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March 27th, 2014

PDN’s 30 Photographers Provide Career Tips to Aspiring Photographers

pdn30-2014-sva-blog2
A panel featuring three of this year’s PDN’s 30 photographers discussed strategies for building a successful career and offered a wealth of useful tips to an audience of students and industry professionals at the School of Visual Arts theater in New York last evening.

The PDN’s 30 photographers, Bobby Doherty (still life), Billy Kidd (fashion), and Bryan Derballa (editorial/lifestyle), discussed how they found their visual styles, how they use social media to get noticed, build networks and land jobs, and the importance of learning and practicing good business skills. Photographer Tony Gale, a Sony Artisan of Imagery who has taught photography, and photo editor Emily Shornick of The Cut at New York magazine, also provided insights on navigating the industry. The evening was sponsored by Sony, Offset, Canson Paper and ASMP.

Describing how they launched their careers, Doherty, Kidd and Derballa all said they developed their visual styles by shooting whatever interested them a lot–even obsessively.

“It’s important to be making the kind of photos you would want to get paid to do, before you get paid to do it,” Doherty said.

Bobby Doherty's early makeshift studio.

Bobby Doherty’s early makeshift studio.

A 2011 graduate of SVA, he started by experimenting with conceptual still life work in his apartment at night. “I didn’t have any money. I had two flashes, and [bar] stools” and broom handles that served as stands (shown at right). Doherty says he was focusing on “how to accomplish an idea with as little as possible, technically.”

Kidd says when he moved from Arizona to New York, he did test shoots with models four, five, or six times a week–”whatever I could do,” he says. “I experimented with light, to find out who I was.”

Shornick emphasized the importance of developing a distinctive personal style. When it comes to hiring a photographer, she said, “”I don’t want to be surprised. I want to pre-visualize” what a photographer will deliver.

One of the biggest challenges for photographers is getting noticed. All the photographers on the panel said they take as much pleasure in sharing their work as they do in shooting it, and they use social media–particularly Tumblr–to build audiences.

Kidd said he posted images from his test shoots on a Tumblr blog. “That’s how my rep found me–from my Tumblr page,” he says. On his Tumblr page, he says, he posts “everything I shoot, and want to show people.”

“Be liberal and fun with your Tumblr,” advised Derballa. Years ago he started Lovebryan, a blog that features not only his work, but that of several other photographers whose work he likes. Derballa also noted that he uses Tumblr “to follow trends” by looking at what other photographers are shooting.

Panelists also discussed the importance of personal connections and face-to-face networking. Doherty says working as an assistant eventually led to a job with Lucas Michael, who shoots for New York Magazine. That led to a meeting with Director of Photography Jody Quon, and a couple of weeks later, Doherty had his first assignment from the magazine.

Kidd says he got access to models for test shoots through a friend who worked for modeling agencies. Derballa got his first assignment from The Wall Street Journal after a chance meeting with former photo editor Matthew Craig while Derballa was talking about a self-funded assignment at a bar with another photographer.

The discussion also turned to business practices, particularly the importance of good communication skills, dependability, and presenting a professional appearance in your emails and invoices.

Here are some tips the panelists offered:

On networking:

Connect with everyone you can while still in school, including teachers, fellow photography students, and students in other departments.

Attend industry events and meet everyone you can, without thinking: Who can I talk to who can give me work?

If you’re shy, and feel uncomfortable schmoozing at events, force yourself to go with a goal of meeting just one person. Those connections multiply, Gale said. “Then you’re the person who everyone wants to meet because you can introduce them to other people.”

On assisting:

Be an assistant. By assisting, Gale explained, you connect to people and resources, “and you learn so many things it’s not possible to learn in school” about technique and business.

To get assisting jobs, a good attitude is more important than technical know-how, Gale said. “What I need is someone who is going to be paying attention, and not be upset that I said ‘everybody is going to need coffee’ or ‘sorry, but you have to stand out in rain and watch the gear.’”

When you send e-mails asking about work as an assistant, personalize them, Gale advised. “Don’t send an e-mail addressed to 30 other photographers.” And don’t talk about what a great photographer you are, he said. “I don’t care.”

