This Week in Photography: A Family Roadtrip

 

I’m turning 47 next week.

In lockdown.

 

Last year, I went to the hot springs at Ojo Caliente, as they let NM residents in for free on your birthday.

But the resort partially burned down in #2020, and even if it hadn’t, sharing collective pools with strangers is about the last thing I’d want to do right now.

image courtesy of Taos Ski Valley

This year, I’m guessing I’ll spend the day with my wife and children, as I have the last 350.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Over the years, I’ve taken amazing birthday trips to the beach in SoCal, or on a bender in Amsterdam. Celebrating via travel was fun, when possible.

Not in #2021, though.

While my freedom of movement has been restricted during the pandemic, (like all of us,) I’ve had the opportunity to grow as a person, in properly deep ways, and my love and connection to my wife and kids is far beyond what it was when we were hopping around the country in 2019.

(Quick update: after bottoming out on the day of the Capitol insurrection, my marriage, and my wife’s health, are both better than they’ve been in years. Thanks again to all the people who expressed concern in early January.)

Where was I?

Some time during my mid-40’s, I realized my relationship with my parents and brother, which had dominated my thoughts since I was young, was far less important than the one with my wife and children.

Perhaps it’s commonplace, but I understood being a husband and father, and how I handled those roles, would matter more to the rest of my life than how I lived as a son and a brother. (Probably 4 years of therapy had something to do with it.)

Still, I meet so many people my age, or older, who think constantly about how they get along with their parents and siblings. Their self-worth is all wrapped up in their family of origin.

Rather than the one they’ve created as adults.

To be clear, I’m not throwing my folks and brother under the bus. They certainly mean well.

I’m more interested in explaining that as I grow older, (and hopefully wiser,) I realize how I raise my kids and support my wife will determine my karma, and how I’m judged by whatever large forces are out there, making the planets move and the tides rise and fall.

(Is that the most mid-life-sentiment I’ve ever written?)

I’m not waxing philosophical today because I’m that much closer to 50.

Not at all.

Rather, I just finished looking at, and reading, “Everything Else in the Universe: A Father-Son Road Trip,” a self-published book sent in late-last-summer by Har-Prakash and Gurudayal Khalsa.

The book is both very-well-titled, and also a tad misleading, because it’s actually a chronicle of two road trips, which included other members of the Khalsa family. (As Canadian Sikhs exploring America during the early part of the Trump era, you’ve got to give them props for having cojones, that’s for sure.)

This is one of those books I love to see come in the mail, because it is so different from the high-end art books I often review.

It’s a testament to the variety of our audience, and the breadth of what photography means, that something this personal, and open-hearted, will show up in the mail, wrapped to the teeth, with a typed letter in lieu of a press release.

I try to treat each submission in context, and rarely open a package I can’t review, but with this book, I’m not going to be critical on the same level as I might with something from MACK or Damiani.

It’s not really meant as a commercial production.

So I could quibble, and say that there are maybe too many photos, but really, what’s the point?

We get to see this merry band of wanderers, clearly in love with each other, as they bounce around in their camper van, or sleep in tents in the Utah desert.

There are text interludes, to break up the monotony, including an anecdote about a fellow camper who slit her wrists, which reminds Har-Prakash of the time he was summoned to India to pick up Gurudayal, who was having a mental health episode.

I’ve been to so many of the places in the book, like Arches, the California Central Coast, San Francisco, and Point Reyes National Sea Shore. (My parents came out to SF for my birthday, around 2000, and we booked a B&B in Point Reyes, only for it to rain the entire weekend, which raised the stress level to 10.)

This is a sweet, lovely book, and while some of the landscape photos are little touristy for my taste, they’re also countered by well-framed images of photos of dead soldiers inside a Walmart, or a relaxed museum patron lounging in a window box at SFMOMA.

It goes without saying that trips like this, and all the random human encounters described within, (including an emphasis on the kindness of strangers,) can’t happen in our current pandemic lifestyle.

So for one of my birthday wishes, (if I get more than one,) I’m hoping that we all have a safer, healthier, more normal world, before I turn 48.

I hope I can take my kids on the road some time this year, and hug them tightly when they crawl into their hotel beds at night. (No camping for me, thanks.)

To purchase “Everything Else in the Universe” click here 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please contact me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by women, and artists of color, so we may maintain a balanced program. 

The Art of the Personal Project: Maro Rennella

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

 

Today’s featured artist:  Maro Rennella

Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been passionate about the idea of traveling, and my love of photography has a lot to do with it.

It’s been with me 24/7 from the moment I embarked on this quest of the image and its ability to communicate, some twenty years ago.

Above all, I value the experience, the act of shooting; it’s become a necessity.

Photography is like a close encounter with the things I like best about me; it puts me in orbit, so to speak.

My working process is based on intuition, with just basic planning (sometimes not even that). The concept is usually a direct result from experience.

I’m a firm believer in the power of the image, as opposed to the overabundance of discourse.

I was always interested in documenting my particular vision of reality, though as of late I’ve been broadening my horizons to include that which is barely perceived, the realms of illusion and the sublime.

Mist and Walk two of my latest works, are a clear example of that new approach.

 

To see more of this project, click here.

IG accounts: Maro   and the International Mixologist Luis Inchaurraga

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it.  And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

The Daily Edit – Natasha Cunningham


Natasha Cunningham

Heidi: Where does your love of digital collage come from?

Natasha: My passion for digital collage evolved with the growth of my ‘A Portrait a Day series’. I’ve worked in Advertising for the past decade and overtime did a lot of image compositing for local Ad campaigns and wanted to explore it outside of the corporate setting and more on the storytelling side of things.

You are in the hundreds by now,  tell us about “Portrait a Day” 

Yes, I am now at Day 130. It’s been a slow and steady journey. I started the Instagram series to combat my creative block at the time. The aim was to post a portrait-focused design everyday highlighting creative people who’s work inspired me. It was purely experimental, fun and consistent in the beginning. Overtime I became less consistent with posting daily, however, I’ve had the opportunity to work on some amazing pieces that highlight topics that focus on the black community globally.

What have you learned about yourself?

This series has allowed me to create artwork from the perspective of telling stories and I’ve discovered that I’m equally passionate about Visual Art (storytelling) as much as I am about Graphic Design (problem-solving).

Are you also taking portraits as well as designing?

I do take portraits with my iPhone if the need arises. However, I mostly rely on the expertise of photographers.

What was it about the Patagonia project that spoke to you?

