The Art of the Personal Project: Marsha Bernstein

- - Personal Project

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.

 

Today’s featured artist:  Marsha Bernstein

I’ve always been drawn to collage work, particularly the decollage work of French artist Jaques Villegle, which is more about subtracting and revealing layers than assembling and building. A lot of my professional work is fashion reportage – backstage at New York Fashion Week – so I thought those images would be fun to work with and explore my own collage style. I thought I would try something in the style of Villegle but I ended up just playing around and doing my own thing. I haven’t been in a darkroom in years so this is a way for me to create art in a tactile way. It’s nice to work away from a screen.

The process is very relaxing and meditative and a way for me to stay creative during periods where I’m not busy (but I’ve also enjoyed making collages during very hectic times as a way to unwind). I don’t have a fixed method – instead, I’ll just pick one of my own fashion images that I think will be interesting to work with – it might be because of a shape, a face, the colors – what draws me to it is always different. I’ll then often print the image in different sizes to play with scale. Other times I’ll use a singular image and bring in some sort of paper ephemera (a vintage French color palette poster, for example) or another image of mine as a backdrop (a London street, the Seine river, and the interior of the Louvre are a few examples). Then I’ll usually rip the images and paper and play with placement.

I’ve also experimented with digital collages in a similar way – using my own fashion images and playing with repetition and scale against a backdrop of something else I’ve photographed. More recently, because I wasn’t able to shoot this past fashion season due to the pandemic, I used images of mine from previous seasons and placed them in vintage scenes with televisions as a play on how we’d all be watching the digital shows. I also incorporated screenshots of a digital fashion show from Paris Fashion Week against a photo of mine of Paris rooftops. I missed shooting shows and this was a way for me to be in that world again.

I don’t spend too much time on an individual collage, as I like it to feel organic. (I think if I spent too much time planning one out it wouldn’t have the rawness that some of them have). Cross training, so to speak, is an important part of being an artist, in my opinion. Actually, I think it’s important for any profession or hobby – it’s good to work different parts of the brain in order to strengthen and grow the ones you use all the time. Or maybe I’m thinking too much about it – I just enjoy it.

To see more of this project, click here.

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 @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

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.

 

Expert Advice: Insurance for Photographers

- - Expert Advice

Aimee Baldridge, Wondeful Machine

Want to rent some gear, get a permit to shoot in the park, or hire an assistant as an employee?

You’ll need to get insurance for that — equipment, general liability, and worker’s compensation, to be exact. While you’re at it, pick up some coverage for the gear you own (equipment again), any studio equipment you have (business personal property), and the medical bills for anyone who might ever take a spill on set (general liability).

But don’t stop there. Getting a data loss policy to help you recover work you’ve done might be smart. Covering the work you haven’t done is prudent too, since unhappy clients sometimes sue for errors and omissions. If something goes sideways and you can’t do any work at all, it’s great to have a business interruption policy that covers loss of income. And if things go sideways abroad, you’ll be glad to have an international liability policy, a non-owned and hired auto liability policy, or an emergency medical evacuation policy, as the case may be.

You get the idea. Insurance is available for just about everything and everyone you can have, use, do, or interact with as a photographer, and you’ll need some of it to be in business. Fortunately, by tailoring the types of coverage you purchase to the kind of photography you do (and finding a provider who can package it for you at a reasonable price), you can avoid being bankrupted by either losses or premium costs.

 

Types of Insurance

EQUIPMENT

What it covers: Gear that you own or rent. Each item you own must be listed in the policy in order to be covered. Make sure to include both photo/video and computer gear. If you use a rental house, you will usually need to provide a certificate of insurance from your insurance provider that covers the full replacement value of rented gear and names the rental house as the Certificate Holder or Loss Payee.

How much you need: A policy that covers the full replacement cost of your gear is best. Some policies pay out only what the insurer determines the lost or damaged gear was worth after depreciation.

The fine print: Make sure your policy covers every cause of equipment loss and damage you might encounter, from theft and accidental damage to weather and environmental conditions. An all-risk policy will cover all causes except for those named as exclusions, whereas a named-risk policy will cover only the causes that are explicitly named in the policy. Also check the locations covered. Worldwide coverage is obviously best. Look for a policy that covers gear stolen from vehicles, too. And use a provider that can supply certificates of insurance quickly.

Look out for: Policy exclusions. These are uses or items that make a loss ineligible for coverage under the policy. Examples include things like shooting near water, with gear mounted to a vehicle, or with a drone.

BUSINESS PERSONAL PROPERTY

What it covers: The contents of your studio or office space, including things like furniture, electronics, set elements, wardrobe items, and props.

How much you need: A policy that covers the full replacement cost of your property is best. Some policies pay out only what the insurer determines the lost or damaged property was worth after depreciation.

The fine print: Business personal property can be covered under its own policy, as part of a commercial property insurance policy that also covers the facility that you own or rent or as part of a business owner’s policy that also includes equipment and liability coverage. Look at different providers to find the best package for your situation.

Look out for: Policy exclusions. These are causes for loss or damage that make property ineligible for coverage under the policy. Flooding is a typical example. You should purchase flood insurance separately if that’s a risk.

 

PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY

What it covers: A dissatisfied client can sue you for “errors and omissions” in the work you produce, which can mean anything from missing a deadline to shooting out of focus to flubbing a key shot. Professional liability insurance will cover the cost of legal fees, settlements, and judgments.

How much you need: $1,000,000 or more. Getting sued can be pricey, even if you win.

The fine print: Coverage is offered with either a “claims-made” or an “occurrence-based” policy. An occurrence-based policy will cover any liability incurred when the policy was active, even if you don’t have the policy anymore when you get sued and have to make the claim. A claims-made policy will only cover a liability if the policy is still active when you make the claim. 

Look out for: Make sure you understand your coverage limits, which can be listed per incident or as a total for all claims.

GENERAL LIABILITY

What it covers: Your legal and court fees, defense costs, settlement, and judgment amounts, and other costs in the event that someone sues you for property damage or bodily injury occurring at your studio or on location, defamation, slander, or libel. Locations and venues may require you to be insured to shoot there.

How much you need: $1,000,000 or more. Again, getting sued can be pricey, even if you win, and locations that request a certificate of insurance will usually require a $1,000,000 policy minimum.

The fine print: Make sure your policy covers the types of locations where you’ll shoot outside of your studio. Also use a provider that can supply certificates of insurance quickly.

Look out for: If you work in international markets, consider an international liability policy. If you have employees or hire independent contractors, you may need worker’s compensation insurance to cover liabilities incurred through the actions of people working for you.

 

BUSINESS INCOME INTERRUPTION

What it covers: Income lost due to an interruption in your ability to do business, as well as costs for temporary relocations and operating costs due to the interruption. The interruption can be an incident such as a blackout, fire, or weather event.

How much you need: The limit of your coverage will be based on an estimate of your future earnings. Your policy should cover up to a year of costs and losses related to a business interruption.

The fine print: Business income interruption insurance generally doesn’t cover income lost due to personal illness or injury. Short-term or long-term disability insurance can be purchased separately.

Look out for: Coinsurance penalties. If you purchase less insurance than your provider determines would be required for you to recover from a total loss—say, if your studio and everything in it was destroyed by a fire—you may not receive full coverage in the event of any claim. Ask about the details on coinsurance penalties before you pay for a policy.

TRAVEL MEDICAL

What it covers: Medical care abroad, where your usual medical insurance can’t be used; and emergency medical evacuation, which generally means a flight home on a plane with medical staff and equipment.

How much you need: This depends on how often you travel for work, where you go, and how much risk of illness or injury you expect to encounter there. Purchasing insurance for each trip as needed can be an affordable route for infrequent travelers. Emergency medical evacuation insurance can be purchased on its own to cover only the most serious situations.

The fine print: Medical evacuation isn’t the same as general evacuation insurance. If you’ll be working in a conflict zone where you might need evacuation for non-medical reasons, look for a general evacuation policy.

Look out for: Policy exclusions. These are conditions that disqualify you for coverage. Things like being a combatant or the victim of a weapon of mass destruction are typical exclusions that you probably don’t have to worry about, but make sure the conditions you expect to encounter aren’t on the list.

 

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

What it covers: The medical expenses and some part of the lost wages of an employee who is injured while working for you.

How much you need: This will depend on your location and the specifics of your business.

The fine print: Look for a policy that also protects you from lawsuits related to injuries.

Look out for: Workers’ compensation is often required by law. Get up to speed on state and local requirements before hiring anyone or purchasing a policy.

 

NON-OWNED AND HIRED AUTO LIABILITY

What it covers: Auto liability for rented and employee vehicles that you use for work.