On approaching photo editors:

“Email with a link. That makes it easy to bookmark you,” Shornick said. Mailers just get thrown in a drawer and forgotten. Email “every now and then” about a recent assignment or new personal work, she added. “Quarterly is a good approach.”

No cold calls. “I’m really busy, I just don’t have time,” Shornick said.

Don’t show up unannounced. “That’s really inappropriate.”

Make sure your web site loads fast, and is free of bells and whistles. “I hate Flash websites. I just want to see your work,” said Shornick, who has discovered photographers at portfolio reviews and through Flickr.

Provide multiple contacts and Indicate your physical location. “If I can’t figure out where you live I’m never going to hire you,” Shornick said.

On providing good service to clients:

Be dependable. “The most important thing is [meeting] deadlines,” Shornick said.

Be responsive. “I always pick up [phone calls]. It’s probably someone who wants to hire you, or wants to know why the photos aren’t there,” Derballa said.
“Yeah, pick up the phone,” Shornick said, or she’ll just call another photographer.

Related article:

PDN’s 30 2014: New and Emerging Photographers to Watch

9 Tips for Getting Hired (and Re-Hired) as a Photographer’s Assistant

March 26th, 2014

How Should Clients React to Sexual Coercion Allegations Against Terry Richardson?

Now that another model has come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against photographer Terry Richardson, his clients face a difficult question: What ethical obligations, if any, do they have to take a stand?

Over the past several years, reports have periodically flared up that Richardson has manipulated some models to engage with him in unwanted sexual contact during photo shoots at his studio. The models have described the incidents as casting couch situations that occurred when they were students or aspiring models, not established models working on set for ad campaigns or editorial shoots.

The allegations surfaced again in recent weeks after former model Charlotte Waters published a graphic account of a shoot with Richardson that spiraled out of her control. “I was completely a sex puppet,” she recounted anonymously in a post on a Reddit thread. The post has since been removed, but after her story was widely circulated, Waters identified herself as the author.

She has spoken to New York City police, according to Styleite.com, but she reportedly never said “no” to Richardson’s advances, and she isn’t pressing any charges.

In the hot seat of bad publicity once again, Richardson issued an angry denial to all the allegations in a letter to the Huffington Post, calling them “hate filled, libelous tales.” In the letter, he painted himself as the victim of a “witch hunt.”

Richardson says in the letter, “I collaborated with consenting adult women who were fully aware of the nature of the work.” Overlooking the disparity in power between himself and the models, he adds, “I have never used an offer of work or a threat of rebuke to coerce someone into something that they did not want to do.” (more…)

March 25th, 2014

Tomas van Houtryve Drone Essay Longest Ever Published by Harper’s

 

© Tomas van Houtryve/VII

© Tomas van Houtryve/VII. ”Baseball practice in Montgomery County, Maryland. According to records obtained from the FAA, which issued 1,428 domestic drone permits between 2007 and early 2013, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Navy have applied for drone authorization in Montgomery County.”

Tomas van Houtryve takes on the proliferation of drones as weapons and as tools of surveillance in the April issue of Harper’s Magazine, in a photo essay titled “Blue Sky Days.” At 16 pages, it’s the largest picture story ever published by Harper’s.

To create the work, Van Houtryve’s outfit a drone he purchased on Amazon.com for still photography and video, and then piloted it, in areas throughout the United States, over “the very sorts of gatherings that have become habitual targets for foreign air strikes,” the introductory text explains. These included weddings, funerals, and groups of people exercising or praying. The images also depict domestic borders, prisons and other areas where military or police have flown surveillance drones, or have applied for permits to do so.

“His idea was daring, elegant, and perfectly timed,” Harper’s art director Stacey D. Clarkson told PDN via email. “He explained that the technology for drones is way ahead of legislation concerning them, and though drones are part of our contemporary reality, the specific ways they are used (and can be used) are not in the public consciousness. The urgency of the work, the complexity of the ideas, needed space to be properly conveyed. And the images themselves needed to run large in order for the reader to see what Tomas’s drone could see—embroidery on top of a hat, spokes on a bicycle wheel, and home plate at a neighborhood baseball field.”

