Curators of festivals are all working for the cultural industry, and as an industry they’re obsessed with being the first to show someone’s work. It’s the competitive spirit applied to culture. For me, the essence of photography is to share. This is why it’s so popular and so democratic.
I can understand the cultural industry point of view. You care about how many people will come see your show. I used to have this conversation with gallerist friends: How do you legitimize photography? They would say: You have a limited edition of three prints, and one artist’s proof. But to me this is not the real essence of photography.
It’s cold and grey outside. A wet wind whistles in from the West. Summer’s sultry sun is gone, taking with it the long, languid days. (And the afternoon-delight-style naps are gone as well.) Soon enough, my nose will freeze and my toes will cry as I cram them into my snow boots. Winter is long in the Rockies.
Fortunately, I have an antidote. I fire up the teleportation machine, as it needs a few minutes to warm up. (Don’t we all.) Then, I step inside the lexan booth, enter the encrypted security code, say a prayer, and push the button. Poof.
I emerge, almost immediately, in a purple/yellow/green field. Trees sway gently in the breeze, which carries whiffs of garlic shrimp, bitter coffee, and roasting peppers. It’s quiet; the grass soft beneath my feet. At first I am alone, at the edge of the woods. Intermittently, I am joined by passing wanderers: a man and his daughter, two young-ish boys heading deeper into a tryst, a pair of gypsy children.
The light needs a camera for proper description. The colors are not natural, but only because the remnants of sun’s castoff rays commingle with the light pollution at the margins of the city. Which city? On the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, I’m not sure it matters. The teleportation device’s range is notoriously broad, like a pre-smart Navy missile, so it could be any number of places.
Fortunately, with a 5 year old at home, I’m skilled at pretend. Today, I owe my lingering daydream to a quiet, little soft-cover book, “In the fields of gold,” by Miquel LLonch. It was recently published by Poursuite, with support from the cultural board of Terrassa.
The book is slim and delicate, but not in the kind of way that makes you worry about ruining it. The inside flap has a short statement, in French and English, explaining that the artist is a child of the Mediterranean, and hopes to live and die there like his forebears. Keep the integrity of the tribe and all.
Then, we’re right into the photographs, remnants of twilight walks at the edge of the city, which remains unnamed. As I’ve said before, if an artist wants you to know something, he/she will give you that contextual information. So here, clearly, the exact locale was unnecessary. I’m guessing Barcelona. The book has Spanish thank you section, and the artist’s name seems Catalan to me.
As to the photographs, there are exquisite landscapes mixed in with dreamy portraits of the aforementioned passers by. The people shots are nice, but it’s the landscape images that sit in my brain still. Wow, are they lovely. Mystery without menace is a difficult balance.
Are the colors real? Silly question in 2012. Everything’s subjective, whether your picture is massaged in camera via settings, in a web app via filters, or back in Old School Photoshop via color correction. The more appropriate question might be are the colors expressive? Claro que si.
Sadly, I have to give these books back. My little sojourns are temporary, and then the pictures live in my head. In this case, I’m ambivalent. Sure, I’d keep it if I could, but it’s not necessary. I can taste the salt on my tongue, feel the next-day sun on my cheeks, and relish the hangover churro as it slides down my gullet into a grumbling stomach.
Bottom Line: Pretty twilight landscapes, perfect for September
PDN: You’ve suggested elsewhere that multimedia producers should figure out what fee they want for a project, and then double it. What’s the logic of doing that?
BH: You’re always going to be asked to take less [than your asking price]. I also think that it shows that you’re serious. The time I was most successful with that tactic, not only did the client end up paying me more, but they seemed to respect me more because I was charging a lot of money.
Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
I have always been a fan of landscape photography. I have found that most the times when an agency shows a beautiful scenic they add people. I think that is why I think I like this campaign so much, it is about the beautiful scenery. This campaign is by Michael Nager who is represented by Tim Mitchell. Michael just informed Tim that the Victorinox Campaign won an IPA honorable mention. Victorinox wants to shoot 6 more stories – once again all over the world starting in Oct./Nov. 2012.
Suzanne: I went to Tim’s site and saw a lot of the landscape images with people but on his site he shows the images that are more pure scenics. Tim, have you found that the US market wants to see people in the landscapes?
