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Lou Lesko

I blame my friends who work at three-letter agencies for the United States government. They are the ones who invited me to the Black Hat Technical Security Conference in Las Vegas to drink, have a good time, and learn how completely ignorant I was about online security.

Today, I am a changed person. What I previously deemed to be adequate, if not savvy, security precautions for my quotidian web use, I learned was the same as leaving a full camera bag with the top flipped open on the front seat of my parked car. Sure, the doors are locked, but it would take only the slightest initiative and about six seconds for someone to break the window and walk away with tens of thousands of dollars in gear. I know what you’re thinking. You would never do that. Okay, then take the quiz below. If you answer yes to any of these questions, I’ve got news for you: You’re way more vulnerable than you think.

  • Do any of your passwords contain a word that can be found in an English language dictionary or in a dictionary covering pop-culture references from the last 100 years?
  • Do you ever close a web window that is signed into an account of some kind without logging out of the account first?
  • Ever log in to your bank or credit card account without first checking if the lock symbol is active on your browser window?
  • Ever log in to your bank account or 401(k) from a free WiFi access point?
  • Ever open an email when you’re unsure where it came from?
  • Ever log in to a secure site from a borrowed computer?

Why we are the way we are
In spite of the news stories that circulate daily about online security breaches, we are surprisingly apathetic about the threats they pose to us personally. It’s like backing up your computer — it’s a secondary concern until you’re hit with disaster. Then, suddenly, you’re a convert to the church of redundancy.

Unfortunately recovering from a security breach is nowhere near as easy as recovering from a lost hard drive. With the latter you at least have an idea of what you’ve lost. You can lament it over a glass of wine and move on with your life. A security breach places the control of your social, financial, and photographic life in the hands of someone else. And the ramifications will potentially haunt you long after the initial breach.

Consider the following. A friend of mine had a huge falling out with a close friend, who guessed her email password and sent an inflammatory email to her entire address book. Most of the recipients realized her email address book had been compromised, but those who didn’t know her well were shocked. Ultimately she was able to contact everyone and inform them what happened — but you can imagine how things could have gone worse.

My friend, like many of us, never thought twice about the weak password on her email account. The convenience of an easy-to-type, easy-to-remember password took priority over other considerations. She could not fathom anyone using her email account maliciously.

This is what gets us into trouble. We’re good people and have an inherent problem thinking like criminals. It’s hard for us to see our online assets through criminal eyes and predict how to protect ourselves.

Squatting
A while back I was uploading images to the FTP directory of my web site when I was hit with a disk space error. An examination of my FTP server revealed dozens of unidentified folders, most filled with illicit pornography. My head spun. Given the nature of the material, I contacted my internet service provider, filed an official support ticket, and had them remove the files in case there were any legal protocols involved. A hacker had broken my FTP directory password and was serving up an entire website from my FTP directories for months without my knowledge. Oh man, I was pissed.

Unfortunately there was no way to trace the hacker. Moreover, and frightening to consider, if the authorities had found the illegal site before I did, I could have been arrested. An investigation would have revealed I had been hacked, but who needs that kind of grief?

If you’re utilizing a portfolio service like liveBooks that is monitored by a professional IT staff, you’re safer, but only if your password is strong. Weak passwords are the easiest way for a hacker to access to your account. If you do get hacked, liveBooks keeps a backup of your online portfolio going back a week onsite, and going back a month at a secure offsite facility. Recovery usually takes an hour. But don’t depend on those protocols unless you absolutely have to. Adopting safe practices is a lot easier and less expensive.

Good habits
So here we are at the basic security primer for photographers, or anyone else who spends most of their time online. This is by no means a definitive list, but it will help you think more carefully about your online habits. The information here was gathered from Black Hat, Craig Butterworth at the National White Collar Crime Center, and Carl Slawinski from Agile Web Solutions.

NEW HABIT 1 — Free WiFi: Never, ever, ever log in to your bank account or credit card account when you’re on a free WiFi access point. The reason you have to use a password to access most WiFi networks, especially your own, is because that password encrypts the information floating through the air between your computer and the WiFi hub. If the network is open, so is the information your sending over it.

