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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.
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).
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 »
MIKI JOHNSON: What initially drew you both to Cuba? It has been photographed so much already…did you try to approach it in a new way that you hadn’t seen before?
ALEX WEBB: Like many projects, this one began somewhat serendipitously. We certainly did not plan it. I first went in to Cuba 1993 for Life magazine, and Rebecca traveled there around the same time separately. We were both intrigued by the island, but somehow didn’t manage to return until 2000, when we visited together to teach a workshop.
Returning to the country inspired both of us, and we embarked on two separate projects: my exploration of the streets of Cuba and Rebecca’s discovery of unique and sometimes mysterious collections of animals there –– from tiny zoos and pigeon societies to hand-painted natural history displays and quirky personal menageries. It was only eight years later, in 2008, that we hit upon the notion of putting our two very distinct bodies of work together to create a multi-layered portrait of Cuba.
MJ: How many trips to Cuba did you take while making photos for this book, and what places and parts of the culture were you specifically trying to capture?
AW: We made 11 trips to Cuba. Besides our first trips that we took separately, we made six trips together from 2000 to 2005 and then four long trips in 2007 and 2008, when I was fortunate enough to have a Guggenheim Fellowship to continue photographing the island. I initially called my project Esperando because in Spanish the term means both “waiting” and “hoping,” a title that starts to get at my impression of the streets of Cuba.
REBECCA NORRIS WEBB: I originally called my project Three Rooms after the following quote by a Habanero whom I met, a gentle and soft-spoken man who raises cockatiels, love birds, and parakeets: “I have three rooms in my house –– two are for my birds, and one is for my wife and me.”
For the past decade, I’ve been exploring the complicated relationship between people and the natural world. In the 25 cities I visited for my first book The Glass Between Us, I never witnessed anything quite like what I’ve seen on “the violet isle,” a little known nickname for Cuba inspired by the rich color of its soil. Nearly 700 miles across, Cuba is easily the largest island in the Caribbean and has its own endemic species, including the world’s smallest bat and the world’s smallest bird. Alex and I traveled nearly the entire length of the island in pursuit of our separate obsessions.
MJ: Why did it appeal to you to combine your two bodies of work into one book about Cuba? How are the images grouped in the book? More »
Prix Pictet announced yesterday that the winner of this year’s photography prize for environmental sustainability goes to British based Israeli photographer Nadav Kander, whose project Yangtze, The Long River Series documents the changing landscape along China’s Yangtze River. Pictet also awarded a photography commission to RESOLVE contributor Ed Kashi, who will fulfill Pictet’s annual commission this year in Madagascar.
Vincent Laforet released his latest short film, Nocturne, shot with a prototype Canon 1D MKIV on Monday, but was asked by Canon to take it down the following day, he explained on his blog. Photo Business News and Fake Chuck Westfall both took Canon Japan to task for the move. If you didn’t catch Nocturne before it was taken down, it’s on YouTube, of course.
And the drama goes on. After Shepard Fairey admitted last week that he had lied about his source of his Obama image, the Associated Press released a statement on Tuesday that they are challenging Fairey’s account in court as “purposely deceiving.” Excerpts of AP’s most recent court filings and the letter Fairey’s attorneys sent to the AP are available at PDN.
Jen Bekman Projects, the innovative creator of the 20×200 prints store and the Hey, Hot Shot! photo competition, received $800K+ in venture capital funding. The series A funding was led by California-based venture capitalist True Ventures, along with a other angel investors.
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.
World Press Photo just launched an archive of 10,000+ photos by the 1,372 photographers from 79 nations who have been honored by the contest since its inception in 1955. Images are searchable by year, photographer, nationality, organization, category, or award.
Victoria Espinel, who President Obama appointed the the first U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator, is winning praise from several groups, including the Copyright Alliance, which includes a number of photographer organizations. PDN has more on the story.
The Guardian reports that Richard Prince’s Spiritual America exhibition, due to open yesterday at London’s Tate Modern, was withdrawn Wednesday after the organizer received a warning from Scotland Yard that a nude photograph of a 10-year-old Brooke Shields could violate obscenity laws. The work caused no major controversy when it was shown in 2007 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
The folks behind the DLK Collection blog informed us that Bono gave a big shout out to photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose photo was used as the cover art for U2′s latest album during a concert at Giants Stadium. “When was the last time the biggest rock star on the planet interrupted one of his signature songs in a stadium full of screaming people to give a shout out to a fine art photographer?”
When Joe McNally, a legendary photojournalist and lighting guru, stopped by the liveBooks office during some rare down time in San Francisco, I couldn’t resist setting up a video interview. (Thanks to videographer Drew Gurian.) Joe has contributed to National Geographic for 20 years and was a staff photographer for LIFE magazine. He works with huge commercial clients and produced a seminal portrait series of September 11 heroes. He’s also the author of two must-read instructional books and writes a very popular blog — which brings us to the video below.
Joe started his blog in 2008 after prodding from friends (and avid bloggers) including Moose Peterson, David Hobby, and Scott Kelby. Now the blog is an important part of his business, especially since “big pipelines” for assignments have dried up in recent years.
“Any photographer out there now is stitching together things,” he says. “Work comes now in all sorts of strange ways.” Smart photographers like Joe understand that blogs and social media are an important part of that patchwork. They bring in assignments, create buzz, and help build community with other top professionals. (If you haven’t seen Joe’s parody of Chase Jarvis’ Consequences of Creativity video, I recommend you watch that too.)
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 »