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Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I have moved Stellazine to my new website/blog at  Please go there to read my newest posts, and check out the new site.  I''m thrilled with it all.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Committing to a photography project takes passion, dedication, and it always takes money.  Self-funded projects are proof of a photographer's dedication to the story they want to tell the world.  I want to focus on two extraordinary projects that are pushing forward right now, projects you can help to see the light of day.

Marissa Roth has been photographing woman in war zones for 28 years.  She has brought her work together into "One Person Crying: Women and War," and a Kickstarter campaign to help with the expense of producing a traveling exhibition of the work. As Roth says,
"The consequences of war for women in countries, cultures and communities that are directly affected by it, have often been overlooked. My main hope for this project is to show that war doesn’t discriminate how it metes out pain or suffering, that women are basically the same everywhere in how they endure war and live with its aftermath into their post-war lives."
From Serbia to Vietnam to Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, Roth has photographed and interviewed women to hear their stories and record them for others to hear.  The project is now finishing, and The Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles will be debuting a major exhibition of this work on August 16th, with 88 black and white photographs.  But Roth is looking to take this project further, and bring it to audiences everywhere.  That's how important it is.

You can help make this happen here:

Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio are passionate explorers who have made The Gambia, Africa their particular focus.  In 2009 they walked the length of the country.  WALKED the length of the country, a total of 930km!  This time out they are going on a river journey, a 1000km journey through three countries: Guinea, Senegal and The Gambia, following the Gambia River.

The Florios want to create a modern-day account of the people, societies, and life along the length of one of Africa’s last, free-flowing, major rivers. There have been rumors that the river is to be dammed, and the Florios want to try and document the people and environment before it happens.

They plan on traveling by canoe and foot through the homelands of over seven different tribes.  The journey will,
"begin at the source of the river, where it trickles out of the Fouta Djallon highlands, of Guinea, on into hippo-abundant Niokolo Koba National Park, Senegal, and finally into The Republic of the Gambia - following the same course as the early gold and slave traders had done century’s ago – to the 10km wide mouth of the river, where it opens into the Atlantic Ocean." 

To fund their expedition the Florios are reaching out for sponsors and donations of money and equipment through their website, and where, for just $25 you have a chance to win a print from Jason Florio
"An Exchange – print draw: Just $25/£16 puts your name in the hat and you could pull out one of Jason Florio’s fine art photography prints – Deadline 31st August 2012"
You can read more from Jason here. And follow their journey here and on Facebook

And please consider donating  here

These photographers are working hard to tell stories not being told anywhere else.  And it's important to support these independent endeavors.  I have and I hope you will join me.  The returns are going to be fantastic!

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cute Kittens and Bunnies

Did I get your attention?  Good.

We all face the same problem: How can we get our work seen and acknowledged?  I’ve been thinking a lot about what we do to get attention; what we do to make people see us.  We’re told all the time that we “need to create buzz,” and there are examples of those successes all around us.

So what are you doing to create that buzz for your work?  Do you find it difficult to publicize yourself and your work, not wanting people to think you’re boasting?  After all, we’re told it’s not polite to stand up in the world and say, “Hey, look at this great thing I’m doing (I’ve done).”  Maybe you think you don’t deserve the special attention.  Well it’s time to silence those voices in your head.  You can be the most fantastic photographer in the universe, but if no one knows you’re there, what difference does it make?

What’s wrong with being proud of your work and wanting to share it, to let people know you feel strongly about it?

There are so many ways for you to get noticed, to stand out from the crowd these days.  It’s wrong to think that in this world with billions of people just being talented is enough.

But are you trying to be all things to all people--a jack-of-all-trades photographer? Do you think that if you can do many things it makes you more attractive to a potential client? Yes, some people are able to build a career doing just that and if that’s what you really want to do, great. But think for a moment: If a potential client has someone who shoots everything for them, why would they hire you?