How much you need: This type of insurance is very affordable, especially as an addition to a business owner’s policy, so opt for the maximum available.

The fine print: This type of insurance generally covers only liability and not physical damage to vehicles. Make sure physical damage to the vehicles you use is covered by other policies.

Look out for: If an employee rents a vehicle under his or her own name for use on a shoot, has an incident, and gets sued for it, the liability may not be covered. If this might be an issue for you, ask about adding an Employee-Hired Auto endorsement to your policy.

 

Force Majeure

One very serious and timely consideration involves the famous “force majeure” clauses appending most insurance policies. Although at this point COVID-19 may no longer be considered force majeure, you will want to look into how this clause can affect the policy you are purchasing.

Ways to Save

Choosing insurance is always a question of balancing cost with risk. You want to protect yourself from financial disaster without spending more than your budget permits on premiums.  If you’re at high risk for a loss or liability, it may make sense to pay a higher premium with a lower deductible.

There are a few ways you can reduce costs:

Join an association that offers discounted insurance to members. Many offer a range of options, from short-term insurance to packages of different types of insurance.

Purchase short-term insurance. If you can’t afford all the insurance you’d like year-round, you can find inexpensive policies for short periods when you’re on a riskier shoot.

Rent your gear through a peer-to-peer service that lets you purchase insurance with each rental instead of requiring you to have your own policy and insurance certificate.

Look for a Business Owner’s Policy. These policies bundle equipment, general liability, business personal property, and sometimes other types of insurance relevant to photographers in an affordable package.

 

Resources

INSURANCE COMPANIES

If you just need to insure a small amount of gear that you own, you can look into adding it to your renter’s or homeowner’s policy with a rider that lists each item and its value. Beyond that, companies that specialize in insurance for photographers will give you a better deal and packages that meet all of your needs. Here are a few:

TCP & Co.

Insureon

HISCOX

Package Choice

Heffernan Insurance Brokers

Athos Insurance 

 

PHOTOGRAPHERS’ ASSOCIATIONS

Professional associations for photographers often offer insurance packages at discounted rates, and some include certain types of insurance coverage in the cost of membership. Look for an organization geared toward the specific type of photography you do. Here are a few:

American Society of Media Photographers

American Photographic Artists

Professional Photographers of America 

 

SMALL BUSINESS, FREELANCER, AND PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS

Organizations that are not specifically geared toward photographers may still offer insurance discounts and benefits that will cover some or all of your needs, depending on the type of photography you do. Here are a few associations that offer insurance packages of interest to photographers:

Freelancers Union 

 

PEER-TO-PEER GEAR RENTAL SITES

You’ll usually need to have equipment insurance and present a certificate of insurance in order to rent gear from a rental house. However, peer-to-peer gear rental sites like KitSplit and ShareGrid offer an alternative by allowing you to purchase short-term insurance when paying for the rental. ShareGrid also offers members annual insurance options.

Kitsplit

ShareGrid

 

Further reading:

https://www.pixpa.com/blog/photographer-insurance

https://photographyspark.com/5-types-of-insurance-every-photographer-needs/

The Daily Edit – Snowboarder: Stan Evans

- - The Daily Edit


Snowboarder The Magazine


Photographer:
Stan Evans
Editorial Director: Pat Bridges
Editor: Stan Leveille
Photo Editor: Mark Clavin
Art Director: Dwayne Carter
Photo Assistant / BTS Cinematographer: Alex Kavanagh
BTS CInematographer: Myles Messinetti
BTS Editor: Jeff Moustache
Publisher: Micah Abrams
Snow Location Cinematographer: Connor WInton

Heidi: Has this issue been healing or a reckoning for your relationship with the snowboard industry?
Stan: I’ll be frank. I love snowboarding. The freedom to explore, to  be in nature to take pictures as capturing unique moments in time with some amazing people but….  As a Black photographer I’d had a bit of a contentious relationship with the snowboard industry as it was very subversively racist.  In the way they marketed the sport and some of the things that happened to me throughout my career. No matter how many amazing photos I’d shoot there was always somebody there that thought because of the color of my skin I shouldn’t be here. People loved the photos but people didn’t want to hear my opinion so everyday was starting from zero and proving myself all over again. Besides being a middle class black kid I didn’t have family money to fall back on so it was  I think it’s important to view this issue and its creation through that lens.  Ironically that became the theme of the “Black experience” of snowboarding throughout the magazine –  we needed to show both sides of the coin, good and bad.  

What do you hope to share for those in your tracks?
The most difficult part of being first was not having a path. It’s a lot of trial and error and failure to be honest. There’s potholes out there and I probably hit everyone figuring it out but the tough part is the mental game of picking myself up and trying again. I had some good white mentors in high school and college but they can’t help you in navigating racists in a small mountain towns, other competitors talking behind your back about your photos. Marketing managers or team managers low balling you because they only think you are worth this much. Company employees leaving you on the side of a mountain because they don’t want to give you a ride back to the lodge. You have to develop a mental and physical toughness that nothing is going to phase you and you are going to get right back out there the next day and give %110. I want to share anything I can but the biggest thing I can give is perspective because I lived it.  For black people getting into outdoor marketing and for brands trying to earnestly help having my experience is a huge roadmap. Let’s miss those potholes this time around. Smooth the road for the next generation. 

I know you had some reservations, what tipped the scales to say yes?
To be honest It took about 3 weeks of talking before I said yes. To his credit the editor Pat Bridges called and emailed me several times. I revealed several slights I’d had from their editorial staff and in turn their publication in the past which made me adverse to getting involved. In those moments Pat gained some perspective of what it was like being the “only” –  I gave him an earful and he listened. We made a pact to try and right some wrongs with this issue.  Their publisher Micah Abrams also stepped up as I’d worked with him several times over the years and he’s always been amazing to work with. The biggest reservation I had was that David Pecker (the man who buried Trump’s Stormy Daniels story) owns ASC and it troubled me that me working on this issue potentially was putting more money in that guy’s pocket. But if I put my heart and soul into it, would it have a bigger impact than just him profiting? I tend to play the long game these days but on this one I wasn’t sure if I was winning the battle or the war? I had to roll the dice.  

What boundaries and qualifiers did you set in order to move forward?
Snowboarder called first about having my portfolio included as I was the only Black Snowboard photographer but I pressed them as to who was overseeing production, we all saw a glaring hole in credibility. They had Dwayne Carter who is black as Art Director in editorial staff but his background is mainly skateboarding really no one to guide the ship to the black “snowboard” experience with a print production background. After some discussion they hired me to consult in the capacity of Contributing Editor.   Within that I shifted the narrative from just showcasing “Black Professional Snowboarders” to how “Black Culture” has contributed to snowboarding? Once we turned that corner we were off to the races.  I helped develop the well, posed the idea of creating a timeline of Black history within Snowboarding similar to Fast Company infographics, we made a selection of creators that contributed to the industry, (team managers, designers, reps, shop employees)  I advised some of the creators on their messaging and I layed out my portfolio. I delivered the basic template to Dwayne via  Indesign and he made it prettier with room for my extended captions.  Once most of those wheels were set in motion it became fairly obvious that I should write the opening oped as well. Stan (their editor) suggested it as a way to pass the mic and as he usually opens the issue with his Column “Stan’s World”  It was an ironically fitting swap. Specifically they paid Cover Shoot expenses, word rate, portfolio and consult time. My mantra is hire Black, let us create, pay us what we are worth. Snowboarder Mag followed through on that promise. It empowered ALL the contributors black, white, male, female, straight or gay and instead of anyone holding back for fear of judgement, everyone gave their all.  That’s why the issue was so profound.  

How did the pre-production of this issue help authentic stories come alive and how did you develop trust and community?
I think all of the riders had a personal relationship with the editor Stan Leveille. They all trusted him to give them a safe space to express themselves. Their staff is talented and I’m a huge believer in if you have talented people let them do their jobs. I gave them this analogy. “ You guys are driving the car, I’m just riding along to navigate and help keep you out of the ditch” One thing I did before agreeing to the magazine was have a zoom call with most of the professional riders featured. Most knew me and my history and felt more comfortable with the issue and  telling their stories if I was actually in the building making sure there were no missteps.

How did they editorially make space?
Snowboarder pooled the advertising to the front of the book (the first 4 pages) with simply a logo from each advertiser freeing up room for more Black voices to speak within the volume. It showed a deep commitment from Pat to get each of the advertisers to set aside their products for an issue to tell stories that needed to be told. It allowed for so many voices that don’t get a chance to share their story for a moment in the spotlight. 

How will this issue help move things forward in an actionable way?
At the end of the issue they also showcased several nonprofits that work with marginalized communities to get them involved in snowboarding which I found highly important as they highlighted resources for people to get involved in continuing the work. 

