If you assume the role of a camera operator, DP or even a director – you will be in a work for hire position in most markets. Position yourself as a producer – shoot if you want to – and direct – but realize that you’ll be just one rung on the “content ladder”.
There’s nothing like an intern who covers the music business (NPR’s All Songs Considered) admitting she doesn’t buy music (I Never Owned Any Music To Begin With) to get the internet re-fired up about paying for stuff, business models and the survival of artists in the middle of the information revolution.
The arguments can be divided into two oversimplified camps. Those who think market forces should be left to decide the fate of artists and their income:
fairness for musicians is a problem that requires each of us to individually look at our own actions, values and choices and try to anticipate the consequences of our choices. I would suggest to you that, like so many other policies in our society, it is up to us individually to put pressure on our governments and private corporations to act ethically and fairly when it comes to artists rights.
There’s a lot of talk in photoland how you can’t really charge money for this kind of multimedia, and anyway, it would be wrong to turn this into a moral issue. I actually don’t subscribe to that idea. It is a moral issue, because we are talking about the income of actual human beings here
Of course, the photo business is a bit different than the music business. But the basic, underlying problem is the same: Unless there is an increased willingness to pay for content online, the livelihoods of content creators are in danger. In the long run, this means that if this current situation does not change, a large fraction of the content currently online will simply disappear, and the web will become dominated by corporations that can afford to give away some crumbs for free.
– Joerg Colberg
There are many parallels that can be drawn between music and photography. In the past both benefitted from a high cost to create and distribute the work, which created a monopoly and allowed them to ignore market forces. The biggest problem is that consumers have been trained to expect these very expensive products at very little cost. So, while I agree that it’s nice to have market forces in play and the monopolies disappearing, the monopoly will continue if we don’t retrain consumers to pay artists for their work. The long tail and freemium mostly benefit corporations that can afford to let pennies add up to dollars.
If you want to live in a world with artists you have to support them. I think that attitude is slowly catching on.
When I’m not shooting, I will spend entire days organizing receipts and invoicing, returning emails/phone calls for future jobs, planning the next promo, printing new pages for the portfolio, updating the website… the list is truly endless. And then it repeats itself. I’m still learning to cope with the fact that I will never feel completely caught-up and there will never be an end to the non-shooting work that a photographer has to manage.
Remember back in 2010 when Domino’s Pizza received a makeover from CPB called Show Us Your Pizza that mirrored the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty where you go behind the scenes with the evil photographers, retouchers and prop stylists to see how they fake everything (APE story here)?
Well, McDonalds is jumping on this seemingly never ending bandwagon only this time the photographer is not evil. The “behind the scenes at a McDonalds photo shoot” shows that they are simply being helpful in arranging the ingredients so that they are visible for the picture. Love the new twist. Look for this trend to continue.
Anyone know who the photographer is in this video?
Describing his approach to his projects, Webb said he doesn’t do much in-depth research in advance. “I’ll read some fiction to get a taste of the place, and maybe read some guidebooks,” he said. “I bring books with me, and read them while I’m there. I want my visual knowledge of place to grow at same rate as my intellectual knowledge.” The danger of knowing too much before he goes, he says, is that it primes him to make images that represent aspects of the place, according to what he’s read, at the expense of what he might experience.
I hated scary movies as a child. My twisted cousin Jordan showed me “Altered States” as a 6 year old, and followed with a low-budget flick about a monster that lived in the sand and swallowed beach-goers whole. (I lived 7 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.) Oh well.
There was a period in college when I sampled the bloody genre, starting with “The Shining.” I pushed it a bit with the Scream series, defying my nature watching Drew Barrymore get hacked to bits with a very sharp knife. Not fun. It continued through “Seven” (Gweneth Paltrow’s head in a box,) and came to an abrupt end several years later, thanks to “The Blair Witch Project”.
I was traveling abroad when the movie dropped, and so missed the enormous, watercooler, pre-Internet hype here in the US. (Ring, Ring…”Hello, Tabitha?” “Yes.” “It’s Ashley.” “Oh, Hi Ashley, what’s up?” “Sweetie, I saw this super-scary movie last night, called, like, The Blair Witch, or something. I almost crapped the floor. You have to see it.) As I avoided the first wave, I decided to block it all out, every last syllable, until the proper time.
Several months later, I was living in San Francisco, and my girlfriend (now wife) was leaving town for a few days. Jackpot. I rented the movie, unplugged the phone, shut all the curtains, and pressed play around 10 pm. So. Scary…So. Very. Very. Scary. Please. Make. It. Stop.
I’ll never know if I’d have been as terrified if I’d heard what the movie was really about. (Lots of implied evil, lots of scary trees, lots of shrieking.) Sometimes, hype can kill art’s spark. Give people too much context going in, and the element of surprise is lost.
Just last year, I noticed a similar phenomenon with Christian Patterson’s book “Redheaded Peckerwood.” One day, I’d never heard of the dude. Then, his name was everywhere. (“OMG. U Must C This Book.”) Somehow, I never saw a copy, and never read one of the many, many reviews. So I decided to wait.