NEW HABIT 2 — Passwords: The days of passwords drawn from kid’s birthdays, dog names, and Star Wars characters are over. I have seen a brute-force attack crack a weak password in minutes. With today’s powerful computers and free cracking dictionaries and rainbow tables available online, hackers can let computers run for days while they sort out passwords.

One of the most effective ways to keep your passwords strong, like ox, is to invest in a product like the highly regraded 1Password from Agile Web Solutions. I have been using the product for years, but only after my discussion with folks who make 1Password did I take my security to the next level.

1Password generates strong passwords, which it stores for you. When you need the password, the application will enter it for you with an easy key stroke. The generated passwords are so convoluted that you’d never be able to remember them, but that’s the point. 1Password is also on the iPhone so you can take your passwords with you. The file that they use to store your passwords is heavily encrypted and would take a supercomputer 128 years to crack it. More »

Posted in Contributors / Lou Lesko / Photography / Photojournalism and tagged with

A shocking revelation has just come to light in the ongoing battle between Sheppard Fairey and the Associated Press. The Associated Press released a statement last night claiming that Mr. Fairey knowingly submitted false images to the legal proceeding between Mr. Fairey and the Associated Press. Furthermore the statement reveals “that Fairey tried to destroy documents that would have revealed which image he actually used” and that “he created fake documents as part of his effort to conceal which photo was the source image, including hard copy printouts of an altered version of the Clooney Photo and fake stencil patterns of the Hope and Progress posters.”

This case started back in February when the Associated Press claimed that the source image Mr. Fairey used for his iconic “Hope” and “Progress” posters of then Senator Barack Obama did in fact belong to them. They also claimed that Fairey’s use of the image was a copyright infringement. Before The Associated Press could file a law suit against Mr. Fairey, Fairey’s legal team filed a suit against The Associated Press claiming fair use exception and that the image Fairey used as his source was completely different than the one The Associated Press declared was theirs.

At this juncture it’s worth mentioning that there is a valid dispute between the Associated Press and Mannie Garcia, the photographer who shot the image in question, as to who is the legal copyright holder of the photograph. Although that disagreement has little bearing on Mr. Fairey’s illegal actions announced today.

As I first wrote here at RESOLVE, Fairey’s use of the image without giving attribution to the photographer was detrimental to the entire creative community. It will be hard to predict the impact from this latest twist in an already bizarre story. Mr. Fairey’s legal counsel apparently jumped ship after submitting the admissions about his evidence tampering to the court.

Living in Hollywood, there is one particular phrase that I dread hearing more than drunk sorority girls at a karaoke bar: “I’m working on a screenplay.” For years — no, decades — I clucked around Los Angeles smug as hell that I could avoid that ultimate Hollywood cliché because nothing I did as a photographer had anything to do with screenwriting.

Even shooting stills on movie sets, I didn’t really need to know the story. I just had to take good pictures and stay out of the way. But with video squeezing it’s way into photography more and more, photographers no longer have the luxury of ignoring story structure.

For a while now, the novelty of photographers shooting video has allowed us to get by with beautifully shot vignettes like Vincent Laforet’s Reverie or Alexx Henry’s fabulous living one sheets. But as video evolves in the photography industry, more is going to be expected from us. I strongly suggest you educate yourself now so you’ll be ahead of the curve when your clients ask you for video later. (Mr. Laforet saw this coming and is now producing a motion picture shot with the Canon 5D Mark II.)

Furthermore, understanding narrative can be an important skill for any photographer, even those not rushing off to film their first 5D movie. There is a skewed presumption out there that screen writing is easy. It’s not. It just seems easy because the three-act structure of a film is easy to grasp. But as with everything that is magical to watch, the genius is in the subtleties. More »

One of Gustavo's photos from his Hogs for Kids tour. ©Gustavo Fernandez

One of Gustavo's photos from his Hogs for Kids tour. ©Gustavo Fernandez

No one has more power to change the world than photographers. Yes, yes, doctors are regarded as the human deities of the world, but with few exceptions photographers are embraced with open arms everywhere they go. Because whatever your photographic discipline, and no matter where you travel, you can barter your talent as a shooter for just about anything. Including the well being of children in a far away country.

