Andrew Zuckerman has a great new book coming out called Wisdom and instead of just announcing it on his portfolio site he created a whole new website for the book (here). In fact he’s done that with his other projects as well: Creatures (here) and High Falls the movie (here).

I also noticed that Phil Toledano does the same with his projects, Phone Sex Operators (here) and Days With My Father (here).

Finally, Anthony Georgis showed me his new project called Blood Makes The Grass Grow and it has its own url (here).

Emerging trend or passing fad?

I’m into it. I don’t think it’s necessary to hang everything off the same url anymore. The better search becomes and the more that people are talking about photography and photographers online the less likely people will find you by simply typing your url into the browser. What I really like about it tho is how easy the work is to pass along now and how it suddenly doesn’t exist as just a portfolio piece but instead becomes a finished product. This is how things spread and turn up in unlikely places and get discovered by people who otherwise would never know your name.

This is the hardest thing for media companies to understand. They think about the brand and about making sure everything is in one place where it can be controlled, but that actually ends up preventing people from running into you in unlikely places and therefore prevents casual readers from discovering a piece that’s relevant to them. The casual readers are who’s leaving magazines because it’s just not worth the effort anymore for the 1 or 2 stories that you found interesting and because it’s more convenient to find them online. You can capture them back again if you are willing to let the content go free and roam around unlikely places to be discovered.

Anyway, it makes me think about the lists I make and the projects I’ve done with photographers. I think it would be cool to do a few things and then set them free and see where they turn up, who runs into them and how popular they might become.

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  1. I’m torn about this. Movie people have been doing this for a long time now, and just recently, I was looking for one such site (the movie was just four years old), and the site was already gone – apparently because they hadn’t bothered to register the domain for long. I think it just looks bad when you go back, and there is nothing but some internet registrar’s goofy website (which might or might not even contain semi-pornographic stuff) – what does that say about how much the makers of the movie/book care about their work?

  2. I agree! You can bump into many more people if you spread your wings wide. Micro sites are a great way to branch out in other directions.

  3. Oh, these things are good if the photographer is trying to get a book deal, trying to pitch a big long term project to clients, or trying to promote a project. Or if their project may potentially be a form of commercial suicide. But…I kind of thing p.e’s like to see everything a photographer is up to, you think?

  4. Its definitely a good idea for the people using them in the examples you gave. It costs next to nothing to host and purchase a domain, so having it up for a few years shouldn’t be an issue. You can always segway into a site removal by taking down the content and just have the site forwarding to your maine website so visitors get the idea the site is done with and will stop visiting.

    It is important to get yourself in front of as many people and audiances as you can and this definitely helps. Thats one reason so many of us have blogs. I also have to say I really like the multimedia aspect of these sites. We hear over and over again about its importance on the web and its becoming undeniable. These sites are a form of self-publishing in themselves.

  5. The Zuckerman site is great. I love the use of video as soon as the site opens.

    I agree with Timothy that potential clients/PEs probably like to see things on 1 site, BUT if you have a separate project site that starts generating buzz/getting viral, then you’ll probably attract people who never would have found your site in the first place (obviously linking back to your site is important).

  6. Micro sites are definitely making a come back…as websites get more affordable and easy to use, we will certainly be seeing more of this old trend. Having more touchpoints on the web can only bring more traffic, especially in niche markets.

  7. Yeah, I do think all the portfolio material should be in one place for quick viewing and access and it’s probably better to not link off to other urls to show work so it’s not confusing but then I’m thinking projects can be repackaged and sent off…

    I was just thinking about how you might have a very specific body of work that you really own the market on, like for example you visit the same fly fishing lodge every year and have all these incredible photos of this one specific thing. Then why not make a page and set it out there so when people are looking for pictures of flyfishing lodges, or want to scout that lodge or someone wants to show their friends the best lodge they’ve ever been to, there it is. It might lead somewhere.

  8. Anyone who has taken Mary Virginia Swanson’s lectures knows this is an art community trend (preference? sign of serious dedication to the body of work?) for artists to create separate websites for their exhibitions and art books. It has to do with recall of the name of the exhibition or book and not just relying on the collectors/visitors remembering the name of the photographer.

  9. It might be a trend but I’m not sure how new it is. Rick Smolan started using unique URLS for photo book projects a long time ago (i.e., DITL books and America 24/7). In the late 90s we built sites for Penguin using titles as the URL to launch books by Stephen King and Tom Clancy. They had interactive games, contests and chapters not found in the published editions. For top selling photographers and authors this works well because publishers spend significant marketing and advertising $$ on their books. Those promos include the special URL and a promise that if you go to the site, you get free stuff, even if that’s just new or revamped content. As noted above, this is done with nearly all motion pictures.

