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Miki Johnson: Please tell us about the [OR]EDU project.
Liza Faktor: [OR]EDU is a new project for talented and highly motivated young photographers and photo students that was launched in 2009 by our foundation, Objective Reality. The project came from my personal experience directing a photo agency, editing an online magazine, and running offline workshops in Russia and CIS. Through it all I felt a growing frustration at the impossibility of doing business on the international level in this huge territory.
The idea of [OR]EDU is to find young photographers (from Russia, CIS, and the Baltics for now, but with a plan to take it international very soon) and connect them to the working professional photographers, editors, and curators around the world. Photographers are chosen by a competition, and then go through the series of thematic workshops where they are coached by “masters” through a blog where assignments are made and critiqued. Our goal is to help emerging photographers develop and maintain a personal vision, and to market that vision as a product.
So far, we have produced two seasons of the workshop. In 2008-2009 we received a total of 472 workshop applications. Originally intended for Russian photographers, the program gained much wider attention and drew participants from Ukraine, Latvia, Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. The first 55 workshops participants created photo essays and produced their own multimedia or exhibition projects.
Looking back at the start of the project, it seems like a scary and exciting adventure. We were programming all the interface ourselves and we had to work with limited resources. I’m very grateful to all the masters who joined the project at an early stage and struggled with the software — many of them taking on blogging for the first time. Among our masters were award-winning photographers Lucian Perkins, Alexander Gronsky, and Rena Effendi, and editors Michael Regnier of Panos Pictures, Andrey Polikanov of Russian Reporter, Barbara Stauss of Mare, and Rebecca McClelland.
MJ: What is a typical Objective Reality class like?
LF: Each workshop lasts for one or two months, during which the students are given two or three assignments from a “master.” Once they’ve completed the assignment, they upload it to the website, where it becomes part of the class blog, where they receive comments and critiques from the master. The whole process is open to the public, but only members of the class can write and comment on assignments.
For now we are able to run no more than three or four workshops simultaneously, otherwise our small stuff would not be able to keep track of everyone. The workshop themes are usually organized around a certain market sector, like editorial or art, or a particular kind of work, like a personal project or multimedia production. Assignments include daily life editorial, developing virtual exhibitions, multimedia technique and storytelling, and producing a documentary project.
MJ: Why was it important to you to offer photography classes online, not just in person?
LF: We started to concentrate on the workshops in 2005 and produced them in quite a few of the Russian regions over the next two years. By the end of 2006, we came to the conclusion that it made no sense to continue the workshops in their existing format. Out of 10 or 15 students, only one or two were ready to move on to higher level classes. Not to mention the travel costs photographers had to pay to travel from their hometowns to the regional workshops.
We decided it would be much easier to mobilize promising photographers on the internet. Most photographers who want to move beyond the limits of their local region are already actively using the internet, which is their only source for self-improvement and information. Plus the online format allows us to work with masters from around the world with no added cost for their travel.
MJ: What have the results of the workshops been so far?
LF: In addition to satisfying a pure desire to learn more, the workshops offer a real professional motivation to young photographers; many students are now working with the leading Russian and foreign magazines and agencies they connect with through class portfolio reviews. We have also realized that we are becoming a repository for high-quality stories by workshops participants. They are documenting important social issues and everyday life in our largely under-reported region: life in small towns; ethnic and sexual minorities and members of subcultures; health care; internally displaced people; homeless children and orphans; migrant workers.
These stories are being told less and less due to the global media crisis. It struck us that the work our students were producing could be as important as what they learned while they were producing it. We decided to develop a new media component on the website, which presents photographic projects by the workshops participants and provides a platform for contributions from other professional photographers and citizen journalists as well.
We are also working to integrate the workshops with other exciting internet projects. We engage with social networks and bring in interesting blog posts from resources like RESOLVE (only available in Russian) to draw in new traffic and help the images produced by the students be seen outside of our website.
MJ: Having worked for so long with photographers in Russia and CIS, have you found common problems that these photographers face? Is there style or philosophy of photography that has emerged from this region?