Then, in March, I found myself sitting in the lovely, bright offices of MACK, the book’s publisher. Poppy, the super-nice media contact, handed me a copy, with several other sets of eyes peeking too. “Here,” she said, “have a look.” The first page was scanned, hand-written text. No way I could read it with her staring at me like that. I flipped a page, looked up, and saw her eyes watching me watch the book. No good. “Forget it, Poppy,” I said. “I’ve waited this long, knowing nothing, so I’ll just wait for the impending Second Edition, and give it my proper attention.”
And here we are.
I grew up in New Jersey, which is Springsteen country. He wrote “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” a mile from my house, and his imprint was everywhere. The first time I met him, I asked him to play “Blinded by the Light” at an upcoming concert. (He passed.) His music was everywhere too: unavoidable. I can recite the first few lines of many a song, from memory, including “Nebraska.” Which was inspired by the killing spree wrought by Charles Starkweater, and Caril Ann Fugate, his teen-aged lover and partner.
As was “Badlands,” the excellent Terrence Malick film. (Damn, Martin Sheen rocked that jeans jacket. You go, dude.) As was, as you might have guessed, “Redheaded Peckerwood.” Sex and violence and the thrill of the chase. Not hard to figure out why this story keeps metastasizing through different narrative forms.
So, now that I kept a perfect media blackout, what do I think? It’s a pretty terrific book. Worth the hype. Buy it, tuck it away, and it will probably be worth more than you paid for it. Why?
The book opens with some handwritten context by Fugate, as I’d previously mentioned, and then a map to provide the necessary geo-tag. After that, it’s a straight myriad of photographic styles. Historical imagery, studio shots, landscapes, color images, black and white, more text, some paper inserts that reference the racism and politics of the 50’s, and a few random images of boobs thrown in. (Boobs sell Books.℠) The narrative is non-linear and ambigiuous enough that most of the photos can be appreciated on merit, while still giving a sense of time, place, and emotion.
I do love the emotional quality of the images. This is not a happy story. The two kill Caril’s 2 year old baby sister, for goodness sake. As you turn the pages, even when you’re staring at a dry and not-terribly-on-message image, you still feel the icy sadness, the eerie emptiness, the morbid curiosity of the rubber-necker.
This edition closes with a mauve, stapled insert that matches the lining of the book. It contains two essays that explain in words what Mr Patterson communicates very well through imagery. I started to read them, (and they are good,) but then I stopped. They didn’t tell me anything I needed to know, at least nothing that wasn’t implied by this terrific book.
What’s the lesson for the rest of us? Mix it up. Both in the creation of a project, and in the editing of the book. Simple, repetitive through lines are boring, and, perhaps, passé. Do your homework. And don’t shy away from those grand, dramatic meta-narratives, the kinds that can’t be extinguished by the ravages of time.
There is a difference between being a good photographer and being a successful photographer who runs a great business. I know lots of amazing photographers who are broke. The difficult thing about the photography business is you have to apply yourself just as hard to both the photography and business aspects. If you’re painfully dedicated to just one, that still doesn’t guarantee you anything. Now, if you are truly dedicated to both, then you’re very likely to succeed as long as you’re smart about what it is you’re doing.
Michael Wolf was not happy about a move to Paris that he had to make with his wife who had a job offer there in 2008. He felt that a city that had been photographed as much as Paris and was full of clichés had nothing to offer him as a photographer.
He started exploring the city using google street view, one thing led to the next and he started photographing the scenes he saw on the monitor. It turned out to be a totally different way of looking at the city.
He’s been asked many times “when does a google street view picture become a Michael Wolf picture” and he says “as soon as I determine how I crop the image.”
Find out more about Michael Wolf and his process in this fascinating profile by Foam:
Foam For You is an online resource which features professional photographers providing inspiration and advice for amateurs looking to improve their own work. At the core of Foam For You’s content is a series of extended films about the work of three internationally renowned artists: Michael Wolf (USA), Jessica Backhaus (GER) and Melanie Bonajo (NL). They have given Foam exclusive access to their working practice in three fifteen minute documentaries. They explain the thinking behind their work and, in particular, how it relates to themes taken from different issues of Foam Magazine, in which their work appeared.
we have not even started to assess what digital photography could do once we stop treating it as a slightly improved version of analog photography. Digital photography essentially is not well understood at all. Our thinking of digital photography conforms to our thinking of analog photography, even though in actuality the inherent properties of the two often are very different.
A story in Business Insider titled “Meet 9 Incredible Instagram Users That Advertisers Are Dying To Work With” got me thinking about photographers producing a stream of content and how that can easily attract lots of followers. It’s easy to be dismissive of social content because the quality can be quite low (sunsets and boobs seem to do quite well) but the trick to attracting followers is to be reliable and consistent.
The Sartorialist is a great example of someone who has attracted a large audience by being there for them day in and out.( Note, he also pioneered street style blogging so there’s more to it than just daily postings.) J Crew sent him on an 8 city tour… to produce a stream of content for them (here).
I’m also reminded of a recent effort by Craig Cutler to “create new personal work once a week, every week, for a full year, no exceptions.” That effort was turned into an exhibition and no doubt put him on everyone’s creative radar for reliably producing content that will attract fans to a brand.
You should be thinking about projects that can show your ability to reliably produce content. Brands need you.