Tim: Seeing people within a landscape is especially important in today’s advertising. I was drawn to Michael’s work, not only for his ability to shoot epic landscapes, but also because he can include people organically within the scene. A perfect example is the woman looking out to Half Dome in Yosemite. She’s front and center but doesn’t overpower the mystical quality of Michael’s epic landscape.
Suzanne: And with being said, it is refreshing to see this campaign showing these landscape and scenics without. How was Michael considered for this campaign?
Tim: Both Michael and I show an equal number of landscapes with and without people. Either way, you can’t miss the delicate nuances in Michael’s work and how applicable his eye was for this dream assignment.
Suzanne: Did they have very specific locations in mind or was Michael a part of the concepting process?
Tim: Shooting the original locations is a very important part of the “True Story” campaign. For example, the shrimp boat story – a galveston shrimp fisherman prevented himself from drowning by cutting his net (with his Victorinox Knife) that was holding him under water. Victorinox collected stories their customers sent in over the years and now they use these stories for their ongoing “True Story” campaign.
For this reason it was super important to fly out to Galveston, charter a shrimp boat, helicopter and shoot on the authentic location. So, to answer your question, the locations were predetermined but Michael was free to find the best way to form a campaign with ONE look through out the whole campaign.
Suzanne: Did Michael do all the location scouting?
Tim: He was working very closely with scouts from all over the world – Iceland, New York, Galveston Bay, Death Valley, Portland, Hawaii, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Zurich.
Suzanne: With the vast array of locations, how much time did Michael have to get this project completed?
Tim: Preparation Time was two weeks – shooting around the world including traveling, tech scout and shooting 27 days.
Suzanne: With security being so tight, how did you all get the airport clearance?
Tim: People at JFK were very, very nice and interested in the project – cooperative and transparent from the first moment. They did their best to make this happen with short notice. Michael discussed his creative wish list according to time and perspective and the coordinators at JFK figured out a perfect time according to the gate occupancy rate. They also checked with Government officials and after we were granted a green light everything went very fast. After 12 days of endless phone and person to person work, Michael got the permission for shooting 2 hours from a helicopter hovering over busy JFK.
Michael Nager is from a small Austrian village close to Graz on the countryside. He is the winner of several awards including the town of Berlin Art scholarship, PDN Photo Award for landscape photography in 2008 and National Geographic US Award for “best landscape photography”. He is represented in the US by Tim Mitchell.
Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.
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.
The iPhone 4s, which is nearly always located in my shirt pocket, produces (albeit for now as jpeg only) images in bright sunlight and shade nearly just as well as my first ever digital camera, purchased nearly 11 years ago in 2001 to cover the war in Afghanistan — a Nikon 1Dx. At the time it cost well over $6000 USD.
One year our elderly sports writer was driving home from a basketball game when he stumbled upon a peculiar automobile accident. Using his Kodak Instamatic, he snapped a picture of a car suspended in a tree. Though he didn’t know the first thing about F-stops and art history, the old guy managed to win the newspaper associations’s coveted award for spot news. The “real” photographers were sick with envy. That was when I leaned that most great pictures are not about artistry. If I’d been the one to photograph the car in the tree, I’d have won the award. The genius is not in technique; it is in being present.
Last Spring, I got to catch up with Asger Carlsen, the Danish artist behind the amazing 2010 book, “Wrong,” and the forthcoming Mörel project “Hester.”
Jonathan Blaustein: Why did you decide to move from Denmark to New York?
Asger Carlsen: I was working as a commercial photographer, and signed up with an agent here. They gave me a work permit, so I decided to try it out for a year. It seemed like a good idea at the time. This is five years ago.
JB: Is it the same agent you’re working with now?
AC: Yes, Casey in New York City. I signed up with them 7 years ago and that’s how I came to move to the states. The jobs we did in the beginning where more straight up assignments, but now it’s more based on my artwork ideas with a very strong post production concept to it. I even had one client in in london asking me if they had to provide the image material or if I did the photography part, so in away i’m more “material director” then a photographer. The challenge is to communicate that to the market.
Do You do commercial jobs?
JB: No, I don’t do that anymore. But everything I did was local, out here in the boonies. My skills were never such that I could have done commercial work in a major market.
