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Art Photography

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Guardian reports that Richard Prince’s Spiritual America exhibition, due to open yesterday at London’s Tate Modern, was withdrawn Wednesday after the organizer received a warning from Scotland Yard that a nude photograph of a 10-year-old Brooke Shields could violate obscenity laws.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.)

As China-based photographer Ryan Pyle says, first exhibitions can be daunting affairs for any level of photographer. For his recent Toronto show of documentary work from Chinese Turkistan, Ryan walks us through the endless tasks he had to navigate — and the rewards that made them worth it. For more info, check out Brian Kosoff’s posts about his first exhibition after leaving commercial photography, and Ryan’s earlier post about making photos on an extreme Tibetan trek.

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 »

liveBooks recently created a partnership with ImageSpan, so I have been learning a lot about the company and what they do. Aside from providing photographers with LicenseStream, a web-based service to easily license their images online, ImageSpan also has an informative blog, which includes tips that can help any photographer optimize their online presence. I particularly like these “don’ts” for search engine optimization, many of which are “dos” taken too far. More images than ever are found through search engines like Google. These tips can help your work rise to the top of the page. I’ve included the first five. See ImageSpan’s blog for all ten.

The following are ten things “not” to do to ensure your website remains listed on any search index and, most importantly, to ensure that people can find your work through search engines.

1. Keyword Stuffing: If you use the same keyword repeatedly within your website’s text or in your keyword tags, you’ll find yourself penalized and likely removed from the search results index. How much repetition is too much? Use a keyword density checker to make sure that you’re not over the legal limit. Experts say 3-7% for your major keywords and 1-2% for your minor keywords. We touched on this in our last blog post about keywording, Licensing Fundamentals: Keywording for Search Results.

2. Duplicate Content: Duplicate content deliberately tries to trick search engines into improving a website’s ranking. Search Engines have built-in algorithms that analyze pages with similar content. How much similarity are they looking for? Use this duplicate content tool to see if your pages duplicate too much information. If so, the search engines may omit your web pages or site from the search index. A good place to read more on duplicate content is the Google Webmaster Central Blog. If you need to see a more visual presentation on the subject, check out the blog posted by SEOMOZ.org.

3. Free-For-All Link Exchange Programs: There is a difference between natural link building and free-for-all link exchange programs. With natural link building, you’re linking to relevant sites or reciprocating links with partners or associations. Free-for-all linking occurs when you use software to put your links out to hundreds of thousands of sites.

Free-for-all programs are essentially spam, and if a search engine discovers this practice, they will likely penalize your website and lower your ranking (if not blacklist you). Stay honest — start a link-building program by establishing reciprocal links with relevant, reputable websites. It really is that simple. If you’d like a good online resource to learn more about this, check out this blog by SEOMOZ.org on link building.

4. Robots: Do not use a robot to rewrite your content. Such robots alter content just enough to generate a set of new, duplicate pages for search engine indexing, with the ultimate goal of increasing your search engine ranking. You may be seduced by the offer of having your website rewritten for you. Don’t fall for it.

Such robots, or programs, typically rewrite your content with very few changes. If you’re caught with duplicate content, your search ranking is likely to plummet so far that no one will ever find it. Needless to say, if you use the LicenseStream HTML code to publicize your store on your blog or personal website, don’t submit it for a robot to rewrite — not only will it affect search engine rankings for your personal website, but it could also affect rankings for your LicenseStream store.

5. Keyword Dilution: Focus on the main keywords that pay off for your online content. To get an idea of what keywords people are looking for, use the free service from Wordtracker. Plug in your keywords and see how many searches they have initiated. Focus the copy on your website and each page on a specific theme. This will naturally ensure your keywords are specific to the types of content and images that someone can find at your website. You may want to refer to the previous ImageSpan blog post about keywording practices.

For all ten tips and other helpful information, check out ImageSpan’s blog.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: What techniques do you use to improve search engine ranking for your images?

The art market may be the most illusive of the industries that former staff photographers are exploring, but I don’t know a single photographer who would mind seeing their prints up on a nice white wall in some gallery. Marita has a great take since she not only founded a gallery that does a lot with photojournalists, but she’s also consulted extensive with photographers for the exact topics that I’m sure you’re dying to ask her about. Leave a question in the comments section, along with your website if you have one, and she’ll respond asap, also in the comments, so others can benefit from the good advice. NOTE: Marita has graciously agreed to continue to answer questions through next week, although her answers might not be as prompt as usual since she’ll be away from the office.

