’s naked honesty right there. And that has to be a function of all of the increased competition that we were talking about 15 minutes ago, no?

DL: Not really. When I started in publishing, one of the reasons there were very few photography publishers was that photography books simply didn’t make money. Or were very marginal.

There were people such as Aperture, but they were doing it by raising funds as a charity. Many of the other photo books were either mega-names, like Ansel Adams or Cartier-Bresson, or you would find that a mainstream publisher would publish one or two photo books, and then they would drop them.

They were trying them, finding they weren’t financially successful, and then moving on to something else.

It’s never been easy, financially. When I started in the Cornerhouse days, the arts center was a registered charity, so it was much easier to access public funding for books. A number were funded from public sources.

When I went independent, most of those sources dried up. It was a matter of how do we finance books? For the first 10 years, I had to finance them myself. The only way to do that was to do other work, so I did consultancy, and put that money into the books.

We developed it slowly like that. Then, about 10 years ago, there was a switch when it became apparent that increasingly, other publishers were expecting photographers to at least partially fund books.

That switch has just developed exponentially, really.

When we started, 100% was funded by us. Now, it’s generally no more than 50 to 60 %. Some books we totally fund, others we fund partially, and then others, we have to have totally funded. It’s that balance that helps to keep us going.

JB: In your opinion, why has there never been a significant demand in the marketplace? Why don’t they make money?

DL: It’s misleading, in a way, because you have to look at all forms of book publishing. And indeed music publishing. If you look at new fiction, for example, it’s not unusual for novels by unknown writers just to sell in the few hundreds.

JB: Sure.

DL: They don’t make any money. It’s always that balance where a mainstream publisher will decide on taking a risk on certain titles, to see whether they can make them work. We did publish fiction for a while, because my degree with in English, not photography.

We were very successful in getting various awards, but we weren’t very successful in terms of sales. When I started doing fiction, you could get about 1000 copies of advanced orders into the shops. We stopped when those advanced orders had dropped to about 200.

We were no different than any other publisher. The book shops just stopped taking a risk on new fiction.

Back to photo books, there are big sellers. The last Salgado, I know that well over 100,000 copies have been sold. Helmut Newton’s last book was also probably well over 100,000. However, most photo books, these days, are produced in runs of between 500-2000 copies.

It’s partly that the book shops don’t really support visual books very much. If you take that forward, if you’ve got a limited amount of space in a book shop, and you’re trying to generate revenue from it, you put onto those book shelves the things that you know will sell.

You don’t put on photo books when you can put on best-selling novels, or how-to manuals and guidebooks. It’s very difficult to get the level of distribution that’s necessary to pump up those physical numbers.

JB: If you’re working with established artists with a collector base and a standing in the marketplace, like Martin Parr, with whom you’ve worked before, and you know the books will sell you can go ahead and lay out those funds for publication and distribution.

If you have no way of knowing if the books will sell, you’ll shift that risk onto the photographer. And for that, they get the benefit of your expertise, design team, and distribution network.

Is that the way it works?

DL: It’s more or less the way it works. Obviously, we don’t fear too much when we’re doing a Martin Parr book. It doesn’t mean they’ll sell in enormous numbers, but we’re pretty confident that we’ll at least break even, or make a small profit, and generally do a lot better than that.

But if you look at work by an emerging photographer, you’ve got to realize it’s not only the production cost of the book. We also have other direct costs, for example, my attendance on press to supervise the printing.

Then we have the issue of getting out press copies, which we generally do on a worldwide basis. On a dollars basis, that’s between $1500-2000. Attendance on press will be another $1500. This is just covering expenses, not getting any payment for the time involved.

Even if you have a book which is funded in terms of production costs, we would generally expect it to cost us anything from $4000-5000 to launch it.

JB: And books are heavy objects, and you need to ship them to stores around the world.

DL: Yeah, that’s the next factor.

JB: Of course.

DL: It’s not usually understood that for most bookshops, books are sold on a “sale or return” basis. For Barnes and Noble, for example, you’re not actually selling the book to them. You’re lending it to them.

If they sell it, you get paid, if they don’t, it gets sent back to you.

Essentially, you’re covering the cost of sending the books out, they can be sent back to you, and your distributor will then charge you a cost for actually handling it.

JB: Oh my goodness.

DL: You can actually lose money on certain books. Even above the cost of production.

JB: Let me read you the next quote from your website, as we set it up perfectly: “Please also remember that we must be able to sell the books that we publish. Please be realistic, when assessing your project, and don’t waste your or our time by sending proposals which have only a limited commercial appeal. Just because all your friends say it would make a great book doesn’t mean that anyone would buy it.”

DL: Yup.

JB: Yowzers. It’s like a kidney punch. You’re taking the air out of people’s false expectations.

DL: It doesn’t work though, Jonathan.

JB: It doesn’t work?

DL: They still send them in.

JB: You’re asking people to be honest with themselves about their dreams, which is very difficult to do.

But what do people buy? That’s where I wanted to head. You’re telling people that you have a sense of what commercial appeal is. Within the market that does exist, of people that do buy photo books, outside of a big name, how do you know what people will buy? When do you feel comfortable?

DL: Essentially, you never know, so you have to go on your own judgement. You go on the basis of belief in a project. Sometimes, I ignore the commercial reality.

One of our big successes last year was Laia Abril’s book “The Epilogue.” Now, that’s the story of a girl dying from bulimia, and the impact on her family. If you just put that in a sentence, and emailed me saying you had this great book project, my instant reaction would be, “How on Earth can I sell it?”

But I was so convinced by the photographer, by the way I knew she would approach the subject, that I thought it was an important book that needed doing. It was one where we had no funding towards it, a big financial risk. But we still felt it was important to do.

It’s one of the great things about being a small publisher, where I’m not working for a large company, nor responsible to a committee, or anyone else. Caroline and I can make decisions where we say, “We really want to do this, and if we lose badly on it, then we’ll have to balance it out with other things.”

We can work that way. There can be projects that come along where I do think, “Well, this is so interesting that I don’t even really think about what the audience is out there.”

I can give you an example of projects that I don’t think work.

JB: Great. Let’s hear it.

DL: Something that happened in the UK a few years ago was that students at the colleges seemed to be told to do a very personal project. They must have been told by tutors to go off to houses that had some meaning to them. It wasn’t unusual to have people who were going to their grandmother’s house, or something like that, photographing the things that had memories for them as a child.

JB: Of course. Dead grandparents?

DL: Dead grandparents.

JB: Yeah, that was big.

DL: Yup. You have to be realistic. Unless there’s something REALLY stunning about the photography, it’s not a subject that’s going to appeal to a wide audience. That seems obvious to me.

And if friends, relatives, etc may get a feel from it, most people won’t. I always say, when I’m giving a talk, that I can’t explain what photographers should send in to me. I don’t really know what I’m looking for until I see it.

This is the great difficulty. But there are guidelines you can give people, and one of the things I always say is that we’re publishing on an International basis. Therefore, the work has to carry across International boundaries. It has to resonate at the human level, so that it touches something within a human being.

There’s a book we did called “Mother and Father,” by Paddy Summerfield. He photographed almost exclusively in the back garden of his parent’s house in Oxford, as they were getting older.. His Mother had Alzheimer’s. She died. His father was left alone. Then, his father died.

He photographs, more or less, the last 10 years of their lives. But almost every photograph is taken in the back garden.

How small scale can you get, in one sense? But the story that it tells is such a human story, that it leaps all International boundaries. It’s understood by everyone, without reading any text.

