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October 16th, 2014

Art Photos About Animals the Focus of Muybridge’s Horse Blog

The homepage of Muybridge's Horse, featuring images by photographer Brandon Hall.

The homepage of Muybridge’s Horse, featuring an image by photographer Brandon Hall.

Emma Kisiel’s blog, Muybridge’s Horse, features photography that explores the relationship between humans and animals. The collection includes the work of artists like Charlotte Dumas, Simen Johan, Chris Jordan, Lindsay Blatt and dozens of others, offering a wide-ranging look at the varied ways photographers and artists working in other media depict animals and the natural world. For Kisiel, the blog has provided an opportunity to connect with other artists who share her interests, and to grow her understanding of contemporary art and the possibilities for her own work.

“Working on Muybridge’s Horse has opened my eyes to such innovative ways of image-making and storytelling,” Kisiel told PDN via email. “I also love seeing how many artists who explore animal life (or death) in their art are women. I know how male-dominated the photography field can feel sometimes.”

Muybridge’s Horse, named for Eadweard Muybridge’s “Horse in Motion” photographs, which he made in 1878, grew from a personal blog Kisiel kept as a photography student at the Maryland Institute College of Art. On it, she indexed all types of work that interested her. Eventually she “noticed that artists who work with animal and nature subject matter dominated the blog,” Kisiel says.

After Kisiel graduated and began working in a field unrelated to art, she pursued the blog as a “creative outlet.” She worked with a developer friend to create Muybridge’s Horse, and emailed all of the artists whose work she’d posted on her personal blog as a student. “Many responded with comments that they couldn’t believe a site like this hadn’t existed yet,” Kisiel says. She launched it in early 2013, hoping to reach “students, artists, curators, animal lovers—anyone seeking pictures that affect them.”

Kisiel generally finds images on Tumblr, by following RSS feeds of other art publications like Lenscratch and iGNAT, and through submissions. Artists also often recommend other people for Kisiel to feature. She worried at one point that she would run out of subject matter, but adds, “I currently have over 100 posts in my queue, so I’m not worried right now.”

Through her work on the blog, she’s received support from other photographers, has developed friendships, and has met artists with whom she’s corresponded.

It’s also altered her thinking about her own work. “I am much more challenged to create photographs that matter,” she says. “I am a proponent of looking at and being very aware of contemporary photography if you’re a photographer yourself, and I have felt humbled and inspired by the discovery of the artists I feature.”

Kisiel says that she’s struggled at times to find a sense of community as an artist, but that Muybridge’s Horse has provided that. “I have mixed feelings about the internet, the way it changes how people and artists act and interact, but watching artists lift each other up and exist as a part of a unique network has been encouraging as an artist working today.”

Related: Photographers Share Intimate Images of Loved Ones for Curated Photo Website
Charlotte Dumas: A Fine-Art Approach to Photographing Animals

October 2nd, 2014

“How Come This Stuff Isn’t Animated?” The Story of Mr. GIF

Pop star Miley Cyrus and the rapper 2 Chainz backstage at Jeremy Scott's S/S 2015 show at New York fashion week. © Mr. GIF

Pop star Miley Cyrus and the rapper 2 Chainz backstage at Jeremy Scott’s S/S 2015 show at New York fashion week. © Mr. GIF for Milk Made

Mr. GIF wants to animate the Internet. The creative duo has made photographing and illustrating GIFs—the 27-year-old bitmap image format that supports crude animation—their calling card. They’re the team that Marc Ecko, Evian and Transamerica tap when they need to quickly make strong, easily shareable moving images for whatever they’re selling. In just a few short years, they evolved from a pair of daydreaming MTV plebes to shooting Miley Cyrus and 2Chainz backstage at fashion week. To them, still images that move were obviously taylor-made for the Internet and its thousands of screens. But can you really make a career of making GIFs?

The duo, Jimmy Repeat and Mark Portillo, are college buddies. They studied advertising design together at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Their studies were almost irrelevant—Portillo didn’t even finish—but the renowned art and design school is where the two would meet. Less than seven years later, they would quit their jobs to make GIFs—the full-time for clients like and others. Even an insurance company.

Having gone their separate ways after school, Repeat and Portillo reconnected under the umbrella of Viacom, at MTV’s “Geek” vertical, which covers cartoons, comics and videogames. Doing research for work, they devoured the same comics, but were struck by the format’s limitations.

Maria Sharapova for Evian at the U.S. Open © Mr. GIF

Maria Sharapova for Evian at the U.S. Open © Mr. GIF

“We were like, ‘How come this stuff isn’t animated yet?’” Portillo remembers. “We read Akira and we were like, “If this background was giving me seizures, it would be so much better.’”

