Yearly Archives: 2012

Photojournalist Danfung Dennis Makes A Splash In Tech With Immersive Video

Photojournalist and Academy Award Nominated filmmaker (Hell and Back Again) Danfung Dennis and his fledgling immersive video company Condition One just received half a million in seed capitol from tech visionary Mark Cuban. As was first reported on GigaOm in a story titled “Is Condition One the future of video? Mark Cuban thinks so” Danfung just graduated from TechStars’ New York class last Thursday and is “embarking on a pilot program with Mercedes, Discovery Communications, XL Recordings, The Guardian and Popular Science.”

You can download an app showcasing the technology in the itunes store (here). It’s exciting to see a photographer pushing the limits of technology for storytelling.

Dennis believes this video can be used in a number of settings, from live music and sporting events to more traditional documentaries. He said creating video with Condition One results in a much more transparent portrayal of an event or story because it doesn’t involve traditional editing and framing techniques.

β€œThere is less control and less ability to filter and it’s harder to construct a narrative,” Dennis said. β€œWe’re taking the power of a still image and the narrative of film and marrying it with virtual reality to make a new experience that’s highly interactive.”


The Daily Edit – Tuesday

- - The Daily Edit

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Creative Director: Stephen Scoble
Director of Photography: Fredrika Stjarne
Art Director: Courtney Waddell Eckersley
Deputy Photo Editor: Anthony LaSala

Photographer: Jonny Valiant

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted

Chris Buck – The Surprising Portrait

Known for his humor and pitch-perfect execution, Chris Buck is go-to photographer for any magazine that’s trying to illustrate an abstract concept. Ahead of Buck’s Santa Fe workshop, the first week of July, Grayson Schaffer interviewed the 48-year-old New York–based photographer on the subject of creativity and, specifically, how Buck has so damn much of it.

Grayson Schaffer: What are you working on right now?

Chris Buck: We’ll I’m actually not sure how to answer that question. I’ve got a couple of editorial things. Just finished shooting and now I’m preparing for another. One for GQ, and I’m trying to shoot for The Guardian weekend magazine. I’ve got a book coming out in the fall so I’m prepping for the release of that.

GS: Is that top secret?

CB: No, it’s a series of portraits of celebrities in which they’re not visible. Environmental portraits. The celebrities are hiding in the environment.

GS: Very cool. You’re sort of known for having a never ending stream of original concepts in addition to great lighting and execution. How do you come up with this stuff?

CB: You know, I guess I always have my eyes open. To some extent anyone who does interesting work it feels like there are interesting things that could be done or should be done that aren’t. Eighty percent of our culture out there is either not interesting or annoying to you. The other 20 is actually kind of interesting. But even within that you always feel like there are interesting things that aren’t being done. I think creative people kind of feel like they want to fill that void.

GS: So your creativity comes from noticing absences?

CB: Just trying to makes things more interesting where they may be underachieved. I’m sure people look at my work and feel that way. Sometimes they achieve great things with my work and other times they don’t. But the story still needs to run. What I’m striving for is to doΒ something that’s a little new and exciting and maybe a little magical.

GS: But you also have a sort of humorous, highly irreverent sort of thing going on tooβ€”the Ken dolls for instance. Are you naturally irreverent?

CB: You know I never really intended to make pictures that would be perceived as being funny. I’m the kind of person where if I see a joke, I can’t help but put it in there. The humor ends up being subtle because they aren’t gag photos. Recently a person described my work as dead serious but totally funny at the same time. The work is clearly serious in intent and visually ’m trying to execute in a way that tells the story and is visual at the same time but it’s almost sort of like when you’re a young man and you’re not athletic, you sort of have to be funny if you want someone to pay attention to you. I’m just translating my juvenile class clown thing into my photograph. It was never intentional, I just can’t resist putting in a little humor.

GS: When most people try and execute a humorous photo, it’s usually too obvious and over the top and, as a result, fails. You seem to hit the right balance every time.

CB: Well thanks. I think it’s probably because humor isn’t the first aim. To make something a little odd and interesting. If humor can be slipped in, than it works. But many of my photos, I don’t feel like there’s humor in them at all. Like the series of hidden portraits, people are going to think those are really funny. It’s great, it’s certainly the most subtle humor ever. It’s like when a comedian comes on stage and people start laughing because they associate them with their previous work.

GS: For people who are going to come to your workshop, I would argue that youΒ can’t teach that sort of spontaneity and creativity. What do you think?

CB: It is a portrait class, that’s the area I’m most interested in. And it’s called β€œThe Surprising Portrait,” but my definition of surprising is not as narrow as one might imagine. I’m not looking for people to shoot more like me. The aim is to help them make portraits that will be surprising for their audience in whatever way that might be. It’s still looking to nudge them a bit and do something a little more adventurous. To engage with their subject. I’m very much about the finished picture and not about the process. Interacting with your subject is important but only insofar as it leads to better portraits. Different people do that in different ways. I’ve met great photographers who deal with their subjects by shooting them very differently than I do and they get great portraits. But there are certain things that lead to better portraits fairly consistently.

