Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Who You'd Like to Assist Game

I'm at a juncture in my photography work where I'm feeling the need for some support encouragement and guidance from a great photographer to "take it to the next level." We all feel this at some point. Perhaps, it's a feeling of inadequacy, combined with the need to succeed and seek approval, or maybe it's just an evolutionary thing where I'm afraid my photography will eventually die if it doesn't keep moving forward like a shark. But I sometimes play a game, where I imagine which famous photographer I would like to assist.

The list of photographers whose work I like is long. As I start to list photographers I might like to assist, who I'd actually pick for my list gets weird and interesting.

For example, what if you didn't tell me the name or anything like that and just described three photgraphers basically by what they actually do (their "process", if you will) and said I could choose one of the following photographers:

1) A man known for showing celebrities, politicians, and other famous persons in stark uber-true detail; a master of lighting who works with multiple assistants on meticulous, elaborate lighting setups -- conducting long explorations of the self, talking to the sitter to bring out everything he can on the surface of the subjects face and body and bring it into exacting focus and clarity.

2) A master of strobe lighting who does instruction and fashion work using elaborate small light setups and flash groupings -- even walls of strobes; one of the most emulated, quoted, and googled lighting gurus who can show you how to do virtually any kind of location lighting with small ttl strobes.

3) Some crazy, slightly hunched ethnic-New-Yorker-accent d00d with an outdated film rangefinder camera who likes to jump in front of people, paparazzi-style, waving a cheap, Tethered Vivitar manual flash snapping one wide angle photo; his whole portrait session is done as 1-2 second snapshot.

Based on the Job description, it's no brainer: it's "1-2-3" respectively.

1 is Martin Schoeller. 2 is Joe Mcnally. 3 is Bruce Gilden.

While I'd feel privileged to have a chance to work with any of these amazing photographers, it's Bruce Gilden that I'd want as my mentor. No contest.

Check him out working at the Texan's Ball election event for Magnum:

Not that such a collaboration would necessarily work. Bruce Gilden seems way to quick and light to benefit from a photo assistant.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jim Marshall Video

If you care about Music photography -- particularly classic rock and blues, then Jim Marshall is your man. Even people that don't know the man, often recognize the shots of Hendrix, Joplin, and others from fan zines, posters, or books from the "music" isle. I definitely had an aha moment when I rediscovered his work as the work of a specific photographer, and I went though a kind of repeat "Oh yeah, that Hendrix shot..." sequence going through one of his books for the first time that I got with only a couple other photographers (Annie Liebowitz' Rolling Stones shots come to mind).

He is one of the best, and this might be the best personal life's work slideshow talk I've seen on the Internet. Before viewing this talk, I thought of him exclusively as a music photographer, but he is a photojournalist; his civil rights and 60s culture stuff in particular was astounding.

I also appreciated the host blogger/photog's suggestion to pour myself a shot of rye and relax. You'll be glad you did.

There's a little bit of a pause to set the stage. Kind of boring if you don't care about knowing what it's like to be Planton's BFF (although I like the Heinekins in the fridge)...just be patient and wait for it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sample Wedding Album Page (lo res), Plummer House

Here's a sample page from a Leathercraftsman book of a Wedding I shot this Summer at the Plummer House in Rochester, MN.

For some reason the panoramic spread is clipped to the right. The full image is here:

Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Chicago Bluesfest 2009

Here's more of my work from the Chicago Bluesfest this year:

Flickr Slideshow of some of my Blues Work

A thousand piles of free photography

I've been thinking about free photography lately -- well, more like bitching about it on -- and when I'm not thinking about it a musician's manager or agent will call me out of the blue telling me I have taken "best picture they can find" and that they expect me to give it to them...for free.

They say that's what it's worth, because they know a lot of photographers that give away all their work for free. Rather than say that they must know a lot of really terrible photographers (which may or may not be true), I just say that I have standard rates that are very reasonable, but not "free", and also mention that if it's the best photo they could find on the net then it should be worth something to them.

Has anyone noticed that the net quality of images in magazines, newspapers, and especially Web sites has taken a turn towards mediocrity and a generic iconic message that is colorful but says nothing? I have. Why? Free photography and microstock.

There's a book out called “Free: The Future of a Radical Price," and I noticed that Jim Goldstein has a pretty solid take on it:

Free magazines is an even dumber strategy that is turning once interesting magazines into one big collective Ad sandwich. Consider the magazines that are part of all those free cross promotions (e.g., credit card rewards programs) and ask yourself when was the last time any of them produced an interesting issue.

Seth Godin also is talking about "Too much free":

And, lastly, one of my favorite blogs, "A photo editor", has ongoing posts that explore the magazine industry and the effects that cheap and free photography have had on dumbing down and genericizing the content. I like this site, because he both complains and explores solutions. Here's one example:

The bottom line is that businesses are paying for mediocre generic stock images instead of the really good images that say something about the subject, and photo assignments that explore topics thoughtfully are way, way down.

I don't have any solutions. I mean I do, but none that people focused on the bottom line are going to use to reshape their model. In fact, usually there is no focus and no budget so the middle men are forced to come up with something that works on a shoe string...and that means cheap or free photography. They'd sell more in the long run if they focused on great compelling content with great images, but what business owners/agents/Web site managers/etc. are really listening to photographers?

Of course, I am saying all this on a free blog. Well, uh....

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Boundary Waters: After Clearing Summer Storm

Boundary Waters, originally uploaded by Randy's Dailies.

This image was featured in today's Sierra Club Daily Ray of Hope subscriber mailing.

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up. -- Anne Lamott"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Today's my birthday: make my day

Want to make my day? Book your platinum storytelling wedding...or, even better yet, buy an art print of my personal work or commission me to do editorial work for your magazine. Everyone is happy and those things always make my day -- especially the prints.

My prints are enjoyed but it is still a pleasant shocker when someone asks for one, since I don't even market them per se. Maybe I should try it, no? Maybe blues is your thing. Here's some of that work for you to peruse: Some blues