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Friday, June 26, 2009

Taming the Editing Beast

Every photographer comes to that scary moment when they have to edit their work. How do you handle it? Do you freak out and put everything in or do you spend days and days playing with images until you can’t see the forest for the trees?

Very few photographers are able to edit their own work. Some think the more they include, the better people will like their work. They are unwilling to let anything go; yet they often reject their own work often as being “old.” Others don’t know where to begin, so they delay updating their websites and portfolios. I find what photographers like about their own work often has very little to do with the work itself. Maybe it was the person you worked with that made the experience great, or it was a wonderful day when everything went well.

So where do you begin? Try asking yourself these questions:
• When you’re sitting on your coach with the remote, how long before you click to the next channel?
• How long does it take for you to figure out what’s on that channel?
• How long does it take to decide to stay or move on?

That is exactly how your audience looks at your work. You cannot expect them to spend a lot of time on each image. You need to think about how people look at things these days, and these days we make strong decisions in very little time.

You have to think like your audience. Looking at a portfolio is like a little vacation for a photo editor or art buyer. Are you giving them an experience they will enjoy? Does the work flow from one photograph to the next in a way that not only makes sense, but also makes the viewer want to keep turning the pages? When there is too much work a busy person won’t even start looking, because they feel they won’t have the time to finish.

It’s too bad there aren’t any hard and fast rules everyone can follow to make their work sing. Editing is an art, and it’s a different experience for each photographer. It’s the number one problem photographers have (or maybe number two after finding paying work), and it’s the thing many photographers don’t invest in. If you want to show your work with confidence, you need to face the demon that is EDITING, and tame it. You can ask your friends and family to look and offer their opinions, you can turn to other photographers, or you can seek out a professional who can offer a fresh outsiders view. It’s your decision, and it’s going to be one of the most important decisions you make.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

15-year-old Photographer Isadora Kosofsky

I first saw Isadora Kosofsky’s work when I judged a portfolio contest for the Center for Fine Art Photography. When I found out she was 15 years old I was blown away. The sophistication of her eye, and her ability to visually communicate a situation marks her as a truly up and coming star photographer. I asked her about her photography and what she wants for her future.

How did you get interested in photography?
I spent every summer of my childhood with my grandmother in Paris. She often took me to the Louvre, where she encouraged me to not only observe the paintings but to watch the visitors. After unsuccessful attempts to sketch or paint similar scenes, I knew I needed another medium to record my observations. When I was 12, I received a Leica CM camera and have been joyfully enthralled with photography ever since.

Who are your influences? Whose work do you follow?
I have been influenced by my parents to pursue my passion for photography. I admire the photographs of Diane Arbus, Jane Evelyn Atwood, Caroline Cole and Gerd Ludwig because they delve deeply into their subjects and leave the viewer with poignant images. I follow the work of Ed Kashi, Anthony Suau, Douglas McCullough, and Lauren Greenfield.

What are your goals?
I would like my photographs to inspire awareness and subsequent change in the inequalities in our society. I hope that when people see my images of individuals in need or forgotten communities, they will take responsibility to rectify problems. I also hope to eventually publish a book of my images.

Where do you see images? Websites? Newspapers? Magazines?
I subscribe to the New York Times, LA Times, TIME, National Geographic, and Newsweek Magazine. When I visit bookstores or specialty stores, I peruse both American and foreign independent magazines. Because I am fluent in French, my favorite foreign magazine is Paris MATCH. I enjoy comparing European style and taste in photography to American.

What are your short-term goals?
My immediate goal is to use my grant from the Music Center Spotlight Award in Photography to travel domestically and internationally to continue my current project of photographing teens, adults and the elderly in mental health facilities.

Tell me about the Music Center Spotlight Award
The Music Center Spotlight Awards program is a nationally acclaimed recognition and scholarship program for high school performing and visual artists. Each year the Los Angeles Music Center gives an award to an outstanding artist in the categories of music, vocal, dance, 2D art and photography. The interview and selection process takes one year and includes workshops and commitments in your medium. The competition attracts about 900 entrants for photography. After the two finalists are selected, the Grand Prize is awarded to one finalist on stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I was the recipient of the 2008 Music Center Spotlight Award in Photography.

Tell me about shooting in the convalescent home
I contacted a local convalescent home because I am interested in photographing people in all areas of our society. I was particularly interested in documenting something with which I am not familiar. I initially visited the convalescent home in December 2008 and have visited several times since because the project is still ongoing. I am friendly and outgoing and have experience in volunteering at shelters and hospitals. The residents and staff were more than accommodating and readily gave me permission.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I envision myself on the staff of a publication. I hope to photograph world-wide and document interesting people and unique stories internationally.

Have you thought about how you will become a staff photographer in this day and age?
Since I am young, I am leaving all options open for career choices in photojournalism. Technology is changing so rapidly that two years from now there may be different means of publishing. I do not see myself as a newspaper photographer but more of a contributor to news and specialized magazines. I like to delve into socioeconomic concerns, and magazines would be more likely than newspapers to publish photo essays. Currently, I am a student and we will see what the future will bring.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Did Digital Railroad Screw You? Part 2

Once again I find myself asking where’s the outrage? Where’s the call for accountability? Is everyone so set financially that it doesn’t matter that you lost $500 or $600 or $1000 or more? If it was my money gone I would be like a pitbull to get to the bottom of what happened. Someone please explain this silence to me.

Nothing will change unless people demand that change. Just moving on to another online venture isn’t the answer. There are people who took your money and as of right now, have gotten away with it. Doesn’t that make your blood boil? Well it should!

One photographer, David Robin, is trying to get legal help behind a call for accountability. But like every other situation, the more people calling for something to happen, the more chance it will. Maybe no one gets their money back. Maybe only some people do. But don’t you want to know how you were ripped off?

Has anyone asked Evan Nisselson or Charles Mauzy to account for the money? I will guarantee anonymity to anyone who wants to tell their story or share insider information. I am asking everyone who has a story to tell, or knows someone who does, to write to me. It’s about time that people stopped taking this shit lying down. Otherwise it will happen again and again.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Did Digital Railroad screw you? What are you doing about it?

I was talking to photographer David Robin at PDN’s Photo Annual party last month and the talk turned to Digital Railroad. We both wondered exactly what had happened to bring it down, and why it shut down so quickly, instead of filing for bankruptcy. David lost a nominal amount of money, but we both wondered about the thousands of photographers and thousands upon thousands of dollars lost.

Where did the money go? Does anyone know? Does anyone want to find out? If a company that was basically operating with a fiduciary responsibility to photographers can disappear without official accountability, what’s to say Getty can’t do the same? I know several photographers who lost money and images back when Corbis bought Sygma, so this isn’t the first time photographers have been taken. But why do these things get swept under the rug, with the principals walking away with everything?

I’d be very interested in hearing stories, comments, opinions, inside information (your anonymity will be strictly guaranteed), or any other comments about the Digital Railroad situation.

Right now there are many more questions than answers. I will be trying to do some reporting on this in a future blog posting, but I’d like to hear from the photo community.

Photographers, the ball is in your court.

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