Thursday, July 31, 2008

Scapegoat: Next steps

Scapegoat is one of my favorite clients. They make really nice jackets that will look good and last for a long time.

I've been working with them for three years now, and we are about to start working on the 2009 print catalog. They don't have an agency, just some in house designers. So the shoots are art directed by all of us together, which works because the brand is small, focused, and clear.

The other day we met to start nailing down some ideas and I'm pretty excited about how things are looking, it should be a great project. Scapegoat is all about creating interesting, whimsical, clever images that are like open ended questions. Which is a great end goal to think about when making pictures.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

CA interview now online

Here is a recent interview I did with Communication Arts as a part of their "Insights" section. I was fired up to see it on the homepage this morning -- like a consolation prize for not getting into the Annual.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pieter Hugo -- Look Aside

I'm trying to spend a bit of time every morning looking at different kinds of work, hoping it will help fill the creative fuel tank for the day.

I was checking out Pieter Hugo's Hyena pics today, which are pretty incredible, but I found these much more interesting.

Pieter was born in 1976, which means when I was in Driver's Ed he was probably still taking naps and struggling with long division.

Monday, July 28, 2008

CA Photo Annual -- Hurts so Good

Once again, the CA Photo Annual came, and one again, I wasn't in it.

Maybe because I didn't submit any work this year. Back in March, I sifted through all my work from 2007 and couldn't really find anything that I wanted to send in, other than one-off single images. I was super busy all year, but never took a substantial chunk of time to put work on the back burner and really focus on something interesting to me.

This discovery totally freaked me out -- I used to assist a guy that worked constantly on huge jobs and had briefcases full of money. He didn't shoot a single personal project in the two years I was with him. I don't want to become that guy, but after a busy year in '07 I can definitely see how it happens.

So I blew off the contest thing completely and booked a plane ticket to see my friend in Beijing, and spent two weeks shooting there. It was absolute heaven. China was just what I needed creatively, and I came back with a bunch of work I am really proud of. And I remembered what it's like to be totally present with my camera -- no distractions, nothing to sell. Unfortunately my trip caused me to miss the CA deadline, so I'll have to wait until next year.

That said, it was a little painful to see the cover of this year's Photo Annual (an image of a Chinese guard with his hand up to cover his face.) Pretty weak choice for a cover shot. I understand that they want it to be relevant, with the Games and all, but there is so much amazing work being shot in China right now -- work that says so much more about China by people that have been working on stuff there for years that most of us have never seen.

If you haven't seen work by Ian Teh, look at it now. It will blow your mind. Plenty of CA cover shots in there.

Some of my faves from this year:
Mark Zibert -- Adidas campaign. Where do these jobs come from? How do I get one?
Kenji Aoki -- I wish I could see still life images like this.
David Bowman -- Ice Culture.
Ed Kashi -- Niger Slaughter. Just a guy and a camera, and just plain beautiful.

Congrats to everyone that was more on it than me. It always hurts to not be in there, but it's always insprational, and gets me fired up to keep shooting.

Special congrats to Horacio Salinas, who was nowhere to be seen in this year's Annual. He was probably too busy doing kick ass work to bother.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sell Sell Sell

I've spent the last three days updating and dealing with my marketing plan for the rest of 2008. It gets a little bigger each year. At this point, it includes:

- print promos quarterly
- regular spreads in Archive
- email promos quarterly
- go sees: SF, CHI, NY (twice), LA, maybe even MN this year
- handwritten notes for the special people
- submitting work to contests: AP, CA, PDN, PIX, etc.
- updating 3 websites quarterly: Mine, Photoserve, AltPick
- updating 10 portfolios annually
- year end thank you gifts for clients
- submitting work to misc. news + culture websites
- providing my reps with images for their separate efforts

Not quite sure how to shoot jobs and get this done. Let alone get all this done and stick to the schedule.

I think I might need an intern. Oh, wait....I am the intern.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

PDN Portfolio Consult

A few months back I got a call from Jeanine Fijol at PDN. She wanted me to do a formal portfolio consultation with Leslie Burns Dellacqua of Burns Auto Parts. She would review my book, promos, and website, and wed talk about ways to update and improve all of them.

At first I was fired up to do this, I'd just returned from China with some new work that I wanted to incorporate, and I was getting advice from an experienced pro for free. Then I thought maybe it's not such a good thing to have a critique of my work broadcast on PDN. What if she shredded me to bits?

Anyway, the finished feature just went up on PDN here.

This got me thinking about portfolio critiques in general. The whole thing is just so subjective I have a hard time believing there is any science to it, which is what some people think. Start strong, finish strong, this doesn't work here, that doesn't go, etc, etc, etc.

Fact is, if you have 30 kick ass images, it doesn't really matter what order they're in. So much of how we perceive images is based on our own personal experience, which changes from person to person, and from one day to the next. Once sequence of images will make one art director laugh out loud, and make another put the book down and go get another latte. Maybe after they pound their latte, the pictures will mean something different.

That said, I thought some of Leslie's points were right on, and others a bit off. Overall it was positive, and I feel like the book, website, and promos are heading in the right direction. Pretty much the same as I felt before the consult.

In the end does it really matter what someone else thinks of my work as long as I am ok with it?

