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Russia and CIS — they’re just so BIG. So it’s no wonder that’s where one of the first online photography workshops is taking shape. As Liza Faktor points out in this interview about the workshop, [OR]EDU, using online tools like blogs allows her Objective Reality foundation to bring international masters to emerging photographers who are too often cut off from a vibrant photo community and too rarely can afford travel costs to real-space workshops.

Yaroslav, 38, a 'Hruschevka' dweller for the last 11 years. By Petr Antonov

Miki Johnson: Please tell us about the [OR]EDU project.

Liza Faktor: [OR]EDU is a new project for talented and highly motivated young photographers and photo students that was launched in 2009 by our foundation, Objective Reality. The project came from my personal experience directing a photo agency, editing an online magazine, and running offline workshops in Russia and CIS. Through it all I felt a growing frustration at the impossibility of doing business on the international level in this huge territory.

The idea of [OR]EDU is to find young photographers (from Russia, CIS, and the Baltics for now, but with a plan to take it international very soon) and connect them to the working professional photographers, editors, and curators around the world. Photographers are chosen by a competition, and then go through the series of thematic workshops where they are coached by “masters” through a blog where assignments are made and critiqued. Our goal is to help emerging photographers develop and maintain a personal vision, and to market that vision as a product.

So far, we have produced two seasons of the workshop. In 2008-2009 we received a total of 472 workshop applications. Originally intended for Russian photographers, the program gained much wider attention and drew participants from Ukraine, Latvia, Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. The first 55 workshops participants created photo essays and produced their own multimedia or exhibition projects.

Looking back at the start of the project, it seems like a scary and exciting adventure. We were programming all the interface ourselves and we had to work with limited resources. I’m very grateful to all the masters who joined the project at an early stage and struggled with the software — many of them taking on blogging for the first time. Among our masters were award-winning photographers Lucian Perkins, Alexander Gronsky, and Rena Effendi, and editors Michael Regnier of Panos Pictures, Andrey Polikanov of Russian Reporter, Barbara Stauss of Mare, and Rebecca McClelland.

A woman in St. Petersburg. By Alexander Aksakov

MJ: What is a typical Objective Reality class like?

LF: Each workshop lasts for one or two months, during which the students are given two or three assignments from a “master.” Once they’ve completed the assignment, they upload it to the website, where it becomes part of the class blog, where they receive comments and critiques from the master. The whole process is open to the public, but only members of the class can write and comment on assignments.

For now we are able to run no more than three or four workshops simultaneously, otherwise our small stuff would not be able to keep track of everyone. The workshop themes are usually organized around a certain market sector, like editorial or art, or a particular kind of work, like a personal project or multimedia production. Assignments include daily life editorial, developing virtual exhibitions, multimedia technique and storytelling, and producing a documentary project.

MJ: Why was it important to you to offer photography classes online, not just in person?

LF: We started to concentrate on the workshops in 2005 and produced them in quite a few of the Russian regions over the next two years. By the end of 2006, we came to the conclusion that it made no sense to continue the workshops in their existing format. Out of 10 or 15 students, only one or two were ready to move on to higher level classes. Not to mention the travel costs photographers had to pay to travel from their hometowns to the regional workshops.

We decided it would be much easier to mobilize promising photographers on the internet. Most photographers who want to move beyond the limits of their local region are already actively using the internet, which is their only source for self-improvement and information. Plus the online format allows us to work with masters from around the world with no added cost for their travel.

This kind of carpet on the wall used to be very popular in the USSR. By Maria Morina

MJ: What have the results of the workshops been so far?

LF: In addition to satisfying a pure desire to learn more, the workshops offer a real professional motivation to young photographers; many students are now working with the leading Russian and foreign magazines and agencies they connect with through class portfolio reviews. We have also realized that we are becoming a repository for high-quality stories by workshops participants. They are documenting important social issues and everyday life in our largely under-reported region: life in small towns; ethnic and sexual minorities and members of subcultures; health care; internally displaced people; homeless children and orphans; migrant workers.

These stories are being told less and less due to the global media crisis. It struck us that the work our students were producing could be as important as what they learned while they were producing it. We decided to develop a new media component on the website, which presents photographic projects by the workshops participants and provides a platform for contributions from other professional photographers and citizen journalists as well.

