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November 2nd, 2012

Can Flood Damaged Prints Be Saved?

Hurricane Sandy caused flooding of gallery storage areas in New York and elsewhere earlier this week. Paul Messier, a Boston-based expert on the conservation of photographs and works on paper, has worked as a consultant to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and other institutions. He also assisted museums and historical societies in the Gulf Coast area with restoration efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

PDN: Have you been getting calls from New York galleries?
Paul Messier: Honestly, no. I know there was a lot of devastation in the Chelsea area. I’ve heard from other conservators about individual salvage projects. But I have not been contacted yet, which is not surprising because the electricity is still off.

PDN: What’s the prognosis for recovering flood-damaged photographic prints?
PM: It’s highly dependent upon the photo process. Some photographic processes or more resilient than others. It’s also highly dependent upon the duration of the exposure to water, and it’s highly dependent upon the response. For example, things moved into freezer storage while still wet would have a much better prognosis for successful outcome. (more…)

November 2nd, 2012

Chelsea Photo Galleries Face Difficult Recovery

Daniel Cooney of Daniel Cooney Fine Art says that when he walked to his gallery in the Naftali Building at 508-526 W 26th Street on November 1, “All you could hear walking around Chelsea was the sound of generators powering pumps.” The pumps have been pumping water out of the basements in the area, located on the far west side of Manhattan, which flooded when the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy pushed water from the Hudson River over the West Side Highway and then two blocks eastward.

Some galleries in Chelsea experienced damage both to their spaces and their art work. Art work that was stored in basement storage facilities has been damaged. Printed Matter, the nonprofit art bookstore located on 10th Avenue in Chelsea, asked for volunteers to help empty sodden books from their basement. Ruined books were stacked on the curb.

Electricity has been out in lower Manhattan since the storm surge from the East River swamped a power station on E. 14th Street on Monday night. Several galleries have been closed as  result. Con Edison, the power company serving the area, said electricity might be restored by Saturday or as early as tonight. That would be good news for galleries on the Lower East Side, including Sasha Wolf Gallery and Anastasia Photo, which have been closed since the storm, and in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, an area that experienced both power outages and some flooding at the height of the storm.

Many galleries in Chelsea, however, face a more daunting challenge. While some, like Daniel Cooney Fine Art, Clampart Gallery, Robert Mann Galleries and others located on upper floors avoided flooding, the damage to wiring, elevators and boilers in the basements of some buildings may prevent the return of business as usual for a while.

Cooney got his first look at the damage to the Naftali Building, home to several galleries and artists’ studios, on Tuesday Oct 30. The streets were mostly dry, but when he arrived at the building, he says, “The pressure from the water in the basement had broken the door, we could see that the water was to the ceiling.”

Cooney says his gallery, located on the 9th floor, suffered little damage in the storm. Before the storm arrived, he had sealed the windows of his storage room with bubble wrap (“It was what I had”) and moved artwork from the storage room to his gallery space, which has no windows.

When he returned on Thursday, November 1, a pump had emptied most of the water from the Naftali Building’s basement which was used to store artwork by many of the galleries and artists in the building. People were carrying art out of the basement in the afternoon. “They were cutting into the bubble wrap and water was just pouring out.” The wet art work included paintings and photographs, he said. Some artists were carrying them through the lobby and up the stairs, leaving trails of water.

Cooney says that because of the high water in the basement—where electrical boxes, the boiler and elevators motors are located, “It is unclear what damages have been sustained. The electricity in Manhattan is supposed to be back on Saturday but there is no telling when the building’s electricity will be on.”

Given how many lives and homes have been destroyed in the storm, Cooney says he feels lucky. And certainly damage to art galleries isn’t a tragedy on the same scale, but gallery owners rely on sales for their livelihood. The longer they are unable to open, the bigger their risk. “I don’t get a paycheck. If I’m not selling anything I can’t pay my bills.” Cooney says, “There are other galleries that have to revamp and have lost huge amounts of inventory.”  He adds, “I am very lucky to have power at home in Hell’s Kitchen so I have set up a home office which works fine for now.”

Flood damage is excluded from most insurance policies unless business owners specifically buy flood coverage, says principal Scott Taylor of Taylor & Taylor Insurance. It’s unclear whether most galleries in Chelsea carry flood insurance or not, but banks typically require it prior to making loans to any business located in a designated flood zone.

