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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jim Nachtwey at PhotoPlus Expo

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the talk Jim Nachtwey gave at PhotoPlus Expo, and the photographs he showed. Pretty much everyone acknowledges him as a singular figure in the world of photography (although I would argue the same for Sebastiao Salgado, and the breadth of his work is truly extraordinary. From Northern Ireland to the tuberculosis wards of Northern Thailand, Nachtwey has borne witness to the worst of the world’s conflicts and social issues.

As Nachtwey himself said, he “gives a voice to people who have endured immense suffering, who have no voice.” His classic composition recalls the paintings of such masters as Caravaggio and Goya, and in his photographs I have seen an incredible palette of black and grey, with more variations on those colors than I thought possible. Rather than making suffering beautiful, Nachtwey shows the incredible, inherent beauty of people, even at the worst moments of their lives.

It would be impossible to witness what Nachtwey has witnessed and remain uninvolved, so he took advantage of winning the T.E.D.. award and started a campaign against Extremely Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (XDRTB). He turns his anger into “something that can clarify my vision, not cloud it.”

To simply see Nachtwey’s work as depressing would be missing so much. “My mission as a photographer has always been to have the pictures published in the mass media while the situation is unfolding.” It is because he knows the power of images to move people to action. That was the case with the famine he photographed in Somalia in 1992. After the photographs ran as a cover story in The New York Times Magazine the outcry made it possible for the ICRC to mobilize the largest aid effort it had undertaken since WW II and saved 1.5 million lives. Can there be any greater achievement than that?

I think everyone left Nachtwey’s presentation wondering what they had done and what they are doing with their lives. I know I did. And it’s going to take me a lot more time to sort that out. I am inspired by his example, and glad that he is working so hard to bring light to darkness.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Sari Talks Nachtwey

There are two ways to react to a lecture and slide show by James Nachtwey. One is to feel like you’re accomplishing nothing in this world, even if you ARE trying to add something good through your work or personal interests. Another is to accept your limitations, recognize that Mr. Nachtwey is some sort of a God, and simply try to emulate him in whatever humble ways you can. I’m choosing the latter.

It’s hard to retain faith in this day and age that photos really can and do make a difference to better our world and affect legislation like they did during the Vietnam war or for that matter the turn of the century when Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis’ photos were instrumental in helping to bring about child labor laws. But when you’re operating at the level of Nachtwey and his “comrades at VII” as he calls them, you really can and do have an impact on issues because there are editors who will believe in your images enough to take a risk and put them in print. Nachtwey mentioned three in particular who had been crucial to helping get the word out originally about the atrocities in Rwanda, Somalia and his current work on Extreme Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (XDRTB) – they are Kathy Ryan (NYTimes), Michele Stephenson and MaryAnne Golon (both were at TIME until recently).

In case you didn’t know (as I didn’t), the man won the TED prize in 2007 ( This is huge. Check out the video ( to see what he was able to accomplish with the $100K and mobilized resources to help him carry out his wish to bring awareness to XDRTB or Extreme Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis.

I’ve been very curious about this issue since reading Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracey Kidder, about Dr. Paul Farmer and the work he has done, now worldwide, to stop the spread of TB, a disease that is completely preventable, but incurable if people develop the most dangerous strain.

Other things Mr. Nachtwey mentioned that are worth repeating:

"Photojournalism is a service industry and awareness is the service".

"What we call daily life has an imperative to go on." -This said to the backdrop of his photo of a couple in the warzone of Northern Ireland walking their baby in a stroller, glimmers of a burning car just behind them.

In tackling the difficult theory of religion being a cause of so much suffering he suggested that God is the justification for war, everyone thinking THEIR God is the only right one. No argument there as far as I'm concerned.

He enlightened the audience to the fact that famine is often not a natural occurence, as I had naiively thought. Rather it's a deliberate genocidal weapon.

To rejeuvenate our faith in the power of images he explained that relief organizations can seriously mobilize their donors in a time of crisis based on photographs. As an example, after his story about the famine in Somalia ran on the cover of the NY Times Magazine, phone calls and letters poured in to such an extreme and coverage of he story was increased around the world to such an extent that the Red Cross told him 1.5 million lives were ultimately saved in that country. Because of HIS images. He said he was not telling us this story from an egotistical perspective but rather an inspirational one because he'd like everyone with a story to know they can have an impact. "I'm a witness," he said. " [my anger must] clarify, not cloud my vision."