It’s a very moving book, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from. That is a very difficult subject too, but it’s done reasonably well in the shops, and had a good response from the critics and the audience.

JB: You’re looking for Universality?

DL: Yeah.

JB: This is a big reason why I wanted to interview you. I write about books each week, and we’ve already agreed everyone wants one. But it’s rare that people out there get to hear such specific advice from someone with your expertise.

Let’s carry it forward, a bit. Where do you see it all going? If we’re talking about an industry that’s already had this much disruption, do you ever ask yourself what the climate will look like in 5 or 10 years?

DL: I try to look ahead, but I try not to respond to it.

JB: What are you suspecting?

DL: Let me tell you the problems, as I see them. Perhaps the biggest is that so many photographers now have books. Every photographer wants a book, as we said before. And every photographer now wants to do a more impressive book than other photographers have done.

By that, I mean in terms of the object. Not necessarily the content.

JB: That’s the competitiveness that we discussed earlier.

DL: Yeah, so there’s a sense in which they want a more complicated design, or more complex means of production. They’re driving up the expectations, which is good, in some ways, but it is making it increasingly impossible for many of them to ever get any of their money back.

You have some designers doing the same thing. Some of them don’t understand the technicalities, and are adding cost unnecessarily. Essentially, I think you have designers trying to leapfrog each other. On and on it goes.

The same thing is happening with photographers. I think it’s starting to go too far. I see that as a problem.

JB: Understood.

DL: I don’t see digital as a problem, as a competitive element, and I don’t see it happening over the next 5 years or so. Certainly, if you talk to publishers who are doing digital books, they’re pretty disappointed with the results they’re getting.

Not necessarily in terms of the production of them, but in terms of the response from audiences. People aren’t really buying them.

JB: Right, because is a digital book any different than a website? Or an app? The things people want out of a book are the tactile qualities.

DL: Right. Is it any different to a .pdf? It depends, though. If you have a book like “Mother and Father,” it’s very poetic and quiet. What you want is simply the images in the sequence that they are.

If you had a book that had something to do with the Yangtze River, say, then you might want to have lots of external links to images within the pages. You might want things about population, history, particular towns, cultural elements within the River area.

You can imagine video, audio, all sorts of extra things being brought into the digital book. That makes it interesting and exciting, something that can’t be done on paper. There are some books that would work digitally, and there are some that would be a disaster. It would add nothing, and simply take away from them.

So the digital question is almost a side issue.

JB: That’s not surprising. It’s one thing to read a thriller on a Kindle, but with photo books, people want to hold a set of photos in their hands.

DL: For me, what’s much more of a concern is that already the large book shops have partially removed themselves from visual books. Waterstones and Barnes and Noble carry very few photo books now, and very obvious titles. I think the days of those large book shops are severely numbered.

I wouldn’t be surprised, speaking of Waterstones in the UK, I can imagine that within 5 or 6 years, they might be down to less than a dozen stores. Key stores in major cities. At the moment, I think they still have over 300.

And while speciality stores are building, I don’t think they can take up the slack across towns and cities in various countries. I think that’s a problem.

JB: Well, the big chains have been shutting down here for years.

DL: But the area I worry about most is the printers themselves. Printing presses are hungry beasts. They need a lot of material coming through. Commercial work will dry up. Things like hotels and other business will no longer produce sales brochures. They’ll put content online, and digitally in some form.

The commercial side of printing is really going to reduce. I’m not convinced that there’s enough printing demand from other areas.

JB: So the prices will go up for those that stay in business.

DL: It’s a matter of, can they stay in business? It’s a whole chain. If printers close, what happens to the printing machine manufacturers. People like Heidelberg, and KBA. Will there be enough printers for them to continue doing this heavy engineering?

Very serious stuff. I do worry a bit about that chain. That’s probably 7-10 years out, but I do think that’s a problem.

If there is an end to the printed book in the numbers that we know now, then it’s going to come from that side, not just from people switching to digital.

JB: So now, we’re dealing with proliferation. Think about Kickstarter. When people are raising money, it’s not their money. There’s not a lot of risk involved when it’s not your money. You’re just accessing the funds from others, $10 at a time.

If what you’re speculating comes true, the people who are left in business are going be able to charge a lot more for their services. If all of a sudden, it costs $150,000 to make a book, instead of $50,000, then it won’t be nearly as easy to raise other people’s money on Kickstarter, and you end up with fewer and fewer books, the way it was before.

You’re saying this is potentially a bubble?

DL: I think it’s still got a few years to live…

JB: Sure.

DL: I’m really talking about offset printing. It’s pretty complex, isn’t it. I’m thinking longer term. It’s not round the corner.

A big question is what happens on the digital printing side. It’s been around a long time now, with Indigo and others. The printing sheet is still pretty small, though it’s starting to get larger.

It’s not cost effective to do large numbers of copies digitally. Can that take up what might be lost from offset printing? It’s a very complex arena, really.

JB: I want to take you off the prognosticator seat. Predicting the future is impossible, but I was just curious to see how you imagined the future of your industry.

You’ve been a great sport, and we really appreciate your time. You’re planning on being in business for a while, and you’re still excited about what you do?

DL: 50% of the time I’m excited. And that’s enough.

JB: (Laughing.)

DL: It’s like this. Say you’re at FotoFest, for example, looking at portfolios, and you might have had a really awful day. Then the last session is something really stunning. That’s what publishing is.

You just go through a lot of shit to get to the crock at the end of the rainbow. You do find these extraordinary things, and that’s what keeps you going all the time.

Dewi Lewis on press with John Blakemore

Dewi Lewis on press with John Blakemore

Dewi Lewis Receiving World Press Photo Krazna-Krausz Award

Dewi Lewis Receiving World Press Photo Krazna-Krausz Award

Susan Barnett - T: A Typology of T-Shirts

Susan Barnett – T: A Typology of T-Shirts

Stags, Hens & Bunnies - Dougie Wallace

Stags, Hens & Bunnies – Dougie Wallace

Maybe - Phillip Toledano

Maybe – Phillip Toledano

Bitter Honeydew - Kirill Golovchenko

Bitter Honeydew – Kirill Golovchenko

Martin Parr - Autoportrait (new edition being published early 2016)

Martin Parr – Autoportrait (new edition being published early 2016)

Black Country Stories - Martin Parr

Black Country Stories – Martin Parr

Working with photographer Paul Hill

Working with photographer Paul Hill

Dewi Lewis Interview Part 1

Jonathan Blaustein: Will you admit on the record that Arsenal Football Club is superior to Manchester United?

Dewi Lewis: Never. Never.

JB: Never?

DL: Never. Why would I admit to something that isn’t true?

JB: (laughing.) Of course. But what if I secretly deposited £200 in your Paypal account? Would that entice you?

DL: I think you’d need to add several noughts. (zeroes.)

JB: OK. That’s fair. I’m sure most of our readers don’t care about English football, so we can move on. But you do live in the Manchester area, and you’re from Wales.

You were originally a musician back in the day, yes?

DL: It’s a bit strong to say that. I played in bands in my younger years, through to my early to mid 20s, and then decided that I just wasn’t good enough.

JB: Is that typical Welsh humility, that you played in bands for close to15 years, but won’t call yourself a musician?

DL: When you play with real musicians, then you know where you are. I’m not of that standard. Nowhere near.

JB: At what point did you segue into visual art?

DL: It was a long process. I started playing in bands from about 13, in different venues. Then I became involved in performance and theater. My first job was much more related to music and theater than anything else.