“The work our students produce is as important as what they learn while producing it.”

We are also working to integrate the workshops with other exciting internet projects. We engage with social networks and bring in interesting blog posts from resources like RESOLVE (only available in Russian) to draw in new traffic and help the images produced by the students be seen outside of our website.

MJ: Having worked for so long with photographers in Russia and CIS, have you found common problems that these photographers face? Is there style or philosophy of photography that has emerged from this region?

LF: Generally, I do not sympathize with the “national” idea or division of photography. Really exciting and original Russian photographers are not dramatically different from American or French photographers. If you looked at the work and personalities of Yuri Kozyrev or Alexander Gronsky or Rena Effendi, it would be hard to tell their nationality.

What is typical for most of the post-Soviet countries today, and what led me to start a foundation and take on the educational projects in the first place, is the lack of context, on many levels. By that I mean a poor or almost absent photography market infrastructure. Support for emerging photographers in the forms of academic schools, workshops, and grants is inconsistent; job opportunities with publications, agencies, and galleries are slim; and the criteria for judging photography are vague in the absence of national-scale contests and critique. As a result, there’s a very limited number of real professionals.

Naturally, these problems are not uniform across the whole territory — the situation is better in Russia and the Baltics than in Tajikistan or Moldova for instance. But in reality there is almost no serious photographic discourse going on, which makes it difficult for young photographers and editors to develop their careers.

Stockland Martel, founded in 1980 by Maureen Martel and Bill Stockland, is one of the best-known and respected photo-representation agencies in the country. In this interview conducted by Kristina Feliciano, who runs the Stockland Martel blog, Bill and Maureen explain how they built their auspicious roster, which includes Nadav Kander, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, and Doug Menuez, and what makes them decide to work with a new photographer.
David Lynch by Nadav Kander (Courtesy Stockland Martel)

David Lynch by Nadav Kander (Courtesy Stockland Martel)

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.

By Jason Hindley (Courtesy Stockland Martel)

By Jason Hindley (Courtesy Stockland Martel)

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 »

This week I found several exciting stories that suggest big innovations in the photo industry and — even more exciting — an eagerness to embrace them rather than fear of new unknowns.
Steve Jobs with Apple Air laptop

Steve Jobs with the MacBook Air. ©David Paul Morris/Getty Images

First up is Dan Lyons’ Newsweek post about Apple’s new tablet computer. The news is a few weeks old, but Dan’s reaction to it is a breath of fresh air. “Veteran editor Tina Brown, who now runs The Daily Beast, says we are about to enter ‘a golden age of journalism.’ I agree, and I think tablet devices will hurry that along.” Compare that to recent pieces like The Digital Journalist‘s “Revisiting The Death of Journalism: Ten Years Later,” or “Lament for a Dying Field: Photojournalism” from The Times and you’ll see why I’m excited.

wintour_vogue

Vogue editor Anna Wintour. ©Getty Images

Then I spotted this story about Vogue hiring Obama’s web strategists to help them “analyze the Conde Nast publication’s audience as part of a broader, revenue-generating push that ultimately will involve implementing paid subscriptions on Vogue.com.” Sentences like this make me so happy — “Vogue executives, keenly aware that the monthly magazine is just one of many ways people connect with the publication, had been looking for ways to capitalize on its influence” — because it means publications are finally starting to understand that it’s their name, their cache, the respect people have for them that is valuable in the online world, not just the content itself. This is a lesson many photographers could benefit from. And, of course, if magazines like Vogue actually figure out how to make money online, we can only hope that will trickle down to the photographers they employ.

Cory Doctorow, by Jonathan Worth

Cory Doctorow, by Jonathan Worth

Leave it to Fred Ritchin to put his finger right on the crux of this issue on his After Photography blog. He starts off by calling out Jonathan Worth, a photographer I’ve been following closely as he blogs about his endeavor to make money off of his photography by giving away the photograph itself (in this case a portrait of science fiction writer Cory Doctorow). Fred then moves on to the innovative approach the VII photo agency is taking to photo distribution, and wraps up with this little gem: “In a Boston Consulting Group poll published last week people in nine countries were surveyed asking if they would pay for online news: from 48 to 60 percent said they would, ranging from US$3 per month (Americans and Australians) to US$7 (Italians). Maybe we should take them at their word?”