    Otherwise, having a separate site named for a book is basically the online equivalent of a press release or BLAD. To make the site successful, you’ll need to sweeten the pot so with some reward you won’t get anywhere else. The da Vinici code’s “Quest Challenge” comes to mind. Anyway, Zuckerman has done this well but if we hadn’t heard about it from APE…

  10. These sites can definitely be a great marketing tool in terms of having a crisp and clean presentation.

    But there are SEO implications, so there’s a careful trade-off between the presentation and the traffic sources. If you have a plan for getting visibility for this which doesn’t rely on search, it’s definitely the way to go. That means you have to have other sites or means of creating buzz for your project.

    And while I agree that search is getting better, there are two fundamental SEO issues, that are not a question of time or will likely not go away: search engines consider age and trust in a domain. If you start with a brand new domain name, many search engines will take a wait and see approach. You can eventually overcome this, and if your timeline to market the project is long-term, rather than short-term, you’re ok as long as you have no inflated expectations. The second issue is that search engines consider how often the content of a site is getting updated – a freshness factor. If your project is part of a larger site which gets regular updates, no problem. But a micro site that gets created and then is likely a read-only piece of content, will as a whole rank poorly on freshness. That may not help it with search engines.

    So there are pros and cons to either approach, but I wouldn’t underestimate the headwinds you face on the search front.

  11. Lisa M. Robinson also did this for her ‘Snowbound’ book. It’s a nice site.

  12. The ‘Wisdom’ site by Zuckerman is great. The design of the website follows the lighting and setup of the video and the portraits in the book. I wonder if the book can keep up with the video…? ;-)

  13. When Joel Meyerowitz did have a look at my folio another aspect of this theme (running different websites) was brought to my attention.
    He told me that my folio is mainly towards commercial work (he is right about that) and that fact will potentially ‘scare’ all the ‘art interested people’ (art buyers, galleries, etc..) at first glance.
    My conclusion on his advice: to establish another website with only the art related stuff on it. Keeping it separated from the other stuff and guiding the art people to this site only. In other words: running another (second) ‘identity’.

    People are always very quick on ‘categorizing’. In fact, they love to do it.
    They arrive at a site , look at the first images and – depending on the type of images that come up first – categorize you …

    Ahhh … a nude photographer … or a wildlife photographer … ah, ‘only’ black and white stuff … or portrait … or wedding … or whatever …

    And, of course … ah, a lot of commercial thingos … s/he cant be a serious artist …

    If you run some sort of stats (website) you will find out that most people take a look at 3 to 5 (on average) images only before they leave. So, maybe, you like to be selective what comes up first.

    Of course, things are a bit different when you are a brand already.

    However …
    sorry for bad english .. I’m not a native speaker

    Best, Reini

  14. Sub domains work really well for me. You can focus on a topic or create an entirely different look. Plus, it works really well with SEO efforts.


  15. I’ve always liked websites as public installation.

    I like the way a good one can be found (like street art or guerrilla performance) and many people never even know who created it.

    I’ve definitely played with them a lot in my recent work.

  16. I’ve gone the separate site route for a large block of my work, a niche speciality in Pacific Northwest wildflowers. I took all the content of the book I photographed and co-authored (Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, Timber Press, 2006) and created a fully searchable site with a huge amount of content at <a href=”” target=”_blank”. It’s not a high-traffic site and hasn’t generated new work yet, but I’m in this for the long haul. I’ve added new material to the site throughout this summer and now have over 8,000 images online.

    How many individual website should a photographer have? I don’t think I’ll get carried away, but I believe focusing the visitor’s attention on a specialty is a good plan.


  17. todd selby’s theselby project ( is another great example of this. he’s constantly updating and adding new work you can subscribe for email updates and/or rss feed.

  18. Ryan Robinson has done this for both of his ongoing projects. check the links on his main site.

  19. This is a good idea in theory, but I wouldn’t do it for anything unprofitable as what I put on the web I want to stick around forever, with the same URLs. Verisign collects $6.86 per year per domain, and they continue raising it a few percent every year. Registrars charge $9 or $10 per year to make a profit.

    I could see keeping something like for 100 years, but might not last more than 10.

    The other problem is that most content management systems aren’t designed to span multiple domains, so you can’t keep a consistent look between sites. They basically become islands. Also, your search rankings are fragmented.

    If you want a collection of islands instead of a cohesive whole, single-purpose domains are fine.

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