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The beginning of a new year is an opportune time to reflect on last year and set goals for the year ahead. We decided to check in with longtime friend and director and photographer Mark Fisher to see what his most memorable moment was last year and what he plans to do in 2013. (We are really looking forward to the documentary firm!)
What was your most memorable moment from the past year?
Aside from the birth of my son, my most memorable career moment was being selected for PDN 30. This is one of my favorite ski photos from this past winter. Griffin Post skiing Pyramid Peak at sunset in Valdez, Alaska.
What is your biggest goal for 2013?
To continue to expand and grow my business in the United States and abroad. I’ve just launched an aggressive marketing campaign with the hope of reaching many new and diverse clients. But my most important goal is to complete my first documentary film, “64.5*North, an 1100 mile self-supported Alaskan Snowbike Journey”.
How has liveBooks changed your business?
liveBooks has grown with me. When I added motion 3 years ago, liveBooks was right there with me. Actually they were ahead of me. When I completed my rebranding last year, they were able to help me transform my vision into a reality with a custom designed website. liveBooks hasn’t so much changed my business, they’ve allowed me to seamlessly execute and share my business vision with the rest of the world!
Miki Johnson: Tell me about what you’ve been working on these days.
Justin Mott: My calendar has been pretty diverse since I began to organize and market my commercial work halfway through 2009. Getting my commercial work organized and branded has eaten up a huge chunk of my free time. Work in Vietnam is pretty diverse so you have to be able to do a little bit of everything.
My assignments over the last two months came from; German Red Cross, the United Nations, Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, three 5-star resorts, Microsoft, the World Health Organization, and the Smithsonian. I shot a wedding and I have been involved with a commissioned book project in Beijing and Shanghai about Chabad communities. I’m also working on my own book along with shooting a few other long-term personal projects.
The most lucrative has easily been the resort work because I’m able to sell packages of both stills and video. Commercial work simply pays more, a lot more, and in this region the market is expanding. I’m still searching for the right balance of commercial work and editorial but I completely love both in different ways.
MJ: Tell me about this video you did for Anantara Bophut (above).
JM: I’ve built up a good relationship with a luxury line of resorts over the past year shooting stills for them. I’ve worked for them in Thailand and Tanzania shooting more than seven resorts.
I first pitched the video as an add-on for a stills shoot I was scheduled to do for them. It’s hard to pitch a product without a good example piece already, so I offered to do it for free, knowing the potential was huge.
I know many photographers get upset hearing things like that, but I wasn’t giving anything away. I was upfront about wanting to show them one piece in hopes of doing a series for them on an agreed price. Without having a strong piece to show them, I had to offer a preview instead. I was also confident that we could deliver them something they would be excited about.
My producer, Camille Faylona, scripted the story for them using stills as visual cues of what the final product might look like. In a face-to-face meeting we talked over the script and about pricing. We also discussed videos that had been done for them in the past and why they were unhappy with them. I was pitching them a different technique with a more TV-commercial feel and more of a story instead of just footage of their facility.
I shot the whole piece all on the Canon 5D Mark II, frequently using a Merlin Steadicam to give a first-person perspective. It’s a new process for me, so we figured a lot of things out on the fly, but overall everything worked out really well. That way I was also offering the client new technology. I could give a cinematic feel to the final piece at a fraction of the former price. They were extremely happy with the final product and we are now discussing a 6 resort video shoot.
An important thing to realize about the pitch is, not only do you have to pitch the quality of the video, but you also have to help the client understand potential outlets for it. With stills they know how they are going to use them for their website, brochure, email promos, etc. For the videos you have to help them see the potential for more than just a video for their website. They can be used as web commercials on travel magazine websites, DVD’s for travel agents, in-room cross commercials, and more.
MJ: You said you see this part of your business’ growth in the future. In what ways and why?
JM: I feel like digital magazines are right around the corner, and with the iPad being released, the potential for video content demand is massive. Editorial and commercial clients need videos as their marketing outlets become more digital, so I see huge potential in both markets. I envision travel magazines doing videos more like a Discovery Channel piece, rather than just a slideshow of images. With new technology it’s affordable and not so intimidating for the photographer.
