Yes, you own the actual copyright to your work when you create it, but you do not have the full protection of the law unless you register it. That one little [online form] from the copyright office will change your life.
This is how longtime director and photographer Michael Grecco sums up the process that ensures your photographs are protected. The first step is, of course, creating the imagery itself. But what’s also important is registering that work with the U.S. government’s copyright office to prevent outside parties from unjustly using your imagery. Your ability to defend yourself against an infringement depends on your timely registration of your copyright. Most photographers don’t realize that while they own the copyright to their photos the instant they’re made, it’s only by registering the copyright that they’re truly protected from infringement.
As with just about anything related to our government, the process by which you register your copyright is, to use Michael’s words, “deceptively complicated.” Across three detailed videos, Michael breaks down and simplifies the step-by-step guide to protecting your work, covering the “why” as well as the “how” regarding this vital action. Let’s take some time to highlight the key points of each video, all of which can be found below.
PART ONE: BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON COPYRIGHT REGISTRATION
As a primer of sorts for this rather involved topic, Michael takes the time to explain the definition and importance of copyright registration. Here are some of the big takeaways to keep in mind:
Why the difference between having and not having your work copyrighted could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
Why you can earn up to $150,000 — plus legal fees — per image if you register your copyright before someone tries to steal it.
Why published and unpublished work needs to be registered separately and differently — and why every image registered at one time needs to come from the same year.
The number of images you can copyright per registration, and how much time you have between publication and registration to receive full protection for your published work.
How to determine if your work can be considered “published.”
PART TWO: REGISTERING YOUR UNPUBLISHED WORK ONLINE
In the second of his three videos, Michael sits down and goes through the actual process of registering your property on the U.S. Copyright Office’s website. This is where we get into the nitty-gritty of ensuring your work is protected by the law. The biggest thing to note here, other than how to navigate the online form, is that organized archiving is key. Make sure that all your files are grouped logically and labelled consistently — after all, you may very well be uploading hundreds of images at once, so it’s imperative you know where they are and why they go together.
PART THREE: REGISTERING YOUR PUBLISHED WORK ONLINE
While the process for registering your published work is quite similar to what you’d do for unpublished imagery, there are a few extra steps you need to take. Whereas unpublished work can be dated by the time it was created, published images must be labeled by when they were, well, published. If you did a shoot for a magazine in, say, July of 2019 but the issue featuring your work didn’t run until October 2019, you need to date your images with the latter month and year (the day of publication is irrelevant). Take a look at the video above to see the other differences between registering unpublished and published work; Michael’s also got some tips on how to best keep track of the images you upload to the copyright office’s website.
And that about covers one of the most important and necessary aspects of protecting your intellectual property. You busted your butt to not only create images, but also to earn a living from them, so complete this process regularly to ensure you get fully compensated for your work. Hopefully this seemingly daunting task becomes a little less scary once you hear from Michael!
For more information on the subject, check out Honore Brown’s how-to guide and chat with photographers on the subject.
Need help registering your copyright? Send Wonderful Machine an email with any questions or concerns!
Heidi: How did yoga come into your life? Andy: Yoga entered my life around 2004 when I was living in Crested Butte, Colorado, where I worked as a professional ski patrolman. I began in the Iyengar tradition, which emphasizes alignment and using the body as an instrument for expanded consciousness and awareness. In it, one is so focused on the specific, subtle movements of the body, that it is hard to be anywhere but present. In a two-hour class, my teacher would walk around the room offering adjustments and share yogic philosophy while we held 4 or 5 postures for extended periods of time, letting go of tension, mental chatter and becoming aware of a more profound reality. It was transformative, and not easy. Yet I kept coming back for more. That was my beginning, an opening to a new way.
When did you decide to document your practice? After a few years of Iyengar Yoga, I started practicing Vinyasa Yoga in a heated room, primarily because I was living in a city with cold and dark winters, in Minneapolis, where I currently live and work. For me, it is essential to move my body before I can settle down and still my mind, so the vigorous physical nature of Vinyasa seemed a good choice. This led to Kundalini Yoga, which I currently practice. By 2011, I had a solid foundation in yoga and I began thinking about how to explore it through photography, as a way to go deeper.
As much of yoga happens internally, working in a medium that deals primarily with surfaces has proven challenging at times. To make photographs that convey transformation and transcendence, new visual strategies are required. I use abstractions, reflections, pictures within pictures (often to convey lineages and relationships), allegorical photographs, and being receptive to moments that convey presence. Yoga is defined as union, the capacity to merge the finite with the infinite–our individual human experience with the universal consciousness. It is a method of self-realization and a state of being. Yet, how can these vast and often esoteric concepts be pictured, understood, and known?
How long were you in India? I have been to India 6 times. It was important for me to look at the roots of yoga; it’s history and myriad traditions, which required extensive travel over 5 years, especially in India–yoga’s source. I also made a lot of the work throughout the United States, as well as in Mexico and China, when looking at contemporary forms of yoga.
To answer your question, for this series, I travelled to India 3 times for anywhere from 6 weeks to 2 months at a time. I spent many days in caves in the Himalayas with silent yogis. I lived in ashrams and with various spiritual communities. Many saints and great masters blessed me and shared their teachings with me. For weeks, I lived a tent while photographing massive Hindu fairs with millions of pilgrims and yogis. There was a lot of research and learning prior to each of these trips, yet, once I started working one thing led to another, often in very unexpected and serendipitous ways. Serpent in the Wilderness, my monograph published with Kehrer Verlag (2018), is the result.
What were some of the unexpected discoveries along the way? Yoga is more than we think it is. It has been enriching to look at it from an experiential perspective, as well as a historical, cultural, spiritual, and a visual one. Photography affords an opportunity to ask questions and see where they lead. For me, it isn’t about definitive answers to the questions as much as it is the experience and process of making the work. I am not suggesting the photographs are not important; they certainly are, yet not more so than life, and deepening my relationship to it.
In the times we’re living in, especially right now, there is so much pressure on us. This is an intense moment on every level—personal, social, political, environmental, among many others. Our attention is so precious. We need to be wise in how use it and where we place it. So we can focus and be present in our lives, at least some of the time. So we can remain whole and maintain some kind of balance. More than ever, it is essential to have techniques to control our inner state. Yoga is one such tool.
What are some of the more unique applications of yoga? The first sutra of Patanjali talks about yoga being the “cessation of the chatter of the mind”. If that is possible, many things can be understood and experienced. If we practice, that is. We are often in our heads, somewhere in the future making plans, or alternatively, in the past reliving something that is no longer here, all the while we are missing what is happening right before us. Yoga offers us an experience of the present. Perhaps this is the most significant gift it has given me. Yet, I cannot emphasize enough that it is a practice…not something you do and then all is figured out. It requires discipline, and returning to it. Yoga is more of a way of life than something one does on a mat. It is living life with intention and awareness in each moment.
Was it difficult at times to be an observer with a camera, as yoga is often a dedicated practice without observers? Access was a challenge initially. As I started working, the doors opened slowly, yet once I had photographs to show and people had a sense of my intentions and work, things started to change. About a year in, after a few requests, I received an email from B.K.S. Iyengar’s studio on a cold winter morning in Minneapolis, inviting me to come spend some time working with the late master in Pune, India. This is one of the most influential yogis of all time, mind you, and I was allowed to come photograph over a couple days and interview him. Within a month or so, I was in India photographing his daily practice at the age of 94, a little over a year before he passed away.
I often work with Leicas, which allows me to work in low light with fluency and to be unobtrusive and quiet. As a yogi, I am able to understand the situation before me from both sides and to respond intuitively and in a way that is appropriate in the moment. For me, it is essential to not take the individual, or group, that I am working with out of their experience. They are there, doing their work, going within and I have been given an opportunity. It might be silent meditation, chanting a mantra or doing a pranayam, or doing strenuous asanas (postures). Whatever it is, I want to tap into that and somehow, using this medium, communicate the more subtle aspects of their experience. It is a lot to ask from photography.
There have been many books on yoga, what makes this book unique? The work in Serpent in the Wilderness (Kehrer Verlag, 2018), my monograph exploring yoga represents my own walk through yoga. It is not intended to be all encompassing, or to represent yoga around the world in all of its forms. It’s my own exploration, my own contemplation, and where I’ve been led through the years. The photography is experiential and personal, and I am very much immersed in the subject matter.