How did the issue come together, how many years of work did you look through?
The editor and photo editor went through archives of my past work which ranged past 20 years and I went to the office to shoot the cover, sit in on production,  review copy and art direction with the editorial staff. Originally the mag was going to  be in 2nd issue with an October release but they moved to the first issue which sped up my timeline line. I had 3 weeks to complete my work while working on 3 other photo / video shoots simultaneously. So it was a push. I didn’t sleep much that month. 

What was the biggest hurdle to overcome in creating this issue?
There was a lot of reconciliation, sharing of responsibility and effort to get things right. Beyond being proud of the mag I was proud of how the staff approached it.  They insured and created a safe space for me to do my thing (not to say there weren’t a few head butting moments) but for the most part, everyone came together to make something great. 

What are some emotions that come up when you think about the title of “Only Black Man in Alaska?”
The “Only Black Man In Alaska” is a play on stereotypes. Whenever I tell someone I grew up in Alaska inevitably they go for the (drumroll please) “You must be the only Black Man in Alaska?” joke. I figure at this point I might as well own it. I loved growing up in Alaska. Moving there as a young child literally changed my life. So I felt it was an appropriate title for BTS on the shoot and my past.  For the cover shoot I suggested we have a BTS video team just covering the shoot process. This was a once in lifetime moment  having the first black professional snowboarder shot by the first black professional snowboard photographer. We should have it on video for posterity. The interview came  about spur of the moment.   Their editor Stan Leveille actually came through with some poignant questions for me and we shot it one take.  

Featured Promo – Catherine Losing

- - The Daily Promo

Catherine Losing

Who printed it?
I was super trashy and went through Vistaprint.

Who designed it?
I did.

Tell me about the images?
They are my favourite images from my portfolio over the past 3 years. A combination of editorial, personal projects, and commissions for names such as Vogue and MoMA. I’m always keen to include technical examples of my still life work with a variety of products as this is important to my commercial clients. However, I like to balance it out with more fun and creative shots as I often get hired to put my own spin on commissions.

How many did you make?
Only 10. I’ve been super selective about who I’ve sent them to, just a few art directors and creative producers at ad agencies, and you!

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I’ve never done a promo before. It’s a result of my London photography rep closing down and Covid. I’m usually lugging my portfolio around London meeting people at agencies face to face. I thought mailing out a mini-portfolio could be a good way to bridge the gap.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
Yes, I’ve only sent out 6 so far and had 3 advertising enquiries.

This Week in Photography: Creepy in Context

 

The high clouds came in this week.

For the first time in Autumn.

 

It means the November rains and snows are nearly upon us.

As we’re in a drought here in Northern New Mexico, and there is a fire on the other side of the mountains, it’s good that the moisture is finally coming.

It makes much more sense, seasonally, to have the cold and the wet and the brown.

Gray skies, so rare during the year, make sense in November, and as I write this on the back-side of October, (on a Thursday as usual,) bad weather “seems” more right than the extended-Summer we’ve been having all month.

It’s been very climate-changey, all this warm weather and blue skies.

Certain things make sense in our bones, in the deep reptilian part of our brains, because it has always been thus.

I think humans have always been creeped out by the end of October, Halloween, the leaves just dropped, the trees scraggly all of a sudden, and it seems like the ghosts are around the corner.

Boo!

Right?

The Day of the Dead in Mexican culture is at the same time, when the spirit world and the world of the living can almost touch.

So I won’t be surprised if it’s misty and cold on Halloween this year.

The harvest palette, all warm colors, disappearing: the yellows and oranges and ochres.

Because today’s zine makes me think of Halloween, in the best possible way, making it the perfect thing to review.

Stella Kramer wrote not too long ago, offering to send along her zine, “Stellazine,” and I had a gut feeling it was the one to pull off the stack.

Open it up, and in a hand written note, Stella says she wants to “put more eyes on work that I think is singular and worth being seen.”

The cover says “Still Life” by Giovanni Savino, with white on orange, and then a round sticker added to the upper left hand corner reads “STELLAZINE.”

Open it up, and the first page says 001, which reads as page one, but also maybe the first of its kind in a new series of STELLAZINES?

Stella writes, “No coronavirus. No quarantine or isolation. This is timeless; photography that isn’t tied to anything but itself, the photographer and the viewer.”

And the short statement goes on to say we’ll be seeing a mix of two projects that she brought together for this volume.

“I love how everyone’s eyes are closed,” she writes, “as if they are dreaming about what they just read.”

Well, that’s one way to look at it.

Another is that these people look like maybe they’re dead?

And the colors!

(Orange and black, like the permanent marker on the pumpkin near my front door.)

So Halloween that my autumn-craving bones started shaking from within my flesh.

Charlie Brown may have gotten booted off the networks, (only saw the headline, didn’t click the link,) but this can come back off my bookshelf any year at this time.

The second image spread is the weakest, for some reason, so I felt a tiny let-down after the very strong opening, but then the wooden arm, and the next page features a boy with his eyes closed, and a very sharp knife cutting into a book, on the page beside.

And then nails and snakes! And tooth picks and clamps!

The sense of menace becomes overt, and why are everyone’s eyes closed?

Then two young African American girls with big pigtails, on consecutive pages, and I think of photos of victims of church bombings in the 60’s.

Or girls who died of typhoid or something curable, but nobody had the money to buy the medicine.

I’m sure these girls are alive and well, (IRL,) and were likely photographed in contemporary times, but in context with these old books, and torture devices, (and the wooden arm!) the creepy vibe envelops any and all things inside.

(As a thought experiment, I just opened the zine again, and looked at those two images in particular. If you skip the entire narrative, I can see the young women as strong, determined, and alive. But even then, the sense of the images not being contemporary is so strong.)

You turn the pages and there are no horizons.

No places to breathe.

And with no people looking back at you, no respite in friendly eyes, you keep turning the pages until the end, hoping for a break, but it never comes.

The ladies on the last pages look like they were killed many many decades ago, and then we’re only being introduced to their murder file pics now, after they’ve been unearthed by some hungry new cop looking to make a name for himself on cold cases.

Or maybe I just need to look past the orange and black color scheme, and the old-film aesthetic, and the old time styling.

Maybe these are two African-American women, shot in 2020, dreaming of a more equitable society?

Or a safer tomorrow?

Maybe it has nothing to do with darkness or demons?

Context is a funny thing, because as important as it is, it’s also highly subjective.

Happy Halloween.

To learn more about Stellazine click here

 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please contact me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by women, and artists of color, so we may maintain a balanced program. 

The Art of the Personal Project: Kremer Johnson

- - Personal Project

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.

 

Today’s featured artist:  Kremer Johnson

I grew up in a house where my parents worked with their hands.  Both had regular jobs, but each had a side business that they ran out of the house to make extra money.  My mom had an upholstery shop in our basement, and my dad did engine & auto bodywork in the garage.  There was constantly something being crafted around me.

Despite my parents’ best efforts to involve me, that genetic code apparently skips a generation & the skill sets never stuck.  I did, however, learn a healthy respect for the skills & maintain a proper appreciation for a well-crafted final product.  As the project was forming, it was great to have a business partner who was on board to grow this project with more creators.

Living in a largely digital world where most things are mass-produced and available for delivery to your door at a moment’s notice that level of care & craftsmanship seems to be in short older today.  This series celebrates the makers & creators who still take the time & care to create custom goods by hand.

To see more of this project, click here.

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 @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

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.

 

The Daily Edit – Photographers Without Borders

- - The Daily Edit

Photographers Without Borders

CEO + Founder: Danielle Da Silva
Photographer: Keri Oberly

Photographers Without Borders will be talking with photographer Keri Oberly about standing in solidarity with the Gwich’in, her work with Patagonia, activism, and why she believes investing in people, relationships, and grassroots movements are going to save us. Tune in Tuesday, October 20th 10:00 am EST for the chat with Keri and CEO/photographer Danielle Da Silva.

Tickets are ‘pay what you can’ upon purchase, and all funds will go directly to support accessibility for our Storytelling School: Online program, specifically sponsoring BIPOC, Disabled, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Storytelling School: Online is an interactive online workshop to provide photographers with the tools and strategies to harness the power of storytelling and pivot their work online.

Photographers Without Borders is a collective of storytellers comprised of creatives coming together to support their community partners on volunteer assignments and inspire new generations of storytellers through PWB School and  other initiatives and resources.

Their mission is to make storytelling more accessible for communities around the world who are contributing to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and UNDRIP.  Classes are taught by CEO & Founder, Danielle Da Silva, photographers will learn how to use the power of storytelling to shift online – a critical skill in today’s uncertain times.

