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As some of you may recall, we recently conducted a survey centered on blogging and the habits of bloggers. We wanted to know why you blog (or don’t), how often you blog, how you promote your blog and more. The results revealed key insights into the blogging world of creative professionals, and we gleaned several important truths which we have captured in our new paper, ’8 Blogging Truths for Creative Professionals.’
The ’8 Truths’ help guide you through the world of blogging, provide advice on how to leverage your blog to help grow your creative business and feature tips from influential bloggers in the creative community such as Vincent Laforet and David Airey.
From our survey results, it is clear that most of you experience frustration with how to approach blogging and our belief is that this then deters you from setting up your own blog.
Now, I know that you (like us) hate the idea of ‘shameless self promotion’ – but I think this is one of those exceptions and you will be happy to learn that we now offer a solution to this problem with liveBooks Companion Blogs. No longer is there any need to spend hours trying to find a template that ‘kind of’ looks like your website, or toil through the troubles of hosting your blog in cyberspace.
While this is an answer to just one of your blogging qualms, we know there are several other concerns you and thousands of other creative professionals face on a daily basis, which is why we encourage you to take a peek at our latest blogging report. Let us know what you think about the report. Do you agree with the truths? Do you have any truths to add to the mix?
If you want to read the paper in it’s entirety – follow this link and request the paper.
While iStockphoto is launching its 10th birthday bash, this New York Times story outlining the hard road ahead for photographers stirred up debate in the photo world (there’s even a follow-up article with reader and blog responses). Adding insult to injury, word also surfaced of a new business model for product photography called Via U!, where buyers can composite an image and purchase all rights for a flat $250 fee. A Photo Editor has details.
Blurb’s Photography Book Now competition has also launched its third year. In addition to $25,000, the grand prize winner will also be given the opportunity to show their work at ICP, the Annenberg Space for Photography, and the George Eastman House. The competition is a reminder of the potential of self-publishing, something we discussed extensively in our Future of Photobooks series.
Miki Johnson: Tell me a little about how you first found out about the beauty pageants of Colombia.
Carl Bower: I saw a small article in the New York Times that said there was a pageant there for practically anything imaginable — Miss Sun, Miss Sea, Miss Purity, Miss Pretty Legs, Miss Honey — the list went on. I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of these contests with everything else I had been reading about Colombia: the cartels, the guerrillas, the bombings and kidnappings. I thought of how such parallel realities could coexist and the extent to which our popular conception of the country had been a caricature formed by stories of the drug trade.
At the time I came across the article, I was supporting a close friend in her battle with breast cancer. She had been a national champion ballroom dancer and a competitive bodybuilder. Her appearance was something that she took pride in and took pains to maintain even as she lost one breast, then another, and suffered the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Throughout her ordeal, I noticed how her sexuality seemed undiminished, if not stronger. I started to wonder, if a beautiful person gradually loses elements deemed to be part of that beauty, where is the tipping point at which they are no longer beautiful? Is there one?
In my anger and frustration with the cancer and growing obsession with the commoditization of beauty, the story of the pageants struck a nerve. Here was an environment where all the issues I was grappling with were stripped bare and distilled to the point that it might be possible to convey some of them on film.
At first I tried finding the pageants through government records, but most of the information was unreliable or outdated. Through a friend, I met a fashion designer commissioned to create the dresses for a candidate to the national pageant. I photographed her preparation and coaching, learned of regional pageants, and met with judges, organizers, parents of contestants. I visited modeling agencies and schools where girls were being trained to compete in the pageants from the age of four.
When I learned of festivals occurring throughout the country, I went to various towns and introduced myself in their mayors’ offices. I went everywhere: to the national pageants, with their weeks-long round-the-clock media blitz, to high school pageants, to pageants with just three candidates.
I began to see how the pageants were one of the few unifying threads in a country compartmentalized by geography, politics, and social stratification. It seemed that everyone, regardless of social standing, had an opinion about them: not on whether they were good or bad, or whether they should exist, but on who should win. When I returned to the United States, I found that some of the complexity I experienced was missing from the photos, so I went back. I kept finding new layers of meaning, so I ended up going back again and again.
MJ: You said that as you’ve gotten deeper into the story it has gotten more complicated and you feel more ambivalent about the role of these pageants in the culture (something visible in the images). What were some of the contradictions you discovered?