I do not want to get too into what others are doing, but most photography related to yoga has a performative aspect to it, or is portrait-based, where a more directorial approach is taken on the part of the photographer. The subject is often represented in a superficial way, frequently with an emphasis on the physical body and postures, with commercial imperatives. The depths of yoga are rarely acknowledged or looked at, and we stay on the surface. In terms of Serpent in the Wilderness, I wanted to approach it in a very open way and to dig into the essence of what yoga is, both past and present. I employed a more documentary approach in making the work, without being tied to a traditional narrative structure. I created a variety of different types of photographs for the series, in order to point toward some of the more subtle aspects of the discipline. I am not attempting to illustrate what yoga is, but rather trying to peel back it’s many layers both as a photographer, and as a practitioner–to ask questions and understand something new.
When actually photographing, I’m tuned into what’s happening before me and trying to transmit the inner experience that the yogi in front of me is having. At least what the camera will allow for, that is. Certainly, my physical presence in the space (ashram, cave, classroom, etc.) has an affect on the individuals before me, and I think it is important to be honest about this. I am not a fly on the wall, nor is that my intention or objective. But I do work lightly, and in a very sensitive way. I was always clear about my intentions with others and fortunate to be invited into some truly incredible situations and contexts to make this work.
How did the National Geographic story come about? A day or so after Hurricane Sandy, I met Sarah Leen in Washington D.C. prior to her taking on the role as Director of Photography for National Geographic Magazine, a position she stepped down from last autumn, so she was familiar with my work. A few years later, I worked with Elizabeth Krist, a former senior photo editor, during a weekend workshop hosted by Visura in Stowe, Vermont. She brought the project to the magazine for consideration and perhaps further development, but it didn’t go anywhere at the time. As with most magazines, timing is critical, and the work has to align with the specific interests and needs of the moment.
I continued making my work, as time and resources allowed. When I was ready to publish the book, I showed exhibition prints and a book maquette to Sarah again, the project was much more resolved by then. She gave me some positive feedback on how I had developed things, yet it didn’t really lead anywhere at that time in terms of a story in the magazine. I published my monograph in 2018 with Kehrer Verlag, a German art book publisher, and in 2019 a different photo editor from National Geographic reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in working with them on a story about yoga for a forthcoming issue on Wellness. I was, so the idea of a story was born–looking at yoga through the lens of health and wellbeing.
The magazine wanted to commission some new original photography in addition to using a selection of the work that I made for the book. So we started to discuss where to go and what to do together. I had a number of ideas for locations and contexts that I wanted to photograph, and we began to do research and look into access. Specifically, I was interested in looking at the impact yoga is having in the lives of individuals who are incarcerated. I also hoped to photograph some of the various ways that yoga is helping veterans and active duty service members deal with the challenges of life in the military such as PTSD, TBI, addictions, among others. We eventually found a prison outside of San Diego that was willing to allow us in to photograph, for one class, on one Saturday morning. So, there was a bit of pressure in that hour and a half, to say the least.
As San Diego has a large military presence, when I was there to work in the prison, I also photographed in Navy hospitals, outpatient settings, clinics, and on base to look at that aspect of the story. It was a very fruitful collaboration and I think everyone that worked on the project was pleased with how it all came together. The feature, “Finding Calm”, was written by Fran Smith and published in the January 2020 issue of the magazine and online.
Concept: Portraits of one patient against a solid background
Licensing: Unlimited use of all images captured for three years
Photographer: Portraiture specialist in the Midwest
Agency: Large, healthcare focused
Client: Pharmaceutical company
Fees: The agency requested unlimited use of all images captured for three years, and they wanted us to specifically use their usage terminology, as detailed in the estimate. The concept involved photographing a real patient in a variety of ways and integrating the images into a CGI background in post. I first determined the fee by pricing what I felt was appropriate for one year, which was $12,500, and then doubled that fee to account for the requested three years, to arrive at a fee of $25,000. In addition to that creative/licensing fee, I also added a pre-production and pre-light day fees for the photographer.
Crew: While the shoot was rather straightforward, we knew the logistics of working with a real patient and the many intricacies with specialized wardrobe and styling would require a decent amount of pre-production. Therefore, we included adequate producer and production assistant days. Additionally, we included two assistants and a digital tech. Lastly, since we’d be compositing the portraits into CGI backgrounds, we included an on-site retoucher to help show the client proof of concept during the shoot to ensure we were on the right track.
Styling: In addition to a hair/makeup stylist, we included a wardrobe/prop stylist along with an assistant. The props would be minimal, but we anticipated shopping for and procuring three different outfits for the talent. On top of the actual wardrobe/prop expenses, we added additional expenses to cover shipping, transportation, and kit fees incurred by the stylists.
Health and Safety: We included a COVID compliance officer for both the pre-light day and the shoot day, along with a few hundred dollars to cover PPE and supplies.
Locations: Two days were included, for both the pre-light and shoot day.
Equipment: For both the pre-light and shoot days, we included ample expenses to cover camera, grip, lighting, tech workstation rentals, and production supplies.
Meals: We based catering for the shoot day on 12 attendees at $75 per person.
Misc.: As a buffer, we included $750 to cover unforeseen expenses, and light meals on the pre-light day for the minimal crew that would attend. We also included $1,000 for insurance.
Post Processing: We included $500 for the photographer to provide a rough edit of the shots for consideration, and then $2,000 to handle retouching. The CGI backgrounds would be provided by the agency, and the photographer would be integrating the images into those files. We anticipated this taking approximately 10 hours of work, and based the fee on $200/hour.
Results: The photographer was awarded the project.
Hindsight: Having bid projects for this agency previously, I knew they’d likely have a healthy budget. However, we’ve bid and produced very similar projects for substantially less money in the past. The photographer ultimately came in under budget upon invoicing, which helped convince the agency to have him bid on a supplemental project.
If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing a project, please send us an email. We’re available to help with any and all pricing and negotiating needs—from small stock sales to large ad campaigns.
In late December a bombshell article by Kristen Chick for Columbia Journalism Review detailed 13 years of inappropriate behavior from Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey. Eleven women described a wide range of disturbing behavior that you can read about here:
It seems that his behavior is an open secret and many are questioning Magnum and fellow photographers for letting it slide over the years.
Personally I’m sickened by what is described in the article and the thought of young female photojournalists having to endure harassment from Harvey. We need to root this despicable behavior out of our industry and I support anyone who comes forward to help do it.
Additionally, a former assistant is saying he stages his photographs which follows along with his abuse of power as pointed out by Biz Herman in this excellent thread:
Online scams are nothing new. These days, as schemes get more and more elaborate, it seems that anyone can fall victim, and photographers are no exception.
In recent weeks, several of our members received emails containing what looked like an interesting assignment. The sender, purportedly an editor named “Jack Moss” from anothermag.com, found the photographers on Wonderful Machine and asked them to produce a fashion shoot. But some details did not quite add up and, one after the other, the photographers started forwarding these emails to us.
We are sharing all the details here to help photographers stay alert and protect themselves against similar scams in the future. This is what the inital email sent to the photographers looked like, provided by Francis Hills:
The scam email sent to Francis Hills. The scammer sent this email to at least four WM member photographers.
“I’m Jack, a beauty, fashion and lifestyle writer and editor at anothermag.com, a subsidiary of Dazed media and Dazed digital,” read the initial email. “I saw your profile on wonderfulmachine.com which led me to some of your work online and after going through your portfolio, I would like to learn more about your services.”
Jack, not exactly the world’s foremost expert on comma usage, was inviting his prospects to “concept, shoot, and produce 36 images, featuring 3 models.” The scammer also mentioned that “you will be required to work with a company recommended hair/makeup artist and a wardrobe stylist, and bring a smart, fun approach and distinct style.” Here’s part of the PDF he sent to the photographers:
Part of the fake job description PDF sent by the scammer to photographers.
The scammer offered $3,500 in photographer compensation — $1,500 upfront and $2,000 after the shoot — while earmarking $9,500 for the total shoot budget (to include talent fees). The client would supply the wardrobe. Additionally, the photographer would hold the full image rights and said images would be posted as editorial content on AnOther Mag’s website for a year.
Seems legit, right? Well, as we started reading carefully, several red flags appeared:
The email came from a Gmail address. If it were a real assignment, it would likely come from a Dazed or AnOther Mag email address.
The real Jack Moss is not only a Digital Features Editor for AnOther Magazine, he holds the same role for Another Man Magazine. The email signature for the fake Jack Moss did not mention this.
The project description, which was attached to the email, was not on Dazed or AnOther Mag letterhead. In fact, the PDF itself is quite plain, which usually isn’t the case when a real client comes calling.
There were several typos and syntax errors in both the email and the project description. A fair number of scammers are not from the U.S. and therefore struggle with English. Adam Lerner, one of the targeted photographers, mentioned that things felt “off” the whole time. To cover his bases, he set up a chat with the client to discuss the assignment and received a call out of East Hampton, New York from the number 631-731-6280.