Marita Holdaway

www.benhamgallery.com

I founded Benham Gallery in Seattle in 1987. Dedicated to emerging and mid-career fine art photographers, I have been consulting since 1998, and reviewing over 1,000 portfolios annually. I have presented workshops for artists nationally and internationally, helping them further their careers by developing their professional tools for finding and successfully approaching appropriate venues. As an invited reviewer and speaker, I have attended over a dozen photo festivals in the USA, Latin America and Europe.

My hope is that photographers will learn to follow their hearts and not the almighty dollar. There are so many other ways to become wealthy without selling your soul and time to corporate America. Perhaps the photo community can find a way to tell the important stories, instead of the sound bites the media puts out.

Click here for a list of all other “After Staff” posts.

Buzz Urkle, a former Magnum photographer and director, has achieved success in the art world, built on his documentary talents. Although his feelings about the art world are obviously a little ambivalent, his advice about sticking to your own style and not following the herd is dead on — for any kind of photographer. Click here for a list of all other “After Staff” posts.
©Burk Uzzle

©Burk Uzzle

Miki Johnson: When you were 30, your photographs were included in shows at both the George Eastman House and the MoMA. How did that come about? What impact did that have on your career?

Burk Uzzle: I suppose Magnum showed them pictures, as I was never a buddy of those people. It had zero impact on my career or development as a photographer.

MJ: What was your first solo exhibition and how did it happen? What lessons did you learn from it?

BU: The Riverside Museum in NYC worked with Cornell Capa to do a show of my work, and all that effort was a template for what eventually became his now famous “ICP” show. I learned how really great it feels to walk into a museum and see my prints big on a wall, and to offer a certain amount of trust to talented curators who love my work.

MJ: You must have had extensive contact with curators and gallery owners through your work with Magnum. Do you have advice for photographers who want to form relationships with these people?

BU: I left Magnum in 1983, so my contacts have been formed mostly since I left Magnum. I find it difficult to form relationships with museum people, as most of them seem to be dedicated to following the herd instincts of devotion to the latest fad.

On the other hand, the good ones, who think independently, can really change your life by believing in your work, encouraging you to keep on keeping on, and helping you have the confidence to work with the integrity of individuality that important work requires.

“The good ones, who think independently, can change your life by believing in your work.”

You just have to be very patient, find a way to figure out who the worthwhile people are, somehow meet them, and somehow show them work. All this is very different from pursuing “career” instincts.

MJ:
How do you approach an art project differently from how you do a documentary one? What skills and styles apply to both styles?

BU: I consider documentary photography, whatever that term means in the world of Photoshop, to be the most subjective form of work. Art photography, for me, means fine work representing the same values of devotion to quality of feeling, seeing, craft, and artistic presentation as documentary work. I just try to do good work that feels true to myself, and don’t pay much attention to categories.

It’s really all the same — be yourself, be as good as you can be. Be honest to yourself and to your subject, respect your subject matter, and pay as little attention as possible to what other people think, or how they want to apply definitions and categories to what they perceive is important in your work. Or, for that matter, what they think the important agendas are in the world.

Some of the greatest work in any field is about the, at first glance, seemingly trivial subject matter. It’s really all about how deep are your feelings.

Bill Owens is known for his seminal photography book, Suburbia, which stemmed in many ways from his work as a staff photographer at the Livermore Independent starting in 1968. But according to Bill, he hasn’t been a photographer for decades. He ran Buffalo Bill’s Brewery for more than a decade and is now offering online distilling classes and working on a table-top book about the craft. Of course it’s great if you can parlay your skills as a staff photographer into other photo-related work. But maybe the best lesson from Bill’s story is that, sometimes, you just gotta go make whiskey instead — and “take pictures” just because you want to.
©Bill Owens

©Bill Owens

Miki Johnson: So tell me what you’re working on now.

Bill Owens: I don’t do photography anymore. I have so many things I’ve done and I can’t get it to come back to me in sales or work or anything. I don’t know what to do but to have another career, to be into distilling. I’m available as a photographer, but the distilling thing is exciting. I make money every day of the week and I have a career. People want to know how to make whiskey, I have a product people want to know about.

MJ: What about your books that you’ve already produced?

BO: You’ve got to remember that your royalties are only like $1.95 on a $30 book. So the books only open up museum and gallery shows. Museum shows don’t sell prints. Galleries can sell prints, but I’m the documentary stuff that’s in a weird category. I’m not William Eggleston, who’s an artist. People buy “art.” They don’t buy somebody who spent their life researching and documenting and trying to make a visual statement about our culture. Maybe that tide will turn and they’ll buy documentary photography because it speaks to them, but it ain’t happening now.