CB: When I began photographing, I felt that the pageants were essentially meat markets. It wasn’t just that thousands of people were scrutinizing the contestants’ bodies; what struck me was the categorical, exhaustive, and unforgiving nature of it. Are her ankles thick? Who has breast implants? Who doesn’t but should? Whose ass is too small, too large, or shaped like melons when it should be like oranges? After the current Miss Colombia was crowned last November, there were months of public demands that she have her nose fixed to better compete in Miss World. More »
We were sad to hear that legendary photographer Jim Marshall (who lived in San Francisco and we saw around town frequently) passed away on Tuesday. Jim was known for his intimate images of rock stars throughout the 60s and 70s, possible because of his close friendship with many of the artists.
Adobe CS5 launches globally on April 12, but the internets are already abuzz since a sneak peak was released on YouTube on Wednesday that shows a new “content-aware” fill tool that seems to allow hours of difficult retouching to be achieved with a few mouse clicks.
Miki Johnson: What compelled you to start your blog? Did your goals for it change over time?
Shane Lavalette: I began blogging when I was in high school, at that time using my blog as a place to publish my own photographs as I was first learning the technical aspects of the medium. When I moved to Boston to study photography more closely as an undergraduate, I felt a need to be more private/considered with my own images and decided to use the blog as a space to archive the work of others – highlighting artists, photographic books, exhibitions, and conducting interviews with other photographers. So, I suppose that some of my goals with it have changed over time but ultimately it has served the same purpose, functioning as a platform for learning.
MJ: Were you surprised by how popular the blog became? What do you think are a few reasons your blog has been successful?
SL: Somewhere along the way the readership grew, which was a nice surprise. In writing my blog, my tone has always been very personal — I write about what I’m looking at or spending time with, not what I imagine others will want to see. I never set out with the intention of making a site that was flashy or felt like an online magazine. This might be some of the appeal for readers, that it’s simple and approachable. I’m not sure. But it’s really fantastic that it has grown to be a resource for others and that it continues to promote dialogue.
MJ: It sounds like your blog helped you connect with a lot of other artists. Was that beneficial for you as a student and now as a working artist?
SL: Most definitely. In the last six or seven years, blogs have become so common that most of the people I know have one, but at the time I created mine, there really weren’t very many that focused on contemporary fine art photography.
Since the photo world is relatively small, a few of these blogs began to support an online community. And through this community, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful artists, writers, curators, gallerists, collectors, etc. These connections have been helpful in terms of my career (as I transitioned from being a student to, as you call it, a “working artist”) and also have grown to be meaningful relationships in general.
I’ve always been really interested in print publishing and a little over a year ago I began Lay Flat, a limited-edition publication of contemporary photography. As a specific example of how the blog has helped me, for both the first issue, Lay Flat 01: Remain in Light, and the recently released Lay Flat 02: Meta there are a number of contributors that I was originally acquainted with through either my own blog or the online community connected to it. As a result, collaborating with these artists and writers felt like a natural transition.
MJ: You’ve said that Lay Flat allowed you to continue and expand your collaboration with other photographers. But it’s a lot of work, as well. Do you feel like what you’ve gotten back from this project has outweighed the effort?
SL: Lay Flat has certainly involved a lot of hard work but very aspect of the project has been rewarding for me. Growing up in small town Vermont, my interest in photography was initially sparked by looking at photographs in books (as you might imagine, there is a lack of art galleries and museums there), so in a lot of ways it makes sense that I eventually gravitated towards publishing.
It’s interesting to play the roles of a “photographer” as well as “publisher/editor,” but so far my experience is that these roles actually co-exist quite well. I don’t feel like one pulls me away from the other, though I’ll probably always identify more with the former. It is a big time commitment to begin a side project like this, but what you love doing doesn’t really feel like work.
MJ: Continuing on the topic of collaboration, you’re working with a different guest editor for each issue of Lay Flat. Why did that appeal to you?
SL: This was an idea that came up early on, while working on Lay Flat 01. I felt like it would be interesting for both myself as well as the life of the publication to work with a new guest editor for every issue, helping to push each one in a direction that I may not have taken it alone. This has been a valuable process so far and has made working on the publication even more meaningful to me.
With the new issue, I never would have arrived at the final result without the ideas and insight that came from guest editor Michael Bühler-Rose. Sometimes collaboration requires making sacrifices or compromises, but I think I’ve primarily seen how it enriches a project like this.
There’s a lot that I’m excited about with photography and a lot that hasn’t been explored in terms of publishing, so I’m looking forward to experimenting, working with some great artists, and hopefully making some beautiful and innovative things in the process.
Since completing the Future of Photobooks project in January, Andy Adams from FlakPhoto and I have received many positive responses and even opportunities to speak publicly on the topic. We’re very happy that the project struck such a chord with so many people, and want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated, either by writing a blog post, adding their comments, hosting a discussion, or helping to promote the project. We quite literally couldn’t have done it without you.