Taylor notes that anyone who suffered property loss or damage due to flooding from Hurricane Sandy is eligible for loans from the federal government, because New York has been declared a federal disaster area. The loans, of course, are not insurance reimbursements–anyone who takes advantage of the FEMA loan program will have to pay back the money they borrow, something that may not be easy businesses remain closed.


October 25th, 2012

PPE 2012: How to Survive and Conquer Portfolio Reviews

Portfolio reviews can be costly or, depending on what you make of them, cost effective. This idea—set forth by Center For Photography at Woodstock Executive Director Ariel Shanberg—was the focus of a panel this afternoon at Photo Plus Expo that aimed to help attendees understand how they can maximize their time and money during portfolio review events.

Shanberg was joined on the panel by creative consultant Mary Virginia Swanson and moderator WM Hunt, a photography collector and former gallerist. The three spoke of their appreciation for portfolio reviews and their atmosphere of discovery, where reviewers are excited to find and discuss new work that they can share with others in the photo community. “If you strike a chord [with a reviewer], they will become your advocate and refer you [to others] and try to help you,” Hunt told the photographers in the audience.

Each reviewer gave examples of photographers whose work they reviewed and were amazed by, but they also offered a host of practical tips that should help photographers make the most of these 20-minute “speed dates” with editors, collectors and curators:

Mary Virginia Swanson described several different portfolio reviews but also pointed out that her article in the new issue of Emerging Photographer magazine had information and listings of several top portfolio reviews, as does her blog, here.

Swanson suggested that photographers consider bringing a tape recorder and—with the reviewer’s permission—recording their reviews rather than taking notes so they could engage more fully with the reviewer.

She also recommended that photographers ask at the end of a review if the reviewer would like to be kept informed about the photographer’s work, and if so, how (via email, print cards, phones or discs with images….). Swanson further suggested that the photographer should ask what to put in the subject line of the email to be sure to get the reviewer’s attention.

The thickness of a photographer’s portfolio is often inversely proportionate to the quality of the work, Hunt said. He explained that the most serious, confident and thoughtful photographers have the thinnest portfolios because they have refined their work.

On the subject of how much work to show, Shanberg suggested that there is a polite limit of 20 prints. You may want to show more to a book publisher who wants to see that you have 80 images for a book, or reviewers might want to see more work if they are excited about it, but putting a white piece of board as a divider in your portfolio to suggest that a reviewer can stop after 20 or so images is welcome, Shanberg said.

Swanson added that bringing multiple bodies of work to a 20-minute review is fine as long as the photographer is comfortable with the idea that they will spend the whole time watching the reviewer look at work instead of engaging in a discussion.

The panelists and moderator agreed that following up with a handwritten, physical note of thanks made a big impression. Swanson shared an anecdote about photographer Dave Anderson, who made notes at a portfolio review of which image each reviewer he saw liked, and then sent the reviewer a note with that image.

Swanson encouraged the audience to be similarly thoughtful about their leave behind pieces, whether they are cards, accordion folds, small handmade books or other pieces. Make the text style and branding consistent with your website and other materials, and choose an image or images that will easily remind the reviewer of your work.

Shanberg encouraged the audience to think of the review process as the start of a longer conversation, and reiterated the idea that although a reviewer may not give you an exhibition or publish your work themselves, each one has the potential to nominate you for a grant or fellowship, or recommend your work to an editor or curator.

Other tips:

-If you are at your first review, tell the reviewer, that so they can help you manage your 20 minutes better [Mary Virginia Swanson]

-When in doubt, shut up. Which means that talking too much suggests nervousness and distracts the reviewer [WM Hunt]

-Don’t ask what the reviewer wants to see; they don’t know you and can’t answer that. Show them what you are most excited about [Shanberg]

-Don’t hand a reviewer an artist’s statement and ask them to read it. Why would they read it when they can just hear directly from you? And it shows you aren’t confident speaking about your work [Swanson, but echoed by the group]

October 23rd, 2012

APA and EP Join Forces

Today two professional photography trade organizations‚ American Photographic Artists (APA) and Editorial Photographers (EP)‚ announced that they will merge to create one organization with a membership of approximately 3200 photographers.

The move will see the creation of the first national chapter of APA, which will be known as the APA Editorial Photographers chapter.

EP president Brian Smith told PDN the move would revitalize that organization while also giving APA a presence in smaller cities in the United States and internationally. (EP is an internet-based organization without a chapter structure, and has members throughout the country and the world, Smith notes.)

