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So now’s your chance to ask. As Maren’s introduction suggests, her areas of expertise are varied, and she’s truly eager to help. Leave a question in the comments section, along with your website if you have one, and he’ll respond asap, also in the comments, so others can benefit from the good advice.
I founded Redeye in 2005 as a photo agency that supports photographers with both fine-art and commercial careers. I have always believed a photographer benefits from a multifaceted career, and I am interested in inspired work of any kind. Redeye currently represents six photographers, each with their own distinct photographic voice.
Before starting Redeye, I was a photo editor at Dwell and Mother Jones magazines, and consulted at various publications including Big, Chow, and GOOD magazines. I have also consulted with design firms and emerging photographers.
I love to edit and match up a photographer with their perfect job, path, or next project. Feel free to ask me anything and, if I don’t know the answer, I will make up something really good.
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Miki Johnson: So tell me what you’ve been working on now.
Sol Neelman: I’ve been working on a long-term project, photographing weird sports and the culture of sports around the world. Recently, I photographed dog surfing in San Diego, pro wrestling in Mexico, the Lumberjack World Champs in Wisconsin, and bike polo in Seattle. Up next is a prison rodeo in Oklahoma.
I try to keep myself busy with fun sporting events. It’s an excuse to travel, which is one of my addictions. Along the way I’ll do some traditional sports, such as The Beijing Olympics and college football. I just went to my first Cubs game at Wrigley and photographed the fans in the bleachers. That was fun.
My goal is to get this work published in a book. Ideally it would encompass everything in sports – not just weird sports. It doesn’t need to be the Redneck Games to be good. But the Redneck Games were pretty good.
As far as work, last year I did a commission piece for a developer for whom I photographed downtown Portland for a year. They hung my photographs in the lobby and on each floor of their new building, which ironically is located right across the street from The Oregonian. I’ve also been doing work for Nike and a local bank, plus some weddings. Things are kind of hit or miss, so I try to stay busy with my own project to fill the time.
I’m still trying to figure out how to expose myself to more advertising firms. I recently signed up with Adbase and plan to contact firms that seem like a good fit. At the same time, I’m really trying hard to steer away from editorial clients, just because their rates are so low.
The Associated Press announced that plans are underway to create a registry that will track online usage of AP content, including text, photos, and videos. The registry is expected to launch early next year, which will cover only AP text content initially, and be extended to AP member content as well as photos and videos eventually. Click on the image on the left to see a diagram explaining how the registry works.
Back in April, we talked about Chris Usher’s lawsuit against Corbis. Turns out Judge Sotomayor was one of three judges who ruled on the case. While most in the photo community are concerned that the case will become a judicial reference, consultant Leslie Burns-Dell’Acqua disagrees. Read her well-versed argument here, here and here.
Although there is no final word yet, edvidence suggests that Robert Capa’s iconic “Falling Soldier” photo was likely staged. Interest in the authenticity of the image has been rekindled as a result of a new traveling exhibition in Spain, which was organized by the International Center of Photography. Philip Gefter has a thoughtful essay on NYT’s Lens regarding this and other iconic staged images.
Kudos for Judge Tomar Mason for upholding the rights of photographers and journalists – a photojournalist student at San Francisco State University, whose name was not identified by request of his lawyer, does not have to surrender his photographs of a murder scene to police under the state’s shield law. Wired has the full story.
The arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. this week has not only been the latest topic of racial profiling, but also of citizen journalism. The widely distributed photo taken at the time of the arrest did not come from a news agency, but from the London-based “citizen journalist” site Demotix. PDN has more on the story, as does Fred Ritchin at After Photography.
Infamous downtown artist Dash Snow, only 27 years old, died July 13 of a drug overdose at a hotel in New York City. His controversial art and photography drew comparisons to Nan Goldin and Andy Warhol and was mentioned in Jorge Colberg’s post on Conscientious asking “What makes art?”
Renowned outdoor photographers Art Wolfe, David Doubilet, and Thomas Mangelsen have embraced a new “virtual stock agency” model developed by PhotoShelter. They have teamed up to create an agency called Wild. Art, a RESOLVE contributor, explains the decision in a great piece in Outdoor Photographer Magazine.
The Prix Pictet announced its shortlist of 12 international photographers during a special screening at the 40th Rencontres d’Arles last week. We are excited to see RESOLVE contributor Ed Kashi on the list. Other familiar names include Magnum photographer Christopher Anderson and Portugese-born photographer Edgar Martins, who found himself in the middle of a recent photoshop controversy.
After the French government allowed priceless Henri Cartier-Bresson images to be damaged and then promised to destroy them, the images have reemerged in the art market, in an incident that The Online Photographer has cheekily dubbed “oeuf on face.”
In a move that could portend worse to come for advertising photography, Omnicom Group , the world’s largest advertising agency holding company, is tightening its belt. The huge corporation has chosen to enforce its sequential liability language, which states that ad agencies acting as agents for their clients are not liable for production payment unless they’ve been paid by their client. That means the Acme Ad Agency, representing Tropicana Orange Juice does not have to pay me, the photographer, until they receive money from Tropicana. If I don’t agree to those terms, then I can take a hike.
The move is seen as a measure to mitigate debt exposure to advertising clients like GM who are on tenuous financial footing. What this means for photographers is, if you work with an Omnicom agency, you will no longer be getting an advance check to produce the job. Adding insult to injury, Omnicom agencies are going to ask photographers to sign a contract that states they don’t have to pay the photographer for 65 to 70 days after the completion of the shoot, and that’s only if they’ve been paid by the client.