JB: Makes sense.

DL: I had a general interest in the visual arts. But I met my wife, Caroline, when I was 20, and her father was a photojournalist working on The Times newspaper in London. That started to give me a stronger relationship to photography.

I got more and more fascinated by it. But then I also became involved professionally, because we had an exhibition space in the first art center that I set up.

That got me thinking more about what shows we should put on, in photography and contemporary arts. I just got increasingly involved in photography.

JB: You set up an arts facility from the ground up?

DL: Two. After University, I worked in the arts first with the local council in Cambridge. Then I ran the Fringe Festival club up in Edinburgh, for one festival.

From that, I moved to a place in North Manchester called Bury, to set up an arts association. It seemed to me we needed a building, so I found one, and we converted an early 1800’s building into a performance space with exhibition facilities, and a bar area as well.

JB: This is with public financing?

DL: Yeah. It was a registered charity, and we raised money primarily from public funding, but also the private sector.

JB: Right.

DL: That was the first one, and I ran that for six years. I then set up an arts center in Manchester called Cornerhouse. I was brought in to do a feasibility study on that, and it’s where the shift in my career really took place, I suppose.

Initially, there was interest to establish Cornerhouse for theater and visual arts. But I wanted to set up a film space in Manchester as well, because there was no good, independent cinema there. So rather than going for performance, we ended up focussing on visual arts and film.

At Cornerhouse , I got more and more involved with visual arts, that’s when the publishing started.

JB: Was the facility, in fact, in a corner house? Is that how you name such a place?

DL: It was a building quite close to a railway station, on the corner of two roads. We couldn’t come up with a name. That was the reality of it.

JB: If I told you that I was drinking tea right now, would that impress you?

DL: Not really. I almost never drink tea.

JB: So you’re typical in that you like Manchester United, atypical in that you don’t drink tea, and since you started playing in bands at 13, we probably all have visions of a little 13 year old Welsh punk smoking cigarettes, and acting tough.

Does that about sum it up?

DL: Close to that.

JB: (laughing) OK.

DL: Plus the pints of beer.

JB: (laughing) Plus the pints of beer. Now we’ve got the visual. That’s the best thing I can do, is evoke strong mental images for the readers.

Now they know that I’m drinking tea, and you’re unimpressed, and you used to be a party guy as a 13 year old punk. Now we’re getting somewhere.

DL: It was before the time of Punk, though. I’m that old.

JB: You’re being literal. In America, the term “punk” can have a broader meaning, rather than simply relating to the musical period. But my father was a lawyer when I was young…

DL: Yes?

JB: …so I appreciate your specificity with language.

DL: Understood.

JB: Moving through your career trajectory, in 1994, you founded your own publishing house with your wife as your partner? Is that correct?

DL: More or less. I started publishing at Cornerhouse Because we were primarily doing exhibitions, I came across photographers, and in discussions with them, it became clear that what they really wanted were books. And there was almost no one publishing at that time.

So in ’87, we launched the first book, and I carried on publishing there until ’94. But my job was as Director of the place, and it was quite a large organization. We had three cinemas and three floors of galleries. Bar, catering, book shop, education facilities.

So my time was pretty heavily occupied with all that.

JB: Is it still there?

DL: It’s still there, and just about to move to a new home in a couple of months time. It’s still pretty successful. (ed. note, this interview transpired in March 2015.)

But for me, the publishing side became something I became obsessed with. I ended up doing it almost all in my spare time. Although it was for Cornerhouse , I’d be spending weekends and days off developing the publishing side. As I got more involved in it, it became increasingly something I wanted to spend all my time on.

So at the end of ’93, I decided to leave Cornerhouse and set up my own company. Initially, it was just me – Caroline joined me 18 months to 2 years later. We’ve been working on it ever since.

JB: You started in 1994, in a pre-Internet world, where there were not a lot of people doing what you were doing. Everything would have been based on your catalogues, and sending them out in the mail to people, so they could see what you were going to publish.

We’re doing this interview in 2015. Photobooks are everywhere. The world you’ve been working in probably could not have changed much more. It’s almost perfectly different, I’d say. Would you agree with that assessment?

DL: Yeah, I think that’s totally true. I remember in ’95, very few people had email access. I was talking to an American photographer who told me about this new thing, the email, but when I explored it a little further, I couldn’t find anyone else who was on email. There was no point in using it until about ’96.

JB: (laughing) Unless you wanted to email yourself as a digital diary. “Good Morning, Dewi. How are you today? I’m quite well, thanks, but I still don’t like tea.”

DL: Exactly. It’s hard to remember how slow things were, in terms of early Internet access. But although it was a very different world before, I’m not sure it was problematic. You used the phone a lot more, and it was still at the point, really, where if you phoned someone, they answered.

JB: Right.

DL: These days, most people will just have answer-phone-messages. You can waste so much time trying to phone people, so you end up just emailing them instead.

JB: It’s remarkable, isn’t it? I was discussing that with a friend the other day, how if you talk to someone on the phone these days, you’ve got to schedule it in advance.

I thought we could talk about the world today, and the landscape, and what you’ve observed. How long ago was it that a book was a rare, coveted object that was a career-defining moment, and now we’re living in a world in which almost everyone has a book? Or if they want one, they can get one, one way or another.

It’s gone from scarcity to ubiquity. How do you feel about that?

DL: First of all, I totally agree with you. It was incredibly difficult for photographers to get a book in the late 80s, early 90s. I’d say, really, through to 2005-6.

JB: Still fairly recently.

DL: There were many well-known photographers who, if they got one book during their lifetime, felt that they’d really achieved something. It is such a massive change.

JB: So how do you feel about it?

DL: Negative and positive. There are too many books being produced. There’s no doubt about that. Too many photographers are producing books without really having developed the work enough.

To explain why I think that, in talks I’ve given over the years, one of the things I’ve always said to photographers, certainly in the UK, is that every book has to be deposited with the British Library. And some of the other copyright libraries in the UK.

In theory, that means that if you’re a photographer, and you publish a book, it will be deposited in that library, and then, in 200 or 300 years time, your great, great, great grandchildren can go along and ask to see a copy of that book. If you think of that longevity of the book, surely it’s worth photographers spending time getting it right.

I think sometimes things are raced through much too quickly. And very young photographers expect a book within a year or two of graduating.

JB: For things to have changed that dramatically, and that quickly, should we not parallel that to the rise of our instant gratification culture through the Internet and Social Media?

These two things go hand in hand. People’s expectations that they ought to have a book, and their ability to produce one via self-publishing, or Kickstarter funding.

It’s a very contemporary situation that we’re dealing with.

DL: Yes, there are a number of factors. One is cultural change generally. The last 15 years, certainly up to the financial crash, everyone kind of believed that they could have whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. So there’s that element.

But there’s also the element that you have to think about affluence. Western societies have become increasingly affluent, over the last 15-20 years. So people have that money to spend on things that they never did before.

I mean, a young photographer in the early 90s could never have put together enough money to publish a book. Most, today, find it possible. So there are changes in terms of the cultural environment, the access to funding that people have, and I suppose also the sense of competition.

There are far more photographers around than there ever used to be.

JB: Of course.

DL: Or at least, a lot more people around who call themselves photographers.

JB: Absolutely.

DL: They all want to compete. They all want to be seen as getting to a certain level. And the book seems to help them on that.

JB: How has the change in the landscape changed how you approach your job?