A week and a half ago photographer Gustavo Fernandez packed up his Harley Davidson to be shipped back to California from New York. He had successfully concluded his second annual “Hog for Kids” motorcycle ride across the United States in a bid to raise money for impoverished children in the Dominican Republic, where Fernandez was born.

In his first career, as a pharmaceutical rep, Gustavo frequently contributed to Children International, a Kansas City-based organization that aids needy children around the world. When he left that steady paycheck last year and plunged into a new career as a photographer, Gustavo (like most making that transition) was watching his bank account with a frugal eye. His budget wouldn’t accommodate his annual donation to his favorite charity.

Gustavo Fernandez

Gustavo Fernandez ©Michele Celentano

Unwilling to abandon the kids of the Dominican Republic, Gustavo went on a motorcycle ride to conjure a creative solution. He was sitting on the answer. He loves riding his Harley and he loves making pictures. Thus emerged Hog for Kids.

As he rode east to New York, Gustavo shot portraits of the children along the way — in exchange, the families contributed his room, board, and a $264 annual ($22 monthly) sponsorship of a child through Children International. This year’s successful trip took 28 days and received international attention. Gustavo says he is looking forward to riding again next year — provided he gets the feeling back in ass by then.

There is no other art form that is so versatile in it’s adaptability and portability for aiding others than photography. As Gustavo demonstrated, all that’s required is the will and the application. Your efforts don’t need to be as grand as a motorcycle ride across the country, but I do urge you to try and find a charitable application of your talent at least once a year. Not only is it good for your soul, it’s good for your career.

As Gustavo discovered, any experience with a camera in your hand, paid or charitable, will always make you a better shooter than you were the day before. He returned from his first Hog for Kids ride a markedly better shooter than before he left. When you place yourself in photographic situations that are unfamiliar and require you to adapt quickly, you’ll be improving by a significant factor. If those situations are charitable in nature, you have more latitude for mistakes, which will ultimately prepare you for the times when mistakes are less tolerable.

Photography is a unique profession that is a golden key to the world. Don’t keep it all for yourself.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: There are so many great examples out there of photographers bartering their time and work for good causes. What projects like this have you participated in or heard about?

There’s nothing more ego shattering than interviewing a photographer who is as old as my career is long and finding out that she has kicked my ass in a market place that I coveted for years. Shooting book covers for literary works is downright respectable in a bizarre, pseudo-erudite sort of way.

“Did you read Rolling’s Recalcitrant Ruminations of Ruskin?”

“Why no darling, but I did shoot the image for the cover of the hardback.”

“Oh, bravo. Glass of sherry?”

I tried to get into that publishing circle for years. To say that they didn’t give two shits about me is, to be honest, crediting myself with one shit too many. Which brings me to my guest, photographer Claire Rosen. She was recently contacted by the boutique global publishing firm Random House to shoot the cover (left) of Sarah Addison Allen’s book The Girl who Chased the Moon.

The folks at Random House were intrigued by Miss Rosen’s distinct style of photography when they came across it at one of her gallery openings. The assignment (I’m not joking): Read the book and pitch some ideas of how the cover should be shot. The folks at Random House chose one of the ideas and Claire was, (I promise, I’m not joking), free to go shoot it and send in the results.

That kind of paid creative freedom with a high-profile client is practically nonexistent in contemporary society. Not only do you get paid to do your creative thing, you can window shop at a Barnes and Noble on a date and feign surprise when you see your book cover. If I want to accidentally-on-purpose show off my book cover I have to start a fire in the café of the book store, convince my date that it’s safest in the photography section and then use my book to fan away the smoke. “You okay? Hey look at that!”

Gigs like Miss Rosen’s can become a wonderful source of work. In just a week since receiving her first assignment, she has landed another book cover. If you’re interested in doing this type of work, you need to keep one thing in mind: The people at publishing houses who are green-lighting covers aren’t looking for photographers. They are looking for covers.