LF: Generally, I do not sympathize with the “national” idea or division of photography. Really exciting and original Russian photographers are not dramatically different from American or French photographers. If you looked at the work and personalities of Yuri Kozyrev or Alexander Gronsky or Rena Effendi, it would be hard to tell their nationality.
What is typical for most of the post-Soviet countries today, and what led me to start a foundation and take on the educational projects in the first place, is the lack of context, on many levels. By that I mean a poor or almost absent photography market infrastructure. Support for emerging photographers in the forms of academic schools, workshops, and grants is inconsistent; job opportunities with publications, agencies, and galleries are slim; and the criteria for judging photography are vague in the absence of national-scale contests and critique. As a result, there’s a very limited number of real professionals.
Naturally, these problems are not uniform across the whole territory — the situation is better in Russia and the Baltics than in Tajikistan or Moldova for instance. But in reality there is almost no serious photographic discourse going on, which makes it difficult for young photographers and editors to develop their careers.
The Natural History Museum in London announced this week that it is stripping wildlife photographer of the year of his £10,000 prize because they believe his prize-winning photo was made with a hired tame Iberian wolf. Photographer José Luis Rodriguez strongly denies that the photo was staged, according to organizers, but the images was still removed from the exhibition of winners at the museum. Jörg Colberg at Conscientious uses this story as a jumping off point to examine our expectations of “truth” in photography — it’s worth the read.
The Court of Human Rights declared Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 unlawful, Giles Turnbull reported Tuesday on the PhotoCineNews blog. Section 44, which became law in the UK in 2000, gives police officers the right to stop and search anyone, for any reason, inside a designated but undefined “area” and has been the source of frequent conflict between police and photographers. Despite the ruling, the law and its enforcement is unlikely to change soon, Giles says. Photographers are not turning down the pressure though, continuing the very successful I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist campaign, with a rally in London’s Trafalgar Square planned for later this month.
PDN reported Tuesday that the French picture agency Oleil had closed after 15 years. While agency closings are hardly uncommon these days, this comment from the Oleil website forces us to confront the full weight of what they suggests for the industry: “The press economic crisis has now made the production of photo-stories impossible.”
We can’t help but wrap up with a couple positive stories from liveBooks. CEO Andy Patrick has been appointed to the Board of Directors for Mohawk Fine Papers, an industry leader that is particularly dedicated to environmental responsibility. We’re also excited to announce the integration of Get Satisfaction with our support dashboard. Get Satisfaction‘s dynamic support communities with easy social media integration have been sweeping the Web — if you’ve ever seen one of those vertical “Feedback” tabs on a website, you know what we’re talking about.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of giving a presentation to members of the conservation, media, and photography communities as part of the WildSpeak program at The WILD Foundation‘s World Wilderness Congress in Merida, Mexico. WildSpeak was created by the International League of Conservation Photographers, four days of presentations showing conservation organizations the power of visual storytelling and persuading them to make more room in their budgets for collaboration with conservation photographers.
The presentation I was part of, “New Media and Creating the Groundswell,” focused on using new online tools to disseminate conservation messages. The other speakers introduced me to several fascinating initiatives that I want to share with the RESOLVE community — by synthesizing photography, education, technology, and social action, they highlight trends that I believe will become increasingly important as the new media landscape evolves.
Collect and Contextualize
ARKive is an initiative by Wildscreen to create a digital library of text, photos, and video of a huge number of the world’s animal and plant species. In some ways, the vast number of images available online do not become truly useful and powerful until they are organized and searchable in a collection like this.
Frank Biasi, director of Conservation Projects for National Geographic Maps, demonstrated two projects he’s working on that are using maps as the main navigation tool for a site. The Global Action Atlas helps connect people with social action opportunities in specific areas of the world, and LandScope.org is a map-based resource for the land-protection community and the public. As geotagging becomes automatic and people interact more across all geographic barriers, information organized around a map structure will undoubtedly increase.
Mash Up Media
WildCoast is the perfect example of a non-profit taking their message far beyond the common trap of “preaching to the choir.” By signing up a sexy model and a Lucha Libre celebrity, this organization focused on saving coastal ecosystems won major victories for sea creatures. They also disseminate much of their information as comics and animated videos, something that Médecins Sans Frontières has also explored with their beautiful graphic novel, The Photographer.
