Category "Photography Business"

The Lost Rolls America Archive


Last week, I said I like to shake things up.

And I meant it.

So today, we’re going to pivot away from book reviews, and bring you a special feature about the Lost Rolls America Archive, a project led by NYU professor Lauren M. Walsh, and photojournalist Ron Haviv.

I wrote a piece about the endeavor for Lens in late 2016, just as it was getting started. The gist is that Fuji offered to develop and scan one roll of lost or forgotten film from anyone in America. All you had to do was dig the film canister out of your couch cushions, or the back of your fridge, and send it in. (Apparently, the archive is now closed.)

They sent back the scans, and then each person picked one (or more) of the photos to be included in an archive of lost images from contemporary America. (And occasionally beyond, as you’ll see below.)

Now that the Lost Rolls America archive has gathered steam, there are several hundred images posted online, in a database of forgotten moments.

Lauren and Ron were kind enough to answer a few questions about the project, and mass-culture-photography in general. They also allowed me to edit the following series for you, as a way of looking for through-lines in the burgeoning archive.

There’sΒ an exhibition of images from the LRAA in an airstream in Los Angeles this week, in conjunction with the MOPLA, so if you’re in SoCal, go check it out.

(Photo credits: All images copyright Lost Rolls America Archive, and the photographer. The photographers are as follows:Β Rikki Reich, Ed White, Russel Gontar, Stephen Desroches, Scott Ellerby, Jessica Lipkind, Jeremy Harris, Jonathan Schaefer, Mary Croft, Beth Urpanil, David Burnett, Terry Bliss, Philip Maechling, Orquidea, William Bennett, Beth Urpanil, Nora Curry, Tamika Jancewicz, Alan Wong, Mary Keane, Valerie Ferrier, J Printen, Deb Treanor, Valentina Zavarin, Rikki Reich, Alex Cave, Linda Walker, Stephanie Heimann, Lisa French, Jeffrey Robins)


Q&A with Professor Lauren M. Walsh and Photojournalist Ron HavivΒ 


JB: Why did you think people would submit their personal memories to the public Lost Rolls America Archive?

LW & RH: The process allows participants to re-engage with a time from the past, to literally view a forgotten moment and re-experience it. And the experience isn’t just for the individual. In contributing to the archive, you become part of a collective dynamic, where you realize that there are points of commonality across these once-lost images and the memories they call forth.

Additionally, the memories written in the archive often reflect a desire to share deep feelings about life experiences. In consisting of all kinds of photographyβ€”not just professional, but the snapshots of amateurs and hobbyistsβ€”Lost Rolls America celebrates the average person’s personal experience. In this sense, it works to offer a sense of community and a space to acknowledge and commemorate all of our pasts.


JB: Do you think the archive, in its current form, says anything about contemporary America?

LW & RH: Today, when the perception is often that we are a divided country (politically, economically, and so forth), the archive stands a powerful reminder of the many ways that we are in fact more similar than different. There are shared themes that appear through the photos and memories, such as the attention to family, the celebration of youth, the nostalgia for lost loved ones, the exuberance of travel, and even the value of the mundane in all of our lives.


JB: Has the ubiquity of cellphone cameras changed the nature of photography, or are there just infinitely more photographs?

LW & RH: The ubiquity of camera phones has indeed influenced our photo-taking habits. We self-document with photos more than ever before, but what is the role of these sometimes enormous personal archives? Moreover, how has the ubiquity of cellphone cameras changed the way historical narratives are recorded? These are two of the central questions we address in a talk we’re giving on Sunday, April 15th, at 4pm at the LINE Hotel (3515 Wilshire Blvd) in Los Angeles. For those who can’t make it, it’ll be streamed and a record of the talk will eventually appear on the Lost Rolls America website:


JB: If you could go back in time and re-shoot one roll of film in your life, which would it be? (Or where would you be?)

LW: In college, at one point, I was traveling in France. My suitcase, in the back of the train, was stolen. The most important items (passport, laptop) were in my backpack with me in my seat on the train. So I mostly just lost clothes, which are replaceable. But in that suitcase were eight rolls of film. That was the worse part of the losing the luggage – because those were irreplaceable. If I could go back in time, I’d try to recapture those college travel memories. I imagine such photos would only become more valuable over time, taking on a wistful tinge as I look backward reliving those younger days.

RH: The dream of all photojournalists: to transport oneself to a moment in time where the history and future of humanity was being decided. From documenting a time when there were no cameras to pivotal events in war/politics/culture/etc, my choices are endless. It will remain an unanswered question as the answer changes moment by moment as I think I should go there or here or somewhere else…


JB: How would you describe the difference between the celluloid aesthetic, and the hyperreal digital aesthetic that’s taken its place?

LW & RH: One of the most significant differences that Lost Rolls America celebrates is the β€œdelay” inherent to analog film. In the digital age you can see your image immediately. This changes the experience, both of picture taking and of the memory of the moment captured. With analog, you can’t see your photo right away, you don’t know exactly what the picture looks like. That slice of recorded time from the past is returned to the photographer only after the film is developed – that could be a few hours or a few days, or in the case of this archive it can be years and even decades. It has been nothing short of magical to view the responses of participants in the archive who are seeing moments from their past after such long periods of time. It’s a revelatory experience and for many, the memories, summoned up in response to the once-lost photo, are raw, fresh, powerful, and poignant.