The experience of the enslaved people through the lens of wildlife biology isn’t something that I ever thought would be interesting. It is not merely a different perspective, but an untapped investigation that adds to the understanding of the history of black people in America. It makes you think, ‘who was really the King or Queen of the Wild Frontier’?

Featured Promo – Kyle de Vre

Kyle de Vre

Who printed it and how many did you make?
A company in New York printed the run of 100 editions. (I did not have a very great experience with them since they ran the 100 copies without showing me a final proof and sliced the images off near the center of the book, and had to reprint everything) The book is technically not a promo but the original run of the book.

Who designed it?
I designed the book with a friend, since he knew InDesign, more than I did at the time. I wanted it to be simple, and about the images and the characters, which is why I chose to go full bleed with no text. Make people curious about the people that were drinking in Sophies Bar on Tuesdays at 3pm, which is when and where I shoot the entirety of the project.

Tell me about the images?
The images are all people I know fairly well, and would ask to come in for portraits. I have stories about each and every one of them, some I met at the bar and became friends of mine, some are co workers, some local neighborhood legends and regulars. I got the idea after I started bringing my camera to the bar every tuesday and shot a portrait of a friend, which is the first photo in the book. I also had a few regulars who I always said “see you next tuesday” to since the only day shift at sophies I worked was Tuesday.

I still need to shoot a few more portraits, but I am planning to put all the images together into a hardcover book with all the images from the original book i sent you in the near future.  I shoot it all on delta 3200 film with a hasselblad 501cm and I process and print all the images myself in the darkroom and scan the prints.

This Week in Photography: Exploring Myths

 

Have you ever heard of a duende?

 

That’s OK.
You can say no.
I realize it’s unlikely.

I’d never heard of a duende either, until a group of my students told me all about them, around ten years ago.

It was my first year teaching in a new program at UNM-Taos, in which high-achieving high school students from around Northern New Mexico came to college on Fridays for free classes.

I’d been teaching teens in another program for several years, by that point, (all from Taos,) but with the new group, the conversations often veered to unfamiliar places.

To answer my opening question, duendes are mythical creatures, a cross between dwarves, elves and gnomes, that are meant to haunt and/or populate the mountains here at the edge of the former Spanish Empire in America.

I’m guessing it’s a part of a mythology common to other former Spanish colonies, but duendes were new to me.

Even stranger, all of the students in the class believed they were real.

 

I nodded along, first in curiosity, then in wonder, as the kids told me other ghost stories, and hard-to-fathom myths they all believed were true.

(If it were appropriate at the time, I probably would have said WTF, but it wasn’t, so I didn’t.)

My parents first brought me to Taos when I was 14, and though I lived here for short stretches when I was younger, it’s been nearly 16 years since we moved back in 2005, and I definitely feel like I understand the place.

Sometimes.

Or rather, I understand parts of the culture well, and other elements will likely always remain a mystery.

For example.

In one of my last classes at UNM-Taos, before I left to start Antidote, I encouraged a young student to make a series about her husband, whose job was collecting firewood in the mountains.

He’d go up with a friend, chop trees, and haul the wood down, to sell during firewood season.

Most people have wood stoves here, (for obvious reasons, now that Texans have been without heat for days for lack of electricity,) and many-if-not-most of the local Hispanic and Native American folks harvest their own wood. But among the Anglo culture, many-if-not-most people buy wood, and having a wood guy who’s reliable is wise.

Most wood guys are older, grizzled, and big, but my student’s husband was about 21 at the time, and skinny as a twig, so it made for compelling imagery.

A few years ago, in order to help support their young family, I decided to give my wood business to Andre, who’s unfailingly nice, polite and punctual.

But this being the 21st Century, he’s also a good capitalist, raising his prices each year, and each month in the firewood season, to create artificial pressure to buy early.

Just this morning, on Facebook, (because like I said, it’s the 21st Century,) Andre posted about hunting down a bobcat with his dogs, and killing it in the mountains. There were photographs, of course, and I was shocked to see them.

(And it’s pretty hard to shock me in #2021.)

 

As an environmentalist of sorts, I stared at the photographs, unable to wrap my mind around the motivation for hunting and killing a gorgeous cat, far from humanity, that was likely causing no one any harm.

WTF?

But I also realized that the culture surrounding this action, (as evidenced by the scores of likes on the post,) was still opaque to me, even after all these years.

People hunt because their fathers (or mothers,) teach them to hunt. It’s a bonding experience, and becomes ingrained in the memory as positive and exiting.

(The thrill of the chase, to which the post alludes.)

I don’t get it because I’m not meant to get it. I don’t need to get it. It’s not for me.

At some point, our allegiance to our culture, and our tribe, becomes so enmeshed in us that it perpetuates itself.

The myths, norms, and realities of a society are valued because they always have been.

And our cultural specificity is what creates a sense of place, a sense of differentiation, a sense of identity.

I might not believe in duendes, but that’s OK. Instead, I believe that some Jewish fighters hiding out during a war had magical candle oil that lasted for 8 days, which was a miracle, and now we get presents at Chanukah.

Just so we’re clear, I’m not trashing Andre for bagging that bobcat, though when I saw how gorgeous it was, I very much wished it weren’t dead.

I have a friend, Mike, who once told me he’d killed 8 mountain lions, and I hung on his very word as he described tracking one, so I know it gets the blood pumping. (He’d been hired to do it for a private ranch, so his kills weren’t for fun.)

But sometimes, elements of a culture are so crazy, so bizarre, as to seem made up.

Too strange to be real.

And today, we have the opportunity to see one such story, which was imagined, and then photographed, by the creative team of Carolina Dutca and Valentin Sidorenko in the Transnistria region of Moldova.

At the beginning of the year, I published a series by Laidric Stevenson, which I found online, and that kicked off a new subset of the column, as I’d never before shown work that I hadn’t seen on a wall, in a book, or at a portfolio review.

Coincidentally, a couple of weeks later, Carolina reached out to show me this project, “Apă,” and I totally loved it. (How could you not?)

During the covid year, the two artists teamed up with a local woman, Elena Nikolaevna, who made recycled rugs, and together they created the seemingly-real-but-completely-fabricated myth of the ancient Labyrinthodontia buccellatum, a creature living in the now-polluted Dniester River in Moldova.

The rugs look like lily pads, for sure, and the creature slinks through the photographs, including in a made-up historical looking postcard. As they write in their artist statement, “Elena gave the foundling a name – Apă [ah’pə], which means ‘water’ in Moldavian language.”

Wow.

Don’t wish you’d thought of something like this?

I write about America so often that it’s easy to forget the internet allows this blog to be read around the Earth, and today, we all derive benefit from that.