Create Endless Collaboration
Matt Peters, the founder of Pandemic Labs, which ran social media strategy for the entire Wild9 congress, wrapped up with a wonderful presentation about the way online information tools can help keep people who connect at events like Wild9 connected and moving forward with their ideas long after the sessions end.
The Wild9 Live page collected blog posts in three languages, tweets about Wild9, live streams of many presenters, and Qik videos streamed from delegates’ cell phones, letting people from around the world (they received hits from around 80 countries) feel like they were part of the congress. And, possibly more important, now all that information is archived and available online. You can see the presentation videos at the Wild9 USTREAM page and even check out my presentation about creating clean, easy-to-navigate websites that drive visitors to act, not just look.
Newsweek‘s cover image of Sarah Palin in running shorts awkwardly holding her PDAs caused a huge stir this week, especially when Daily Finance uncovered that the resale of the image, originally made for Runner’s World by Brian Adams, constituted a breach of the original contract. In a side saga, photojournalist Nina Berman took considerable heat for her incisive comments about the cover on the BAGnewsNotes blog when a YahooNews link flooded the blog with new readers.
A recent study conducted by psychologists at the University of California, Los Angeles, found evidence that merely looking at a photo of a loved one can decrease a person’s perception of pain, the New York Times Well blog reported this week. Although the study was very small, focusing only on 25 women’s reactions to images of their boyfriends, it found that their pain perception was lower looking at a photo than even holding their boyfriend’s hand.
The winners of the 64th Annual College Photographer of the Year were announced over the weekend. Ryan C. Henriksen was named College Photographer of the Year and Maisie Crow, the runner-up (both are students at Ohio University). Check out the extensive gallery of winning images, as well as archived screencasts of the judging process, which lend incredible insight into how the judges’ decisions were made. UPDATE: There’s a great interview with Documentary Gold winner Alex Welsh over at The Visual Student.
The Telegraph launched a new section this week called Telephoto that compiles an impressive array of stories focusing on art and documentary photography. After being tipped off by 1854, the blog of the British Journal of Photography, we had a great time perusing gems like Alec Soth’s video diary of trying to photograph the most beautiful woman in Georgia (the country).
I’m going to be in New York City from October 13-24, catching up with friends in the photo world and then joining the liveBooks team at PhotoPlus Expo on October 22-24. If you haven’t checked it out yet, we’re offering FREE access to the Exhibition Hall and a chance to win a $3,200 liveBooks website. Look for us at Booth #378, at the PhotoPlus Expo Bash, and at other events all three days. If you want to keep up with special offers and events, be sure you’re following us on Twitter and Facebook.
While I’m on the road, we’ll be posting some of our favorite content from the archives. I’m also taking this time to figure out how we can continue to improve RESOLVE, so if you have feedback, now is the time to share it! Leave any additional thoughts or questions in the comments, please :) And, of course, if you want to meet up in NYC, let me know!
Irving Penn, one of the masters of photography, died Wednesday, October 7, 2009, at the age of 92 at his home in Manhattan. Penn leaves behind him a wealth of iconic imagery, from portraits of cultural leaders to obsessively exact still lifes. Photography Now has a great selection of Penn’s work online and the Getty Center in Los Angeles is showing Penn’s exhibition “Small Trades” now until January 10, 2010.
Scientists Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, inventors of CCD (charge-coupled device), will be sharing this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics with Charles K. Kao, the “Father of Fiber Optics.” Although the duo had moved onto other research projects, their discovery made digital imaging possible, from point-and-shoots to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Both Outside and Esquire launched a moving magazine cover this month, with the full videos available on their websites. Alexx Henry, the photographer behind the new Outside cover, made a name for himself doing a “Living Movie Poster” for the movie Mrs. Washington. It’s the second time Greg Williams has shot a moving cover for Esquire, after the first one featuring Transformer star Megan Fox.