JB: How will the photographs be exhibited in LA? What are the exhibition details?Β 

LW & RH:Β The photos from the archive are exhibited in a retro-style Airstream at The LINE Hotel. We invite visitors to step backward in time as they experience others’ photos and memories. It’s simultaneously a collective Americana experience and personalized one, as if stepping into someone’s home, seeing their old photos and hearing their memories. The Airstream–outfitted with a picnic table, rocking chairs, and picket fence–displays the archive contents in unique, interactive ways – through journals, photo albums, with large prints and small, in a bedroom, a kitchen, outside and inside the Airstream. We encourage anyone in the area to visit!

The Best Work I Saw at Photo NOLA: Part 1


I’ve been to New Orleans four times in my life.

Each visit, I’ve gone in December. It’s not entirely a coincidence, as that’s when the Photo NOLA festival takes place.Β (I’ve attended in 2012, ’14 and now ’17)

Despite the fact that New Orleans is situated on the Gulf Coast, and is reputed for its lovely winter weather, two of my visits were met with freezing-rain-ice-storms that made me want to cry in a pillow.

(The other two times I was met with humid, sunny, 70-80 degree weather, so I guess it all depends on luck.)

The fact the weather was awful this year was mitigated by the fact that I’d planned the trip with little time scheduled outside the International House Hotel, where the event is held each year. (It’s just a few short blocks outside the French Quarter.)

Mostly, I was either in the hotel or adjoining conference center, or safely ensconced inside a bar/restaurant/museum/gallery/party/Uber. So any whinging I now provide is mostly for comedic effect.

There was a brief moment, the first night, when I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the heat in my hotel room, and I actually did cry into a pillow, but beyond that, I had a smashing time at Photo NOLA last month.

Like many portfolio review events these days, Photo NOLA is run by a non-profit, in this case the New Orleans Photo Alliance, which is a member-supported organization. (We did an interview on the subject years ago with Jennifer Shaw, if you’d like to learn more about it.)

So Photo NOLA is imbued with a sense of mission, and everyone clearly loves being a part of such a vibrant local photo community. Like Filter in Chicago, another of my favorites, this festival puts heavy emphasis on socializing, as they have several parties and events lined up, including a gala at the New Orleans Museum of Art, and a yellow-school-bus-led gallery tour.

Photographers have a lot of choices these days, as far as review events to attend, so I think the fact that you can have so much fun at Photo NOLA, in addition to the fact they clearly get a few reviewers each year who normally aren’t on the circuit, makes it a very wise place to invest your obviously-limited resources.

(If you’re one of the few out there who’s doing really well, getting rich off of being a photographer, you can ignore the previous comment, but have the decency to keep it to yourself, OK?)

For whatever reason, I had a lot of people visit the table this year who were looking for advice and feedback, but weren’t quite ready to be shown here. I do the best I can to help, obviously, but only publish work in the column that demonstrates a high degree of craft, if not concept, over 8-10 pictures.

As such, I’ll show you a handful of projects today and next week, and then we’ll be back to the book reviews. I attend most of these events in the summer and fall, so this will be the end of the review stories, for a while.

As usual, the photographers are in no particular order.

Ok, they’re in no particular order beyond the fact that I’m starting with Jared Ragland. His work was the most complete, compelling project I saw, and I voted for it for the Photo NOLA prize.

Jared used to work with Pete Souza in Obama’s White House. (An era that now seems like Martin Sheen’s TV presidency, for all the similarities it shares with contemporary reality.) But Jared is originally from Alabama, and returned home to turn his attention to the meth epidemic that is ravaging the NE part of the state.

The pictures are genuinely visceral, as they make a viewer feel uncomfortable. They show something decidedly ugly, and real, but the strong aesthetics give the ride a bit of turbo boost. Additionally, Jared worked with a sociologist to give the project a sense of academic rigor.

Brilliant stuff.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Jared Ragland, from the series, GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Marshall County, Alabama.

Ellie Ivanova had a new take on a subject matter we’ve all seen before: war re-enactors. It’s not hard to see why people are drawn to the subject, as it’s incredibly visual, and also goes pretty far down the road of creating the impression of time travel.

I feel most photographers neglect to really push the element of time in their work, so when the clothing and props are already there for the taking, it’s not hard to see why people with cameras get curious.

Ellie is from Bulgaria, but based in Denton, TX, where she got her MFA degree. She is using a fairly original analog technique to make prints that don’t look real, using some strange acid trick. The chemistry acts in funny ways, and eats away at the emulsion, so the visual effects enhance the emotionality, I think, and also imbue the subject with a bit of originality.

I first saw Amilton Neves‘s work during the portfolio walk, and stopped in my tracks, as it is clearly compelling. Luckily, he had a review with me the next day, so I got the full backstory.

Amilton recently moved to Tampa from Mozambique, where he was both a photographer and an anthropologist. Back home, he became intrigued by a community of women who’d been encouraged to write letters to Portuguese colonial soldiers during a war of independence in the 60’s and 70’s.

Portugal was eventually ejected, after 500 years of Colonial exploitation, and the women were deemed enemies of the state. Surprisingly, they’re still demonized, all these years later, so Amilton photographed them in their homes, and gained access to some of the letters as well.

I think it’s a striking project, and look forward to seeing what he comes up with down there in the craziest state in the Union. (Keep f-cking that chicken, Florida.)