AC: There is obviously great income potential to be made from the commercial industry- but ultimately I feel more related to the Art Scene and the sensitive forms of art.
JB: Yes, we all need to pay the bills.
AC: Yeah, but even maybe I’ll find something else. Teaching could be an idea, or something that could keep my creative side happy.
JB: Listen, I’ve been teaching for seven years, and the grass is always greener.
AC: Let’s say I want to spend 50% of my time doing Art, (if I could do art full-time I would do it) I could pretty much do anything. Teaching would be interesting, although the money is probably not as good.
JB: No. But it’s deep work, depending on who you’re working with. I want to start with a big question. I don’t know how much time you spend surfing the web, but I feel like there’s an idea that we hear a lot, so much so that it’s almost accepted: Every picture has already been made. Every photograph has already been shot. Every idea has already been done.
I think a lot of people believe that. I don’t. I strive to innovate, myself, but I think that anyone who looks at your book “Wrong” can’t believe that anymore.
How do you feel about innovation, and finding an original vision, as opposed to doing what everyone else is doing?
AC: It’s definitely the challenge. Like you, I’ve heard it many times before. Every picture has been taken.
When I started the project, the first couple of images, they were so different from my aesthetic, the direction that I was heading, so I didn’t show anyone the images for a whole year.
I don’t want to say that this is the newest work, and it’s so different from any other artwork you have seen. But that was the most important thing for me. The reason why I did continue that style, although I found it was not my aesthetic. It was important to me because it was new, compared to any other direction I had headed before.
So in away the innovation won over whatever problems I had with my new discovery. I also found out by working this new approach
The core of my work comes out of arrival materials or props I build in my studio. For my latest project all the materials is very short photo sessions with models done mostly in my studio.
All these photos becomes a pile of materials that I can work with in my studio. That new approach allowed me to be a hundred percent creative in my studio. Because I didn’t have to run out and find that one special picture to capture. Because I’m now mostly driven by ideas around that martial and in away it become my everyday knowledge.
JB: You say it was very different from your aesthetic, but you made it. What aesthetic of your own were you contradicting?
AC: You know, the way that you work as a photographer is that you pick a style, and then you continue down that road, and you try to stay consistent, because that’s the way you become known for a style, or get work, or become a good photographer. You can copy that style over and over.
I had a very straight style, more inspired by what they do in Germany. The Gursky, kind-of-landscapey photography.
JB: Does that loom over the Danish scene?
AC: You know, ten years ago, that was the photography that people were looking at.
AC: You know, large-scale formats, landscapes, Thomas Struth & Thomas Ruff, all those people. I’m sure you were inspired by those too.
JB: Sure. You were doing that work, showing it to the world, and then, in your little computer room, you were hiding away, working on your mad projects.
AC: I was almost embarrassed by the first two images. I didn’t show them to anyone. In the end, I thought it was more important to create these new things. Maybe they were not pretty images.
JB: No. They’re not pretty.
AC: They’re not photographic beauties, which was the aesthetic for that time. You were supposed to do really detailed landscapes. You would find this perfect viewpoint where you put up your tripod, and took these images.
JB: And I read in another interview that you were a crime scene photographer?
AC: People sometimes get that confused. I was a crime scene photographer, but that was when I was out of high school. So I was 17, and then did that for ten years.
JB: Who did you work for? A police department?
AC: Newspapers. I was a full-on newspaper photographer. I started out as an intern, and saw how it was done. Then I bought a police scanner, and would respond to the calls. Car accidents and stuff. Eventually, I did photograph a bit for the police.
JB: You’ll have to forgive me a bit here. My wife is a therapist, and my mother-in-law is a therapist, and now, being an interviewer, I’ve kind of morphed into this guy who tries to read the tea leaves. It sounds to me like there was a lot of darkness going on in your job, and in your head, and all of a sudden, it popped up out of the shadows, into this style that became “Wrong.”
AC: Certainly, there is an understanding of how those crime scene scenarios could look like. The work certainly represents my time as a newspaper photographer.
You can dig into that. You can see how I was standing in front of a car accident, photographing it. It’s just different objects.
JB: Did you photograph in Black and White for the newspapers?