Video DLSR’s are still in the “wow” stage, and it’s easy to excite clients with their amazing footage when coupled with nice lenses. I’m not saying that the camera will do all the work, but the technology is rather revolutionary so it provides a great head start. Pretty soon it will be standard; but for now I plan to capitalize on this “wow” factor – the feedback so far has been extremely positive.
It also helps that we can offer a one-stop production. Packages from Mott Visuals include stills and videos that have a similar style, so it’s one less thing for the client to worry about.
MJ: Is this the first promo video you’d done with a DSLR? What did you learn from the process?
JM: This was our fist piece using the steadicam and time-lapse, so there was a learning curve to figure out how to use the device technically and stylistically. Plus the whole production process takes more time than with stills. We have to script the story before and get the client’s approval, then we do the same at the end of shooting.
It’s also different because I’m working with a producer who has creative input, so we have two heads instead of one, which is good for video. I tend to think like a photographer; I want to leap from one thing to the next, while she reminds me we need to find a way to get there.
MJ: What else about this project was interesting or challenging for you?
JM: The challenge for me was not having a system in place yet like I do for stills. I know my “go to” shots for commercial shoots; after getting those I can experiment. For video I’m still fairly new, so I’m learning on the fly.
For me, transitioning has been the biggest challenge, making sure I visually lead the viewer from point A to point B. I’ve learned the value of a good producer who understands storytelling — and I also learned I need to pay her more so I don’t lose her.
The other challenge is how to market this work myself, online and through my agency, Redux Pictures. I’m still trying to figure out better ways than to simply include clips and trailers on my website and blog, but for now that is what we are limited to. Hopefully that will make for another blog post further down the road.
We all know that over the last few years digital photography has grown by leaps and bounds. Digital image quality is getting better almost exponentially and computer editing tools are getting easier and faster for professionals and non-professionals alike.
What I would like to argue, however, is that analog, film-based forms of photography will make a huge comeback in the very near future — in fact, it’s already happening.
In 2007 Kodak conducted a survey of 9,000 professional photographers asking them if they still used film. Over 75% of those surveyed responded with a ‘yes’.
More recently, San Diego-based commercial shooter Robert Benson took a small survey of fellow professional shooters, asking who still uses film and for what purposes. The answers highlight why film is still an important choice for professionals.
In this interview Brian Finke says, “I almost exclusively shoot film … I get the, WOW, reaction when I pull the first Polaroid and everyone on set sees I’m shooting film. I am instantly seen as an art photographer…” I love Bryce Duffy’s explanation of how film differs from digital. He says, “It’s like listening to a vinyl record on a turntable through a Macintosh tube amp through good speakers versus listening to a high quality MP3 on your iPod through a pair of expensive speakers.”
To further understand why film will remain a serious force within the future of the photo industry, take a look at the skyrocketing popularity of the Holga film camera. In the past few years, websites like Lomography have made this camera a must-have for many hip young aspiring artists as well as established shooters reconnecting with their roots.
The Holga is also, arguably, the worst film camera ever made. It is made of cheap plastic, the lens is plastic, it only allows for minimal focusing control, its poor design and construction allows light to leak onto the unexposed film, and it almost requires modification to work. It’s like a little handheld photographic chaos creator. And in this way it epitomizes the best aspect of ‘analog’ imagemaking: You never really know what you’re going to get.
Plus, since the camera is so inexpensive, people also love modifying it and creating their own new cameras to further their own specific creative visions – on film. That whole idea is even at the core of the Lomographic Society’s 10 Golden Rules.
I feel the rise in digital photography has actually inspired many shooters to go back to using film, especially with simple cameras like the Holga. And there will be further digital backlash instigated by younger photographers who reject many aspects of the current digital world. These are the same types of people who will take down their on-line social network profiles, start handwriting letters, and block text messaging from their cell phones (or get ride of them altogether). These artists are the future analog creators. Growing up in a digital world, they have a fresh way to look at what the analog world means.
More proof that film still matters can be found in the public’s response to Polaroid’s announcement that it would cancel its instant film lines in 2008. Save Polaroid was formed immediately and there was a massive response on Flickr from photographers all over the world. I personally received at least 10 e-mails from professional photographers the day it was announced.