Jo Ann Chaus and I got along swimmingly. She’s a Jewish grandmother from Northern New Jersey, and we openly discussed how hard it can be to focus on a career in the arts, coming from that local culture. (I’m sure I wouldn’t be an artist today if my folks hadn’t left for Taos in the 90’s.)

Though I admit women of her generation doing self-portraiture-based projects is a bit trendy at the moment, (which I told her,) I found an honesty, and visual strength, in many of these pictures, and heartily encouraged her to continue, and push it even further.

Lisa M Robinson and I go way back, as she used to be married to my friend Ken. (Who featured in the ridiculous Marfa article series we published in 2012.)

Lisa, who’s represented by our friends Klompching Brooklyn, got a lot of traction years ago for her project, and Kehrer Verlag book “Snowbound.” They were lovely, meditative, large format images, which she followed up with a series about the sea.

Though I know she was not enamored of Tucson on first site, apparently she made her peace with the desert, because I think this new group of pictures, Terrestra, rocks. I saw it at the portfolio walk, and the prints, trimmed borderless, were the best I saw in NOLA. (The show is up at Klompching as we speak.)

All imagesΒ Β© Lisa M. Robinson/Courtesy of Klompching Gallery, New York

We’ll end today with Rich Frishman, a funny guy who’s based in Washington. I was talking with Frish Brandt, the Director of the Fraenkel Gallery, who was my table-mate, when Rich walked up to my table, and she said he was her brother.

They both smiled, and I was totally sure they were spontaneously busting my balls. You know, two people who get in on the joke immediately, like improv performers.

But no, they insisted, her name Frish came from Frishman, the two hugged, and then she told me he should have been a better big brother when they were young. (He confirmed as much.)

In all my years reviewing, it was one of the most surreal little moments I’ve had. (Is there a book in that? All the craziest stuff I’ve seen at portfolio reviews? Probably not.)

Rich’s pictures are panoramic visions of Americana, shot across much of the country, and are meant to be printed very large, so people can dive into the details. The photos are obviously likable, and kitschy, but I told him the more visually compelling they were, the more people would engage with his vision.

Β©Rich Frishman

Β©Rich Frishman

Allen’s Filling Station on US Route 66; Commerce, Oklahoma
Β©Rich Frishman

Β©Rich Frishman

Total solar eclipse over McDonald’s; Baker City, Oregon
Β©Rich Frishman

Midway Drive-In Theatre; Quitaque, Texas 2016
Β©Rich Frishman

Segregation wall at Templin Saloon; Gonzales, Texas 2016
The wall was constructed in the early 20th Century and is decorated with an original pre-1929 Dr. Pepper logo.
At the time of its construction (circa 1906) only Caucasian customers were allowed to sit in the front of the saloon. All Hispanic, Latino and African-American customers had to sit behind the wall.
When the saloon was remodeled and re-opened in 2014 the wall, no longer used for its original purpose, was retained as a historical reminder.
Β©Rich Frishman

Stark’s Sporting Goods in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin features an assortment of items, including boats, booze and bullets. One stop shopping American-style: shots of whiskey and shotguns.
Β©Rich Frishman


See you next week with more great photography. (If we don’t get nuked first…)

Collecting From Overdue Clients

I was wondering if you might do a bit on collecting from publishers and agencies that aren’t paying. I’m having this problem now and it’s looking like diplomacy is failing. What are the options for photographers when it comes to collections and legal action?

This seems like a timely question from one of my readers. I know things have changed drastically in the accounts payable department at magazines and advertising agencies, so I will let my readers answer this one. I will only say that legal action was fine by me because it gave me something to give to the CFO that would instantly expedite payment. Not sure if that’s still the case.

I recall tackling this subject several years ago and a photographer left a comment about a nice simple procedure for sending overdue invoices to collections. Lets hear what you got.

Stop Accepting $200 Assignments!

I’m a struggling freelance photographer just like many out there, I’m sure. I’m not widely known, nor have I been in the industry for decades with a client list that stretches for miles, but I know the sooner I learn to value my own work and the sooner I learn to value the industry in which I work, the better my business will be, and the sooner those big jobs will start rolling in.

NOTE: I pulled the names off this post because I feared that these up-and-coming photographers might get some backlash for openly discussing their struggle with $200 assignments. Most of the veteran photographers I’ve talked with had the same problems starting out, so I know it’s not anything new to the industry. The key seems to be getting over it as quickly as possible. In fact the 1st photographer wrote this several months ago and is already in a much better position, on his way to building a nice list of recurring higher paying clients and was relieved to know he would not be forever associated with his early struggles.

Consider this a snapshot into the minds of up-and-coming photographers in this industry and the kind of impact one influential person can have on their thinking.

Up-and-coming Photographer 1 (NY):
Those of us that attended the most recent Eddie Adams Workshop quickly came to see that it was a rare opportunity not only to show our work and meet the newest generation of image-makers, but to get advice from many of the best editors and photographers in the world.

The guest speakers were the highlight of the workshop. They gave us insight into recently completed projects, practical advice on how to handle story subjects, and how to begin and manage a career. This year we heard from people such as Nick Nichols, Platon, Jimmy Colton, John Moore, Bill Epperidge, and many others.

This year, of course, the workshop took place during a difficult time in our industry. There were just as many cautionary tales about earning a living as a photographer as the stories of adventure. Everyone of course was eager to do great work, but we all kept asking the same question: where are our fees going to come from, and will we be able to earn enough to make a career as an image maker?