Bob Gilbert stands with his grandson, Victor, while looking for moose along the Junjik River outside Vashrąįį K’ǫǫ. The Gwich’in fear for the future of their children and grandchildren, if the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is opened to oil and gas development, they believe it will threaten the very existence and identity of their people. To the Gwich’in, wilderness is not luxury; it is a way of life.

In late summer, the Porcupine Caribou Herd migrates toward Northwest Canada for the winter. The herd has the longest land migration route of any land mammal on Earth, migrating over 1,500 miles a year between their winter range and the calving grounds on the coastal plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Gwich’in call the coastal plains “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins). They treat the animals and land with reverence, because without them, they would not survive.

Kelly Fields hangs strips of caribou for dry meat in her cache in Gwichyaa Zheh (Fort Yukon), Alaska. The caribou was sent down by a family member in Vashrąįį K’ǫǫ. Today, the Porcupine Caribou Herd only migrates through two of the fifteen Gwich’in villages. Many families will send caribou to family and friends in villages that don’t see caribou anymore.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline, an 800-mile pipeline that transports oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska. The third richest state in the country, Alaska depends on one industry to fund its state spending, oil and gas. Since the price of oil has fallen considerably in recent years, the state is currently facing a $2.5 billion deficit. Republicans have been proposing to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development for decades. Each time it has come close it was denied by Democrats or vetoed by President Clinton. With a Republican held House and Senate, Senator Lisa Murkowski snuck into the tax bill, that President Trump signed into law, the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for industrial development. Aggressive steps have since been taken to fast track development; seismic testing is scheduled to start this winter. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the proposed drilling area contains 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil, an amount that will not have a large impact on world oil prices.

Portraits of Gwich’in and their allies by photographer Keri Oberly.

 

Featured Promo – Ryan Duclos

- - The Daily Promo

Ryan Duclos

Who printed it?
Moo.com

Who designed it?
I designed the cards with help from my partner.

Tell me about the images?
I’ll start in the order that is posted on IG. The first image is a self-portrait I took in the Alaskan tundra on a 2-week moose hunt that I documented. The second image is a shot of our guide in Valdez Alaska on a 1-week Heli-snowbaord trip with Valdez Heli-Guides. The third image is the 2020 APA First place awards for Sports/Adventure. This was shot in the backcountry at Mt. Baker ski area. The peak in the background is Mt. Shuksan. One of my most favorite places on earth. The fourth image is of my good friend and pro snowboarder Johnny in the backcountry of Mt. Baker Skin area. The fifth image is a shot of our helicopter on a helicopter snowboard trip in the Canadian Rockies. The sixth and final image is of Mt.Hess and Mt. Dorothy in the Alaska Mountain Range. Both mountains sit at 11 thousand feet.

How many did you make?
I made 200. There are 4 different sets with 5 cards per set.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I try and send out a new mailer twice a year. But to add to the mail out marketing, I started a monthly zine that I email out. The zine has new content that I shoot the month prior. This way clients can see new work and I stay on their minds constantly.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
I do feel that printed materials are effective marketing pieces. More now than ever. I have had a great response this year over previous years.

This Week in Photography: Enduring Humanity

 

Have you ever heard of Neal Stephenson?

The writer?

Dude is super-famous in geek culture, for having written a very predictive sci-fi screed called “Snow Crash,” in the early 90’s, which laid out much of what has come since.

Virtual reality, Google Earth, viral information, Evangelical cult religions, actual viruses, the rise of corporations more powerful than governments.

It’s all in there, along with a rip-roaring story, and a bunch of meta-criticism that would make Charlie Kaufman beg for mercy. (Like naming his hero/protagonist Hiro Protagonist.)

I bring this up, because five years ago, he wrote another book that feels like it could end up being predictive one day: “Seveneves.”

The majority of the time I was reading it, I thought the title all-one-word, pronounced seven-eh-vehs, with no long e’s.

But I was wrong.

It was really Seven Eves, with the second word being the name of Earth’s first woman, taken from the rib bones of Earth’s first man, if the Jewish Torah is to be believed. (And then Christianity was built upon that tale as well.)

Spoiler Alert, I bring this up because the book’s premise was that an asteroid broke the Moon, and once some fancy math was done, scientists realized the Moon would soon disintegrate into an endless supply of mini-rocks, which would rain down on Earth, destroying all life as we know it.

(That’s not the spoiler part, because it happens in the beginning of the book.)

No, I’m going to ruin the ending for you.

The entire plot revolves around some humans attempting to re-build life in space, so the world can be repopulated up there, (by seven eves and some artificial insemination,) and then the descendants can come back to Earth many generations later, once it’s safe again.

Against all odds, they succeed, and after a big time-jump in the book’s last section, when human-like creatures do come back to Earth, having evolved in strange ways due to some CRISPR-like genetic manipulation, they find a massive surprise.

Two other groups of humans lasted through the Apocalypse, one by living underwater for millennia, the other by tunneling deep into the Earth.

(Where they created a culture in which some people could breed, and others not, because of the limited air supply in their closed-loop-underground society.)

The book ends with the three strands of now-mutated humans meeting up in some frozen tundra, far from everything.

People standing on ground not fit for human society, but then again, they were no longer human society, as we know it.

My point today, if you haven’t sussed it out yet, is that the survival instinct is deep within us.

We make fun of cockroaches, rats and bats, but we are a similar type of creature, even if we smell better, look prettier, and have the capacity to create and appreciate beauty.

(Seriously, if a rat ever paints the Sistine Chapel, I’ll be the first to give props. Or if Remy from “Ratatouille” ever comes to life, all Patton Oswalt humor and amazing cooking skills, I will eat my hat. Highly Suspect!!!)

 

 

I’m not a self-hating human, but today I’m on my rant for a reason.

I just looked at “Chukotka,” a sleek, slim, excellent new book by Kiliii Yuyan, published by Kris Graves Projects in NYC, and I’m down to discuss.

Kiliii’s work has been featured in the blog before, as I published some of his Arctic documentary photography after a photo festival a few years ago, and then we hung out at a very-fun, late-night party in Portland last year.

(You know, back when people went places, crammed into small hotel suites, and passed vape pens back and forth with impunity. Shout out to Kris for hosting the party.)

As usual, when I share a book from an artist I know personally, it never makes the cut if it’s not good enough.

This one is filled with creepy-uncomfortable-cool photographs, but also succeeds in doing the one thing I love to share with you in a photo book: it shows us something we have never seen before.

Kiliii is an indigenous person, and I swear I had no plan to show his work this week, during a holiday to celebrate his people, now that we no longer genuflect at the genocidal remains of Cristoforo Colombo. (That was his real name: look it up.)

He’s spent a ton of time up in the Arctic before, and knows his way around. And I’ve certainly seen work from Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Iceland.

But this book is built upon photographs taken in the Russian region that gives the book its name, as it’s only 3 miles across the Bering Sea. (I guess Sarah Palin wasn’t wrong about everything. Almost everything, but not everything.)

The place is populated by a half Siberian indigenous population, (the ancestors of our Native Americans,) and half ethnic Russians, because like the Han sending citizens to Xinjiang, the Soviets also liked their own to live across their Empire.

There’s not much I can say about the pictures that they won’t say for themselves.

Polar bears, walruses, wolves, puffins, poor people, and lots of bones.

I might not want to go there in person, even in a world in which travel was possible, but the book lets us go there virtually.

(Who needs Oculus when you have a photo books?)

But there is one part of the well-written opening essay that I’d like to share, as it makes my opening even more relevant.

Kiliii tells us the mantra of the Arctic: “The resilient will endure.”

I somehow managed to avoid writing about ACB and the Orange one this week, even with the election getting so close, and the Republicans on the verge of sealing judicial power for a generation.

You know all that is happening, and I’ll be lucky if you stop scrolling through the NYT, WaPo, Reuters, the WSJ, Facebook, and Twitter long enough to read this column.

You’re well aware of the stakes of the 2020 US Election, even if you’re reading this in Moscow.

(Я плохо говорю по русски.)

So instead of focusing on that, think about the mantra of the people who live tougher lives than we’ll ever really understand.

The resilient will endure.

Think on that.

To purchase “Chukotka,” click here

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please contact me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by women, and artists of color, so we may maintain a balanced program. 

The Art of the Personal Project: Jeff Lipsky

- - Personal Project

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.

 

Today’s featured artist: Jeff Lipsky

It was back in 2015 when I was on assignment for Outside Magazine where I first got the inspiration to do the father son personal project. The job was to shoot the best-selling author Norman Ollestad and his son Noah surfing together. Ollelstad’s book “Crazy for the Storm” was a true survival/ plane crash story with a father son relationship. I wanted to capture Norman’s passion of surfing and how he passed it to his son like his father had done to him. Not an easy thing to get. What is that exact moment that conveys that feeling? I was hooked.