The Save Polaroid movement was so strong, it inspired The Impossible Project, which lobbied to bring the instant film back. The Impossible Project has now taken over one of Polaroid’s former production plants and is set to release a black-and-white version of instant film within the next month. I’m excited to hear that 8×10 instant film might be back this year as well. You can watch a great video about all of it here. (Dave, I dig that hat and beard combo.)
In case you missed that timeline, Polaroid instant film production was canceled, production plants were disassembled, then they were brought back to life by a very dedicated fan base less than 18 months later. After that, let’s just say I’ve got a lot more faith in the instant film business than I do in the auto industry.
As a little aside, I’d like to remind you all the Fuji did not stop production of their instant film lines when Polaroid did and is still making various lines of instant film.
As a professional you might be yelling at me through your computer something like, “Clark, that’s great that a bunch of hipster kids love playing with a Chinese toy camera and crying about Polaroid cutting off their fun instant pics, but come on, there is no serious market for this type of imagery in the commercial agency environment…” Although that may be true right now for agency work in general — I believe there is potential for its growth in the near future.
Here’s why: I personally know one under-30 commercial shooter who was commissioned for a fairly substantial agency assignment last year using a Holga and/or other types of Lomo cameras, specifically for that ‘look.’ And guess how old the art director was who wanted that ‘look.’ 24.
Film has a potentially big place in the commercial world because those fore-mentioned hipster kids are in art schools all over the country right now and in a few years they will be the art directors and creative directors hiring professional photographers. And they will want to see something else, something interesting to them, including something that isn’t digital. Obviously, digital isn’t going anywhere and will continue to grow and develop as the technology changes, but film is already on its way back.
One major barrier I’m sure someone would bring up if I didn’t is the processing costs associated with film. In many ways, that was a huge part of film’s downfall in the first place as digital technologies became the cheaper option. My thought on this point is fairly simple. The use of film within the future of our industry will come back as a stylistic choice as opposed to a price-point choice. If a given shooter has a film look, he or she will be able to use film and the client will pay for it.
I also think photographers today can use much less film they did before digital options were available. It is possible to do a whole shoot using only a single sheet of film. Plus, there are always digital tools to back up your film shoots in case that one sheet doesn’t turn out. Part of the reason professional shooters used so much film before digital was because there was no back up. It had to be right on at least one piece of film.
The way I see it, film will come back strong before it even gets a chance to go out of style — just like ’80s fashion. Plus, I’m sure Terry Richardson will be partying with a junky 35mm camera somewhere for the rest of his life. As long as he is kickin’ it, we can all … keep on rockin’ in the film world!
What are your thoughts on the use of film in the professional photo world of the future?
Miki Johnson: How did the idea for the Menuez Archive Projects arise?
Doug Menuez: After Stanford Library acquired my archive they began to preserve, research, and scan the 250,000 images from my Silicon Valley documentary project from the ’80s and ’90s. A few years ago they called and said their budget was cut and asked if I had any ideas for funding.
I was sitting on a couple hundred thousand model-released, timeless lifestyle advertising images that we’d often thought about doing something with, but I was always busy with assignment work. This was the catalyst. I was very lucky to meet an experienced and creative entrepreneur, David Mendez, and together we wrote a business plan around selling high-end stock to this growing niche in advertising. Amazingly, we managed to secure funding from investors despite the down economy.
MJ: Who do you imagine being the primary audience and/or buyers for the archive? What kind of imagery is it providing?
DM: Ad agencies seeking never seen before, intimate, emotionally-compelling moments from everyday life for high-end ad campaigns. We have been getting a lot of calls over the past few years as more big brand campaigns go to stock and creatives seek images that are more special and not so widely seen as what’s offered by the giant houses. We are a boutique and are bringing old fashioned research and service in our collaborations with creatives on their campaigns. You can search our archive easily, but you can also send your layouts and we will custom search and present the results to you.
We are including a lot of my personal documentary work that is released, and we just completed our first shoot in Miami, covering a wide range of stories, including a working mom, an afternoon with a Hispanic family, a teen house party, Parcours daredevils, an older boomer couple traveling, and much more.