Captions for the photos make the connection between, for instance, a group of people exercising in a park, and the fact that a gathering of exercising men might, for the CIA, constitute evidence of a terrorist training camp. The effect is chilling. In an image of a wedding in central Philadelphia, a flower girl is the only member of a wedding party looking up at van Houtrve’s drone as he makes his image. A U.S. drone struck a wedding in Yemen in December 2013, killing 12 people, the caption tells us.

The essay’s title refers to the testimony a 13-year-old Pakistani boy named Zubair Rehman gave on Capitol Hill after his grandmother was killed by a drone strike while she was picking vegetables in her yard. The boy told lawmakers he no longer loves blue skies. “The drones do not fly when the skies are gray,” he said.

Van Houtryve will exhibit and speak about “Blue Sky Days” in New York on Friday, April 4, as part of “Surveillance.01-USA,” a symposium on surveillance-based visual arts projects. He will also appear with Clarkson at the University of Colorado, Boulder on April 7 as part of the university’s ATLAS speaker series.

Related: Client Meeting: Harper’s Magazine (accessible to PDN subscribers)
If We Spend $25K On A Photo Essay, Readers Should Pay to See It, Says Harper’s Publisher

February 24th, 2014

Who’s Winning at POYi? PDN Links to First Place Entries in Editing and Multimedia Categories

©The Denver Post/Craig F. Walker. From "Cecil & Carl," first place winner of POYi's Newspaper Feature Story Editing category.

©The Denver Post/Craig F. Walker. From “Cecil & Carl,” first place winner of POYi’s Newspaper Feature Story Editing category.

After naming Newspaper and Freelance Photographers of the Year and winners of various other categories during the past three weeks, the Pictures of the Year International competition continues to release results in other categories.

Jurors have weighed entries for the Editing and Multimedia Division categories this past week. Here’s a round-up of winners in those categories so far, with links to online versions of the stories and videos:

Editing Division:
News & Issue Story Editing (newspaper): The Washington Post, “Never the Same: Refuge Stories from the Syrian Exodus.” The entry features photography by Linda Davidson.

Feature Story Editing (newspaper): The Denver Post, “Cecil & Carl,” featuring photography by Craig F. Walker.

News & Issue Story Editing (magazine): National Geographic, “The New Oil Landscape,” featuring photography by Eugene Richards.

Feature Story Editing (magazine): TIME magazine, “A Portrait of Domestic Violence,” featuring photography by Sara Naomi Lewkowicz.

Series or Special Section: The New York Times, “The Lady Jaguars–Year 2,” featuring photography by Ruth Fremson.

Editing Portfolio (newspaper): Becky Hanger and Jeffrey Furticella, The New York Times.

Editing Portfolio (magazine): Kira Pollack, Time Magazine.

McDougall Overall in Excellence in Editing Award: The New York Times.

Best Newspaper and Best Magazine winners have yet to be named.

Multimedia Division:

Feature: “Sensei” by freelancer Ora DeKornfeld.

Sports Feature: “The Lights Go Out: the final season of Hollywood Park” by a team from the Los Angeles Times, including videographers Spencer Bakalar and Bethany Mollenkof.

News: “Spanish Bank Scandal Wipes Out Savings,” by freelancers Almudena Toral, Suzanne Daley and Rachel Chaundler.

Issue Reporting: “The Last Clinic,” by Maisie Crow (See Maisie Crow’s web site for the trailer and photographs).

Jurors will select winners of the Documentary Journalism category today. Tomorrow, jurors will select Documentary Project of the Year, Best eBook, Best Website and Multimedia Photographer of the Year.

Related:

Daniel Berehulak Named 2014 POYI Freelance Photographer of the Year

Barbara Davidson Named 2014 POYi Newspaper Photographer of the Year

Patrick Smith Named POYi’s 2014 Sports Photographer of the Year

February 18th, 2014

Daniel Berehulak Named 2014 POYi Freelance Photographer of the Year

©Daniel Berehulak from his project "Maha Kumbh Mela"

©Daniel Berehulak from his project “Maha Kumbh Mela”

Daniel Berehulak has been named Photographer of the Year–Freelance at the 2014 Pictures of the Year International Competition. Berehulak, who is based in New Delhi, India, won the honor for a portfolio that includes stories about malnutrition and drug addiction in Afghanistan, the Hindu pilgrimage Maha Kumbh Mela, and celebrations by South Africans of Nelson Mandela just after his death last December.

