Friday, August 15, 2008

I need an editor...

Writers have editors, musicians have producers, and directors have writers, editors, and creative producers---and this photographer could use the guidance of a photo editor/art buyer/art director or someone with a keen sense of how the heck I'm going to put my work together for the umpteenth billionth time.

This is what my desktop looks like at the moment.

I've done numerous on numerous versions of my portfolios and shared those with other photographers, photo editors, and a few reps as well. The one thing that is consistent (and you've probably heard this before), if you show your work to 25 different people, you'll get 25 different opinions. That's been the case in my experience thus far. Some like picture X, others like Y, some don't like Z, while others would have me open with it. Unfortunately, when it comes to the reps and the photo editors, I've always had to show a "completed" portfolio. Though, as we all know, the idea of a completed portfolio is a farce anyway since it's an ongoing work. Nevertheless, I was speaking with a fellow photographer yesterday, one who's a bit farther along in the game than I am, and he asked me if I'd ever given my book to an editor. He said he once gave his work over to someone to edit and when it came back to him he couldn't believe the work was his. Everyone sees things differently, and my juxtaposition of two images next to one another may not make sense to you, even though I was sure it was an easy read. I've got a friend who's a VP of Creative at an ad agency here in town who offered to give me a hand so I think that will be my first stop, at least for the advertising savvy stuff. Maybe I'll throw down the extra 3 bills for Mr. Haggert to put in his thoughts when I make my new website this month...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Next Wave

I am aware that this blog has been less frequent lately, but I like to think that's an indication that things are going fairly well. This summer has been busy and I've been shooting quite a bit and traveling too. I just returned from a 5 day trip up into Norcal to do some exploring and camping and a bit of shooting too. The farthest I'd previously been was into Marin, but this trip landed me all the way into the Humboldt Redwoods, which are probably the most magnificent forests I've ever seen. Pretty much drove most of the northern California coast starting at Point Reyes and finishing a bit before Eureka. I love road trips.

Anyways, I'm back home now for what appears to be an open schedule to start taking care of the stacks of papers, empty cupboards, and piles of laundry that have been awaiting my attention. More importantly, I've got a lot of new work to sort through, retouch, and print, a new website to build (looking into the aphotofolio sites), create and mail new promos, and finally get these portfolios filled with new images and to hopefully create some sort of real ad book. I'd like to go back to New York in the fall with something new to show.

Speaking of new work... here's a quick scan straight of the contact sheet from my shoot in Carlinville, Illinois in July.

And yes, Nick (the guy who commissioned the shoot) and his brother Rob really did grow up at this very intersection...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Digital Madness

I prefer to shoot film.

Yes, digital is nice to look at the screen and see my images, and all that stuff, but when it comes down to the very end---after the shoot---I would rather take my film to the lab, wait a few days, pick up the contacts and start my edit. I am currently swamped with somewhere around 30 gigs of RAW files (from the Canon line, not from medium format mind you) that I must edit now and archive and adjust levels and contrast--and it's my least favorite thing about photography. Honestly, give me 40 contact sheets and I can edit them in no time--I'll have it narrowed down to 25 frames of my top picks with ease. On the other hand, if I've got 400 digital frames, I wind up staring at spinning beach balls, magenta skin tones, pixelated jpeg previews, and images that I really have to wait for endless amounts of time in order to check sharpness. Digital just takes way longer than film to edit. And when there's no real post production budget, it's up to yours truly to edit, process, color correct, and post... In these cases, I am the lab. At this level that seems to be the way photography is going. I am happy to be shooting though, I love that part!

I had a couple shoots in the last few days that went pretty well. Now I'm staring at spinning beach balls though... I would like a real budget job again very soon...

One other exciting thing: I made a holga lens for a digital body. That was fun.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Back in Venice

Ah, back to Westside and to a bunch of new work that I am busy going through editing, retouching, and all that good stuff. After a few flights and trains and taxi rides lugging my gear around Illinois for 10 days I've got a few new takes on the logistics of traveling around for a shoot.

First of all, shooting 100% digitally will probably save a lot of carry on space. I tend to carry film cameras and, perhaps, have a bit of camera ADD -- meaning that I am constantly switching cameras. I do this mostly because I like the different effects of different film formats, lenses, looks of film, etc. Some, if not all of those effects can be re-created in the photoshop, but the amount of work required to each image to recreate those effects can cancel out any cost savings digital may create (depending on just how far you want to take your digital image to emulate certain film cameras and film stocks.) However, having one body or two and several lenses and a laptop would certainly be much lighter than an entire bag devoted to multiple cameras, lenses, polaroid backs, film backs, plus the laptop and digital body as well.

Secondly, with the airlines now charging for baggage under the plane, it's pretty important to factor that into the cost of plane ticket. On this last trip I flew United and traveled with a 7B, a bleached white muslin, a c-stand, a light stand, tripod, several softboxes, and some miscellaneous grip---just about the minimal kit I like to travel with into an uncertain shooting situation (except for the muslin, that was for a specific shoot that I wound up doing in Champaign.) United gives you one free bag under the plane, the second bag is $25, and the third is $100. And each bag has to be 50 lbs. or under--no more media rates for bags up to 100 lbs. No more negotiating. In the end, it turned out that shipping back my body bag with the stands and tripods and grip saved quite a bit and kept me from having to lug 5 bags around Chicago.