DL: It hasn’t changed that much. That’s the strange thing. There are some things that have definitely changed. I’ll talk about funding in a minute. But essentially, I don’t really see any more great projects than I used to 20 years ago.

There are more good photographers around, but there aren’t more very good photographers. It’s still hard to see great work.

[Part 2 Tomorrow]

Dewi Lewis at a Portfolio Review

Dewi Lewis at a Portfolio Review

The Daily Promo: Isamu Sawa

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Invite is below  to his show here for this show: www.withoutwater.com.au

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Isamu Sawa Photography

Who printed it?
It was printed by Bambra Press one of many generous sponsors for my recent solo exhibition “Without Water” and printed on paper supplied by K.W. Doggett both situated in Melbourne Australia.

Who designed it?
It was designed by Creative Director Derek Samuel who created all the collateral for the project including invites, exhibition banners and website (www.withoutwater.com.au)

Who edited the images?
I personally selected the images and subsequent layouts were created by Derek Samuel

How many did you make?
200. To coincide with a vast digital email marketing campaign to promote the exhibition, around 25 were sent out as special promotional invites with a bespoke ‘invite wrap’ to certain influential people such as bloggers, traditional and digital media outlets, editors of interior/lifestyle magazines and certain Instagrammers with particularly large following to generate publicity regarding the project/exhibtion. I wanted to send out something tangible and eye-catching with longevity that people could keep, pass around and leave on their coffee tables. The remaining copies were sold at the exhibition. The exhibition was a resounding success with tremendous media coverage, over 200 people on opening night and many Limited Edition prints sold.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
My agent Hart & Co and I send out digital mail-outs several times a year but this is the first time in many years that I decided to do a printed piece. Based on the amazing feedback I’ve received I will certainly be doing more in the near future.

 

This Week in New Media

by Jonathan Blaustein

It’s the beginning of October. The leaves on our Aspen trees are about to turn gold. My son, aligned with their calendar, will turn 8 the same week.

Things change, but cycles are forever.

As such, I’m happy to report that I’ve been writing for you, our faceless global audience, every Friday for 4 years. (Yes, we’re having our Anniversary.) In the beginning, I wrote short blurbs about several books each week.

It wasn’t until Thanksgiving of 2011 that I hit upon my regular style, one book each week, rambling narrative to introduce it. Then, we slowly added in the occasional field report from portfolio reviews. Along with the deep-dive interviews, that’s what we’ve done, every week for the last 4 years.

Until today.

Rob and I were recently discussing ways in which we could add in another column type. Something different. Something new.

The obvious answer popped up when I received an email from a regular reader, Brandon Tauszik, based in California. He wanted me to look at a photo project that he’d done, in the form of animated GIFs. African-American barbers shops in Oakland, to be specific.

How perfect is that? The clippers, sliding effortlessly, back and forth across a man’s head. Looping endlessly. Forever. (If you so choose.)

How 21st Century is that?

Therefore, this is the inaugural edition of our new column, “This Week in New Media,” which will appear from time to time. We’re shaking things up, because it’s fun, and it allows us to introduce you to people who are thinking seriously about new media.

Below, you’ll find a quick little Q&A with Brandon, as that’s also a new format for me. (Though my APE colleagues Heidi and Suzanne have presented Q&A style interviews for years.)

Hope you enjoy it, and don’t be afraid to let us know what you think.

1. How come you chose to focus on African-American barbers in Oakland? What led you there, as a subject matter?

I had initially observed a total lack of corporately-owned barbershops in Oakland. Having spent time living in suburban Florida, with Fantastic Sams and Supercuts galore, I was curious as to why their long reach hadn’t expanded anywhere in this particular city.

I began poking around at a few shops in my neighborhood; shooting and spending time interviewing the barbers there. These shops happened to be what you would define as black barbershops, with African American staff and clientele. I wanted to understand more about what made these socially exclusive places tick. That’s when I decided I would commit to making a portrait of Oakland’s black barbers and the various roles they assume.

2. As we all know, Marshall McLuhan is known for the phrase “The medium is the message.” Why are you choosing to express yourself in the form of animated GIFs? Is it about embedding the work in a 21st Century context?

Marshall McLuhan was the man! To me, the GIF is a relatively untapped hybrid between the mediums of film and photography. It contains the passing of time that exists in film but with the decisive moment aspect of a photograph. I suppose with “Tapered Throne” I’m testing the waters a bit to see if the medium can hold its weight.

Obviously, the GIF has gone through through a strong resurgence lately, mostly in the form of memes and frame-grab scenes from movies, TV shows, pop culture, etc. The outcome of this has seen the GIF quickly evolve into a contemporary medium of communication. Online news publications like Buzzfeed have had notable success in using GIFs in storytelling, but seemingly very few artists have grappled with using the medium in a live-action sense.

3. In the height of the Great Recession, I heard from several sources that things were really rough in Oakland. One of my wife’s friends said everyone in her neighborhood had bolted down their worldly possessions. Now, I’m hearing that the Silicon Valley-based gentrification of the Bay Area has reached Oakland, and it’s changing quickly. Do you feel like the places you’re documenting are in peril?

Oakland has seen high poverty mixed with high crime since the late ‘60s. The explosion of jobs in the Bay Area, from late ‘90s Dot-Com Boom to today’s climate has continued to provide very few opportunities for low income residents here. The city’s fabric has transformed before my eyes in these past years. Just a couple days ago Uber announced its purchase of a large historic building in downtown Oakland which will house 3000 new tech employees.

Combine the Bay Area’s explosive industry with a real shortage of market rate housing (add a heavy influx of white collar workers with cash to burn) and you end up with unprecedented displacement of long-time, lower income residents. Historically black neighborhoods are gentrifying and Oakland’s African American population is decreasing pretty fast. These spaces I’ve documented serve a particular demographic. If that demographic continues to weaken, these shops will have no choice but to close down or move elsewhere. I’ve tried to show the completed “Tapered Throne” project to all the barbers that participated; unfortunately I’ve already found shuttered storefronts where four of the shops were.

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Click Through To See The Rest Of The GIF’s
Continue Reading

The Art of the Personal Project: Edgar Artiga

- - 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: Edgar Artiga

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How long have you been shooting?
About 15 years. For the last 5 years, I have primarily been focusing on sports and fitness photography.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I have an AA degree in photography. I also worked for a large production studio as an assistant and studio manager for the early part of my career. I view every job or project as a new learning experience.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
I love photographing athletes of all kinds and recently have been very drawn to the variety of different fighters who step into the ring. I love the level of intensity that is associated with fighting. For this project, I wanted to get a glimpse into the personalities of these fighters and the training and preparation they put in before stepping into the ring. I have shot recreational fighters in the past. However, I wanted to photograph professional competitive fighters, including those who already have their pro cards and some who are still fighting to get one. I came across a local DC area gym, Level Up Boxing and Fitness, which trains MMA, Muay Thai kickboxers, and boxers. Several fighters who train at this gym were a great fit for the project. I loved the personal story of one fighter in particular, Luther “Lights Out” Smith, who, at the age of 36, left his 9-5 job to teach boxing and follow his dream of becoming a champion fighter. I was intrigued by the kind of person that would put everything on the line for the love of a sport.

