…my belief is that we are still in the early innings of this digital photography craze, so if you’re tired of the meme, brace yourself because it will take years to unfold, and if you’re excited about this future, it’s a great time to get your hands dirty.
1. The creative industry operates largely by holding ‘creative’ people ransom to their own self-image, precarious sense of self-worth, and fragile – if occasionally out of control ego. We tend to set ourselves impossibly high standards, and are invariably our own toughest critics. Satisfying our own lofty demands is usually a lot harder than appeasing any client, who in my experience tend to have disappointingly low expectations. Most artists and designers I know would rather work all night than turn in a sub-standard job. It is a universal truth that all artists think they a frauds and charlatans, and live in constant fear of being exposed. We believe by working harder than anyone else we can evaded detection. The bean-counters rumbled this centuries ago and have been profitably exploiting this weakness ever since. You don’t have to drive creative folk like most workers. They drive themselves. Just wind ‘em up and let ‘em go.
2. Truly creative people tend not to be motivated by money. That’s why so few of us have any. The riches we crave are acknowledgment and appreciation of the ideas that we have and the things that we make. A simple but sincere “That’s quite good.” from someone who’s opinion we respect (usually a fellow artisan) is worth infinitely more than any pay-rise or bonus. Again, our industry masters cleverly exploit this insecurity and vanity by offering glamorous but worthless trinkets and elaborately staged award schemes to keep the artists focused and motivated. Like so many demented magpies we flock around the shiny things and would peck each others eyes out to have more than anyone else. Handing out the odd gold statuette is a whole lot cheaper than dishing out stock certificates or board seats.
3. The compulsion to create is unstoppable. It’s a need that has to be filled. I’ve barely ‘worked’ in any meaningful way for half a year, but every day I find myself driven to ‘make’ something. Take photographs. Draw. Write. Make bad music. It’s just an itch than needs to be scratched. Apart from the occasional severed ear or descent into fecal-eating dementia the creative impulse is mostly little more than a quaint eccentricity. But introduce this mostly benign neurosis into a commercial context.. well that way, my friends lies misery and madness.
This hybridisation of the arts and business is nothing new of course – it’s been going on for centuries – but they have always been uncomfortable bed-fellows. But even artists have to eat, and the fuel of commerce and industry is innovation and novelty. Hey! Let’s trade. “Will work for food!” as the street-beggars sign says.
This Faustian pact has been the undoing of many great artists, many more journeymen and more than a few of my good friends. Add to this volatile mixture the powerful accelerant of emerging digital technology and all hell breaks loose. What I have witnessed happening in the last twenty years is the aesthetic equivalent of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. The wholesale industrialization and mechanistation of the creative process. Our ad agencies, design groups, film and music studios have gone from being cottage industries and guilds of craftsmen and women, essentially unchanged from the middle-ages, to dark sattanic mills of mass production. Ideas themselves have become just another disposable commodity to be supplied to order by the lowest bidder. As soon as they figure out a way of outsourcing thinking to China they won’t think twice. Believe me.
So where does that leave the artists and artisans? Well, up a watercolour of shit creek without a painbrush. That one thing that we prize and value above all else – the idea – turns out to be just another plastic gizmo or widget to be touted and traded. And to add insult to injury we now have to create them not in our own tine, but according to the quota and the production schedule. “We need six concepts to show the client first thing in the morning, he’s going on holiday. Don’t waste too much time on them though, it’s only meeting-fodder. He’s only paying for one so they don’t all have to be good, just knock something up. You know the drill. Oh, and one more thing. His favourite color is green. Rightho! See you in the morning then… I’m off to the Groucho Club.”
–Linds Redding, a former Saatchi and BBDO art director, died of Cancer in October age 52.
“Power down. Lock up and go home and kiss your wife and kids.”
I signed up for Instagram a few months ago. As ridiculous as it sounds, I use my Ipad to shoot the photographs. It’s a crappy camera, but what I love most is that I see something, reach for the tablet, and make a picture. It’s perfectly unprecious, and I appreciate that the platform engenders occasional creativity in me, nothing more.