During the talk, Adam noted, “he had answers to all my questions despite being completely flat in his demeanor. No enthusiasm. And a very thick accent that sounded West African. I didn’t really get too bothered by that because people in fashion tend to be from everywhere, but I also wasn’t completely re-assured to the legitimacy of this shoot after the call.” So, while the accent and grammatical errors might not be enough on their own to prove things aren’t up to snuff, they can add up to a scam if combined with other red flags, like the ones discussed here.
In the 12 years Wonderful Machine has been in business, this is the 4th or 5th time this has happened. After doing some research, we learned that fake assignments are some of the most common scams used against creatives. In this case — as with most others — our members were cautious and did not choose to accept the offer. What would happen if they took the gig?
If accounts of previous such scams can serve as an indication, the photographer would most likely receive a check from the “client.” This check would include the payment for their fee, as well as for the talent. The sender would then ask the photographer to deposit the check into their account and promptly send a payment to the talent agency (or another service needed to prepare for the shoot). If the photographer followed these directions, their bank would initially accept the original check, after which the photographer would dutifully send their check to the talent agency. So far, so good.
Except the agency would not be legitimate — it would be associated with the scammer. In the meantime, the photographer’s bank would discover the cashier check was also fake and it would bounce. By that time, the money has already been sent, and the editor is nowhere in sight. Goodbye fee! Goodbye contract! Goodbye gig! Here’s what that check would look like, via Jon Morgan:
As you can see, the scammer sent Jon $7,500 to cover his upfront fee ($1,500) and the talent compensation ($6,000). The final $2,000 would be given to Jon after the work was done, bringing the total to the $9,500 mentioned in the brief.
How to protect yourself
It’s only natural for freelance photographers who are trying to market their business to share information about themselves and their work with as many people as possible. This, of course, includes strangers.
The internet provides countless legitimate business opportunities, but it’s important to be aware of the risks. Here are some precautions that can help photographers protect themselves against scams:
When considering assignments from people with whom you have never worked before, ask a lot of questions. Where is the shoot taking place? When? Who else is working on it? If you do not receive sufficient information, it should raise a flag. And if you do? Verify that information using Google and LinkedIn.
Be skeptical of the example images used in mood boads. Akilah Townsend, another photographer who got an email from “Jack,” figured out it was a scam in part because “the images he used weren’t tasteful, in my opinion. They didn’t look like what AnOther Mag would produce.” While subpar imagery might not be strong enough evidence on its own, it definitely counts as a red flag. Akilah continued to follow up, noting the gmail address was weird and doing some research online to get to the bottom of things.
She said the final nail in the coffin was when the scammer “signed an email with a different editor’s name” — Akilah googled that name and found out that person, Ethan D’spain, was at a different magazine. “My agent asked who the other person was and [“Jack”] claimed it was his friend helping with the project,” Akilah said. “Too many fishy things.” Here’s that second email the scammer sent to Akilah and her agent, Candace. Note the misspelling of “D’spain:”
A follow up email sent to Akilah by the scammer, who mistakenly signed off with a different name than he originally used.
If the potential scammer is using the name of a real creative, email that person to confirm it’s not them. For example, Francis Hills reached out to the actual Jack Moss, who quickly replied by saying he did not send the initial email.
Read everything carefully, paying attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation.
If something looks weird, paste fragments into Google and see whether anyone else has received a similar message. Scammers are too busy to write unique letters to each individual they are attempting to scam. Yes, they do copy and paste — especially if English is not their first language! So, check if anybody shared anything on a blog or some online forum. Are there any company reviews coming up?
Call the phone numbers they provide and try to talk to people. If the phone number doesn’t seem right, call the main phone number for that company and ask for that person. If they do not answer, or insist on communicating via e-mail only, it definitely is a warning sign as well. You can also vet names and numbers by visiting Unknown Phoneor ICANN lookup.
Last but not least, share your story – write on your blog, post on social media, talk to other photographers. There is no better way to combat scammers than to publicize what they do and make other people aware of their tricks. The reason we were able to publish this piece is because of how proactive our members were in getting this scam on our radar.
To that end, thank you to Francis Hills, Adam Lerner, Jon Morgan, and Akilah Townsend for telling us about this scam and how they figured out it wasn’t a real shoot. While it’s always a letdown to realize a potential job is actually a scam, it sure beats having your bank account information fall into the wrong hands!
This past week has provided a huge swell of excitement about the potential for change not just in our country, but in the photography community. It has been amazing to see so many
businesses not only supporting Black Lives Matter, but also pledging to review their own
practices and biases, launching internal reviews and initiatives, and, for a few, publicly
announcing the steps that they will be taking to address racism and the lack of diversity within their companies.
It’s not breaking news that the photography, media and advertising industries in the U.S.have a great deal of work ahead to further diversify. “I can’t find them” is no longer an excuse for not hiring and representing Black creatives.
It’s time to get to work.
With input from Black photographers, I’m offering these suggestions toward becoming a more inclusive and diverse industry. We are not suggesting that photographers be hired solely on the basis of race – nobody is asking for or wanting this. But Black photographers need to be seen and feel seen.
This is not about handouts. It’s about opportunity.
I am proposing that we work harder to include Black perspectives in our spaces and offer more opportunities for them to be seen, supported, educated, mentored, empowered, amplified, celebrated and paid.
I am proposing that we hire Black photographers to shoot more than race-related reportage and subjects or experiences that we think are germane to theirs.
I am challenging us to consider more Black photographers for shoots and triple bids, give them more of our time and invite them into our networks.
As a former editor and art buyer, I know that it feels risky to take a chance on someone when their current portfolio might fall short of our explicit expectations, but now is the time to start taking some risks so that more Black photographers have the opportunity to gain the experience that they need in order to compete with non-Black photographers.
Here are actions we can all take:
Offer scholarships, mentorships and/or paid internships to Black people.
Intentionally network and ask for meetings with Black creatives.
Accept meetings and respond to emails and DMs from Black people.
Do our homework to research and discover more Black creatives within our industry.
Hold others accountable for inclusion, ask questions and take inventory of diversity
within our spaces. This is going to be uncomfortable and hard—do it anyway.
Create policies and diversity initiatives with practices to maintain momentum and
responsibility beyond periods of protest.
Ask your friends and colleagues what they are doing to expand the diversity in their
Amplify Black voices and issues in ways that are not self-serving.
Reach out to schools and colleges that have more, or majority Black students, or are in more diverse neighborhoods. Volunteer your time, expertise or money.
Find, hire and/or mentor Black assistants, producers and stylists.
Cast Black talent, including those with darker skin and natural hair.
Find hairstylists who can properly style natural hair.
When joining organizations or directories and signing up for festivals, competitions and conferences, ask about diversity policies and pay attention to diversity in panels and reviews. If diversity is missing, speak up and invest your money elsewhere if not addressed.
Offer your services to Black-owned businesses and amplify their products, over-
delivering to those clients when possible.
Take stock of the diversity in your own portfolio. Explore more diverse subjects,
locations, cuisines, etc.
Photo Editors, Creative Directors & Art Buyers:
Add more Black photographers to your bookmarks and personal directories then utilize those directories.
Follow Black creatives on social media; invite them to your office or virtual office for portfolio reviews. Teach them about the process of working with your company and in your industry.
Initiate conversations and standards for reviewing and hiring more Black photographers and vendors within your company.
Feature Black creatives on the contributor’s page or bold the bylines. Advocate for them and amplify their work to other editors and buyers. If they are not ready, help them grow, introduce them to other photographers, crew and resources.
Mentor Blacks who want to be photo editors, creative directors and art buyers. We need a lot more of those.
Add more Black people to your crew and vendor list.
Mentor or provide paid internships to Black creatives.
If you haven’t already, start building more diverse crews – before your clients start asking for them.
Find hair stylists who can work well with natural hair styles.
Talk to your vendors, casting and location scouts about their diversity initiatives.
Create production guidelines to address discrimination on set.
Ensure equal pay for Black crew and talent.
Offer to produce test shoots for Black photographers.
Find, hire and/or mentor Black assistants and stylists.
Source products from Black-owned businesses and designers.
Educate yourselves on Black hair, skin care, and products. Refer a more experienced stylist for a job if you are not qualified.
Offer your services for test shoots with Black photographers.
Photography Reps & Agents:
Understanding that less than 10% of major agency rosters are made up of BIPOC, work harder to diversify who you represent.
Mentor and introduce less experienced photographers to more experienced photographers, producers, stylists and consultants who can help them elevate their portfolios.
Offer portfolio reviews and more thorough responses to Black photographers’ inquiries.
Take Black photographers with you on agency visits and consider offering paid internships.