I have hands-on distilling classes now and I have a trade show. I have a life. I have an e-learning class on my website — I’ve made $1,000  on it already. I’ve got a new niche! You’ve got to be making film. It’s film that sells. People can’t take their eyes off of videos. I can put up any kind of film and they’ll stand there and watch it all the way to the end. But if it’s a still photograph they’ll glance at it and walk away. I’m going to take some of my digital films that are up on my website — and thank god I never posted them on YouTube — and I’m going to turn them into DVDs and try to sell them at MoMA and art museums as a DVD collection. I think I can find that little niche because people know my book and who I am, so I can sell them a DVD of my movies.

©Bill Owens

©Bill Owens

MJ: I wanted to ask about working for the Livermore Independent, what prompted you to get started there?

BO: I knew to be a good photographer you have to work at the craft every single day and develop the craft every single day, and as a newspaper photographer you’re out there working all the time. So I wanted to come from that discipline of shooting every day. And as soon as you arrive in suburbia there’s a million things to photograph. When I was in college I studied visual anthropology and I knew “the village” was an eternal subject. Like W. Eugene Smith’s Spanish Village or the FSA’s studies of America. So I just knew I wanted to go in that direction, and there I was in Livermore, a typical village in America.

I never started out to do a book. But I began to shoot…I did a study for the chamber of commerce for the town. I got a $500 grant. Then you just keep on grown, but you keep working at the newspaper because you’re exposed to high school football, the JV, the Lion’s Club, the Rotary Club, the Fire Department, all that stuff. And you can shoot and shoot and shoot, and then you can go back and do it again. And I knew everybody in town so when it came time to do the book and get releases signed I could go back and get a quote and put together something important. I usually say, “Man, leave the Eskimos alone; leave the American Indians alone — they’ve been photographed enough.” Photograph what’s right in front of your face.

“Photograph what’s right in front of your face.”

MJ: What made you finally decide to leave the paper?

BO: The paper downsized and I got laid off. So you can freelance it for a while but if you’ve got a wife and kids you’ve got to have money. You’ve got to support your kids to go to college. I was there for 16 years, and then I had Buffalo Bill’s Brewery for 14 years. I found a Nikon under the front seat of my car one day and I sold it. I had to move on.

©Bill Owens

©Bill Owens

MJ: Has anything changed for you now that photography is not your “profession” anymore?

BO: I don’t know what to say when people ask what I do. Often I say I string for the New York Times — because I do it once every two years. But I don’t pursue it because I’d rather be on the phone with a glassmaker in Illinois about my upcoming conference. I have three people working for me in that business, and it’s fun to build a small business. Whereas a photographer, you’re alone, it’s just you.

MJ: But you still take photos just for yourself. Do you find that it’s different now that you shoot for yourself instead of a paper?

BO: No, I work the same. I’m looking for the great shot always. But, I made a trip across America, four months, and I have 52 DVDs full of images. You want to go through that? What’s the end gain when I’m done with it? No one’s going to buy it. These agencies don’t want a photo of the Grand Canyon that’s mine with a sense of humor, they want the beautiful sunset one. I’ll just move on. But I’m shooting film, that’s really fun. I shoot with a little Sony, lo-res. It doesn’t matter. People always ask, “What kind of camera?” I say, “Whatever camera fits in your hand.” It’s not about the camera, it’s about having an idea in your head and an eye. If you don’t have an eye, go have lunch.

MJ: So are there any similarities between running this business and being a photographer?

BO: I usually take photographs and turn them into illlustrations for the business. I told you about that trip across America, all those images are in a new book called The Art of Distilling Whiskey and other Spirits. It’s going to be a big table-top book. So now I take my skills as a photojournalist into the distilling world and do great photographs of distilling.

Click here for a list of all other “After Staff” posts.

Starting something new almost always means doing some research. We’ve tried to make the job a little easier by pulling together several resources, including books, blogs, and RESOLVE contributors. This list is obviously not exhaustive, so we welcome your additions in the comments and will add them as they come up. Click here for a list of all other “After Staff” posts.