Normally I stay away from the day-to-day controversies in cyberworld, but this Instagram Term of Service kerfuffle is too good to pass up. We can all be as outraged as we like, and feel free to think that way. (Which comes first, I wonder, the liquor or the pitchforks? Wouldn’t you have drink first before you went out to hunt Frankenstein’s monster?)
Can we not acknowledge the silliness of trying to commodify the random, meaningless little compositions we create? If there are billions of these things (photos) getting made every day, how much could any one of them truly be worth? Value is traditionally derived from scarcity, for heaven’s sake.
How much money do you expect to lose when Instagram charges some dumb company $.00037 to put their ad next to your filtered photo? Does anyone actually think they’ll be denied untold riches from Mr. Zuckerberg’s secret vault? (I’ll have the rubies, thank you.)
Rather than focus on the news cycle, though, I wanted to write this last column of the year with a more important message. In the time I’ve been writing here, (2.5 years,) it seems as if the publication industry has started to stabilize, as has the American economy. So, many of you are off the proverbial ledge, worrying about how to pay the mortgage. At least, I hope that’s true.
So, for 2013, as we all emerge from perma-fear-mode, why not take a risk? Try something new. Learn a new skill. Make a conscious effort to improve yourself, and your knowledge base. Embrace the New Year with a sense of opportunity, rather than fear. (And of course I’ll try to do the same.)
Why am I off on this rant today? Why no mention of the wife and kids? Because I just finished looking at Alec Soth’s “Looking for Love 1996,” published by Kominek, and it seemed like the perfect catalyst for a “stretch yourself” message today. (Plus, that was the year I graduated college and took up photography, so I couldn’t resist the chance to wax philosophical.)
According to the text, Mr. Soth began investing in his photographic talents while working at a commercial printing facility in 1996. He would print other people’s birthday photos all day long, and then go out at night to drink and photograph away his misery. He also admits, after the statute of limitations has probably run its course, that he would make his own prints and sneak them out at night, wrapped around his legs. (Cue vision of the robot dance.)
I know Mr. Soth has many, many publications on the market. I don’t know if you should buy this one to add to your collection. That’s up to you. But his photographic style, though raw, is certainly on display here. He walks the line between pathos and poking fun at people. The photos display an eye for detail, and the ability to celebrate the awkward moment, rather than gut it like a branzino destined for the grill.
There is a bit of a time capsule feel to the book. It’s all in black and white, which is not the way we know Mr. Soth’s best work. It really is a cool little object, and ends with a dorktastic self-portrait. The artist, lacking his now-famous beard, lounges back in a tuxedo, sans jacket and bow-tie. The look in his eye is a bit doofy, but you can definitely sense the beginning of some serious confidence. (What the f-ck are you looking at?)
Let’s all take inspiration from Mr. Soth’s journey. Let 2013 be the time when you too try to build something fresh. I’m not advocating theft, per se. But my New Year’s wishes for you are clear. I hope, this time next year, that you find yourself fulfilled, and capable of new and dynamic things.
Bottom Line: Very cool collection of the artist’s early work
We have given much to the world. The successive invasions here have been nothing more than a brief interlude on the scale of our history and that of humanity. The fears of the end of the world are merely one interpretation of our calendar that is reflective of a state of mind.
Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
I came across this ad for Mercedes Benz shot by Philip Rostron instilproductions.com and thought this was the perfect ad to feature this week. Happy Holidays to all and safe travels. Here’s to 2013! May it brings you all things great!
Suzanne: I was surprised you were able to get Santa Claus as the talent for this campaign. So I would assume you are on the nice list?
Does blackmail disqualify me from the nice list? I may have persuaded Mr. Claus to participate in the campaign through, shall we say, unorthodox methods involving a black envelope – the contents of which will remain undisclosed, but, would put Santa on the naughty list.
Suzanne: I was an art buyer for Mercedes and the cost consultants were really tough. How were able to get them to approve talent coming from The North Pole?
Thankfully Mr. Claus was able to take care of his own airfare. We just had to pay for the fuel… 75lbs of oats, 50lbs of apples, and 25lbs of carrots.