Carolina is from Moldova, and Valentin is from Russia, at the edge of the former Soviet Empire, near Kazakhstan, on the opposite side of the planet.

And we get to see and discuss their work, as the world is so interconnected in the 21C.

I am pretty psyched they reached out to share this brilliant project with us, and I’m sure you’ll agree.

In #2021, I finally started a new photo series, (with my new camera,) trying to understand this culture in which I’ve ensnared myself, yet I know some parts of the story will never be mine to tell.

Hopefully, Carolina and Valentin will inspire you to get out there and make some crazy shit, because what else are you going to do with your life?

 

 

The Art of the Personal Project: Jesse Dittmar

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

Today’s featured artist:  Jesse Dittmar

 

Modeling Tests with We Speak Modeling

I wanted to try some new equipment and lighting styles, so I brought in models for what is a pretty standard scenario in the industry: you contact an agency, they send you some new talent, and you trade services. I did a few of these with traditional models at traditional modeling agencies. I was bored. The pictures were nice but uninteresting. I remember saying, I’m just not going to do this again; there doesn’t seem to be a point.

Then I stumbled upon We Speak. They were different and disruptive. I contacted the founder Briauna, got a few people in front of me for a test, and was not bored. I was inspired. I was photographing people with incredible stories and making art that I was excited about: the core reason I became a photographer in the first place.

These shoots have been simple. Just the model and me. Self-styled. Collaborative. There has been a lot of conversation, I’ve learned more than I could express in an artist statement, and I am lucky to have the continued opportunity to photograph the We Speak roster.

 

To see more of this project, click here.

To keep up with Jesse, click IG

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it.  And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

The Daily Edit – Eric Fisher


Photographer: Eric Fisher

Heidi: How does nature inform your life?
Eric: Nature plays a huge role in my life. I spend a large percentage of my time outdoors and it helps make me who I am. My love for the outdoors started at a young age on fishing trips with my dad. My love of nature helped spur my passion for photography: I wanted to memorialize the experiences. I have now traveled all over the world not just for photography and fishing, but also to hike, camp, ski and so many other activities I have learned to love over the years. I have maintained friendships through these travels, and met new people. In today’s world, I think it’s easy to lose our connection to nature. When I go for a long period without being in the field, I start to feel like something is missing.

Have you become more patient?
Growing up as an avid fisherman, patience is the key to success. So I have always considered myself patient (although my girlfriend and mom might not agree with that statement). But as my career in photography has progressed, my patience has been tested more than I ever thought possible. I have spent countless hours lying in ditches, streams, snow and mud at both frigid and scorching hot temperatures. I have spent days trying to photograph an animal without ever even seeing it. And as I’ve honed my craft, I am constantly striving for more creative and unique images, which requires more time, effort, and of course patience.

You had a significant career shift, when did you know it was the right time to change your life?
Eric: In my previous career I worked in finance for an investment management company. I enjoyed the job but also felt a constant pull toward the outdoors and wildlife photography. I happened upon an ad for a fishing guide position for a remote unnamed lodge in Alaska, and the description seemed all too familiar to me. A few months prior, I visited a lodge in Alaska with some friends. I had the time of my life fishing for salmon and photographing brown bears. I reached out to the owner’s son, who I had come to know well at the lodge during my trip. He confirmed the position, and I knew I had to pursue it. After a relatively short phone interview, he told me to, “Come on up for the season and we’ll see how it goes.” I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. My first season up in Alaska changed my life. Guiding allowed me to share my passions for fishing and photography with others, and every day is an amazing experience.

Tell us the backstory about this image with the bear and salmon.
I work as a fly fishing and brown bear viewing guide in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska each summer. The peak time to watch the bears fishing lasts only a few weeks every August. On one rare night off, I knew I wanted to utilize that time to hopefully photograph some bears catching salmon. With a storm approaching over the Cook Inlet and daylight fading, I knew I didn’t have a lot of time. When I got to the river mouth, I found one of my favorite bears, “Sniper,” fishing. We called him Sniper because he was infamous for stealing fish from defenseless cubs. He also happened to be pretty good at catching his own fish, so I was happy to find him. The bears all have unique fishing techniques. Sniper typically sits patiently in the water waiting for a fish to splash. Once the fish gives away its location, he’s off and running through the water to catch it. It didn’t take long for a few salmon to break the water and Sniper was off. He came up empty on his first few attempts. Eventually, I saw a fish splash right in front of me. Sniper did too. He sprinted after it, the once serene river now in chaos as the salmon swam for its life. Within seconds Sniper covered nearly 40 yards and was on the salmon’s tail. He dove head first into the water.  From behind the camera, I hoped this attempt was a success. All the elements of a great shot were aligned, I just needed Sniper to get the salmon. The water cleared, and Sniper emerged with a fresh salmon between his teeth. The salmon released her eggs into the river as a last ditch effort to procreate. As he turned and walked directly towards me, I held down the camera’s trigger. Sniper kept walking my direction with his eyes locked on mine. Unbothered by my presence and focused on his dinner, he plopped down about 15 feet in front of where I was lying to eat. In a matter of minutes the 5 pound salmon was devoured. As he got up and walked back to the river, I took a quick peek at the photos and knew I had gotten the shot I had always imagined.

Are you taking images alone out the great outdoors?
When I’m not guiding, I usually find myself taking images alone. I don’t have many friends who are willing to do the same hike twice just to capture the best possible light, or to lay in the snow waiting for a moose to stand up. Its fine with me though, I actually prefer to be alone when I’m out photographing. It allows me to connect more with nature and I overall feel more relaxed and creative.

Have you had any encounters that were magical and frightening?
I’ve had a few encounters that got my blood pumping. Most of those instances have involved bears running out from the woods when I’m fishing. None of them have been threatening, just a bear thinking the fish I have is an easy meal. It still is nerve wracking though to be surprised by a 500 pound bear running through the water directly at you. I was also bluff charged by a moose a few years ago when it thought I was a rival bull. It stopped after a few yards, and I happily took the hint and moved on. The most magical encounter I’ve had happened my first year guiding in Alaska. Late one evening, I was on the beach heading back to the lodge with another guide, Megan. The sun had just set and the water was perfectly calm. As we cruised along in the ATV we noticed a wolf watching us from a sandy bank above the high tide line. We immediately turned off the ATV and slowly sat down in the sand. The wolf didn’t seem threatened by our presence; he simply sat there watching us.  Curiosity took over after mere minutes, and it trotted down to check us out. It slowly circled us, each time getting a little closer. My heart was beating so fast I could feel it pounding in my chest. When it was no more than 20 feet away it plopped down in the sand and continued to stare back at us. Neither of us moved a muscle. We didn’t want to frighten the wolf and end the experience. When I thought it couldn’t get any better, the wolf picked up a stick and started to play with it. It tossed it in the air just like my neighbors golden retriever would do in the backyard. After 20 minutes the wolf must have gotten bored with us and it walked away, disappearing into the tall grass.

