Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gear Salad - doing more with less

Vincent Laforet, the ultimate HDSLR gear head, has a new gear page.  Which is awesome if you are really into gear.

I have worked for years to get rid of gear -- to simplify in any way possible.  I find that the more I shoot, the less gear I need, which is nice.  I don't want to rely too much on circuit boards and batteries, because they inevitably die or break.  

The idea of owning all this gear to shoot video just makes me anxious.  I don't want to own it.  I want someone else to own it, so that I can rent it.

The most important piece of gear I own is my head.  And until that breaks, I'll rely on it more than anything else.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Work we love: The Uniqlo Calendar

The Uniqlo Calendar has been around for a while, but it never gets old.  The only way to describe it is if you sent Andreas Gursky to Japan with a video camera and a few sheets of acid.  And it changes every season.  Here is a link to an archive of past seasons.

It took me a while to find, but here are partial credits:

Agency: Projector, Inc(Japan)
Client: Uniqlo

I didn't have any luck finding out the talented individual that shot this, I'd love to know. Anyone?

Friday, August 20, 2010

The price of digital

There are 20000 messages in my inbox today.

There was a time when a lot of my day was spent going to and from the lab.  Waiting for pushes, pulls, snips, trimming 120 film, chatting with the regulars behind the counter, and catching up with other photogs and assistants.

Now the lab is a Mac.  Everything we do goes in one cable and out another.  And we spend a lot more time in front of our monitors.  

The social aspect of photography has gone digital as well.

I had lunch with a photog friend yesterday, and it seemed like a special occasion.  The personal contact that used to be normal is now novel. 

Face to face is still the best way to communicate, let's not forget how to do it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Find this photo, I'll send you a print

Please help me find this photo.  It's for a good cause.

My friend saw it in a restaurant, and wanted to buy a print of it to put up in his house.  Now, this is a restaurant where he has hosted numerous large events for his agency clients.  So he is not some guy walking in off the street for a cheeseburger.  He has enabled the dropping of large chunks of cash at this place.

So the manager says "no way."  She won't tell him where they got it, or who shot it, since it is a "unique part of their branding."  The interior designer and the owner wouldn't give it up either.

Chances are that they don't own this photo, or exclusive rights to it.  The photographer that shot this (or his/her gallery or family) has every right to sell this again and again, until someone either buys it out, licenses it exclusively, or the edition runs out.

To make matters worse, they took a perfectly awesome photo and forged their own cheesy oversized signature on it.

I've looked everywhere I can in an effort to find it, and even went through a friend at Corbis that forwarded it on to the research department.  No luck.

So, for the sake of the photographer, and for the sake of having it printed and framed properly without a big dumb signature on it, help me find this image. 

If you can locate it,  I'll send you a 12" print of your choice from any image on my site.  Signed on the back.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Letter from Lee Friedlander

It was 2003 and I was going to New York for my first round of meetings with Agencies and Magazines.  My girlfriend's mom lived in Manhattan, and generously offered to write a letter to her friend Lee Friedlander, to ask if he could help me out.

His reply is awesome for two reasons.  One, that he used the same letter to write his response, by scratching the word "Dear" next to Margaret's name.  And two, that he flat out said no:  

"At age 65 I decided to retire from everything but work.  So I don't do any side things, which I was never good at anyhow.  Wish him the best of luck."

I keep this letter pinned to the wall as a reminder that it's necessary to stay focused on what you're passionate about, that it's ok to say no. 

When I hit 65 I hope to retire from everything but work as well.  Thanks Lee.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Work We Love: Dan Winters for Wired

EPIC Will Ferrell / Future Photo Feature by Dan Winters in this month's Wired.  The Winters / Ferrell / Dadich combination is a winner.  They even shot some short vids to while they were at it, everything is here.  

It's the first I've seen of Mr. Winters' video, but seems like a very natural translation, since his stills are so cinematic and art directed to begin with.  The camera doesn't move much, but there is so much to look at it doesn't matter. 

I'd just like to know whose idea it was to have WF's underwear lines showing through the skin suit.  Pure genius.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Failing Harder

Just coming off of two awesome days with the stomach flu.  The stress of too much going on finally knocked me down.  I had some time on the couch to read and write and to try to figure out where we are all heading on this crazy photo train.   This is welcome at a time when I am updating my print portfolio, website, marketing materials, and my overall approach to my career.

I'm still as excited as ever to be a photographer, or as some are now calling themselves, a "visual artist."  But lately I've been feeling overwhelmed with the number of choices out there.  Everything just feels so fragmented and uncertain.

Right now I am most interested in pushing my photography to a new place, hopefully a new place that no one has visited yet.  How to go about doing this, I'm not sure.  It all starts with the first step of just getting out there to make something, and as Dan Weiden says, "fail harder."  Doing something exceptionally well is almost easier than doing something really, truly, collossaly, bad.

Of course for all the optimism about the endless possibilities, there are some very real things happening in the world that are not good for photography as we know it.  Newsweek sold the other day for $1.  No that's not a typo.  It sold for 2 quarters, 3 dimes, and 4 nickels.  Signs of the changes to come don't get any clearer than that.

Neil Burgess, the former head of MAGNUM, has declared that photojournalism is dead.

If we look at the photo world as a big pie, it's pretty clear that the photojournalism slice was pulled out, eaten, thrown away, or just went bad.  Which means less pie to go around.  It's clear that people are working on ways to bake a bigger pie, and even new pies in crazy new dishes.  But none of them have really turned out yet.  It's just a bunch of mad chefs in the kitchen trying a bunch of weird recipes.  (see pics above)

I canceled my NYT subscription a while back, as I was just feeling badly about all the paper that was piling up in the recycling bin each week.  Ink on newsprint just looks so antiquated and inefficient when it's stacked 2 feet high.  Now I check in on the website, which (for now) is free.  The magazine has done a few really beautiful interactive pieces that seem like logical next steps for how photography will live on in the editorial world.  Here are a few of my faves:

Joachim Ladefoged (shooter of VII) made this short while on assignment in the Netherlands for a story on a soccer school.  I love how each shot is less like a video, and more like a moving still.  Carefully composed, without any voice overs or music, or the other stuff that we're "supposed" to cram in there.  It's really beautiful as it is, and adds to the richness and reality of the visual experience.

Another cool example is this still life study of the soccer balls that have been used in the World Cup.  Nicely shot, and assembled in a way that makes it fun to look at.

And this last piece on Mariano Rivera, which is more of a CGI / motion graphics piece, but pretty amazing.  This looks insanely expensive to produce, but it's also really engaging and interesting.

This gives me hope for photography, and for the editorial world.  And the opportunites to collaborate with pros from other parts of the visual world.  But we seem to be stuck in this in-between space right now, where the platforms for the content, and the readers, and the advertisers are not where they need to be in terms of volume or efficiency.

Pictures (whether moving or still) are the new words.  And that the demand for imagery will continue to grow, as will the demand for those images to communicate powerfully and clearly. 

So let's hope that some of these recipes work out, and that someday there will be a bigger, more delicious pie for everyone to enjoy.