AC: Yeah, it was all in Black and White. It sounds so long ago. This was the early 90s, and there was no scanners or anything, so everything was Black and White. The newspaper that I was working for, when I first started out, could only print color on the weekends.
JB: When I first saw “Wrong,” which I reviewed for photo-eye, I went to the whole sci-fi thing. They’re so techno-futuristic. William Gibson. Paul Verhoeven. I think I dropped “Total Recall” in the book review I did about it.
JB: At the same time, it’s almost like Weegee meets William Gibson. Old school, Black and White man on the scene aesthetic meets techno-futurism. A pretty original mashup.
While you’re not saying it outright, it becomes easier to see what the steps were that led you to an innovative breakthrough.
AC: For me back and white is very sculptural and that helps then become more like objects, which is part of my ambition about the work…. I have a lot of interns here, and when you talk about Black and White images, and the way they were printed, and the way you technically shot them, because you could only do certain things in a darkroom. They just don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. Do you know what I mean? The work is done that way because I understand that sense, and that quality.
JB: I have some students, and we were looking at some work last week that was really super-digi. Over-saturated, hyper-real, hopped up, textured and degraded. I talked about that, and these are younger students, and they couldn’t see it. That archive that we have in our head, of the cinematic and celluloid look, they don’t have that baseline. Their baseline is digital reality.
They can’t tell the difference between the super-saturated color look on the screen, and what you see when you walk out your door. Their brains are just different now.
AC: They are different. Do you think they understand my work differently than you understand it?
JB: Sure. I would think they have to. I showed “Wrong” to students last year, and they ate it up. Ate it up. I’m curious to see what happens when this generation of students, who has only grown up in the digi-verse, when they’re mature enough as artists to make shit that we can’t even imagine.
AC: I’m sure in ten or twenty years, the files being produced by these random Canon cameras, that’s going to be a style that people will try to copy again.
JB: The sci-fi reference in “Wrong” are so strong, and I don’t even consider myself a sci-fi geek. What did you read or see that ended up percolating into your work.
AC: I was inspired by painters, different art movements and all these obvious classical references. There’s a certain awkwardness in the work, and maybe that’s my attempt to try to fit into a photography style. Part of the reason why I became a photographer is that there was a certain loneliness in it, a searching for something. I think the work is a bit about that as well.
Trying to find my spot. Maybe I am a dark person? (Thinks about it.) I am a dark person.
JB: You certainly have it in there.
AC: I felt like an outsider when I grew up, for sure. There are certain things I’m good at, and photography is one of them. But I was not a success in school, not a success in many things, but there was this one thing I could do.
JB: So you were an artsy kid?
AC: Yeah. Maybe I said in an interview that it was my attempt to try to belong somewhere. I would say that there is some subconscious influence to the work as. That could refer to who i am and what live i lived.
JB: That sounds like something someone would say in an interview.
AC: (laughing) I’m still saying that.
JB: It’s funny, but the question was about sci-fi culture, and you didn’t really address that…
AC: Of course, I find Star Wars and stuff like that, Total Recall and Blade Runner, I find that stuff amazing, aesthetically. They’re not totally 100% perfect, but they have something else. Of course, I’m inspired by this Universe that can lead you somewhere, but is not an entirely precise realty.
JB: They do say that Science Fiction, historically, was like an Allegorical playing field. By stepping out of reality, it allowed certain authors and filmmakers to comment on a cultural moment in a way that was abstract enough to give cover to talk about real things. If we were going to say that about you, then the work casts a scathing eye on genetic modification, and the slippery slope towards cloning. The photos make it seem so real.
And yet, using the wooden legs, and bringing in the low-tech, was just badass. Do you talk about contemporary culture, when you talk about the work, or do you try to let the pictures speak for themselves. What’s your take on that?
AC: In general, I try to let them speak for themselves. People often have different interpretations of the same images. But I’m trying to be cultural commentator. If anything I’m trying to remove it from looking like contemporary. But there is a certain openness in the stories and maybe should be to explain.
JB: Ambiguity is crucial. We want to have enough information in our pictures that people really get where we’re coming from, but not so much that everything is tied up with a bow on it.