He ended by showing his most recent work about the TB crisis in Cambodia and said that in the caretaking he saw by families and volunteers, he witnessed "love on an epic scale."

Thank God there's goodness out there somewhere.

Over'n out...


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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sari Goodfriend Part2 of PhotoPlus Expo

OK, so back to Tyler Stableford lecture: Other tips I learned in no particular order (and forgive me if this is all old news to those of you reading this)

*There’s a preset in Catalog Settings that allows you to set a time to discard your 1:1 previews if you don’t need them anymore after editing the job, thus allowing you to save a little space in your Lightroom catalog, not to mention your hard drive. Julianne Kost today said, however, she doesn’t bother having her computer discard the large size previews because she likes to have them available to go back to and she’s got something like 4.5 terabytes of HD space. Lots ‘o space there…

*Reducing contrast reduced clipped exposures

*For outdoor shots, you don’t need to be as concerned with white balance, just make it look good on your calibrated monitor – outdoor shots these days for all media are showcasing such a variety of color and different saturation levels that it’s completely subjective for this genre anyway.

*Check in the Histogram chart by mousing over the spots on the photo you are concerned about to see if you are losing blacks. It’ll show percentages.

*Only go within +/- 15 on the TINT slider.

*Fill light is the most pixel damaging tool so use it sparingly.

*A good way to work an image with two widely varying exposure levels like a landscape where you want the deep blue sky in the background and the shadowed foreground with flowers is to process the image two ways, export it into photoshop and then merge the two layers by using a layer mask and the brush tool and brushing in the layer underneath which has the exposure you want. If this is unclear, email me! (

*”tone curve” is similar to Brightness and contrast but it’s better. Brightness basically lightens the middle tones of an image.

*Clarity affects the midtown contrast and creates texture. For example in the clouds of a sky shot. Just be careful of extra haloing in clouds

*Vibrance boosts the saturation in the least saturated regions and mostly affects blues and greens.

*Saturation hits the oranges, yellows and reds. It’s a heavier tool than vibrance so keep it under 20 on the slider. It’s also not so great for skin tones.
*To eliminate haze in a sky, crank the vibrance up and then bring the color temperature down to make it more blue and work in the HSL (Hue, Saturation, Luminance) dialogue.

*Speaking of HSL module (I don’t know if that’s the official term, but that’s what I’m calling it), if you’re not using the little target button to adjust the density of color on your images, start doing it. You just click it (it’s under HUE) in Lightroom 2, then put your cursor somewhere on the photo that you want to darken or lighten and move the mouse literally up and down on the image and the color will be affected. You’ll see the sliders on the right moving in accordance with these shifts. You can also of course, move the sliders manually, but this might be “smarter” since the computer knows exactly which colors it’s reading.

*If you’re going to need to make black and whites or sepia versions for a client (or your own artistic fulfillment), do all the corrections and adjustments to the image, then make a “virtual copy” (CTRL click) and make THAT copy the B+W or sepia or whatever.

*There are several different ways to make a B+W image, the easiest of course is just by clicking the “Grayscale” button in “Treatment” under BASIC in LR2, but Tyler prefers to make them by going into the Saturation slider and taking it down almost, but not quite all the way. He likes to leave a little hint of color and sometimes to make sepias, you’ll need that color. His recipe for Sepias was to adjust the sliders in SPLIT TONING to the following: under highlights, set the Hue at +40, Sat 0 (I think), then shadows: Hue +240 and Sat +22 (I’m sure).
Basically, just keep your highlights warm and your shadows cool. I had never realized that was so effective before, but it really looked good, even on the huge projected screen. Kind of blueish shadows but with a warm glow overall.

*The last thing he showed us was how to sew images together. I know this is pretty basic, but I’ve still never done it. Apparently if you have three images to stitch into a panorama (and this can be horizontal or vertical, by the way), you just select all three at the same time, then CTRL click on one image and when the list comes up, choose EDIT IN and then MERGE to PANORAMA in Photoshop. It’s best to have bracketed the image so you have exposure options and also overlap your compositions by about a third.