GS: Are you one of those light, funny, chatty guys?

CB: I think I vary it up. Sometimes I’m chatty, sometimes I’m quiet. But they’re all going to the same end. I’m looking to set my subject up in a way that gets the reaction I want or need from that particular session. Sometimes it’s relaxed and comfortable, sometimes it’s bossy and manipulative. Sometimes I want them to be uncomfortable. It depends on what it is. Sometimes I’m looking to establish that this is my shoot and I’m in charge. When I was initially shooting, as a young photographer, I was doing that, but it was less self-conscious. I have an end goal ofΒ this kind of picture and I’ll do whatever I have to to get there. It was sort of instinctual. But now I think it’s a little more self-conscious, though there is certainly still an intuitive aspect. The subjects are largely ready to go on the ride. I had my portrait taken yesterday by a former intern, and I recognize the fact that it’s their job to put me in the place they need to get the shot they want. Particularly with celebrities I think people often look the the celebrity to direct the shoot and that’s a very difficult road to go down. Most of them just want to be told what to do. They’re the passenger and as a photographer, you’re the driver.

GS: In your class, will you cover any of the technical side?

CB: I’m really focused on the aim of the picture. For me, I do a lot of post work, but the look is still natural. Sometimes I’ll shoot with natural light and do detailed plates and put the plates together in post, so the picture will look photojournalistic, but it will actually have been put together with a number of plates. The experience I want for the audience is largely pretty traditional and natural, but I’m not shy about using technology in the execution or in post to achieve the experience for my audience as I want it. The same thing for many of the photographers taking my class. I don’t have any pretense that the way I do it is β€œthe way.” As long as the finished work is engaging for the audience. I never want the technical to upstage the work. For instance, Cindy Sherman’s work is very technical but it doesn’t get in the way ofΒ the work.

GS: Who should take your class?

CB: People who know they’re on to a good thing but are having a hard time closingΒ the deal. It’s for people who have that vision and they want that vision on the page through their images.

To join Chris at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops for “The Surprising Portrait” go (here).

Note: We’ve partnered with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops to interview several of their instructors for upcoming workshops that we find interesting.

Syria: the absolute barbarity

- - Blog News

Robert King, a photojournalist for the Polaris photo agency, says that he, β€œhad never seen anything like it.” At forty-five, King is hardly a beginner. He started out in Sarajevo, and any photographer will tell you that the Yugoslav wars were no cakewalk. He also covered the conflict in Chechnya, a β€œdirty” war, like all the rest. But nothing could prepare him for the things he saw in Syria. He had to overcome his emotions to bear witness to them: β€œIf you let your tears blur your lens, you’re useless.”

via La Lettre de la Photographie.

This Week In Photography Books – Tod Papageorge

by Jonathan Blaustein

I’ve always wondered what would happen if I ran into a week where I had nothing to say. If you read my interview with Rob, published Tuesday, you’ll know a bit more about why I’m so fried. Endless deadlines, heading back to Christmas, when I digested the biggest of all: our daughter is coming at the end of August. No extensions possible.

The last time I was this burnt, I made a joke about a de-sanguinated chicken. (I was pretty proud of that one.) Today, I doubt I could drain the blood from a stink bug. And then the house would smell.

I hope you’ll forgive my wallowing, but I just don’t have it in me to be witty or profound this week. It’s hot, my kid is complaining in the next room, and I just want to teleport to the Costa Brava and drown my exhaustion in a pitcher of sangria. A bowl of garlic clams would be nice too.

Before the crash, Americans would head in herds across the Atlantic to Europe each Summer. I’m sure there are still a few people who can afford the airfare, (not including expense accounts,) but I don’t know any of them. My memories of living La Dolce Vita seem like a something out of a Woody Allen movie. Charming, but off.

In 2012, most of us only jet to the Continent if someone else is footing the bill. It’s like a game of musical chairs; if you’re still standing when all the Kickstarter funding has been disbursed, you’re S.O.L.

You’ll have to trust that I don’t plan these things, but we’re going back down a similar road as last week: the Artist Residence. I love it when themes come together. It makes it seem like I have more forethought than I actually do.

Tod Papageorge is a photographer, and also the head of the photo program at the Yale School of Art. Yes, the same folks I accused of running a photo mafia. It’s true I speculated that they might off me for shedding light on the Skull and Bones nature of the operation. Fortunately, their assassins haven’t hit the mark just yet.