“It was a case of trying to revitalize everything and offer something more,” Smith said of the decision to merge. “EP was founded as an opportunity to get together and actively seek better editorial contracts. It was formed in a day when the magazines were making money by the bushellful. Times have changed in the editorial market and really the board felt the best thing we could do would be to come up with additional resources for our members.” (more…)

October 4th, 2012

Collaborative Photo Blogger Project IDs “New Ideas In Photography”

A couple of weeks ago photography writers Jörg Colberg and Colin Pantall put their photography blogger contact lists to work in order to generate some commentary on this question (I’m paraphrasing): Which photographers have demonstrated an openness to use new ideas in photography, have taken chances with their photography and have shown an unwillingness to play it safe. They asked bloggers to name up to five photographers on their respective blogs, and then explain why they chose them. Both Colberg and Pantall then published those lists on their own blogs here and here, respectively.

The result of this co-authored project, called “Towards the 21st Century,” includes responses from 15 photography bloggers and commentary on the work of approximately 50 photographers. A few of the bloggers overlapped on a handful of their picks, but not many. And while some of the picks are more recently known artists (Christian Patterson, Jessica Eaton), many are well known (Jim Goldberg, Broomberg & Chanarin, Collier Schorr, Abelardo Morell). So the project provides a review both of new ideas, and of ideas that were new and continue to influence the medium. So where is photography heading in the 21st century? Evidently it’s moving in a lot of different directions, just as it always has.

September 21st, 2012

Aleppo Photo Festival Holds “Symbolic Opening” in War Zone

On September 15, the day the 11th annual Aleppo International Photo Festival was scheduled to open in the war-torn city of Aleppo, Syria, founder and organizer Issa Touma held a “symbolic opening” at his gallery. Weeks after PDN first tried to reach him, Touma emailed PDN and posted a statement on the festival’s Facebook page announcing that he had held a small opening in his gallery, LePont, to send a “message” about the survival of “civil society” in Aleppo. The northern Syria city has faced constant shelling by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and pitched street battles between the Syrian Army and rebel fighters, forcing thousands to flee their homes. Touma writes, “Today the festival give[s] a message to all, which is: whatever happened in Syria, the photo festival will not stop.”

This year’s festival was supposed to exhibit 870 works by almost 50 international photographers, including Amanda Rivkin, James Whitlow Delano, Sean McAllister, Corinne Dufka, Khaled Hasan and Liu Jinxun. Instead, Touma says, he showed 40 images in his gallery. People who attended were “relaxed and happy,” he says. He adds that if the fighting in Aleppo wanes, “I still hope to show the festival all in big opening, but its seem[s] hard for the moment.”

Touma, a self-taught photographer who opened his gallery in Aleppo in 1993, has endured frequent harassment from the country’s ruling Baath Party, which has tried to shut down the festival, censor his exhibits and, in 2003, briefly shut off electricity in order to end the workshops and lectures. Until this year, however, he has persevered, drawing international visitors.

Last year, before the regime of al-Assad began military action against the popular uprising around the country, Touma announced that this year’s festival would be the biggest yet, with exhibitions taking place in Aleppo’s old Electricity Company. But as he says, “No one expect[ed] Aleppo will be a war zone.”

In the last month, the city was without communication for 25 days, the Post Office is not functioning, “most of the City shops are close[d] including frames workshops and many print house[s],” and movement within the city is dangerous. While some residents have fled to Turkey, Touma says, many have moved closer into the heart of the city, and this displacement makes it impossible to reach organizers.

Touma says, “I will wait a few day[s] to see what direction” the fighting goes in, and he hopes still to hold a bigger opening or post the festival images on the Le Pont web site.

“Art and Culture do not need [a] visa to make nations to meet to each others –in Aleppo.”


September 17th, 2012

Luminance: On the Intersection of Business, Technology and Photography

Photoshelter’s two-day symposium Luminance, held at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center in Manhattan on September 12 and 13, brought together imagemakers and creative industry professionals for half hour TED-style talks designed to address both current trends and the future of photography.

Presenters were grouped in threes under themes such as the Manipulators, the Storytellers, the Futurists, the Merchants, the Instigators, the Time Warpers, and the catchall category, Everyone’s a Photographer.

The trio of presenters grouped under the theme of The Merchants offered an insightful look at the current landscape in three markets: commercial licensing, fine art auctions and the sale of editioned fine art prints.