On the second to last night, there was a panel that I had hoped would really address this issue. Moderated by MaryAnne Golon, it consisted of Santiago Lyon of the AP, Nat Geo photographer Gary Knight, James Wellford of Newsweek, and David Griffin of National Geographic. They covered a number of topics, but it wasn’t until a student stood up and asked a question about how we, as the next generation of photographers, were supposed to survive financially in this new photo world, that my interest became particularly peaked.

Each panel member had different bits of advice to give, some I had heard before, some not. Then Brian Storm, sitting near the panel, got up and turned to the students and said something that has stuck with me and many attendees that I’ve talked to since the workshop ended a few months ago.

Brian said that photographers should, β€œstop accepting the $200 gigs,” because those low-fee jobs, along with those who are working for free, are bringing down the collective value of our industry and are encouraging our clients to expect more for less. He also pointed out that MediaStorm turns away well over half of the jobs that come to them, so there’s obviously a demand for original, creative content, and we all needed to figure out how to tap into this new multimedia friendly market.

At first, I was surprised by Brian’s remarks. Like many of my colleagues I struggle to make ends meet as a photographer. Even with a prestigious internship to my credit, and with several clips from the biggest newspapers and magazines in the industry in my portfolio, I have to spend most of my days hustling and marketing myself to land assignments and clients. Since I’ve been working full-time as a photographer, I have turned down perhaps half a dozen assignments because the pay was so low it just wasn’t worth leaving the house.

But, if I hadn’t accepted other low-paying assignments, some of the kind Brian was talking about, I would be writing this story from the basement in my parents’ house in New Jersey, not from my East Harlem apartment.

I simply cannot afford to turn down the $200 gigs and continue to work as a professional. I’d have to leave New York, which as we all know, is the center of the photo world. I’ve invested a lot of time in the city as a subject. I’ve also invested a lot of time visiting various photo editors in NY, trying to establish a network of contacts. Finally, I stay in NY because, for me, it’s the best place for a shooter. Some of the low-paying gigs I accepted also led to other work and other contacts, and gave me great tearsheets.

The irony is, I agree with Brian’s comments. Nothing upsets my professional equilibrium more than when I think my services or my craft or my industry in general is being undervalued by a customer or client. I never accept a client’s first budget; I alwaysβ€”alwaysβ€”try to negotiate a higher fee. But if I had not accepted some of those low paying assignments, assignments for money that Brian says fall below current industry standard rates, my career would have been hamstrung. Those jobs have allowed me to build a portfolio, and those jobs have helped give me a small bit of revenue that has allowed me to keep my head above water.

Going into the workshop, I had one camera, one lens, one flash, and rent due. Since then I’ve gotten gigs that include advertising and corporate work (weddings too) and I can now be more discriminating when it comes to deciding what assignments to accept and what assignments simply aren’t worth it. I still wake up every day happy to be a photographer. It’s my career; it’s my life.

Now, I know that my experiences as an up-and-comer in NYC would be very different from those of my fellow workshoppers, so I asked a few of them to react to what Brian said, as well as give their two cents about accepting low paying gigs:

Up-and-coming Photographer 2 (CA):
I personally agree with Brian on the subject of turning down jobs of $200 work. I feel that as the saturation of photographers in the industry is increasing, everyone wants a bite and so photographers cut each other off to get a gig. I don’t think it’s fair for the work put in and for the industry itself. I believe it’s bad business management and it’s not the fault of the photographers. No one educates photographers on how much to charge and established photographers are reluctant to share their rate cards or share how much they charge for services. I believe that needs to change. I figure, photographers should be communicating with each other some more and keep the reputation of a high quality service. I compare this to gasoline, restaurants or other retail businesses, where a new business will open with very similar but competitive pricing to an established business. A hamburger at one restaurant will be $5.00 and at another place will be $4.75, and at another at $4.50, all with the same quality burger. It should be the same with photography.

I have turned down jobs that are $200 or less. I have been offered two hour shooting gigs for $100 and I have to turn them down. I don’t see a shoot every only taking two hours, because afterward I’m spending perhaps another hour on the computer editing and color-correcting images, and another 15-20 minutes burning a disc. So my time working has increased from two hours to maybe three or four. I feel worse when I have to turn down weddings or other long hour day shoots if they ask me to shoot it for $200, because it feels as if the client is devaluing the work. The worst part of all this, equipment prices get higher and higher every year, or new and better equipment comes out every other month now, and to stay on top of the game, you need state-of-the-art equipment so that it at least can push out two to three years of life from it. So I believe photographers need to agree more on charging and balancing costs and value, so that this industry can continue to strive and keep its prestige. In the end, it’s not just a hobby, it becomes a business, and it takes just as much vision in having a business as in having a vision for a photo project.

