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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Robert Herman Talks About "The New Yorkers"

When I first met Robert Herman at a portfolio review, and saw The New Yorkers, I felt I was looking at a soulful, dead-on look at the city I was born in. His project was so fully realized, so sophisticated and compelling.

I see a lot of what people call "street photography," but it's mostly an unconnected series of images they have taken. Few photographers have the eye, the grace and the ability to really see, in order to make great street images.

Robert has all those qualities, along with a driving passion to more fully realize his own aesthetic. I knew right away that I wanted to talk with him about his work, and this city.

Give us a brief background of your photography career

I've been a photographer since I was at NYU Film School in the late 70's. However, my love of images began much earlier. My parents owned movie theaters in New York City, Long Island and elsewhere. As a child and a teenager I was able to watch movies in their theaters. Cinematography became one of the references for my sense of light and composition.

For a while, when we lived in Long Beach, we had a screening room with two 35mm film projectors. I remember watching Warner Brothers cartoons like Bugs Bunny as well as some feature films at home, which my father projected for the kids. I used to go with my father when he went to work. I saw Blow Up in 1966 when I was 11. At that age, it was overwhelming.

When I was 14, I worked as the candy guy and an usher at the theater in Brooklyn. It was 1970 and I got to see a lot of the movies over and over again like Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, A Dream of Kings with Anthony Quinn, Friedkin's The Boys in the Band and Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson. Watching the same movie over and over until the narrative began to recede and the image itself moved to the forefront had a profound effect on the way I saw the world.

Seeing images on a big screen shows deep spatial relationships on a two dimensional canvas. Along with the great photographers such as Frank, Callahan, Bresson, Strand and Kertész, I was also inspired by modern painting: Motherwell, Picasso, Matisse, Pollack, De Kooning, Rauschenberg and Keifer.

It wasn't until I was at NYU Film School that I truly applied myself to photography. I needed some electives to fill out my schedule and I decided to take a class in the School of Education: An intro to Black and White. I could have taken a similar course in the School of the Arts, but the emphasis there was more about technique. I was afraid that I wouldn't have the space to develop a "voice" if the emphasis was on technique. I just wanted to shoot and see if I had anything to say.

My first photography teachers were Len Spier and Steve Price. Class was a very simple process of going out and shooting developing and making contacts and seeing if there was anything worth printing. They were both very helpful in identifying strong pictures and giving me the freedom to let myself wander.

Here are two images I made that first year:

I was directing an experimental narrative short and shooting it on 16mm color and black white reversal film. This led me to experiment with slide film, particularly Kodachrome. I realized I wanted to use a reversal process because unlike color negative you didn't have an intermediary i.e. the photo print processor making an interpretation about what the colors were originally. What you saw was what you got. It was and is the most beautiful film ever made, but for exposure the most unforgiving. There was no push or pull processing in those days. I was using my father’s manual Nikon F with a 50mm 1.4 lens at the time. Kodachrome was a great way to teach yourself how to make exposures based on reflective readings through the camera of different parts of the scene unfolding in front of you. An F-stop off in either direction or you would not have a useable image.

Three books on photography had a great influence on me: I had seen Harry Callahan’s 1978 Color book--it was a revelation. I had never seen images that looked like those in this book. I was taken by the formal composition, his love of color and the distortion of wide-angle lenses. The second was Robert Frank's The Americans. I studied this like a textbook; Frank's images became embedded in my consciousness. The third was Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960 from a group show put together at MoMA by John Szarkowski. This too, was an eye-opening exploration of the many ways the medium of photography could be explored.

It was these three books along with Paul Strand's work, On Reading by André Kertész and Thomas Merton's Geography of Holiness that informed my sensibility. I drank in all that information about what was a great photograph and tried to make photos that approached that bar.

Perhaps, the real turning point occurred when I was visiting my girlfriend, a film editor working on a film in Mexico. I went down there for a month in January of 1981. It was a great opportunity to make photographs.