A lot of my sports imagery is produced and involves lots of lighting. For this project, I wanted to diversify my work by using a more natural documentary approach to capture the moments and feelings of these fighters putting in their work and training at the gym. I included some lit portraits, but shot most of the images using natural light.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
I started this project just this past spring. Some of the images are up on my website and some are in my printed sports book. I definitely plan to continue to follow these fighters and continue shooting local fighters for this project.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
I usually know after the first shoot. Even if it is not working, I usually get something out of it even if it is just a learning experience. This particular project not only produced some great results in terms of imagery, but I also really enjoyed spending time with these fighters and photographing them as well as having the freedom to explore new approaches with my sports photography.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
For me, portfolio and personal work are one and the same. For both, I am always striving to produce the best work possible and to explore new things, whether that is new subject matter or different photographic approaches. My personal shoots don’t always make it into my portfolio, but I always shoot with my portfolio in mind. The great advantage of personal work is that it gives me the freedom to try to push things in new directions and experiment with something new. In the end, this is the kind of work for which I would like to get commissions.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
Yes. It’s a great way to show new work and get feedback.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
Not yet, but that would be a great opportunity.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Some of the images from this project are in my printed sports book and on my website. I am planning on using some of the images from this project for an upcoming e-promo and also in the process of putting together a printed promo piece from the project.

Artist’s statement:
I love the intensity of fighters, and for this “In the Ring” project, I wanted to capture professional competitive fighters in their training environment. I was particularly drawn to the story of one fighter included in this project, Luther “Lights Out” Smith,” who, at age 36, left his 9-5 job to teach boxing and follow his dream of becoming a champion fighter. I was intrigued by the kind of person that would put everything on the line for the love of a sport.

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Edgar Artiga is a commercial and editorial photographer based in the DC area who loves connecting with and capturing people. His signature clean and simple style carries through the wide range of his work.

Edgar lives in the DC area with his wife, two sons, and trouble-maker chocolate lab Coco. He can be found here: www.artigaphoto.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 establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information believing that marketing should be driven by a brand and not specialty. Follow her on twitter at SuzanneSease.

Portfolio Review: iPad, Blurb Book or Printed Portfolio?

- - Portfolio Review

I received the following question from a reader:

I’m going to my first portfolio review at the PhotoPlus Expo next month in New York. I didn’t think I’d be able to make it, so the trip is coming together kind of last minute. I currently don’t have a printed portfolio and I don’t have the money to print up a proper one. I thought about having a book printed up though a company like Blurb or Artisan State, as that would be a lot cheaper. Or I could use my iPad that has a nice looking portfolio app.

Does showing up with just an iPad look bad? Does showing the cheaper photo books make me look cheap? Is it worth it to find a way to try and get a proper printed portfolio? Any advice you can share is greatly appreciated!

I asked Heidi, Suzanne and Brittain for their thoughts and I’d love to hear any advice readers have on the subject in the comments.

Personally, I’m inclined to wonder why you will spend all that money on a portfolio review if you’re not going to maximize the value. If you don’t have a printed book and polished pitch you’re not ready to meet with Photo Editors and Art Buyers in New York City. Sure, you can go in and get some advice on which images are strong and where you might improve, but this is the first impression you will make with many of these people. The gold standard for portfolio reviews is a book with finely crafted prints, a well rehearsed pitch, promo card leave behinds and some personal project options in a separate book, ipad or Blurb type book. You can be sure when you sit down in that chair the photographers before and after you are doing this.

Suzanne Sease:

It is completely fine to show your portfolio on an iPad. I recommend http://ipadportfolioapp.com as many of my clients use it and it has been received well by the viewer. I personally feel that many of the pre-printed bound books don’t look as nice as a hand printed ink-jet book. Since the purpose of a review is for the viewers to make suggestions and possible changes, why invest in a costly portfolio? If you are going to get out and get face to face meetings, then invest in an ink jet printed double sided portfolio and a nice portfolio shell.

Heidi Volpe:

I think it’s perfectly fine to show your portfolio on an ipad especially if you have motion to show.

Some of the less expensive book services you mentioned are perfectly fine as well. I will say if you choose to use these printed services, you’d need to have a good design sense and understanding the printing process, how images behave across the gutters in these books, accurately follow the template and be sure to build in time for revises and proofs. Whatever you choose, make it tight.

Brittain Stone:

I agree that an iPad presentation is more than fine for a portfolio review of this kind. Just a few things to consider when you do go this route:

• An iPad review will invariably go much quicker. It’s human nature to linger on paper longer than on a swipe-able tablet.

• Your edit on an iPad is invariable more linear and one-sized, and while that’s not a bad thing, it’s a consideration when selecting images. It’s harder to go back into a portfolio and muse about particular images after the swiping is done.

• At these portfolio reviews, reviewers are expecting some “green-ness” so an elaborate print production would be overkill, unless you are the next (insert important photographer here) or. The book printing services you mentioned are all pretty great.

• You’ll still want some printed collateral of some kind in order to make it into a file or a stack or the reviewer’s memory banks. Very little trace remains after a digital review.

• Bring Windex

The Daily Edit – The New York Times Magazine: Christopher Griffith

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The New York Times Magazine

Editor-in-Chief:  Jake Silverstein
Design Director: Gail Bichler
Art Director:  Matt Willey (designed the feature)
Director of Photography: Kathy Ryan
Audio interviews: Catrin Einhorn and Kristen Clark.
Produced by: Stacey Baker, Jon Huang, and Riely Clough.
Photographer: Christopher Griffith

see the online slide show here


Heidi: Did you travel to the shoe shiners or did they come to you?
Christopher: We developed a very small transportable studio that we brought with us to shoot in arguably the most cramped environment ever. Some of these places are quite small, so finding enough space proved challenging.

Who wrapped the cloth around their fingers? and do they have signature style of hand gestures/wrapping?
They all wrap their own hands and no two are really the same. They all have slightly differing techniques, differing types of rags and different approaches to giving the customer ‘the best shine in town.’

What a great moment to celebrate the craft.  How did the subjects react?
Some were very skeptical, frankly many thought we were insane but all agreed to be photographed…eventually.

The colors and the knots are so beautiful. Were those designed or came from their kits?
They are all from their personal kits. Nothing is designed but they all have different preferences for the type of cloth for the type of shine.
Spit Shine: very smooth, thin cotton sheet. Dull Shine: thick towel fabric. Who knew?

What was your creative direction from Stacey Baker?
Make it iconic? Make it beautiful? I think we all knew that it was a pretty unique project. I was never convinced it would even get published because this kind of photo essay is rare these days. I just wanted to make sure that I did the idea justice. Our benchmark was the image of miles Davis’ hand shot by Irving Penn.

Heidi: I know this was your brainchild, how did this idea come about?
Stacey: Last summer during work one day, I ran across the street to the Port Authority to have my boots shined. I climbed up into one of the chairs and a man named Lenny shined my shoes. We started talking, and he said he’d been shining shoes for decades. His hands were beautiful–the way he wrapped the cloth around his long, lean wrinkled fingers. They looked like sculptures. I asked him if I could take a picture (see attached). He showed me the various the cloths he uses to shine shoes, and some of them looked like works of art. I wondered if there was a photo essay there.


photo 1

What was it about Christopher Griffith’s work that made you choose him? What did you already know about his work that would make your idea come to life?

Christopher immediately came to mind for the project. The work of Christopher’s that I was most familiar with are his large monumental still life’s. They look like sculptures. I thought he might be a good fit. He was an absolute dream to work with and his pictures are remarkable.

Photo essays are such luxuries in any magazine, was this a difficult sell to the staff?
It actually wasn’t. As soon as I returned to the office, I ran the idea by our photo director, Kathy Ryan, who loved it. We then pitched it to our editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein, who gave it the green light. Jake is a huge fan of photography and what we do in the photo department. We were all blown away by Christopher’s pictures.