It takes looking deep inside yourself to really get at what you are good at and more importantly, what you really want to do.  You have to be brutally honest with yourself to find out whether you have what it takes to be a successful photographer.

Once you’ve made the commitment to yourself, what’s next?  I’m going to cut to the chase here.  Getting noticed is not just about throwing your work online and then Tweeting or putting it on FB.  It’s about engaging others to take a look.  It’s about presenting your work without fear.  There are ways to put your work in front of people in the industry, whether it’s at a portfolio review or through establishing a relationship with someone you want to work for.  Even more, it’s about getting out of your shell, getting out of your own way, and making opportunities for yourself, instead of waiting to be found and brought out of the wilderness.

You cannot make everyone want to work with you no matter how good your work is.  But you don’t need that.  You are not competing with everyone who has a camera.  You are competing with yourself, and those people who really move themselves forward: the go-getters, the innovators, and the people who have the creative drive to be successful.  And that’s a much smaller group than you think.

So, do you have the courage to be unique?  Are you willing to be true to yourself, and willing to stand behind that decision?  Are you ready to take possession of who you are and what you do?  Or are you waiting for someone to take you by the hand and give you what you think you want?

Challenge yourself. Give yourself permission. Stand up and let the world know you’re here.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Come On Girls, Let's Take PIX!

She's young!  She's blonde!  She's cute!  She's the embodiment of women photographers!

There’s been blowback against Nielsen and PDN on FB and Twitter for their proposed new magazine, PIX, aimed at women photographers.  And more here and here .

With stories like:

"Smudge-proof makeup tips for long days behind the camera"

"Seasonal Flats: these flats will keep your feet covered, comfortable and cute while you're on photo shoots,"
and stories on wedding photography and photographing newborns, you might think you had traveled back in time.  It’s easy to think that, but what really gets my blood boiling, is that once again, women are being marginalized.

Yes, we may be half of the population (and yes, we hold up half the sky), but why do we need to be singled out?  And why, once again are we being told that shopping is an integral part of a profession?  We've been bombarded by TV shows about weddings, wedding dresses, wedding as competition, by “Bad Girls Clubs,” and fame through Internet sex tapes; by the recent rape “jokes” of a so-called comedian, and by major magazine stories like TIME’s “Are You Mom Enough?” (to single out just a few).  It's as if there never was a feminist movement.

And for every strong woman in the public eye there is a story commenting on her hair, her looks, why she’s a bitch, or how nice her clothes are.  All of MSM is responsible, but they are not alone.  The “girlization” (I didn’t make that up) of females in our society has been going on for a while now.  And as much as I love the craft world, and the attention to décor and design, they focus so much on “cuteness.”  Since their primary audience is women, they also take part in making all women seem only focused on shopping and the home.  They make women seem non-threatening and they put women in their place.

"If you love to snap photos, chances are you're pretty creative and artsy about the rest of your world too," writes Pix's Editor-in-Chief. "It's important to you that your business is modern and cool, you've always got an eye out for hip clothing and accessories, and looking professional and shooting well are top priorities." 

In the past year photographers have been kidnapped, assaulted, and killed.  Women photographers have had to defend themselves against claims that they shouldn't shoot what they do.  Will smudge-proof makeup” or “luminous lenses” help in Syria?  Ask Lynsey Addario, or Stephanie Sinclair, or Kate Brooks, or any number of women what they think. Do you think Margaret Bourke-White was worried about her mascara when she photographed Buchenwald? When did selling clothing and accessories become a cash cow for a photography-focused media company?

When we look around, all we see are efforts to defame and marginalize women.  It’s not just the Taliban who keep women down.  Republicans around the country are proposing and passing laws to keep women pregnant; to keep them without access to healthcare or child care or jobs training, or anything that might help propel them forward. Rape is still used as a tool of war.

This is such a blatant attempt to jump on the selling bandwagon, to appeal to young women who are obsessed with what they wear and with buying the perfect things they use, women who "take pictures" of pretty things.  Not woman who are professional photographers, or who aspire to be.

