June 8th, 2015

Photojournalist Charles Mostoller on the Advantage of Shooting Photo Projects Close to Home

Seventeen-year-old Shahir Drayton rears back on a horse in a vacant Philadelphia lot. ©Charles Mostoller

Seventeen-year-old Shahir Drayton rears back on a horse in a vacant Philadelphia lot. ©Charles Mostoller

Philadelphia-based photographer Charles Mostoller was on assignment in the city one day when a group of African-American teenage boys rode by on horseback. It was an incongruous scene, which Mostoller turned into a personal project that was eventually published by The Wall Street Journal. The project is the subject of “Picture Story: Urban Cowboys,” which is now available on PDNOnline.

When we interviewed Mostoller, he made a persuasive case for shooting personal projects close to home. He picks it up from here:

“As a freelancer who is not making tons of money, doing personal projects that are in my backyard makes sense financially. But also, I truly believe in general [that] running to the exotic, or running away and looking to do a story somewhere else because you think that’s where people want to see you, or that’s where the story is, I think that’s a backwards way of going about it. I think the best way to make quality work is to do it in a place that you’re familiar with, where you can actually understand the situation and can really say something about what’s  going on.

“Also, if you’re trying to show [potential clients] you can hack it, it’s much more difficult to make very good stories that are kind of pedestrian, or where nobody would expect them. Nobody would expect this story [about teenage urban cowboys] out of Philly, but everyone is expecting young photographers to want to go to Haiti. So I could show Haiti pictures, and no one’s going to care, but this one story has people everywhere coming up to me, saying, ‘Oh my god, I saw this!’ It made the rounds because it was so surprising. I’m not always looking for something exotic in Philadelphia. this one just happened to be that. but I think it’s important to focus on where you’re at as a young photographer doing personal work, rather than saying, OK, I need to go somewhere else to do my work.”

Related Articles:
Documenting Philadelphia’s Teenage Urban Cowboys
PDN Video Pick: Lens Blog’s James Estrin’s Career Tips for Photojournalists
How to Find Projects in Your Own Backyard

March 12th, 2013

Photogs Dish Anonymously About Clients’ Rates Via New Tumblr Site

A new site on Tumblr set up by an anonymous editorial photographer seeks to provide a platform where photographers can share information about what clients in all fields, from editorial to advertising to non-profits, pay photographers.

Still in its infancy, the site, Who Pays Photographers, is based on a similar Tumblr, Who Pays Writers, which, you guessed it, lists fees paid to writers. According to the anonymous founder of Who Pays Photographers, the response has been a bit overwhelming, indicating a serious interest among photographers to talk about, and read about, the fees clients pay for photographic work.

Thus far the site has information about The New York Times, Getty Images, AP, AFP, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN and several other clients in the US and abroad.

We exchanged emails with the creator of Who Pays Photographers to find out a bit more about her/his goals for the site.

PDN: How long have you worked as a photographer and in what field?

Who Pays Photographers: I’m an editorial photographer with 6 years experience, about half of that time as a staffer at a magazine, and more recently, as a freelancer.

PDN: What inspired you to start the site? Was it just a natural reaction to seeing Manjula Martin’s Who Pays Writers, or was there more to it?

WPP: The site was a simple reaction to Who Pays Writers, a site that was linked to a number of times during the recent Nate Thayer kerfuffle with the Atlantic. It seemed obvious that the photo industry could really benefit from having such a resource and I found it surprising that nothing of the sort existed. (more…)