I reached out to a senior art director at Little, Brown Books to find out what he’s looking for from photographers. He suggests going to the bookstore to find covers, illustrated or photographic, that are similar to your narrative style. Check the imprint names on the books’ spines and contact those publishers to get the name of their art director.

The best way to reach out art directors is by mailing a hard-copy promo with an example of your work. Email promos have become the bane of art directors, my contact said. The barrage of email promos from listing services has resulted in a backlash, and they are routinely deleted out of hand.

One phrase that stood out in my interview with the Little, Brown art director was “cover appropriate.” Take the time to do your research. If your work doesn’t look like any cover you’ve seen, then don’t send it to the publishers.

With all that in mind, take a day and hang out at the bookstore — you could find a whole new direction for your photography business. Just please pretend not to notice if you see a guy in the café torching a pile of coffee beans.

This week my writing career is in the toilet. Literally. I was standing in my hotel room lavatory recently, evacuating a few gin martinis, when I happened to glance at a fabulous picture hanging on the wall. This wasn’t some trashy iStock photo, this was a gorgeous image. (I love boutique hotels — they take the time and money to get the good stuff.)

I had a look around the rest of my room and realized that all the art was of equally high quality. Of course my next thought was, “Is there a money to be made in photography sales to hotels?” So I thought I’d find out.

I started with a call to Jill Crawford, a world famous interior decorator who you would recognize from TV’s Guess Who’s Coming To Decorate. She told me that she sources photography for her interior designs in two different ways: directly from the photographer or from an art consultant like Fresh Paint Art Advisors in Los Angeles.

Ms Crawford advises photographers to pursue both strategies — direct to the designer and via art consultants — if they want to get into this market. Also keep in mind that the people you connect with for hotel projects will also be your conduit to corporations, restaurants, bars, and large mansions with empty walls.

Speaking with Helene Brown, of Fresh Paint, one immediately gets the sense that she has a singular passion for art and photography, as well as a veteran sensibility for brokering it. Ms Brown explained that the usage rights for the photography she negotiates is based on 1) the quantity of the prints, and 2) the quality of the medium that the image is printed on.

Higher quality print processes will fetch a higher premium. But on the other side of the coin, a large run of offset lithographic reproductions can also get a good return. The rights granted are one time to print, with varying levels of exclusivity based on the negotiated deal.

If this all sounds like a good idea to you, you’ll want to do a little research before launching the hotel art section of your website. My suggestion is to do a cocktail crawl through a few five-star hotels and have a look at what is hanging on their walls. You’re not looking to emulate the work so much as you’re trying to understand the artwork’s tone and how it fits into the interior decorating palette.

Finally, remember that the designers and consultants you’ll be contacting are savvy people, so don’t try to pitch them crap. And if on your cocktail crawl you encounter a writer holding a martini glass in the washroom, that’ll be me looking for an idea for next week’s column.

There is something very validating about seeing your name in the gutter of a magazine, or, even better, in the “about the cover” blurb. Kind of like a great one night stand: You feel confident as hell the next day and you get great bragging rights for as long as the magazine is on the news stand.

Lately my throne reading has included the Magazine Death Pool blog (you may recognize their logo at left), which I peruse with the fascination of a rubber necker passing a freeway accident. Part of me is sad so many periodicals are ascending to printing-press heaven. If I hadn’t landed the occasional regional magazine cover when I was a rookie, I would have had to look for a real job a long time ago.

As I watch the weekly demise of many small and large publications on the Magazine Death Pool, I wonder about the next generation of shooters. Will they be shit out of luck? Will they even have the opportunity to get underpaid to shoot magazine assignments in return for promotional and bragging rights? There is still hope.

As blog content continues to improve, some blogs are being thought of as replacements for expiring print publications. Most  of the images those blogs run are either micro stock images purchased for a buck or an image legally lifted under the fair-use provision of the copyright law. These should be the images of enterprising photographers looking to get some notoriety. I know that you won’t get paid enough to buy a single pinto bean for your next burrito, but avoiding blog publications ain’t doin’ nothing for nobody.