After that assignment I decided to keep going. While shooting the late Chris Cornell’s album “Higher Truth” I had the chance capture him sharing his passion for playing the guitar with his son. It’s continued with an artist, golfer, writer, skater, and wine maker. Being a dad myself of two boys and girl I continually look for those inspirations. A dad and daughter project is currently in the works!

 

 

To see more of this project, click here.

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.

 

Expert Advice: Photographer Scams

- - Working

Varun Raghupathi, Wonderful Machine

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:

EA Photographer Scam Jack Moss Fake Email Drop Shadow
The scam email sent to Francis Hills. The scammer sent this email to at least four WM member photographers.

Fake assignments

“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:

EA Photographer Scam AnOther Mag Fake PDF
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:

EA Photographer Scam Jon Morgan Fake Check

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:”
EA Photographer Scam Fake Follow Up Email
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.
  • If you suspect you are a target, ignore the e-mail and do not engage the individual. Instead, report the case to the Federal Trade Commission by calling their hotline 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357) or filing an online complaint on their website. You can also visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center.

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!

To learn more about photographer scams, read:

Think you’ve been a victim of a scam? Please contact Wonderful Machine by emailing us or calling us at 610 260 0200.

The Daily Edit – Modern Huntsman: Field Outrider

- - The Daily Edit

Wild PlacesMystery Ranch: To the ends of the earth and back, there are some amazing places out there, and we want to see them. Whether hunting, hiking, climbing, fishing, or just exploring with your dog, it’s often about being in the right place at the right time. Show us those moments in some of the wild places you’ve found.

Wildlife – Vortex – Fur, feathers, fins or fangs, we constantly draw inspiration from the wildlife around us, and leave us with unforgettable memories and lessons learned. Show us the moments of your closest encounters, narrow misses, or moments of connection.

The Pursuit the process of hunting – First Lite – Hunting is a process that sometimes yields a result, but it is the act of pursuing wild game that takes us to amazing places, tests our limits, and teaches us lessons. Show us your process of pursuing game, whether on land, sea or otherwise. The journey is the destination.

Harvest Hunting, fishing, agricultural – EPIC: Food gathered from the land. This could be wild game, fish, foraging, agricultural, or even viticultural. Food brings us together, and we want to see your interpretation of this.

Western Tecovas: Many have a fascination with the idea of “The West,” and while much of it lives in tall tales, legends, or days gone, some still live it everyday. Show us your version of what western means, whether past, present, or uncertain future.

Emerging – Less than 2 years of professional experience: Whether you’re a student or just getting started with less than two years of experience, we want to see your best work. While it doesn’t have to be one of the above categories, it would certainly be relevant to stick to them.

 

Art (paintings, illustration, mixed media, etc) – There are so many talented artists out there, but we’d like to see more of them. Whether painting, illustration, mixed media, digital art, or something else, we’d like to see it. While you don’t have to stick to the other category prompts, it certainly helps to keep it relevant to an outdoors theme.

Portraiture: Whether stranger from a faraway land, or a neighbor with an interesting past, we want to see the most interesting characters you’ve come across in your ventures. There is so much emotion and story that can be conveyed in a single portrait, and it’s an interesting exercise to try and read their emotions, intentions, and even their story. We want to see some storied faces and individuals here.

Audience Choice – our judges will pick 5 finalists from the entire pool, and we’ll give our audience/followers a chance to vote on who they want to win. We’ll be awarding the top 3 picks.

Modern Huntsman

Field Outrider
CEO + Editor in Chief: Tyler Sharp
Creative Director: Tito West

People often raise their eyebrows at photo contests, this one is different, this one is worth entering. You can submit your archival or current work in more than one of these unique categories. Field Outrider is offering more than acknowledgement, it’s an opportunity to also win paid assignments, have your work published in their beautifully printed magazine along with one on one portfolio reviews. In terms of judging contests there is nothing more exciting then to be surprised by an emerging photographer or someone who has a passion for the craft. Most professionals have every waking moment occupied with calls and screen time, work, child care; realize this is an opportunity to get your work in front of a broad range of people wanting to give back to the photo/creative community they believe in.

Featured Promo – Jackie Dives

- - The Daily Promo

Jackie Dives

Who printed it?
East Van Graphics in Vancouver, B.C., which is where I am based.

Who designed it?
I did most of the layout design but my designer, Alicia Carvalho made it all happen.

Tell me about the images?
The images were all taken during the first three months of the recommended quarantine in British Columbia. I was living alone and spent most of the time in my apartment with my cat. Taking photographs is a tool for me to cope with whatever is happening in my life so it just made sense for me to keep taking photos, even if it was just the mundanity of living during that weird time. I find photography to be incredibly healing, and it has helped me deal with a lot of things over the years. The other books I made this year included a book about my solo cycling trip across South Korea, and my choice not to become a mother.

How many did you make?
100

How many times a year do you send out promos?
It’s pretty random. In 2020 I made 3 of these book/zine things and only sent them to very select people. I usually sell them through Instagram and my website as well. Before that, I have only sent out paper promos two other times.

Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?
My personal experience is that the promos I have made have not brought me any work. I’m not entirely sure why. It could be that I’m sending them to the wrong people or that they aren’t very good. I don’t know!

This Week in Photography: The Power of Tradition

 

“Like nightmares appearing one after the other, these new realities bruised my body and soul, leaving me feeling as if I had taken a severe beating.”

Yukari Chikura, 2020

 

 

I used to work for Bobby Flay.

A long time ago.

I waited tables at his now-shuttered restaurant, Bolo, and was hired the day after it received a 3-star review from the NYT. (Even though it had been open for years by that point.)

The positive press turned the joint into a mad-house, with long-time New Yorkers battling each other for reservations, and tourists lining up as well. (Since Chef was already a significant television personality.)

Photo: Getty Images, Carmen Lopez and AJ Wilhelm

 

The restaurant was extremely well-run, and it turned out to be the most important job I ever had, as I learned some valuable life lessons, like humility, and the value of grueling work.

Ironically, during my time there, another television chef, Rocco DiSpirito, opened up a restaurant across the street, as the premise of a reality show called “The Restaurant,” and it went about as well as you might imagine. (Lots of drama, little success, ending with lawsuits and injunctions.)

Even now, I have vivid memories of Rocco leaning suggestively against his Vespa, out on the street, almost begging for Instagram to be invented, (in 2003,) so that people could take his picture and immediately share the images with the world. (#Rocco2003)

I was reminded of that this morning, having watched the opening of a funny episode of “Beat Bobby Flay” on TV last night, right before bed. (It’s become our pre-sleep Quarantine ritual. Thanks, Boss!)

The premise of the show is simple, as two chefs battle each other, cooking with the ingredient of Bobby’s choice, (in 20 minutes,) and the the winner gets to go up against Bobby, with the dish of his or her choice, for 45 minutes.

(No shock: Bobby almost always wins. Dude has skills.)

In this particular episode, a Neapolitan pizza chef, FROM NAPLES, was battling a generic-white-American-accented American, who was also trained in making pizza in the Naples style.

It was a classic set-up, as how on Earth could a milquetoast-sounding American beat a fucking guy from Naples, who was a third generation pizza chef?

Big surprise, the proper Neapolitan won, and the ersatz-version had to go home early.

I’m not bagging on my country, (which I’ve done many times lately,) what with our current President deciding he’d rather be a dictator than allow our democratic tradition to continue, if he can’t win. (And the psychotic, anti-democratic tweets this week by Republican Senator Mike Lee suggest Trump is not alone in this belief.)

No, I’m not hating on the USA.

Rather, I’m suggesting that even though we are a young country, made up of immigrants (and former slaves) from other parts of the world, we can still see the value of history.

Of tradition.

Of passing stories and rituals along, across the generations, so that people dance, sing, fast, or meditate, all because their ancestors did so.

Hell, one of the main reasons I live in Taos is because I was so enraptured by the Taos Pueblo Christmas Eve celebration as a youth, in which bonfires reach to the sky, the Pueblo residents chant and sing, and the entire community comes together for one night.

And the only time I ever visited Israel, as a young person, I felt the lives of my ancient ancestors calling to me from the building stones in the Old City of Jerusalem. (That’s a memory I haven’t conjured in forever.)

Why am I on about tradition today?

What brings about this bout of nostalgia? (Other than it’s fun to mock Rocco DiSpirito?)

I’m glad you asked.

Today, I just put down the exquisite, perfectly built “Zaido,” by Yukari Chikura, recently published by Steidl, and I feel as if I’m in a trance.