OK folks, I think that’s it on this one…

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day 3 and PhotoPlus Expo Is Over

This last day began with a panel on White House photographers, moderated by Debra Weiss. It was a fascinating and historicdal look at the position which was originally done my military photographers who kept their distance and pretty much concentrated on official events. JFK was the first president to bring in outside photographers--Jacques Lowe, Stanley Tretick, George Thames (of The New York TImes) and we began to see the first glimpses of the work of the president as well as the president as a person in such photographs as John F. Kennedy Jr. peeking out from the door under his fathers' desk in the Oval Office.

Lyndon Johnson brought the first official White House photographer in--Yoichi Okamoto.

David Hume Kennerly, who photographed Richard Nixon, and especially Gerald Ford (who he became very close to) showed his work, saying he had an "upstairs, downstairs" relationship with them. Like other photographers he had top secret clearance, and showed photographs of President Ford at a planning session for the military response to the Mayaguez incident in 1975 that hasn't been seen before.

His favorite photograph was taken on the final day of Ford's administration when he was with Betty Ford and she got on top of the table in the Cabinet Room and started dancing. She was his favorite.

Robert McNeely worked for presidents Carter and Clinton, and said Carter was uncooperative and as a result there is little historical documentation of his administration. "Carter was just impossible", he said.

As for Clinton, McNeely photographed him during the campaign and went to the White House with him. Wanted full access and to shoot in B&W. Only twice in six years did Clinton ask him to stop taking pictures.

Pete Souza was working for the Chicago Tribune when he met Barack Obama on his first day as a Senator, and took a photograph of him with daughter, Malia. Obama was so impressed he asked for prints, which began their relationship. Souza says he had it in the back of his mind that maybe this guy is worth watching, and he was shooting for history.

Having photographed Ronald Reagan, he was familiar with the job, and says he spends a lot of looking for interesting photographs. Where Reagan was formal (always wore a jacket in the Oval office), Obama is more relaxed. Even with top secret clearance, when he shoots in meetings he has to be careful not to show the writing on the paperwork, and everyone has to look good. This White House puts out lots of photos, from the White House website to their Flickr stream.

Souza told of how they cover a wall in the West Wing with "jumbos", 20 x 30 prints (about 80 of them) that they change out all week for Obama and staff to look at. That's sort of like how a magazine puts an issue up on their walls while they are working on it so they can see it as a whole, make changes, substitute photos, etc.

All of the photographers touched on the propaganda aspect of their work. For McNeely, "What you do is see as propaganda, it’s just a fact of life. What you try to shoot for is history. You have to live with the factor of how those photograph are seen. You’re going to reflect who the man is. You’re not going to change him.”

Pete Souza said this: “It’s a lot closer to photojournalism than what the wire services photographers do—they’re shooting photo ops.”

When asked about wether it is the pinnacle of photojournalism, McNeely said, "It’s an amazing thing while it exists. It’s hard to do anything else in Washington. That access is intoxicating.”

For David Hume Kennerly (a Pulitzer Prize winner for his Vietnam War photographs), “I know what I’m missing when someone else is there.”

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Sari Goodfriend Part 2

Didn’t finish writing about Friday’s workshop with Tyler Stableford last night so working on it now on the crosstown bus over to Javits. The guy has some amazing images and is a Canon Explorer of Light. He showed us a bunch of images he shot with the Canon 5dMark II (a fab camera, I can attest), and then he walked us through his processing workflow in Lightroom, explaining most of the tools in the advanced section.

He didn’t get into the whole how to import and organize your images discussion because that’s really another topic altogether. We mostly just stayed in the Develop module, which was fine with me, because that’s where I seem to spend the majority of my days anyway. Learned some cool tips like how to use the gradient tool, something I remembered seeing in a workshop that APA|NY organized last year with Julianne Kost and have been trying to figure out ever since. That was incredibly helpful since I often shoot natural light portraits in lighting which differs from the background and then I lose the background because I’ve metered for the face. This tool can help you bring back in the sky, for one thing. It can also help you create a really nice effect across someone’s face if taken in from the side. You could actually make it appear as if you had a whole strobe off to one side of your model. In case you’re wondering how to use it, it actually couldn’t be simpler. You click on the little square box that says “Graduated Filter” when you mouse over it then put your mouse just outside the frame of the image and drag it either up, down or across. Watch the effect on your image and adjust it with the Exposure and Density sliders on the right.