As a way of signing off and wrapping things up, I want to share a presentation I created for my APA talk on our Future of Photobooks project. My goal was not to tell people where photobook publishing is or is not going. As many of our contributing bloggers pointed out, that’s an impossible and somewhat unhelpful prediction to try to make.
Like the project itself, the main goal of my talk was instead to expand people’s ideas of what a photobook COULD BE in the future, by showing them some of the more fascinating concepts that were unearthed during our month-long cross-blog discussion.
Most of those concepts live online, and include embedded videos, clickable comics, microsites, and eBooks. For that reason I chose to present the information not in a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation, but directly on the Web, using a Tumblr blog. You can see the full Future of Photobooks presentation here — I’ve also added my notes from the evening to help explain the significance of each example.
Although Andy and I are turning our attention to other projects, we are still dedicated to advances in photobook publishing and hope the dialogue we have fostered here will continue around the Web and the world. Please share your questions and thoughts on the FoPB Tumblr, in comments on the RESOLVE posts, or with us directly.
The biggest news in the photography blogosphere this week has to be the launch of a new photography blog that aggregates a selection of top photography blogs in one place (phew, that’s a lot of “blogs”). On Monday, Rachel Hulin, Kate Steciw, and Danielle Swift launched The Photography Post, which includes visual feed from dozens of top photo blogs, as well as a blog, a store, and a “Museum of Online Photography Collections.” Users can view the blog feeds by category or “like” their favorites and see only those. No wonder it’s already been featured on several top blogs, including cultural clearinghouse NotCot.org.
Dazed & Confused magazine released its March issue, a.k.a. the “Augmented Reality Issue,” yesterday. Certain pages of the magazine include QR codes that readers can hold up to their computer camera to start exclusive fashion videos, which can also be paused anywhere to reveal designer credits for the outfits. You can check out the details and a sneak preview of how the videos work here.
Apple’s release Wednesday of their new tablet computer, the iPad, had been eagerly anticipated in part for its potential to “save” the struggling publishing industry. Its impact on photography was mentioned several times in our cross-blog discussion about the future of photobooks and is being weighed across the photo blogosphere this week. Fred Ritchin at After Photography calls it a disappointment for content producers and Rob Haggart at A Photo Editor is reservedly excited about consuming magazines in this new way. Bastian Ehl at Black Star Rising takes a less cynical approach, arguing that the iPad’s annoying non-support of Flash is actually designed to force users to pay for content.
One of the first narrative movies shot entirely using DSLRs (Canon 5D Mark IIs in video mode) launched its trailer online on Tuesday. The Coming Soon page for Betrayed was big news when it went up in August, so we’re excited to bring you an exclusive first interview with director Joshua Grossberg on RESOLVE.
Bryan was a natural choice to moderate the discussion on photobook funding, since his post, The Netflix of Photobooks, includes a forward-thinking collaborative funding option with real potential:
“I wonder if some type of joint venture could be organized amongst bloggers and photography organizations to share photography books? I’m not talking about Steidl books here, more like the the Photography.Book.Now winners and other on-demand books. I would love to look at all these books, but there’s no way I can buy each of them. But there maybe a few that I would buy if I could see them first.“
His comment alludes to several larger questions: It’s easier than ever to create and print an entire book yourself, but will those books ever sell enough copies to be a financial boon to the photographer? To do that, there needs to be a much more efficient and wide reaching way to connect interested buyers with individually produced books.
Jörg Colberg (Conscientious) and Hester Keijser (Mrs. Deane) have taken a fundamental first step toward helping bring buyers together with at least one kind of photobook — independently produced ones that can’t be bought through online chain stores. Just yesterday they launched The Independent Photo Book, a blog where photographers can send their books and zines, along with information on how to purchase them, creating a simple online clearinghouse.
One remaining question for the endeavor, and one I’m sure Jörg and Hester will address as the project continues, is how do you draw people from outside the small photography and blogging world into the site?
Bryan’s comment also highlights a deeper problem with selling a physical book in the online world. I agree that I’d be more likely to buy a book if I could hold it in my hands first. I’ve settled before for being able to see a digital version of every page (instead of the one or two you can see on Amazon, etc.), but the ideal is to look through the physical book. As David Bram points out on the Fraction blog, “The print quality of the book is as important as the content of the book itself. If the photographs are not well printed in physical book form, the potential buyer needs to know this.”
What would be a good way to get books into potential buyers’ hands? What about a traveling pop-up shop that brings independently produced books to towns around the world? Are there photobook festivals that are affordable and approachable for industry non-insiders where you can see a large number of books in a short period of time?