Fashion label Ralph Lauren landed in hot water this week with a “poor imaging and retouching” job on one of their advertising images. After Boing Boing brought attention to a photograph of already thin Filippa Hamilton photoshopped to unltra skinny, Ralph Lauren’s legal department sent the blog a take down notice. Bad move. Now The Drudge Report, The Huffington Post, Yahoo!, Jezebel and ABC News have jumped on it. PDN has the details.
The Associated Press came under criticism this week for requesting that the organizers of Noorderlicht International Photofest, which starts tomorrow in the Netherlands, remove an essay from its event catalog. The essay, written by former Magnum Photos president Stuart Franklin, was supposed to accompany AP images from the Gaza Strip, according to this AP statment. More from both sides at PDN and the British Journal of Photography.
Starting this week, Getty Images will represent the Los Angeles Times’ archive of celebrity portraits through its Contour division, according to a press release published in PDN.
For those wishing they were at Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan, France, this week — there’s an app for that. If you have an iPod, you can download the free application here and see some of the exclusive images from the festival.
Less than a year after the demise of Digital Railroad, Image Warehouse announced that it will cease operations by the end of September. Carroll Seghers, the company’s founder, sent out the announcement earlier this week to all users of its services, at least giving them a little more time to find alternative storage that Digital Railroad supplied.
I recently had an exhibition of my work from Chinese Turkistan, or Xinjiang, China, in Toronto, Canada. It was my first solo exhibition, but similar shows will happen in Europe and China next year. Putting on a gallery show can be a very trying experience for any photographer, emerging or established. But as I learned, the rewards outweigh all the hard work that goes into it.
In the early days of my time in China, I realized that I had a strong connection to the province of Xinjiang, the mainly Muslim region in northwest China. The Chinese portion of the Silk Road, once known as Chinese Turkistan, is changing before our eyes. Ancient mud brick homes and labyrinth-like towns are being torn down in the name of “progress.” I had traveled in the region often and felt an immediate passion to tell the stories of its people, but I didn’t actually make images there until some years later, in 2005, when I visited the region on assignment.
I’d made the images for myself, but wanted to share them with the world. I like to contact the galleries I’m familiar with by email and set up face-to-face meetings to show prints. Some galleries are very open minded and want to meet emerging photographers. Most galleries don’t even reply. It’s a competitive, in some cases cut-throat, industry — and the economic crisis has made it that much more difficult to get started. More »
Miki Johnson: How many editors would a participant in the NYCFotoWorks Portfolio Review potentially get to see?
Marc Asnin: You’ll see 14 if you sign up for two sessions. Our thing right now is that it’s an incredible list of editorial people. Last time we had one of these sessions, most of the people came from out of town, which I thought was very interesting. I think they realized that if you’re paying $399 and you’re getting to meet with seven editors — you can’t FedEx your portfolio for that. And how many people are going to look at your portfolio online? Does it get through the spam filter? All the editors are really into it. It’s refreshing to see that you can get 50 editors to participate. Even in this difficult time, they still want to see new work.
This year, meetings are during the day and into the evening. So let’s say you come in the morning and you have three sessions out of your seven, you’ll be able to hang out. So maybe you only got seven minutes with someone from Vanity Fair, but then you could also talk to them during the intermission. We will also have a wrap party so that the participants can all get to know each other. It’s good to hang out with your peers, too. When I taught at SVA, I always told the students, you can learn much more from each other than you can ever learn from me; you’re the same age, you’re in the same world.
One thing we did last time and we’re doing again is making sure that there’s a certain quality of photography we’re showing. It’s not like I’m expecting everyone to be Annie Leibowitz. But we wouldn’t ask photo editors to give their time to look at work that’s not on a professional level.
We’re also not pigeon-holing people. So if you’re a reportage photographer, that doesn’t mean you can’t see Vanity Fair. That’s an important thing for photographers to understand. For instance, I’ve worked with Bruce Perez at Redbook. If you don’t understand the magazine world, you might wonder, what would Marc ever do for a woman’s magazine? Well, I did a story on breast cancer and another on a boy with brain caner. So you can get interesting reportage work at a woman’s magazine. I used to work a lot for Good Housekeeping and did some other incredible stories there.
MJ: What tips do you give photographers about their meetings with editors? More »