So they dreamed up a GIF comic over smoke breaks outside Viacom’s Times Square HQ, and quickly learned why animation was so expensive (it’s a lot of work!). They abandoned the book idea, throwing the frames they’d finished up on Tumblr. But they were having fun. Illustrations gave way to photos, and a thought: “How is the GIF better than the JPEG?”

“We saw the potential,” Repeat says. “Everywhere you look, there’s a screen.”

As relative neophytes—Repeat especially—they were intrigued by the technology of photography. They experimented with odd cameras well-suited to the medium; at first, digital models like the Fujifilm FinePix Real3D W3, but they would later become obsessed with the aesthetics of analog. Toy cameras like Lomography’s Pop 9 (a nine-lens camera that makes nine exposures at once) and ActionSampler (four lenses, four consecutive frames), even 3D film cameras like the Nimslo 3D. The multi-exposure cameras helped streamline their workflow—helpful, as they had to develop and scan each frame to animate their GIFs. They found creative ways to merge digital and analog, using a DSLR to make time-lapse clips of instant film as it developed. They have a lot of cameras.

Marc Ecko, founder of Eckō Enterprises, Mr. GIF’s first big client. © Mr. GIF

They spent their nights and weekends making GIFs and posting them to Tumblr for free. It wasn’t long before Mark Ecko came calling (tweeting, actually) with their first paid gig, animating his upcoming TEDx presentation. They powered through it in three days. “I think we made 200-300 GIFs in one night,” Portillo says. “It was intense.”

“That was the beginning of the end for our day jobs,” Repeat says. “Like, ‘Oh, this is what a good client’s like?” Ecko dug the work, and they started to get more gigs. They GIF’d the U.S. Open for Evian, and fashion week for Tumblr. By 2013, they had quit MTV, and would soon score a huge project: a year-long Tumblr promoting the San Francisco-based insurance company Transamerica’s “Transform Tomorrow” campaign.

The pair convinced Transamerica to send them across the country making GIFs of America’s cities. They flew drones over rooftop gardens in Detroit, Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota and, of course, San Francisco and the iconic Transamerica building. They booked a room at a luxury hotel with the perfect view for a 24-hour time-lapse of the skyline. Transamerica was skeptical of the format—until they saw the popularity of the first clip they posted. Now, when you go to www.transformtomorrow.com, their fancy hotel view of San Francisco graces the background, the current time of day reflected by the time of day in the 24-hour time-lapse they made.

A time-lapse GIF of the San Francisco skyline, that Mr. GIF made for Transamerica, prominently featuring their iconic headquarters. © Mr. GIF

A time-lapse GIF of the San Francisco skyline, that Mr. GIF made for Transamerica, prominently featuring their iconic headquarters. © Mr. GIF

Now certified pros, they’re still almost instinctively inventive with their resources. When a client that was supposed to fly them out and put them up in Austin, TX, to shoot a SXSW panel told them that they had to pay their own way, they got their drive down to Texas sponsored. Their friends at Tumblr would connect them with Transamerica, but it was the GIFs they shot on the trip to Austin that would help them land the gig. When a job for St. Ives took them to Hawaii, they stayed an extra week and shot Honolulu for Transamerica. Since they like to shoot film (which is expensive to buy and process), rather than go to a professional processing house, they trained the local CVS employees how to prep and cut their negatives, adding a healthy tip for their trouble.

One thing they learned early on is that new work leads to new work. They needed to show clients they could make the work, so before they had paid work to show, they just did it for free, and for fun. The fun shows up in the work, and it works.

July 29th, 2014

How Much Do Editorial Clients Pay? “Wiki” Gives Names and Fees

Editorial clients are reluctant to publicize information about rates for photo assignments. But photographers need to know who pays what, in order to figure out which clients are worth shooting for, and to help them negotiate assignment fees.

A Tumblr site called Who Pays Photographers? helps bridge the information gap with a wiki-inspired spreadsheet listing fees paid by numerous publications, both online and in print. The site also provides information about whether the client pays expenses, how long they take to pay, and what photographers like and dislike about the client. All the information is uploaded anonymously by photographers who have shot assignments for the clients.

But users, beware. The spreadsheet, which lists clients more or less in alphabetical order, is disorganized, and a challenge to scroll through (and it can’t be downloaded). The client list is long but not exhaustive, updates are infrequent, and some of the reports are several years old. Moreover, the information provided is unverified.