Joe McNally

Joe McNally

And I’d like to leave you with this gem from Joe McNally, a letter he wrote to a young photographer trying to find their way. It’s an inspirational, well-written, wandering piece, as Joe’s usually are, that I think is brilliant advice not only for young creatives, but also for the media industry in general: “You are just beginning to write your pages, and the thing to remember about this early rough draft is that it hardly matters what you do exactly, as long as you continue to become something close to what you might imagine you want or need to become.”

I encourage anyone in any kind of decision-making position in the industry — from individual photographers to multi-national publishers — to embrace that notion and keep experimenting, keep innovating, keep striving for something better. You’ll know it when you find it.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: What do you think about the idea that we’re entering a “golden age of journalism”? What experiments to find new media business models have the most potential?

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).

dpBestflowAfter two years of research by members Richard Anderson and Peter Krogh, ASMP announced the launch of its dpBestflow.org website at FotoWeekDC earlier this week. Shorthand for “Digital Photography Best Practices and Workflow,” the website, part of the three-tier project that includes a book and a traveling seminar series, aims to offer definitive guidelines for digital photography best practices and workflow.

Forbes Media announced yesterday that it has acquired digital magazine FlipGloss and its Digital Glossy Insert photo publishing platform. Launched about 8 months ago, FlipGloss combines search engine capabilities with the experience of flipping through photo content of a magazine, and users can click on objects in the photos to find out where to purchase an item or even be led to an advertiser’s website.

mr_foxWes Anderson’s new movie, Fantastic Mr. Fox, which opens in selected theaters today, is a stop-motion picture shot entirely using a Nikon D3 – over 600,000 stills that generate 18.5 terrabytes of data. According to movie review website IMDb, the beautifully art-directed adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic used Nikon D3 because it “offers a significantly higher resolution than even that of full High Definition.” Wired.com has a great “Making of” the movie here.

Google has cut the price for extra storage on its photo sharing site Picasa to about one eighth of what it used to cost. For $5 a year, now you can have 20GB photo storage on the site. “Since most people have less than 10GB of photos, chances are you can now save all your memories online for a year for the cost of a triple mocha,” according to the official Google Photos Blog.

For Lisa Wiseman, a San Francisco-based editorial and commercial photographer, it’s important that her portfolio convey her “eye,” the way she sees, no matter what camera she’s using. That’s why, despite her initial hesitancy, she began showing personal work as part of her book and online portfolio last year. This year she was named one of PDN’s 30 — in part because of her “New Polaroids” personal project, taken entirely on her iPhone.

©Lisa Wiseman (2)

Name: Lisa Wiseman
Website:
lisawiseman.com
Age: 27
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.

©Lisa Wiseman (2)

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.

©Lisa Wiseman (2)

Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far? More »

This was one of the first recurring features we ever ran and one that still fascinates me. If you didn’t get a chance to check it out the first time around, I highly recommend it. Michael Shaw, founder of the BAGnewsNotes blog, and photojournalist Alan Chin, who he assigned to cover the Democratic National Convention, discuss the challenges of shooting for blogs and the potential of the model moving forward. (Click on the photo below and scroll to the bottom to see the first post and read them in order.)

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?”

September 28th, 2009

Flip Out: A video chat with Mark Wallace

Posted by liveBooks

One of the best parts of my job is hanging out and talking with photographers — about photography, but also about the shifting media landscape, companies that are trying cool new things, technology that makes our life more efficient yet more complicated, and, of course, art of all kinds that inspires us.

That’s what I was doing yesterday (Sunday) in Union Square Park near our liveBooks office in San Francisco. If you don’t know Mark, check out his popular site, blog, and Facebook and Twitter streams. If you do know Mark, you’re probably not surprised that he asked to do a quick iPhone video while we were talking. I thought I should Flip video him at the same time — hope you enjoy the result as much as we did.

After that we headed to the office to talk some more and Mark made a video of me talking about RESOLVE a little more in depth. At lunch we were discussing how hard (but necessary) it is for photographers to stop focusing solely on the value of their images — today much more value is placed on education, audience engagement, and especially storytelling, as Mark explained and I asked him to rehash for the Flip.