The filmmaker had a big house in Tlayacapan. A woman named Sylvia and her two children were staying at the house at the time. They were refugees from Bolivia fleeing the fascist government. Sylvia and I became friends and one day she gave me a book to read in English: About Looking by John Berger. It was a revelation.

Reading John Berger and shooting Kodachrome in Mexico, I found my “voice” as a photographer. It was a truly special gift from one outsider to another. Berger is a clear and brilliant writer about art and photography. The book. was a breathtaking, life-changing read. I recommend to anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of art and life.

When I graduated from film school, I needed a job. I had been shooting production stills on student films to build up a portfolio. After some really miserable employment at some film production houses, I finally got a paying gig on a feature: Vigilante, with a reasonably sized budget,and Fred Williamson and Robert Forster as the leads. I was given the opportunity to expose slide film under numerous lighting conditions. I basically was allowed to shoot as much film as I wanted for what turned out to be six months. It was a great education in spite of the extremely harsh relations between the crew and the producers.

The crew was "camped out" in a Brooklyn Key Food parking lot for a few weeks, hoping to match the light. Waiting around, day after day, I began shooting photographs in the Greenpoint neighborhood in between set-ups. I found this to be much more interesting than production stills. I had to find my own subject matter and decide what made a compelling photograph. For a while I was spending almost as much money on my own photos as I was making in salary.

One of my favorite photos from this period is in The New Yorkers:

Tell us about The New Yorkers

The New Yorkers
is a book of color street photography made mostly on Kodachrome spanning the years 1978-2005. I identified with the struggle and vulnerability in people and how tough it is to survive here. I was feeling vulnerable myself and I saw this everywhere I went.

At first, New York seemed extremely chaotic and confusing and the images in The New Yorkers are representative of my most successful attempts to work through this confusion. Making pictures was my method of getting to know myself and to feel connected and understand my surroundings. It is a dialogue about my love/hate relationship with the city. I felt I was an outsider.

To quote Picasso:

"Painting isn't an aesthetic operation; it's a form of magic designed as a mediator between this strange, hostile world and us, a way of seizing the power by giving form to our terrors as well as our desires."

The book has images that depict how humans interact with and are affected by media. A great deal of the city we live in, even back in 1980, was surrounded by advertising, graffiti, signage and store window displays etc. I was fascinated by this two-dimensional world creating a dialogue with the physical world.

The New Yorkers is also about space and how we inhabit it. We are so crowded in on each other, open space always comes as a surprise. There is a visual relief we all appreciate when we turn off a crowded street onto a relatively uncluttered view: the little parks, alleys and mews.

Most importantly, the book is about my fellow city dwellers and how they interact with the environment around them. Some are survivors, some are crushed by the city, and some are just managing. It takes strength to survive. You must develop a sense of self and put much effort to continue to thrive and grow as a human being. A photograph of someone whose heart is momentarily open to a stranger's camera says more about a New Yorker than I ever can in say in words.

Talk about street photography and what it means to you

Street photography is a way of keeping things real. It's a great feedback loop and it requires discipline to focus your awareness when shooting, editing, printing and presentation. Photography is a language, and teaching myself to become fluent made me work towards making better pictures. Showing my work to my friends, to curators, and my teachers at the School of Visual Arts and in galleries is an enlightening and ultimately rewarding process. Testing your work in the real world such as these pushes you to improve, as is true of any art.

Street photography, the way I have practiced it, is to be an observer. When I was shooting film I would take a walk and use up a few frames to "warm up" to get myself in a Zen state of mind. Inevitably, on a good day, I would start to see details that previously had gone unnoticed. There were a few maxims that I had about my method: Treat everyone with respect, be without judgment, and do not make exploitive, easy photographs.

I did not set out with a plan, except to try and make strong pictures. For a very long time I resisted having an idea about a body of work and then looking for situations or setting them up to complete it. I wanted to maintain spontaneity and authenticity as much as possible.

What is your favorite neighborhood? Borough? Subject?

Soho was my favorite neighborhood to shoot in. I lived in the narrow building on the corner of Kenmare Street and Cleveland Place where the Storefront for Art and Architecture is now. Soho has very good light because of the low buildings and the architecture was quirky and interesting. It was a great place to teach your self street photography. Unfortunately, Soho has changed so much since then that today they should just put a dome over it and call it a mall.