Here’s a full gallery images

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The Daily Promo: Alexander Thompson

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 Alex Thompson 

Who printed it?
I had the photos printed at Samy’s Camera, here in Los Angeles. All of the images are printed on Fujicolor Professional matte photo paper. I cut small slits into the pages of the book in order to fit the photos in.

Who designed it?
I did all of the editing and design for the promo. Although, I initially got the idea from photographer Jody Rogac. In a video, she pulled out a similar looking book of Polaroids with the corners taped down. There were quite a few other differences but the basic idea of a DIY book filled with actual prints, as opposed to images printed directly on the paper, was based on her own. I knew I had to make a book myself in order to keep the spirit of the project alive.

How many did you make?
For this run, I only made 20 books, including the books I promised to those involved. I wanted to keep the recipients to a minimum in order to create a more exclusive feel and also, to show that those who received it, are important to my development as a photographer or inspire me in some way. Basically, I wanted this promo to come across as more personal than, say, a postcard would.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
Previously, I would send out a medium sized postcard every 3-4 months but I’m currently experimenting with monthly postcards and quarterly book promos, such as the Builders book. Possibly a Year-in-Review book too!

Tell us about how this project got started.
The project as a whole was inspired kind of out of nowhere. I was exploring many different possibilities for a personal project but nothing really stuck until I had the idea of shooting a model here in Los Angeles working on cars in his garage (he also rebuilds/sells classic BMWs). That never happened but it got the ball rolling and I started to reach out to any creators here in LA that I thought were interesting. One of the first to get back to me was Guy Okazaki who builds these really amazing surfboards in Venice. After working with him I reached out to my friends Andy and Kellen of Bicycle Coffee LA and got to shoot their roastmaster Mike making some of the best coffee here in LA. The third part of the series took quite some time to shoot because it was with probably one of the busiest bike shops in LA, Golden Saddle Cyclery. I worked with Woody, one of the owners of the shop, and photographed him building a touring bike from the ground up. Overall, it’s been a really fun experience and I’m excited to keep the project going. I have a lot of really cool ‘Builders’ lined up to work with and I can’t wait to learn about their processes.

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Alexander Thompson

This Week In Photography Books: Gerry Badger

- - Photography Books

by Jonathan Blaustein

I’m going to Chicago this week. As such, I’m writing on a Sunday. Absolutely unprecedented, but what can you do?

That’s life these days, in the throes of the 21st Century Hustle.

Ironically, one of the reasons I’m headed to the Windy City is to deliver a lecture on just that subject. (12:30pm Sunday at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel.) I’ll also be reviewing portfolios at the Filter Photo Festival, so you can look forward to seeing some cool projects in October/November.

Honestly, the 21CH gets me down sometimes, even though I publicly espouse it. Doing lots of things, and trying to do them well, is a viable strategy for cobbling together a decent income, but it’s trying on the soul.

It’s not a bad thing, working more. Not at all. But being an artist does require the occasional day of sitting on your ass, thinking about things. Or nothing at all. Every now and again, you DO have to get bored to come up with new ideas.(Counterintuitive, I know.)

That said, my life has never been better. My wife and kids are healthy and happy. The career is doing fine. So what if I’m tired all the time?

It could be a lot worse.

That’s the thing about perspective, though. If we had it all the time, we’d never need to find it again. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t occasionally lose ourselves in the caverns of our own minds. Fortunately, it’s one thing we can always look to art for: the chance to appropriate someone’s vision, to understand their worldview through their creations.

At least, that was where my mind went, having just put down “It Was A Grey Day: Photographs of Berlin,” by Gerry Badger, recently published by Peperoni Books.

This is one volume where the title gives it all away. Was it one day? I doubt it, but it was most certainly gray/grey/gris/sin color. I used the word bleak a few times in last week’s column, which is a shame, because otherwise, I’d definitely be using bleak today. (Who says good writers can’t repeat words? Bleak. Bleak. Bleak.)

All I could think about, while flipping through the pages, was that this Berlin must surely exist, because there were so many incarnations of it on display. Graffiti. Detritus. Broken down moments in the urban continuum.

Hell, in one photo, we can see the letters “Spair” painted on a brick cylinder, some sort of old chimney, and I was sure it must have come from “Despair,” because that’s what I was getting off of these photographs.

Now, I like the anti-aesthetic as much of the next guy, and have been known to make an ugly photo or two myself. (Goopy canned snails, severed deer’s head, decapitated cows…) Meaning, I have no bias against ugly beauty.

But when it’s all I see in a group of photos, I assume more about the artist’s state of mind than I do about the putative location. These pictures are about Berlin, I suppose, but they’re more about why Gerry Badger only saw this Berlin with a camera in his hand.

Where is the joie de vivre? Or was it simply that finding these less-than-glorious moments was the exact respite Mr. Badger needed from his other duties? Exaltation in the form of decay?

As the pictures are all well done, and communicate said mood, I thought it was a book worth reviewing. But there’s more here too. Gerry Badger is known as a writer, perhaps more than as a photographer. As I say in the aforementioned 21CH lecture, if they know you at all, count yourself lucky.

I began to read his closing essay, and then felt compelled to stop. In a sort of information creep, I was immediately seduced by Mr. Badger’s writerly voice. He was contextualizing before he even kissed me goodnight. The big names, the intellectually-bent quotes. I could see it all coming, and even skimmed to make sure it was thus. (It was.)

It’s his book, and more power to him. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that the statement, the pitch, the lecture, the TV appearance, the personality, it speaks as loudly as the pictures, when given the chance. People expect that from their successful creators these days.

Would Steve Jobs have changed the world without the black turtlenecks on stage? (Always, on stage.)

To be clear, I’m not saying it was a bad essay, or that Mr. Badger shouldn’t have written it to accompany his photographs. Quite the opposite.

It’s just that in my role, which in this case involves reading pictures, I was much more interested in the naked honesty of these depressing photographs than I was in hearing the artist speculate why they are, or are not important. Great writers can make anything sound interesting. But a picture is worth a thousand…potatoes?

Bottom Line: Bleak, ugly beauty in Berlin

To Purchase “It Was A Grey Day: Photographs of Berlin” Visit Photo-Eye

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Art Producers Speak: Payam

- - Art Producers Speak

We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.sease@verizon.net

Anonymous Creative Director: I nominate Payam. Payam is awesome. Smart, fabulous eye, industrious and a wonder to work with. You should profile him.

Cover Portrait for Fashion Decode of the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas. My last idea was to get into a crowded train station and have them drown in balloons. Everyone had a blast – Even adults turn into kids when balloons are abound.

Cover Portrait for Fashion Decode of the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas. My last idea was to get into a crowded train station and have them drown in balloons. Everyone had a blast – Even adults turn into kids when balloons are abound.

Portrait series that I started called Alter Ego after discussing the project with the editor of SOMA magazine. Pictured is Hollywood Motion Picture Colorist  Beau Leon.

Portrait series that I started called Alter Ego after discussing the project with the editor of SOMA magazine. Pictured is Hollywood Motion Picture Colorist Beau Leon.

Excerpt from a project on California Surfers.

Excerpt from a project on California Surfers.

Portrait of The American Spirits

Portrait of The American Spirits

Cover for Fashion Decode beauty issue.

Cover for Fashion Decode beauty issue.

Portrait of designer Sonia Augostino for Fashion Decode Magazine.

Portrait of designer Sonia Augostino for Fashion Decode Magazine.

Portrait of Creative Directors Hungry Castle for ADC Global.