Of course, I’m kidding. It’s hard not to respect an institution that consistently promotes sustained excellence. But as to Mr. Papageorge, he was fortunate to have his stay in Rome covered by the American Academy. Artist Residences are a hot topic, mostly because the allure of lounging on someone else’s dime is rather strong.

The artist lived in the Rome for a time in 2010, and “Opera Citta”, published by punctum, is the result. I’m not going to say this is a brilliant book, because it’s not. It’s very well-made, with the block of images released from the spine. They open out in a continuous fold, which is a very enjoyable way to experience the pictures. The paper is durable, so you don’t have to fret about ruining your purchase.

What I like best about this one, beyond the high-class production value, is that you can tell Mr. Papageorge really grooved on his time in Rome. It’s a vibrant place, one that has to meld together locals with multi-millennia roots, hordes of tourists that occupy each Summer, and newly integrated immigrants, who are changing the demographic of the country. It’s a magnificent city, but also a bit of a theme-park. (I’m not the first to posit that the Earth’s post-card mega-cities now belong as much to the world as to their local residents. Seriously, how many of you actually live in Manhattan?)

The book captures the cultural mashup very well. The images are not dramatic, in the conventional sense, but belie an insightful curiosity, and subtlety of vision: The fidgeting gestures of a group of nattily-dressed businessmen cavorting in a piazza. The light of grace on a old woman’s face as she catches her breath on the sidewalk. The glean of sweat on a tatooed shoulder at the beach in Ostia. The calm of a little girl sleeping in her father’s arms at Termini Station. Lovely stuff.

Bottom Line: Very cool book, if you don’t mind Euro-envy

To purchase “Opera Citta” visit photo-eye


Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.


The Daily Edit – Friday

- - The Daily Edit

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Creative Director: Alex Gonzales
Design Director: Anton Ioukhnovets
Art Director: Anna C. Davidson-Evans
Photography Director: Caroline Wolff
Photo Editor: Jacqeline Bates

Photographer: Mario Sorrenti

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted

Still Images In Great Advertising – David Stuart

Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column whereΒ Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.


οΏΌSuzanne: Β I like to check blogs of the agent’s I respect and look at the work they are showing from their roster. Β I came across this campaign for Puma shot by David Stuart, represented by Blake Pearson and Visu Artists. Β I went to David’s website to see his work and why he was chosen to shoot this campaign. Β His work seem very UK to me so I was surprised to see he was right here in the States. Β And nice to see his conceptual work used in American advertising.

David Stuart: It’s interesting you mention that, I’m a fan of UK advertising.

Suzanne: I was pleasantly surprised to see another talented photographer from Atlanta. Β It seems as if the city really nurtures creativity because of The Portfolio Center, SCAD and The Creative Circus. Do you agree being around creative people nurtures creative photography?

David: Absolutely, getting to personally interact with other creatives can have an enormous influence on an artist.Β There’s no doubt that those schools have had a positive impact on the city and everyone here- as well as elsewhere.Β  There are so many great talents that have come through the schools here.

Suzanne: This project was done for Puma’s in-house creative department and it is refreshing to see creative work coming from in house corporate. How did they find you? Β And how much input did you have in the campaign?

David: The project came through a connection within the VISU group. The concept was already approved and ready to go when the ball was handed off to me, so my job was to interpret. I collaborated with the retoucher, Scott Dorman, closely on this project and quite a bit of research went in to making sure all the technical aspects were correct; we looked at scale of car/driver in relation to people, how many pit crew members, what tools does a Formula One pit crew have, etc….Β  WeΒ explored angles, lighting, and last but not least, all of the little details, like how many crew members were pulling off a shoe, should a crew member be running or pointing; the details can make or break it. On an interesting side note, PUMA flew someone in from Germany to bring us the steering wheel and helmets; the price tag for a Formula One steering wheel is somewhere in the neighborhood of $140,000, a driver’s helmet $7,000.

Suzanne: I love the texture and feel of the track.Β  What went into making the BG?

David:Β I went to an actual race track and photographed the track looking down from a lift,Β the tire burn marks and the paint lines are all real. Things were enhanced a bit in post to bring out the texture.

Suzanne: I noticed a campaign on your site with giant children running through a city. Β Did that campaign help you secure this campaign?

David: I’m sure it didn’t hurt having the Children’s Hospital campaign to show.Β One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was to show the kind of work that you want to get.

Suzanne: You have created work for many great causes like Children’s Hospital, United Way, Union for Concerned Scientists, etc.Β  Have these non-profit campaigns helped you secure higher paying creative work?

David:Β I recently completed a project for Girl Scouts of America that I was awarded based on another project that I shot for a non-profit.Β It always feels great to help good causes and every project is an invaluable learning experience.

Suzanne: It looks like you have mixed personal work with assignment work on your website. Β Is that correct?

David: For the most part the work I show there is assignment, but some of it is personal.