Up-and-coming Photographer 3 (NY):
I definitely agree with what Brian Storm had to say at Eddie Adams. I think its great to hear that there is such a demand for quality multimedia, but I think one of the major problems right now is that it’s hard for qualified multimedia journalists to find clients that understand the value in good multimedia journalism and are willing to give them the time and money for quality work. During a panel discussion at Eddie Adams this past year Brian Storm mentioned that Media Storm is turning away half the jobs that come to them, and many of us young journalists in the audience jokingly called out “can you pass them our way!” It’s a transitional time in our industry where less of us are working for traditional news organizations and only a few production houses such as Media Storm have been established, so until we find our niche in the world of journalism, we freelance. There are many advantages to working solo, but one of the biggest challenges is connecting with clients that are willing to pay more than $200 for a job. Many of us are trying to keep up with the bills and pay off student loans, so certain months it’s hard to turn down that $200 job. I think for young journalists to survive in this current climate we need to work together so we don’t feel pressured to compromise our integrity. I don’t know what the future in digital reporting will be, but I feel like one thing we can plan for is to make ourselves visible and accessible to future clients. Production houses like Media Storm, collectives like Luceo Images and photo agencies such as Redux Pictures all seem to be going strong. I think the next step might be to have more Multimedia agencies vs. still photo agencies, that feature qualified multimedia journalists and connect them with clients. At this period in my career, I could use the middle man.

Up-and-coming Photographer 4 (CA):
I feel like young professionals like myself are in this weird state of flux, like a catch-22. I’ve grown in my young career through the teachings some really talented, established photographers and have tried to maintain the industry standards of charging appropriately for content. Yet I’ve quickly found that these “high morals” (which I agree with) have yet to be fruitful. We are all trying to start up a lucrative, sustaining business in photography when the industry as a whole, journalism especially, lies in this uncertain state of a new media Renaissance. I always thought I would be a newspaper photojournalist, now the game has changed. It isn’t anything new. The playing fields are getting smaller and have a lot more players eager to stand out. I don’t have the long standing portfolios of contributing to the New York Times. Those client decorations seem to help define you as a pro and justify to clients that you are worth paying pro fees to. For unestablished, young pro photographers, this seems like a huge hurdle to get over. When so much of this business is based on word of mouth, how are young photographers supposed to get their names out there when they are trying to charge the prices of established photographers? The same great mentors/photo editors that are telling us all to maintain good pricing standards are the same people we seek out for jobs and are low balling us because of the flailing market. At some point a young photographer needs to get his/her feet wet and make a sale. After all rent is due.

Up-and-coming Photographer 5 (CT):
Brian Storm made a very strong point when he spoke at the Eddie Adams Workshop this year but I would argue that the issue is a little more complex then was perhaps discussed. I strongly agree with his thoughts on maintaining a level of commitment to the value of what we produce as photographers. This will help to avoid driving the market value down and consequently out pricing one another to the point where it is simply not viable to make a living as a freelancer. When we have some level of control over the fee negotiations on a particular job, it becomes essential for us to charge the appropriate amount for the work. Doing work for free undermines the amount of time, effort, and creativity that others put in on similar jobs and cannot be an option when we, as a community, are trying to regain control over price point.

The challenge, however lies in the work we do for clients who are large enough and unfortunately prestigious enough that they can set their price point with the understanding that we need the exposure they offer to build a reputation. This is especially applicable for photojournalists in this current market where even the β€˜top tier’ news clients sometimes only offer day rates that hover around the $200 mark. As we move forward in this time of transition, it will become even more important to strike a balance between excepting work we feel strongly about for slightly less than we would have hoped and also demanding we are paid fair value for work we are in control of.

Up-and-coming Photographer 6 (TX):
As far as I’m concerned, while I fully understand what Brian was saying, I don’t know if I agree 100%. I also don’t really think this is about $200, but more about taking the crappy pay so many clients think they can get away with, which perpetuates the trend of paying us very little for work that is worth substantially more.

As a full-time freelance photographer fairly early in my career, I take a lot of pride in pricing correctly and practicing proper business practices. I know way too many incredible photographers without any business sense and it kills me. Understanding your market and the proper way to run a business is paramount, especially for a freelancer and especially in the “$200” market Brian speaks of.

Since I don’t have a super niche market and do a lot of different kinds of work for a lot of different clients with a lot of different budgets, generalizing my “gigs” isn’t the best way to summarize my experience, but I quote, estimate, bid and price very similarly to other colleagues in my marketΒ (hopefully).Β As far as I know I’m the youngest active member of my ASMP chapterΒ and take a lot of pride in the work that I do. In saying that, I also want to price it accordingly. When I have a pricing issue, a negotiation issue or a general business issue I have several colleagues, mentors and friends at the ready that will gladly steer me in the right direction. Sure they may be competitors in a sense, as well as friends, but none of us benefit from a photographer coming into our market and undercutting our business.

With that said, we can only do so much to educate ourselves and other working professionals in our market, but not only is it extremely difficult to regulate pricing as US anti-trust laws specifically prohibit it, but it is extremely difficult to eradicate the “$200” market when so many photographers, hobbyists and the like are willing to do it for free.

Sure, there are tons of jobs that a hobbyist wouldn’t be able to match, but for every client that respects the photographer and his art/craft, and is willing to pay for it, there’s a client with swindling budget calling you up, leaving you a voicemail asking if it’s ok to use some of your photos and telling you that they cannot pay for them, but offering “exposure” insteadΒ (trust me I’ve had 2 this week already).

Have I personally turned down $200 gigs before? Sure. Have I personally said, “no thanks,” to a client that doesn’t want to pay me close to what I should be getting paid? All the time. Do I regret it? No.

I’m a struggling freelance photographer just like many out there, I’m sure. I’m not widely known, nor have I been in the industry for decades with a client list that stretches for miles, but I know the sooner I learn to value my own work and the sooner I learn to value the industry in which I work, the better my business will be, and the sooner those big jobs will start rolling in.