Still, Who Pays Photographers? can be a useful starting point. Photographer Anastasia Pottinger says she came across it when she was trying to figure out what to charge photo blogs to publish her portraits of centenarians, after the project went viral.

“[The site] gave me a better idea of what to expect.  I had read a few blog posts out there where people were getting $150 per image and maybe that’s true when it’s just one image, but I was not sure what to charge for a whole set of images,” she says. For online publication rights to ten of her images, she says she negotiated a $375 fee from Huffington Post, after Huffington Post asked (as it usually does) to publish the images for free.

The anonymous owner of Who Pays Photographers? said in an email that he (or she?) is a working editorial photographer, with limited time to maintain, improve or promote the site. (The Who Pays Photographers? Twitter feed and archive were last updated in February.) “I welcome input and any help in running” the site, the owner says.  See our earlier Q&A with the owner for more information.

June 8th, 2014

Fake Chuck Westfall Unmasked!: Photographer Behind Controversial Canon Blog Reveals Why He’s Calling It Quits

chuck_westfall

The real Chuck Westfall, a Technical Advisor at Canon USA for pro imaging products

If you follow the photo industry and, in particular, the world of Canon photography products, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the Fake Chuck Westfall blog.

A direct descendent of the Fake Steve Jobs persona that humorously parodied Apple’s leading luminary on The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs blog, Fake Chuck Westfall has been spoofing Canon’s main camera guru and the photo industry in general since 2008.

Fake Steve Jobs turned out to be writer Dan Lyons but Fake Chuck Westfall has remained anonymous…until now.

After tweeting on the FCW Twitter account last week that he was planning to pull the plug on Fake Chuck Westfall, the man behind the controversial blog agreed to be interviewed by PDN to explain who he is, why he created FCW, and why he’s putting an end to it. (And no, it’s not because Canon is threatening legal action, as it did back in 2009, which turned Fake Chuck Westfall into a photo industry Internet celebrity and caused the blog’s traffic to skyrocket.)

So, without further ado, meet photographer Karel Donk, aka Fake Chuck Westfall. Donk will give a more in depth account of the entire Fake Chuck Westfall saga in a post on his blog on Monday morning. (UPDATE: Here’s Donk’s FCW farewell post.)

(more…)

November 27th, 2013

PDN Video: Is Your Photo Project a Contender for Lens Blog?

Jim Estrin: How Lens Blog Selects Photo Projects from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

Jim Estrin, founder and co-editor of Lens, the popular New York Times photography blog, recently sat down with PDN to talk about what he looks for in photo projects, what distinguishes the projects that Lens blog publishes, and why Lens editors reject many other stories. For photographers trying to get his attention, he offers insight and tips about work ethic, story choice, and representation of subjects. He also discusses two projects that exemplify Lens Blog’s standards and esthetic.

 

September 13th, 2013

Do Execution Photos Serve a Journalistic Purpose?

TIME announced the publication yesterday of “exclusive images taken by a photojournalist of Islamic militants publicly executing, by decapitation, a young Syrian…near Aleppo, on August 31, 2013.” TIME said in the announcement that, “because of the danger in reporting inside Syria,” it cannot confirm the identity or political affiliation of the victim, or the motivation of the killers.

The unnamed photographer gave a statement to Time in which he says, “I was feeling awful; several times I had been on the verge of throwing up. But I kept it under control because as a journalist I knew I had to document this, as I had the three previous beheadings I had photographed that day, in three other locations outside Aleppo.”

Read more at TIME Lighbox. A link to the images accompanied the announcement, but some of us at PDN couldn’t quite bring ourselves to look. Do such images, presented with so little context, do more harm than good?  Do they inform, and stir public outrage that ultimately discourages atrocity? Or does the photographer’s presence encourage the atrocity by giving the perpetrators a forum?

We’d like to hear from our readers about this. The images are posted at http://ti.me/14OW3hX.

August 8th, 2013

Fed Up with Self-Serving Noise from Photo Bloggers, Zack Arias Started a Blog, Then Published a Book in His Spare Time

Photographer Zack Arias is the accidental “Dear Abby” of the photo industry. He started a Tumblr blog last year called Photography Q&A, inviting readers to “ask me anything about photography.” He has since fielded more than 1,000 “Hi Zack” e-mails with questions about gear, technique, art and creativity, and business.

The blog is popular not only for the information Arias provides, but because of his honesty, good humor, and horse sense. He often recounts his own mistakes to instruct and encourage his readers, and isn’t afraid to cajole them, or challenge the industry’s conventional wisdom and egos.