Suzanne: I hear you’re in a band. What do you play?Β  Has your love of music affected your photography?

David: Yes, I play guitar. Music has always been such a huge part of my life and I’ve recently begun to study jazz. I suppose I approach a photo shoot in much the same way I would a live performance; there’s a great deal of planning and preparation that go in to shoot, but at the same time ( just like in jazz) you leave room for improvisation. Music on the set can have a big effect on the mood of a shoot, I’ve found that James Brown is always a good for late afternoon pick me up.

Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.

David Stuart was just ranked by Luerzer’s Archive as one of the top 200 Advertising Photographers Worldwide. Β His clients include Puma, Coca Cola, New Balance, ESPN, United Way, Children’s Healthcare and Simmons and Girls Scouts of America.Β  David is based in Atlanta and lives with his wife Lara and son Gavin.

“It took a 14-hour day, multiple Korean tacos, a two-foot tall pit crew, David Stuart,Β and a few spare parts to complete the PUMA Mercedes AMG campaign. David’sΒ passion and attention to detail were critical to the outcome of the project. AllΒ parties involved – including the Mercedes drivers – were thrilled with the final images.Β Without David (and those tacos) this campaign would not have been possible.”Β Jason Woz – Art Director, PUMA Internal Creative Team

APE contributorΒ 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.

Photography could be the first medium to move forward because it has made itself obsolete

- - Blog News

There’s a lot of talk how making photographs has become so much harder given the state of things, given there are cameras everywhere. But then, if you are complaining about that – doesn’t that show the limitations of your own creativity? What can you photograph when every picture has already been taken? Well – isn’t it liberating to know that every photograph has been taking already, so now you can really take your photographs?

via Conscientious Extended.

The Daily Edit – Thursday

- - The Daily Edit

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Creative Director: Debra Bishop
Photo Director: Natasha Lunn
Design Director: Kevin Brainard
Associate Photo Editor: Jennifer Dessinger
Associate Art Director: Suzanne Bamberger

Photographer: Geof Kern

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted

Jonathan Blaustein debuts his new conceptual project MINE

- - Art

A couple weeks ago at Review Santa Fe I had the opportunity to see APE contributor Jonathan Blaustein’s new body of work hanging on the wall and decided to conduct a quick interview. I think this is a unique opportunity for all of us, because we know Jonathan and can follow and learn from his career. I know you will find his honesty refreshing and revealing.

APE: On your first project (The Value of a Dollar), when did you know it was done? I ask because I’ve been looking at work here at Review Santa Fe and that seems to be a common question. People aren’t sure when they are done.

Jonathan Blaustein: For “The Value of a Dollar,” I knew I was done when I got bored; when I ran out of that initial series of ideas. I capped it at 20 at the time, which is a very typical number to stop at, because of all the competitions and things like that.

APE: Why is that a typical number? In a competition, do you only submit 20?

Jonathan: Yeah, 20 is typical for things like that. It’s kind of arbitrary, I suppose. But the real answer is that I had a slew of ideas, and then I felt they resolved themselves. I edited out the pictures that didn’t fit, and was left with 20. With “The Value of a Dollar,” I wanted to create a balanced but asymmetrical picture of global commerce. Once I felt like I had that, I was done. But then, I went back and did a new suite of images in 2010, when I had some new ideas about representing local food.

APE: You stopped making pictures once, and then you restarted and made a whole bunch of new pictures?

Jonathan: Right. Why not? People ask me all the time if I’m going to continue to make pictures for that project, and the answer is yes. I’ll be showing a new one in a group show called “Market Value” in Santa Fe this July.

APE: So it’s never done. [laughs] At what point did you start thinking about your next project?

Jonathan: I started shooting the day after my first portfolio review in 2009. I began working on a project in the field in southern Colorado that was very, very different, mostly because I wanted to stay busy. I didn’t want to focus exclusively on the marketing of “The Value of a Dollar.”

APE: So, you just started pouring yourself into a new project.

Jonathan: Yeah, I went and did something totally different to keep myself focused on making the work. I was trying to find a conceptual through-line in the landscape, and I didn’t feel like I succeeded. They felt a little too much like everyone else’s work.

APE: So, you scrapped it?

Jonathan: Yes, I scrapped it. I took it off my website and I stopped showing it. You have to be your own biggest critic. If it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough.

APE: Amazing. Had you showed it to anybody? Had you been showing it at all?

Jonathan: Yeah, I did. I showed it in Fraction Magazine. In 2010, I also showed the work at Review Santa Fe alongside “The Value of a Dollar,” and nobody cared about it. People only wanted to look at the food photos. I listened to that feedback and I said, “OK, here I have something that everyone wants to look at and talk about. I also have something, even though it’s new and I care about it, I’m sensing that it’s not good enough.” You have to have the guts to burn it down sometimes.