Mark and I had not met before yesterday, so it was a pleasure to find out he is just as kind, helpful, and well-informed as his online presence suggests.

I also hung out with two innovators I’ve known for a bit longer on Saturday: David Alan Harvey, who has very exciting things in store for burn, his online photography magazine; and Phil Toledano, who I was ecstatic to hear has found a publisher for his Days With My Father project. Finally, here are few of the funner things Mark and I chatted about:

  • The Photographer: A graphic novel that tells the story of photojournalist Didier Lefévre entering Afghanistan in 1986 and incorporating hundreds of his black-and-white photographs from the trip.
  • Closer: Elinor Carucci’s stunning book, which was recently re-released (and happens to be sitting in my cubicle.)
  • Thousand Journals: A project that sent 1,000 blank journals out into the world, asking people to add to them and then pass them along. They are tracked at this website.
  • Time Code: A 2000 film directed by Mike Figgis that consists of four simultaneous movies played in a grid.
  • Radio Lab – Moments: An attempt by WNYC’s brilliant science-based radio show to visually capture the idea of a “moment.

When I heard that editorial and commercial photographer Jeffrey Thayer was heading to New York City for his first round of face-to-face meetings with editors and art buyers, I was eager to have him share the experience with RESOLVE. The NYC pilgrimage is an important (often nerve-wracking) right of passage for many photographers. Through Jeff’s eyes — with posts on preparing for the trip, the meetings, and the follow-ups — photographers planning a similar trip can get a peak inside the process.
©Jeffrey Thayer

©Jeffrey Thayer

I arrived at JFK Sunday afternoon, got dropped off at my hotel, and went out to meet with some friends who were in charge of my nightlife while I was in the city. Six in the morning the next day my alarms went off and I looked over my list of things to do.

It wasn’t the best week to get meetings with everyone I wanted — blame it on Fashion Week — but I got some. I was familiar with the first two publications I was to meet with, so I hopped on the train and headed downtown with my portfolio and leave-behinds in hand.

The meetings were short and good. I was able to discuss the publications’ visions and to show where mine could complement it. They both enjoyed my work and, the greatest compliment, said that some of my images “are such (insert magazine title here) shots.”

I was close by some other people I wanted to meet with but could never get on the phone, so I called everyone in the photo department until I got a human voice. I explained what I was doing, “in the city to meet with some reps and other creatives,” and asked if they had time to meet. Most didn’t but wanted a copy of my mini-book. So I dropped them off at different offices this until my feet were angry with me.

5:30 headed back to my room to shower and get ready for a little party. 1 a.m. back at the hotel to review tomorrow’s to-do list and a little sleep. Tuesday got up bright and early again, re-reviewed my list, and hit the street.

Portfolios, mini-books, and camera can get pretty heavy, but luckily the city functions at the same fast pace as I do and it fueled me on. That day I had meetings with a couple reps to get some insight on what more I could do. They looked through my book, gave me some great ideas, and told me some things that are always hard for me to believe: “Your work is strong, you have a good eye,” things like that.  I get bored with my images and I’m always super critical of myself but I think that is what keeps you progressing and growing.

©Jeffrey Thayer

©Jeffrey Thayer

Next I got to spend some time with Gray Scott, a great fashion photographer who creates amazing fine-art and conceptual fashion stories. We talked about all sorts of things: photography, what inspires us as artists, the relationship between recent vampire mania and the economic climate. Even though our styles are very different, the driving force behind why we create is similar. It always makes me feel good to meet someone who I see as passionate and inspired, as I hope people see me.  Thank you again, Gray, it was truly a pleasure.

Then I wanted to take a little break so I left my book back at the hotel and went out to see what I could see, to shoot a little, and to drop off some minis for more people who simply couldn’t meet up. Life felt good sans the couple extra pounds.

Wednesday I met with another rep that pointed me in the direction of a freelance editor I should meet because she works with a lot of people. All the reps I met and spoke with were great and helped me immensely — one even said she would pick me up in a heartbeat if I was living in NYC.

Hit the phone a little more. Met with another editor and we chatted and had fun. The general consensus from everyone I got face time with was that I have the right attitude, some definite talent, and they could work with me.

More »

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