Another interesting tidbit I didn’t know is how common it is to use vignetting to focus the lighting on your subject and bring the viewers’ eye where you want it in a subtle way. I’m gonna try that more from now on! Apparently, it’s one of the major changes that’s coming up in Lightroom 3, which, btw, is available as a BETA for download, according to Tyler.

There were a bunch more of these sorts of tips, but I’ll detail them later…off to another Lighroom Seminar with Julianne Kost herself. And yes, her name is on the credits of Lightroom – she’s an Adobe Queen!

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More From Sari Day 2 PhotoPlus Expo

Juliette Wolf-Robin which I’ll try to summarize. Then, although I couldn’t be there in the morning due to a last minute photo shoot, I went to an afternoon workshop, "Real World Lighting, Real Results: Using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 & Photoshop CS4 for Exceptional Travel and Outdoor Photography" from this cool outdoor and adventure photographer named Tyler Stableford. Very chill and knowledgeable guy. And it turns out he knows a friend of mine, Jim Thornburg, who is a famous climber and climbing photographer.

So first yesterday’s panel... Juliette had panelists Brian Clamp, from CLAMPArt here in Chelsea, Michael Mazzeo of Michael Mazzeo Gallery, Stephen Wilkes and Elinor Carucci, both photographers, as you probably know.
Juliette was awesome about peppering the panelists with tons of questions while also allowing the audience to throw out questions whenever we felt the urge. She started out, however, by running through a list and slide show of photogs who manage to do a bit of both commercial and fine art. Some on her list: Doug Menuez, Sandro, Emily Shur, David Robin, Michael Crouser, Michael Prince, and David Maisel.

She then posed numerous questions throughout the presentations by each panelist, which led to the following nuggets of info, some of which definitely comes across as a bit contradictory. For example the following:
*You must edition your work, but don’t edition it until you are actually seriously selling it with a gallery or widely on your own. [Huh?]

Well, seems that if you’re on your own and selling to private individuals or even randoms who buy off your website, just keep really good records so you know how many of each images you’ve sold and to whom for how much. That way, if and when you DO get a gallery, you’ll know that you might want to start the edition of one of your images at 5, for example, if you’ve sold 5 of that image at that size already.

Speaking of sizes….

*…don’t have too many different sizes. For example, if you are editioning your work, don’t have three different sizes with an edition of 25 each because you will make yourself look cheap. Granted, this might seem like funny logic to those who are new to the art world, but galleries try to create a scarcity of an artists work so that the price point can be higher, thus those small editions of 3 or 5. If you are selling your work on your own off your website or some other commercial website, that’s fine to have a larger edition, but keep in mind that should your work be there, a gallery may ultimately not be interested in you because there’s this sense that you’ve cheapened yourself by selling on a website that also “sells posters and tchochkes” as Michael Mazzeo so New York-ly put it.

*If you are showing your work to a gallery that has an open portfolio review policy (rarer and rarer these days) or at one of those organized portfolio reviews like Photo Lucida, Santa Fe, or Atlanta Celebrates Photography, it’s generally better to “show one solid body of work instead of 20 prints from a variety of different series.”

*Get as much serious criticism as you can from people outside your immediate peer group, whether you like what they have to say or not.

*Mailers to galleries are fine, but know that there is a glut of them, so they may never even get seen.

*If you happen to be selling your work off your website, don’t post your prices on your website.

*Brian Clamp said that rather than receiving a mailing from you, he’s much more likely to be interested in your work if someone like Amy Stein writes about your work on her website or blog, or Joerg Colberg writes about your work on his blog. [Uh yeah, good luck with that….]

*If you are editioning (and a gallery will usually help you figure this out once they’ve signed you), the whole Artist Proof thing becomes important at keeping the edition limited. So, if you’ve got an edition of 5, only 1 AP is customary. If the edition is up to 20, then maybe 3 or 4 APs are ok.

*In terms of printing a whole edition at once, no worries….all the panelists agreed that it would be illogical to do so, given today’s lack of storage space and cost of ink and paper, not to mention the fragility of inket prints, even if they are archival pigment ink. IF, however, you’re still in the darkroom then that’s a whole different scenario and you might want to get all those prints done while you’re still able to buy the chemicals! WORD.