Arias, who is also a popular workshop instructor, recently compiled some of the blog’s best installments into a book called Photography Q&A: Real Questions. Real Answers, published by New Riders. An excerpt of the book appears in the August issue of PDN, and is now available on our web site. We asked Arias how his blog got started, and he replied with his usual candor.

“It was because I got pissed off at another photographer [who] came out with a web site that was this ‘Top Ten Steps’–like a system to help get you started becoming a photographer. There was just a lot of bad information in it. A lot of people were in an uproar. I was staying out of the fray, but people kept asking me, ‘Zack, what do you think of it?’

“Finally I said, ‘The hell with it. Here’s what I think of it: I think it’s a bunch of trash, and nobody should listen to it for these reasons.’ Then I was in the fray, and then I was pissed off, and it was just one of those things: OK, you’re going to do a top ten? I’m going to do a top 100–no, I’m going to do a top 1000. There’s a lot of noise in our industry right now. There’s a lot of top ten lists, and ‘get this going quick’ [schemes] and people just walking all over the craft and people not preaching that you have to be patient, you have to work hard, and this is going to take a long time and it’s not easy. If you think it’s just about taking pictures, you’re missing the other 90 percent of what it means to be a professional photographer. And I wanted to create something that had more signal, and wasn’t noise, and wasn’t just an affiliate link aggregator, like hey, we’re going to bring a lot of people to our blog, and hope they click on our links so we can monetize it.

“So it [the blog] started because I wanted to create something that had a more honest look [at the profession] than have a shiny, happy infomercial that was getting a lot of traction.”

Meanwhile, Arias is taking a break from teaching workshops, but that’s another story.

Related:
School of Hard Knocks: Zack Arias, Lost and Found (subscription required)
PDN Reader Survey: The Best Workshop Instructors

August 2nd, 2013

Laid Off, Maddie McGarvey Offers Touching Homage to Small-Town Newspaper Photography

Photojournalist Maddie McGarvey has written a touching tribute to her work as a newspaper photographer at Gannett’s Burlington Free Press. McGarvey was laid off yesterday, along with 200 other Gannett employees, she reports in a blog post published today, which she titled “Looking Forward.”

Despite the setback, McGarvey says that several of the subjects she’s met in her year on the job have changed her life and given her a sense of optimism, perseverance and community, and she shares her photos and stories of those people. She writes: “I’m hopeful for this career that so many friends and I have chosen to follow. This job, in my short time, has led me to some incredible people who have absolutely changed my life for the better.”

It’s worth a read: http://maddiemcgarvey.com/2013-08-02

April 26th, 2013

Alec Soth on Wandering, Storytelling and Robert Adams vs. Weegee

Last week at the Portland Art Museum as part of the 2013 Photolucida festivities, Alec Soth gave a lecture titled “From Here to There: Searching for Narrative in Photography.” The talk could have been titled “Searching for Narrative in Photography Lectures,” because Soth mostly allowed the audience to lead the way with questions, which he responded to with the aid of a number of prepared slideshows. The evening was free-form, entertaining and a bit wandering, which made sense given that Soth emphasized that wandering and taking pictures without a set goal in mind has produced some of his most important bodies of work. But more on that later.

Soth started on a down note, sharing a quote from Robert Frank—“There are too many images, too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. Nothing is really all that special. It’s just life. If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art any more. Maybe it never was.” He also showed a photograph of an installation by Erik Kessels: a pile of prints made from all of the images uploaded to Flickr in a 24-hour period.

Soth described the perspectives offered by the Frank quote and Kessels’ installation as “bleak.” But, he said, the “way out of this [bleak situation for photographers] is storytelling.” (more…)

March 20th, 2013

National Geographic Celebrates 125 Years with Vintage-Photo Blog

national-geographic-found-tumblr

As part of the celebration of their 125th year, National Geographic recently launched a Tumblr blog that unearths “lost” photographs from the Yellow Monster’s image archive, which is said to include more the 10.5 million images.

Called “Found,” the vintage-photography blog was quietly introduced a couple of weeks ago, and has built an audience rather quickly. As of last week, Found had more than 13,000 followers, according to National Geographic Digital Creative Director Jody Sugrue. Several of the images have been “liked” or shared hundreds—even thousands—of times.

“The response has been incredible,” Sugrue told PDN. “It’s been overwhelming, and I think its encouraging us to tell more stories like this, in this way.” Through Tumblr, “we have access to a community that National Geographic doesn’t normally tap into, which we’re excited about,” Sugrue says. (more…)