What’s exciting is that we researched and found real stories of real lives, just as on any other personal project I do. These stories and images are therefore compelling and authentic, but also model released. We also have a variety of editorial material, some historical, some current, and we are selling limited edition prints of my fine art projects.
MJ: How does MAP fit in with your larger business plan?
DM: MAP is a huge breakthrough for me in that it allows me to develop all the work I’ve done over the years, and create revenue from material sitting in boxes. That new material from assignments and stock shoots will help me stay relevant and replenish the archive over time.
I have so many projects and images that it’s hard to finish any one thing. MAP will provide a platform to build on for the next phase of my career. That includes continuing to produce documentary projects, films, and books. More »
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.
Emily Miller: How do you simplify the photographer’s job?
Mark Gordon: Our services boil down to digital capture, from start to finish: pre-production, capture, deliver, and post. Within each of those steps, there’s equipment provided: computers, cameras, vehicles, and printers.
Within pre-production, there’s a dialogue that opens up what the job looks like from the eyes of the photographer. I will make efforts to also have that conversation with the producer. Each has their interpretation of how the job is going to be executed. I offer a package that fits best for the photographer and his/her needs, as well as the producer and their budget.
EM: How does your tagline “Watch Your Back” relate to your work as a digital tech?
MG: It’s basically a willingness to operate within the production, be a part of the team, and look out for the best interest of the photographer. I’m there to be their right hand. I give support so they can focus on the creative process. Providing that support and comfort eases their concerns about the technical side of things.
It’s also asking simple questions: Are you doing verticals or horizontals? And it’s very subtle, simple things presented in a manner that is not alarming. I think the appropriateness of on-set behavior is big. A lot of photographers are not comfortable with an art director interacting with a digital technician, but it happens. The support mechanism is truly to understand where I am and what the expectations are in advance. So when a situation presents itself, there’s an understanding of how that situation is going to be handled.
EM: What do you need to know from the photographer, producer, and client?
MG: Typically, it would start with the producer: Shot count? Are we in the studio or on location? Will there be multiple location changes? If we are on location, what’s the environment? Power supplies? From the photographer, the dialogue is typically getting an idea of how they approach the creative process, and how their approach is going to meet this specific client’s needs.
It starts to build a picture for me to understand how I’m going to plug-in on set. Even down to having the computer close by, having it tethered. We’re shooting the cards, does the client have access to the monitor? Do they want to do a formal present with the client?
It’s discussing a shot before it happens, like a walk-through of the shot. That way I can pick up the process they want to approach the job, facilitate accordingly, and also make it fit within the needs of production and the client.
EM: How do you customize your gear and process to fit the specific location you’re working in? More »
Kristina Feliciano: How do you find photographers? Through referrals?
Maureen Martel: Always. We’ve never solicited photographers. Except for Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who we approached after viewing his work at Mary Boone Gallery. I think it was 1986. And Nadav Kander — I had met his studio manager at the time [in 1984]. And when I saw his studio, met him, saw his work on the walls, I had said very casually, “If you’re ever looking for a rep in the States, we would absolutely be interested in talking with you.” He was very methodical about how he was rolling out his career, and he contacted us nine months later.
BS: We’ve been in this industry so long that even if they didn’t come by referral, there’s some association through art directors or other people. We got John Midgley through Liz Von Hoene and Jeff Lipsky through Kwaku Alston.
MM: And Matthias Clamer also knew Jeff.
BS: But I knew of Jeff myself. You could see Jeff in all the editorials.
KF: How do you know a photographer is right for you?
BS: Personality is huge.
MM: A huge, huge part. Application for the marketplace is also key. Key key, key key, key. If you can’t apply it, you can’t satisfy the client. You also have to be dedicated to the medium. Some photographers want to love them and leave them. They want to come in and make a lot of money, and leave. More »
As I explained in my first post, a brand is not a logo or a website or a design. A brand is a promise, what people trust, feel, and believe you or your product to be. Branding is how you express that promise to people. Here’s some tips to help you define your brand — only then can you express it through branding.
First, your brand will ultimately be defined by other people, mostly your customers and potential customers. They will make up their minds about you and you will usually have to live with it. Your job in building your brand is to try and influence them before their minds are made up. It is easier when they don’t yet know you and harder when they do.