Time is the one thing that we all share and most of us wish we had more of. I always try to make the most of my time and overall that leads me to have a pace of life that I would consider as “full”. I want to experience as much as I can and try to spend each day like it could be my last. When it comes to capturing certain photos, the normal time of everyday life essentially comes to a halt. I’ll spend countless hours waiting in the field in order to capture the photo I’ve imagined. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What spoke to you about this image?
Most of my favorite photos start off as ideas in my head and are then followed by a lot of time, effort, and a little bit of luck to capture them. I had been guiding in Alaska for three years prior to capturing this photo, so this specific image has been haunting me for a long time. I’ve captured a few that were close but there were always one or two elements that were missing, like lack of eye contact with the bear. I chose this photo for the Field Outrider contest because it finally checked all the boxes for the image I had imagined in my head.  A bear with a freshly caught salmon, walking directly towards me in some great light.

 

This Week in Photography: The SoCal Trilogy

 

I’ve watched a lot of TV, over the years.

Like, a lot.

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, there was a time when options were limited, and everyone watched more-or-less the same stuff.

I can’t tell you how many re-runs of “The Brady Bunch,” “The Addams Family,” or “The Munsters” I saw back in the day, even though I didn’t particularly love any of those shows.

 

 

There were 3 channels, and you watched what was on.

That was that.

Then came cable, and I still remember the box we had back in Jersey, with these oblong buttons you depressed, to switch among 35 options, which made me feel like a King choosing which outfit to wear, from a closet filled with thousands of fine suits.

“Oh Manfred, please hand me the gray Armani with the super-thin pinstripes. No, you idiot, not THAT gray Armani with the super-thin pinstripes! The other one!”

Later in life, when we were poaching limited cable in Brooklyn, or dealing with 4 channels from a rooftop antenna when we first moved back to New Mexico, Jessie and I occasionally watched awful stuff, as there were so few choices.

At one point, I’m embarassed to admit, we even watched “The Biggest Loser,” NBC’s fat-shaming reality show that I would certainly unsee, if only I could.

 

 

A few years ago, in a life including Dish satellite TV, but before we had any streaming services, I remember checking out the Fox sitcom “The Last Man on Earth,” starring the always brilliant Will Forte. (Dude can be funny without even talking, which is tough.)

I was intrigued from the jump, as the idea of only one person left on the planet, who could then raid all the grocery stores, drink all the vodka, and blow shit up in the middle of the street, was watchable, at first.

Then, Kristin Schaal came along, because apparently, he wasn’t REALLY the only person left alive, after a pandemic virus wiped out nearly all of humanity. (Too soon?)

She is funny as hell, and brilliant, but was definitely playing an annoying character on the show. Then more people popped up, proving the title was a lie, and once January Jones joined the cast, who is easy-on-the-eyes, but not-so-good-at-acting, (outside of her robotic Betty Draper days,) I was done.

It had become an ensemble cast, with all the regular-people-talking-to-other-people problems, and Will Forte was not enough to hold my attention.

I switched the channel, and never looked back.

“Tension creates attention,” is one of my new catch-phrases, and surprises are good, but you also have to want to engage with something, because hate-watching only works for so long.

(I mention this, while currently on a family binge of “Survivor” reruns, because my kids like it, and some days I want to poke my eyes out because the show is so terrible.)

Why am I on about all of this? When did this become a TV criticism column?

Funny you should ask.

I just finished looking at “Riviera: Photographs of Palm Springs,” by John Brian King, which was published by Spurl Editions in #2020.

I’ve told you it takes me forever to get through the book stack these days, and this one arrived last June, so it came in at a time when streets were empty, anger and fear were high, and it felt like Voldemort might really kill us all in the end.

I think John wrote to me, and I almost remember saying the book looked intriguing, and from the jump, I can see why it would have caught my eye.

We’re now in a trilogy of SoCal photo book reviews, and the last is the most flawed, though also the most compelling from a small sample.

The photographs are moody, and soft focus, with a subdued, pastel color palette, and a smattering of images that make me think of UFO’s and aliens, which will always get my attention.

However.

There are so many photos of an empty landscape, with no people, and it really does feel like humanity has been wiped away.

Post-apocalyptic for sure.

But the design features two photographs opposite each other, in the same size, page after page.

And there are a lot of pages.

(In fairness, on second viewing, I noticed that very rarely, they incorporated only one photo per spread, instead of two.)

I work with people on producing photo books these days, and am always discussing the idea that monotony will cause a viewer to lose focus.

Attention will drift, and boredom will creep in, when you come to expect, and then KNOW, what is coming next.

Good design will play with scale, and location on the page. Or mix in tension breakers, and unexpected motifs.

Maybe slip text into the mix, instead of only photos.

It’s important, IMO, to consider a viewer’s attention span, if you want to make a great book, because otherwise people will begin to flip through the pages, and you’ve lost them.

So today, I wanted to write about this book as a teachable moment.

The art is good, and the aesthetic is consistent, but I barely forced myself to make it until the end. (Which is more than I can say for that Will Forte show.)

Some of you might like this book, and that’s cool. I don’t want to be a hater.

But if you’re considering making a book yourself, (or a catalog, or a ‘zine,) please don’t be afraid to mix it up.

Play with your design, or hire someone who knows what they’re doing.

Because being creative doesn’t end when you click the shutter, make your photo edit, or finalize your color correction.

Design is a creative enterprise as well, and is so crucial to the book-making process, even if you think you can do it yourself.

To purchase “Riviera: Photographs of Palm Springs” click here

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please contact me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by women, and artists of color, so we may maintain a balanced program. 

The Art of the Personal Project: Lupine Hammack

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

Today’s featured artist:  Luppine Hammack

 

To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it.  And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

The Daily Edit – Jay Kolsch


Photographer: Jay Kolsch

Heidi: Tell us the backstory of that shoot.
Jay: I had just wrapped up a string of jobs that really sapped the spirit out of me. I was rinsed and needed a change, personal work has always been a safe place to throw myself when I felt creatively stunted. I was talking with a good buddy over some beers when he started recalling some pretty gnarly trips sledding through Canada, that was the initial spark. I love jumping head first into a world I don’t know much about and dog sledding was exactly that. Christine Walsh, a fantastic photo editor I work closely with steered me toward Kristy and Anna Berington. January in Knik, Alaska is no joke. For several days we photographed the sisters in sub zero temps using only the SUV as shelter.