(Though that could be because I slept poorly last night, and am hopped-up on three forms of strong caffeine.)

I once met Yukari at a photo festival years ago, and she was very gracious, so you could say I’m a fan.

I’ve also studied Japanese martial arts before, and admitted to a group of students just the other day that two of my seminal images were inspired by Hokusai, so I’ll share them here today.

 

“one dollar’s worth of Shurfine flour”

Perhaps I’m not so different from that American chef, desperate to be an amazing Pizzaiolo?

(I also love elements of Italian, Chinese, Dutch, French, Spanish, Mexican, African-American and English cultures, so I’m an equal opportunity appropriator.)

That said, I think anyone would love this book, and as it’s already generated a lot of press, I’m jumping on the bandwagon.

Steidl has proven to me many times that their print quality and craftsmanship are second to none, and that’s certainly the case here. (Even when you open the box, there is a note giving props to the book packer. In this case, a man named Timo.)

Next, you’re met with an insert that features what appears to be a map, and a booklet that tells the folk tale of a young couple who find wealth and fortune when a god smiles upon them, directing they make a home near a spring filled with sake. (Thanks to a helpful dragonfly as well.)

The story ends by telling us a shrine was eventually built there, and a ceremony derived, called Zaido, so we now understand our title.

(Context delivered.)

We move on to these glowing silver end pages, within the book, and then the slow build-up of a snowy, mountain scene on velum paper.

Did I mention that Haruki Murakami is my favorite writer, and I’ve dreamt of visiting Hokkaido, standing stock still in a frozen field, surrounded by a quiet so rich it feels like something from another dimension?

All those emotions pop up quickly, looking at this book, so steeped in tradition and generations of reverence.

The photographic portion of the book progresses as you might imagine, with landscapes interspersed with some portraits, and documents of the rituals.

If I were to give any critical feedback at all, (not to be a hater,) I think I might have trimmed the edit just a touch, so that all the photos packed an equal punch.

At one point, looking at the empty space, I was reminded of the Fukushima exclusionary zone, where no one lives, due to the radiation from the 2011 earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear meltdown. (One of my aforementioned images was also inspired by that event, and I’ll include it here, to honor the dead.)

“The Great Wave”

At one point, a blank, white piece of board is included, and I stopped flipping, during which time I discovered that an image of paper ribbons included a real one, which had been attached to the book-page.

Adding the divider, which forced the pause, was such a thoughtful gesture.

Like I said, this is a book that is impossible not to like.

It makes one appreciate the “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” pursuit of perfection for which Japanese culture is rightly known.

(Even if my Aikido Sensei was an American, as was his.)

As the book faded in with white, so it fades out with black images on a rougher paper, that suggest snow flakes falling from the sky, illuminated by the faintest hint of light.

Then, the artist’s essay, in which we learn she suffered the loss of her father, and then he came to her in a dream, telling her to seek out this festival, which has gone on for more than a millennium.

Finally, some historical art images, again on silver paper, and the thank you page.

Books like this make me want to be a better artist.

A better man.

Because it reminds me that hard work, diligence, and attention to detail never, ever go out of style.

To purchase “Zaido” click here 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please contact me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by women, and artists of color, so we may maintain a balanced program. 

The Art of the Personal Project: Taylor Roades

- - Personal Project

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.

 

Today’s featured artist:  Taylor Roades

A RIBBON OF HIGHWAY – BETWEEN THE EAST OF MY YOUTH AND THE WEST OF MY FUTURE.

A Ribbon of Highway is a personal retrospective and an exploration of a Canadian Identity. It is a collection of photographs taken between 2010-2020, a decade of my twenties where I moved and travelled extensively across the country, coming of age and questioning both my own value systems, and what being Canadian might mean. The photographs depict my individual lived experience, visiting landscapes that vary drastically in geography, history, and socio-economic status, and overarching lifestyle.

I have photographs from every province and territory except Newfoundland, and Nunavut. I took three trips across the country on a greyhound bus over this time, and travelled on photography assignments to some extremely remote locations.  These photos were not taken with a final goal in mind; the scenes were interesting to me in the moment. I’ve always been deeply intrigued by the cultural threads that hold Canada together, and though I won’t claim this collection to be all encompassing of “Canadianness”, it is a reflection of the place and the person I was when I took the images.

The title of this project: “A Ribbon of Highway” is a lyric in a song called This Land is Your Land. It is an American tune and was re-made by a Canadian band called the Travellers (originally named The Beavers). Naming this project a Ribbon on Highway was an analogy for how we are constantly defining ourselves as separate from the Americans, and yet are still so influenced, for better or worse, by our southern neighbour.

Canada, as we know it emerged from a series of outposts, and in a sense still operates this way. Kindness here is born out of a season of scarcity. We are a vast landmass with incredible differences and we cling to the similarities because they give us something to identify with.

Our patriotism is steeped in contradictions. We are friendly even if we don’t want to be friends. We are hardy people, but complain about scraping the caked ice from our windshields at the break of dawn. We have feelings of moral superiority to the USA with a robust public healthcare system, and yet we have a history of deeply unequal and morally horrific policies when it comes to the treatment of Indigenous peoples on this land.

Some of these photos are stereotypical, and some are personal. It is my hope if you have spent time in this country you will see your own experience, even if only partially. This thread of shared experience is what holds us together, in the space between the places that make up most of this Country.

To see more of this project, click here.

Behind the scenes video

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 @SuzanneSeaseInstagram

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.

 

The Daily Edit – Modern Huntsmen: Field Outrider

- - The Daily Edit

Photographed by Jenn Judge
Photographed by Jenn Judge Photographed by Justin Moore

Photographed by Tito West

Modern Huntsman

Field Outrider
Creative Director: Tito West

Heidi: Why the contest? What are the benefits to the photo/art community and why now?
Tito: Since its inception, Modern Huntsman has always strived to give voice to those who have struggled to be heard. Most of our team comes from a long past of freelancing and we are all too familiar with the incredible difficulty that arises when trying to break into the world of professional photography, whether that’s commercial or editorial work or even a more artistic approach such as galleries or long form projects. More often than not, it boils down to luck or to a fortunate meeting of happenstance. This is all good and well except for the fact that there are more people than ever who are making truly original work; work that deserves to be seen, but through the cards of chance, they have remained unseen and their voices unheard. All of that being said, I’m not entirely opposed to the difficult path that photographers face at the outset of their careers. This is one of a few fields in which the difficulty of achieving success serves as a sort of weeding out process. It separates those who truly want to be here from the ones who only think they want to be here. As frustrating as that can be, it has served me well. In times of desperation or hopelessness I found renewed strength in the history of the medium and the legacy that has been passed down from the legends who came before us for our careers are made possible by the photographers who preceded us. I think this is what Umberto Eco meant when he wrote, “We are dwarfs, but dwarfs who stand on the shoulders of those giants, and small though we are, we sometimes manage to see farther on the horizon than they.”  However, there comes a point in the development of your artistic vision where the groundwork has been laid, the foundation is set and now it is time to venture out into the world and for your work to be seen. That venturing out is the most difficult step. So many photographers, artists, etc feel that they’re ready. They know they are, but the question remains…”How do I take that first step?” This is where “Field Outrider hopes to comes in.

What are your hopes and what do you want the community to know about you or this project?
This is not a competition in which our aim is to obtain an endless stream of “content”. In fact, that’s a word we are wholeheartedly uncomfortable with. Our primary focus is and always has been STORY. This is the heart and soul of Modern Huntsman. We have a goal here with this publication and that is to bring respect back to the printed editorial world; to reinstall print as an outlet for photographers who are making meaningful work. We cannot do this without a reliable and core roster of contributors; in short, we cannot do it without the people who are out in the world exploring the issues and the places that are the core focus of the stories we publish. However, Modern Huntsman is bigger than the stories we print in our publication. The PEOPLE who tell these stories are the lifeblood we depend upon and as such it is the people to whom we must provide support and access. Furthermore, “Field Outrider” is NOT a means of making money. Yes, we are charging a submission fee of $15, however, that money will go towards commissioning stories for the publication with the winners of each category. We have assembled an incredible team of judges, all of whom are donating their time and expertise out of a desire to give back to the photo community, a community that has given them so much. This is their way of paying it forward. Some are photographers themselves yes, but largely the judges are made up of individuals who actually have the power to put you to work, because as much as we all value feedback, what we really need is a chance, an opportunity to test ourselves in the arena. That is where careers are made. That is where photographers are born.