Do you have an artist statement for “Wrong?” Do you find yourself having to talk about it and write about it? That’s another buzz-worthy topic. A lot of photographers are caught in between this desire people have for us to be able to write and explain everything, as opposed to being simply visual communicators.
AC: Yes I don’t have to talk a lot about the work informs of interviews etc. I think a lot of creativity comes from a place there is hard to realize. I personally don’t always have the need to over read about why an artist made the choice of work that he did. Do you know this application Instagram?
JB: I do.
AC: Do you use it?
JB: I don’t.
AC: I use it a lot, and I think it’s an amazing application, because it’s just images. People can leave small comments, but it’s just pure images. Pure visual observations. I find that really interesting. I don’t want to hear the information about how the picture was captured, or the ideas behind it. That’s just how I am.
JB: I don’t use it, because I don’t have an Iphone. Instagram seems a little superfluous with my janky little LG phone. I’m glad you made that leap. Unexpected. But if we’re going to leap, why don’t we leap to the new work.
JB: This is your second book with them. Was it always your goal to have your work presented in book form?
AC: I have no plans, for better or worse. It just happened. This “Wrong” project, I just did if for myself. I didn’t have any hopes that it would be a book, or an exhibition, or anything else. I just did it without thinking that I could have a reaction to anything or anyone.
Then Aron Mörel of Mörel Books emailed me and asked me if I wanted to do a book with him. It took off from there. Kind of unexpected. I think Kanye West blogged about it, and I had massive emails and hits on my website.
JB: So are you down with the champagne lifestyle now? Are you partying with Kanye and Jay-Z?
AC: No. I live a pretty normal life.
JB: How will “Hester” fit alongside “Wrong?” Are they companion publications? How did you go about planning the second book?
AC: They’re definitely linked. The new work is more sculptural. In my artist statement, I say it could be a photograph of a sculpture, more than real photographs.
JB: Are you carving foam in all these images? Certainly in “Wrong,” there are all these creations. Are you making things with your hands, in your studio, and then over-laying it? Or is everything coming out of the computer?
AC: All the weird shit is coming out of the computer. Except for “Wrong.” Where I built all the props myself.
JB: You did.
AC: Wood, foam, meat, metal. They’re hanging here in my studio. I built them in my kitchen in my Chinatown apartment.
JB: What happened when people came over?
AC: My apartment was crazy at that time. All the walls were covered with references, and props that I built.
JB: It sounds like it was a pretty organic extension of who you are and what you care about.
AC: Yes. It was a turning point where I left my old routines as a photographer and started something I was not quit sure of at the time. like I couldn’t hold it up against anything. It just felt important for me.
JB: That’s a part of the philosophy. It has to be personal, and it has to be important, and it has to be authentic to us. One place where people do get caught up in being derivative is they’re making their work based upon what they’re seeing in the outside world. People they want to be like. They’re more reacting than creating.
AC: Yeah, I hear that all the time from my interns. They’re talking about this photographer, and that photographer. Two days later, they show me an image that they almost copied.
I just did this work because it felt right for me. It was the ultimate way of expressing myself, telling the world who I was, and what I found interesting or funny. I wanted to use photography in a way that it wasn’t used before or at least make the attempt.
I didn’t want to become Ryan McGinley, or someone.
JB: But both he and you have both photographed Tim Barber, so you do have that connection.
AC: Yeah, and we both live In Chinatown
JB: I had no idea.
AC: But the point I’m trying to make is that I wasn’t trying to be someone, or care about that stuff. It was just a piece of work that I wanted to do, and I had a lot of fun doing it.
JB: It comes through. Experimentation and risk-taking are ultimately what lead people to innovate. You can’t know what it’s going to look like before it’s done, in the beginning. You have to feel your way towards things that you don’t know how to do.
But I want to shift gears for a second. There’s something I want to give you a hard time about. You live in New York. You’re used to it.
AC: Give it to me.
JB: Some of the most striking images in “Wrong” depict nude women. Naked people. Your publisher, Aron, even told me, when I pointed it out, that one of the nudes is the best selling image.
In “Hester,” it’s all naked women, fused together with you. Is that right?
AC: Yes a pile of images of different models collected (photographed) over time. Including images of my own body like muscles, and my bone structure. For me its just process of gathering martial.