How has the outdoors informed your work?
I received some really great advice early on in my career “make sure you’re passionate about what you choose to spend your time photographing”. At the time, that directly translated into “stop shooting those beauty tests you clearly hate”. We’re always told to find a way to monetize our hobbies but I was very hesitant to bring my camera with me on long weekends hiking or on climbing trips, I didn’t want to mix work and pleasure and possibly infect my love for outdoor recreation. I was wrong though, the outdoors became such an incredible frame to hold the stories of people living amazing lives and accomplishing wildly difficult goals. That has become the core of my work.

You have work in and out of the studio, do you find it hard to transition?
Actually, I’m truly at home in the studio. Before I started photographing for myself I spent several years as a first assistant running crews, assisting and lighting for other photographers. I’d spend every day making gear lists, loading trucks, creating light, problem solving… This comfort level with the space and the equipment allows me to have a smoother transition between the spontaneous work I do on location and the more planned execution of ideas in the studio. I do hope to do more work in the studio though. After spending so many years trapped on white cycs it was necessary to put some distance between me and c-stands but I have recently started to feel the pull towards designed light again.

What are you working on these days?
I didn’t do much in 2020, January through March where whirlwind months spent traveling the country and working but by mid March all of my holds had dissolved. I spent much of the year grieving the loss of my ego and realizing just how much of my self worth I had tied to jobs and photography. Mostly I felt stupid. When work finally came knocking, I made sure I  spoke up when clients asked me to put myself or others in danger and I bent over backwards for the clients who treated me like family. Recently I have found a massive creative partner in FILSON and have spent the last few months working on some truly exciting projects around the country.

What the been rewarding about your work lately?
That it’s evolving. I’m not the photographer I was three years ago and I’m certain I’ll continue to change in the future. The work of being a photographer isn’t making photographs, it’s having the courage to continue to push for something better. It’s a process and that’s what you’re seeing me go through. I started out in fashion and ended up photographing twin sisters prepping to feed their iditarod dogsled team in -23 degree weather.

Feature Promo – Ashley Sullivan

Ashley Sullivan

Who printed it?
Printed by Paper Chase Press

Who designed it?
Designed by Demetra Mazria

Tell me about the images?
I worked alongside Megan Gonzalez (Art Direction and Prop Styling) and Diana Scanlon (Food Styling) to produce this test shoot. Megan and I worked together to put together a vision board with scrap images as well as rough sketches for our shot list. It was important to us to create lighting that was reminiscent of a sunny day in the tropics– I think we succeeded! We created a set of images that had an intentional pacing, diversity in angles, and a continuous color story.

How many did you make?
300 printed.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I send out promos once or twice each calendar year.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I thoroughly enjoy the process and result of concepting and designing a printed piece. I’ve always held in high regard the idea of bringing images beyond the screen. It may stem from my background in architecture — but carving physical space for something is both a beautiful and meaningful undertaking. To that end, I take care to ensure that each element is given the attention it deserves. I chose to have this booklet saddle stitched… a detail that caused my budget to stretch a bit, but it was important to me that the elements that surround the images would be of the same caliber.

With the seemingly infinite channels of digital marketing available, creating a tactile piece feels like purposeful work. Giving the images a place to exist, creating an experience for the viewer. While it’s nearly impossible to account for the effectiveness of one specific marketing piece, I do find that printed promos are ones that clients enjoy receiving, and will often make a point of sending a note to tell me so.

This Week in Photography: A Very Different LA

 

Everyone loves a good road trip.

(It’s as American as our now-faded dream.)

Over the years, I’ve driven across the West so many times, and remember them all.

These days, which resemble Bill Murray’s tortured existence in Punxsutawney, it’s hard to make memories. Days blend into days, and I find myself saying things in the afternoon like, “Honey, did I give you your gummy vitamins this morning, or was that yesterday?”

 

At first, when I went into lockdown 11 months ago, there was a sense of open-ended uncertainty, but also faith in the system.

I remember telling a friend in April that we’d likely be able to have our retreats in August, because by then, Americans would have access to instant-at-home-tests, so we’d know in a technological moment whether we were infected or not.

(It was obviously mis-placed optimism, which is a trait with which we Americans are often associated.)

It’s much harder to make memories in this new plague-year-lifestyle, and road trips are hard to come by, as where on Earth will one find a “safe” bathroom, if one needs to poop?

But I clearly remember the time my wife and I moved out of California, in 2002, and drove through the LA basin on our way East. (I foolishly diverted down from San Francisco to drop off some art I’d sold on the way out.)

We were stuck in traffic forever, but that’s not what I remember most.

No.

Rather, when we finally made it to the outskirts, in San Bernadino, I was shocked to my core when the mountains appeared out of nowhere.

The smog was so thick, the pollution denser than the QAnon theory, that I almost gasped for breath to realize there had been mountains there all along.

How could they be so hidden from view like that?

The grind of that drive across the megalopolis stayed with me, and the last time I drove across the LA basin, heading home with the family on a road trip in 2016, we woke up at 4:30am, and hit the road by 5, so we could cruise through the place without impediment.

It was so quick the second time around that we got cocky, and stopped for a leisurely breakfast in Victorville, at a 50’s themed diner, and I ate steak in the morning for the first time.

We gave back the hour we’d saved, and ended up in a traffic jam at the Arizona state line that traumatized me deeply.

Road trips!

So when I think of LA, I think of driving, as don’t we all?

Thankfully, I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time there since the turn of the century, and have a feel for what the place is really like.

Despite the fact that I know the Westside beach communities best, I’ve seen enough to know that the glamour for which the city is known is an illusion.

Or perhaps a pocket.

There is so much endless asphalt.

So many places that don’t get our attention until things blow up, and buildings burn down.

It’s the LA of the immigrant narrative, or stories we know best from Ice Cube and Dr. Dre.

But it’s not the LA that has been packaged and sold around the world so many times.

It’s not the fame-driven economy that ultimately gave us a reality show President, even if he was from Queens. (Sorry. Now he’s a “Florida man,” as he was always meant to be.)

Last week, I featured a book that was made of and from the LA of the creators. The hipsters. Those that have a method of expression, and an audience ready to look.

And as often happens over the course of a nearly-decade-long book review column, the weeks flow together perfectly, because this morning I opened a box from Mack, in London, and something unexpected popped out.