Over’n out.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Night 1 Day 2 of PhotoPlus Expo

After our first day at the Expo we went to Aperture for the Sony World Photography Awards/Artisans of Imagery exhibit, and I've never seen a gallery so full of people and so hot and sweaty. It was hard to see the actual photography, but I saw many friends (some long lost ones), and the catering was fabulous.
I got a chance to say hello to Brian Smith who's photographs of Vegas burlesque dancers lined one wall, and asked him about the project he's been doing with Sony, photographing celebrities in support of the arts.

He talked about how enjoyable it has been for him to get to know more about the stars he's been shooting, and has learned some fascinating things, including that actress Taraji P. Henson is the great grandcousin of Matthew Henson, one of the explorers who discovered the Geographic North Pole.

Next we walked over to the PDN bash and entered a strange, noisy, disorienting ballroom, complete with "get your photo taken with a drag queen." I thought maybe I was lost in a tourist spot on TImes Square. The band was so loud you could barely hear anything, but I saw friends, had some great (if loud) conversations, and for the hour or so I was there, had a good time. The guys of Dripbook were particularly proud of adding their logo to the balcony so everyone could see it, and I have to say it definitely stood out.

As I was leaving, I looked up and Monte Isom was projecting images on a building across the way. Instead of meeting him at a downtown bar I elected to go home and sleep.

Having to wake up way too early to get back to the Expo, I worried I'd be late for the first panel: "VII Presents The New Deal: How to Fund & Produce Reportage in the New Economic Environment." But no worries, and except for the fact that the room couldn't have been colder (we were all freezing!), it was the best, most positive words I've heard in a long time. Moderator Stephen Mayes of VII presented his photographers Ron Haviv and John Stanmeyer, and Doctors Without Borders NY director of communications, Jason Cone. All the participants talked with enthusiasm and optimism about the multiple new ways of getting work out there, and the exciting challenges of coming up with new ways to sustain photojournalism (or advocacy journalism).

Stephen spoke of partnerships with NGO's like Doctors Without Borders, about working with corporations (like Canon) and even some governments (the French) to send photographers to cover stories of importance around the world. Ron showed some of his multimedia work on the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Darfur, and told of how those projects had added new avenues of exposure to the work through traveling exhibits, projection of images on walls around the world, books, and the like.

John showed his work and spoke about photographing the devastation of the 2004 tsunami, and how it was almost, "beyond my ability to visually understand it." And in talking about projecting images on buildings and walls he said, "Everywhere can be a canvas to project upon. Everything doesn't have to be a dead tree."

Jason Cone spoke about how this also brings images back to the places where they were taken, as we saw slides of images projected on homes in Brazil, or pasted at the bottom of an empty swimming pool in Liberia. He sees this as a way to have a greater engagement with the populations being covered.

They all spoke about how they could now create content and not rely solely on mainstream media to disseminate it. And yet they acknowledged the fact that we are in a transition society right now and no one is sure how to make a steady living from this work. Yet the fact that things are falling apart and changing is also an opportunity to rewrite the rules as you see fit. It takes passion, drive, courage and the need to tell stories whether or not someone hires you to do it . The old ways will not return. But new ways are being forged through crowd-sourcing, partnerships, NGO's, grants, foundations--really, the sky's the limit. It puts more power into the hands of the photographer and makes the photographer a creator, not a supplier.

This leads me into the issue of branding, as in the seminar: "Starting Today: You're a Brand. Building Your Brand & Image.". What is the first phrase or word that comes to mind when people hear your name? Can you answer that? What does someone get from working with you? What makes you different?

These are the questions you need to answer to begin to create (or re-create) your brand. I mean your brand as in "the CEO of Me, Inc. " Your brand is your reputation, so you have to strive for authenticity so that what you see is what you get. You need to be a storyteller online. You need passion and be someone people can trust. You need to offer valuable content that distinguishes you from all the other photographers out there. And you must figure out how to do this in many different ways. Panelist Ken Carbone said it best: Be you, Be heard."

How many ways can you spin one thing into ten?

Today was all about how you have to take control of your own destiny with a clear idea of who you are and a distinct vision. While this is a time of extreme confusion and the dismantling of the models we've come to rely on, it is also a time of exciting possibilities. When you have more control over your own life and career you have to do more to sustain and grow it.

Unify, simplify, amplify. Are you up for the challenge?

