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November 21st, 2011

PDN PhotoPlus Fundraiser for Japan Relief Raises More Than $8k for Red Cross

A print auction held at the annual PDN PhotoPlus Expo Bash on October 28 raised more than $8,000 for the Red Cross’s relief efforts in Japan, PDN PhotoPlus Expo has announced.

Harry Benson, Douglas Kirkland, Susan Meiselas, John Isaac and Art Streiber were among the 50 photographers who donated prints for the benefit silent auction.

Unique Photo, Fuji Film and Modernage sponsored the event, held at Highline Stages in New York City, which featured live music by Tyburn Saints and was attended by more than 1,200 people.

“It was important for us as an organization, and an industry, to organize an event that would give us an opportunity to participate in the worldwide efforts to help the victims in Japan,” Jeff McQuilkin, Group Show Director for The Nielsen Company, said. “Obviously, the photographic industry has strong ties to Japan and its culture and was deeply affected by the disaster. The fundraising event was one way we could show our support.”

“It was amazing how the industry came together to support this event,” added Lauren Wendle, Vice President, Nielsen Photo Group. “Everyone had a great time but never seemed to lose sight of fundraising aspect of the event. The print auction was very active and we want to extend our warmest thanks to the photographers who donated prints, and our guests who bid and bought them.”

October 31st, 2011

PhotoPlus Panel: Why Licensing Matters

There’s no better argument for eschewing a buyout or work-for-hire contract, than Michael Grecco’s real-world example of how he earned more than $140,000 in licensing fees over an eight-year period from one advertising client. Because the contract had a set licensing period, every time the client wanted to use the images after the license expired, Grecco had to be paid again. John Harrington, Grecco’s partner for the 2011 PhotoPlus Expo seminar Licensing: Putting Money Back in Your Pocket, presented a similar case study to demonstrate how he earned $940 from an editorial client who wanted to use additional takes from a cover shoot for two sister publications not included in the license.

Of course, none of these fees would have been possible if their licensing agreements, which should always include the terms of usage (length of time, type of medium, region, etc) and exclusivity, were not clearly defined. Harrington is a big proponent of PLUS (Picture Licensing Universal System), a non-profit organization with the goal “to simplify and facilitate the communication and management of image rights.” On its site, UsePLUS.com, there is a License Generator tool that allows users to create a license based on the criteria entered. The trade organization American Photographic Artists also has licensing information on its site, APANational.com, or you can work with an intellectual property attorney who specializes in artists’ rights. Grecco also mentioned the importance of obtaining model releases and keeping them on file, especially if you plan on selling images commercially.

An important component of licensing is copyright protection, which Grecco and Harrington also discussed. Though as the photographer you technically own the copyright of an image at the click of the camera’s shutter (unless you’re doing work-for-hire or you’ve ceded the rights of the image), actually registering the photo at the U.S. Copyright Office will make prosecuting an infringement case much easier—a lesson Grecco learned the hard way when his photos were infringed: once when a derivative work was created and another time when a work was reprinted, both without his permission.

Grecco briefly touched on his system for registering his images with the Copyright Office, which he does en masse while the photos are still unpublished (once they’ve been published they must be registered individually): He fills out the necessary forms at Copyright.gov; creates CDs or DVDs with the files, organizing them using Print Window for Mac software; and sends the discs via a shipper that provides proof of receipt, such as FedEx or UPS. This last part is particularly important since the copyright goes into effect on the date it’s submitted, which means the date it’s received by the U.S. Copyright Office.

Though the licensing process seems onerous, it’s worth the extra work; both Grecco and Harrington use their knowledge of copyright and licensing to negotiate better fees from clients. And making extra money on photographs you’ve already taken, that’s just a smarter way to do business.

October 31st, 2011

PhotoPlus Panel: Getting a Tastemaker’s Attention

Aiming to shed some light on how photography mavens find innovative work, W.M. Hunt moderated the seminar Your Picture is Fabulous: The Tastemakers and Why We Look at What We Do during the 2011 PhotoPlus Expo. The panel featured a gallery owner (Yossi Milo of Yossi Milo Gallery), a magazine photo editor (Caroline Wolff of W) and an agency director (Kelly Penford of Jed Root)—in other words, a wide array of influential people every photographer dreams of impressing.

