We can probably all agree that more than half of the culturally important cookbooks printed on paper have already been printed. From the Joy of Cooking to Julia Child to The Thrill of the Grill, there are some essential cookbooks that have laid a foundation for most that followed. Now that the original cookbook market has been decimated by TV, by free recipes online and by the growth of the ios app, it’s hard for me to imagine the pile of cookbook titles that millions read and trust to dramatically increase in size.
Similarly with photography, the culturally significant pictures are replaced with anything that reaches lots of people. That’s why something like this makes sense:
The POWERHOUSE Arena presents:
Jonathan Horton of the US Olympic Gymnastics team (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The POWERHOUSE Arena is proud to present Olympic Portraits by award-winning Agence France-Presse photographer, Joe Klamar. The exhibition consists of color portraits shot by Klamar at a Dallas, Texas hotel during the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Media Summit this May.
Many of the photographs were first met with harsh criticism from a bevy of news sites and photo blogs quick to highlight the images’ alleged defects—citing the off-hand poses, the stressed lighting, the scarred backdrops—and labeled the work an affront to the elite status of the American Olympic athletic team.
Such criticisms miss the work’s powerful and nuanced compositions and display of personality. Here we see real individuals at the peak of their athletic career in ordinary and impromptu poses, sometimes playful, some quite intense, in an unplanned setting. You will not see world-class athletes like this anywhere.
The POWERHOUSE Arena is proud to bring these images to a U.S. audience starting July 27 to coincide with the 2012 Olympics in London.
We all know that all photography is fiction: as a photographer you make choices, which influence the photograph enough for it to be more of a fiction than a fact. That’s photography for you. That’s just the way it is. But the photojournalist’s task, no actually the photojournalist’s duty is to minimize the amount of fiction that enters her/his photography. We are quite aware of the problem in the news context – this is, after all, the context where the problems with image manipulation come up regularly – so we expect photographs in this context to be as truthful as they can be. The problem with Instagram/Hipstamatic in this particular context is it adds a huge amount of fiction to photography, simply by its aesthetic.
Just now, not three minutes ago, I saw a hummingbird. Clomping down my dirt road in flip-flops, I was lost in thought. The first few paragraphs of this column were dancing through my brain; synapses firing, mentally banging on my keyboard. A hundred yards from my computer, and already I could hear the rhythmic song of plastic on plastic.
Then, I saw the whizzing wings out of the corner of my eye, hovering above the most beautiful orange/red wildflower. I stopped dead, turned my head towards the little creature, and watched. Of course, you can’t see the wings move. Everyone knows that. But the blur is hypnotic.
Suddenly, I could hear a magpie squawking. Then, two different bird calls joined the chorus. Next, the sound of the Rio Hondo behind me, whoosh, whoosh, gurgle, gurgle. A symphonic moment, all thanks to Nature.
Of course, the sounds were there all along. I just didn’t hear them, as I was too busy listening to the voices in my head. Ironically, I was planning to write about the intersection of Nature and religion. I had it all worked out.
Then, I saw the hummingbird, and everything disappeared. I was left with only my immediate surroundings. My mind cleared, and I felt much better than I had the moment before. Now, I’m writing a different column than I would have otherwise.
If you were trite, you might say I had my “Moment of Zen.” (Thank you, Jon Stewart.) To all the urbanites out there, I’ll tell you this: I know it sounds cliché. Mountain guy writes about hanging out with the birds, while your background noise consists of honking horns, cursing neighbors, ice cream trucks, and jackhammers working on the roads. (I think they were hammering on Canal St. the entire time I lived in NYC.)
Or, maybe you’ll think something else. “Wow, that sounds amazing. I wish I could live in such a pretty place.” I tell you, we have problems here just like everyone else. Violence and poverty and addiction and wildfires. And you can’t get a decent slice of pizza to save your life, even if you have mad cash like Mikhail Prokhorov.
With respect to the idea of Zen, though, I think it’s worth taking a step further. Art communicates information. (For once, I state the obvious.) Information is a general term: it can mean ideas, of course, but also emotional energy. We’ve been through this before.
Most of time, we tend to focus on the Art that shakes us: dynamic, baroque evocations of Environmental disaster, sexual trafficking, or death. Things like that. Everyone’s always talking about whether Art can change the world, or how images of War are so important for our general body of knowledge. All true.
But how often do we talk about Art that will simply change your mood? Is there value in a photograph, if it only slows you down, soothes your mind, and hijacks your brainwaves away from anxiety or fear or exhaustion, if even for moment?
Minimalism and abstraction have been around for a long time. (The former was popular in China 800 years ago, and the latter evolved in painting a Century ago.) Personally, I tend to prefer my minimalism Sculptural, in the Donald Judd or Carl Andre style. Minimalist photography is not normally my thing.
So I was pleasantly surprised to see Uta Barth’s new book, “to draw with light,” recently published by Blind Spot. Slowly tease the simple hardcover out of its matching slip-cover, and the world’s noise begins to melt into the background.
The volume is broken down into three sections, each displaying a very narrow range of imagery. The first, my favorite, connects to the title. Curvilinear, wave-like forms of white light are depicted on luminescent, white curtains. Again. And again.