APE: It’s got to be really hard for any artist, because there are so many opportunities now to test work. You could put it out there on blogs, and there are online only magazines like “Fraction.” If people aren’t responding to it, then why do they follow their investment into the ground?

Jonathan: There’s an emotional connection between an artist and his or her pictures. There just is. Often people want something to be better than it is, or it’s so important to them that they impute that personal connection onto others. They assume that because they care about it, and it means a lot to them, that other people will feel the same way.

I went to art school. I got an MFA. That was the big difference for me. You spend two years learning how to take criticism; how to accept the fact that oftentimes, it’s not good enough until it’s good enough. You get trained how to listen to negative feedback and grow from it. I don’t want to say that only people who have that education understand that, but I do know that the education is based around getting you to hear those negative voices.

APE: Doesn’t that go against the idea of listening to yourself, and the work comes from you? Doesn’t that go against the idea where you’re actually testing work with an audience? You’re trying to see what’s going to resonate and what’s popular, instead of just making work that matters to you.

Jonathan: That’s a very good question.

APE: How do you resolve those?

Jonathan: I look at a lot of work, as our regular readers will know. Whenever I’m reviewing portfolios or talking to people, my philosophy is that deep inside our consciousness, we always know. There is an inner voice, an inner consciousness about what you’re doing that always knows if it’s good enough or not. Sometimes it takes time. That’s why editing takes time. The new project has 23 pictures in it right now, and I shot, I don’t know, probably almost 1,200. The edit started at 150 and then whittled down to 75, and so on.

APE: You took 1,200 pictures in the studio?

Jonathan: Yeah, for sure. What people are seeing is only what I determine to be the best of the best, but also the pictures that fit best together. There are a lot of really good photographs that didn’t make the cut, because of the size of the exhibition space, because of the color palette. When I talk to publishers, I’ll be able to bring some of those images back. For a book, 35-40 might make more sense than 23.

But you asked a good question, and the answer is that people can be trained to find those voices…The word I like to use is ruthless. For editing, you have to be ruthless. You have to be willing to separate the good from the great, and that takes training.

As far as feedback goes, there’s a balance. We were talking about those landscape photos I did. I cared about them, but I did know, deep down, that I had not innovated or revolutionized anything. When I started observing that people weren’t really digging it, or weren’t loving it, that information correlated with the dark voices in my head, and that made me more likely to listen to those dark voices.

APE: With “MINE,” tell me a little bit about the process as far as, did you have a clear understanding of what the project was, the boundaries of it, the shape of it, from the very beginning? Or did that come later? Did you need to distance yourself from the project to understand what it was?

Jonathan: That’s another really good question. This process was very, very similar to the way I started “The Value of a Dollar.” I got that idea about looking at the way fast-food was depicted in billboard advertising six or seven months before I took my first picture. I had the idea, I thought about it, and then I just tucked it away and didn’t start shooting for half a year. It percolated in my head.

The same thing happened here. I started shooting in the beginning of 2011, but I had the idea in the summer of 2010. I was just walking around my land and looking at all these damn rocks. The soil is really rocky, so there are rocks everywhere.

James Estrin wrote about it on the Lens blog, in a cheeky way. You have to see it to believe it. The idea that popped in my head was, “I could be a rock farmer, but there’s no such thing. What can I do with all these rocks?” I had the idea, “What if I photograph them?” I brought one in the studio and just messed around, and then again, just said, “All right, we’ll see about this,” and tucked it away.

I thought about it for about six months. Then, when I was ready to start, the idea was pretty fully formed. I will look at my property and my resources and try to commodify them in a very obvious and unsentimental way, and then see if I can exploit nature and respect it at the same time. Which is kind of a difficult balance to achieve, but that’s what I wanted to do.

APE: Wasn’t there a point in the project where you had to step back, and you had all these pictures and you had to go re-edit them?

Jonathan: Yeah, that’s totally true. I burned this project down, as well.

APE: [laughs] You threw it away completely.

Jonathan: I threw it away completely, about eight months into the shooting. I waited that long for my first edit because I thought I was onto something. I felt like, now that I had an audience, which I never had before, that I needed to make sure it was perfect. I waited half a year to even do a provisional edit, and then I put it on the iPad to take to that conference in Reno.

After I swiped through, I showed it to my wife, and she swiped through and made this really bad face and didn’t say anything. I was like, “Oh, shit. Oh, no.” I waited 20 minutes, and then went back through and swiped with my index finger again. I said, “Oh, shit. It looks way too much like ‘The Value of a Dollar.'” It was all natural light. All the objects were in the center of the frame. Same vibe. I felt like I ripped myself off, like I had not pushed my own ideas far enough. I went to talk to Jessie and I said, “What’s your problem with this?” She said, “It’s not new enough. You copied yourself.” It hurt to hear it, but it was true.

