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Katie Adkins a is a documentary and fine art photographer in Rapid City, South Dakota. She attended Savannah College of Art and Design and has worked extensively as a freelance artist in addition to working with well-known photographers such as Martin Parr and National Geographic Alex Webb. To see more of her work, visit her liveBooks8 website: www.katieadkinsphotography.com.

I started out in this industry through serendipitous events. In 2008 when the housing maker crashed, the large architectural company I was working for let go of the majority of its staff. I was one of those let go. While devastating at the time, in the end it was an opportunity to reevaluate what I really wanted to be doing. I took the opportunity to go back to school and get my Masters in Photography and haven’t looked back since then. I took every opportunity I could to see how other photographers worked by assisting and taking them out for coffee to pick their brains. By immersing myself in the art world, I was able to meet people who have helped me succeed and get to where I am today. Today I am a freelance photographer, shooting for newspapers, magazines, and private clients. I am also lucky enough to have an amazing day job where I am Assistant Curator at the contemporary art gallery. Most importantly, I work as a fine artist. I have had several solo exhibits and been a part of numerous group shows. Being immersed in the creative world has been the most fulfilling and best decision I have ever made.

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Q: How would you describe the aesthetic of your website in three words?

KA: Contemporary, relaxed, and unique.

Q: How often do you typically update your website?

KA: I update my website about once a month or more often if I have been shooting a lot. The liveBooks software is so easy to use that it only takes a second to update, rearrange, or remove content. There is no point in having a website with stagnant information. Having an easy-to-use design platform keeps your work relevant and keep visitors coming back.

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Q: How do you choose the photos that you display on your homepage?

KA: Your homepage is a crucial part of your website – it is a teaser for what visitors can expect if they delve further into your site. It is important for this to be not only an accurate representation of the rest of your site but you also want it to be exciting, eye-catching, and unique. The thing to keep in mind is you don’t want to “give it all away” on your homepage, you want visitors to want to see more. It is also really important to keep it all clean. Luckily, this is easy to do with the liveBooks8 design options. In my case, I am showing several images from each of the portfolios on my page. This gives visitors an overview of my work and hopefully, makes them want to click on my portfolio pages and view more.

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Q: What is your favorite new feature of liveBooks8?

KA: My favorite new feature on the liveBooks website is the design platform. You can make updates on the actual page and see how they look without having to view your page in a separate window. This not only saves times clicking back and forth but it allows you to make changes and adjustments and instantly to see how they look. Once you have made your changes, you simply publish and those changes go live.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to someone designing their website?

KA: My best advice for someone who is just starting our designing their website is to choose a website that best represents you and what you do. It is really easy to look at another artist/photographer’s website and think that you should do the same thing because their website looks really cool. However, it is important to think about your own work, you own message and your own goal of having a website. Am I using my website for clients? Am I using my website to sell my work? Or, as in  my case, am I using my website as an online gallery space. What works for the commercial photographer will not be the same thing that works for a wedding/portrait photographer. The website design I choose best reflects my documentary approach to photography. The layout of each of my pages helps to tell a story, a quality I also use in my art.

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Have a website you’d like us to feature? Email us at social@livebooks.com.

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Casey Curry is a celebrity, portrait, and fashion/beauty photographer based in Los Angeles, California. Casey has worked with A-list celebrities such as Michael Caine, Kate Winslet, Billy Bob Thornton, and many others. To see more of work, visit his liveBooks8 website: www.caseycurry.com.

I’ve been studying light and taking pictures since I was the was a child although my start in the industry began with an assisting job for David LaChapelle. His creative approach fused with the talented photo crew he surrounds himself with set the bar for the level of production I wanted for my sets. From then, it’s been a slow burn of testing, developing my craft, and shooting commissioned work. As my aesthetic matures, so does my need to push the limits of what I can deliver for my clients – this can only be found through constant testing. I’ll often watch a film or look at a classic painting and think, “Oh that look would be great for this band/upcoming project.” It’s a continual path of discovery. I never stop learning.

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Q: How would you describe the aesthetic of your website in three words?

CC: Clean, minimalistic, modern.

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Q: How often do you typically update your website?

CC: Since I started constructing the layout and curating work, it’s been a daily effort. From here on out, I plan on updating my site on a bi-monthly basis.

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Q: How do you choose the photos you display on your homepage?

CC: The homepage is intended to give viewers a taste of each section of the website. Additionally, each image is meant to showcase the diverse approaches I’m capable of.

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Q: What is your favorite new feature of liveBooks8?

CC: It’s been years since I use the old liveBooks, so I can’t attest to how much it differs. I can, however, say that it is the best self-managed website I’ve user, and I’ve used quite a few of them. The functionality is superior. It is not only user-friendly, but also technically superior with the built-in SEO and design customization capabilities.

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Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to someone designing their website?

CC: Although it’s important to stay true to yourself, get feedback from peers in your field – or better yet, from those you draw influence and aspiration from. I always try to surround myself with people who I feel are better than me, and I took the same approach when building my site. Also, you need to strictly limit the content you display (that’s where the help of others can really come in handy). It should only be the best of what you have to showcase and it needs to take your viewers on a cohesive journey. A good portfolio is one that doesn’t feel disjointed and doesn’t ever get boring.

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Have a website you’d like us to feature? Email us at social@livebooks.com.

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Christopher Paul Brown is an abstract photographer that has dedicated his time to capturing fascinating artwork. His work has appeared in numerous shows as well as having a one-man show in 1985. To see more of his work, visit his website: www.christopherpaulbrown.com.