The prize, which was decided yesterday and announced today, were part of the Reportage Division of the POYi competition. Yesterday, POYi announced on its web site that Annalisa Natali Murri won the Community Awareness Award her project “Len’s Daughters,” about women still struggling to survive after a massive earthquake in Armenia in 1988. Robin Hammond won the World Understanding Award for his project “Condemned,” about the neglect and abuse of the mentally ill in war-torn African countries.

PDN posted a story yesterday identifying other winners of Reportage Division categories.

Jurors for the Reportage Division included Danny Wilcox Frazier, Renée C. Byer, Richard Cahan, and Lara Solt.

Judging of POYi’s Editing Division entries began today. Multimedia Division judging begins on Saturday.

Related articles:

Robin Hammond Wins 2014 POYi World Understanding Award

Robin Hammond Wins $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Fund Grant (subscription required)

National Geographic Experiments with a New Form of Digital Storytelling
(Nick Nichols’ Serengeti Lions)

Barbara Davidson Names 2014 POYi Newspaper Photographer of the Year

Patrick Smith Named POYi’s 2014 Sports Photographer of the Year

January 13th, 2014

Danny Lyon Criticizes Media; Says How He Would Edit National Geographic Magazine

Photojournalist Danny Lyon delivered a sharp critique of the media, explained the main goal of his career, and reminisced about his work on the civil rights movement, motorcycle gangs and Texas prisoners at a rare public appearance last week.

Lyon was the headliner at the 2014 National Geographic Photography Seminar, a day-long event held January 9 before a standing-room-only crowd at the National Geographic offices in Washington, DC.

“I took it for granted that all the magazines lied, and since I chose the media as my field I was determined to create an American media that was truthful,” Lyon said during his talk.

He also imagined himself as editor of National Geographic, and suggested story ideas that would probably rile the magazine’s audience (read on for details).

In addition to Lyon, photographers Tyler Hicks, Wayne Lawrence, David Maisel, Newsha Tavakolian, and Vince Musi lectured about their careers and past projects. Media artist Hasan Elahi also gave a talk about his surveillance project.

Following is an edited transcript of Lyon’s talk.

(more…)

December 9th, 2013

Photogs Richard Mosse and Zanele Muholi Named Top “Global Thinkers” by Foreign Policy

Two photographers, Richard Mosse and Zanele Muholi, made Foreign Policy (FP) magazine’s list of “The Leading Global Thinkers of 2013.” The list of 100 people Foreign Policy chose to single out in its hefty digital feature includes Edward Snowden, John Kerry, Elon Musk, The Pope, Rand Paul, scientists, innovators, politicians and artists.

FP cited Mosse for “seeing war through a new lens.” His pink-hued images of military and militia in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, created using now-discontinued Kodak Aerochrome film developed for the U.S. Military, have captivated audiences through their unusually esthetic interpretation of a conflict-ridden landscape and population. FP notes that Mosse’s film, “The Enclave,” “stole the show” at the 2103 Venice Biennale.

Mosse’s works “are allowing viewers to see conflict in a way they never imagined they could,” FP writes.

Zanele Muholi, a South African artist, has documented the black LGBT community in her country through striking black-and-white portraits. FP singles Muholi out “for photographing hidden lives,” and notes that her work has been widely published and exhibited, bringing much-needed awareness to the gulf between the legal rights of LGBT South Africans and their actual treatment in their communities.

FP divided their list of Global Thinkers into groups that included “Artists,” “Advocates,” “Challengers” and “Decision-Makers” among others. Mosse and Muholi are considered “Chroniclers,” people who, FP says, “[show] us novel ways of understanding the world and our place in it.”

Related: Theft of South African Photog’s Work May Be Attempt to Silence Her
Field Studies: Exploring the Complexities of War-Torn Congo

December 5th, 2013

The Pleasure—and Challenges—of Photographing Nelson Mandela

©Jillian Edelstein

Nelson Mandela in 1997. © Jillian Edelstein

Nelson Mandela, the legendary African National Congress leader and former South African president, was a symbol of hope, justice and human rights to people around the world. South African photographers who saw him up close over the years—both before his international fame and afterwards—recall a man who was every bit as charismatic, gracious, and good humored as his public image suggested. Despite all the access Mandela gave them—or perhaps because of it—photographers found it challenging to get a unique portrait of him.