One person’s seductive beauty is another person’s “boring as hell,” but hear me out. One minute, I was stressed out about having to write this column, not sure I had the proper creativity-juice-cocktail today. The next moment, my mind was still. I felt better.
The photos are unquestionably beautiful, and simple, lacking any over-arching socio-political message. If you asked the artist, she might not discuss the Zen qualities, the hint of Buddhism. Or perhaps she might. It doesn’t matter.
The other two sections are similar. The second depicts white light on white studio cabinets. The final returns to the curtains, this time interjecting solarized images with the normal ones. Not my style, as I’ve seen a few too many student-cell phone-solarizations to find the tactic worthy of such a major artist. Little matter. I’ve had my few minutes of peace for the day, and have emerged thankful.
Bottom Line: Beautiful and simple, which ought to be enough
Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
I search out for product photography and how is it is used in advertising. So many times US advertising likes to take the “safe” route and making sure we show products to not upset the “apple cart”. This campaign caught my eye because it was an explosion of flavors and I loved that! So I reached out to my dear friends at Bernstein & Andriulli and asked them and Diver & Aguilar these questions.
Diver & Aguilar: What is really interesting with what you have mentioned about the Magnum Campaign is that this imagery does absolutely go against trend. Taking this into context and looking at a global consumer audience the decision by Unilever to invest in the project makes much more sense. Of course they already have the safety net of the more straight forward “Product” advertising shots in circulation using what I call “Basic visual language” ie – something simple and straight to the point. This is the product and this is what you get. You don’t need to appreciate art to go out and buy a hazelnut and caramel bourbon flavour Magnum Ice.
This imagery of the exploding Ice creams ran in tandem with these product advertising shots you see everyday as you travel around town and our explosions were specifically targeted at different consumer groups. In Latin countries the campaign ran in conjunction with an “Event” the idea being that the consumer could interact and fire the ingredients from a canon at a giant canvas and make “Art”.
When the new Super-Temptation Magnum was launched in Singapore the event was more akin to a socialite party with the new ice being promoted as a Luxury Brand. At the event the clientele were able to order their own bespoke Magnum Temptation flavour made on the spot by a cordon bleu chef.
Lola-Madrid also commissioned us to produce a special series of fine art images that were used to promote the agency and their client throughout the summer of the advertising festivals in Europe, in particular at the Cannes Lions event.
Suzanne: Please tell me more about you’all (okay my Virginia dialect) but I am seeing on the B&A website that you both have so many styles from still life to people. How do you do it?
Diver & Aguilar: Yes we agree it is quite unusual to find a photographer or indeed a creative partnership that is so diverse in respect of the different specialties we cover in the photographic sector. Before I met Pedro I had been working freelance extensively within the Music industry and also doing a lot of portrait & people based conceptual advertising and fashion work. So this was the foundation we started from.
The decision to move into still life was one made out of commercial necessity and also one based on “Creative Growth”. It proved to be one of the best decisions we made business wise, maybe there is a higher level of technical skill involved or it’s a slightly less competitive field than say fashion photography. Although the competition is not just coming from photographers themselves but also the technology namely 3D & CGI, although now these elements are also integrated into our repertoire.
What is critical with what we do is to try and create the same visual signature across the whole range of commissions we undertake and hopefully commissioners can see they are buying into that style rather than a generic “Jack of all Trades”. Pedro comes from a Fine Art background and I have always seen things from quite a fantastical and theatrical perspective, so I guess those influences have started to show through within our style.
It’s not really important how we arrive at the final outcome as there are many solutions to the realization of every brief.
Without a doubt there is still an old school mentality out there and some clients just can’t get their head around the concept of a photographer shooting sport and say luxury watches. But it’s easy to tie up the links when you see football players advertising Hugo Boss Fragrance and F1 drivers for Tag Heuer watches.
Suzanne: As a team it is hard to make the buyer understand how the team work, how do you all make the buyer understand who does what?
Diver & Aguilar: Yes, this is still something that we struggle to communicate to the buyer on many levels. People will always try and break the relationship down into Photographer/Retoucher which is one way of looking at things, but most importantly we are selling people a visual solution to their brief. A photographer can be a service provider or an artist and the same is true with retouching, many agencies have real difficultly understanding the difference, certainly at production level (not so much at creative) this is quite possibly because a lot of agencies now have in house post production and see it as a further source of financial revenue for the agency and cannot discern the difference between post production as an art form or a technical skill.
For us the entire creative process from research to pre production, through to the shoot phase and beyond are so intertwined that they really can’t be separated out, nor should they be. Just to give you an example when I read through a brief I very quickly see in my minds eye what the final result will look like, I always visualize in picture form and that is something that would be hard to translate into words and therefore to trust someone else to portray our vision as we see things.
That said it still amazes me that people will ask ” Do you do your own Post Production?”. This has now led me to producing work in progress imagery of projects in post production, say “screenshots of Photoshop” etc, along with behind the scenes images from the shoot and then using this material online to show people the full process involved in our productions as a visual narrative.