Assuming that photobooks continue to be financial viable for larger publishers, though, most will likely continue to be bought online through major bookstores like Amazon. Todd Walker (the mediator of our CONSUMPTION discussion) suggested an interesting dilemma that stems from this process. Since books purchased online are often reduced to a “thumbnail” image, is this a system that disadvantages complex images, favoring simple, graphic ones that read well at smaller size?
The increasing ease with which photographers can create their own books also helps them take the step up to these larger publishers and markets — so the self-published book might not turn a profit, but it can help procure a larger run that might. Nathalie Belayche gave an example of this model in her post on Food For Your Eyes:
“Robin Maddock couldn’t wait to find a publisher for his book Our Kids Are Going To Hell and so he did a Blurb book, as a dummy and to make a test. A few months later the book was redesigned and came out with the help of a brick-and-mortar publisher.”
Jonathan Worth, whose blog explores alternate funding models for photographers, weighs in with this:
“The generation currently breaking into the industry have inherited a fond nostalgia for analogue processes (think Holga, Lomography or witness the dramatic rescue of Polaroid ). Developing and exploiting this demand is one of the areas that photographer’s business practices can and should focus looking forward. The book is just one element of this.” Are there photographers who are working this angle right now?
All of these models rely on the same assumption — that a photographer has the money to print a book in the first place. What about funding the initial investment needed for printing, especially not print-on-demand?
Bryan suggests the microfunding model could be a powerful tool. One encouraging example is the 13th issue of Hamburger Eyes (a San Francisco-based street photography magazine), which was funded through Kickstarter last summer. The magazine met it’s goal in only three days and even took in an extra $1,000, allowing them to print a larger magazine than ever before.
In this situation a magazine has an advantage over a book since it has serial issues that have gained them a loyal following. How can photographers build the same kind of audience for a single book (that is likely to include just their own work, not lots of potential funders’, like Hamburger Eyes)?
I would look at something like the We English blog that Simon Roberts created in the year running up to the publication of his book by the same name. Although he worked with publisher Chris Boot, he built a loyal audience by asking for ideas on how to photograph “Englishness,” offering a print to the first 150 people who sent him ideas.
Todd Walker is a photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His “Gallery Hopper” blog has been featured in Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The San Francisco Examiner. Currently he writes at ocularoctopus.com.
Some of the most interesting suggestions from contributing Future of Photobooks bloggers addressed changes in the way photobooks are “consumed” (the best word we could find to encompass “read,” “viewed,” and “watched”).
Here are a few of their predictions for what it might be like to look through a photobook in ten years:
Images accompanied by audio of the photographer describing the work, their personal vision, and the way the images were made. “It will be like a museum tour where you have your own personal guide,” explains Tomas Ovalle at The PhotoOracle.
Jin Zhu at Shooting Wide Open wishes that photobooks could be more like McSweeney’s publications, arriving with physical goodies like pullout posters, photo postcards, and maps, as well as digital goodies like audio interviews with the subject or “making of” videos on an accompanying DVD or USB.
Shane Godfrey and Nick Turpin both suggested a symbiosis between digital, physical, and downloadable versions of a book. From Nick’s post on sevensevennine: “I can see the printed and digital elements of PUBLICATION complimenting each other in this way as we go forward, the printed magazine on sale for six months whilst the essays from previous editions are archived and made available online.”
We can only hope that these models and more will be explored — again, as creative decisions made by artists about how best to convey their work. Todd brought up another question that relates instead to the “consumer” or audience.
As Radius Books co-founder Darius Himes pointed out in his post, the average photobook only has an audience of around 3,000. Can that audience be expanded by expanding the definitions and expectations of a photobook? And what new requirements will photographers need to consider if their audience is a much wider one including a much lower percentage of “photo people.”
One positive change that might be spurred by a larger, more diverse audience for photobooks is that they be treated with more respect by the cultural gatekeepers. As Alec Soth points out, they at least deserve the same kind of attention the New York Times recently bestowed on graphic books. Or, as Larissa Leclair suggests, maybe it will help us to recognize books as an artform in and of themselves, perhaps even prompting “photobook museums.”
In all our excitement over the idea of a “multimedia photobook” (I hope I’m not the only one who’s excited), we shouldn’t lose site of the possible downsides of this reading experience. As advertising consultant Alan Wolk reprimands at The Toad Stool, “reading” (and I would include still images in that) is an entirely different experience from “watching” something, also highlighted by this brilliant video from the Lens Culture blog forecasting what a digital magazine of the future might look like.
And finally, I don’t think we would call this brilliant multimedia slideshow from Alec Soth a book, but a book was its impetus and a book (and sculpture) are its outcome. What it definitely is, is an enjoyable place to start to stretch our brains about what a photobook could be.