Consider creating an informative auto-reply or FAQ page to educate younger photographers or refer them to consultants.
Introduce Black photographers to editors and art buyers. Amplify their work.
Encourage your white clients to diversify their portfolios and networks.
Connect with schools and colleges that are more predominately Black.
When you are asked to teach, review or be on a panel, evaluate the diversity of that panel or event. Speak up and ask for accountability if diversity is missing. Offer suggestions to include more Black creatives in the event or program. If diversity is not addressed, decline to collaborate until it is.
Photography Associations & Clubs:
Diversify your boards, teachers, members, speakers and mission statements.
Amplify Black creatives on your platforms and in your newsletters, webinars and podcasts.
Directories & Sourcebooks: Pay to play directly affects diversity in all industries.
Amplify Black photographers and offer scholarships.
Diversify the decision makers who accept or reject applicants.
Diversify your webinars, podcasts and newsletters, and ensure the initiative
continues after periods of protest.
Promote Black photographers to your network of art buyers.
Photography Festivals & Competitions:
Diversify your panels, judges, instructors, speakers and featured photographers.
Offer more attendee scholarships and ask sponsors to be a part of that.
Question the diversity of your sponsors’ ambassadorships, representatives and
I understand that hiring, charging and offering discounts on the basis of race or ethnicity will require attention to legal guidelines. I am aware that we are going to have to uncomfortably navigate the complicated waters of tokenism and exploitation. And I realize that some of these suggestions may sound discriminatory in the exclusion of non-Blacks. That is certainly not my intention.
I am asking all of us, including myself, to work harder to empower and amplify Black artists so that we may have more balanced, consistent and truthful visual representations in our media and lives.
Let us remember that it was in fact an image, a video of George Perry Floyd Jr., that woke up so many people in our country to finally call for change. The photography industry will no doubt be a powerful agent in this revolution. It’s up to us to make it happen. Let’s get to work.
Amy V. Cooper is a Photography Consultant and Editor offering mentorships to Black photographers and to BIPOC interested in becoming photo editors or art buyers.
We’ve all heard the racist expression before, which has been applied to a host of ethnicities, and is clearly untrue.
So it’s ironic that my doppelgänger in the photo world doesn’t resemble me at all.
Like, we could not look much more different, while still being similarly sized humans.
To whom am I referring?
Jon Feinstein, my fellow Jewish Jonathan, who’s also a photographer, writer and educator.
We have EXACTLY the same job, though we’ve shown our work in different spaces, and written for different publications. (How he managed to keep a relationship going with the assholes at Vice, I’ll never know.)
Coincidence or not, I met Jon at my very first portfolio review, in Santa Fe in 2009, and we’ve stayed in touch casually ever since.
Even though we look different from one another, (and I’m the Gen-X’er to his elder Millennial,) there have been multiple times during my career when someone thanked me for curating their work into a show, or publishing it online, but it wasn’t me.
Of course when I tell them that, they always look at me funny, at first, as if I’m fucking with them.
“Sorry,” I’ll say. “That’s Jon Feinstein. My last name is Blaustein. We’re not the same person.”
It’s gotten to the point that Jon and I joke about doing a project together called Jonathan Something-stein, or Jonathan ______stein, because there must be more of us out there.
He even planned a prank where we’d swap tables at Filter Photo last September, and we were all set to do it, but he had to miss the festival due to a death in the family.
Needless to say, I respect and appreciate his taste, so when I got an email from him last month, suggesting I look into a friend’s project, I said sure, and then promptly forgot about it for a month or so.
Jon was recommending Robert Canali, a San Francisco-based, Toronto-born artist who’d started up a pandemic response project, and did it in just the right way. (I now know.)
All details I’ll share, henceforth, I learned yesterday, when I became a portrait sitter for the first time, (maybe ever,) and the process was fascinating enough that I’m writing about it here. (For the record, Manjari Sharma asked me to be a subject for her shower series, back in 2010, but I politely declined, being too insecure about my body at that point.)
So, where were we?
I followed up with Rob a month later, and booked a slot on an efficient digital calendar system, but for what, I was not sure.
I only knew he was using Zoom.
The gist is, a sitter reaches out to Rob, and in many cases, based on the social media buzz he generated, he has no idea who the person will be.
Though I normally do research on everyone I work with, Jon’s vouch, plus my own desire to be creatively curious, meant I knew nothing about him either. (Which surprised him.)
The scheduled 45 minute appointment begins with an introductory chat, and because I’m a curious journalist, (and like trying to entertain people,) our appointment ended up going long.
Straight off, he explained what would transpire, and why he created his anthropological project to begin with.
Like many of us, Rob was trapped in his home early, and was limited to the materials he had on hand. So he got working, (as I’ve encouraged you all to do many times,) and also got out of his comfort zone, as he had not done portraiture previously.
He realized he could use his iPad screen to expose photo paper, (much like Robert Heinecken did on TV screens in the 80’s to mock Reagan,) and then played with the process.
By inverting the image on the iPad screen, the resulting print becomes a paper positive, as if he left the image alone, he’d get a paper negative instead. (He called the iPad his enlarger.)
After that, it’s into the fixer, and you’re done.
In order to get the image to render, though, the technology needs a lot of time to soak up the person’s visage, which is being beamed along fiber-optic cables around the country, or the world.
But how do you do this with with complete strangers?
That’s where the interview process comes in.
Writing everything by hand, with a pencil in a notebook, he asks his sitters a few questions to create rapport, and also gather data.
I believe I was his 173rd subject, so at that sort of scale, it allows for a collection of personal information, and stories, that relate directly to our upended lives in #2020, due to the fucking virus who shall not be named. (The Voldemort virus?)
I found Rob to be charming and thoughtful, so the chat was an enjoyable experience as he explained the process to me, prior to the official interview.
Basically, he asks people to sit still, and play a specifically chosen set of music for 15 minutes, so that the image will render, and the environment will be curated.
Music is meant to be shared, he told me, and I said, “So is art.”
Once I knew what I was getting into, he hit me with the questions. (I’m paraphrasing the exact words, but not the meat of his questions.)
1. How has the pandemic changed your life for the worse?
I responded that at 46, I’d spent years building up a self-care regimen to support my mental health. It worked, as I am a relatively healthy, successful person with a loving family.
Martial arts, watching sports on TV, visiting friends at festivals, and having alone time in my house were at the top of my list.
Now I’d lost them all, and finding new ways to stay healthy, while also mourning those I’d lost, was a challenge.
2. Has anything in your life improved?
I admitted that for most of #2019, my wife and I would regularly say, “I wish I could press a pause button on life. I need a break so badly!” Again and again, we wished we could get off the ride, so as to visualize what the next phase in life might be.
And then our dreams became an actual nightmare, as a pause happened under the worst case scenario. (Outside of nuclear war, I suppose.)
Sure enough, after 10 weeks of enforced isolation, we have finally begun to figure out what we wanted next out of life, and how to go about restructuring things once a “new normal” returns.
3. Is there anything about life, when it returns to a “new normal” that you think will be changed permanently?
I told him the truth, which is that no one on Earth knows what comes next, at this point.
I don’t know what will change, and neither do you.
The only thing I’m certain of is that things will be permanently different in ways we can’t visualize yet.
I said, “When the planes hit the Twin towers, who would have thought that everyone would have to take off their shoes and belts at the airport forever?”
After that, I cued up my music, which was the middle portion of Bill Withers’ brilliant debut album, “Just As I Am,” from 1971.
He told me I could only blink, and not move at all, so I settled into a lotus position in a good chair, with a pillow behind me for lumbar support, and then asked where to look?
I realize that staring at the green light on my webcam would hurt my eyes, so I chose a spot just outside my bedroom window, where some Aspen leaves were shimmering in the breeze.
In Rob’s process, at that point, he turns off his webcam and his speaker.
He disappears, and I was left with my music, my trees, and my stillness.
Obviously, it felt like meditating, and because the songs were both powerful and emotional, a serious tone was set.
It was amazing.
I don’t remember the last time I sat that still, without my mind wandering.
You can only blink.
By the time he came back, and said we were done, I wasn’t cramped, or bored, and probably could have gone longer.
I felt refreshed from the meditation, and energized by being a part of someone else’s creative process.
“This should probably be this week’s column,” I said, and Rob quickly agreed to share his images with us.
My only caveat was, I needed to see the photographs first.
Given the process, they look like ghostly 19th Century pictures, which is a great visual connection to the past, given that photographers also required still sitters then too.
The truth is, the prints are soft and pasty in the best way, I imagine, but the reproductions of the prints are a bit flat for our purposes.