This competition serves a stepping stone in the larger, long-term mission of Modern Huntsman. What began in the spring of this year as an Instagram competition has evolved into this, a digital competition in which the winner’s photograph(s) will not only be published in print, but will result directly in a commission that we’ll publish, and drive attention to. Again, this is a stepping stone. It starts online, but ultimately our goal is to work towards in person seminars, workshops and portfolio reviews. But another big component of that is doing what we can to get more folks from different backgrounds involved in these discussions, and increase diversity amongst the perspectives we’re pulling from. While we’ve always sought this out, we’re taking larger steps here to get this opportunity out to more communities, as we think the future of conservation, land management, hunting and food sourcing will depend on having new voices involved in the conversation.

How did you come to this job?
I came onboard with Modern Huntsman as the Creative Director back in February of this year. I have known Tyler Sharp (the Editor and CEO) for about 6 years now and we have very similar career paths, from starting out in Texas to working in East Africa both as filmmakers and photographers. We’ve always stayed in touch and I was a part of the conversation regarding Modern Huntsman from the beginning, but I was still traveling extensively overseas at the time and very much involved in several ongoing projects. So we kind of tabled the conversation for a bit, all the while knowing that there would come a time when things would align and we’d be working together on this incredible thing he has built. That time finally came, and it was lucky to be right before lock down, as we were all able to focus on putting out great work with Volume Five, and trying to find ways to help other freelancers.

I am still very much a dedicated photographer myself and that is really my vocation, but this role as Creative Director allows me to work with other incredibly talented people from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds and it keeps me involved in the photo community which is really important to me. Once you’re bitten by this photography bug, you really don’t stand a chance. It will consume you in the best way possible and so to be able to work with these individuals, some of whom I have looked up to my entire career, really helps keep me fresh and informs my own work. It pushes me to be better and I can’t really ask for much more than that. It’s truly a privilege that I feel very fortunate to be a part of.

How does this all braid together for you (photography, design and storytelling)
Well for me, books are where the heart of the medium lies. I have a deep and abiding love for books – for all books, not just photography books and that’s exactly what we do at Modern Huntsman. It would be really hard to call what we make, a magazine, even though in essence that’s what it is. However, the quality of the work, the printing, the writing and design – they all make it more than this idea of what we imagine when we say magazine. It really is a softcover book. Over the years, I’ve learned to present my work differently and more intentionally and that requires an understanding of and an appreciation for design. While I am not a designer myself, I do study it and I try to pay attention to what the design is saying. I think as photographers we really have a responsibility to learn aspects of design that can help show the work in the way we want it to be received. I believe this is more important than it’s ever been. In fact, I really see the design as being the final component in putting these stories together, the previous two obviously being the writing and the photography. Each story warrants its own unique design approach in the exact same way that each story warrants a unique photographic vision. Again, I’m not a designer myself, but I do believe in being design literate. Ultimately, however, the design of each story and the publication as a whole falls to our incredibly talented Design Director, Elias Carlson, whom I met three years ago at the Collective Quarterly Portfolio Review in Chico Hot Springs, Montana hosted by Jesse Lenz of Charcoal Book Club. Elias and I have stayed in touch over the years and so it’s been really incredible to see how these early relationships, at the outset of my career, have informed the later stages of my working life and how our paths seem to converge when the timing is right.

Lastly, from a storytelling standpoint I think editorial outlets are historically, with the exception of maybe books, a photographer’s preferred outlet. Unfortunately, these have largely disappeared over the years and of the few that do remain, it can be incredibly difficult for a photographer to begin a working relationship. The goal for Modern Huntsman is to bring that back to the forefront of possible outlets for working professional photographers as well as to open that door to talented young photographers who are just beginning their careers.

How does this model of guaranteed work serve as a benefit and community builder?
I have participated in a number of photo workshops, portfolio reviews and competitions and many of them have been great experiences, while others were not. Some of them have been free as a result of corporate sponsorships and others have required a significant out of pocket expense, something most aspiring photographers cannot afford. At the end of the day, what photographers need is work. Critiques are important, and feedback can be inspiring or informative, but work is the lifeblood of the photographer and it’s the work that we need in order to survive. That’s our goal with all of this, to put talented photographers and creatives to work, while at the same time expanding the diversity of voices in the conversations surrounding the hunting, angling, and outdoors communities. Being that we were all freelancers before and know how hard it is, we created this to try and be something that is meaningful, beneficial and supportive of photographers and artists. We tried to think about what opportunities we would’ve loved to have back then, and think this does that justice. It’s been a hard year for a lot of people, and while we certainly wish we could do more, this is our effort to really step up and try to create some positive momentum and paid work for photographers who need it. Again, we can’t thank you enough for being a part of this and helping share more about what we’re trying to do here. We truly hope that we’ll get lots of work sent in and be able to create some incredible stories with the winners!

Pricing & Negotiating: Real Families for a Technology Client

Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Concept: Lifestyle images of real families interacting with technology

Licensing: Unlimited use of up to 60 images for two years from first use

Photographer: Reportage and Portrait Specialist

Agency: Large, specializing in digital campaigns

Client: Large technology company

 

Here is the estimate:
Pricing and Negotiating Real Families for Technology Client

Creative/Licensing Fees: The photographer came to me having never done a commercial assignment with an ad agency or a client of this size before. His previous work focused on family portraits and reportage, and that was exactly the kind of content this campaign called for. The agency hoped that the photographer could present options of real families to them using his personal connections, rather than working with a casting director or talent agency. These families would be photographed in their actual homes interacting in staged setups, that would ideally look as authentic as possible considering they were real family members. The shoot would take place over two shoot days, with two families, each in their own homes. While the shot list was a bit of a collaborative effort, we settled on 60 final deliverables for unlimited use for two years. Based on previous similar projects I’ve estimated, I had a sense that this client would want to end up paying a few hundred dollars per image if broken down that way, and likely around 10-15k/day for a creative/licensing fee. We were asked to break out the creative fee from the licensing, and I landed on $3,000/day plus $20,000 in licensing fees. There would also be two pre-pro days added in, which I included $1,500/day for. As we approached $30,000 for these items collectively, I felt confident that we were in the right ballpark, especially considering this would be the photographer’s first assignment like this.

Crew: I included a first assistant and a digital tech, each for the two shoot days

Styling: The families would wear their own clothes, so we didn’t need a wardrobe stylist, but there was definitely a need for specific props based on the creative brief and the situations being prescribed by the shot list. I therefore included a prop stylist with an assistant and the appropriate expenses, but marked the prop costs as TBD since we were still sorting out the exact prop needs.

Casting and Talent: Based on previous projects we decided that $3,000 per family would be appropriate to cover each family and their property.

Equipment: While we initially started much lower due to the photographer’s style and lighting approach, the agency specifically asked us to include $3,500/day for equipment.

Health and Safety:  On all shoots now, we are considering PPE and cleaning supplies at a minimum, and on some shoots we include a health/wellness officer. In this case, since we were still sorting out the exact families and their comfort level with a minimal production, we marked this at $1,000 while bidding. At most, we anticipated hiring a cleaning company to come clean the location after the shoot.

Misc.: I included $250/day for each day to cover miscellaneious and unforeseen expenses that might arise.

Post Production: I included $1,500 for what I anticipate would likely be about a day of post, just to organize the assets and delivery them, even though the agency would be handling the heavy lifting on the retouching.

Feedback: The first item the agency wanted to discuss was the licensing. Rather than select 60 images after the shoot and have the usage period start when the first image was used, they wanted to be able to make selects over the course of the two year licensing period, and have each image start a two year licensing period when each image was used. It seemed odd to me, but regardless, I wanted to account for the potential lengthier usage term that would be possible, and the work that the photographer would have to do each time more files were requested throughout the two years. I had a very frank conversation with the art buyer about this request, and they suggested that they had $15,000 potentially available to put towards this licensing request. That seemed like an excellent deal, so we ran with it and adjust our estimate. Additionally, we learned that the production company involved with this project planned to pay the crew, styling team and talent directly via a payroll company, and that they’d handle any cleaning fees directly as well. They therefor asked us to revise our estimate to reflect that.

Here was the final estimate:
Pricing and Negotiating Real Families for Technology Client

Results: The photographer was awarded the project.

Hindsight: Given the extra $15k that magically appeared, I wonder if we started too low initially. Also, it seems many shoots in these strange Covid times revolve more around the resources that a photographer has available to them (family/friend talent and locations specifically) as opposed to the actual appropriateness of that photographer for the assignment, which is a bit disconcerting. I think the photographer was a great choice for this campaign, but I’ve seen other projects where seemingly perfect photographers drop out of the running because they don’t have that perfect talent/location at their fingertips.

 

If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing a project, please give us a call at 610.260.0200 or reach out. We’re available to help with any and all pricing and negotiating needs—from small stock sales to large ad campaigns.