I stopped the edit, threw the thing away, and gave myself a month to think about it. Then I went back in the studio and started using strobes again, which I had in the very beginning, and pushed myself. When I re-engaged with the edit six months later, I was able to find a different through-line, incorporating some strobe images with natural light, and found an edgier, darker perspective than I had the first time. These theories that I apply to the artists that I critique, I apply them to myself, too.

APE: That leads into the next question, which is, you had moderate or high success with your last project? Actually, how would you characterize it? Extreme? Not extreme?

Jonathan: It’s hard to answer that question without context. For me, I would say success beyond my expectations. With the amount of work that I’ve sold, it’s changed my family’s life. Having a global audience and millions of people around the world, albeit briefly, really interact with the work, that was as good as it gets. I didn’t think that was possible, and I didn’t make the pictures to have that happen.

APE: It was beyond anything you ever imagined when you were in school thinking about a career in photography?

Jonathan: Yes, only because the Internet evolved in such a way that I don’t think anybody could have imagined. When I was in graduate school at Pratt in Brooklyn, I would’ve said the highlight, the ultimate career goals would be to be included in the Whitney Biennial, and get your work in the permanent collections of MoMA and the Met. Which are still goals of mine, and I think they’re goals of a lot of people, which is why they’re clichΓ©.

But at the time, in 2002, when I got to Brooklyn, there was no such thing as viral. There was no such thing as having people in Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan look at your pictures at the same time, on the same day as your mom in Jersey.

The idea that information could be ubiquitous and that people could engage with it in their homes instead of having to walk into a physical space was where things just exceeded my expectations. Then the whole series was bought by the Library of Congress, and honestly, that’s just beyond any expectations I had. It was a wild ride.

APE: Can you talk about the pressure with the new project, then? If you have to top your last project the pressure must be incredible.

Jonathan: That’s why I tore down the project that I was working on in between, because I felt like it wasn’t good enough to be the next thing.

APE: You have to top it.

Jonathan: It depends on one’s ambition level. Yes, I don’t deny that I want to be as good as I can be, and I want my work to be on the wall of the best places and seen by as many people as possible. Under those circumstances, I did feel like I needed “what comes next” to be as good or better.

APE: But is there no room for a project that just moves you forward? This is just based on what I’ve heard from novelists, is when you have your great novel, it’s like you can’t move past it, and so you can’t produce work that’s below it and you can’t move to the next project.

Jonathan: With writers, you’re perfectly, 100 percent right. I’ve always been a huge fan of Steinbeck. It’s like, you look at “East of Eden” and “Grapes of Wrath” and you compare that to all the other little books, and there is no comparison. Maybe that’s why it took Jonathan Franzen 10 years to come out with “Freedom.” I mean, “The Corrections” was as good a book as anyone’s written in the last 50 years, so he probably felt the pressure.

For me, I was gaining success at 36. I have a family. I felt like, right now, this project, the next thing, was going to establish me or not. Hopefully, it will. Especially because my work had this kind of concept that on a bad day could be seen as gimmicky, I didn’t want to be the “Dollar” guy. I did not want to be an art equivalent of a one-hit wonder.

I thought, I need to nail it, to come up with something that’s good enough that people are like, “Holy shit, Blaustein’s for real.” Then, (now), I’ll be able to work on three or four things at once. I’ve got a lot of ideas that I haven’t shot. I just stopped teaching, so I’m going to have more time to do the kind of things that we’re talking about, whimsical side projects. I do have a pretty crazy conceptual thing that I’m working on that will be an extension of “MINE”, but I’m not ready to talk about it yet.

But your questions are incredibly intuitive, because that is how I felt. Right now I feel like I’ve succeeded, but the world will decide, really. I’ve satisfied myself, my own standards, creatively. But that’s the art part. Then comes the business part.

APE: How do you have such a good handle on both when to end projects but also when you feel satisfied? Is that part of the training? Does that go back to your schooling?

Jonathan: Well, training, yes. I’ve been doing this for 15 years. It’s like the whole Malcolm Gladwell 10,000-hours thing. Everyone latched onto that about “Outliers,” but it’s really a fantastic book that delves into the power of culture. I do think it had a lot to do with the fact that I’ve been living and breathing photography for 15 full years.

In this case, though, it was a deadline. I pitched this concept to the State of New Mexico (NM Arts) for a public gallery with public funding a year ago. They actually support the production of the work. I requested the summer slot, and they said, “Yes.” From relatively early in my project, I had a hard deadline. I had a date I needed to meet, and that deadline was what finished this part of the project for me. It’s only an installment.

APE: I have some easy questions for you now.

Jonathan: I like the hard ones, though. They were good. Very insightful.

APE: I want to know about hanging a show, because I don’t know how it works. You have a space but then how do you pick the frames? How do you decide what sizes? How do you figure out that arrangement? How does that work?