Is this the best Neilsen can come up with to make more money?  Have they run out of contest categories?  It makes photography seems like just a flirtation, and not a means of giving voice, and certainly not a real career. In this struggling economy, just making a living as a photographer is hard enough, now you have to worry that your makeup is right?

Surprised?  No.  Disgusted?  Yes.  Think this is going to stop anytime soon?

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

We Talk Money With Photoville

After posting my first review of Photoville, and questioning their successful Kickstarter project, I received an email from Laura Roumanos inviting me to meet and talk.  I took her up on the invitation and went to the United Photo Industries gallery to meet with Laura and Sam Barzilay.

According to them, the Kickstarter pitch came after some of the partners who had committed money backed off.  They were reluctant until convinced to “get the community involved.” 

When I asked what would have happened if the Kickstarter pitch wasn’t successful, Laura said,
 “We had some back-up plans, but we were very hopeful that the photo and Brooklyn community plus our friends would rally around the project, and we are so grateful and humbled they did.”
The money was for many things, including renting the park, the containers, power, marketing, manpower, tents, etc.  It has cost just shy of $250,000 to make Photoville a reality.

As far as the cost of the containers, Laura said: 
“We worked with all of our partners to tailor a deal that works for them and us.  Every situation was different and we value each and every contribution both financial and in kind. We would like to state that no exhibitor was turned away because they didn't have enough money. In fact we actually turned down a few shows that came with major financial contributions because we did not feel comfortable about the quality of the work and did not want to compromise what we were trying to achieve.”

The aim of Photoville was to make it “accessible, free and fun.”  As for next year, it’s hard to say whether the same space will be available.

So there you have it, some transparency so that you know what is the what.  See you at Photoville again this weekend.  They'll be more great panels and work worth seeing.

 And stay tune for more posts.
 All photographs courtesy of Grayson Dantzic

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Monday, June 25, 2012

All Roads lead to PHOTOVILLE

I spent a much too hot Saturday at Photoville with Julie Grahame, as curious as to what it would be as to seeing particular people and talks.  It was a very long walk from DUMBO to Pier 3, and that could have been explained more clearly on the website.  When we got closer, we got to see the photography on the fence, and I was pleased that the work was varied and looked as good as it did.  I would have liked to see the photos larger, but I always want that.

When we finally got to the site it was time for Jennifer Schwartz talk about her “Crusade for Collecting,” and find out more about her ideas about presenting photography.  I should say here that I supported her Kickstarter project to raise money, and I consider Jennifer a friend.

As a gallery owner in Atlanta who represents 16 photographers, Jennifer is full of exciting and clever ideas on how to expand not only the reach of the photographers, but how to expand the market for collecting photography.  To that end, her planned dinners with photographers and collectors, the ”Crusade" which will travel to 10 cities starting in March, and her partnerships with museums and schools shows Jennifer to be a passionate supporter of photography.  I love her ideas, her energy and her humor. 

Photoville is set up with large metal containers full of photography, some food trucks and a covered tent for the speakers.  On a day when the heat must have been in the 90’s, there was no respite.  But I did see some wonderful work, and the presentation of it was well done for the most part.

Since I plan on going back next weekend to hear more speakers, I didn’t want to look at everything.  But I did look at “Cruel & Unusual,” a fantastic exhibit of photography done in prisons curated by Hester Keijser and Pete Brook, and presented by Noorderlicht (which needs your support).  Not only was there incredible variety to the work, but also much of it was new to me.  The panel moderated by Pete Brook, and featuring Lori Waselchuk, Deborah Luster and Yana Payusova was enlightening.  That it was a panel of women photographers was even better.

Yana Payusova combined her portraits of young prisoners in Russia with the colors and iconography of Russian to bring the prison culture and religion closer to the predominant culture of the country.  As a painter first, Payusova felt her photos needed more context to speak.