JB: It’s Frankenstein Art. But I also saw something on your agent’s website where you did another series for “S” Magazine where you did a whole set of manipulated nudes. Boobs on butts. That sort of thing.
JB: So here’s what I want to know. I saw on Twitter last week, where the Guggenheim was doing some Twitter promotion about the John Chamberlin exhibition. One tweet said something like “Chamberlin said his work was not about America’s car culture.” And my response was “Bullshit.” An artist can say whatever they want, but ultimately, if they’re good at what they do, the communication comes from the work itself.
AC: Sure. I also think that abstract expressions doesn’t need a concert reference. Other then maybe subtle gestures.
JB: So, you’ve been photographing a lot of naked women. But in one of the interviews I read with you, I have a quote where you said, “I have no desire to photograph naked girls.”
AC: I have no desire. That’s true.
JB: And yet you do it?
AC: And yet I do it. I can defend it.
JB: Cool. I was hoping to get you defend the statement. Especially as some of the women, at least before they were genetically modified, seemed to be young and attractive.
AC: Some of them were very young and attractive. I have no desire to photograph pornography, or naked women. No desire at all. Except for project I did called homemade that gives very strong associations to porn. But in fact most of the props I used was totally unrelated to a sexual realty. Like an empty illusion.
AC: my intentions was to create something timeless that wasn’t interrupted by contemporary culture. So, the choice of not having any clotting seamed necessary. Like more as seamless and sculptural statement.
JB: But you’re also keeping it within the continuum of Art History. People have been drawing, painting sculpting the nude body forever. Is that a part of it for you, to make it a Post-Post-Modern, Post-Punk version of Classicism?
AC: Yes it could be be post post modern, hester has strong sculptors ideas and i guess I’m trying to prove that there is no difference from a sculptor working in clay and shaping his sculpture from me working on my digitizer. I think if you work with photography in a way where you build forms and shapes in the traditions of art history I could be perceived as sculptural art. I know a print is still a flat surface, but my hope is that it will gain a value as an object.
JB: I have to think about that.
AC: It’s just different materials. It’s just because photography belongs to a certain idea, and there are certain people doing it. I think that doesn’t have to be true anymore.
JB: In every interview I’ve done, give or take, we always end up coming back to this idea of the words we use to describe what we do, whether it’s journalism vs art, or documentary vs art, or sculpture vs photography. It’s almost like people get so caught up in the language used to describe the objects that it detracts from people looking at an object and just taking what’s there.
AC: But isn’t that the problem with photography, still. Do you think? If you take it into the Art World, photography is still considered something on the low end, compared to someone who is doing drawing or painting.
JB: The biases do persist.
AC: Maybe people are getting over it. But then, I have been talking to a few high end photo galleries, and they all seemed very interested, and in the end, they all come back to me and said they don’t think they can sell their work to their photo clients because it’s too far away from photography history. The idea is not consistent with what you would expect photography to be like.
JB: This Spring, I was in Houston for this big photo festival, FotoFest, and I had at least five people ask me whether I thought my work should be in an art gallery instead of a photo gallery.
But this idea that photo dealers can only sell work if it’s attractive and conservative, and the further out it gets, the more it has to be consigned to into the Art World. It doesn’t seem very representative of today.
AC: Well, I know a huge gallery in London, which I won’t name. They represent big, famous, established photographers. I think it has to do with money. A lot of what they do, where they make money, is vintage photography.
They’re afraid if they bring in something like this, they’ll scare away their clients. That is the feedback I’m getting.
Artist Shepard Fairey was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and fined $25,000 today in a federal courtroom in Manhattan today for destroying documents, falsifying evidence “and other misconduct” in his civil litigation two years ago against the Associated Press (AP). He had faced a maximum of six months in jail. Fairey pled guilty to the criminal charge last February.
I’ve followed Paul Melcher’s Thoughts of a Bohemian blog for many years, because he had an insiders perspective of the stock photography industry and was a harsh critic of the old guard not keeping up with the digital age (similar to my own blogging on magazines back in the early days of APE). So, when I found out about his position at Stipple as the VP of image licensing I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the industry and this new company that looks to be very promising for photographers.
APE: Paul, give me a little background on yourself. I know you have been involved in the photography industry and particularly with stock for many years now?