Though it’s not easy to articulate what makes a photograph cutting-edge, Hunt, a photo collector and former gallery director, noted that he needed to be excited by the work and told the story of traveling to Paris to see photojournalist Luc Delahaye’s Taliban Soldier, a large-scale image of a Taliban fighter lying dead in the dirt. Though Vanity Fair and The New Yorker both passed on the photo (American Photo ended up publishing it) when he returned to the U.S., Hunt was able to sell the image to a collector for $15,000—using just the color Xerox of the print—proving he had indeed discovered something new. Milo seconded Hunt’s sentiments, saying he wants to be blown away by a work and cited the example of Kohei Yoshiyuki’s series “The Park,” which not only excited him, but also had an amazing concept he was intrigued by.

Yet Hunt readily admitted that it’s hard to be fresh and pressed the panelists to find out what is trending now. In a word: technology. Milo said he’s been looking to younger photographers and is currently captivated by innovations in the picture-making process. An example is Matthew Brandt’s series “Lakes and Reservoirs,” in which he develops the photographs using water from the lake or reservoir featured in the photo. Wolff explained that she recently commissioned on online video from Santiago & Mauricio in which still images contained moving droplets of water, while Penford added that digital is the only acceptable method for his clients, who expect to see instantaneous results.

So how do you get your work in front of a tastemaker? Wolff said she reads a variety of magazines and newspapers, and used the examples of a few up-and-coming photographers she’s either commissioned or is keeping tabs on: She discovered Santiago & Mauricio through their submission in W’s Fashion on Film series; Chadwick Tyler was featured on the cover of Grey magazine; and Elle Muliarchyk’s “Dressing Room” series was published in The New York Times Magazine.

Penford said he looks at everything and anything, but emphasized the power of photo blogs. His agency currently represents Scott Schuman whose blog The Sartorialist receives millions of visitors each month, the popularity of which lead to new assignments, and recently signed Bill Gentle largely due to the photos on his blog Backyard Bill. Milo said he also reads a lot, both print and online, as well as travels and goes to shows. However, he tends to track photographers and follow them for a couple years to see how their style evolves before contacting them.

The moral of the seminar? Though there’s no way to guarantee your work will be deemed worthwhile by influential people in the industry, one thing that’s for sure is that it has to be out there in order to get noticed in the first place. Start a blog, enter a contest, send an introductory e-mail—do whatever you can to get your photographs seen by the right people.

October 31st, 2011

PhotoPlus Seminar: Chris Buck on Launching, and Sustaining, Your Career

"Tiffany Claus Isn't Angelina Jolie," from Buck's series on celebrity lookalikes. © Chris Buck

There’s a consistent vision to Chris Buck’s photos, from his earliest portraits of musicians to his recent commercial and editorial work, including his cover photo of Michelle Bachmann for Newsweek. That’s because throughout his career, he’s taken photos for himself, Buck explained in his PhotoPlus Expo seminar, “Buck Naked: The Secrets Behind the Master Portrait Photographer Chris Buck.” The importance of staying true to your vision was a theme that ran throughout the seminar, as Buck offered practical advice for both photographers beginning their careers and established photographers who are interested in landing new clients.

As a pop-culture obsessed teen in Toronto, Buck began taking portraits of local musicians and building his portfolio before he graduated from university.  On a trip to New York to visit magazines he admired, he recalled, “I was kind of floored that people were warm and friendly.” After graduation, while his friends moved into downtown apartments, he lived with his parents to save money, took a job as a photo editor, and developed his photography skills before moving to New York in 1990. His early jobs shooting for the Village Voice, Guitar World and other publications were “just front of the book, very unglamorous assignments but what was important to me was that I could shoot the way I had wanted.” Having saved money for his move to New York, he says, “At the beginning I wasn’t thinking about having to make a profit. I was thinking about my vision.”

Never having assisted, Buck admits it took him years to learn lighting; “It was very trial and error.” At the advice of his former photo teacher, he kept a diary in which he would take notes about every shoot so he could learn from his mistakes. Over the years he moved from shooting 35mm, to a Hasselblad, to a Mamiya RZ 67.

After he signed with his first rep, Julian Richards, he sent out a color Xerox promo in 1992 made from his images of actors Marisa Tomei, Stephen Rea and others nominated for Academy Awards that year. Based on the Xeroxes, Fortune assigned him to shoot business executives. “I went from being in the red to being in the black,” Buck says and, thanks to Fortune’s expense account, “I got a taste for eating steak.”

