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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Julie Grahame is aCurator

When I met Julie Grahame I found we had very similar ways of looking at the photo industry, and when she went live with aCurator, I wanted her to talk about photography. Julie is smarter than most, opinionated, funny as hell, ambitious and accomplished—a person full of ideas.

If you haven’t checked in with aCurator (she posts several times a week), and the blog you’re missing some wonderful photography.

Julie has already featured everything from portraits of queer kids by M. Sharkey to Ashok Sinha’s Uyghurs of Xinjiang, Dirk Anschutz’ BMX trick biking, Karaoke with Ingvar Kenne, and Jade Doskow’s World’s Fair Projects as well as other work.

If you’d like to be featured on aCurator, email with sample jpgs and if she’s interested, she’ll send you submission info.

Tell a bit about your photography background

I ran a C41 dev-and-print line at 16. Went back to college for a diploma and began working in the library of photo agency Retna in 1990. I was running the UK office within a year and begging to be sent to NY a year later. Been here in NY since 1992 and we sold the agency in 2006. I worked at ZOOZOOM for a couple of years,

I manage a few websites other than aCurator, am doing social media for a few photographers, and I still represent Yousuf Karsh in North America.

Who are your favorite photographers, past or present?

Brandt, Doisneau, Lartigue, Mapplethorpe, Avedon, Abbott, Cunningham, Parr, Frank, Hank Willis Thomas, Burtynsky, Arbus, Salgado...

Are you a photographer? If so, what do you shoot?

I took one paid job out of college, an architecture shoot of all things. Couldn’t sleep all night worrying about the film and decided I’d be better working with photographers than being one.

What made you start aCurator?

I’ve always wanted to edit a magazine and as the editorial print market is going down the dumper without embracing what the screen can offer, with things like the Big Picture being great, but still a scrolling up and down column of images laid out around text. The time seemed ripe for something like this.

My husband, Mike Hartley of bigflannel, ran ZOOZOOM for years - way ahead of its time, a Webby Award-winning full screen online fashion magazine. So we knew people loved to see full screen images, and that photographers were eager to be featured in such a format.

What is the quality of the submissions you’ve seen so far?

I would say I am pleasantly surprised, they’ve been from excellent to not bad.

Do you prefer one genre over another?

I’d like to be as open-minded as possible. But I’m definitely a lefty and I assume that affects my choices.

What haven’t you seen that you would like to see?

I wouldn’t mind seeing more political work. As you and I have discussed, there’s a lot of work on “the recession” out there that consists of images of empty rooms with an old tissue in the corner of the frame and a drawer hanging open, for example. And (separately) more humour.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about photography these days?

Both. I’m pessimistic for those who knew the days of decent day rates, expenses, rights retention and resale, and verbal communication, and built their business accordingly.

I’m optimistic because clearly the number of potential licensors of images, and the chance to reach them online, is increasing. If we can just get to the place where people pay for content, maybe there will be an industry that supports us.

I’ve found that not even the large companies, MSN for example, have been interested in differentiating themselves from blogs and fans by using ‘better’ or just different content (from the all-you-can-eat service model).
I hope this changes. I’m not thrilled that we might make money in pennies instead of dollars, but I am realistic about it.

What do you want aCurator to do?

To give photographers who value the web and how it can complement their work an opportunity to publish features that look fantastic online; and indeed other organizations who don’t have a good presence online to benefit from the space; and for a wide variety of viewers to enjoy it.

I hope to expand to physical exhibitions, print sales, collaboration and sponsorship. Ultimately if there’s a chance to make money and pay something to the contributors that would make me really happy. But first we have to get the number of viewers way up.

How do you feel about the ubiquity of photography and its effect on the professional market?

It’s been a pain in the arse really. It’s understandable where the industry has been headed, between the advent of digital photography (which, regardless of what anyone says, was and is a costly nightmare), the state of the economy, the acquisition of photo agencies, the general downturn in publishing - all support a turn toward cheap and voluminous. But I’m a bit surprised by how photo editors have embraced the agency deal (paying one fee for a month’s images, for example) because I think it’s incredibly short sighted.

If buyers don’t pay either a decent license fee or a decent day rate, in 5 years all there will be is stock and it’ll be crap. And I’m also surprised that Getty would concentrate on editing from Flickr. I go through these conversations in my head: “I love that image of blah blah - are there more from the shoot? Can I see the Raw files?”

Any pet peeves about photographers or photography?

Nah, nothing that I can condense to a couple of sentences, anyway.

Any idea where things are heading?

10 years ago I thought image buyers might pay-per-view of an image - indeed I tried to cut a deal with a major organization but they weren’t capable of tracking clicks.

5 years ago I thought fees would be driven down and never come back. This might well be the case. Pay-walls might help up fees or respect for photography.

We’re moving away from local hard drives to app-based cloud computing. I think there will be an ongoing burden on the image maker to stay up to speed - eg. now we’re having to repurpose websites for the iPad. Not free or simple.

Moving away from protecting and managing copyright in the same ways (eg. Creative Commons; Orphan Works).

What else do you want to talk about?

Just to say that I hope there is still a place for great photography, that we see broader and more in-depth publication of images online (with the photographers getting paid actual money), that people in general do want something fine amongst all the lowest common denominator rubbish being forced upon us culturally, and that there’s enough of an industry for photographers to actually make a living - but I encourage everyone to add skills to their repertoire.

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Blogger stephen mallon photographs said...

LOVE THIS! great interview you two!!

May 07, 2010  
Blogger D. Saunders said...

I very much enjoy your blog, Stella.

May 20, 2010  

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