“He was unendingly charming,” says South African photographer Louise Gubb, who covered Mandela as a freelance photographer, and shot several portraits of him for various publications in the 1990s.

Gubb recounts one of Mandela’s ceremonial walks around the presidential compound in Cape Town. Mandela was surrounded by a phalanx of photographers when a photojournalist working for a local Afrikaans newspaper suddenly fell backwards into a fish pond.

“And Mandela—he was so sweet—he went and tried to help him out” of the water, Gubb says. After that, whenever Mandela saw that photographer at official events, “He would say, ‘Now you all watch your step today. I don’t want you swimming in my fish pond again.’”

The last time Gubb saw Mandela, four or five years ago at a press conference, he greeted her, “Hello, Louise. I thought you would be on pension by now,” she recalls.

“He always told jokes. He would have been a good comedian,” says Jürgen Schadeberg, who first photographed Mandela in 1951 at an African National Congress meeting, and took his portrait in 1952 in his law office. Schadeberg and Mandela met many times in the coming years, when the photographer was freelancing for Drum, the groundbreaking magazine that covered black life in South Africa.  Says Schadeberg, “He was what we call in German a mensch.” Mandela always held the press in high regard for the role it played in freeing him, and moving South Africa beyond apartheid. He didn’t play favorites, and never seemed to tire of the media attention (or the long parade of politicians, activists, and celebrities who trekked to South Africa just for an audience with him).

South African-born photographer Jillian Edelstein photographed Mandela for The New York Times Magazine in 1997. Meeting him at Tuynhuys, South Africa’s presidential office in Cape Town, Edelstein says she was awestruck.

“I started smiling and I thought my face would crack. It was like meeting a saint,” she says. “It was something I’d never experienced before or since.”

“I suppose for me, he emerged from what had been the bastion of the government oppressors.”  Seeing the first freely elected president, she says, symbolized “the oppressor supplanted,” Edelstein continues.

Since Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 (he ascended to the presidency of South Africa four years later, in an historic election), photographers have shot thousands upon thousands of images of him at public events. He was almost always smiling, as if he was truly delighted to be there, and he was often seen interacting with children or the downtrodden, giving them his full attention.

“He [would] always break ranks to say hello to the person in the wheelchair, or some little child,” says Gubb, noting that Mandela particularly loved being around kids.  “So if you knew that, you could [anticipate] and get great pictures … If there were children there who were going to sing, he would go over there and dance, and sometimes sing back to them.”

Because Mandela was photographed so often, and because he had one predominant mood (bright and sunny), it was a challenge to photograph him in any truly distinctive way. Edelstein says that when she photographed Mandela in 1997, his automatic reaction was to make a “thumbs up” sign. Finally she caught a moment when he looked reflective and “somewhat poignant,” she says.

“I think that up until that time the only images I’d seen that were coming out were him dancing or thumbs up or smiling.”

A year after his release from prison, he took a retinue of press back to Robben Island, where he was incarcerated for years. There, Schadeberg took one of the most reproduced photos of Mandela, showing him gazing through the bars of his former cell.  Photographers were given access to Mandela in the cell one at a time, Gubb says. “He was like a piece of putty,” willing to do whatever he was asked to do.

But after he was elected president, media access was much more limited. Still, Mandela hated to say no to photographers who asked for time with him.  “He’d say, ‘I’ll have to talk to my chiefs,’” Gubb says. “He  would hide behind his [handlers] because he didn’t like to refuse.”

A few photographers had privileged access. The late Alfred Kumalo of the Johannesburg Star was a family friend, and had freer range around the presidential grounds than other photographers, according to Gubb. Peter Magubane was Mandela’s official photographer between 1990 and 1994, and followed Mandela everywhere. Magubane, who had shot for Drum magazine and later Time magazine, tells PDN he had been hired as Mandela’s official photographer “because [Mandela] knew my credentials, and knew I wouldn’t sell out.” But Magubane describes their relationships as “strictly business.” By most assessments, no single photographer had the defining take on Mandela’s life, public or private.