Rob was kind enough to agree to boost the contrast just this once, for us, as it will help you appreciate the project more, in my opinion. (And this is an opinion column, after all.)
I asked if he’d be willing to answer his own questions for us too, and he blushed for a second, admitting no one had asked him to do that yet.
So behold his thoughts on Covid-life, and then we’ll share a set of images too. (Including portraits of Jonathan Feinstein and Jonathan Blaustein, who look nothing alike.)
See you next week!
1. What is something you’ve lost since shelter in place was mandated and the world went into quarantine?
I’ve lost the sense of urgency with which I used to navigate my life, and have since found the time to slow down and appreciate the subtleties that its made of.
2. What is something you have gained through this experience?
I’ve gained this project and through it a great sense of purpose and countless meaningful connections to people around the world.
3. What is something that you think will never be the same after this?
It’s difficult to say that something will never be the same – forever is a very long time after all. I fear our memories only last so long and perhaps not long enough for us to realize the positive changes that can come of this. The sentiments that have been echoed throughout the making of this project make me hopeful that enough people believe that things will be different. I’m not sure what that different looks but I’m curious to see where we land. It’s just a matter of time.
Heidi: How did this idea come about?
Kaite: I was extremely bored and missing production life and FaceTiming my family when I figured out you could take photos using the phone. I posted on social media that I was looking to do a few shoots for charity and it EXPLODED from there. Over 100 sessions and counting!
How do you direction the kids, they seem receptive, what do they think of this situation?
Not all, but many of the kids are from the model community which generally means they are super outgoing and LOVE to be in front of the camera which helps the shoots tremendously. We spend the early part of the session finding the best light and discussing what they want to do and then it’s all about collaborating and playing for the best shots.
What are the challenges?
Technology has been the hardest part- if the kids don’t have good service or are using an iPad/older phone it tends to be harder to get everything in focus. Much of my time is spent making sure they’re in the best environment for the tech to work and explaining what I need in order to get the shot.
How do you decide which charity?
The charities I’ve chosen to put on my site are 3 that I volunteer with often. I prefer for my subjects to donate to those charities but have left it open and on the honor system for them to donate to any charity they choose.
How are you getting the outside shots? The outside shots are actually the easiest! Often I ask to have a parent or older sibling present for the shoot to make sure I have someone holding the phone and able to take direction so the child can focus on playing. Once we’re in the right environment, everything just falls into place honestly.
102 portrait is stout, which was your first session and what have you learned about your work?
My first session was the 1st of May and has been nonstop since. I was feeling in a real creative rut before COVID-19 so this project has actually been amazingly helpful for me to push my ideas and collaborate with the kids on really authentic portraiture. I always love to work with the kids on set when setting up a shot, they have the best insight on how to make something real and fun, there’s no reason for me to not involve them. I’ve reignited that style in this project and am really looking forward to bringing these fresh ideas to my client work.
I received an email from agent, Cynthia Held with a brochure producer, Michael Horta created about how to create safer working environments on photoshoots during this pandemic. I was thrilled to be informed that this brochure is to be shared with other photographers and crew.
Thank you so much Cynthia Held and Michael Horta and showing us that we are all in this together.
MJ68 Productions is a highly efficient, friendly, budget conscious, action forward production company with an enthusiasm for bringing talented people together to make great images happen. Our goal is to make every production feel effortless for the photographers, agencies, and client. On-set, MJ68 Productions is proud to provide talented, professional, and friendly crews; healthful, foodie inspired catering; optimal organization and a savvy to gracefully handle almost everything that comes down the pike. MJ68 is at your service for estimating, budgets, insurance, excellent crew recommendations, casting, location scouting, art department, travel coordination, etc.—We love our work and are ever-expanding.
Held & Associates
Since 1994 Held & Associates has represented advertising photographers and directors who have risen to the top of their profession thanks to their dedication and talent and our well-recognized track record of promoting successful relationships with advertising agencies. We pride ourselves on building lasting partnerships and striving to always create brilliant content that will surpasses client’s expectations.
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s. After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty. Follow her at @SuzanneSease. Instagram
Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it. And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.
Heidi: Is this satisfying your creative spirit?
Jonas: Overall I have to say I’ve had an incredible boost in creative thinking and sense of opportunity through this thing. I always preach that if you want to move forward you want to go down the rapids, less comfort but faster progress. This really feels like that. Just this morning, by 10 am, I had done a portrait session in Capetown, Lugano, Switzerland, Antigua and Los Angeles, pretty exhilarating.
Describe the project.
This project is all about everyday people during this crisis. There are no stylists, make up artists or prop stylists. The subjects are in full control of what I get to photograph and I just document. They aren’t models and mostly don’t know how to move for the camera so I have to pose them pretty diligently to get specific images.
What are the common themes in responses?
All of the subjects tell me about concerns with the situation or how the government is enforcing shut downs, we have a genuine conversation, exchange information, ideas and concerns. And then we laugh when we try get a certain shot and things are lost in communication or something. This project really has taken me away from worrying too much and I think most subjects enjoy the distraction and doing something creative. It’s good for the soul.
Do you direct the subjects?
The whole process is totally foreign and freeing at the same time. No technical control (exposure, lens, etc…) which, once you let go of it, makes the session become fully about communication. I have to move the camera with words not my hands. Years of building intuition and motor skills to get where you want to be are useless and you have to explain to someone who, often times, has no idea about composition how to position the camera. It’s not easy but at the same time entertaining. There are a lot of laughs. It is a little like directing but every shoot you have a different camera operator so you never get groovy with each other on that part.
What was your main takeaway?
My main takeaway would be that it is really nice connecting with people during this time and doing a fun project together even though you are, sometimes, on the other end of the globe. Sessions take anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour, depending on how much chatting happens. Also, sometimes it takes a while to find the right background/light/composition.
Is the lo-fi quality freeing?
The quality of the final images is brutal but it is also kind of charming, like really early digital files or badly digitized film images. These will never be printed large but creating compilations or possibly doing collage type prints will help with that. But if you are strictly going for a phone screen, or any normal size screen for that matter, it is also kind of scary to realize that this is a valid option. With the right light, internet connection and some experience you can get pretty clear images that just have a vintage, romantic, artsy type look to them. I took one this morning of a teenager in Lugano, Switzerland and when I looked at the final image I was really surprised.
Tell us how this scaled for you.
Obviously these are not medium format super beauty portraits but being able to do shoots across the globe in a single day is nuts, probably a sign of things to come. Not sure if I like it but it is what it is. If they somehow figure out how to get a 20 megapixel file out of this and maybe add selective exposure and focus I would definitely keep doing this. Actually I already have one of my magazine clients voice interest in potentially doing these in the future. And again, I love to get on the road and experience new places, not to mention the energy that exists between subject and photographer when faced in real life. But the environmental as well as economic impact of flying around the world to take a portrait (or product, etc…) will surely be challenged after this crisis. Things will change. They always do anyways.
Sometimes you think you’ve shot just about everything!!
I got a call from an Art Director I had worked with before, telling me that he’s now at a new agency. The agency he was at lost a big account, so everyone got the proverbial boot!
If you professionals out there ever thought that being a free-lance photographer was/is a precarious occupation, you should try being an Art Director back in the day. Your portfolio was always up to date and under your desk.
You went home on Friday after a successful meeting with the client (third in agency billing) who had just approved a new campaign, and over the weekend the client decides they no longer want to go in that direction and fires the agency. You come to work an hour late on Monday and twenty-five percent of the agency is gone; happened all the time.
I’ve seen it happen because I was going to be the photographer that was chosen to shoot an (eight day) new big campaign on a Friday for Bud Light and by Monday the agency had lost the account.
The creative team usually consists of a writer and Art Director. The writer usually comes up with a concept, and the Art Director makes it come to life; sometimes the other way around.
This client was fairly new to the agency, so it was important that the Art Director/writer team deliver “the goods”, as they sometimes said. The reason I was called was that I had “delivered the goods” once before.
The client was an insurance company whose customers were owners of expensive sailboats and motor yachts.
The approved concept, that also went into focus groups, was that you never knew when trouble was coming so you had to be ready for anything; even when you are about to be attacked by a giant crab. Whoever came up with this idea was probably stoned…everybody must have been stoned for this one!!
And that’s where I came in. The Art director asked me if I thought I could make a giant claw attack a boat…” Hell yes!”
I learned a long time ago that the secret to the success I have had was/is because I always surround myself with the best (most talented) people possible, and I still believe it.
Having said that, I hired Danny Harries, a good friend and an amazing model maker/illustrator, to create a giant claw that we could position where it looked like it was about to attack both a sailboat and motor yacht.
Danny carved it out of a huge block of foam (to make it light), painted it, and from one end to the other it was eighteen feet long.