Jonathan: Well, the presentation format that I’m using I sorted out over time. Again, in just all these years of experience, I had problems in the past with glare. I personally hate glare coming off of a picture. When you have problems with glare, it kind of rules out glass and Plexi, because non-glare glass and non-glare Plexiglas are both insanely expensive, and glass can break. I also really like the idea…Our readers probably know I’ve got a pretty serious rebellious streak. Because everyone uses glass or plexi, they encase the photograph. They cut it off.

APE: Does everybody use glass?

Jonathan: Or plexi, 95 percent of people.

APE: That’s to protect it.

Jonathan: Yes, to protect the image.

APE: Because maybe it’s their best print ever and it’s going to hang. You don’t want to destroy it, right, or damage it?

Jonathan: Well, yes. That, and most people just do what everyone else does. It’s the convention. I came up with the presentation format in the past and the frame choice in the past, so that wasn’t so difficult to do again. Especially as I’d never showed more than four framed pictures at a time. This was my first chance to do it right.

APE: The white frame?

Jonathan: Right. And they’re two different sized frames, so the math would add up.

APE: Where does that choice come from?

Jonathan: I think white, it’s just very clean and contemporary. It’s more open-ended. The white frame blends into the white wall. When you put black around something, you kind of cut it off. It’s a very final thing. White is chic. It looks good. If you go into most of the galleries, most contemporary art people use white. Of course, on this I’m bowing to a new convention. Such a hypocrite.

APE: I’m just curious, how do you make that decision? How do you pick white?

Jonathan: I can’t believe I’m about to tell you this. I have a horror story that I wasn’t planning to share that was, believe it or not, about frames and their color. When I got out of grad school, the big, monstrous, ambitious goal was to get hooked up with a gallery in Chelsea. And I did.

About six months after I got out of school, somebody took on my grad-school project. I dropped the work off, double-parked on 25th or 26th Street, took the work up to the gallery, and then a couple days later got berated by this dealer because she despised the color of the frames. They weren’t white or black; they were charcoal gray. She insisted they were purple, and hated the color of my frames enough that she told me to come pick up the work and leave. Three days after I had accomplished a life goal, I was told to get the work out of her sight.

APE: Because of the frames?

Jonathan: Because of the color of the frames.

APE: Holy shit.

Jonathan: I’m not exaggerating. I had an appointment set to make new prints. I had already set up a time to have them mounted and laminated. This particular person was so dismissive that it pushed me to leave New York. I went home that night and talked to my wife and said, “Look, if this is the caliber of person that I’m banking on, if I’m going to turn my career over to people who can do things like that, then we need to get out of this town. We need to go somewhere else. We need to settle down and get confident and strong and live in a place that brings out our best selves so that I can try to re-engage with New York down the line.”

I’m condensing the story. It was very traumatic. In fairness, I probably wasn’t mature enough to handle the relationship back then anyway. Ultimately frame color, since you keep asking about it, did become a very, very touchy subject for me. But I like white. It looks good.

APE: Incredible, thanks for sharing. Ok, maybe this question is easier. How do you decide on the sizes? Is it based on which photos you like better? Get bigger?

Jonathan: I went into the gallery space three weeks before the show opened. I had my edit, but that’s all I had. The space was cluttered from the previous show, but I took my measurements and I just really looked. I just closed my eyes and I tried to visualize things. Then I went home, and that weekend, sat down with some scratch paper, and drew it up on the spot. I sketched it out, and had the design. As to which to print big, I emailed a few colleagues and got their advice.

You pick up things at different times. I had a curator at one of the reviews one time say, “Why are they always one size? Why not have multiple sizes?” That stuck in my head. I saw Jesse Burke’s show at ClampArt in the summer of 2010, and he totally broke away from just the one horizontal line. I thought, that’s dope. That stuck in my head. But in this case, I wanted to do something that I’d never seen before.

That’s what drives me. The more work I see, the harder it is to make things I’ve never seen before. What I came up with is a symmetrical pattern, and it’s just different. There are a bevy of art historical references embedded in the project. It creates this really powerful visual arrangement.

Once I drew it up, I said, “We’re good to go.” I had my measurements. I knew how big the walls were. I knew how big the gaps would have to be between pictures.

APE: How do you know how big the gaps?

Jonathan: Just experience. I’ve hung a lot of shows over the years.

APE: What about the sizes? Did the room size dictate that partially, or do you like a certain size for your largest print?

Jonathan: It had a lot to do with the size of the room. That’s primary, because it determines about how big they have to be to hold the wall. Then you make the subtle choices within that range. With “The Value of a Dollar”, I always envisioned them really big. I made an edition at 30×40, and haven’t sold one. I had two editions, and the smaller prints, which can be hung in grids, have sold well. The State of New Mexico bought a one of a kind portfolio that was an in-between size. These prints are more in that range. The little ones were easier to choose, as they had to add up to fit under the big ones.