VII Mentor Program

The VIIMENTOR PROGRAM (here), a new initiative conceived by VII Members, seeks to provide professional development for emerging photographers whom the Members consider to be the brightest new talents in the industry. After being nominated by a VII Member, each selected photographer will work with a senior member of VII for two years to build and polish necessary skills and to expand his or her own professional practice.

Β©Agnes Dherbeys VII Mentor Program
Β©Agnes Dherbeys VII Mentor Program

The Challenges In Photography

People make way too much out of the digital versus film. The challenges in photographyβ€”focus, crop, shutter, aperture, and of course the biggest ones of all, the ones that really matter: what you actually point the camera at, and with what intelligence you use it… are all still there, completely unchanged.

Q&A with Paul Graham, PDN.


Secret Hopes Of Becoming An Artbro Star

Changing my life plans from wanting to be a teacher with the secret hopes of becoming an artbro star to really wanting to become a teacher and participating in creating art as a side hobby whenever I feel like it. My new ideas on how I’ll be distributing my work will make “living off my art” and continuing my chic bohemian lifestyle an unrealistic feat.

I’ve been feeling a lil down about how disconnected art is from actual change in other people’s lives. Not wanting to pursue being an art star takes some really great burdens off me…

via Brad Troemel.

Portfolio Reviews

Over on Conscientious, Joerg delves into the world of portfolio reviews (here) which I mentioned in my post on perceived scams in the photography industry but didn’t really get into because of my limited experience with them. Overall there’s some great advice for potential reviewers and reviewees and I plan to report my own experiences with the process when I attend the Photo Lucida in April as a reviewer (I still need to write about the critical mass photographers I liked that didn’t make the cut).

Mary Virgina Swanson thinks the portfolio reviews are a better way to go than the contests (here):

“I become increasingly frustrated and in fact pessimistic about the value of entering many exhibition and/or publication competitions. The reproduction rights demanded from the winners, and more often now from those who simply apply, are frustrating, unnecessary and unfair. The physical space and the circumstances at the actual judging of the work can vary, within a physically environment that may not lend itself to optimum viewing of your work, or judges working remotely without a dialogue, or so few examples of your work presented that we can barely get to know your work.”

The Biggest Scam In Photography

What’s the biggest scam in photography? Judging purely on angry comments I get and see (here’s some on PDN Pulse) when the topic is raised, it’s photo contests with portfolio reviews running a close second. Of course the first time I even mentioned contests on the blog I was caught a little off guard because I thought the system worked pretty well. Sure, I’ve been completely skunked before when I sent in what I thought was our best work (I’m talking photo editing here not pictures I’ve taken) but eventually we started winning and the awards paragraph on my resume began to fill up.

The two big contests in my opinion are American Photography (the book) and the PDN photography annual (World Press Photo is of course highly respected but there was never any reference to pull off the shelf when looking for photographers). Both have parties for the winners and the judges are always people you want to get your work in front of. I know that commercial photography has a couple that are highly respected as well (CA and Kelly Awards I think).

The reasons for entering a respected contest are clear. Getting your work in front judges, getting your work published if it wins, using the recognition as part of your marketing effort and attending a party to celebrate great photography. I can assure you that any photographers receiving recognition in the contests I mentioned got extra consideration for assignments. It’s simple reinforcement that the photographers work is good. They’re also used as a handy reference to pair the name of the photographer with the work you remember from the past year.

Recently a photographer brought the Billboard Photography Contest to my attention (here) because the deadline to announce winners had passed and he couldn’t find out who won. I made several inquiries myself and eventually got to John Gimenez of PDN Custom Media and Events who answered my emails but never got us closer to finding the results. Eventually they issued a new call for entries a put a link up to the past winners which only said coming soon. When I checked this morning it was finally working (here).

Upon, closer inspection of the new contest leads me to believe this one is purely for profit. I can’t figure out what the prizes are, who the judges are and paying extra for a deadline extension on digital entries is complete horseshit.

I think there’s room for improvement in photography contests or at least room for something completely different and innovative, but there are a couple hurdles to get over first.

1. There needs to be a barrier to entry. You can read what it’s like to plow through the 81,000 entries to World Press Photo (here). Usually the entry fee serves this purpose. If it’s high enough people limit the work they submit but this also limits the potential field.

2. You need to attract qualified judges. If you’ve ever sat in a room or at a computer screen and plowed through entries it doesn’t take long for the fatigue to creep in. This is work people. Getting busy photo editors to volunteer for this means the stuff they’re looking at needs to be of high quality.

3. The final product needs to be published in a way that’s useful to the community. From my own experience running a free promo contest on this blog, this is not easy. Getting busy creatives to look at hundreds of finalists from a contest they’ve never heard of is nearly impossible (a few people did land jobs because of it so it was ultimately successful).

Since 2009 will be the year when the media industry begins to remake itself you have to believe there are better ways to do everything. Photography contests seem like a good place to start.

Can Editorial Photographers Make A Living Anymore?

I’ve often wondered? I certainly know plenty of photographers who do make a living in editorial photography and have always assumed there’s a large cliff between them and those who want to make it their profession but I have no clue what kind of money is being made and how many people are making it.

PDN is going help solve that problem with a survey (to find out what editorial photographers earn, how they’re surviving, and what kind of rates they’re getting) editorial photographers can take (here).