But before you take my advice and go bounding, portfolio in hand, into the living rooms of the bigger blog publications, I’d like to make a salient point. There is a distinct difference between needing to get exposure and already having exposure, like my favorite editorial shooter Brian Smith.

Mr. Smith has earned a phenomenal reputation along with a Pulitzer Prize. He is trusted with heavyweight assignments and heavyweight celebrities because he has proven on several thousand occasions that he can deliver what editors need. The strength of his work and his name gives him a lot of syndication opportunities. He’s definitely not a candidate for throwing his work at the blogging community until they start offering real money. That is an appropriate option for photographers who are looking to build a name like Brian Smith, though, preferably using different letters.

There is nothing more important in the photography world than exposure of your name. It used to be that you would go to a library, research all the periodicals, large and small, and make a list of the magazines that would be a good fit with the style of your work. The small publications were particularly attractive because they were approachable and offered a better-than-average chance of publishing your photos. Granted it was for the price of a single frosty beverage, but fame is fame.

The blogs of today are no different — except for one thing. Young photographers are not yet approaching the high-profile blogs offering images for attribution. Why not be one of the first? Search around the web for blogs that have large readerships. Services like Alexa can help you determine how popular a blog is. Then drop them an email with a link to your site. Tell them where you live and what you’d be willing to do to get your photography with a link attribution on their site (please wipe that smirk off your face). The bonus could be free access to events, a corporate shooting gig, who knows. Nothing ventured… The goal of this is to get your name out of the coffee shop and into the real world.

At some point you’ll have to draw a line in the sand and determine when the freebies stop. A couple of factors to keep in mind when determining the location of that line: Has any connection in the last nine months been a result of your efforts? Has anyone commented that they saw your work on any of the blogs? Is the time you’re putting into creating images for a blog starting to cost you more than its worth?

These questions are no different than the ones you would ask yourself if you were doing the same for a magazine. Magazines just seem more legitimate because they’re paper and stuff. But in the contemporary grand scheme o’ things, and given the rate magazines are disappearing, the gap between online publication and printed ones is diminishing rapidly. Get your name out there. Then please let me know your experiences by leaving a comment here or contacting me through my web site at Lou Lesko Dot Com.

These past few months I’ve been reaching out via email to some high-profile writers that I’ve never met so that I can cajole them into an interview for my new book. It’s always difficult cold-emailing someone that you don’t know because you are desperate to convey your credentials, but you don’t want to blather on about yourself imperiling your original point for contacting them.

I have found the answer in the oft ignored and under appreciated “About” page of my web site. In each email pitch I state who I am, what I want, and ask them to please look at the link below for more information about me.

Dear Fabulous One,

My name is Lou Lesko, I’m a writer working on a new book titled Nose Hair Photography for the Faint of Heart. I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to interview you for the book at your convenience. My preferred method of interview is in person, but I am very amenable to conduct the interview via phone call or email. For information about me please click on the link below.

My “About” page has been proven a highly effective electronic calling card because it adds all the things I want to say about myself to the pitch email without adding extra text making the pitch look undesirably lengthy. If someone knows me and my work, they don’t have to drudge through a diatribe about who I am. Those that need to know more can click the link to my “About” page and get the scoop.

This, of course, begs the question, “What’s a good ‘About’ page look like?” The matter is entirely up to you but there are a few guidelines that I’ve found to be effective.

The number one mistake that people make in writing an autobiographical paragraph is shoving too much information into it. Understand the end use of the biography. You’re appealing to people who want to know about you and your photography. So starting with the act of your conception as told by your mother might be a little too much information.

A quick sentence about the epiphany that led you to photography is always fun. Here’s mine;

I got into photography by accident when I drove my friend, who was a model, to pick up some modeling test photos from a photo studio. It struck me that that was what I wanted to do.

Mention your formal education if you survived one. In my case I graduated with an English Writing degree.

Shortly thereafter I attended USC and graduated in 1989 with a degree in English. From there I went on to settle in Los Angeles to try and make it as a professional photographer.

Don’t be shy about achievements like awards and high profile assignments, just don’t sound arrogant about it.

Soon after graduating I found myself lucky enough to be sent to the former Soviet Union on an assignment that greatly influenced my current shooting style.

