Posts by: Julie Grahame

Stephen Mallon On Perseverance And Transition To Video

- - From The Field

Over 5 years ago aPhotoEditor wrote a small story on Stephen Mallon’s images of the salvage of Flight 1549.

The backstory.
Prior to the incident on the Hudson River, Stephen Mallon was β€œsurviving” on royalties from multiple stock agencies. He had been photographing landscapes for licensing and exhibition, and personal work. A book editor at a portfolio review had expressed interest in making a book but Stephen felt he didnΚΌt have the right content that he envisioned for his first monograph. So he set about focusing on his interests in the recycling industry. He engaged a writer to help with a proposal, and, explaining that he intended to make images for non-commercial use, he gained access for two days to a recycling plant in New Jersey, which led to access to others in other states and to a body of work that would come to be titled β€œAmerican Reclamation.” This was all self-funded by the bits and pieces he was drawing in from editorial and resale.

The break.
In New Jersey, in 2008, Stephen spotted a barge loaded full of stripped down subway cars and thus discovered the artificial reef project, wherein these erstwhile MTA cars are shipped to various locations off the US coast and dumped in the ocean to create artificial reefs both for sea-life and for tourism, images of which would become β€œNext Stop Atlantic.” The company concerned was Weeks Marine, and here began a wonderful relationship. Forward to 2009 and Stephen and his wife are out celebrating her birthday when Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger, III, makes his amazing landing on the freezing Hudson River. Mallon called Weeks Marine and sure enough they were tasked with retrieving the plane; they commissioned Stephen to photograph the project, bringing him in by tug boat to make an incredible photo essay that made national news. As well as all the licensing, the prints are still selling well in the fine art market.


How life changed.
Stephen says although he had his body of work of industrial landscapes he didnΚΌt have a solid assignment piece that he felt was both beautiful and relevant to fine art and for editorial. He says it took real effort to keep the momentum going so he wasnΚΌt β€œjust a flash in the pan.” It was at another portfolio review that Stephen met Front Room Gallery, based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They offered him a solo show of Flight 1549, and also sold a few prints from β€œAmerican Reclamation” which led to the suggestion of a solo show of that series, too, in 2010. Now some assignment work began to trickle in, including a trip to Brazil to shoot Petrobas for Fortune Magazine.

β€œAll this time, the 5D Mark II is on the market, and people are talking about video. I equated it a lot to when clients began to ask for digital,” he says. For a while, people would still hire Stephen even when he said β€œno” to the question of whether he was capturing video, but he knew the time was coming when heΚΌd need to be able to say β€œyes.” HeΚΌd made a β€œbad” time-lapse around 2008, and only tinkered with the style since. In 2011 Weeks Marine called to say they were delivering a bridge by barge in New York, and was he interested in covering it? Stephen saw the perfect time-lapse project. He scouted the whole route, setting up cameras along the way, in the yard, and on the barge. The film was submitted to festivals, picked up by the Wall Street Journal, and got a lot of attention online. Stephen feels this was the catalyst for his time-lapse future.

The next big step was winning a contract to work for the City of New YorkΚΌs Department of Transport – he produced a wonderful time-lapse for the Citibike program.

β€œI had been dropping my portfolio off at the New York Times pretty much my entire career – 10, maybe 15 years!” says Stephen, when eventually they saw some of his time-lapse work online, and wanted to meet. They loved what he was doing: β€œKathy Ryan tried to hire me a couple of times but security at the locations we wanted to shoot in kept on stopping the projects from moving forward.” It wasnΚΌt until 2013 that she found the right assignment for him: to make a time-lapse over two days and two nights of set changes at the Metropolitan Opera. This video went on to win the Communication Arts photo annual award, and was accepted for the PDN photo annual.

The cost of video production.
β€œDay rates are pretty much the same for video as for stills – the photographerΚΌs fee hasnΚΌt gone up, but IΚΌm shooting with seven cameras at a time, I need assistants to set up and monitor them, then thereΚΌs the cost of post, the editor, and audio licensing. I am busier than I ever have been, itΚΌs phenomenal, but no, IΚΌm not making tons of money. When the budget is there, we put in enough post which covers color correction and rendering. The editorΚΌs fee is a separate line item, accounting for all the video editing and a couple of revisions. WeΚΌre always buying hard drives – a terabyte a month! Someone has to pay because we are archiving all these jobs.”

Mallon has been buying camera bodies, one job at a time: he has five digital SLRs and two GoPros so he doesnΚΌt always need to rent although he does say he could always use one more camera. He is more comfortable shooting live video capture now, and enjoying mixing time-lapse and video in the same piece (he has just finished another job for the DOT, made over 18 months, that mixes time-lapse and regular footage.)

Skills for the future.
β€œEditing video, the whole aspect of sequence, timing, speed, music, it was a whole new experience for me.” Now heΚΌs so much more familiar with it all, heΚΌd like to get a bit more long-form documentary work and is meeting with TV production companies. HeΚΌs enjoying video but also continues to love shooting stills: β€œIt reminds me how much easier it is to make a photograph than it is to shoot video” he says, laughing.
So far this year Stephen is most proud of a piece made for New YorkΚΌs Armory exhibition hall, the result of two years keeping in touch with an ad agency which eventually recommended Mallon to time-lapse the setting up of The Armory Show.