Lori Waselchuk spoke of "Grace before Dying," her incredible project featuring the hospice program of Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana.  Begun in 2007, this award-winning project continues to travel the country starting conversations about our prison system.  By collaborating to make quilts with the men in the hospice program who make funeral shrouds for prisoners, Waselchuk has added an easily accessible and unexpected aspect to the project and the larger issue of who we imprison and how we feel about them.

Deborah Luster comes to this kind of photography from a very personal place—a contract killer murdered her mother when she was young.  Photography became a way for her to work through her feelings.  While hired to shoot a story about poverty in Louisiana she went up and knocked on the door of a prison and was allowed in to shoot the inmates.

Seeing that there were several dress-up holidays in the woman’s prison, Luster began shooting small photographs she gave away to her subjects.  Overall, Luster has given away about 25,000 images, taken in both men and women’s prisons. 

This made Luster realize, “the power of the personal photo in peoples’ lives.”  Some people had been in prison so long they had no idea what they looked like.  Others sent the photos to family members.  Luster told the story of one woman with 19 children who had been in prison for many years and had no contact with her family.  After sending the photos to them, three of the children came to visit.

I am looking forward to next weekend and the talks offered, and will look at the balance of the exhibits then.  I do have questions about Photoville, especially what was the money raised on Kickstarter going to be used for?  None of the speakers I asked were paid to come, none had their airfare paid, and many came from the west coast.  So what is the money for?  If Photoville was happening before the Kickstarter campaign began, I’d like some transparency to know where the more than $30,000 is to be used.

And really, if you plan on hosting this again next year, why not in April or May, when the weather won’t be so oppressive?

Fence photos courtesy of Sari Goodfriend.  Panel photo courtesy of Julie Grahame. 

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

FlashForward Festival in Boston

I’ve been to photo festivals all over the place in the past few years, and they all have different value.  Some are mostly portfolio reviews, some add exhibits and talks to their roster, and some, like the one in New York seem to have no value at all.   So what makes a successful festival, and more importantly, should you go?

Having just returned from Boston and the FlashForward festival, I think I can answer that.  Just four hours away by train, the FlashForward festival offers great value to photographers.  Not only is there interesting work exhibited (juried selections geared towards emerging photographers in the US, Canada and the UK), but a fantastic line-up of speakers and panels.

I should say here that I was invited to be an emcee for the festival, and was taken wonderful care of by both the Magenta Foundation who produces the festival, and the fantastic hotel that hosts the festival (the Fairmont Battery Wharf).

I may have been the emcee for various speakers, but I was also excited to hear from John Knight of the iPad photojournalism magazine, ONCE, Tina Ahrens, the founder of crowdfunding site, Alan Taylor who produces The Atlantic photography blog, In Focus, Alan Murabayashi of PhotoShelter, and Maurus Fraser of Winkreative, just to name a few. 

These festivals are a chance to see and be seen.  FlashForward offers a stunning line-up where you not only learn about possible venues for your work, but you get to ask questions, meet and begin relationships with important photo world people. And that’s what it’s about—cultivating relationships to get information and a chance to make a personal connection with someone who might further your career.

So the question remains: Why weren’t there more photographers from New York at this festival?  If you weren’t going to LOOK3, why didn’t you go to Boston?  If your own city doesn’t have anything worthwhile to attend, why not hop the train and hear some fantastic speakers, see interesting work, and hang out with other photographers?

It’s important to put a lot of effort into growing and sustaining a career, and smart photographers will take any opportunity they can to learn, to pick up tips, to meet others and to ask questions of those in the know.  FlashForward was a great opportunity to do all those things.  For those of us who love photography it was a wonderful four days.

I will be blogging more about the talks and panels I attended at FlashForward, and since they were streamed, as soon as I know they’ve been archived on the Magenta Foundation site, I’ll post about that.

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