Therefore, your brand can not be just anything you want it to be. It needs to be based on some truth about you, as well as client needs. Otherwise your brand will be rejected as not credible. Your brand also needs to be flexible so that it can evolve as you or the market change over time.
For example, while Polaroid’s brand was successfully built around innovation in instant imaging, its brand become too closely associated with chemical imaging in the minds of consumers and has struggled to stay connected with people in a digital world.
Second, be clear about what you need your brand to achieve at a strategic level. For most people this will be to set you apart from your competitors, to make you top of mind and memorable. By default, a brand should also say who you are not. A strong, healthy brand never tries to be all things to all people. Strategically your brand offers a way for clients and potential clients to quickly and easily categorize you. When they need what you’ve got, you want them to know exactly who to call. Ideally your brand should also make you look like the original or the best solution, making it hard for others to copy you.
Here are some great examples of photographers who have done this successfully.
Terry Richardson has one of the strongest brands I have ever seen. He has no logo and no real design to his website. Yet he stands out. He is unique, highly memorable. He shoots some of the world’s most famous people with a small, inexpensive digital camera. Why is his brand so strong? In a world full of smartly presented photographers who all look, shoot, and feel similar, Terry is distinctly different. (Check out the video, where Terry talks about his approach and his new Belvedere Vodka campaign.)
Another example is Australian landscape photographer Peter Lik. In a market saturated with great landscape photography, much of which never sells, Peter’s business generates more than $30,000,000 per year (US!!). Peter’s photography, while brilliant, is hardly the sole reason for his success. The essence of Peter Lik’s brand is the creation of a photographic experience. In particular, his galleries are must-see destinations. What you buy is not just a beautiful picture but a small part of everything that you experience in Peter’s world.
The critical third stage in defining your brand is determining what the attributes are that make up your brand. Attributes are like brand DNA. These are the tangible and intangible, emotional and functional characteristics that you and your business, product, or service are — or could credibly become. If expressed and managed correctly, these attributes become the reasons for people to trust and do business with you.
Here’s an example. I asked 10 people who know of Peter Lik to give me 20 words that describe what they believe him to be. I put every word, including those repeated, into Wordle, which creates a prioritized word cloud showing most-used bigger and least-used smaller. This this is a visual representation of Peter Lik’s brand attributes, according to these 10 people.
You’ll notice that the functional description of him as a “landscape photographer” is rated low. From a brand perspective, this is excellent because being a landscape photographer is just the cost of entry, it is not enough to define him as unique. Peter has purposefully built his brand around the attributes that help set him apart. That is how a strong brand works.
So, how do you determine your attributes? Here are eight questions that will help you find them. More »
Name: Lisa Wiseman
Location: San Francisco
Full-time job: Photographer
Personal project name and short description
The New Polaroid — This project is shot completely with my iPhone and is an exploration of iPhone as the new Polaroid. As the iPhone is becoming a ubiquitous and trendy accessory, on-the-go picture taking is now the norm. I see people using their iPhones to take spontaneous photos in the same carefree way that cheap Polaroid has been used in the past. In concept and ideology, the iPhone mimics Polaroid; however, it pushes the aesthetic forward by utilizing a new non-film (but technologically infantile) medium. Just like traditional Polaroids had a specific size and unique look, iPhone photos are unmistakable because the technology limits them to a fixed size and resolution and imbues them with a unique chromatic aberration that says “iPhone” and nothing else.
When and why did you start it?
I have been shooting with my iPhone since I got it approximately two years ago. I started showing The New Polaroid alongside my portraiture portfolios on my website and in my book in June, 2008, along with other personal work including a project shot on traditional Polaroid film. It was important to me to show my potential clients another side of my shooting personality — I wanted creatives to have a feel for what the world looks like to me and what I photograph when I’m not shooting portraits. With a wider breadth of work encompassing still lifes and interiors, I wanted to show that my vision carries through everything I shoot. Showing personal work has directly led to jobs, and when I show my work in person my work seems to resonate more with the viewer because it includes the iPhone images and traditional Polaroids.
Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far? More »
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.