Suzanne: From your personal work to your assignment work, what excites you most?
Diver & Aguilar: I think we find ourselves in quite a fortunate position, having built up a reputation for a certain style of photography a lot of the commissions we get are based on the work we represent online or in our folio.
The best creative directors are those who recognize who the right talent for the assignment is in the first place and then with the least interference possible allow the artist to realize the brief to its maximum creative potential. A great creative can also keep a client at arms length as the client quite fairly may be an expert at running their business but not necessarily have a creative eye.
We also are very lucky to work with a few magazines around the world that fund our own personal assignments. We tend to have an agreement to supply the editor with the content they need, which may be very similar to what we would shoot anyway or the commission gives us the funding to realize our own vision of what we would like to showcase as a personal series of images.
Suzanne: Editorial to Personal to Hired- how do you market that?
Diver & Aguilar: I think everything with every project you undertake nowadays you always have to be looking at the bigger picture. Editorial print is of course a classic vehicle for photographers to showcase their work, you can still reach a lot of people, most importantly it builds reputation and in the instances of the top notch of editorial, fame.
But a coordinated marketing strategy is essential to get the maximum results with your work. If you are shooting personal, you need to look at want you are going to do with that work? Are you going to self publish? If so how are you going to promote this, are you looking to curate an exhibition and what methods of exposure are you going to initiate online electronically to get your work full exposure. Then unless it’s purely self indulgent or your only goal is to sell fine art prints, you also have to be asking questions like; who is this work going to appeal to? What areas of the commercial market may pick up on this project and see the potential to turn it into a profitable commission for you. This might be something in your lighting style or a visible talent you have for casting amazing characters in your images.
There has never been a more diverse set of tools available to a photographer in order to market themselves and although it’s a bit of a minefield out there you really need to take full advantage of the opportunities in order to stand out from the crowd. At the end of the day content is still king and consistent effort will bring consistent results.
Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.
London based, Diver & Aguilar met seven years ago and quickly formed a successful creative partnership working for clients in both the luxury brand sector and conceptual advertising markets of commercial photography. Their collaboration has seen commissions from clients such as GQ, Tatler, The Financial Times and Graff Diamonds as well as advertising work for Coca Cola, FC Barcelona, Nike & Unilever.
In 2008 their work was voted the best advertising photography in Spain by C de C and they have picked up various awards over the last seven years including Gold Graphis & Epica commendations & a D&AD Pencil. Their work has been a regular feature in the prestigious Association of Photographers awards book and exhibition for both their advertising and documentary imagery. In addition to their advertising work Diver & Aguilar are passionate about fine art social documentary photography and have worked with subject matters as diverse as Native Americans, Matadors & traditional 50’s Rockabillies .
Pedro Aguilar studied a fine Art M.A in Seville and Mike Diver trained in traditional Photography at the London Institute.
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..
I knew this was really official when I received an email from my old boss Neil Leifer titled “WOW!” “I just got my new SI this afternoon and I love your 6 page spread in “leading off”. Congratulations, the spread look really great,” Leifer said.
“Smudge-proof makeup tips for long days behind the camera”
“Seasonal Flats: these flats will keep your feet covered, comfortable and cute while you’re on photo shoots”
“Step-by-Step: create these beautiful lanterns for your studio”
“Beauty Dish: New Jersey-based wedding photographer dishes about her camera-ready style”
“Photographing Newborns: A unique kind of labor”
“Couples at work, couples at home”
“In mint-condition: stay on trend with these green accessories”
“Lens Flare: Photography inspired accessories”
“Luminous Lenses: Shoot in style with these designer lens protection wraps”
“Hanging Tough: These camera straps are stylish yet tough just like you”
Nielsen issued a statement basically saying that they mistakenly used Photo District News in the sender line when the email went out and that this new magazine has nothing to do with professional photography and is geared specifically for photo enthusiasts (here).
On July 10th The Nielsen Photo Group, parent company of Photo District News, Rangefinder and other publications and photography events, introduced a new, free digital magazine edition of PIX for photo enthusiasts. The content of this edition is specifically geared toward women who enjoy photography as a hobby, featuring articles and product suggestions intended to inspire women to shoot more and create better photographs.
An e-mail announcing PIX was sent to The Nielsen Photo Group’s entire audience including hobbyists, students, emerging and professional photographers. The e-mail introducing PIX mistakenly had the name Photo District News in the sender line.
It seems a little incongruous for a company that wants to be all about professional photography to get in the business of supporting photo enthusiasts and specifically going after the “Mom’s With A Camera” group. But, I guess that’s what happens when you have a corporate mother ship hovering over you.
Personally, I think it’s fine if Nielsen sees an opportunity to make money off the emerging category of MWAC’s I would just expect other titles in the family that think it’s BS to stand up and say so. A little mocking from the Pros is a good thing.
What was missing most of all in this year’s exhibition was artists who take risk with the photographic medium. There was no work that was challenging, trendsetting or relatively innovative. A fault of curation, not the photographers themselves. The lack of edginess and quality raises the question, can the old teach the new during these times of flux in the photographic field?