A photographer can only see something for the first time once. This may seems obvious but it is precious. I didn't want to tarnish this with a preconceived notion when I went out shooting. To paraphrase John Berger, if a photograph is a surprise for the photographer, it will be for the viewer as well.

I was aware that there were patterns emerging and with careful editing, bodies of work could be made. One of my first was inspired by abstract 20th Century paintings. I realized that many images I had shot of torn advertising on walls could be printed 20" x 30" and larger as a homage to the paintings of Motherwell, Pollack and Rauschenberg. When I received a commission from Craig Barnes, the art director at Workbench, I had an opportunity to produce the work the way I envisioned it.

An example of this:

How did you approach shooting? By being invisible on
the street? Asking permission?

At the beginning it was mostly by being invisible. I didn't want to interfere with what was happening in front of me. It seemed at the time that was a purer way to go. I was looking for the decisive moment and the best way to do that was to be an invisible observer. I let my heart and body take the pictures, and use my head to edit them later. After a while, I became comfortable enough to approach people who were interesting and ask them if they would allow me to take a few pictures. I chose not to aggrandize or to judge my subjects and thus allow something authentic through onto the film.

What was your worst experience shooting on the street? Best?

I was shooting on the street on Kings Highway in Brooklyn at night. I was heading back to the subway. About a half a block ahead of me 4 teenagers were walking in the same direction. I made a long shot of them from behind and thinking nothing of it I went into the Dunkin' Donuts to get a drink before getting on the train.

As soon as I entered the store and was about to order, the four teenagers attacked me for taking their picture. One of them knocked the camera out of my hand. It fell on the floor and the lens broke off. Another was reaching in his backpack for what appeared to be a knife, but luckily, he changed his mind.

No one in the store was helping me. I noticed that my fingernail had broken off and I was bleeding. The teens fled out of the store. In shock, I picked up the camera and wandered outside to the sidewalk. I was amazed that no one had offered to help.

A minute later a police car arrived. They asked what had happened and did anyone know where the teens had gone. Someone had called the cops! A customer said that they had gone upstairs to the train. We hurried up to the platform and there they were, waiting for the train.

We did a line up in the train station, I identified my attackers and we all went to the local precinct. They were arrested and charged with felony assault. Their parents arrived and finally about 4 in the morning I asked the officers for a ride home. They said that only happens in the movies. I then asked them to at least take me to a different subway line so I could get home. During the ride they chalked this one up to "cultural differences."

A few months later, an assistant DA called me and suggested we make a deal. The teens would plead guilty to a misdemeanor and they would be obliged to pay me back for my broken camera. It would all be handled anonymously through Victims Services. For about two years, I received a check for $17 every few weeks or so, until it was all paid off. I knew that I didn't want to wreck these kids’ lives, and imagined that their parents were probably very hard on them. The stress of the attack faded over time. It was the only time in 30 + years of street photography that I have ever been assaulted.

When I was living on Kenmare Street, my landlord was a man named Harry. At 85, he still owned and operated the tire and tube place on the ground floor of my building. I thought he would make a great subject. He was still changing tires himself and he had an ever-changing crew of employees and customers. He was kind enough to let me hang around and make pictures. It was one of my first opportunities to shoot a long term project and teach myself portraiture and photo journalism.

What is your favorite neighborhood? Borough? Subject?

Soho was my favorite neighborhood to shoot in. I lived in the narrow building on the corner of Kenmare Street and Cleveland Place where the Storefront for Art and Architecture is now. Soho has very good light because of the low buildings and the architecture was quirky and interesting. It was a great place to teach your self street photography. Unfortunately, Soho has changed so much since then that today they should just put a dome over it and call it a mall.

The New York skyline photograph was never what interested me. I lived in neighborhoods and it was there my source of inspiration and my sense of identity and craft began to grow. I've lived in seven different apartments in New York City. I like to shoot where there is some possibility of having direct sunlight fall on the subject. The light is the beginning of the magic in a photograph. In New York, tall buildings block most of it. But downtown and in the Boroughs that light is available for much of the day. It makes all the difference.