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blogging PhotoPlus Expo with Stella and Sari

I've been here all day and have a bunch of things to tell you about--just hope someone is listening. Sari Goodfriend and I have gone to 4 seminars, heard the amazing Harry Benson speak about his photographs, and talked to bunches of people. As per usual it seems that everything is going on at the same time and the seminar rooms are freezing, but I did hear some very interesting things.

The first panel I went to was moderated by Debra Weiss and was about working in advertising. As Debra said, "I don't believe the economy is the problem, it's technology and how everything is changing." Andrea Kaye, manager of art production at McCann Erickson, JoAnn Tansman creative director of BBDO NY and Matt Seminara a rep from Friend & Johnson based in NY all made basically the 3 same points:

*Get a point of view and stick to it. That is the single most important thing for a photographer, and I couldn't agree more. You need to be unique to distinguish yourself from the rest of the world.

*Professionals can do it on demand, which bodes well against the competition posed by the millions of amateurs with cameras.

*It's a business first and foremost. If it's what you HAVE to do instead of what you WANT to do, and you have the drive and determination, you'll be making the right choices. Remember, clients aren't your friends. They work in their best interest, not yours. But that doesn't mean you can't have friendly, professional relationships--they are the cornerstones to success.

If you're an established photographer and want to work in advertising you have to have a rep, that was pretty much agreed on by all. If you're just starting out, however, you need to have some work to show before you should consider a rep. Here in New York (as with most other places) there are small businesses and small agencies and small companies you can work for in order to get your book and portfolio together. But like anything else, you have to expend the energy to get what you want. It doesn't fall into your lap. The reason agencies rely on reps to find photographers is that the rep takes all the guesswork out of it for the art buyer/producer and saves them time. But if you're a beginner, how do you deal with that?

I think the lessons are the same no matter what kind of work you want to do. Do your homework, find out the right person to contact. Get your work together on your website and in your portfolio and plan a direct mail campaign that makes sense--that shows your work to it's best advantage.

If you want more about this, let me know.

Now I want to switch gears and talk a little about the amazing Harry Benson.

If any of you are wondering who he is, let's just say this: He came over to America with The Beatles, was standing next to Robert F. Kennedy when he was assassinated, photographed Richard Nixon as he resigned the presidency, photographed Dr. Martin Luther King's funeral, and took photos of a bald Liz Taylor after she underwent brain surgery. And that's just a short overview of his work. Think about the amazing breadth of his work..... He's a great, sly storyteller, with understated wit and a gift for getting the unexpected from people. And all he does is ask.

When asked how he seemed to become friends with the famous people he photographed he said that was only incidental. "My feelings and my energy are more important to me than Jack Nicholsons'."

Now that's a man who is in charge of his life.

Is everyone on Twitter these days? Does everyone understand what to do with it or is it just another aggravation in your life? Well I want to understand why I should be tweeting, so I went to this seminar and it opened my eyes.
Jack Hollingsworth, Rosh Sillars, Seshu Badrinath, Taylor Davidson and Jim Goldstein gave an easy to understand, answer all your questions pep talk about pioneering on Twitter and about the value of creating your identity and gathering like minded people to you. I'm excited and will try Twitter updates tomorrow as well as blogging.

Here's Sari's take on the seminars she went to...

Moderator: Holly Hughes
Panelists: Michael Foley, Debra Klomp Ching, Hanna Frieser, John A. Bennette

Took lots of notes here, but looking through them a lot of it seems to be common sense.
Just makes me wonder: exactly how many photographers are there out there with no common sense? Seems that every year these panels are presented to educate us on the most basic things like “don’t be a haughty jerk when you’re getting your work looked at by a big time gallerist or consultant at a portfolio review”. Duh!

But mostly, this was a really good panel, each one really well prepared to discuss their business and how they acquire their roster of photographers. It was actually an incredibly pleasant way to start the day. I frankly couldn’t believe everyone was so chipper and alert. Holly Hughes, Editor in Chief of PDN, was the moderator and she did a fabulous job. A-plus, Holly!