Turning 30 marked an artistic and personal milestone for Buck. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer, went home to Canada for treatment and, he says, “I realized I was never going to be Irving Penn. I realized I’d never be a master.” It was “a difficult realization I had to deal with in order to move forward.” Ironically, that realization inspired him to stop looking at the work of his heroes and contemplate what was distinctive in his own work.

In photographing celebrities, Buck would first shoot what the client wanted and then, whenever possible, take a few minutes to shoot “for me.”  He said, “I needed to keep some connection to why I was shooting in the first place.” He said he didn’t want to become like a band that makes one crossover hit, or a respected photographer who goes commercial, “and then ten years later…their work has become totally boring.”

Buck showed his photo of comedian Chris Farley clowning on white seamless –an image his client had asked for. Then he showed his series of window lit shots of Farley brooding in a dark hallway, a tiny figure within the frame. Buck said he had sometimes questioned how much he pushed his subjects to get what he wanted. After Farley’s death, when the torments of the comedian’s final years were revealed, Buck went back to the contact sheets from this session and realized, “Everyone has their dark side, and I shouldn’t be afraid to bring that out in portraits.”

In the late 90s, Buck decided that to get commercial assignments, he would need to show clients he could shoot real people. He began shooting personal work of family members and taking editorial assignments that allowed him to photograph unknowns. That led to work for HP and other ad jobs.  He launched a similar self-promotion effort in the “mid aughts,” he said. He did a series of people –including his father and his photo assistant—kneeling on all fours. He also photographed celebrity look-alikes and people named Chris Buck. His series called “Presence,” in which famous people like Chuck Close, Cindy Sherman and Robert De Niro are present within the frame but hidden from view, became a long-term project and will be published as a book next year. “Even with an established career I think it’s important to think about what is going on in the marketplace and be open to new ideas and new technologies,” said Buck, who is now repped by Marge Casey and Associates.

Buck’s most famous photo may be his recent Newsweek cover of Michelle Bachmann. In the media storm that the image inspired, Buck said, he “let Newsweek carry the narrative,” which lead to the “odd experience” of seeing Newsweek editor Tina Brown on television “explaining what my intentions were,” then hearing the interviewer say, “I wouldn’t let Chris Buck take my photo.”

Buck remains reticent about the photo. However, during the Q&A, an audience member asked if Bachmann’s handlers had asked for image approval before the shoot. Buck said he didn’t know, but he has rarely photographed anyone who insisted on approving the image selection, and Bachmann’s camp were told that if they went on the record asking for it, it could make them look like they were manipulating the media.

When asked how many photos he delivers to a magazine, Buck says he began doing tighter edits after he heard a rumor that photographer Dan Winters only turns in one photo from his shoots. (He found out the rumor is largely true after he invited Winters to lunch.) Now when he edits a shoot, Buck strives as always to remain true to his vision and the inspiration behind his picture taking. Once he’s pared his edit down to about 12 photos, he said, he always asks himself: “If they run the most boring of these photos, can I live with that?”

October 28th, 2011

PhotoPlus Panel: Finding Funding for Your Documentary Work

At the 2011 PhotoPlus Expo, Aidan Sullivan, vice president of photo assignments for Getty Images, moderated the seminar, Your Picture is Important: The “Concerned Photographer” Today and How Projects Get Funded. With a panel that included both grant recipients and foundation employees, the goal was to help attendees get a better understanding of the various avenues of support available for advocacy photojournalism.

Shrinking editorial budgets throughout the media world have made grant and fundraising more important than ever for photojournalists. As Sullivan pointed out at the beginning of the seminar, a simple Internet search will produce numerous grants available for photographers. However, the more elusive part of the process is figuring out how to actually get awarded those funds.

Amy Yenkin, a director for the Open Society Foundations, explained what her “advocacy oriented” foundation is looking for when it comes to funding projects: a long-term commitment and thorough knowledge of the issue, an engagement with the community being photographed, the respect of non-governmental or non-profit organizations working on the issue, an awareness of what other photographers are doing regarding the issue and past success on previous projects or partnerships.

While Yenkin noted that her foundation is open to projects that highlight both the problem and/or solution regarding an issue, Emma Raynes, Emergency Fund program director at the Magnum Foundation, said her organization prefers to focus on underreported issues “in anticipation of powerful stories” rather than in the aftermath of them.