What have you learned about yourself, the city and this project?

Photography saved my life. I am bi-polar and I had a great deal of difficulty functioning for many years, particularly before I was correctly diagnosed. Making photos gave me hope for my future. It was my belief that as I began to heal, I would have something valuable to offer.

Survival in NY is really tough for the little guy and that can range from the small business owner, and the struggling artist or the homeless, I identified with all of them.
In my better moments I think that empathy is a road to some sort of peace. Without being sentimental, I try to reflect that in my pictures.

Photography is very expensive, and much of the time, like many artists, I was living on the edge. The great thing about street photography is you don't need a client or a plane ticket, just a roll of film and a camera.

How has New York changed since you began shooting (in terms of the landscape, people, difficulties, etc.?

Obviously, the city has changed enormously since 1978. The crime rate is down. We all feel safer. Most of the graffiti is gone. The city now is more homogenized and more corporate. One of things I always loved about NY was the sense of a neighborhood. You could get to know the small business owners. They were the ones who had a real vested interest in keeping on eye on things. You got to know these people over time. If you were in a jam they would be inclined to help you and they for the most part were truly kind people.

Corporations have made real estate much to expensive for the small storefront business in NYC. Landlords leave spaces empty until they get the rent they want. The cost of an apartment has risen as a percentage of income. It wasn't as brutal to be an artist in 1980 as it is now.

The law has changed somewhat in terms of where you can shoot because of the threat of terrorism. I don't agree with the restrictions, but I understand the impulse of the lawmakers to limit photography.

On the street, the average person is much more conscious of the power of the image. As a result it has become harder to make unfettered images with short lenses. People have a greater tendency to not want to have the picture taken. Some innocence has been lost.

All images ©2010 Robert Herman

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review 2010 is Here!

Tomorrow night, Wednesday May 26, is "Review 2010" which is free and only available to ASMP members.

This portfolio review event boasts dozens of accomplished photo people including curators, photo editors, art buyers, reps and consultants. It's a fantastic opportunity to get feedback and put your work in front of important people, so don't miss out!

Calumet Photographic
is hosting the event at 22 west 22nd St. and doors will open at 6:00pm. The review is from 6:30pm - 9:00pm. Register online or by calling ASMP at 215.451.2767 during business hours.

I'll see you there!

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Social Media Help Wanted

I suppose I'm like a lot of people these days (or at least I'd like to think I am) who need help setting up and organizing their Social Media marketing. And so, after lots of trying with no luck, I am posting here in hopes that someone will step forward to help me out.

I'm looking for a Part-Time Social Media Intern/Guru with a photography background for Stellazine. Not Paid, for 3 months, flexible days and hours.

• Photography Background
• Be active in Social Media
• Working knowledge of Wordpress
• Some custom CSS abilities preferred
• Working knowledge of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging, etc.

Job description
*Migrating blog to a new blog at Wordpress
*Having fun and joining into conversations on Twitter about the
photography, editorial and advertising worlds
*Establishing and maintaining email database

I am offering the strongest candidate photo consultation and career advice, job recommendations, and photography/website/portfolio critique during our term working together.

Please send your resume to:
Make sure your name and contact info is included in the email and on the resume. Please include your URL/blog and any other links to your work and profiles. No Phone calls, please.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Haiti Is Not Forgotten

It's been several months since the earthquake in Haiti, and help is still desperately needed. Heart for Haiti is a wonderful effort to raise money and give everyone the opportunity to buy phenomenal photography. Everyone from Cameron Davidson (National Cathedral, Haiti) to Janette Beckman (Debbie Harry), to Warwick Saint (White Bengal Tiger) to Stephen Mallon (Stone Wall) to Cleo Sullivan (Filles), and dozens of others have donated prints to this auction.

Auction Opens Weds, 5/19/10 @ 9:00am (officially, but you can actual
bid now)
Auction Closes Thurs, 6/17/10 @ 11:59pm

Weds, June 16th
Aperture Gallery
547 West 27th st, 4th fl.

