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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Notes from the underground - moments in seminar history

Below ground, in the underbelly of the cavernous hull that is the Javits Center I found respite from the air-sucking crowds glued to the free seminars on 'how to pose your subjects' and the clambering consumers all racking the focus rings on every camera on display. The subterranean paid seminars are an intensive trip into some enlightening territory.

I was enthralled at the CGI manufactured world of advertising photographer Glenn Wexler who was on a panel to discuss "How to get work from ad agencies". The money just seemed to ooze from every pore of the discussion, with the very heart of it being how many hundreds of thousands YOU could make by creating images that would manipulate people to consume through visions of a plastic fantastic hyper-real existence.

The panel was made up of ad-agency art buyers--or as they are called these days 'art producers'--and top photo agents, moderated by ex-photo-agent maven Deborah Weiss, who enjoyed reminiscing about the glory days of the later part of the 20th century when ad agents were sipping gin martinis for breakfast, and lustfully seemed to be wishing that the characters of 'Mad Men' were still roaming the hallowed halls of NYC ad agencies--not hipsters in low-slung Silas jeans.

But good practical advice abounded for those snappers hoping to hit the Coca-Cola gravy train to a Skittles-colored world.

Across the hall, but on a different photo planet from the technicolored world of advertising photography, I sat in on two seminars hosted by the chaps from VII Photo agency: Ron Haviv, Ed Kashi, Karim Ben Khalifa, Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber, who had good, practical advice on working in multi-media . Ed Kashi said he saw himself as, "a coal miner, not a diamond polisher." He said photographers should reach out to those with great audio and editing to skills, if one does not have them, and seek collaboration from those experienced in sound and editing to create a final piece of professional quality.

Researching your story was the bedrock off what nearly everyone on the panel was saying. Think about what you want to say and who your audience is. Kashi said to not just think about getting the story into a magazine, but to use your journalism as advocacy, and create material others can use for positive change, whether they be NGO's , foundations, seats of learning etc. "Produce something bigger than yourself" was the ringing message that I left with.

In the diminished world of editorial assignments many of us have looked for ways to fund projects, and the panel's Karim Ben Khalifa has taken the KickStarter model of fund-raising and fused it into a place where people can support photographers to produce stories -Emphas.is

Back across the hallway, Aurora Photo's Mr. Adventure, Corey Rich, was also on the multi-media platform. He gave an eloquent and practical account of his merger into multi-media over the last 10 + years. Corey has combines his love of the outdoors 100% into his work and is now pushing deeper into video productions using the Nikon DSLR cameras to shoot commercials (much to the chagrin of some camera operators he was shooting along side whose $50,000 Red Cams could not compete in the failing light of day). Corey keeps shooting while they retire to the bar.

Bouncing back to the second seminar run by VII Photo, I found myself at a seminar called "International Tool Kit" - I was in pig heaven. Ron Haviv went through a 28-point check list that every photojournalist should tick through before hitting the Hindu Kush. The top tips included:
1) Double up on everything.
2) Cash is king.
3) Always carry as much of your kit on the plane as possible so you can start work as soon as you touch down, even if your checked bag is delayed, and enlightened me to a camera bag system call Newswear.

English sports photographer Simon Bruty was also on the panel and uses the 6 P's rule before leaving for an international assignment - PROPER PREPARATION PREVENTS PISS POOR PERFORMANCE.

All good stuff.

Jason Florio

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