Portrait of Creative Directors Hungry Castle for ADC Global.

Excerpt from HBO’s pilot shoot.

Excerpt from HBO’s pilot shoot.

Excerpt from a project on California Surfers

Excerpt from a project on California Surfers

Portrait of Artist Tim Burke for the Detroit Industrial Gallery

Portrait of Artist Tim Burke for the Detroit Industrial Gallery

Q: How many years have you been in business?

A: I entered the business in 2002 after graduating with a degree in Bio-Psychology and Sociology, and over several years had the good fortune to work with some of the great masters such as Albert and Norman Watson, Patrick DeMarchelier, Annie Leibovitz, Miles Aldridge, and Mark Abrahams. After assisting for some years, I was requested as a Lighting Director for large advertising, fashion and celebrity shoots from 2008 to 2012 and committed myself 100% to shooting my own work full-time thereafter.

Q: Are you self-taught or photography school taught?

A: During my years in NYC, I had the great fortune of working with world-renowned photographers as a first assistant, and credit a lot of my success to my exposure to various ways they approached their particular assignments and challenges therein.

I learned about charismatic lighting and keeping a cool head under fire (we literally had a 20x catch on fire above us on a shoot) at the Watson Studio, as much as I learned about controlling high key light and perspective with respect to beauty photography with Wolfgang Ludes. Everyday served as an opportunity for me to learn not only the technicality of photography, but also about the subtle nuances of psychology, diplomacy and language required to be a good photographer. This has been the best education any man could ever ask for.

Q: Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?

A: I think that you have to be inspired and fall in love with your work and this business everyday, just as one would need to fall in love with their life partner every day so as not to strangle them to death ☺

My first influence would be my High School Biology teacher Fred Tunnicliffe. It’s ironic, because he really motivated me to take interest in Biology and want to become a doctor first and foremost. Fred however, taught me something that I loved more than anything; photography.

As time progressed I started paying close attention to Patrick DeMarchelier and Annie Leibovitz were the photographers who I hold responsible for triggering my almost psychiatric obsession with photography later on on in my teens and early 20’s. I could not believe my eyes when the day arrived that I was actually on set with them in NYC.

Q: How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?

A: My downfall in my life has been my love for photography books. Norman Watson can be solely blamed for introducing me to this gateway drug and I hold him fully responsible for the financial ruin I find myself in. ☺ I fall in love with photography on a daily basis by obsessively devouring various forms of visual stimuli, from paintings of old, to fashion stories of Mario Testino and Peggy Sirota. The work of masters in cinema such as Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, Luc Besson, Ridley Scott and Tarsem Singh have also had a huge impact on my visual story telling.

Q: Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?

A: I have been very fortunate to be trusted to execute briefs based on the way I shoot. I have been lucky to work with creative directors and art buyers who trust in me, and with their collaboration, we have created wonderful work together.

Q: What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?

A: I spend quite a lot of time researching and connecting with various agencies, and traveling to various states to do portfolio presentations. I have learned that creative teams and buyers love the opportunity to meet with me, not only to see my work, but also to see and know the person behind the lens, as I explain my approach, motivations and tell stories about how I created the photographs. One of the things I excel at is being self-deprecating, and as such I make people laugh; this adds a human element to an otherwise mundane experience. One CD at a large agency just told me that he does not like to go through agents and art buyers, because they dilute the communication and needs of his. He was grateful to have met me because we had a one on one and had conversations from the heart that in my opinion can only be done through interpersonal interactions.

I also maintain presence on all relevant web portals, send out newsletters with new work and travel schedules, and do quarterly printed campaigns.

Q: What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?

A: While I think that it’s important to study where the business is headed, so that I can be relevant and fresh, it’s also important to refine and consistently improve one’s visual vernacular. I find that I excel at capturing whatever it is that I am working on so long as it’s authentic to who I am. Exercising and refining my work is what I strive to do every time I pick up the camera. I think it’s also important to keep an open mind, as I always ask creatives and buyers if they would like to see me develop any more of a specific area that I am shooting in my personal projects, and I then update them with new work as it is created.

Q: Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?

A: I consistently strive to push myself and explore different approaches that help me to refine my work. Personal assignments happen to be the most interesting to me, not only because I have total creative freedom to express myself, but also because I have the opportunity to show clients what I am passionate about.

Q: How often are you shooting new work?

A: I work when I can to create new images that are contextually consistent on a larger and broader scale. I love collaborating with Creative Directors and Stylists to shoot some projects that they could not execute because of the limitations clients place on them.

Most recently, I met a wonderful team at a highly respected agency in San Francisco. In conversation with one of the CD’s, I agreed to photograph children in fashion for a pitch to an amazing clothing label. I suddenly found myself photographing kids, and fell in love with their innocence and found my inner child as I was given creative license to be one again. A month later, I was contacted by another very well known creative director, who had received one of my newsletters in which I had inquired about collaborating with him on any shoots that he may have wanted to execute. I had been waiting to work with him for the past six years, and my patience finally paid off. Were it not for patience, I would have jumped the Brooklyn Bridge long ago ☺

—————–

Payam is an editorial and advertising portrait photographer based in both Los Angeles and NYC. Known for his lighting, direction and ease on set, Payam facilitates a shooting experience where all subjects can have fun, play and express themselves genuinely. In his free time, Payam teaches effective communication through photography to underprivileged students and also practices Thai Massage and Vinyasa Yoga.


APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information believing that marketing should be driven by a brand and not specialty. Follow her on twitter at SuzanneSease.

Pricing and Negotiating: Real People Lifestyle Library

Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine

Shoot Concept: Real People Lifestyle Library

Licensing: Unlimited use of all images for 2.5 years

Location: Client locations and subject workspaces

Shoot Days: Four

Photographer: Established mid-western portrait, youth culture and fashion specialist

Agency: N/A–Client Direct

Client: National For-Profit College

Creative/Licensing: Every now and then, we encounter a client with a budget that commensurates with their requirements and expectations. As much as we would like it to be, this isn’t the norm, but we lucked out in this case.

We recently put together an estimate to shoot a variety of environmental-lifestyle portraits alongside a video production for one of the country’s largest for-profit colleges. Unlike most higher education clients, for-profit colleges generally have a bit more to spend on promotion as their business model depends on brand awareness and expansive reach more than a “traditional” college or university, with few exceptions.

For this project, the photographer would be shooting available light environmental lifestyle images and portraits of current students at the college’s local campus/facilities and successful alumni in and around their places of work. We’d be shooting all of this in conjunction with a video production, which was responsible for coordinating all of the production elements. The stills team would mostly be trailing the video production (stepping in to shoot as soon as the video team wrapped up), and at times, shooting alongside/over-the-shoulder of the video team. With this configuration, there would be limited production support needed on the stills side. However, at times, the stills team may need to touch up wardrobe, props, and/or HMU after the video team had left the scene, so we would need to include a small styling team.

Based on our recent experience estimating “shoot alongside video” productions, and factoring in the limited two-year duration, complexity of the production (or lack thereof), the number of processed images, the photographer’s level of experience and number of shoot days, we set the library day rate at $10,000.00 ($40,000 for all four days). As much as we try to avoid simply pricing based on the day, unfortunately it’s a trend we occasionally embrace, to a degree. Even when tolerating the day rate fee structure, we try to take every opportunity to limit the scope of what is included in that rate. In this case, we were able to limit the duration of use to two and a half years. We also implicitly limited the number of images available to the client by only delivering 75 processed files. Technically, they were granted the license to use all of the images from the shoot, but our hope was that the deliverable limitation, and an inherent limitation on how many scenarios/unique images could be captured on a given day, would prevent the client from exercising their license to any additional images. Compared to other client direct library shoots, this was a pretty healthy fee.