Paul: Photography is in my DNA. As the son of a photographer who later became director of Magnum, I grew up surrounded by great photography and extremely talented photographers. After getting a degree in Economics and desperately trying to deny my calling by becoming a crime story journalist, I realized that images, more than text, was where I should be. My big break was when a French agency with an office in New York called upon me to manage their US office. I moved from Paris, France to Manhattan and quickly embraced the chance to redefine the way images were licensed in the US. From there, I worked at LGI, introducing the first digital news desk and making some of the first fully digital sales. The idea that an image could be taken on the West coast and sold to Newsweek on the East coast within hours was a revelation to me. I was hooked. Before, with Fed Ex or airplane cargos, it was at least a day. LGI was purchased by Corbis in the early 90’s and my hope was that with Bill Gates’ money and Microsoft’s technological knowledge, we could build the first fully digital photo agency. I was quickly disappointed and left after two painful years. It is not before 2000, with the creation of ImageDirect, the first fully 100% digital photo agency, that I could realize my dreams. At the time, magazines still wanted prints made from digital files. We simply said no. We offered CD’s or transmission but no prints. While we might have lost some sales, we were saving so much time and money by avoiding the analog pitfalls that it didn’t matter. After a year, magazines got used to it and after 3 years, Getty Images bought our company.
I then worked at various places, heading the North American bureau of Gamma Press, was VP of sales for DigitalRailroad, as well as stints at Rex Features and Abaca Press. I also consulted for various high tech companies looking to apply their advance research to the photographic world. 18 months ago, when approached by founder Rey Flemings to work at Stipple, I jumped on the chance to be part of what I see as the next revolution in photography. As you know, I also write my blog ( when I have the time ) “Thoughts of a Bohemian” and have two weekly columns in “Le Journal de La photographie”
APE: Stipple looks to me like it solves a very important problem for photographers and image buyers. Talk to me about stipple and how you see photographers using it?
Paul: Stipple solves the age old question everyone who has ever taken a picture has been asking : where are my photographs published and how many people are seeing them ? Today, when an image is published online, it is quickly replicated, blogged, re bloged, pinned, twitted, Tumblred, Facebooked. Even Google, with it’s formidable search engine, cannot keep track of the 250 million new images posted and the 150,000 new urls created each day.
With it’s free and persistent attribution tool, Stipple allows image creators to keep control of their images, wherever they might be. If this wasn’t enough, Stipple also offers powerful storytelling tools via interactive and discreet media tags. Appearing only on mouse-over, those tags can be of embedded videos, music, links, maps, wikipedia entries, Facebook, twitter updates or simple text. They offer photographers the ability to add information directly in the image. Finally Stipple introduces a new way to generate revenue that embraces and takes full advantage of the image sharing culture.
In other words, not only can photographer use Stipple to claim their images and follow their usage, but also use it as a formidable storytelling tool that enhances the way viewers experience their image. It’s the intelligent image.
APE: You’ve been a pretty harsh critic of the stock industry over on Thoughts of a Bohemian. Can you give me a very general “state of the industry” for stock?
Paul: First let me say that you are only a harsh critic of the things or people you love. The photo agency world used to be a place where photographers could freely and strongly practice their trade because they had agents that worked with them to not only create the images but sell them at the highest rates. When two experts connected, the photographer and the agent, it quickly became an incredibly productive symbiosis . Since the arrival of the corporates in the late 90’s, Getty and Corbis, this balanced environment has been destroyed and replaced by number crunchers and surveyors.
Today, everyone is trying to replicate Getty but it is not working. Getty’s model only works for Getty. Not even Corbis has been successful at replicating it, even after throwing millions, if not a billion, at the problem. The stock photo industry today is in survival mode, trying to protect their ‘sales territory’ while trying to find ways to save money. Exactly the opposite of what they should be doing. Let’s face it, the world of image licensing is exploding, or imploding, and will never be the same. Yet those poorly run companies react as this was a passing storm and all they have to do is hold on for a while. They are, and will be, more and more agencies closing in the near future with photographers suffering the most damage from it.
APE: Now what does the future hold? Obviously there’s a lot of photography out there and you’ve got a tool that can be used for licensing. Do you see potential there?