It was “Seventy Two and One Half Miles Across Los Angeles,” by Mark Ruwedel, published in #2020.

This, my dear readers, is a book that taps into the monotonous LA reality that is there to be seen, if only one would choose to look.

If only one would step off I-10, hit the surface streets South of the big time, and pay attention to the endlessness of it all.

But apparently it’s not endless.
It’s 72 and one half miles wide.

The book doesn’t have much introductory information, beyond the title, but that alone, plus the manner in which it’s broken into sections, 12 miles a time, is enough to suggest the Eastward migration of the photographer’s camera.

And what do we see?

Shotgun shacks and highway underpasses.
Imperfectly cropped cars and sorry strip malls.

El Dorado, but not the famed village of Gold.
(Nor the fabled town from the Howard Hawks/John Wayne/James Caan western.)

There are few people, because nobody walks.

A divorce abogado charging only $499.
Drive-though burger joints.
And lots of taquerias.

(What I wouldn’t give for some proper California Mexican food right now.)

I’ve always felt that ideas tend to shift from West to East in the United States, and wrote here, with some alarm, as I watched the homelessness and environmental instability grow in California; bellwethers of Climate Change and economic inequality.

No fun.

But it’s an artist’s job to look at and process the culture, landscape, and time in which we’re living.

These pictures are often banal, because the place they were documenting is not that visually appealing.

(It’s anti-aesthetic, not Malibu.)

Then, you turn the page, and a visual masterpiece would pop out; perfect tonality and composition.

All mood; no boring.

That was a pretty cool trick in the editing.

Later on, halfway through, I remembered that I loved Mark Ruwedel’s older work of vanishing 19th century train tracks in the desert.

Sure enough, I turned the page, and there were vanishing train tracks.

I swear, it was as if they’d read my mind, which is also the sign of some great sequencing. (And attention to detail.)

Finally, we make it to smoggy San Bernadino, after some LA river aqueduct scenes that made me think of “Grease,” and we get to the final essays, which provide some context.

Apparently, the book was the brainchild of the writer Nigel Raab, who in fact walked the entire 72 and a half mile route from his home on the Southwest side of the basin, recorded it with a pedometer, and then invited Mark Ruwedel to make photos of his route. (The photographer used a car, wisely.)

The connection to Ed Ruscha’s “Every Building on the Sunset Strip” is strong, but why not, as that’s one of the seminal pieces in the History of Photography?

And Raab’s essay confirmed my read on the book in general, and the “Grease” reference in my mind, but corrected me, as it’s not the LA river, but the San Gabriel. (My bad.)

Personally, I’m looking forward to the days when I can drive around places like LA, bitching about the traffic. I learned to use the surface streets years ago, mostly to good effect, but I’ve certainly never walked very far there.

Much less 72 and one half miles.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to, because this book does it for us.

A healthy dose of distraction this morning, on another day in quarantine. (But at least the sun is out!)

To purchase “Seventy Two and One Half Miles” click here 

 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please contact me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by women, and artists of color, so we may maintain a balanced program. 

 

The Art of the Personal Project: James Payne

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

 

Today’s featured artist:  James Payne

I am fascinated by how people interact with the places they inhabit particularly in their homes and on the streets.

I grew up near Chicago IL, attended Southern Illinois University, earning a degree in Cinema and Photography in 1977.

That same year I visited New York City to attend a conference, and began shooting the people I saw on the streets there. My interest in other topics fell away and I have pursued street photography and 3D portraiture ever since. How people adapt to and transform the places they live in and interact with reveals a historical and social context that is very intriguing to me.

To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art-buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it.  And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

Featured Promo – Mike Borchard

Mike Borchard

Who printed it?
Printed by Ex Why Zed, based in the UK.

Who designed it?
It was designed by me.

Tell me about the images?
The images are from a personal project I shot in Hawaii last spring/summer. The images are made by double exposing 35mm film, shot on older Nikonos cameras. The Nikonos cameras from the 70’s & 80’s are fully self-contained waterproof units and were originally designed for underwater photography. I would shoot an entire roll of film while out in the mountains or jungle, then rewind it, reload it, and re-shoot surfing over it again.

How many did you make?
I printed a numbered run of 150.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
My goal is two promos per year, and I try to make them both more in-depth promos rather than just a postcard or a foldout. Taking a quality over quantity approach.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
Yes I do, although it can be really difficult to measure. I’ve found sending out less promos to a more targeted group that I already communicate with or want to be communicating regularly with is more effective than just mailing out a bunch of promos to a large list of people that I have zero relationships with. I also enjoy the process of creating and bringing tangible works to life, so I’m never too stressed if I don’t see a huge direct response to a promo, because I’m usually stoked on the process anyway.

This project came to exist almost purely because of COVID. Last March, my travel and work schedule was completely vaporized, and I found myself with plenty of free time. Free time that I spent experimenting with trial and error burning up countless rolls of film while dialing in the double exposure process. It felt amazing to be out creating and trying new things purely for the stoke of it. No clients, no deadlines; just some old cameras, an idea, and plenty of time.

The Daily Edit – Field Outrider: Morgan Irons

Photo by Ronan Donavon

“After the Storms”

Miron husband and wife to the hillside

Irons Braid


Field Outrider:
Art Illustration Finalist/Modern Huntsman Field Outrider Contest
Illustrator:
Morgan Irons

Heidi: I know you are self taught, when did you first start painting?
Morgan: I started painting five years ago. I was 23 years old and had moved to Bozeman, Montana that year. I grew up in Idaho without much access to galleries or artists, so it wasn’t until I started meeting them here in Bozeman that I realized it was an option. I quickly left my ‘real job’ at the hospital and devoted everything to learning how to paint. I did this mostly by looking at master paintings closely (via the internet and books in a rural cabin in Montana), studying the history of art, and cataloging the ones that I was drawn to. That catalog became my North Star, and narrowed my focus to the type of art I wanted to create. I’ve made many bad paintings over the last five years, but have had enough moments of ‘I might be onto something’ that I keep trying.

How does the pace of painting transcend into your life?
I am a very slow painter. There are no shortcuts to the type of painting I do. It requires a lot of drying time, and many layers of paint. Because of this, my time in the studio is important to me to be able to create enough paintings to meet show demands. My lifestyle is built around protecting that, I live rurally and prioritize time alone. Technology is sparse up here, and can feel disconnecting when I spend a good amount of time working with my hands on creating an object in real life.