There is some AMAZING art on there and the starting bid for most is $250.

So please, take a look and if you have the money, please bid! And if
you don't, then come to the Event on June 16th where the suggested
donation is only $20!!

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Great Event Tonight

Do yourself a favor and get yourself to this event tonight at Calumet Photographic, located at 22 W. 22nd. The doors open at 6:30pm and the event runs from 7pm - 9pm. The first 25 APA members who arrive get in for free. Otherwise it's $10 for APA members and $15 for non-members (and if you're not a member, why not?).
Sponsored by Agency Access and Dripbook, the seminar is moderated by Jason Moriber of Wise Elephant.


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Saturday, May 15, 2010

The NYPF Awards Fiasco

I feel the necessity to report this, and while I didn't witness it, the account comes to me from a very well respected source.

"The ceremony began, not at 8:30 as advertised, but about an hour later, due to 'technical difficulties'(not that any announcement was given out over the PA system to the bewildered crowd in the bar waiting to go in....we found out by asking one of the NYphoto stewards!).

When we did get in to the auditorium, a good hour + later, the sequencing was all out of whack for the categories--some of the 'general editorial' images were 'mistakenly' headed as 'fine-art'; you couldn't hear (or even understand in some cases what the 'special guests' who were handing out the awards were saying, and they were totally thrown by what they had written down opposed to what was being shown on the screen at the time!), some winning images from each category were up on the screen before they were even announced ('and the winner is...')!?!"

According to my source, this was when the crowd began heckling and walking out, and then the screen went blank, and nominees and winners never saw their work shown. So, for $10 what you got, was what my source called, "a colossal goat f**K!!!!"

I can remember hearing something similar about the awards presentation last year, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Instead I feel terrible for the winners and nominees who had their night ruined by incompetence.

To be fair, here's the official statement from the festival organziers:

"NOTE – Due to an unfortunate technical malfunction on our part, and despite all of our best efforts, we were unable to properly complete the New York Photo Awards Ceremony last night. The festival organizers sincerely apologize to all of the attendees, to the St. Ann’s Warehouse staff, and to Marc Garanger (the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award). The official slideshow will be posted later today, and will be playing in St. Ann’s Warehouse lobby starting at 6pm, as part of our Night of Images."

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Friday, May 14, 2010

New York Photo Festival-Day 2 Over and Out

I've spent two full days at NYPF. I've seen all the exhibits, heard several speakers, done a small amount of socializing, and I can sum up the entire experience with one word: "underwhelming."

What makes NYPF seem as if it exists in a suspended little bubble? Why is it so unconnected to the photography scene in New York? Is it because it's in DUMBO? I don't think so. I think the problem is in the insular way it is put together, from the curators to the choices of work. As one respected photographer said to me: "It could as easily have been in Kansas City." Is this really the best New York can offer?

This photo festival seems too tied to the academic art world in a way that cocoons the work and the experience. There is no pop, no wow! I was so ready to be inspired, to be challenged, to be moved. What I got instead was a listless compilation of unconnected work, and the feeling as I wandered around the area that I was just going through the motions.

It would have been great if, to reflect where things are at in New York, there had been a space given over to show the work of a wide variety of local photographers who can't find a place for their work to be seen. What if you opened the festival up to these photographers--say charge $5 to be a part of the show, and pick the first 100 photographers who apply with one print each in any format? You could sell each print for $50, take 10% and still make bank.

Why not be inclusive, not exclusive?

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The New York Photo Festival Comes To Town

I spent the day in Dumbo at NYPF, and thought I'd do a wrap up of what I saw and heard. I would have included the photos I took, but I lost the cable to my camera while out and about (if anyone finds a small black pouch with a black velvet ribbon and a small cable inside, it's mine!). So without further ado, here's what I saw and thought...

