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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.

(more…)

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,  "AmericanPoverty.org" exhibit

© Steve Liss/AmericanPoverty.org

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 AmericanPoverty.org, 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.”

AmericanPoverty.org 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 AmericanPoverty.org exhibit that student leaders mounted during a weeklong Student Leadership Program. © Steve Liss/AmericanPoverty.org

 

 

July 16th, 2012

Open Society Announces Photogs for 20th “Moving Walls” Exhibition

Open Society Institute, the human rights non-profit founded by George Soros, has announced the photographers who will be showing work in the 20th edition of its “Moving Walls” documentary photography exhibition, which will open in 2013. The selected photographers and projects are:

Katharina Hesse, on North Korean refugees who crossed the border into China
Fernando Moleres, on young men and boys imprisoned alongside adults and awaiting trial in Sierra Leone
Yuri Kozyrev, on the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa and their aftermath
Ian Teh, on the changing landscape of the Yellow River Basin in China
Donald Weber, on police interrogations in Ukraine

Photographers selected for the exhibition receive a $2,500 honorarium.

In addition to being the 20th iteration of “Moving Walls,” the exhibition will be the first in OSI’s new ground-level office space in Midtown Manhattan, which looks set to raise the profile of the exhibition. The new space “gives us opportunities to engage with the public in a different way,” noted OSI documentary photography project director Amy Yenkin in her announcement on the organization’s Web site.

For more visit the OSI site here.

Related: The Year in Photography: Yuri Kozyrev on the Arab Spring
Yuri Kozyrev Wins POYi’s 2011 Freelance Photographer of the Year
State Power: Donald Weber’s Interrogations

July 2nd, 2012

Your Cellphone Is Not Your Friend, and Other Security Tips For Conflict Zones

The surveillance of journalists covering Syria has heightened concern about the risks journalists face in relying on mobile communications and cellphones. In February, journalists Remi Ochlick and Marie Colvin were killed when shells struck the press center that they and other journalists were using to transmit their stories; the Syrian army may have used satellite signals from the center to target it.

More recently the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that  Syrian security agents in October arrested a British journalist, seizing his laptop, cellphone, camera and video he had shot while interviewing anti-government Syrian activists; several of these dissidents have been arrested, one has fled the country and another has disappeared.

In the wake of these incidents, as well as attacks on journalists and their sources elsewhere, several journalism organizations have been hammering on the need for journalists to take precautions when using cellphones and laptops in certain areas, to protect the contact information they store electronically, and to make sure their communications are secure.

Several guides to protecting and encrypting your data are available online for free:

- The 2012 edition of CPJ’s Journalist Security Guide from CPJ has added chapters on how to protect your communications from surveillance and secure your data. You can download the guide here.

- SaferMobile.org, a non-profit helping journalists, has a new Mobile Security Survival Guide. It covers topics such as how to disable the GPS in your phone, set up secure communications and protect sensitive information. It also has links to best practices for using satellite phones.

- The web site Media Helping Media recently posted “Tips for Staying Safe on Mobile,” which includes information on staying anonymous while using social media, uploading photos and stories safely, and browsing the internet securely.

- If you want a condensed summary of these and other security tips,  Lauren Wolfe, a former editor at CPJ and director of Women Under Siege, Tweeted tips from two seminars on journalism security held on World Press Freedom Day. You can find a Storify of the information she gleaned here.

Here are a few precautions suggested in all these guides:
-Take the battery out of your phone (don’t simply turn it off) to make sure it’s not transmitting its location to the cellphone network. (Don’t take an iPhone to meet sources who may be targeted.)

-If you connect to social media or other major web sites from the field, install HTTPS Everywhere browser extension, which makes your web browsing more secure. Make sure your smartphone supports sites with the https:// prefix.

-Download contacts, captions and story notes to a secure computer when possible, then wipe your phone, including the log of calls and SMS messages.

-Text messaging is one of the least secure ways to communication. Encryption software is available to encode your messages. But note: CPJ’s Security Guide and other resources point out that using encryption may call attention to your communications.

Paranoid? Sure. But it’s not only your own safety you have to be concerned about.

Related articles
Were Journalists in Homs Targeted for Bombing?

Survival Training for Conflict Zones