After you’ve written all that, distill it further. The one thing I don’t like about the lines above is that I mention graduation twice. This is about me the photographer, not me the student. Also the lines above are pedantic and have a very “and then” cadence. Don’t be afraid to make things interesting. Think about how you would tell the story if you were trying to impress someone you wanted to date.

I had a crush on a model who was a friend of mine who I took to pick up some modeling test photos from a photographers studio. When I saw the images I was inspired to give it a try. After two years of shooting on my own and three years of earning an English degree at USC, I got lucky and was given the opportunity to go on assignment in the former Soviet Union. That experience turned out to be a huge influence on how I shoot now. Since getting back from Russia I’ve settled in Los Angeles and have been shooting commercial and editorial fashion. A partial list of clients and career highlights is below.

Then go on to list and link to a few things you’ve done. There are two schools of thought about client lists. I like partial clients lists that list your top five clients, others would argue a “if you got em, list them” approach. There’s no right or wrong way.

You can also write your biography in the third person: “Lou Lesko went on to shoot…” I used to subscribe to this method, but I have found that if someone wants to know about you, it should be in your voice. The contemporary reality is at that face-to-face meetings are difficult to set up, so conveying a sense of your personality whenever you can will always help your cause.

Put a picture of yourself on your about page. Portraits are highly subjective things. And believe me you will change yours twenty times before you find something that you’re happy with. That’s okay. You’re supposed to be an obsessive-compulsive lunatic — you’re a photographer.

The last bit of advice I want to impart is, be confident. The “About” page is about you. If you’ve entered into the photography industry, you have the gift of creativity and the balls of an entrepreneur. That is something to be proud of.

When Randy Taylor, the founder of The Copyright Registry and StockPhotoFinder, contacted me last week and asked for the opportunity to demonstrate how C-Registry works, I was happy to oblige. C-Registry has taken a beating in the blogosphere (which they just rebutted with an open letter), and since we had added to it by reporting on the uproar, it seemed only fair to hear the other side of the story. I made a couple things clear to Randy at the time, and I’d like to reiterate them here. First, we aren’t interested in pointing fingers, blaming one side, or absolving another. I get frustrated when I see thoughtful discussions of complex topics turn to destructive name-calling in the blogosphere, and I thought this was an opportunity to take a second look at the main points that people reacted to so strongly in the first place. Second, I knew I didn’t know enough about copyright law and orphan works to even ask the right questions, so I asked Lou Lesko, our contributor and an experienced, outspoken commentator on those topics, to be part of the C-Registry demonstration and to draw his own conclusions for this piece.

The online tussle surrounding The Copyright Registry a few weeks ago grew out of a bit of hyperbole on both sides: C-Registry overused “orphan works” to stress the advantage of their service, and the blogosphere overreacted — as it sometimes does — by jumping to some unfair conclusions. The blogs that misconstrued the facts are as responsible as the company that proffered the facts. Most disappointing in this chaos was the email alert sent out by the APA. The fact that the ASMP endorsed C-Registry should have been a signal to the APA that they needed to do some additional fact checking before sending out their alert. This would have gone a long way to preventing the blog mob that rose to crucify C-Registry.

The orphan works bill that sits in Congress like an unstable nuclear device has the potential to radically shift the way photographers will have to manage their work that exists online. Understandably, the photo industry is jumpy about anyone or anything that mentions it, which has resulted in an overly suspicious atmosphere. When companies like C-Registry come along with an entrepreneurial solution to offer photographers a method of registering images, they need to be aware of this volatile atmosphere and word their references to orphan works carefully.

There were three other details that also served as flashpoints in this debate, and which deserve some clarification:

EULA (end user license agreement): C-Registry had an EULA that asked subscribers to their service to grant some of the rights of the work to C-Registry. This is very similar to the facebook fiasco that I wrote about a few months ago. Simply put, to display your work online, web services need your permission.

DOT US: Any American website that utilizes a domain suffix other than “.com,” “.net” or “.org” immediately falls under scrutiny because many nefarious internet companies have adopted these obscure suffixes for their endeavors. C-Registry was accused of trying to look like the government — “.gov” — by utilizing a “.us” domain suffix. My gut reaction was they were going to distinguish their services by country. It turns out I was correct.