Suzanne: Besides having a animal wrangler, did you have to hire a special clean up person?
We were able to convince Santa to spare a couple of elves. It’s a little known fact that elves are equally good with a poop scoop as they are with their tools. It did require some tough negotiating though, seeing as it is their busiest time of year. I didn’t want to pull out the black envelope again in fear of being placed permanently on the naughty list; instead, I bribed him with rum and eggnog and double chocolate chunk cookies.
Suzanne: I see Rudolph was not at the shoot, was this because Santa wanted him to rest for the Big Night since he does guide the sleigh?
I don’t want to ‘claus’ alarm here, but I overheard Donner and Blitzer snickering about Rudolph getting injured while training for the 2013 Reindeer Games. I hear Rudolph takes the games very seriously, almost as seriously as leader of the sleigh. When I approached Santa to inquire about Rudolph’s condition, his publicist, Mrs. Claus, was quick to deny the rumors saying the reindeer still like to laugh and call him names.
Suzanne: Were you surprised that Santa was able to leave the workshop so close to the holidays? Do you think this is because he has all his elves working on all the gifts? I would assume he had to check in with them several times during the shoot?
I’ll simply say, I hope he has a good long distance plan.
Suzanne: Did Santa have special requests for craft services?
Mrs. Claus has him on a strict diet. He has to slim down if he’s going to fit down all of those chimneys. I may have slipped him a cookie or two… Mrs. Claus was busy dispelling the injured Rudolf rumours that had started to take flight.
Suzanne: I see on your website that you have done a lot of award winning ads, do you think this helped you secure such famous talent who doesn’t like to seen out in public?
The black envelope aside, it would be nice to think that my previous work and reputation also played a part in securing Mr. Claus’ appearance. I’m thankful of the creative ideas that are brought in to us from prestigious clients and visionary art directors and I’m as excited as a kid on Christmas morning to be able to actualize these ideas.
Suzanne: I think we should add on the question about Santa being on set with you that he had Hanukkah Harry supervising the elves!
Supposedly, Santa has Hanukkah Harry on elf supervising duties. It wasn’t his ￼first choice, but the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy were both unavailable. I think
￼the majority of Santa’s phone calls were to check up on Harry rather than the elves. Harry keeps feeding the elves potato pancakes and those delicious deep fried donuts filled with jelly and tossed in icing sugar. It’s having a major effect on productivity, elves aren’t accustomed to all those fats and sugars, you know. I also overheard that Harry is distracting the elves by making them learn the lyrics to Ma’oz Tzur. Santa had to send Mrs. Claus back to the North Pole to relieve Hanukkah Harry and get the elves back on schedule.
Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.
Philip Rostron, photographer and digital imager, is one of the leading commercial photographers at the forefront of the industry. Starting his career in his native country, England, Philip soon moved to Canada where he founded the Toronto- based production studio Instil Productions. Through his renowned creativity and backed by a dedicated team of imagers, assistants and producers, Philip and his company have developed a strong reputation across North America and Europe.
Praised for his collaborative approach and problem solving abilities, Philip delivers quality and exciting results that raise the bar for industry standards. With countless awards from Cannes Lions, D&AD Global, Communication Arts, New York Art Director Club, Marketing, London International’s and Clio. Philip’s work has been showcased in Lürzer’s Archive 200 Best photographers Worldwide for the past three years. Some of his clients include: Coca-Cola, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Molson Breweries, Olympus, Rogers, Sony, Tim Horton’s and World Wildlife Fund.
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information. Follow her@SuzanneSease.
I have really enjoyed using Instagram (although the recent upgrade deleted my favorite filter). I understand it is free and you must make money. I am actually fine with you using some of my images to make money. It is a fair trade. I just don’t understand why you cannot ask permission and do it all above board.
I’ve been extremely fortunate recently. It hasn’t always been that way. I entered many a contest and didn’t win in my early years. At times I got discouraged, but it was a learning process. I studied what was winning, not to imitate, but to better understand our craft and good storytelling. Photo contests give me an opportunity to look at myself. To ask, “What have I done this past year?” It’s a chance to be introspective and analyze my work to help me make good decisions about creating better images and better stories.