We took it down to a bay near Houston whose depth was only about four feet deep and tried to set it up…it wouldn’t stand upright, and as a result we missed a beautiful sunset!!!!!!
Since there wasn’t a plan ‘B’, we had to keep working with what we had…the original ‘A’ plan. We took it to a nearby garage so Danny could figure out what went wrong and what he needed to do. While he was scratching his head the Art Director and I were toasting to the Photo Gods with a few beers, thinking that it couldn’t hurt.
The next day we went out again to a great sky and this time it worked like a charm; Danny had worked his magic, much to the relief of the Art Director whose color had returned to his face…and of course, yours truly.
While my assistant and I were lying in a Zodiac, I had the sailboat and motor yacht follow directly behind one another, so I could take full advantage of the last rays before the sun hit the water…as in the sunset. I was very close to the claw with a 20mm lens on, so it would appear larger than life; the Art Director’s words, not mine!!
Those were great days where you could actually use your imagination and then create those ideas in the camera, and having a hell of a lot of fun doing it. Now, the claw would be about eight inches long, shot against a green screen, and with post-processing it would be added to the shot…computer art…UGH!!!
We finished the shoot and had a couple of celebration beers while loading up the claw. After about a mile I had to make a pit stop. Luckily, I pulled over on the shoulder next to a semi-dense forest to disappear into it.
As I was getting out I told the Art director that I had to see “a man about a horse”. When I got back everyone was laughing, especially the Art director.
It seems that while I was gone the account executive, a young woman named Beth (fake name to protect the innocent) said to the Art Director, “Oh I want to go, I love horses”.
One exposure, one frame, one click…shot on Kodachrome 25
It’s an advice-only-column.
Maybe think of this as a public service announcement.
Now that I think about it, in all my years here, I did do this once before.
After a near death experience.
(No, it had nothing to do with dodging cartel sicarios across the Norteño desert.)
Rather, my wife and I almost drowned in Playa del Carmen, during a rip current, with our young children back at the apartment with my folks.
We were so desperate to swim in the blue Caribbean, after a week of shit weather, that we ignored any and all warning signs, and swam out deep enough, in a brewing storm, when no one else was around. (“Hint, hint,” the Universe was saying.)
But we thought we knew better, and only through a lot of luck, some fancy swimming, (and not much else,) did we make it back to shore, exhausted, breathing heavy, arms trembling.
Jessie and I made a promise to wise up that day, and I wrote it into an New Year’s advice column for you, as it happened to coincide with the festivities.
I think I did wise up that day, and am proud of it. After a 4 year stint in therapy, a ton of travel around the US, building a new photo retreat program, publishing a book, and getting back to Europe twice now, I’m definitely a more capable, smarter, more nuanced, emotionally intelligent person than I was then.
Yes, I almost died in Amsterdam last month, (I promise to tell the story,) and I’m no “super-genius,” so all I’m really saying is that I try to learn lessons from life, and am happy to admit my fallibility.
So what am I on about then?
Why no photo book?
Or art exhibition review?
Haven’t I seen enough in the last month to write ten articles about things on the wall right now?
Yes, I have.
But for all the shit I gave #2019, for all its legendary absurdity and insanity, I didn’t feel compelled to do what I’m doing now.
Somehow, (though I’m not hating,) #2020 has managed to earn its hashtag in just over two months. Like I wrote about 2010 reminding me that 2009’s ass-whooping was not done, our new year has seen a full-blown global pandemic begin to arise.
Is that right?
I’m not sure, but what I am certain is that panic behavior has set in, with a major stock market sell off, and humans acted like flock birds by simultaneously voting for the “safe pair of hands” Joe Biden, as if connected telepathically.
I’ve heard stories from a friend of empty food shelves in New York, seen a photo of empty toilet paper shelves at a Target in San Diego, and a tweet about hoarding in Cincinnati.
My favorite soccer team, Arsenal, was supposed to play today, (I’m writing on Wednesday,) and the game was postponed because Arsenal players were exposed to the since-ill-with-the-coronavirus owner of the Olympiakos soccer club 13 days ago.
(ED note: Thursday evening the Arsenal head coach, Mikel Arteta, was diagnosed with the virus.)
South by Southwest has been cancelled.
Italy is in complete lockdown.
Old people are dying, regularly.
And China’s Orwellian, mind-boggling movement restrictions of earlier this year are now being held up as a (kind of) model for perhaps controlling the spread elsewhere.
(Oh yeah, this is probably a good time to mention the virus was likely started because some human beings just can’t seem to stop eating wild-jungle-creatures. Fucking assholes!)
It’s scary and crazy all at once, and as I have been dispensing advice here for years, and doing proper travel writing since last year, I wanted to share my two cents.
First of all, remain calm.
Secondly, remain calm.
Just because other people are buying up everything in sight doesn’t mean you have to.
(I took my kids to the grocery store yesterday, just to demonstrate that we could shop rationally, and ignore the panic instinct.)
Wash your hands well, and often, (I’ve always been a bit OCD in this one way,) but please don’t buy all the soap in your local supermarket.
Or all the TP, tissues, paper towels or hand sanitizer.
This type of hive-mind behavior perpetuates itself, as panic is as contagious as this nasty new virus.
With respect to travel, you all know I went to Amsterdam, and am glad I did. It made my book much better, and that was very important to me.
But I’m not sure how much non-essential travel I’d be doing now. (Ed note on Thursday: Travel from Europe has since been restricted.)
Last weekend, I was in Houston for a major domestic conference, SPE, happening right before a major international one, FotoFest.
I chose to hug and shake hands as normal at my book signing, but the new etiquette was to ask people what their preference was, before getting into personal space.
“Is it OK to touch you,” I’d ask?
Some people preferred fist bumps, or elbow bumps, or nothing at all. Most, though, kept it normal.
That was Saturday, and I’m guessing that at FotoFest, which began this week, far more people will revert to caution.
May I suggest we all culturally appropriate from the Japanese, and simply bow?
You can hug your family, but maybe we can all “honor” each other by staying hands off for a month or two?
I didn’t do it the other day, admittedly, but things change fast with new information, and if I had the signing now, I’d trade bows for hugs.
Also, it’s probably wise to check in on your elderly neighbors. (Assuming you know you’re virus-free.) At times like this, they need more help than ever.
I’m supposed to do a book signing at Paris Photo New York/AIPAD, (they need a more efficient name next year,) but now everyone’s wondering if it will be cancelled?
I’ve already heard rumors as such. (ED note: it was postponed several hours after I wrote this.)
Given all the health data about how helpful social distancing can be, should any of these international conferences go on, in major international cities? (ED note: now they’re not.)
Does the call get made piecemeal, one festival at a time, or all at once, in a wave?
Will this story, written on Wednesday, feel dated by the time I publish it on Friday? (ED note: the answer is yes. The NBA was cancelled later the same day, and the last session of FotoFest was postponed too. Now all sports are on hiatus, and the State of New Mexico closed all schools Thursday night.)
Here’s another piece of advice: do what you have to to keep your stress levels down. Beyond the hand washing, a healthy immune system is the best defense against getting really sick, so amp up your self-care regimen.
Exercise, make art, watch Netflix, cook good food, go for lots of walks.
Do what you can to stay calm and mentally grounded.
Given Capitalism’s efficiency, it’s unlikely, (beyond a guaranteed recession,) that this virus will interrupt global supply chains in a massive way, causing the kind of shortages that panic is currently making appear possible.
The only way that could even possibly happen is if all workers got a nasty case of coronavirus at once, and no one could work.
Erring on the side of caution, therefore, with where and when you travel, again makes a nasty exponential growth curve that much less likely.
So, in conclusion, as one who’s been in many public spaces in the last three weeks, in major international cities and airports, I’m now going to ease off, knowing what I know.
(ED note: as of Friday morning, the NM governor asked all people like me, who were out of state, to self-isolate for 14 calendar days. So I’m now stuck at home…)
Stay safe, stay smart, and please remember to remain calm.
Heidi: You’re a photographer, a writer and a CEO, how did all that braid together to launch this magazine? Tyler: This may sound trite, but perhaps destiny and a bit of serendipity. I studied film and photography at USC, and in a random stroke of fate my first job out of college was in Tanzania working for a safari company. I went from Los Angeles to the middle of Africa and spent six months documenting fishing, Kilimanjaro trips and hunting. It changed my life completely. This led to that, I was whisked to over 35 countries in a few years, and exposed to a myriad of cultures, conservation issues and hunting traditions. I was photographing and writing about my adventures on the side, and eventually started to pitch to other magazines and brands, utilizing my access to remote locations as a way to get my foot in the door. It worked, and I was very fortunate to work with some great people over the years. But I was constantly frustrated by two main things regarding hunting: one, that hunters for the most part do a terrible job of communicating ethics and the majority role that hunting plays in conservation, and two, that many non-hunters are either not educated about this reality, or are mis-informed by false or sensationalized media. We started Modern Huntsman to bridge that communication gap, and have based a lot of the philosophy off the wisdom, beauty and respect for wildlife that I’ve been witness to, but is rarely highlighted. Our hope is to make the topic of hunting less taboo, and to showcase how it is still very much a part of the natural order. Then I lost a bet and got promoted to CEO.