Paul: Yes, a lot. It is always in times of great turmoil that great ideas emerge. Old and antiquated ways of licensing images, like RM and RF, are completely unfit to our world. You do not pay for potatoes based on what you intend to do with them, so why should you for photographs ? Because of this old world licensing model, images are now being stolen and re used at rates never seen before . Even mainstream publishers put your properly licensed images on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest without paying you an extra dime because, well, there is just no licensing model for such usage.
Instead of going against the flow, Stipple allows photographers to embrace it. If people are going to use your photographs without your authorization, why not take advantage of it ? Your image, published a thousand times, becomes valuable real estate from which you can easily profit. With an e-commerce tag, it instantly starts generating revenue, wherever it is. No more need to spend hours tracking where your images are, sending endless take down notices, alienating potential new clients with threats. In fact, with Stipple, the more people use your images, the better it is. And with its live analytics tool, you can, at any time, see where they are published and what traffic they generate.
APE: Anything else we should know about Stipple?
Paul: Yes. It is a great marketing tool. You can immediately see what type of images are the most popular and bring you the most traffic. You can than recalibrate you work accordingly by having a better sense of the public’s reaction to your work. You can also find out what type of images work where and better understand your market.
For photojournalists, it is also a great story telling tool : instead of lengthy captions, you can add information directly in the image, allowing inquisitive viewers to immediately get more information on specific parts of your photographs.
Stipple also works great for wedding photographers, who can add videos, locations, invites, but also more information on who made that beautiful cake or those flower arrangement.
Finally, last but certainly not least, Stipple is also perfect to proactively combat orphan works. Because the photographers ID is persistent and travels with the image, it allows for anyone to trace an image back to its owner with just one click.
I could go on and on about Stipple. The best is for photographers to experience it themselves, since it is free and currently in public beta. Anyone is welcome to sign up for an invitation ( they come quickly) at www.stipple.com.
“When I went to Bosnia [in the 1990s], I didn’t have any support. I went with no money, then went back with £300, then again with £400, and built it up each time. It takes a while. But the initial step was just to go.
Your Dad works in the ship yards. Your brother too. And your Dad’s brother, for good measure. There’s no such thing as the Internet. It’s cold often, and gray more often still. School is there just to carry you over until it’s time to get a job at the ship yard too.
Life is dreary. You get that job, when the time is right, and after work one day you like the look of the lass at the end of the bar. You offer to light her cigarette, thinking you’re suave, till you notice the guy to her left. He’s already struck the match, and they both laugh. Fairly confident of yourself, you tip your fisherman’s cap, nod, and turn back to watch the football match on the screen above. She’ll marry you yet.
I know you’re none of these things. More likely, you’re reading this over morning coffee. Or during a quick break from color correction. Or perhaps before you hit the Metro on the way to a shoot.
But if you were me, and spent some time over the last few days with “arbeit/work,” the new monograph by Chris Killip, you’d probably get where I’m coming from. The book was released by Steidl and Edition Folkwang, in conjunction with an exhibition of the artist’s work. And it’s one moody piece of business.
As you might have gathered from my momentary hallucination, I like the book. Not surprising. At some point, and I’m not sure when, I morphed into an Anglophile. (That’s not true. I do know when. It was the second time my wife made me watch the Colin Firth/ Jennifer Ehle version of “Pride and Prejudice.” That Mr. Darcy is so dreamy.)
Where was I? The book. It’s divided into sections, each focusing on a segment of one of Mr. Killip’s interlocking projects. They were shot predominantly in the North of England, in the 70’s and 80’s. Evocative stuff, this.
The photographs are entirely in Black and White, and feature a gruff textural sensibility that matches the cultural landscape. Graffiti, coal mounds, drifting garbage, massive waves crashing here and there. Excuse me whilst I grab a sweater.
I loved the woman hanging out her door, a massive tanker ship just outside her field of view. And the father, downtrodden and hot, holding his daughter on his lap, wedged into a corner of the sidewalk. Punks having a laugh, neck tattoos and beer cans, fishermen and grandmas. Another favorite: a suit-wearing old dude, along with his lady, lounging on a blanket, surrounded by trash.
Bottom Line: Terrific B&W images of UK bleak beauty