Looking to the future, he believes interactivity is going to be key. In a job heΚΌs working on now, a public awareness campaign about crossing the road, the conversation turned to how to make a video motion-sensitive, to turn it into an interactive smart-board. He believes he will need to be able to deliver multimedia components, potentially build apps for his clients, teaming up with tech and design professionals.

Stephen Mallon has a solo show this fall 2014 at the Waterfront Museum and a solo show at NYU in early 2015. You can view his work here:Β

Persistence, Serendipity And Hard Work Come To Fruition For M. Sharkey

- - Working

M. Sharkey is an award winning portrait photographer and filmmaker living in NYC. He began his “Queer Kids” project in 2006 not long after Time Magazine published “The Battle Over Gay Teens: What happens when you come out as a kid?” as the issue of gay youth was beginning to gain national attention. Sharkey’s editors at Getty were among the first people to support the project; knowing it would have legs, they provided a producer to liaise between Sharkey and kids at youth organizations across the US.

By 2010 he had photographed gay and bisexual teens in several states, and aCurator, my online photo mag, had published a series. By 2011 the project was picking up steam with multiple editorial features here and abroad.

When French magazine “Be” contacted the Paris office of Getty about hiring Sharkey for an assignment to photograph “hipsters,” Sharkey and the writer became good buddies; it turned out her father owns a gallery in Perpignan, and in 2012 Queer Kids had its debut in Perpignan, coinciding with Visa Pour L’Image. An organization in Brussels learned about Queer Kids from the exhibition’s press release, leading to an artist residency for Sharkey to show the series so far and to make a new body of work in Belgium. These photographs are themselves being exhibited now at Rainbow House in Brussels.

Meanwhile a feature in Time Lightbox had drawn the attention of the production director at Getty’s Paris office, Marie Borrel, who followed the project closely and when she was tasked with finding just three photographers to show at la Nuit de l’AnnΓ©e at Rencontres d’Arles this year, she selected “Queer Kids.” In July, the work will be projected alongside 8 other photographers on 14 screens around town.

Sharkey travels to exhibit and speak about the series. He is applying for grants and will go on to make portraits in Europe (especially Eastern) as well as Asia and South America.





Β© M. Sharkey

New Ideas In Photography – Rob Hann

Julie Grahame:
I’ve known Rob Hann for about 20 years – my agency licensed his music and celebrity photographs here and in the UK. He relocated to the States about ten years after I did, and I’ve been impressed as I watched him reinvent himself.

Rob Hann:
I started working as a photographer in 1993, shooting portraits for magazines and record companies. I was living in London and shot over 900 commissions. I have seven portraits in the permanent collection of The National Portrait Gallery.

In October 2001 I took my first photographic road trip in the US, shooting landscapes and portraits for my own pleasure. I moved to New York in 2003, continued to shoot editorial portraits, and took road trips whenever I could.

By the end of the decade work was very thin on the ground. I was still shooting but not enough. My credit card debt was getting out of control, I was struggling to pay the rent, and I couldn’t afford to go on the road with my camera. A Chelsea gallery was selling my road trip photographs but not enough for that income to be significant.

In August 2010, out of desperation, I decided to see if I could sell my road trip pictures on the street. I bought a small table and set up in SoHo. I had a selection of prints in 11×14” and 8×10” mats.

I thought I was saying goodbye to any aspirations I had in the art world. I was just hoping I might be able to make the rent.

I quickly found that I enjoyed being on the street, meeting people, and my prints were selling well. To my surprise I found that people did not disregard the work because I was selling on the street. Instead I found that if people saw work they thought was good it didn’t matter where that work was.

I hadn’t been on the street many weeks when the owner of nearby Clic Gallery stopped at my table and suggested selling larger, limited edition prints. Clic Gallery is actually more of a store than a classic art gallery and sells books and photography as well as a variety of cool and eclectic objects. Clic has been selling my prints sized from 20×24” to 50×60” in editions of 25 for the smaller prints, to editions of 6 for the largest. Some of the editions have sold out. The gallery is only a few blocks from my table in SoHo and I often send them clients looking for larger prints.

In the spring of 2013 I met the owner of a Stockholm gallery in SoHo. After initially buying a small print at my table he got in touch to buy a number of my large prints. In November the gallery gave me my first solo show and I travelled to Sweden for the opening. The Stockholm gallery is similar to a classic Chelsea gallery and is a little shy about me selling on the street so I haven’t mentioned the name here.

Other good things have come about from connections I’ve made on the street. My pictures will be in a book of landscape photography, being published by Thames and Hudson in September, alongside the work of Edward Burtynsky, David Maisel, and other great photographers.

I’m still on the street four days a week and on a really good day sell more than 30 prints.

I still get the occasional call to shoot a magazine portrait but now I turn them down. I enjoy being my own boss and shooting whatever I like.

What I’m doing won’t suit everyone’s temperament. I work long hours in very cold and very hot weather and I find it tiring. I’m lucky that my photographs appeal to a broad spectrum of people.

I rent a studio apartment in Manhattan but don’t have a mortgage, a car, or even a television, and I don’t have kids I have to put through college. I have cleared my credit card debt, can pay my rent, and am funding my ongoing road trips… and I’m still a photographer.

Rob Hann by Dan Cruz