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 31st, 2012

PPE 2012: What Photo Editors Want

At the PhotoPlus panel “Your Picture Here: How to Get Published in The New York Times, Time, GQ and Wired” photo editors from all four publications spoke candidly about what photographers can do to get their attention. There were, of course, things specific to each publication. Carrie Levy of Wired, for example, noted that it’s difficult for her to hire photographers who shoot exclusively in natural light because the magazine has a look that demands poppy and highly produced images. Meanwhile, Krista Prestek said GQ likes photographers who have a fine-art sensibility and a strong body of work that demonstrates their ability to successfully fulfill assignments.

But on a number of topics, they all seemed to agree. One was promos. Almost all of the panelists preferred printed promos to mass e-mails or cold calling. Paul Moakley of Time compared the promo process to courting: Only after a few introductory mailers is it OK to call or e-mail him to request a meeting. Prestek noted that since her first priority is the magazine, hard copy promos are better because they let her see what the work looks like on the printed page. She also suggested photographers pick an image that is in line with the magazine to use on their promo. Levy doesn’t mind e-mails, but noted a few things photographers shouldn’t do: send e-mails first thing in the morning (when she has the most e-mails in her inbox); compose mass e-mails instead of personalized ones; and embed images in the body of the e-mails because they don’t show up. Finally, The New York Times Magazine’s Clinton Cargill noted that sometimes years go by between the first time he first sees a photographer’s work and when he gives the photographer an assignment, so it’s always good to keep the photo editor up to date via mail or e-mail in terms of what you’ve been working on.

Personal work was also something that the photo editors like to see. All four pretty much agreed that a personal project is more interesting to look at and speaks to the photographer’s originality and personality better than assignment work. But when you do include assignment work in your portfolio, Prestek and Levy preferred seeing the actual image to the tearsheet. Other portfolio tips: Moakley noted that the images in your portfolio should relate to the magazine; Levy said some people aren’t interested in seeing the work on an iPad or laptop, so be sure to bring prints as well (preferably a box of prints rather than in a portfolio case); Prestek said a portfolio should demonstrate that your images will look good in print; and Cargill added that if you’re doing the work you want to be doing, then that’s the work that should be in your portfolio.

During the seminar, all four panelists answered questions from audience members. The following were mentioned as places where they found new photographers: The Wall Street Journal, Connections by Le Book, galleries, Paris Photo, The New York Times, The New Yorker, self-published books, agency e-mails, competition annuals, through colleagues and other photo editors, portfolio reviews, drop-offs, Eddie Adams Workshop, Review Santa Fe, Les Rencontres d’Arles, PhotoNOLA, Aperture, Photolucida’s Critical Mass, Foam magazine and W. Eugene Smith Awards.

Their parting advice: Apply for everything.

October 30th, 2012

PPE 2012: Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur on Cross-Platform Storytelling

For the PhotoPlus seminar “How to Evolve Projects Across Media Platforms,” partners and spouses Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur took the audience through some of the multimedia projects they’ve worked on together. Kashi, a photojournalist with VII, and Winokur, a writer and filmmaker, first collaborated on magazine articles. But as they noted numerous times throughout the discussion, it’s important to think about all of the different outlets where you can show your work, and focusing just on print is not sustainable because commissions from magazines are dwindling. They added that being a single skillset photographer is an idea that is starting to fade away.

Winokur began the seminar by taking us through “Bring It To The Table,” her current project. This personal documentary video follows Winokur around the country as she asks people to literally “sit at her table” to discuss politics. She started the project by raising $30,000 on Kickstarter, which Winokur said helped build an audience of about 280 people who are now invested in its success. She has since recorded a number of conversations between herself and different people on the political spectrum. She is now at the point where she’s trying to find distribution for the Web-based series. Social media has played a crucial role in getting the word out: Winokur has been posting short clips of footage on Facebook and Twitter in order to draw people back to the site bringit2thetable.org. Her strategy is to repurpose the material and post it where people are already interacting with content. The challenges remaining are figuring how to get people to see the series and how to monetize it. Winokur noted that “Bring It To The Table” has received a lot of “earned media” with many publications writing about the project itself, but no media outlets have been willing to show the final Web series in its entirety.

So how did Winokur evolve from a print journalist to a filmmaker? We discovered the answer when she and Kashi took us through their first multimedia project, “Aging in America.” The series, which they began around 17 years ago, was initially conceived as a book and exhibition. They financed the first four years of the project themselves, and later got assignments and commissions for the work; they also licensed some of the images and received grants. About halfway through the seven-year project, they met Brian Storm, who was then working at MSNBC. He offered to do a multimedia piece about the series, which consisted of stills and audio. This sparked the idea of recording Winokur’s interviews with their subjects on video. This resulted in over 100 hours of footage, which also included some b-roll. They turned all of the material into a one-hour documentary, which aired on PBS and is still used at universities across the country as a teaching tool in programs like nursing, medicine and psychology.

The Sandwich Generation,” which focused on Winokur’s father, who was suffering from dementia, was a natural next step for the duo. They partnered with Storm again, who by this time had formed MediaStorm. It would be the first time that Kashi and Winokur turned the camera on themselves as they documented caring for the elderly man. It was also the first time Kashi would shoot still and moving imagery with a cross-platform project in mind. The final result was a multimedia work consisting of still photos, video and audio.

Other projects discussed during the seminar were “Curse of the Black Gold,” a stills and audio project about oil in the Niger Delta; “India’s Fast Lane to the Future,” a stills, video and audio project done as a five-part series while on assignment for National Geographic; “The Leaves Keep Falling,” a project about the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam that consists of stills, video and audio, and was done on commission for an NGO; and “Three” and “Photojournalisms,” which are multimedia extensions for two books that Kashi published.

Some of the tips given by Kashi and Winokur about multimedia work were:

• Always think about the end goal when shooting stills and moving imagery for multimedia work. They recommend being aware of the narrative you’re trying to tell when capturing both.
• As print resources continue to shrink, consider partnering with NGOs and other organizations as a way to disseminate work you are passionate about.
• Consider how publications want to extend printed articles via their websites and tablet editions when pitching ideas.
• Conduct your audio interviews first in order to get to know your subjects and establish the narrative that the multimedia component will follow. It’s also the fastest way to get educated about the topic.
• Don’t try to shoot all of the video and still imagery yourself. Kashi noted, for example, that on the National Geographic assignment he focused on the still images while his fixer recorded the video footage.

Related Article:

Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur on the Work-Home Balance

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.”