Your most recent theme was all about women (which is outstanding) how did that theme evolve? From the very beginning, we’ve had women involved in this venture, and my dear friend Jillian Lukiwski (@thenoisyplume on IG) was actually the one who encouraged us to keep the more poetic “Huntsman” in the title, and to shirk any criticisms that we weren’t inclusive of both genders, in the same way that the word “human” refers to male and female. As we started to do research and collect more stories, it became very clear that not only was there a treasure trove of female creative talent in the hunting and conservation space, but that many of them were not being featured and celebrated the way they should be. So we decided to do an entire book about it, and rather than pretend like I know what the hell I’m talking about, I stepped aside and brought in four women editors to take the reins. What resulted was one of the most inspiring and rewarding experiences of my life, and to my knowledge is the first time it’s been done in this way for the genre. Feels like we barely scratched the surface with 272 pages, and while we could easily do another four books, we all feel proud of what we accomplished in showing a diverse range of women who hunt, fish, ranch and fight to save wild places. It’s really something special, whether you’re a hunter or not.
Did you have any criticism from the female community? Before we start on every issue, we lay out all of the possible pitfalls and potential criticisms, and do our best to be mindful and intentional as we move forward. We knew that people would say this was a “publicity stunt,” or it was “men talking about women,” and even that “there should be no division between men and women in hunting and that it was patronizing to focus entirely on female hunters.” Our amazing team of tenacious women shot it all down, and forged ahead bravely with what they felt needed to be said to engage readers from diverse backgrounds, and hopefully generate more interest, despite the fact that women are the fastest growing demographic within the hunting industry. Surprisingly, our biggest criticism came from women within the hunting industry itself, claiming that our cover choice was not “hardcore enough to represent them as hunters.” Again, this was a deliberate choice. Yes there are many women who are just as tough, if not more tough, then men. There are photos of them with blood and dirt on their faces and animals on their backs as they hike out of the backcountry. We wanted a cover that showcased a more graceful and feminine side – that you can be both a hunter and a mother, killer and nurturer, angler and gatherer. The Salmon Sisters from Alaska are a perfect representation of that, and Dawn Huemann’s photo of them is so iconically idyllic, we knew right away that it was the cover. Being that our goal is to engage with non-hunters and hunters alike, we felt this image choice would help accomplish that, but no decision is without critics and this was no exception.
How do you compensate your contributors? I tried to base the model off everything that I didn’t like about working with other magazines: a lack of camaraderie or community, a simple exchange of services with little shelf life beyond the print release, and the sometimes “thank you, bye” tone of assignments. So in addition to pay, we do ongoing social promotion of our contributors work, website features of their portfolios, films or products, and pull them into podcasts, speaking events and newsletters. Every volume I also give some contributors a percentage of sales, which helps them feel a bit more invested in the cause, and incentivises them to help us promote the finished work. We also connect many of them with our brand partners to do additional commercial assignments. Modern Huntsman wouldn’t be anything without the contributors, so I do my best to advocate for them and provide as many opportunities as I can. We push our photographers and writers hard and demand excellence, but it’s a very involved, collaborative process that is rewarding for all of us in the end. I’d like to think that we’re doing things a little differently, and so far it seems to be appreciated with those we bring into the fold.
How did you get started and how many issues do you publish annually? While the idea for the brand and the book was in development for a year prior, we launched a Kickstarter in the fall of 2017. Our instinct that this was a much needed fresh take on hunting traditions was proven true, and we successfully raised about $110k to produce the first book. It took about four months to gather all of the content from our faithful contributors, and Volume One shipped in early 2018. We’ve done three additional books since then, and I say books because they are 250+ pages with no ads. So call it a biannual publication, and while I don’t foresee a way to publish more than two a year, we’re going to be launching some smaller collaborative projects this year in addition to a lot more digital content, podcasts, and educational events for those who want to learn more about food sourcing and conservation.
How can photographers contribute? While our next two books have been mostly commissioned, we’re always publishing stories on the site and across our social channels, and are always trying to diversify the voices and backgrounds that we feature. As much as possible, we try to present a wide array of perspectives that bring about constructive conversations. It’s not just hunters and anglers who contribute, and in my opinion, therein lies one of our strengths. Given the amount of unsolicited submissions we’ve been getting, we haven’t really opened a formal process for that yet, but hope to in the near future. For now the best channel is the submission link through our site, and typically story ideas that adhere to current or upcoming themes are the most relevant.
CEO and Editor-in-Chief, Tyler Sharp on assignment in Africa
Director of Photography: Kathy Ryan
Former Art Director now Partner at Pentagram: Matt Willey
Heidi: How much time did you spend with each athlete before taking their portraits, was it before or after Mavericks?
Dina: I did two trips for the story, to Maui, Hawaii and Mavericks, San Francisco. Traveling to catch the waves is tricky, there is only a 24-42 hour notice of when the waves will swell. I had to be packed and ready
, waiting for the last minute green light. When I got to Maui, the weather was too dangerous for me to get on a boat for the shoot so I concentrated on making portraits of the athletes.
Tell us how you got the cover image, where were you in the water?
This was taken at Mavericks. I had 3 days to shoot the waves before the swell was over. The shoot was done on a small boat, aboard with both of the surfers, Bianca Valenti and Paige Alms (cover). Each day trip took from 3-5 hours. The boat had to keep circling around the waves to avoid being overthrown. That, with the combination of looking through a 400 lens trying to pick out Bianca or Paige among the 30 other surfers, contributed to my first ever seasickness. The cover image was taken on the second day when I came more prepared with anti-nausea pills. Physically this was probably the most difficult shoot I’ve done. In the end, I came out with less than 30 images of the women surfing, and one of them ended up on the cover.
Was the photo direction in Black and white? Mavericks is one of the most dangerous places in the world to surf the big waves and I wanted to translate that into a mood that was a bit threatening and ominous. Once I took away the bright blues and greens of the sky and sea, the waves seemed to turn into stone, both overwhelming the surfers and freezing them into a moment of stillness. Right away I knew that the images had to be black and white. I sent Kathy Ryan both options of each image, color and black and white, and was thrilled to learn that she chose the monochrome versions for the whole story.
Sourcebooks, Photography Directories, Listings… What are the differences between them, and which one will give me the highest return on investment? You asked, so I did the research.
I interviewed dozens of photographers and directory agents and conclude that there are no best or worst. Your genre of photography, location, target market, how you prefer to interact, and of course your marketing budget will collectively determine which one (or more) of these resources is right for you. This review will help you decide which resources are best for your business.
The most important thing to know is, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. As with all of your marketing efforts, you have to be consistent, you have to be the squeaky wheel, and you have to be patient.
The majority of these source books and directories are by invitation or selective review, and I do not recommend them for photographers who do not yet have commercial or editorial experience.
Below you will find an abbreviated version of my full report which is available to my clients or subscribe to my newsletter to receive a download. Numbers and costs are based on research completed in October 2019.
WORKBOOK is one of the oldest and perhaps most well-known bi-annual print directories for photographers and illustrators. Their hefty books are ubiquitous at most ad agencies and Workbook is known for great customer service and ROI. ”We are still relevant to creative buyers after 41 years. The Workbook is the most recognizable direct mail pieces in the world.” BORN: 1978COST: Between $2000 (website) –$7500 (Pro tier includes a 2-page spread in spring and fall books as well as online and free portfolio presentations). Current number of photographers: 321
Best for (IMO/In My Opinion): Advertising photographers interested in print and online marketing support willing to update their work regularly.
LEBOOK is another one of the print originals, born in Paris in 1982, expanding to New York (1995) and further in Europe (1999) to include film, photography and other production and event resources. I actually purchased my one and only source book listing in Le Book as a photographer in 2007. Le Book still publishes directories annually in four markets but their business model seems to be more focused on events and production. BORN: 1982COST: $110/mo. Current number of photographers: 126 in the U.S. (more internationally).
Best for (IMO): Fashion Photographers in larger markets.
