The Greek Magazine Delood kindly did an interview with me. It was published this past week. I repost it here for all of you that may not be Greek and therefore may never see it. It is in English. I hope you enjoy!
Another wonderful post I came across, courtesy of Rob Haggart at Photoeditor.com is this blog post by Chris Council, who is the chief photographer at the Aspen Daily News. Chris is primarily an editorial photographer but I think his words pertain to almost any area of photography, or business for that matter. As Ben Franklin said, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” With Chris’ kind permission, I give you, “It Only Takes One”.
The photography business, especially in the editorial realm, has become a race to the bottom. The only way the industry will stabilize is for photographers to band together, stand up, and say “enough.” Photo credits don’t pay the rent, and neither do below-market fees. Sometimes it’s hard to say no to a job, even a low-paying one, but everyone needs to decide their own personal breaking point when it comes to accepting a job.
To put this in context, here’s an example of a recent “job” that I turned down. I put the word job in quotes, because it didn’t pay anything. The USA Pro Cycling Challenge rolled through Aspen last week, and I was contacted by a representative of the local chamber of commerce to photograph the event. The pay – nothing, zero, nada, zip.
But I was told it would be an “incredible opportunity to ride on the back of a motorcycle to photograph the event.” All I had to do was drive 3 hours to the next town over the night before, spend the day on the back of a donorcycle without falling off, use $12,000 of my own equipment, provide the images to the chamber of commerce (where they could be used however they wanted, as long as they wanted), and oh yeah, somehow find a way back to my car after the event which would entail another 6 hours in the car round-trip. No thanks.
I was berated by the agency and made to feel that I wasn’t contributing to the community, since everyone else was pitching in. Ironically, the agency was being paid handsomely by the city, which spent $258,000 the prior year on the event, including $50,000 spent by the chamber of commerce. You would think they could come up at least a nominal day rate to pay a photographer.
Aspen is a small town, and the photo community here is small and fairly tight-knit. I was first in line for the job, and after I turned down the “job” the other local photographers gave the same response as me, except one, who accepted.
Which brings me to my main point, which is that it only takes one person to drive down rates and lower the bar. So instead of the chamber of commerce budgeting properly for this event next year, they will once again assume they can get free images.
There may be times when it makes sense to do a job for free, although I’m hard pressed to think of any. Perhaps it’s any opportunity for access you could never get otherwise, and you think there’s a way to sell the images as stock afterwards. Or perhaps you are trying to break into a new specialty and need the practice and exposure.
But if you take a photography job without pay, or below market rates, you had better have your reasons, and they had better be damn good. And make sure you think long and hard about how your actions affect the industry as a whole, as well as the other photographers in your community.
In case you haven’t seen this flowchart yet, it’s worth checking out: http://shouldiworkforfree.com/
We were recently asked to put together an RFQ for a potential job. To those of you outside the A/E/C world, an RFQ is a Request for Qualifications. Architects are asked for RFQs all the time and also RFPs (Request for Proposals) and therefore, indirectly, I know what a major undertaking they can be. I had been asked for RFQs before but, they typically consisted of a 3 to 4 page document and a portfolio of work or website link. This RFQ was DIFFERENT. The request was a major university who was doing a national search to find a photographer or organization who would serve all their architectural photography needs over the next 3 years. The client took the same format that they would use to select and architect and applied it to architectural photography and thus, it was quite the undertaking. Apart from the run of the mill info: “How many years have you been in business?”, “Do you have ample insurance?”, “Do you have pending lawsuits against you?”, the meat and potatoes of the RFQ was How many national awards have the projects you have shot won? and How many times have your projects been published nationally? Well, one might believe we might readily know this information but, after a shoot happens, we are often not informed when these things happen and it required a bit of sleuthing. We reached out to clients, inquired and round up quite a list. In the process we learned that 45 Projects we had shot had racked up 90 not only National but, International Design Awards and if you threw in the State and Local AIA Awards, that number was closely approaching 200! We also found that our work had been published in either a Nationally or Internationally distributed publication 124 times! That is a bunch of published work.
In the end, our RFQ was 44 pages long! We sadly were not short listed but, I didn’t feel bad. The of the three firms that were shortlisted, two were local to the project and the third was a collaborative of photographers so, they could mix and match talents to the respective projects. I am not a stable of photographers nor could I make myself local so I felt good about the effort we put forth. More importantly, I learned a great deal about the work I had done and now can walk into a meeting with the knowledge that a significant amount of the projects I have shot have either won a design award on the National or International stage or have been published on those levels as well, and few can say the same. We have served out clients well and some GREAT clients they are!