Michael Foley started it off with a nice humble tone by stating that he, too, had been an artist and knew what it was like. His background working at Frankel Gallery in SF and here in NYC (I believe he worked at Yancey Richardson), gave him the business education he needed though to run what is recognized as a very cool gallery here in Chelsea. As each panelist did, he listed his preferred ways to be contacted (email for him with a direct link to a website, please) and offered some basic, yet sage advice about approaching galleries, such as:

*Know who you are, what your work is about and be able to talk about articulately.
*Don’t be pushy – be informed about their gallery
*Be humble and hold a conversation
*Ask what the gallery owner does and why they do it. (not 100% sure what that means, but basically seems to be like “keep up your end of the conversation – don’t be totally self absorbed).
*Send ONE jpeg – NOT a whole PDF.
*Be ubiquitous –you’ll have more chances if your work is out there.
*Go to openings and make contact with the gallerist.
[personally, I’d say, GO BACK after the opening because at the opening it’ll be too crowded]
*It’s a social industry – get out there and socialize. [I’d add that even if you’re not in NYC – there are plenty of opportunities to shine in your own art community]

Michael ended with a slide of a postcard that he had received from Joel Peter Witkin in response to a letter he had written to this artist he so admired when he was young and “naive” [his word].
It said “If I were to encapsulate what anyone must do, it would be to have a vision of life and depict that vision .“ How true.

Each of the panelists likened the gallery-artist relationship to a marriage, however not all of them agree on the need for pre-nups. (i.e. contracts). Debra Klomp Ching of KlompChing Gallery ( said she and her partner Darren Ching, have “agreements” with their artists but she resoundingly stated that they will only work with artists they like. Meaning, beyond just the work, but personally.

She also gave a little hint of what to expect if you actually DO get some face time with her or Darren and I quote: “When people say they want a solo show, gallery representation and a book deal, I say, so what have you done so far and why don’t I know your name?” Ouch. So, people you gotta be more than prepared, you gotta be sharp!
Debra also said she does not appreciate looking at work prints or a Blurb-type book [although Blurb has unarguably enabled a huge population of photographers to publish their own work in a great affordable way). However, because Debra is really appreciating the work “as an artifact”, she wants to see your actual prints and the quality of them. Understandable if she’s going to be selling them to people who will hopefully pay a lot of money.

Next to speak was Hanna Frieser of LIGHT WORK up in Syracuse, NY. They are a non-profit whose magazine I’ve seen, but I didn’t know that they also function as a gallery and an artist residency. Their main focus is helping artists at crucial moments in their careers, like when they have to print a huge body of work for a show or a book. Light Work has printing facilities and a full staff of 7 to help artists get these things done. Sounds utterly amazing. There is no formal application, Hannah explained, rather just: a letter of intent, a resume, artist statement, and of course…the work. This is competitive though – they receive 350 applications every year for only 12 spots. Hannah spoke, as other gallery owners did, about many wonderful and inspiring artists that she has either worked with or knew about and was considering for the residency program. Among them were the following which I found particularly inspiring.

Angelika Rinhofer, Binh Dahn, photosynthesis images of Vietnam images on Leaves, and Myra Green- used the backing from Polaroid (possibly Type 55), then photographed that image – mostly concentrates on African Americans. Very faded images- you have to work hard to see them. Reminded me of Roy de Carava in that regard.

Lastly the dapper, mildly sarcastic and endlessly amusing John A. Bennette presented some of his personal photography collection and spoke about his pathway to becoming a curator and photo consultant, based on his love and passion for photography. He seems to give a lot of support but also some harsh advice to photographers in portfolio reviews and when he’s out and about. He said he doesn’t go to openings too much anymore though because he finds them “stressful”. I don’t blame him – for anyone who’s been in Chelsea on a Thursday in the summer. What a mob scene! So John’s advice today was the following:
*Put your camera down and think about what sort of art you are creating and what kind of art you make.”
*State beliefs about yourself – don’t try to please the reviewer
*When at a portfolio review: bring only one body of work – don’t show one body for 10
mins and then say you have another body of work to show.
*Likes to get a CD at a review – printed label on the disc. He was adamant about this funny little tidbit: He said DON’T USE a SHARPIE on your disc!! Get a label printing machine for 50 bucks.
*Donate to auctions – he particularly recommends one he is involved with of an organization called “Friends without a Border”. They have a nice catalog, but I didn’t get to stick around to see it because a client called and I had to duck out early to send an estimate. Psyched about that, but it’s challenging to do double duty and be inside all day. I’m sure anyone who’s here knows what I mean

Over n’out…

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Monday, October 19, 2009

PhotoPlus Expo Comes to Town

PhotoPlus Expo starts on Thursday,, and I plan on blogging from the Expo this week. I've elicited the help of Sari Goodfriend, and together we will try to cover as much as possible. We expect to go to seminars, keynotes, and talk with as many people as we can, so I'm looking forward to having interesting information for all of you. If you happen to see me, or Sari, stop and say hello. If there's something in particular you'd like to know about we will certainly try to accommodate you, so let us know.