The Daily Edit – Max Whittaker

- - The Daily Edit

BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 9, 2020: The small town of Berry Creek, California which was destroyed by the Bear Fire, part of the North Complex Fire, on September 9, 2020. The North Complex Fire has burned 254,000 acres. 

FEATHER FALLS, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 9, 2020: A tree burns in the Bear Fire, part of the North Complex Fire, on September 9, 2020 in Feather Falls, California. The North Complex Fire has burned 254,000 acres. 

BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 10, 2020: National Guard soldiers cut a fire line on the West Zone fire, formerly the Bear Fire, part of the North Complex Fire, on September 10, 2020 near Feather Falls, California. The North Complex Fire has burned 244,000 acres and killed ten people. 

BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 10, 2020: National Guard soldiers cut a fire line on the West Zone fire, formerly the Bear Fire, part of the North Complex Fire, on September 10, 2020 near Feather Falls, California. The North Complex Fire has burned 244,000 acres and killed ten people. 

VACAVILLE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19, 2020: Justin Haan wipes his face while putting out spot fires ahead of a wildfire to save his in law’s home in Vacaville, California on August 19, 2020. The LNC Lightning Complex fire has burned over 32,000 acres. 

HEALDSBURG, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 22, 2020: The Delta Conservation Crew, made up of inmate firefighters, takes a break from clearing a fire line on the Walbridge Fire, part of the LNU Lightning Complex, in Healdsburg, California on August 23, 2020. The LNU Lightning Complex fire has burned 341,243 acres and destroyed at least 560 structures. 

HEALDSBURG, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 22, 2020: The Delta Conservation Crew, made up of inmate firefighters, takes a break while hiking out from clearing a fire line on the Walbridge Fire, part of the LNU Lightning Complex, in Healdsburg, California on August 23, 2020. The LNU Lightning Complex fire has burned 341,243 acres and destroyed at least 560 structures. 

FAIRFIELD, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19, 2020: Fairfield firefighter Rex Dorrough burns a hillside to protect a neighborhood from the LNU Lightning Complex as deer flee the flames in Fairfield, California on August 19, 2020. The LNU Lightning Complex fire has burned over 125,000 acres. 

POPE VALLEY, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 20, 2020: Neighbors help protect a home from the LNU Lightning Complex fire in Pope Valley, California on August 20, 2020. The LNU Lightning Complex fire has burned 215,000 acres and destroyed at least 480 structures. 

SPANISH FLAT, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 25, 2020: Andrea Shumate comforts her husband, Josh Shumate, as he sifts through the remains of his grandmother’s home at the Spanish Flat Mobile Villa, which was destroyed by the Hennessy Fire, part of the LNU Lightning Complex, in Spanish Flat, California on August 25, 2020. 

NYTWILDFIRES BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 10, 2020: A forest burned by the West Zone Fire, part of the North Complex Fire, on September 12, 2020 near Berry Creek, California. The North Complex Fire has burned 254,000 acres. 

VACAVILLE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19, 2020: Dan Frank calls 911 as his garage and neighbor’s home burns in Vacaville, California on August 19, 2020. The LNC Lightning Complex fire has burned over 32,000 acres. 

VACAVILLE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19, 2020: Deer flee a wildfire in Vacaville, California on August 19, 2020. The LNC Lightning Complex fire has burned over 32,000 acres. 

VACAVILLE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19, 2020: A firefighter tries to burn out some weeds ahead of a wildfire in Vacaville, California on August 19, 2020. The LNC Lightning Complex fire has burned over 32,000 acres. 


Max Whittaker

instagram

Heidi: You’ve been covering wildfires for the past 19 years, what made this season different?
Max: This season is different because we’ve had so many large, destructive fires so early in the season. We’re just entering the meat of the fire season, which typically only gets going in Southern California in the fall with the Santa Ana winds. California has already had more acres burn in 2020 than any other year, and the fire season isn’t close to being over.

Looking back over those years, what were some pitval moments?
However, I think it’s important to look back a bit further. When I first started covering wildfires in the early 2000s, they were primarily in forests, away from population centers. Isolated homes and small, rural communities would be threatened, but it was still primarily something that happened deep in the forest, typically on public land. Gradually, the fires began to move more quickly and explosively, driven by high winds, high temperatures and dry fuel, and threaten more and larger communities more frequently. The real eye-opener was the Tubbs Fire in 2017. Driven by high winds, the fire jumped six lanes of Highway 101 and burned the very suburban neighborhood of Coffey Park in Santa Rosa, destroying 2,900 homes. Since then, the Carr Fire in Redding and the Camp Fire in Paradise in 2018, continue this trend of wildfires increasingly burning into residential neighborhoods.

How did your love of National Parks influence your work?
I grew up camping, backpacking, climbing and skiing. I still remember the first time I saw the Tetons and later on the same trip, taking my first photo of a buffalo charging, blurred by my mom yanking me back into the car. Our family still spends two weeks every summer exploring National Parks and public lands. I think my love for wild places colors everything about my photography. It’s so inextricably part of me, that I’m not sure it can be separated from me and how I view the world. I feel most comfortable in wild places and more empathetic to those who live and work on the land. I hope that shows in my work.

What type of “training” do you do to stay ready in the off chance you’re out all night?
Honestly, I don’t think there’s much training that helps with sleep deprivation other than get a good night’s rest when you can. That said, I’ve gotten assignments on very short notice that involve a decent amount of physical fitness (in 2019 I climbed Aconcagua for an assignment with two weeks notice), so I do my best to stay in shape despite my ever-varying work schedule and life demands. I’m a firm believer that being in decent shape helps out in all kinds of ways – even if it is just a week or two of sitting in planes and cars, like many assignments.

What drove you to break the rule of staying close to your car for this assignment?
I left my car behind for the day I spent documenting the effects of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire on Big Basin Redwoods State Park mainly because the active fire had passed and the area was just smoldering. Since the area had already burned, it was in many ways safer than areas that hadn’t. Nothing is without risk, but this seemed like a reasonable risk to document the damage to the park and that was the only way to do it with the downed trees blocking the road. In hindsight, I’d underestimated the danger of falling limbs and trees. That’s something I’ll consider more carefully in similar situations in the future.

What type of respect for nature comes from doing this work?
With people there’s negotiation, with nature it’s more observation and keen awareness of the moment, situational awareness….

Fire is natural. It’s a natural part of our ecosystem that’s gone haywire from man’s effect on the landscape and climate. To see fire eat and charge its way through brush, trees and homes is to engender massive respect for the power of nature. You need to be always watching, looking behind you and making sure your escape path is still clear and your vehicle isn’t endangered. But over the years it’s gradually had another effect on me: to view forests as ever-changing organisms, not as a museum exhibit frozen in place for our viewing pleasure. Typically, as humans we can only see a forest or landscape change over a lifetime of observation, a wildfire changes things in minutes or hours. It’s always cool to go back to a burned area the next spring, and see just a few months later how much green growth there is after the winter rains.

I’m no firefighter or scientist, but I have learned to distinguish between the creeping fire that burns brush, deadfall and the understory; and the cataclysmic infernos we’ve seen more of recently, that completely nuke the landscape and leave nothing alive.

How much do you interact with the firefighters and what kind of earned trust is developed?
It’s rare for me to spend more than a few hours with a firefighting crew. I always show respect by asking permission to photograph them, and they’re almost always friendly and very accomodating. If it’s slow, they’re often hungry to chat with someone outside of their crew as they’re often out for weeks at a time, going from one fire to the next. I’m wearing the same PPE they are, do my best to stay out of their way and not become a liability. I think they appreciate that.

Above all, I’ve gained massive respect for firefighters. Being a wildland firefighter is incredibly demanding, physical work. Hand crews hike miles through rugged terrain during the hottest months, lugging hand tools, chainsaws and fuel, all while wearing thick, fireproof nomex clothing. Then they carve a fire line through impenetrable brush and trees, officially working 24 hours straight, but often much longer. They’ll often do this for months at a time, away from their families, who are often living in the very wildland urban interface they’re working to protect.

Do you show your daughter your images?
My eight-year-old daughter has seen my wildfire images in passing. I don’t make a big deal about them and she rarely asks about them. She’s usually just excited I’m home and wants me to play dolls or Legos with her. But my experiences do lead to a more informed discussion when we do come across a burn scar while out hiking.

What are the lessons that these fires teach you, or what is it a reminder of?
I’ve learned lots during my years covering wildfires, but most importantly, I’ve learned how much of an effect man is having on our environment. Although well-intentioned, our decades of fire suppression has only increased the number of catastrophic fires. With one record-breaking fire season after another, the effects of climate change transcends statistics and is plainly evident in the ashes of our forests and communities.