APE: And what are the details on the exhibition?

Jonathan: “MINE” will be up at the NM Arts’ Centennial Project Space through July 6th at 54 1/2 East San Francisco St on the plaza in Santa Fe. The gallery is free and open to the public, right next to Twin Palms Publishing. I hope some of our readers will have a chance to check it out.

APE: So what comes next with “MINE”?

Jonathan: Well, I’m going to take most of the Summer to catch my breath, as we’re expecting a daughter at the end of August. Then I’ll try to get the show on the wall in New York and other cities. I also have a second conceptual wave of the project that I’m already working on. It’s absurd.

Seriously though, thanks again for doing this, Rob. You’ve taught me a thing or two about how to run a proper interview.

MINE Artist Statement2012

I live in a horse pasture at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I own the land: it’s MINE. But I share it with the animals, and things that don’t move. Every night, when I go to sleep, they have the run of the place.

It’s theirs.

Only a creature as arrogant as a human would claim ownership over his dominion, while living for such a short period of time. The rocks on my land are all much older than I am.

Artists are more infatuated with immortality than most people. We make marks, build things, and snap photos, all in the hope that we’ll be remembered when we’re gone. Deep down, we all have a dark desire that the art will be preserved, along with our name, and that people will look at it in a hundred years or more. Because the alternative is bleak. An eternity of nothing. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

I’m no different. I want my life’s work to mean something. I don’t want to disappear forever. But I also don’t think that my land belongs to me, any more than I belong to the land. I’m just part of this world, run by a simple rule: Survival of the fittest.

With that in mind, I decided to objectify my land, to leave my mark. Because I could. In so doing, I was able to investigate my territory, to sift through the dirt, to crunch up the snow, and then share it with others.

Once I harvested the objects, I took them to my studio to fashion temporary sculptures: Art pieces meant to satisfy my unquenchable desire to symbolize the world around me. I photographed the sculptures to memorialize them, just as we take pictures every day to remember what was there.

The Mountaintop Mining β€œKiddie Porn” Smear

- - Blog News

once we start censoring images with this kind of significance and visually infantilizing our citizenry, especially in this increasingly image-driven culture, I think we’re lost. Perceptually lost. And I don’t care if we’re talking about the left doing it, the right doing it, or the White House doing it (which they’ve done over and over).

via BagNews.

The Daily Edit – Wednesday

- - The Daily Edit

(click images to make bigger)


Creative Director: Rockwell Harwood
Design Director: Nathalie Kirsheh
Senior Photo Editor: Ashley Horne
Contributing Photo Editor: Stacey DeLorenzo 

Photographer: Shawn Hartas

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted

The Future For Editorial Photography Is Sponsored

- - The Future, Video

I recently reached out to David Clifford a photographer who works out of Aspen, CO, because I saw a couple videos he made that fit a trend I’ve been seeing with sponsored editorial content. Or at least it’s a trend I’d like to see more of, because I think it’s going to be a significant new source of income for editorial photographers. I already see ad agencies trying to produce this type of content (see this Nike video with 6.3 million views for proof), but I think it’s going to be more effective for companies to pair up with editorial photographers, give them products or people with interesting stories and tell them to go produce something worth watching.

One of the videos David produced (Lucky) won best overall in theΒ 1st Annual APA Members Short Video Contest. His background as the former photo editor at Rock & Ice and Trailrunner magazines makes him the perfect person to talk with about this continuing trend.

Here’s what he told me about the videos:

Everything is moving to the motion realm and I’d been shooting a fair amount of video but nothing that I could put my name on. It was all video clips or I’d shoot something for a client and I’d just be a cameraman. So, I had the opportunity to make a couple videos. One was for Bluewater ropes and the other for a client that in the end didn’t want to pay the usage fee so it became a promo piece. The Bluewater one is interesting because the athlete was in charge of producing something and he came to me to collaborate on it.

With these videos I ended up created this hybrid space for myself where it’s not full editorial and it’s not fully advertising, but it can do either and serves both really well.

The clients I showed the films to responded really well and I recently got hired by Mountain Hardware to shoot in the Grand Canyon where I did 75% video and 25% stills.

I see this being a huge part of my career. People are thinking more in terms of video than stills. In my recent dealings with those in charge of producing content, the photography is an afterthought. Having the whole package is important.

What’s also interesting is that it’s impossible to shoot video and stills at the same time, so you end up hiring someone to do one of those and you become more of a director, which is a little bit weird, because it’s hard to let go of the control.

I feel like the tools have democratized the process and made it so anybody can produce content so it comes down to how good are you at finding the light, how good are you at telling a story and how good are you at managing a project.