My new personal Blog Consultant Thomas Broening has some interesting things to say about Portfolio Consultants.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When I Grow Up

I heard the other day that it takes 10 years for someone to get good at something. Meaning achieve a level of proficiency that allows them to make a living at it. TEN years. That's a good chunk of time. I've been shooting since I was 16. That's over 20 years of looking through a camera. And I still feel like I'm just getting started.

I read an interesting and kind of scary article by Vincent Laforet yesterday. It talked about how the industry is changing and how we as photographers may change with it. Photojournalists are using video cameras to cover events, and grabbing stills from whatever they catch on film. I've shot jobs with a Canon 1D Mark II, which at 10 frames a second is pretty close to shooting video.

These things make me wonder what this job will be like in 10 years. Until HMI's become battery powered and cheap, it will be hard to use video to recreate the look of a still image with some well crafted strobe lighting. Documentary shooting, on the other hand, might not be so different whether you're using a still camera or video.

So, what will I be doing in 10 years? Hopefully making unique pictures that most people can't make. Lately I've been collaborating on some complex composite images and have been really enjoying the process.

In terms of adapting to the market, it's going to be important to find a specialty within photography, one that someone with a point and shoot and some decent photoshop skills can't really do. I'm interested in visual problem solving, and want to seek out work that takes thinking through and detailed production. That's one way I hope to evolve into an area of specialty.

Anyway, Vincent's article made me think for a minute about what I would do if I were forced to leave photography. And I have NO idea. Taking the next 10 years to get good at something else? I'll pass.

Monday, July 21, 2008

what i had for lunch today

Email from Thomas Broening:

"Not that you asked but you got to blog more often if you are going to have an audience. Work is looking real good though. -- thomas"

I started this blog as a way to keep a running narrative on the work I'm doing. Putting it out there accomplishes a few things, including allowing me to expand on my work, and to get feedback. Although I'm learning that through writing about my work, I'm actually thinking about it in new ways. I'm learning that I actually like writing, too. It's refreshing.

As with anything, if it's not hard, it's probably not worth doing. And this is proving to be one of those things. Writing about my work is good, but writing about it regularly is better. I'm hoping I can roll some of this introspection back into my future projects, and create some new momentum.

Another email from Thomas:

"Maybe start by what u have for lunch everyday, that works for me."

In an effort to make this a productive habit, I'm going to try to avoid being one of those people that starts a blog then gives up. That said, here is what I had for lunch yesterday:

Chicken sandwich with tomato
Pringles (I think it's the shape that makes them so good!)

when subjects disagree

I was just in Salt Lake to shoot a job for Outside Magazine. The story was about a guy that runs a gym there for elite athletes, but instead of riding stationary bikes and running on treadmills, they were flipping tractor tires and hauling massive piles of log chain. The workout looked absolutely excruciating. Professional ultimate fighters were brought to their knees (or I should say brought themselves to their knees.)

I needed to come up with a portrait of the Gym's founder, and I wanted to find a way to incorporate some sort of grueling endurance test into the portrait shoot. There are some facial expressions that you just can't get any other way.

They had this really heavy (35 lbs.) sword from an old trade show, and I wanted him to hold it for as long as he possibly could while I shot his portrait. It was impossible to hold up with one hand, and very difficult with two. Once he started to show signs of fatigue, I'd start shooting. Hopefully the image would say something about him and his fondness for pushing through pain in order to achieve a heightened level of fitness.

I ran this idea by him and he shot it down immediately. It turns out he'd been in a shoot years ago where they had him dressed like the grim reaper, standing in a puddle of blood, wielding an ice ax. He didn't like how that shot turned out, and didn't like hearing about it afterwards from people that saw the image in print.

I took time to explain why I liked my idea, and how I wanted to make an image that said something about him. He heard me out, but in the end, held his ground, and we did something else that turned out well (it's not in print yet, so I can't share it).

I was fine with his refusal, although it was a bummer that another photographer's idea from years back affected my shoot. More important is that I took the time to explain my idea, and that he took the time to listen.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The test

I've found that a good test of what qualifies as "personal work" for me is if it makes me laugh.

Not the sort of laugh reserved for jokes or Tracy Morgan or Wonder Showzen. It's the sort of laugh that comes from disbelief that this sort of moment is just sitting there, and that the forms, the light, and the subtlety all converge into an image that just works. Oh, and that I happen to be there with my camera.

The Outer Sunset - Irving Street

This is the start of a series I've been thinking about for a while, where I'll walk each street in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco (they are roughly in alphabetical order) and choose one image from each street. These are from Irving Street.

There isn't really any idea behind this one, but it has always been a favorite location for me to wander around. Something about the masses of people that live in rows of boxes that are rarely seen outside, or talking to each other. For how many people live here, it's an incredibly desolate, lonely place.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

China: Portraits of Workers

We spent the day finding people on the street that were willing to have their portrait taken in a nearby studio. Most of the subjects I was drawn to were workers -- a construction worker, teacher, garbage collector, and courier.

People were unusually accommodating, although a few people refused because they didn't feel that they were a going to represent China very well. There was a sense of pride in their country that was different than in the states. Or at least different than in San Francisco.

These portraits make me think about how people go about choosing (or not choosing) what they do with their lives. We all wear uniforms that reflect a combination of who we are and what we do.