Seeding a stock agency: Probably the most inflammatory detail that surfaced against C-Registry was the fact that the people who started C-Registry also own a stock photo service called StockPhotoFinder. Because of the first point above, assumptions were made that C-Registry was going to be a content supply service for StockPhotoFinder. That’s a broad and bold accusation, especially without verifiable evidence. C-registry would have been wise to anticipate that assumption and to indicate to the contrary on their website. But then again, obvious notions like that are often lost in the avalanche of details an entrepreneur has to contend with in getting a business started.

If you’d like a blow-by-blow point and counterpoint of this situation, you can read the blog posts and the emails from the APA and ASMP (PDN has a comprehensive and pretty fair rundown of the situation here). From my estimation, both sides had very valid arguments — as usual, it just depends on your perspective. If you’re a suspicious photographer, you could easily spin the rhetoric on the C-Registry site in a negative way. If you are not, then C-Registry could seem like an intriguing idea. I asked for an opinion from an independent individual who is a heavyweight in the business of online rights management and very close to the orphan works issue. His response? Many people assumed C-Registry was a scam when, in fact, it looked pretty legit from the outside. He did see some room for improvements, but he felt that the idea was sound.

So what’s the larger lesson here? The climate in our industry is tense at this point in our history. As such, we tend to assume the worst before collecting all the facts. Photographers are wise to keep a weather eye on the horizon. But let us not forget who we are. All of us know that due diligence and fact checking are cornerstones of our industry. If we as photographers weren’t under such a barrage of assaults from different fronts, the C-Registry issue probably wouldn’t have exploded as it did. Let’s give C-Registry the fair shake that any new business deserves before we start lighting the torches.

An image from Lou's time in Russia. ©Lou Lesko

An image from Lou's time in Russia. ©Lou Lesko

During my career I have been accused of being cocky, self assured, and overly confident.  To which I respond; yes I am, I’m a photographer.

To move forward in photography you need a truly firm belief in yourself and your abilities. You are creating something from nothing in an industry that has no obvious or direct path to success. A healthy ego will give you the confidence to “con” a client into believing you can do a job that is way over your head. Successfully delivering a job that is way over your head advances you to the next rung on the ladder. This all seems simple until you remember that creative folks like us are notoriously insecure.

The only way to infuse yourself with the confidence necessary to navigate the photo world’s rivers of advancement is to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. Take two photographers, each with equal knowledge and natural skill.  The one that has shot the most will always win. They’ve done it. They’ve clicked the shutter a thousand more times and solved a thousand more problems in their head.

These were my thoughts in 1989 when I was showing my fashion portfolio to a group of peers looking for a photojournalist. “Fashion and photojournalism are very similar,” I volunteered. I kept my arms down so no one could see I was sweating waterfalls under my arms. My entire career up to that point had been about sprinting to a location and conjuring a fashion story through my camera on the fly. Photojournalism seemed to be a derivative of that, except easier because you didn’t have to make up the story, you just had to capture it. I was wrong.

My confident (cocky) pitch about the relative similarity between fashion and journalism worked. I got the gig, and was sent to Russia. My first few weeks at Novosti Press International in Moscow were remarkable in that I was consistently producing rubbish. I was mildly panicked that my fashion/journalism theory may have been flawed and all I had really achieved was a successful con job.

Ego annihilated I sought the help of the senior Novosti Press shooters. In a Russian accent: “Louie, you need to shoot, shoot, drink a little, and shoot more. Then drink more for celebrating shooting.” I did. And they guided me with the kind of quality advice and criticism that can only come from decades of experience.

Knowing when to stow your ego is as important as invoking it in the first place. Without the humility from my desperate realization that I was tanking my first big journalism assignment, my career would have taken a much different path, and I would probably be writing about the multiple backdrops offered at the Sears portrait studios. As it turned out, I went on to shoot journalism for another two years. Enough time to augment my ego and gain the confidence to con my way back into the fashion industry.

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