The day started with an 11am panel headed by The New Yorker's Visual Editor Elisabeth Biondi, called: New Directions in Storytelling . On the panel were Gillian Laub, Jeff Jacobson, Lauren Greenfield and Rob Hornstra. All in all I found it really uninteresting, with nothing illuminating about working with multi-media as opposed to still image. Now don't get me wrong, I think Lauren Greenfield has a knack for finding interesting ways of looking at the world, and I applaud her successes, but what she showed us was basically film work that followed a traditional format. I did really like the teaser she showed of her work from Fashion Week. That seemed unique, but she didn't talk about it (I think there's a longer version being shown tonight).

Gillian Laub
showed a project about segregated proms in Georgia that didn't really create a new form of storytelling as much as added sound interviews over still images. The really exciting person for me was Rob Hornstra, who came right out and said he has no interest in adding moving image or sound to his work. He adds text in his books, and said "I believe the written text leaves more to the imagination." I'm looking forward to his solo presentation tomorrow.

I followed that up with a look at the Fred Ritchin curated show: "Bodies In Question." An interesting mix of work including Michael Wolf's Paris street views made through Google Streetviews. The work was as interesting to me as it was chilling to think about constantly being watched from above (and I don't mean that in a religious way).

Marc Garanger was sent by the French government in 1960 to take ID portraits of native Algerian woman. He later returned to try and find some of the now elderly woman (he found several), and the juxtaposition of the mugshots with the warmth of the women he revisited was thoughtful.

I also found myself deep in thought looking at Jessica Ingram's work "A Civil Rights Memorial," landscape photographs marking the site of murders during the days of the struggle for voting rights in the deep South. The mundane parking lots and empty roads belie the incredible brutality of the murders that took place, many at the hand of the KKK.

It was then on to Smack Mellon Gallery to see Erik Kessels curated show "Use Me, Abuse Me." It was a fairly interesting take on the manipulation of photos, and included 3 pieces by Osang Gwon, a Korean artist who carves figures out of foam and covers them with hundreds of photos to create a life-size, real person (although there was one about twelve feet high).

As much as I find the way he works fascinating, I couldn't help but wonder why the one woman he rendered this way was on all fours with her ass in the air. The three male figures were just standing around the gallery. I am so tired of this shit.

The Tobacco Warehouse was full of a lot of photojournalism, including some wonderful work from Anthropographia 2010: Human Rights & Photography. There was a lot to see, even if each photographer only got a few photos to show. But it does reaffirm the power of still imagery.
There was also a fascinating look at North Korea called "Red Land" by photographer Liu Yuan, made through window of a sleeper-car compartment while traveling across the railways of North Korea in 2008. A sad and bleak journey through a land we rarely see.

In the afternoon I went to the Aperture panel, "Emerging Artist Support Systems" which I was pleased to find had some actual practical information to give people, including information about residencies and how they can really help a photographer meet curators and people who can move a career forward. Justine Reyes showed the "Vanitas" work she did during a month in Woodstock (above), Hank Willis Thomas spoke about how contacts made at Review Santa Fe helped lead his career forward. He called himself a "visual-cultural archeologist" (below). Both he and Justine talked of the value of community, as did the final panelist, Brian Ulrich. All in all a good lecture, with part two coming tomorrow (where they talk about funding, fellowships and portfolio reviews). I'll be looking forward to it.

I've always wondered why the festival seems so out of touch with the photo community that I exist in. I would love more photographers of all genres to have the chance to show their work, leaving some of the high brow academic art photography in the background. I'd like to see a more democratically curated festival filled with surprises and great work. DUMBO is full of large expanses of blank walls that seemed to be begging for projected photography. Why not use the outside as well as the inside of the neighborhood? I always come looking for surprises and leave feeling strangely unmoved. How great would it be if everywhere you looked as you walked around photography hit you right between the eyes?

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This Week's Photo Doings

So we all know the New York Photo Festival debuts WEDNESDAY MAY 12, and I will be there during the week blogging it in all it's photo goodness, but tomorrow night I'll be at APA/NY Image Makers Lecture Series featuring Sarah Small & Jason Florio

Apple Store Soho Theater
103 Prince St (between Mercer and Greene)
6:30pm - 8pm

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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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