Photography is not always easy. The hours can be long, the travel can be grueling and the attrition rate is aggressive at best. I just read in Resource Magazine that after 3 years ONLY 15% have endured. A staggering 85% turnover rate. So, as I look back over my past 25 years in the business, I am blessed. Blessed to have worked for the likes of Avedon, Mapplethorpe, Newman, Horst and Tenneson, blessed by the wonderful clientele I have and the wonderful projects I get to shoot and blessed by the incredible opportunities to travel and see the world around me but, most of all, I am blessed by an incredible wife and two wonderful boys. I am very fortunate.
I hope that you, too, are equally blessed in this world and I wish my family a very happy and healthy Valentine’s Day with Lots of Love from Me.
In this era of Social Media there is much to be aware and of which to beware. This concept was made ruefully apparent in a recent movie release, CATFISH. Via IMDB
“In late 2007, filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost sensed a story unfolding as they began to film the life of Ariel’s brother, Nev. They had no idea that their project would lead to the most exhilarating and unsettling months of their lives. A reality thriller that is a shocking product of our times, CATFISH is a riveting story of love, deception and grace within a labyrinth of online intrigue.”
SPOILER ALERT: Ariel’s brother, Nev, comes to find that the woman he was communicating with, along with all of her purported friends, was an extremely elaborate ruse propagated by a single lonely woman, Angela, who seems to have fabricated these fictional people on Facebook as a way to escape the regrets that came with sacrifices she had to make in order to have a family and a stable life.
Why do I waste your time with a silly movie plot? Because it relates to the professional world as well, where “Fake it till You Make it” is frighteningly rampant.
I personally know of photographers whose “client” lists are largely embellishments, if not outright fabrications, and their work gives the “impression” that they are doing incredible things for incredible architects. Whereas the truth behind the images is that it was either a personal or portfolio-building project or the architect had nothing to do with the photography. These embellishments are promoted via Twitter, Facebook and blogs — not unlike Angela in the film CATFISH.
As Guy Kawasaki said in his book Enchantment, “…enchanting gullible people – is immoral.” Sadly, social media is the perfect forum for enchantment, but not in the wrong hands.
So, before you readily go out and hire your next photographer, scratch at the facade and find out how much substance is beneath the surface. You may be surprised that it is largely a facade. Caveat emptor.
All the Best,
I think all great artist’s thirst for inspiration and being a visual artist I often look to inspiration in the form of other visual information. I began collecting photography books in college, when a professor stated that an artist’s library is his most valuable asset. My first purchases back in 1985 was the 4 volume set, The Work of Atget but that is a post for another day. The other place I look for inspiration and knowledge is often the documentary film and, increasingly, these films have become readily available via Netflix streaming or through you local library. I will list these films with links to where you might find them and I hope you too may gain some wonderful inspiration from them as I have.
Sam Mockbee was an incredible architect who sadly, recently passed away. This movie lends wonderful insight into Sam & the Rural Studio and celebrates architecture as a social art.
Though not available via Netflix Streaming, it is available for rental and can likely be found at your public library. A link for you to find it at Netflix here: http://tinyurl.com/62hs7hr
7. Philip Johnson: Diary of An Eccentric Architect
An entertaining and engaging documentary into the life of this incredible, and sometimes controversial architect.
Sadly, not available via Netflix at this point but potentially at your library or for purchase from Amazon or Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/4lw585t
8. Sketches of Frank Gehry by Sydney Pollack
Not as insightful as one might hope, into the life of the great Frank Gehry but certainly entertaining.
Though not available via Netflix Streaming, it is available for rental and can likely be found at your public library. A link for you to find it at Netflix here: http://tinyurl.com/4gdezrc
9. Antonio Gaudi (1984)
A beautiful look into the life of the great innovator of the Spanish art nouveau movement.
Though not available via Netflix Streaming, it is available for rental and can likely be found at your public library. A link for you to find it at Netflix here: http://tinyurl.com/4na3ga6
span class="Apple-style-span" style="font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">
10. I.M. Pei – First Person Singular/The Museum on the Mountain
An inspirational look into the life of this seminal American Chinese architect.
Though not available via Netflix Streaming, it is available for rental and can likely be found at your public library. A link for you to find it at Netflix here: http://tinyurl.com/5sf8y69
& one always must have one to grow on.
11. Rem Koolhaas: Kind of Architect
Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaas is undoubtedly one of the most influential architects working today. Any insight into him and his work is inspirational, as is this wonderful documentary.
Available for purchase through Amazon, etc. and soon will be available on Netflix so, put it in your queue here: http://tinyurl.com/4h8bvp8
I hope this list, with links, is helpful to some of you and leads you in the direction of great inspiration. Architecture is my muse and these wonderful films help bring that muse to me when I am not out there shooting it.
All the Best,
We’ve discovered our images have been featured in ‘Details in Contemporary Architecture: As Built’! You can view our work of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business on pages 188-197 as well as the technical drawings. Generally we only see the buildings in their finished state and it’s very interesting to see how our images match up to the architects original drawings!