The plan is to cover the daytime events and get to as many of the evening soirees as we can. There may even be photos, we'll have to see how it goes. I haven't done this before, so the best thing to do is keep checking to see our updates during the day. And just to get things going, here's a list of things happening this week. If there are more, send me an email and let me know.

TUESDAY October 20

WIN-Initiative hosts a champagne toast to the 10 winners of their "10 Best 10" photography contest at 77 Mercer St. #2N from 6:00 - 8:00pm. Come and lift a glass of champagne to Carey Kirkella, Sarah Small, Bob O'Connor, Katie Shapiro, Quim Fabregas, Kah Poon, Ted Sabarese, Heather Johnson, Peter Riesett and Gabriela Herman.
Please RSVP to Chrissy

THURSDAY October 22

The big PDN shindig at Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center 311 W. 34th St. (between 8th & 9th Aves.) from 9.00pm – 1.00am
$25.00 (tickets are first-come, first-served)

Sony debuts their World Photography Awards show and Artisans of Imagery at Aperture Gallery 547 W. 27th 4th floor from 7:30 - 9:30pm

Hasselblad Celebration of Photography is being held all day at Milk Studio 450 W. 15th St.

FRIDAY October 23

Bron Imaging Group presents their "Something Big" party at Skyline Studios 500 W. 36th St. from 5:00 - 10:00pm. RSVP here

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where Were You?

Last night I was one of nearly 40 reviewers at the free ASMP Portfolio Review night. It was a wonderful event, and thanks to ASMP, all the sponsors, and Tribeca Skylight Studios for making it happen.

One of my favorite things is to look at portfolios and talk with photographers about their work. I love the passion and eagerness that photographers have, and it’s a chance for me to see work of all genres. There was some wonderful work, and hopefully I was able to give some constructive advice and feedback. There was also a great group of reviewers, some of whom I had the pleasure to meet for the first time. For me, the night was a great success.

However, with that said, I was really surprised there were not more people at this event. I mean it was FREE! What better motivation do you need these days? All ASMP members had the opportunity to have face-to-face meetings with art buyers, reps, agents, photo editors and even some consultants. I am at a loss to understand why, especially in this climate, people would not take advantage of EVERY opportunity presented to them.

Did I mention it was FREE for ASMP members?

It is never wrong to show and talk about your work with other industry professionals and to socialize, strategize and commiserate with other like-minded people. Now is a great time for everyone to refresh their work, and more importantly, their perspective on their own work. With so much opportunity I’m disappointed that so many people chose to miss out.

Maybe you’re just not feeling excited about your work—you know there are things you should be doing, but you’re not feeling motivated. Events like this are a great way to shake yourself out of lethargy and depression.

For my part, I’m always energized after being with other creative people and talking about photography. I get information about the industry I couldn’t get otherwise. And I feel a part of something, not just an individual working in a vacuum. It’s an energy that moves me forward, which is what I’m always trying to do. I consider it an investment in myself to come to events like this, to participate, and to socialize.

So thanks to those photographers who came out last night, and congratulations to you for your dedication to your photography. I wish you luck and hope you were as energized as I was.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

ASMP Commercial Portfolio Review Wednesday, October 7

I'll be reviewing portfolios this Wednesday, October 7 at ASMP's annual portfolio review that is free for ASMP members. You can sign up here

This year's review will be held at Tribeca Skyline Studio, 250 Hudson St (Penthouse) with sign-in at 6pm and the reviews going from 6:30pm - 9:30pm.

I'm just one of an amazing group of reviewers, so sign up and show up. To find out who else is reviewing

Remember, this is FREE and open only to ASMP members, so make sure you're there. It's a chance to get feedback on your work, see friends and make contacts.

Seriously, what else do you have to do on Wednesday night?

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