Why did you submit that particular painting to the contest?
The painting I submitted is a family history painting, of a great uncle that ranches sheep in Idaho. They lost a herd of 50 to a lightning strike on the high desert plain. In the painting I feel a sense of stewardship, of care and responsibility over the animals. I think that question is asked often in stories told by Modern Huntsman, “What is our responsibility?”.

What are you working on these days?
I am working on works for my next solo show in June at Old Main Gallery in Bozeman, as well as a grouping of new works for Sugarlift Gallery in NYC. I am trying to balance giving myself time to explore and be curious, while still meeting deadlines. I have a few large scale works that I’ve been tinkering with for many months now, which has been a very enjoyable way to work.

What inspires you?
 I think mostly I look to old master painters for what they were trying to convey, stories that we keep telling each other. As a figurative painter, I like to think a lot about archetypes, what each figure represents, what does this agrarian landscape represent in these changing times, what are the eternal truths here? Visually I get a lot of inspiration from a mediation process I use, visualizing the scenes I have created and wondering what might I see around the corner…etc.

When you do your figurative work, what is your process?
When I compose a new painting, I will have a general idea in my head and  on paper, large shapes, then go out into the field with model(s). We will spend time arranging that scene, collaborating together on new ideas, and taking lots of photos and video. In my ideal world, when weather and model cooperation permits, I also get time on site to do little painting studies of color notes specifically. Then I take all of this reference back to the studio, take parts of scenes and put them together on a usually imagined landscape. I look for specifics of posture of the figure, universality of their shape and archetype, expression, etc., and arrange things specifically to be most effective and efficient for the human eye and brain. This is one of my favorite parts of the process.

 

This Week in Photography: A Creative Community

 

I bought a new camera recently.

At the end of #2020.

 

This might not sound like a big deal, but it was my first new system in 15 years.

Like many of you, I’d been sticking to one company, as I had a lot of lenses, but my Panasonic/Olympus equipment was locked in at the 4/3 chip size.

Over the years, (since 2005,) I’d watch as new things came to market, and then full-frame chips became the norm. Some of you love Canon, others prefer Nikon, but I was stuck with the same things I always had, and eventually I got bored.

But I could never afford to switch to a new back, much less buy a great, razor-sharp lens to replace the one I purchased in 2007, and used for all four series I included in my “Extinction Party” book.

At the end of last year, though, I saw some amazing deals on Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras, and even with a top shelf lens, the price was now less than half of what it cost to change systems a few years ago.

(I could swing it, for once.)

Still, it seemed so extravagant, so selfish, to spend money on a new camera system, instead of paying down some credit card debt.

My old system was gathering dust, and my iPhone seemed sufficient, for now.

Plus, I kind-of had an idea for a new project, (sort-of,) but nothing concrete.

Then, I spoke to one of my best friends, Caleb, who’s also a creative partner, and he encouraged me to go for it. Invest in myself. Take the plunge. (As did my wife Jessie, who also pushed me to treat myself.)

It was a tough decision, but Caleb assured me I didn’t need to know what I would do with the Sony. Going for it, doing something risky and scary, and then the natural desire to play with a new “toy” would inevitably result in a fresh creative project.

He promised me that within six months, I’d be going again on something “real,” a new project to move past the studio, conceptual, still life stuff I’d grown tired of.

And it probably wouldn’t even be the idea I was kicking around in my head.

Thankfully, he was right.

I’m not divulging details, but I’m already excited and working again, and it took less than a month with the new machine, before I had my groove.

Why am I mentioning this today?

Because I just finished reading and looking at “Exposure,” a new photo book that Carmen Chan sent me in the autumn of #2020.

It features photographs of and interviews with nine, diverse, young-ish female artists living in Los Angeles, all of whom are working in various ways, but none seem to be using a camera at present.

I mentioned it last week, and didn’t have the brain focus to dig in, but as soon as I did today, I gave it a read in one sitting.

And while each artist had things to say that differed from the others, there were so many common themes, many of which I’ve experienced in my own life. (And some of which recur here in the column as well.)

While a third of the artists had moved from hella Northern locales, likely entranced by the perfect weather, (Canada, Wisconsin and Minnesota,) and a handful were born in CA, all of them made some mention of the value of their creative community.

How their friends and fellow artists helped inspire and support them.

John Donne may have said “No man is an island,” many years ago, but no artist- male, female, or non-binary- is either.

We need each other.

Additionally, many of the women discussed the fact that they had left one medium for another, at some point, or that they openly experimented with multiple media, as different ideas need to be birthed in different forms. (In my own #2020 story, my iPhone resuscitated my interest in photography, but was not enough to help me push on in my practice.)

Finally, there was a lot of discussion of the needs of the spirit, and how art practice allowed the artists to express things inside themselves that were non-verbal, or too difficult to process by using words and direct thoughts.

As Enna Ikuta said in her interview, “Growth doesn’t come from passive stagnancy. Sometimes you have to lift up that rug and acknowledge all the crap that you swept underneath it. Everyone has a different way of doing this, feeling this, and accepting this, but I do believe it is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. I think having personal baggage is a universal experience, yet it’s not something another person can ever force you to think about.”

Beautifully stated.

Some of you have been reading this column for a long time, and know that I often encourage you to make things.

The art process offers each of us a pressure-release valve, so our emotions, and the artifacts of our Shadow, can come out in a controlled, positive way.

(When repressed emotions bubble up in people without expressive options, it leads to violence, addiction and misery.)

Making art is a win-win, because when we let our fears out, and our pain, we become healthier.

Furthermore, our artwork, the end product and the result of the process, allows us to feel pride in ourselves, or a sense of accomplishment, even if no one else sees your piece on a wall, or a pedestal.

Certainly, most-if-not-all of the female artists in this book shared some version of this theory, in their own words.

And my 13 year old, who’s been having such a hard time lately in lockdown life, wrote an amazing story this week, and his entire personality changed thereafter. (His second story followed two days later.)

Ironically, despite how often I teach these ideas, I had tried to push and cajole him to make art, to help himself.

I attempted to “force” him to do it, but of course that effort was doomed to failure.

Because as Ms. Ikuta reminded me, it doesn’t work that way. Not only is change hard, but a person has do decide to do it for him-her-or-theyself.

Hopefully, though, you’ve got friends you trust who’ll give you a nudge every now and again.

(Thanks, Caleb!)

I think you’ll dig this book, and I’ll be back again next week, as usual.

To learn more about “Exposure” click here 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please contact me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by women, and artists of color, so we may maintain a balanced program. 