Both speakers emphasized the importance of working with non-profit organizations, not just for funding, but also to build a partnership. The effect a non-profit can have on a photographer’s work was exemplified when photographer RaMell Ross spoke about his experiences shooting in the economically depressed “Black Belt” of the Southern United States. Ross works at the non-profit Youthbuild and began phootgraphing his students as well as abandoned schools in the area. His photography came to the attention of the non-profit For | By | For, which helped him set-up a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for an exhibit, the proceeds of which were donated to Youthbuild.

Kickstarter actually played an important role in many of the case studies presented at the seminar. Yenkin listed seven different sources of support, including a Kickstarter campaign, for Saiful Huq Omi’s project photographing Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Raynes also noted that the Magnum Foundation helps set up Kickstarter campaigns for Emergency Fund recipients, including one for this year’s W. Eugene Smith grant recipient, Krisanne Johnson.

Persistence and patience seems to be the key when it comes to applying for grants and raising funds. This was evident when photographer Darcy Padilla spoke about her experiences after she turned down a job at The New York Times and “made a choice to be a freelancer.” Padilla won her first grant in 1990 and describes living on very little income as she continued to apply for grants and awards while shooting projects she felt were important, including The Julie Project, which consists of photos taken of the same subject over an 18-year period. She applied for the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship three times before receiving it in 1995 and the W. Eugene Smith Grant close to ten times before she was awarded it in 2010.

Padilla noted that she rewrote her winning proposal for the W. Eugene Smith Grant in order to “give it intimacy and closeness.” Perhaps this is the biggest takeaway from the seminar: the issue has to be something you’re passionate about; something you’re dedicated to documenting regardless of whether you’re on assignment or not. This passion and commitment will not only influence the photographs, it will also show foundations and donators that it is a cause you truly wish to eradicate, which may just inspire them to support your journey.

October 28th, 2011

PPE Panel: Photogs Ignore Online Pub Opportunities at Their Own Peril

During a seminar titled “The New World of Online Magazines and Curator Web Sites” this afternoon at PDN PhotoPlus Expo, photographer Sophia Wallace posed a question to photographers who’ve been hesitant to harness the full power of the internet for fear that their work might be stolen: Should you be more afraid of image theft, or of working in obscurity?

This rather direct question, which had resonated with Wallace after she heard it at another talk recently, gets to the heart of the decision that photographers must make in today’s market. You can embrace online publishing on blogs, online magazines, Tumblr pages and the myriad other platforms on which people are looking at imagery these days, or you can keep your work to yourself.

Suffice it to say that nobody in the audience was interested in the latter option. But in case they were, Wallace and fellow photographer Manjari Sharma shared stories about their own experiences that made a strong case for diving headlong into promoting one’s work online.

By getting their work featured by online platforms, such as those run by moderator Stella Kramer (StellaZine) and panelists Julie Grahame (aCurator) and Michael Itkoff (Daylight), each of the photographers had built momentum for bodies of work that eventually led to concrete achievements like exhibitions, advertising commissions and essential project funding.

After having her work circulate one image at a time across various online publications (and in a couple of print magazines), Wallace received what she termed “the email she’d been waiting for.” It was from a curator asking if she would show her work in a three-person show at Colgate University’s Clifford Gallery with photographers Catherine Opie and Jo Ann Santangelo. During her presentation Wallace also showed how, through Google analytics, she could track who was looking at her site and where they came from. It was amazing, she said, to realize that people all over the world were looking at her photographs.

Sharma showed two projects that she’d promoted online. A series of portraits of people taken in the shower in her Brooklyn apartment was discovered by art directors at the ad agency JWT in Delhi, which lead to a commission to replicate that work for ads for a German maker of shower heads that was expanding their business in India. Sharma’s photographs appeared on billboards in 23 cities, she said.

After she created a well-produced Kickstarter video to raise funds for her project Darshan, several photo blogs and other online publications wrote about the work. She ended up raising $26,000 of funding over the course of three months.

Each of the panelists encouraged the audience members to build networks online through Facebook and Twitter, and to help promote other photographers whose work they appreciate. Wallace made the point that opportunities for group exhibitions often come from other artists, and introductions to clients often come from fellow photographers.

Kramer also made another useful point for photographers who might still be hesitant to publish their work online: “The more you are associated with your work, the harder it is to steal it,” she said.