Says Gubb, “Photographers, writers, television—everyone was [treated equally]. He took them all in their stride, and nobody was excluded.”

One challenge for photographers was that they couldn’t use flash when photographing Mandela; the rule was strictly enforced by his bodyguards. The reason was because his eyes had been damaged by the bright, reflective light of the sun at the limestone quarry where he was forced to work while a prisoner on Robben Island.

For the past six years, Mandela was largely out of the public eye. Several years ago, he invited Schadenberg and his wife to his home for lunch. “He was sitting in his armchair in his slippers. He said, ‘I’m an old man who isn’t doing much, just sitting around. It’s so kind of you busy people to come see me,’” Schadenberg recounts, adding that Mandela was always saying that he wasn’t anybody special.  “It wasn’t to make an impression.  It was genuine.”

October 29th, 2013

PPE 2103: Inside the Mind of a Photo Editor

Have you ever wondered what a photo editor actually does? At the 2013 PhotoPlus Expo panel “Photo Editing: A to Z” attendees got an inside look courtesy of two speakers: Elizabeth Krist of National Geographic and Bronwen Latimer of The Washington Post.

The panel was broken up into short-form and long-form journalism topics, as the two have widely different lead times. Latimer, the deputy director of photography at The Washington Post, noted that the lead-time for an article in the newspaper is anywhere from two to eight hours. She added that the lead-time is even shorter on the Web. Krist said National Geographic has a minimum lead-time of six months, and that they are already working on stories for 2015.

Latimer said she’s constantly looking at photo sources, including blogs, websites and galleries, for work that provides a fresh perspective on a subject. Her presentation included examples of photos from promos, e-mails, and websites that she has hung on to because she either likes the image or may have an article in the future on a topic that the image illustrates. Latimer gave the following advice to photographers interested in catching the eye of newspaper photo editors: always keep your website up to date so editors can see what you’re working on; show the work you want to be shooting; and pitch ideas to the digital extensions of newspapers because they are always looking for new content to post on their blogs and websites.

To discuss long-form journalism, Krist, the senior photo editor at National Geographic, showed David Guttenfelder’s work that was featured in the October issue for an article about North Korea. She shared the edit of images that she pitched to Editor-in-Chief Chris Johns and noted that she likes to have a rhythm to a layout so she often organizes work by different themes, in this case by categories like city life, the countryside, propaganda, etc. (These categories helped to avoid repetition in the layout so there was enough variety to warrant the 20 pages, including a gatefold, that National Geographic dedicated to the story.) Krist also briefly spoke about the exhibition “Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment,” which she curated.

Both Latimer and Krist mentioned that they appreciate photographers who explore a topic in depth. Krist added that she likes to see a whole body of work when photographers show her their portfolios.

When asked what they look for when choosing a layout’s opening image, Krist said she likes an image to be unexpected and draw the viewer in. Latimer noted the photo should grab a reader’s attention, and be the photographic equivalent of a gut punch. This advice seems as applicable to portfolio and presentations as it is for publications.

October 9th, 2013

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue a Key to Walter Iooss’s Access to Top Athletes

iooss coverWhen you’re trying to get access to top professional athletes, there’s no calling card like a steady gig shooting swimsuit models for Sports Illustrated.

Walter Iooss Jr, whom we interviewed in our October issue about his close professional relationship with basketball legend Michael Jordan, has been photographing sports and athletes for 50 years, and photographing the models for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue for about 40 years.

“You have to ingratiate yourself [with athletes],” Iooss told us. “I’ve done it for so long, so my reputation helps me. They [star athletes] already think you can do something, so you’re not wasting their time.

Then he adds, “The swimsuit issue is obviously a big help with all these horny athletes. They love that. It’s remarkable how I could walk into a clubhouse and photograph anyone, as long as I give them a phone number of someone (in the SI Swimsuit issue).”

Not that he ever does that. “I’m not going to give it to them. They have their people contact the [model's] people.”

But he shakes his head with wonder. “They think I can pimp for them. Some days I feel like a 69-year-old pimp. It’s disgraceful that they need me to find a woman.”

See more about Iooss and his work with Michael Jordan at PDNOnline.