After a handful of minor revisions, we presented the final estimate, which was approved:

Client Provisions: We made sure to indicate that the client/video production would provide all necessary scouting, locations, casting, talent, releases, props, wardrobe and production coordination. We also noted that we expected the subjects would arrive “camera ready.”

Tech/Scout Days: We included two tech/scout days to walk through the many locations scattered about the city.

Producer: Among the initial revisions was the removal of a producer. The client wanted to limit the foot print of our crew and agreed to provide a production coordinator/liaison to interface with the talent and video production. This can be risky, but so long as expectations are aligned, it can be managed without too much trouble.

First Assistants: The concept, along with restrictions associated with shooting alongside a motion production meant we wouldn’t be firing strobes (in most scenarios). The first assistant would attend the tech/scout days and would manage a small, nimble grip and reflector kit during the shoot.

Digital Tech: $500.00 covered the tech’s day rate, and since we’d need to be as mobile as possible, the photographer would be shooting to their own laptop/tripod rig – which meant we didn’t need to include a kit for for the tech.

Equipment: The photographer wouldn’t need much in the way of grip or lighting equipment, and the required file size didn’t necessitate a medium format system, so we estimated $1000.00/day for two DSLR bodies, a number of fast lenses, the photographer’s laptop, some miscellaneous grip equipment/reflectors and two portable strobe units (just in case).

Styling: Though most of the heavy lifting would be handled by the video production, we didn’t want to rely on their styling team – particularly because some of the scenarios would be shot after the the video team had moved on to the next location. We included a prop stylist to help finesse available props at a given location and a groomer to handle basic hair, makeup and wardrobe adjustments.

Shoot Processing for Client Review: On most library shoots, you may have to batch process all images captured, which we estimate on a daily basis (1 shoot day = 1 day of batch processing). In this case, we limited the initial deliverables to 75 images, meaning that the client would need to review a gallery to make their selections. Under normal circumstances we wouldn’t include a digital tech and “shoot processing for client review”, as we would expect the tech to handle the lion’s share of this process throughout the shoot day/s. However, because the tech would only be working on a laptop and moving frequently, we didn’t expect them to handle that process, and charged separately for the photographer to handle the processing for client review, after the shoot.

Selects Processed for Reproduction: We quoted basic image processing as a lump sum (based on 75/image) and noted the fee included color correction, touchup and delivery. This way, if the client order less than 75 images, they would still be on the hook for the full amount. If they ordered more, we were positioned to generate additional processing fees.

Catering: Since we wouldn’t necessarily be with the video production all day, we made sure to include a line item to cover crew meals throughout the four shoot days.

Miles, parking, meals, tolls, FTP, Misc.: We included about 350.00/day to cover a van rental and local travel costs, parking and miscellaneous costs.

Results and Hindsight: The photographer was awarded the project which went so well that the client hired him to do a second round not long after.

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.

The Daily Edit – Chicago Magazine: Scott Council

- - The Daily Edit

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Chicago Magazine

Design Director: Nicole Dudka
Photographer: Scott Council

Heidi: Have you worked with this client before?
Scott: I have shot about 5-6 things for Chicago magazine. The last cover I did for them was for this same issue but last year and it was portrait series with Common.

What type of direction did you get from them?
I presented my ideas and had several conversations with the Design Director, Nicole Dudka who had a lot of great ideas, so it was a great collaboration. I also submitted my ideas with sketches in PDF form so they would have a visual to help them understand what I wanted to do. The issue was about the fall arts in Chicago. Its called the “Fall Preview” and it covers everything, music, theater, dance, art, etc. He started his acting career in Chicago and went to school in Chicago so they wanted a portrait series with images of him doing things related to the arts.

How much time did you have with the subject?
I had him for 3.5 hrs including wardrobe changes and lunch. We did multiple set ups, I had two alternating sets, both in New York studios.  I wanted to do three, but there wasn’t enough time nor budget.

What is the easiest aspect of shooting accomplished actors, and conversely the hardest?
The easiest part about shooting accomplished actors is that they really seem to know who they are and they don’t let their publicist run everything as much. They don’t have anything to prove because they are already know. There for they can take what you’re trying to capture and really make it their own, they “deliver.”  They seem to be more responsive once they are on board with the ideas. Point being,  take new talent for example: They have a career they are grooming and so they try a little too hard, worry too much about their image and some still let their publicist think for them, this can be difficult on set.

He has a great range in this shoot, how did you change the tone, what sort of direction did you give?
They wanted me to have him bobbing for apples and doing a lot of things that are kind of not at all who he is, so it was a little tough to sell him on the ideas.  At lunch I saw him by himself and I went over and we talked about what I would like to shoot and what the magazine wanted me to shoot. He said “People are always asking me to do things that are not me, its like everyone wants to make fun of me.”  I mentioned this is firstly a portrait session and secondly, a cover. I didn’t want him to do anything that was not him.  With all my subjects I’ll explain what I’m trying to capture and then they can add or subtract anything. We work together and we both feel good about it. At the end of the day,  you need to live with the photography.  I really meant what I said to him,  I wasn’t trying to trick him into doing what I wanted. I created an honest dialogue with him and I gave him the option to participate, we all want the same thing: To do a good job.

What do you enjoy most about portraiture?
In the end I’m not interested in creating entertainment photographs so we can all stand and stare of the actor, athlete and see what magic they produce. I will always deliver an image that I was hired to deliver, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to relate to it. Often project goals and true photographic goals aren’t aligned. I’m interested in Michael Shannon as a person as an equal human being with a voice and an opinion.  I fell in love with portraiture because when I look into a portrait I see myself, I see each one as a little symbol of everything great and everything beautiful about who we are as human beings.

The Daily Promo: Sam Kaplan

- - The Daily Promo

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Sam Kaplan

Who printed it?
Advanced Printing NYC

Who designed it?
I did.

Who edited the images?
I did. I shot the six main images knowing that they would be in the promo. Once I started designing the piece I realized I needed a front and back cover image. So we decided to shoot very simple remnants from the shoot.

How many did you make?
400

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I try to do two printed promos a year.

What inspired these beautiful images?
In the beginning of the summer I decided I wanted to do a promo to send out in the fall. I have always been fascinated with making patterns out of objects (especially food). Before this series I had focused on two-dimensional designs that sat on a surface. I wanted to find a way to make a pattern in three-dimensions. It was important to me capture each image in the series in one shot, with no compositing.

Who styled this and how many packets/or items did you purchase?
The cookie pit was the first one we did and I had Michelle Longo help source and style it. I think we bought every box of Lorna Doones in a 20-block radius around my studio. To construct the pit, we cut sheets lot of foamcore to create platforms for the cookies to sit on. The pyramid we built in a similar fashion. We did both separately over two long days.

For the sandwich images, I brought Brett Kurzweil on board. We had found a reference that we loved of a pyramid in a Confederate war memorial cemetery and used the dimensions of that to plan out our pyramid. Brett made dozens and dozens of each type of sandwich and I used them like (soft) bricks to build the pyramid on set. Again, foam-core was used to shore up the structure. It was a little over 3 feet tall. This took about 14 hours I think.

For the candy, I did both builds on my own during downtime at my studio over a period of a few weeks. I used a combination of foamcore and about 500 hot glue sticks.