In January of 1978 I used student loan proceeds to purchase a Contax RTS camera with a Zeiss lens. I was attending film school, but my intentions there were to work commercially and pay my bills. I needed a strictly artistic outlet and photography suited me best.

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The reception to my marketing was strong. I was in numerous juried shows and publications. The Standard Oil Company bought one of my photographs for their collection and I had my first solo show by 1985. Shortly thereafter, for a host of reasons, I let go of the marketing side of photography. I continued to shoot and eventually replaced my 35mm Contax with a Mamiya medium format camera, began shooting in color, and by 2013 moved into digital photography. It was my excitement with the digital arena that helped me decide to market my photography once again in 2013. Shortly afterwards, I discovered liveBooks, which perfectly suited my web presence.

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I consider myself an alchemist. The early alchemists focused primarily on matter. They were the precursors of today’s chemists and their belief was that hidden qualities lay within mundane matter. Unlike today’s chemists, they saw their own personal power as affecting the outcome of their alchemical investigations. In the 20th century, the surrealists and psychotherapists such as Carl Jung and Otto Rank took alchemy to a new level and applied to art and people what the older alchemists had applied to mundane matter. In my own view, consciousness is something shared not only among plants and animals, but also among ordinary items such as grains of sand, cars, and tables. Consciousness is all there is, but our world is wrapped up in a great masquerade.

With my photography, I experience myself as less of a creator of images than a conductor of energies beyond myself. Just as a lens conducts light and a wire conducts electricity, I invite and allow energies beyond my conscious understanding to flow through and co-create these images. My job is to stand astride a polarity: on the one hand I am open, accepting the serendipity of the unexpected, of whatever appears that is beyond the surface of things, but at the same time I am focused on creating a strong image that reveals a depth that is beyond words. With these two intentions, polar opposites though they are, powerful energies are often released. When I am lucky, they manifest images that offer depth and richness.

My work is the opposite of a mental construct. I don’t begin with a series in mind of a title for a photograph. Rather, the series or title reveals itself afterwards. Each image, and series of images, has a consciousness of its own, related to my consciousness, yet also independent of me. In many ways, I am like a paleontologist who unearths pre-existing bones from the earth. In my case, the earth is a metaphor for the unconscious and the unexplained.

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I believe these images tell non-linear stories. They seem to be both subterranean and unconscious. I think of them as the wordless shards of dreams that have survived awakening.

During our Future of Photobooks project, Shane Lavalette‘s Lay Flat came up over and over as a great example of innovative, collaborative, independent publishing. With the release party and book signing for Lay Flat‘s second edition, Meta, coming up on Friday at ICP, we thought it would be the perfect time to check back in with Shane and ask him to share a bit about his blog, Lay Flat, and the impact both have had on his photography career.

From Shane's "Northeast" project. ©Shane Lavalette

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.

From "Northeast." ©Shane Lavalette

From "Northeast." ©Shane Lavalette

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.

From "Slí na Boirne." ©Shane Lavalette

From "Slí na Boirne." ©Shane Lavalette

From "Slí na Boirne." ©Shane Lavalette

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.

From "Waking Vrindavan." ©Shane Lavalette

From "Waking Vrindavan." ©Shane Lavalette

From "Waking Vrindavan." ©Shane Lavalette

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-palin-coverNewsweek‘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.

cpoy_logoThe 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).

There aren’t many photographers who are also branding consultants or art directors at a successful design firm. Since Steve Coleman is all three things, we thought he’d be the perfect person to help photographers understand and strategize their branding efforts. His first post explained exactly what a brand is (and isn’t). This one will help you define your brand attributes.
One of Peter Lik's "destination" galleries showcasing his landscape photography.

One of Peter Lik's "destination" galleries showcasing his landscape photography.

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.

“When they need what you’ve got, you want them to know exactly who to call.”

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.

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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 »

Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb are both photographers. They also happen to be married to one another. Alex, a member of Magnum Photos, is known for his lyrical street photography, collected in books including Istanbul, Crossings, and Amazon. Rebecca published her first photography book, The Glass Between Us: Reflections of Urban Creatures, in 2006 to wide acclaim. Just this month they released their first photo book together, Violet Isle, which explores Cuba through both their cameras, seen more clearly, in a way, from two different angles. (Not surprisingly, their joint blog is called “Two Looks.”)

Rebecca Norris Webb, Havana, Cuba, 2007.

Rebecca Norris Webb, Havana, Cuba, 2007

Alex Webb, Havana, Cuba, 2001.

Alex Webb, Havana, Cuba, 2001

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.

Rebecca Norris Webb, Havana, Cuba, 2008.

Alex Webb, Cienfuegos, Cuba, 2007

Rebecca Norris Webb, Havana, Cuba, 2008.

Rebecca Norris Webb, Havana, Cuba, 2008

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.

In Ed Kashi‘s new book, THREE, images from his 30 years as a top documentary photographer are combined into triptychs that consciously abandon the idea of context or traditional narrative. Some of those triptychs will be part of a show opening tomorrow at FiftyCrows gallery in San Francisco (founded by liveBooks CEO Andy Patrick), so I thought this would be a good time to talk to Ed about the project. I love the book (that’s my copy getting flipped through) and find his words inspirational. Hope you do too.

“This book has freed me up to be more open-minded about my own photography and to see new connections within my work.”

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