“Their day job as a journalist does not take away from the fact that they see the world and craft images in a way that creates a response from curators and collectors. It doesn’t matter how you get there—if you have an artist’s eye, they’ll collect you.” – Frank Evers, co-chair and co-founder of the New York Photo Festival 2009, and formerly the Managing Director of the VII Photo Agency

The fine-art marketplace

  • Is it art? – Photojournalism has emerged as the art du jour
  • The business of art – Art-Support’s comprehensive articles offer tips, pointers, and ideas for making fine art your business

Writing artist statements

Selling your prints

  • The business of selling – Photographer Dan Heller outlines sales strategy and targets the buyer’s perspective
  • Limiting your editions – PDN’s guide to fine art prints and the practice of limiting editions, downloadable PDF

One of the questions I hear most from photographers, whether they used to be staffers or not, is, “How do I get commercial jobs?” A close second is, “How do I find a commercial rep?” As day and page rates for editorial work decline, it’s no surprise that photographers are paying attention to where the money is still flowing.

So now’s your chance to ask. As Maren’s introduction suggests, her areas of expertise are varied, and she’s truly eager to help. Leave a question in the comments section, along with your website if you have one, and he’ll respond asap, also in the comments, so others can benefit from the good advice.

Maren Levinson

www.redeyereps.com

Photo by Amanda Marsalis

Photo by Amanda Marsalis

I founded Redeye in 2005 as a photo agency that supports photographers with both fine-art and commercial careers. I have always believed a photographer benefits from a multifaceted career, and I am interested in inspired work of any kind. Redeye currently represents six photographers, each with their own distinct photographic voice.

Before starting Redeye, I was a photo editor at Dwell and Mother Jones magazines, and consulted at various publications including Big, Chow, and GOOD magazines. I have also consulted with design firms and emerging photographers.

I love to edit and match up a photographer with their perfect job, path, or next project. Feel free to ask me anything and, if I don’t know the answer, I will make up something really good.

Click here for a list of all other “After Staff” posts.

Former Contra Costa Times photographer Nader Khouri contacted me after seeing my request for help with this “After Staff” series on RESOLVE last week. I was immediately impressed that he’d successfully broken into commercial photography in the short time since leaving his staff job. Now that I’ve learned about his background in marketing and heard his insights into understanding and connecting with clients, I’m not surprised.
©Nader Khouri

©Nader Khouri

Miki Johnson: How and when did you transition to commercial work after leaving your staff position?

Nader Khouri: Immediately after leaving the Contra Costa Times a year-and-a-half ago, I knew that I was going to be doing commercial work. I am shooting mostly food right now and many of my clients are branding firms and restaurants. I would love to be shooting food-related subject matter most of the time, but I am still building my business. I am also doing corporate/nonprofit work and am very thankful to some of my photographer friends in the Bay Area for giving me referrals during this transition. For me, this change isn’t happening overnight, and I don’t expect it to.

MJ: How did you present yourself to commercial clients? Were they drawn to your photojournalistic background?

©Nader Khouri

©Nader Khouri

NK: Most of my food clients have come from doing a lot of networking. I got to a point where I said to myself, “I’m sick of hanging around photographers.” So I got as far away from them as possible and started meeting people who I could potentially collaborate with. I had discussions with them about photography and gained their trust. My website was just a confirmation for them. I’ve gotten to the point now where I’m back in the loop of being around photographers. I became a member of APA and am using a lot of their resources. Also, I have done a ton of email marketing and I have to say, even in this day in age of Twitter, Facebook, and Adbase, seeing someone-face to-face is still number one for me.

MJ: Did you work with a consultant or rep to re-brand and find commercial clients?

NK: I studied marketing and it helped me go back and ask myself, “What am I passionate about?” and then set goals for myself. It also helped me focus on how could best serve my clients. I started hearing the word “partnership” more, and that helped me think more about how I can reach out to other professionals to meet my clients’ needs. Photojournalism and commercial work are both collaborative processes. Commercial work just has a whole host of different players. And I think that’s where photographers might end up getting discouraged.

During a transition, photographers need to take the time to understand the scope of the markets they are in and to identify growing markets. I constantly say to myself, “Even in this down economy, plenty of work is being done and plenty of money is being made.” Instead of learning video like many still photographers, I am spending my time researching my markets and making connections there. I think spending time on the content of my images is more valuable than the medium in which I shoot. If I have a client who wants motion, then I’ll hire someone to do motion. But I am still quite passionate about still images and don’t plan to change what I do anytime in the near future.

MJ: I notice that you have a strong “mission and values” section on your website. Has that helped you focus in on the kinds of jobs you want? More »

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