Sequential liability has been part of ad agency contracts for two decades, but it was meant to protect the agency from getting left holding the bill with large media buys if the client went out of business. At the production level, the sequential liability language was formerly removed or ignored.
Swiftest to respond to this action were the commercial production houses. Project budgets to produce a television spot run into the millions of dollars. Without the ability get a 50% advance on the budget, the production houses would have to secure massive credit lines that just aren’t available in the current economic climate. Photographers are going to have an even more difficult time because their financial resources are not as extensive as a commercial production company.
Yet all may not be lost. Last week, in the United Kingdom an industry backlash about the practice resulted in Omnicom UK suspending the sequential liability rules after engaging in talks with the Advertising Producers Association.
The question is, what’s going to happen here? Will photographers protest and force Omnicom to reconsider? Could you operate without getting an advance check? What are photographers’ options?
I spoke to Pat Sloan from Omnicom who said “There has been no policy change, we have reminded agencies of what the policy is.” As I mentioned previously this policy is to protect Omnicom from being exposed to debt liability should a company that one of their agencies is representing not pay their bill. Amy Rivera from DDB LA wrote me saying that “We have great clients that pay the advance every time and it is still our practice to secure advances.”
Communication is the best policy here. Ask, if there is going to be an advance available. Read up on the financial solvency of the client. Have a very clear understanding about how much production debt you can carry and for how long. As Tricia Scott pointed out “There aren’t too many photographers who can upfront this type of money (and shouldn’t!). Imagine 3 jobs happening at the same time, upfronting it all.”
When I was taking classes at the Academy of Art, one of the photographers had a studio and they needed somebody to come in once a week and clean up. I thought that was a great opportunity to go see what happens in a real studio, so I took the job. And that sort of led into a full-time position as a first assistant with the photographer. I helped him build the studio from scratch, which was another great opportunity, to come into a raw space and turn it into a studio. He did mostly food and still life, and at the time he was one of the major photographers doing that kind of thing in San Francisco. He was from New York and after I had worked for him for another two years, he said, if you really want to be good you have to go to New York. You have to go become an assistant there. So I talked it over with my wife and we sold everything and packed up the car and drove to New York.
Again I was lucky; I got a job at a really good studio there. They did most of the major accounts, like Best Food, Shake ‘n Bake, and Jell-O…all the big accounts like that that were in New York at the time. I was a studio manager there and what was great was it was high volume, lots of work, and I got to experience lots of different situations and problems and how to solve them. So I worked with that photographer for a little over two years, then I decided I wanted to freelance. And I did work for some people, like Best Foods and Lipton Tea, but most of the people I saw said, your portfolio’s pretty good, you should be shooting, not assisting. So I started to do some jobs there.
Then I had to decide if I was going to stay there or come back. I didn’t particularly want to stay in New York. It was a great experience and I would highly recommend doing something like that, but I knew I didn’t want to live there forever, being from the West Coast. And the plan was always to come back, so we did. We were there for about 2 years, and we had planned to only go for a year. But we soon found out that was ridiculous. It takes a year just to feel like you live somewhere. We came back and I found a place on Mission Street where Bloomingdales is now. I had a studio there for eight years. Then I moved to my present location and opened up a new studio, bigger than the other. I had learned a lot from the other one as far as what did work and what didn’t work and planning the space.
I was always interested in how food and photography fit together. And I was always around food. My mother had a gourmet coffee store before that was really popular. My great grandfather was a chef at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Then his son, my grandfather, was a chef at the Fairmont here in the ’20s. And his son, my father, he didn’t want him to get into the business because it was a way different business then. There weren’t chef superstars like there are now, and they probably didn’t get as much credit as they do now. So my dad made furniture. So food is indirectly in my blood. I like to cook and I like learning about food and wine and everything that goes along with it. Because I sort of think you have to be like that to be good at food photography, to have an understanding how it’s made and an appreciation.
But the most important quality you need as a food photographer is patience. I’m not sure there are things you need that are different from being a successful photographer in other areas, except probably just a passion for food. And I think there are usually two different personalities. You rarely see someone who is a great food photographer and a great people photographer. It’s two different temperaments. Like fashion photographers who are used to a really fast pace — this would drive them nuts.
Most agent fees are either 75/25 or 70/30. As far as I know, they don’t vary by level of photography or industry.
At Redux: Assignment fees are split 70/30, stock sales are split 50/50. Photographers being represented can expect the agency to send out their portfolios, target clients, design, print, and mail regular promotions, help edit your portfolio and website, submit bills to clients and collect payment from them, give an advance if needed, set up meetings for you, pitch story ideas to clients, work on ways to build your portfolio, split expenses 70/30 on mailing/promotion and stories for portfolio use and resale. Photographers considering an agency should ask if the above are done for them, when they will get paid, how often their books go out, and to whom. Same goes for promo pieces.
We do one big agency promotion per year at Redux, which is usually a promo piece featuring the best photography of the last year and that we expect buyers to keep. We also send out individual photographers’ promo pieces throughout the year, usually once a quarter. We also do a monthly Redux email newsletter that goes out to clients. That email includes information on special photographer whereabouts, new feature stories, notable tear sheets, upcoming Redux events, and photographer exhibitions.
Photographers who license stock through Redux can expect that we are packaging and pitching relevant work during newsworthy events, keywording and captioning their work for optimal searching, syndicating their work overseas through a network of experienced and trustworthy international agencies, and making sure their work is available for licensing as soon as it is off embargo.
* Click here for more images from the America Youth book.