I have a dirty little secret. Photography is not my favorite medium. I have equal love for Painting, Sculpture and Cinema, which inspire me greatly as an artist. Perhaps they should take away my cool-guy-photographer club membership?
But when in professorial mode, my first lectures are always about the magic of photography’s essence. Light and time. Harnessing powerful elements of the Universe. Freezing people and moments, forever. Thinking about that gets me every time.
Unfortunately, a by-product of living in a time of unprecedented image saturation, I’d be hard pressed to say I see that magic within the rectangle, very often. I see a lot of photographs in my line of work, and then we all do via our massive media addiction. We’re all drowning.
Fortunately, when I was in San Francisco earlier this year, I visited the Legion of Honor Museum on the edge of the Presidio. The gorgeous, resplendent building abuts a golf course, and sits above the rocky cliffs jutting up from the Bay. The fog was thick, sitting in a bank that touched the tops of the Eucalyptus trees.
I didn’t even know the museum existed, but there were banners plastered around the city, promising a Man Ray/Lee Miller exhibition. That was enough to draw me. Who wouldn’t want to see his work? I’d heard of Ms. Miller before, but didn’t know her work or backstory at all.
Down some old-school-curved-stone stairs, with vaulted arches hard at work, the exhibit was in the bowels of the historical building. Did it used to be someone’s mansion? What was the history? I didn’t have a chance to find out, as the museum was about to close when I arrived.
Time to cut to the chase. The gorgeous Ms. Miller stole the show, as well as my heart. Wow. What a presence. And through the exhibition, it was clear that my name is only last on a very long list of the infatuated that included Man Ray, Picasso, and probably every man she met in Europe before World War II.
She was tall and blonde, with striking blue eyes. Ms. Miller was beautiful the way Grace Kelly was beautiful. Just the perfect, Upper Class-looking WASP goddess. Normally not my type.
She exuded a kind of wounded, cold, intelligent reserve. Bottled up, statuesque. In fact, early in the exhibition, there are a couple of photographs of her playing a statue in a Cocteau film. The verisimilitude was off-the-chains.
Her photographs begin in the second room, alongside of Man Ray’s. It seems as if the show has been designed to show her off, as she is better represented than he. And subsequent rooms show only her work, and the work of others who were inspired by her.
Man Ray’s photographs of Lee Miller amp up the sexuality. He fetishizes her, and when you see the portraits of him, you can understand his excitement that he got to have sex with her at all. In her self-portraits, though, she is subdued and classical, her intellect beaming out. Two completely different visions of the same woman.
I’m still weirded out that I had powerful urges towards someone I knew to be dead. The whole notion of freezing time, of encoding moments from the rush of history, was foremost in my thoughts. In the bowels of this old museum, on a misty late afternoon, it was almost as if there were ghosts about. (Let’s hope she’s young and hot as a ghost. I’ve no interest in the 70 year old Lee Miller haunting my dreams.)
OK, the photographs are what this 2nd Annual column is supposed to be about. Ms. Miller had one image of breasts that had been lopped off in a mastectomy. Just sitting there. Right below a photo of dead rats hanging in a shop window. Of their moment, as surrealism, they screamed of the dark soul looming within the model’s body.
And she was also tough enough to go into the Concentration Camps after the end of the War. Her photos of German officer’s bodies, after suicide, reeked of that same Surrealist training. She knew from absurd, which was a fine a response as any to the atrocities, the death and destruction. Crazy photographs. Crazy. Together, they were definitely the best photographs I saw this year that I haven’t already written about yet.
Man Ray and Lee Miller eventually broke up. She married an Englishman. I have her biography on the shelf, given to me by a friend, but I haven’t opened yet. (I’ll get there.) This friend, in the know, told me that Lee Miller had been sexually abused as a child. Common knowledge, apparently.
Upon hearing that morsel, it all fit. I’d known something was wrong with her all along. That’s why I was so smitten. In those years that she and Man Ray documented, she had it all. The looks. The brains. The creativity. And the soul scars that seared her humanity into celluloid.