September 4th, 2012

Photographer and Photo Educator Susan Carr Dies, 49

Photo © Shawn G. Henry.

Susan Carr, an architectural photographer and leader of photo education programs for the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), died yesterday in Chicago. She was 49. The cause of death was cancer. ASMP announced the news on its Strictly Business web site.

In a statement posted on the ASMP web site, the trade organization’s president Shawn G. Henry, said: “With Susan’s passing ASMP has lost one of its most ardent advocates and I have lost a dear friend. She was a tireless champion of the Society, a passionate educator, and a wonderfully warm and caring human being.”

A graduate of Western Michigan University, Carr specialized in architectural and interiors photography. She was a principal in the Chicago studio Carr Cialdella Photography in Chicago and documented American architecture in both her professional and personal work. She became a board member of ASMP in 2001 and in 2003 launched the trade association’s traveling seminar program. As manager of the Strictly Business seminar program, she organized a continuing series of lectures and seminars providing legal and business information to professional photographers around the country. She also lectured on copyright, licensing and other business issues. Carr was the author of The Art and Business of Photography, published last year by Allworth Press.

Carr was the editor of ASMP business publications including ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography, Seventh Edition and The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography, scheduled to be published later this year. She also created and edited the ASMP Strictly Business blog.

In Carr’s memory, ASMP announced it will launch The Susan Carr Educators Award, an annual prize for photo educators, to be awarded annually.

More information is available on the ASMP Strictly Business web site.


August 27th, 2012

One Problem with Running Your Own Photo Agency: It Takes a Lot of Time

When LUCEO, the photographer-run cooperative agency, issued a press release last Monday announcing it had redesigned its web site to be more “client centered” and highlight the agency’s multimedia work, the announcement was overshadowed by news that three of its six founding members—Matt Eich, David Walter Banks, Kendrick Brinson—were leaving the agency “to pursue personal endeavors.”  Just a month earlier, another cooperative photo agency, Noor Images, had announced that founding member Jan Grarup was “stepping down” from the agency to pursue “a new line of work.”

We had to ask: Why would photographers have to leave a cooperative agency to pursue “a new line” of “personal endeavors” ?

The answers from the departing photographers point out one hitch in the cooperative-agency model: Running an agency takes a lot of time.

In July, Jan Grarup told PDN his departure was motivated by a desire “to move in my own direction and be independent again.” Months before he left, Grarup, who has been working on a long-term project about Somalia, had been selling signed, limited-edition prints in order to pay for security as he traveled in parts of the country controlled by Al-Shabaab.  Grarup told PDN  in leaving Noor he planned to “focus more on my work than company things.”

While Noor Images is run by photographers, it has paid staffers who help with marketing and administration. At agencies like LUCEO, however, all the “company things” are handled by the photographers themselves.

“Something that I am sure is true for cooperatives of any age is that they require an enormous amount of love, attention and upkeep,” Matt Eich told PDN after the LUCEO announcement. “It is a challenge for anyone, no matter how organized or motivated, to keep up with your own individual business, your own personal projects, a cooperative business, cooperative projects and of course some time for family or a personal life.”

Eich says that he’s been working on a three-part series looking at history’s continuing impact on American communities in Ohio, Mississippi and near his home in Virginia. Eich, who has a small child and a second due in early September tells PDN, “At this juncture it’s time for me to focus on getting these projects out into the world and to spend time with my family.”

David Walter Banks said he couldn’t comment on the wording of LUCEO’s press release, “as I was not a part of that discussion,” but his plans for personal work include collaborations and “continuing to build relationships with my clients.” Banks and  Kendrick Brinson, who are married and work both individually and together on assignments, say they plan to continue teaching and doing lectures “at places like Western Kentucky, University of Miami, Ohio University, The Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar and Roberto Mata Taller de Fotografia.”

In an article titled “LUCEO Splits in Half, Raises Questions about the Viability of Photo Collectives,” Jakob Schiller of the Raw File Blog noted that LUCEO has been “a flagship” for several “collective upstarts” who followed in their wake. And, as past and present members told Schiller, they’ve benefited from working with a team.

Dominic Bracco II, a member of the year-old cooperative Prime Collective, told PDN that the agency has recently taken steps to address the time-management issue.

“It’s something we’ve all had to deal with – if people are busy, someone else has got to pick up the slack,” he says. That can lead to resentment.