The survey comes at an difficult time for editorial photographers because by all indications we’re headed for a pretty bad winter of dropping circ and advertiser belt tightening (here and here) that can only result in fewer assignments and money available for photography. Hopefully we’re not far from the bottom and the industry can rebound like it did after 2000. With more and more photography headed online where the distribution and printing is virtually free it seems like publishers could still manage to pay for original photography so their publication doesn’t start to resemble google.

I think we’ve reached a critical juncture for the editorial photography industry and it’s time to take stock of where we are so we can make changes that will ensure the long term health going forward. The industry used to just take care of itself but I’m not so sure that will be the case in the future.

Getty announces deal with Flickr

Interesting development in the stock industry, Getty Images and Flickr are working together to establish the first commercial licensing opportunity for photo-enthusiasts in the Flickr community:

Images can be tremendously powerful. Images, empowered appropriately, can challenge, convince, delight and inspire. At Flickr, we think one of our most important missions is to enabe images to be all that they can be. And as such, we are incredibly proud and excited to launch a new partnership with Getty Images, the unrivaled leader in digital media licensing, to offer a new Flickr branded collection on

The creative and editorial teams at Getty Images have a deep understanding of what makes images truly extraordinary as well as what their clients (on a global scale) are seeking. Marrying this expertise to the talent and breadth of the photography on Flickr is truly an incredible opportunity, for our members, for Getty Images clients, and for those who love imagery in all of its forms.

So how does it all work?

Getty Images has the best editors globally taking the pulse of the market. In the next several months, they will be exploring Flickr’s collection of public photos and inviting some of these photographers to be part of the Flickr collection on Getty Images.

Both companies are committed to providing our users with more choices. Flickr members have an unprecedented opportunity to establish even more value for their creativity and work directly with a global leader to license their images commercially. Getty Images customers will have access to even more diverse, regionally relevant imagery.

So make sure to check out the Flickr collection on in the coming months to see what the editors at Getty Images have selected.

-Kakul Srivastav, General Manager, Flickr

From the Getty Blog (here).

I’ll be interested to see how many gems they find in the 2 billion images stored there.

A Couple Blogs I’m Reading

Thoughts of a Bohemian, first pointed out to me by Kim Taylor of in the comments of a post, is written by Paul Melcher a stock industry veteran who happens to also be a bohemian, which I dig. He speaks my language as well. Here’s a good example on a post entitled “A Whale of a Story.

It is everyone’s understanding that the price of photography will continue to dip down. How soon and how fast, it is anyone’s guess. It would absolutely not surprise me if someone like Getty would take a deep plunge into bottom cheap imagery in order to get rid of any competition and clean the landscape, a bit like a whale plunges deep below to get rid of parasite fish, only to return to a new, stronger marketplace. Everyone knows that there is too much photography available, both in stock and editorial. It is time to force the medium and lesser photographers and agencies into a rapid bankruptcy in order to sanitize the offering.

Let me step back and explain: The market, currently, offers the false impression that anyone can make money in the photography field. Since it has become easy and cheap to enter, everyone and his brother is now either a photographer or a stock agent. Since there is no tangible market research on the size of our industry, $2 billion, $5 billion, $3000 billion, it is anyone guess on what the payout will be. If someone paid attention, I am sure that we would see that there has been more stock agencies of all type launched in the last five years then at anytime in its brief history. And it is only growing exponentially. More agencies, more photographers, more photographers, less relevant images. It seems that there is money to be made because of Microstocks and Flickr’s successes. And as much is there might be an increase in the number of images used in one year, there has not been an increase of revenue generated by this spike. It has been almost cancelled by the fall in pricing and Getty has been a witness to that.

The only way to really profit from that growth would be to get rid of the overflow of images. And the best way is to force as many people out of the market as possible, as quickly as possible.

A quick hit off the bottom could be exactly whats needed in this industry but I guess that depends on if you’re a whale or a parasite.

The other blog I’m checking out is called “The Business of Photography” and I discovered it over on Photo Rank (here) submitted by the author Ed McCulloch hisself. It’s sort of a “What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School” for the photo school kids and seems to be born out of the frustration of an education that doesn’t teach business to photographers (ridiculous).

Anyway, there’s plenty of advice for photographers floating around but I always like it when I see someone with talent giving it out. Ed is a name I’ve been familiar with for sometime because he knows how to market himself and he’s a good photographer, definitely someone worth listening to.

Corporate Greed

- - Photography Business

Robert Wright delivered part 3 (here) on the “business” of editorial photography and we both agree that corporate greed is the source of the problems we face in photography and generally in business today. It always seems like I randomly run into information that further clarifies what we’re discussing and this time is no exception:

From New York Magazine, American Roulette: In our winner-take-all casino economy, the middle class is getting royally screwed. A call to arms for populism, before it’s too late (here). Via the writers strike blog (here).

We’ve had a bracing, invigorating run of pedal-to-the-metal hypercapitalism, but now it’s time to ease up and share the wealth some. We can afford to make life a little more fair and a lot less scary for most people.

And then.

From a book review by Roger Lownstein in Portfolio Magazine (here).

By Robert B. Reich
Knopf, 272 pages, $25

[…]As Reich admits, this unfettered capitalism is very good at what it tries to do: mainly, earn profits for shareholders and offer a wide array of affordable products to consumers. It is lousy at everything else, which, according to Reich, includes providing health care and ample pensions for employees or a living wage for those on the bottom or protecting small retailers and the environment.