Instagram issued a new Terms of Service yesterday (here) that will allow the company to use your photos commercially without any compensation to you:
Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.
You have until January 16, 2013 to opt out and delete your account.
I also found this next part troubling:
posting and use of your Content on or through the Service does not violate, misappropriate or infringe on the rights of any third party, including, without limitation, privacy rights, publicity rights, copyrights, trademark and/or other intellectual property rights; (iii) you agree to pay for all royalties, fees, and any other monies owed by reason of Content you post on or through the Service;
Couple thoughts on this beyond the obvious WTF that many of you who use the service and sell images professionally will have.
According to Cnet, once the deadline has passed you’ve given them a license and irrevocable right to sell any images you’ve uploaded in perpetuity.
Facebook paid 1 billion dollars for Instagram which came out to be $30 per user. Selling everyone’s photos seems like an easy way to make all that money back.
At over 1 Billion images and counting, doesn’t this make Instagram the largest stock photo agency in the world?
Most companies require royalty free worldwide licenses to your images in order to display them on your account and move them around the world on their servers. This is the first time I’ve seen a license to display images commercially. It can’t possibly stand up to the anger they’re about to experience. On the other hand a billion dollars is a lot of money. This will get them there faster than anything else. Could this be a shift in “free” services who want multi-billion dollar valuations and exits for their investors? This could just be the beginning.
UPDATE: Statement from Kevin Systrom co-founder, Instagram (here)
The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time.
Google announced Tuesday that the number of requests it receives each week to remove links to allegedly infringing websites in its search results has grown ten-fold over the past six months.
When asked about the spike in take-down requests, a Google spokesperson said they believe some of the increase is from Google streamlining the process to submit requests, and also due in part to copyright owners using more sophisticated tools to identify piracy and send notices to Google.
It’s late at night, and very dark. The street lamps around you are half-broken. You could be anywhere in Eastern Europe. Let’s say it’s Warsaw.
The rain comes down, cold and painful. It’s half-frozen; not quite snow. The worst. You feel the wet chill deep in your bones, and the slick cobblestones beneath your feet. The tread on your boots is worn, so you have to walk less quickly than you might like. Is this neighborhood dangerous?
Up ahead, a shadow takes form. Just a person, walking in your direction. Nothing to worry about. Two blocks becomes one, and suddenly you can make out some details. It’s a white dude with a nose that’s been broken. He’s big. 6’2″? His jangly leather jacket is tight, so you can see that his muscles are enormous.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Do you feel threatened? Are you afraid of getting mugged? Or is your blood flowing for another reason? Is he cute? Does he look like he wants to hook up? Wait, what’s going on here?
Exactly what I was wondering when I looked at “Fifteen Minutes With You,” a new small hard-cover book by Itai Doron, from Omoplata in Japan. The jacket image, of a muscly white guy taking off his wife-beater while staring threatening daggers at the camera…that’s the gist of it. (Honest to god, I just wrote Ass instead of All as the first word of the next sentence I was about to write. Freudian slip.)
The whole book is a series of thuggish, Eastern European-looking white men, mostly half-naked. They’re taking off items of clothes, holding weapons, or punching, while wearing boxing gloves. What? There’s little overt nudity, just one butt at the end of the book.
But what the f-ck is going on here? The guys look like they want to beat the shit out of the photographer most of the time, but sometimes like they want to make out. As the eroticism is not meant for me, I find it ironic and campy and intelligent. Like images from some 1981 KGB-Christmas-calender-gone-wrong that got its maker dropped in the gulag. Forever.
The pictures are ambiguous and strange. There is no text, no explanation of who these guys are, or where, or why this whole book was published, for starters. Just these weird, thug-porn-meets-MMA-fighter-pseudo-documentary photographs. Only at the end do we get a title sheet, with the names, locations and dates. (Of course it’s Eastern Europe.)
Meager context, but that’s what makes the thing fascinating for me. From the minute I opened the cover, I was constantly trying to figure out the puzzle, while also thinking about all the weird ways that masculinity can be symbologized in 2012. So next time you bump into Miroslav from Bulgaria, keep an open mind.