For Prime members, he adds, “Something we want to think about is:  How do we deal with it if someone has a family member who’s sick or one of us gets pregnant or is just burnt out?”

Prime, which has been seeking a new photographer to join the agency, recently decided to allow its members to take a leave of absence if needed, according to Bracco. “That just means you take a break and that you relinquish your right to vote,” he explains. “The organization continues. We still represent you as a member of our group, but you’re not actively participating” in decisions about the agency until the end of the leave. Though no member has needed a leave yet, Bracco says, “That seems like it would work out for us.”

The democratic process by which these cooperatives make decisions can be time consuming, too. Before Grarup left Noor Images, fellow Noor member Stanley Greene admitted that the agency has experienced “growing pains.” Speaking at the Look3 Festival in May, he said he and photographer Kadir van Lohuizen decided to try launching their own agency with fellow photojournalists after an evening spent “bitching about our agencies in a bar in New Orleans, like [photographers] do.”

Five years after that decision, Greene sounded like someone whose idealism had been brought down to earth.  “I go into things with a naive idea of community and communism, but I think with an agency, you have to be a dictator. When everything has to be decided unanimously, nothing gets decided. I have new opinions about agencies.”

 Related articles:

Look3 Report: Stanley Green on Luck, Film and Supporting Young Photographers

August 21st, 2012

New Study Suggests Good Reason for NGOs to Hire Photographers

Steve Liss,  "" exhibit

© Steve Liss/

How generously people give to charities is influenced by where they live and how often they see people in need, a new study finds. And that has implications for photographers, and for non-profits who need compelling storytelling to help them raise money.

People earning between $50,000 and $99,999 a year give a higher percentage of their discretionary income to charities than people making over $200,000 do, a new study from the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports. The study notes that while rich people give more to charities in dollar amounts, they give a lower percentage of their disposable income than people who earn less.

That’s due to isolation, the study finds. People who live in wealthy enclaves (zip codes where more than 40 percent of households earn $200,000 a year or more) rarely encounter people who benefit from charitable programs; they also give a smaller portion of their income to charity. The study, which includes an interactive map showing how charitable giving breaks down by state and zip code, also shows that the rate of giving goes up among wealthy people who live in more economically diverse communities. (Because it based its report on tax returns that list tax-deductible donations, the study doesn’t distinguish between donations made to religious organizations, educational institutions, social programs or other non-profits.)  People who see neighbors relying on the local food pantry to make it through the month give more generously than those who never see the impact charitable organizations can have.

“Simply seeing someone in need at the grocery store—or looking down the street at a neighbor’s modest house—can serve as basic psychological reminders of the needs of other people,” says Paul Piff, a postdoctoral scholar in psychology at the University of California at Berkeley. Piff says the differences in attitude toward charitable giving dissolve when people are simply made aware of poverty. For example, he showed participants in his study a video about childhood poverty.

That means that charities have to do a better job of showing and telling the stories of their clients. Photographers seeking work from NGOs and foundations can use their ability to tell stories of communities–through stills, audio interviews or video—as a sales pitch. The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s study can also provide useful insights when photographers are negotiating fees for this kind of work:  In-depth stories from and about the community a charity serves can help the organization’s fund raising, potentially inspiring bigger donations from the people who have the greatest resources to share.

As Piff says, “Absent that, wealth will have these egregious effects insulating you more and more.”

The fact is, it’s up to charities themselves to share these stories. Because the media rarely covers poverty.

In an article in the October issue of PDN, photographer Steve Liss explains that he and Jon Lowenstein started, a non-profit alliance of photojournalists determined “to use visual media raise awareness about poverty in the United States” after their stories about unemployment, homelessness, immigration, criminal justice and other issues affecting the poor were rejected by magazines. As Steve Liss succinctly tells PDN, “Poverty is poison.” has sought to fill that void by bringing its traveling exhibition to a variety of venues. These now include high schools: Thanks to a grant the organization received earlier this year, they are running workshops for student leaders and enlisting young people in discussions around poverty.

“We can make a difference,” says Liss. “I believe in my soul in the power of photography but we haven’t been showing it to the right people in the right venues.”

(For more on this study, see National Public Radio: Study Reveals the Geography of Charitable Giving)

     * Photo, above: Students at a high school in Rockville, Maryland view photos by Steve Liss and Eli Reed in an exhibit that student leaders mounted during a weeklong Student Leadership Program. © Steve Liss/