AT–EDGE is a series of print publications (5 books/year) sent to agencies and major brands in the U.S. By invitation only, AtEdge limits their roster to 150 artists so that they can promote and provide their members with individual attention. “We focus on the most innovative photographers, directors and CGI/post-production studios and always make your image the hero. The AtEdge marketing program sets the bar for talent on our digital platforms, in our books, and at our exclusive industry events. Creatives know and love us for that reason.”BORN: 2003COST: $8340/year (includes a spread in all 5 sourcebooks, a web portfolio, consulting, and one face-to-face portfolio event with 4-6 senior-level creatives.) Number of photographers/directors: 150.
Best for (IMO): Advertising photographers wanting a more personalized collaboration.
WONDERFULMACHINE began as a photography collective and has expanded into a global online-only directory of photographers in more than 40 countries. In my opinion, Wonderful Machine is one of the few directories that has an intentional foot in the editorial and reportage space (not solely focused on advertising agencies and direct-to-brand.) They also do a lot of production. ”We take a personalized approach when marketing, estimating, and producing for our photographers. We have a lot of photographers that have been with us for many years, lasting relationships. We enjoy seeing their careers grow.” BORN: 2010 (as a directory) COST: $192-$240/month (listing only.) Number of artists: 595.
Best for (IMO): Photographers wanting more global and editorial reach with the availability of a full suite of services like bidding and production.
FOUNDARTISTS is an online and print directory known as one of the best in design and user experience. It’s also one of the more affordable options. Found is unique in that it hosts portfolios showings without the artists in attendance. If you are an introvert, this might be your jam. Found Artists print curated sourcebooks twice per year (100 artists per book) and “Decks” (unbound) six times per year (50 artists per deck). ”We’re unique in our team and passion as well as our price point. We know what it takes to market our artists and we’ve built rapport with clients over time and in doing so many portfolio reviews.” BORN: 2016COST: $40/month (does not include portfolio reviews nor placement in print books) up to $3995/year. Current number of photographers: ~700.
Best for (IMO): Advertising photographers needing flexibility with their marketing budgets, wanting help with bids, less interested in or unable to attend in-person reviews.
BOULEVARD Artists is (more than) an online directory of photographers created by the founders of Fotoworks. They host in-person portfolio reviews several times per year in multiple cities. Although you do not have to be a BLVD Artist to attend some of these reviews, their members receive priority and discounts. ”We see ourselves more as a roster than a directory, we host portfolio reviews and focus on personal relationships.” BORN: 2014COST: $1399/year or $4200/year for Select members, buy up to $6950 to include 3 portfolio review events. Number of photographers: ~40.
Best for (IMO): Advertising photographers & directors willing to hustle their physical portfolios, travel to meetings, and make face-to-face connections.
PRODUCTIONPARADISE is one of the most internationally recognized online resources for finding photographers, stylists, producers and almost every category of production service you could hope to discover in 55 directories around the globe. ”We are unique in our reach and have the highest number of email subscribers out of all of the online photo directories (over 200K).” BORN: 2002COST: $2-$5K/year for photographers (less for stylists and other production resources, prices are determined by profession and location.) Number of photographers: ~500 in North America & the Caribbean (more internationally, supporting over 2500 creative businesses worldwide.)
Best for (IMO): Photographers wanting broader online reach and promotion.
KOMYOON is a digital directory offering services and tools for professional artists & the people who hire them. The app and soon to be desktop version allow artists to customize a searchable digital profile. Paid membership includes profile curation, portfolio/website reviews, spotlights on social media and access to varied in-person events. ”Our commitment to better unify our industry is aimed at addressing current pay for play models and making it easier for decision makers to find and track artists. We provide an affordable, useful solution that works fairly for qualified commercial artists of all levels.” BORN: 2019COST: Free up to $3450 (4 tiers). Current number of artists: 265
Best for (IMO): Advertising photographers with zero to large marketing budgets who enjoy the social media model/experience of sharing their work, and are willing to stay active and update their content.
PHOTOPOLITIC began as a production services company in 2012 and expanded into its current online directory model in 2017. More than a photographer directory, PhotoPolitic is rapidly forming as an all-in-one stop for promotion, production, consulting, marketing, design, and soon to be direct casting model. PhotoPolitic is unique in many ways but notably in its mission to connect photographers to each other with a members-only discussion group and fireside chat style events. ”Our website is state of the art in functionality and speed. We make it easy for art buyers to find new photographers. Artists who join PhotoPolitic are side by side with some of the top photographers in the world.” BORN: 2017 (as a directory) COST: $900/year (going up to $1200 in 2020). Current number of photographers: 272 (limited to 25 photographers per category per major market)
Best for (IMO): Advertising photographers interested in community and more direct support.
The companies that I researched for this blog are the most well known in the space of promoting commercial/advertising photographers. I’ve discovered numerous other artist directories and listings in addition to the ones included here. There are many resources that blur or dilate the lines of what might be considered a directory, some that are free and many that are niche. So as not to overwhelm here, I will be posting future blogs to share what I have learned about these additional resources. Please sign up for my newsletter to be notified.
Pro-tips before spending your money:
1. Prepare and ask lots of questions. This is not a vending machine. Make sure to get a phone call or face to face meeting with a rep or salesperson before deciding to commit to a listing. Consider the professional background, experience, and vibe of the people you speak with. Some of these agents may be representing you and your work to potential clients in the future or advising you on your career and portfolio, make sure it’s a great fit. Take your time.
2. Look at the caliber of other artists in each directory that you are considering. They should be as good as or better than you. Call or email several artists using the same directories you are considering who are in your same genre and/or location and ask about their experience. Ask yourself if there are a lot of competing artists in the same directory, that can be a good or bad thing.
3. Define your goals and expectations. Different directories have different resources available to photographers. Some are more hands-on than others. Decide if you want to drop and run or if you are the type of artist who prefers a bit of handholding. Know if you are willing to attend reviews and if it’s realistic in your schedule and budget to travel and also update/submit/print new work regularly.
4. Know your budget. Some directories might start cheap, but ROI usually grows with “buy-ups” (buying in to email or print promotions, portfolio reviews, editing services, etc.) A sourcebook or directory should never consume your entire marketing budget.
5. Ask for a discount (politely). Most of these directories have discounts available, it can’t hurt to ask!
Still confused about which directories to choose? Shoot me an email or jump on my calendar here.
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Get inspired, keep up with my pro-tips, and meet some of my favorite clients and artists: follow me on Instagram @amyvcooper.
Who printed it?
Print West in Woodinville, Washington
Who designed it? Kaela Rawson
We worked together to create something that showcased the photos but also had a sense of design and aesthetic. I worked with some prop stylist friends to get feedback and help me choose and pace the imagery.
Tell me about the images?
The images are a combination of test shoots and assignments. I wanted to showcase some shots that don’t really get a chance to be seen. I started looking at some of my recent work to see what I was drawn to. The images that stood out seemed to have a similar color story and feel. The cover image was actually a last-minute addition. It came from a test shoot I did with prop stylist, Audrey Davis. I was looking at a final draft of the promo while I was editing this shoot and I liked how it looked with the yellow font we had chosen to use, so I went with it.
How many did you make?
I printed 1000
How many times a year do you send out promos?
1 to 2
Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
Yes, I think it is nice to have something tangible to catch people’s eye and to hold on to, and to hopefully make them remember you for future assignments.
The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own. I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before. In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find. Please DO NOT send me your work. I do not take submissions.
My friend, mentor and fellow Baltimore native Tim Tadder brought the story of the St. Frances Academy football team to my attention a few years ago. St. Frances Academy, located in an impoverished neighborhood in East Baltimore is the first and oldest continually operating African American Catholic educational facility in the United States. For years, the school’s underfunded football program struggled mightily. However, after investment fund manager and philanthropist Biff Poggi and his staff adopted the team, they went undefeated and have since turned into one of the nation’s top programs. Aside from providing substantial financial support, Poggi’s primary mission was and is to provide a foundation for the players and guide them to be young men of character.
I met the team during their first undefeated season and pursued the story in hopes of shedding some positive light on a city that had only been a year removed from the death of Freddie Gray and the uprising to follow. At the time the Panthers had no home field, no practice field and no blocking sleds amongst many other deficiencies not shared by the wealthy and predominantly white prep schools they competed against. It was a story of a group of players, most of whom faced tragic upbringings and heartbreaking personal loss, which rallied together for the love of football and a chance to turn their lives around. After a year of unheralded success the team traveled to Florida to take on national powerhouse IMG Academy. The kids from Baltimore were humbled that day but that only added to their strength and resiliency and propelled them to the tremendous success that would follow.
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s. After establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency, then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies, she decided to be a consultant in 1999. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty. Follow her at @SuzanneSease. Instagram
Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it. And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.