[…]Free markets have been great for the kingpins of private equityβ€”not so for the working stiff.

[…]Reich spends a lot of time contrasting the present era with what he calls the Not Quite Golden Age of the 1950s and ’60s, when unions and government promoted stability for workers and communities at the cost of a far less innovative economy. It’s startling to be reminded of just how controlled the U.S. economy used to be.

[…] Anyway, technology ended it. Ma Bell lost its monopoly to new long-distance-transmission technology, and truckers to Federal Express. Down came the regulatory walls, companies were forced to compete, and Wall Street demanded profits and profits alone. Communities be damned.

[…]Corporations cannot be expected to divide their loyalties between social interests and capitalist ones because they have no means of weighing one against the other. Only a democratic institution can decide whether, in order to preserve community values, it is worth throwing a little sand into the gears of capitalismβ€”say, by keeping a big-box retailer out of downtown. But those institutions, namely Congress and state legislatures, are failing.

Don’t let the greedheads win.

Copyright And Photography On The Internet

- - Photography Business

So, it appears this story where photographer Lane Hartwell asked YouTube to remove a video, created by The Richter Scales, under a DMCA take down order is not going to get resolved quietly. I think they could have paid her a fee and removed the image and gotten on with their lives, but we shall find out in the coming days when she posts her side of the story.

Uber blogger Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch decided to make it front page news (here) with the same laughable fair use defense those Richter Scales tried but if you read through the lines it seems to be more of a case that a video everyone liked and Michael was featured in is not longer available and he’s pissed-off about it.

Michael ends his post with this Web 2.0 fairy tale:

Societal ideals around what constitutes ownership over art are changing. People who try to protect and silo off their work are simply being ignored. Those that embrace the community, and give back to it not only allowing but asking for their work to be mashed up, re-used and otherwise embraced are being rewarded with attention. At the core is a basic implicit understanding – if you want to be part of the community, you have to give back to it, too.

Dude, are you drunk? Content is king. People who steal work to mash it up and don’t attribute or pay their sources are dicks.

A cursory reading of the comments shows the usual dreck like “it’s the internet, get over it” or “your photos suck why would you care” or even better “it’s an awesome marketing opportunity that you should have taken advantage of.”

Here are a few of the better comments:

Amie Gillingham

December 16th, 2007 at 5:37 am

We shouldn’t be clamoring for such an erosion of ownership rights just because we all loved the end result. Permission is everything!



December 16th, 2007 at 7:34 am

Er Mike, aren’t you supposed to be a lawyer? Grab a clue, man.

Those who can, create. Those who can’t, steal.



December 16th, 2007 at 5:45 pm

The whole β€œyou shouldn’t post your work on the Internet if you don’t want it stolen” argument seems like a path to a pretty depressing society. If you don’t want your wallet stolen, don’t carry it with you. If you don’t want your car broken-into, don’t park it on the street. If you don’t want your house burglarized then don’t have windows…

[…]Here, we all gain when artists put their work on the Internet. We can view their work from thousands of miles away and gain an appreciation for it. She can sell prints, I can send her feedback, etc. Everybody ends up happier.

The general public’s misunderstanding of copyright is not what’s disturbing here, it’s that influential bloggers like Michael and Robert Scoble (here), who should be leading by example, seem to think we should throw it out the window in favor of some type of web 2.0 community empowerment. I just don’t see the upside for anyone when the original creator of a work cannot be found.

Update: Lane Hartwell statement (here). Here’s a highlight:

The band did not remove the image from the video when I brought it to their attention and instead they told me they had the right to use it. They could have easily apologized, removed the video from YouTube and re-edited without my image and reposted.

Photography is my livelihood. It’s how I pay my bills. I’m not treating the band any differently than any other group that uses my work without my permission.

Making A Living As A Photographer

- - Photography Business

Robert Wright delivers a couple smart posts on the business of photography and that oh so important part, many photographers overlook, making sure you treat it like a business. He’s got some strategies for dealing with the current state of affairs which amounts to a stagnant day rate and thinly padded expenses.

US vs. THEM… or flogging a dead horse

US vs. THEM part DEUX!

I agree with much of what he says even though I’m a part of “THEM.”

He talks about working within the system but using whatever advantages you can to create positive cash flow. I’d say the biggest point to come out of it is that idea of renting equipment. There’s hardly a photographer that I hire anymore that doesn’t charge me to rent equipment. Hell, I just paid a $7,000 rental bill but what am I going to do about it, nobody owns equipment anymore and if they do they rent it to me. It’s only fair.

He also brings up the editorial photographers group (EP) which failed to turn editorial photography into a viable business but I will add likely mitigated the level of damage that was about to happen. I personally learned a ton from what I read on the website back then and many photographers that I dealt with changed their business practices for the better. I even cribbed off the contracts when writing and trying to understand a few of my own.

The big downside for me was that anyone with a camera was suddenly using the EP attitude to badger me into paying higher rates and signing their contract terms and the reality was they didn’t have the skills as a photographer to make those demands.

The barrier to entry in the editorial market has always been that you can’t make a living at the bottom of the market and now the middle of the market is completely flooded with photographers making it impossible to specialize in editorial photography. This can’t be good and I really don’t have a solution at the moment but at least Robert has a strategy for dealing with it.