The Art of the Personal Project: Jayme Halbritter

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

 

Today’s featured artist:  Jayme Halbritter

“In 1929, Wally Byam built the world’s first Airstream trailer on a Model T chassis with a tent contraption on top of it. Apparently it didn’t work well in the rain, and his wife wasn’t a fan. He replaced the tent with a teardrop shaped permanent shelter, and the blueprint of the Airstream we know today was born. In 1970, several families who were members of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International were looking for a good place to have rallies, and pooled together their funds and purchased what has become The Minnesota Airstream Park. Today it is a 125-site RV resort situated on 80 acres near St. Cloud, Minnesota. The only catch, is that to be a member, you have own an Airstream-manufactured RV. One of only 11 in the country, The Minnesota Airstream Park is as unique as the trailers themselves.”

When I was looking into doing photo stories for my website, I remembered a friend of mine had told me about this Airstream Park he was a part of, and that he thought it would make for a good photo story.  I think I said something like, “Really? There’s an RV park that’s only for Airstreams?”  Of course there is!  When I was a kid, I can remember driving in my grandpa’s 60 ft. RV heading down to their second home in Texas, and seeing these big silver trailers on the road and talking to my grandpa about how cool they where.

So my friend was able to get me access to the park, and I ended up going out there about a half dozen times over the course of the summer. Each time I went, I ended up walking around the park and randomly going up to people and telling them what I was up to. I think everyone was “warned” that I would be out there doing a photo story, but it still felt like I was doing cold calls, explaining myself, asking if I could capture some photos for my story. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and more than open to being photographed, and proudly showing me their trailers. I had never really been inside an RV park, and there was definitely something unique about it being an Airstream only park. Everyone seemed to be really proud of their little oasis they had created for themselves, and there was such a cool vibe to the place. It was like I had gotten special access to this really cute niche community that, if you didn’t know about, you didn’t know about.

To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s.  After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.  Follow her at @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it.  And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

Pricing & Negotiating: Pharmaceutical Product Shoot

Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Concept: Lifestyle content of a patient using a medical device and interacting with their caregiver

Licensing: Trade Advertising and Collateral use of up to 6 images for 2 years from first use.

Photographer: Lifestyle and portraiture specialist

Agency: Medium in size, based in the Northeast

Client: Pharmaceutical company

Here is the estimate:

Pricing and Negotiating first estimate for a Pharmaceutical company production

Creative/Licensing Fees: The agency was in need of images showing a medical product being used, along with images of a patient interacting with their caregiver and family within multiple scenarios taking place in and around a house, as well as a few outdoor scenarios as well. The exact shots were a bit TBD at the time of estimating, but we did know they wanted to end up with six final images, and they’d be used for trade advertising and collateral purposes for two years. Based on recent similar productions and a knowledge of previously palatable fees/expenses for this client, we landed on a creative/licensing fee of $7,500. It broke down to $1,250/image, which we felt was reasonable for the intended use and the given variables.

Crew: We included adequate prep, scout, shoot and wrap days for a producer to help coordinate the production, and included two assistants, one of which would also attend the scout day. Additionally we included a digital tech on the shoot day and a PA to help with prep/shoot/wrap as well.

Styling: We would only be capturing one main hero talent, and three others, and we were confident that one hair/makeup stylist could handle that without an assistant. In an effort to reduce people on set, we combined the roles of wardrobe stylist and prop stylist, and included adequate shopping time in addition to the shoot and time to return the items procured, while providing them with two assistants to lend a hand. We included $500 per talent for wardrobe, and $2,250 for props, however we marked that as TBD since the shot list was still under development and the final scenarios would dictate the exact prop needs/costs. We also included $500 for stylist kit fees, shipping and misc. expenses.

Health and Safety: I’ve started to break out all things related specifically to COVID protocols and prevention into a new category when estimating projects, and here I added 2 days for our CCO, as she’d join us on the tech/scout and the shoot day, and $300 to cover PPE and supplies. I’ve found that $300-$500 is an appropriate amount for PPE and cleaning supplies for a shoot this size.

Casting and Talent: We had to find one main adult hero talent to portray a patient, a secondary adult talent to portray their caregiver, and two children to portray grandchildren. The casting agent we worked with would hold virtual casting sessions remotely, rather than have talent attend an in-person casting session, and I knew this price would cover their time for at least 2 days work of casting to help find the talent we needed. I included $1,800/day, which was appropriate for this particular market based on the usage.

Locations: Since the shot list was still a work in progress, it was a bit of a challenge to estimate location scouting and location fees, but I felt confident that we had enough time/money built in to handle the anticipated request of finding a residential property and a couple nearby outdoor locations. We also included $1,000 for location cleaning to address the anticipated concerns from the homeowners regarding COVID.

Vehicles: In order to try and keep the bottom line down, I marked a production RV as TBD, as there was a chance we could use the house and the exterior locations as a staging area, rather than an RV. I also added modest funds for van rentals to help with equipment and supplies.

Equipment: I included $1,000 for the photographer’s gear, $750 for the digital tech’s workstation, and $500 for production supplies such as tables, chairs, tents, heaters, etc.

Meals: I included $75 per person for breakfast and lunch

Misc.: To address potential mileage, additional meals and miscellaneous expenses that might arise, I added $500. I also included $300 for insurance.

Post Production: I included $500 for the photographer’s time to go through the images and make initial edits and provide a gallery of content to the client, and then $200/image for 6 images to handle the retouching.

Feedback: The numbers were well received, however we were informed that they wanted to add a video component to the project. They weren’t sure exactly what would need to be captured, but they asked for a quote and told us they had an extra $15k budgeted for it.

Here is the quote we provided:

Pricing and Negotiating first estimate for a Pharmaceutical company production

Crew: We got a quote from a local team and consolidated their numbers into this bid. We anticipated bringing on a DP, along with one or two assistants.

Casting and Talent: We increased the talent fees by an extra $500+20% to account for the video usage.

Vehicles: Now that we had extra crew with the video team and a padded budget, I took the opportunity to add the production RV into the estimate as I felt it would be necessary.

Equipment: This covered the minimal gear rented from the videographer.

Meals: We added a small amount to include extra meals for the additional crew.

Misc.: I added $800 to cover miscellaneous expenses that might arise.

Overtime: Now that we planned to shoot video, I felt that the time necessary to do so would cause us to go past a 10-hour shoot day, so I included an extra hour for everyone involved with the production, billed at time and a half.

Results: The photographer was awarded the job.

 

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing a project, please give us a call at 610.260.0200 or reach out. We’re available to help with any and all pricing and negotiating needs—from small stock sales to large ad campaigns.