I guess if you really want to keep costs down, go digital and shoot it all natural light. Unfortunately, that can be a bit limiting, so if you have to bring lighting, look into shipping options for your gear, and also the baggage policies and costs specific to your airline.

The heartland at 70 mph on my Lomo

Monday, June 30, 2008

Carlinville, Illinois

Rob Haggert posted the other day about toy cameras and the Holga--my absolute favorite toy camera of choice. See the post.

As for me, I am currently in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois visiting my mom, who recently moved here. The commissioned shoot for my friend, that brought me out this way in the first place, went well really well. We took the redeye to from LAX to O'Hare on Friday night. Got in just before 6am and drove the 4+ hours to Carlinville, Illinois---population 5700 according to the sign. Carlinville is truly small town America-- and if you take exception to the flora, I think I could have been in just about any small town east of Colorado.

Nick, Rob (his brother and a close friend of mine), their mom, Janet, and I arrived at the house around 11:00 am where their younger sister Katie, and dad, Phil were already there. Nick and I did a walk through of the house and it was immediately apparent that there was plenty of to shoot and any associated stress of wondering just what the heck I was going to shoot immediately disappeared. The house is over 130 years old, sits 2 stories high with 10 foot ceilings---it had plenty of character. Beers were cracked and mimosas poured sometime before noon---and I thought, okay, so this is how it's going to be.

I started my first shot sometime around noon---using my Holga, lomo, RZ, and an old 35mm Mamiya Sekor (the one with the uncoated lenses). Nick is a big fan of my Holga images and asked me to bring that sort of nostalgic feel to these images. He stayed with me throughout the day, breaking away periodically to sit and hang with the family. We continued shooting exteriors as well as a portrait of the family too until about 7 that evening.

Sunday, I got up just past 6 am to check the light on the front of the house. The front of the house faces East, and when we arrived the sun was fairly high overhead. I shot it the first day, but I wanted to try and get a more front lit shot of the house as well. Unfortunately, the morning was socked in with clouds, so instead, I lit for another family portrait on the screened in porch. By 9 am we had finished that shot and Nick and I moved on to set up for an interior portrait of his mom and then a separate one of his dad. The sun busted through the clouds sometime while setting up and we got the front of the house hero shot (with the morning light this time) and also finished both portraits as well.

All in all, I was in Carlinville for about 28 hours, but somehow it felt much longer (in a good way)--and complete. I never felt rushed and we were able to cover more shots than either of us had initially imagined. Most everything I shot was on film, with the exception of the individual portraits of his parents.

Here's a rough jpeg [quickly processed using my laptop -- no real monitor for color/density corrections] from the images of his father---Phil, that I wanted to share...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Checking in...

Things have been pretty busy recently, which is great. I know when my office is messy, clean laundry sits on my bed for days on end, and I'm generally out of the many different staples in my pantry that life is probably on a bit of an upswing. I had 2 shoots last week that took up a lot of my time. And I've been trying to knock out a new portfolio to bring with me when I head out of town for about 2 weeks -- leaving on the redeye tomorrow night. In fact, if Samy's were open right now, I'd probably be absorbed in printing and cutting down new images for my book, but I've got another 45 minutes or so to go.

On Wednesday I shot an up-and-coming pop/club/dance/ singer on Interscope records -- Lady Gaga. It was for a small, no budget magazine, but I own the rights to the images, so I figured it was worth the gamble for syndication purposes. I had a great team of hair, makeup, and a great assistant and we powered through four setups in about 90 mins including some makeup and wardrobe changes. I'm pretty stoked on the images and will probably use a couple in my portfolio once they are touched up and printed. Saturday was a shoot for a small catalog that I've been shooting for just under a year and this seemed to be our best shoot yet, so that was nice too.

As for my upcoming trip, I'm pretty stoked on it. A friend of mine has commissioned me to go to his lifelong childhood home and photograph the house before it is sold. He's a painter and a bit of a sentimentalist and he asked me to shoot it for him and his family. It's a great chance to get out of LA for a bit to do some shooting and to have it paid for, which is even better. So, we leave tomorrow and head to Carlinville, Illinois for a couple days. Serendipitously, my mom just moved to another part of Illinois about five months ago, so I'll spend a week with her, and then head to Chicago for the 4th to see friends and hopefully put together some meetings with ad agencies in Chi-town before I come back to LA.

Before I get out of here to go pick up more ink and paper and immerse myself in photoshop for the rest of the day I wanted to address something mentioned on Shawn Records Blog a little bit ago. In this post he says

"• band photography: is there a way to photograph a group of painfully self-aware 20 somethings in their hipster finest and not have it reek? Please, let's talk about band photography- show/share. My favorite band photo of all time is the inside jungle hippie photo from an old Three Dog Night album, but I can't find it online. I just remember it had a pregnant woman and a watermelon in it and, in a sense, is somewhat reminiscent of Justine Kurland's contemporary work."

I commented on his blog and figured I'd address it on my own. I've spent a good amount of time working with one particular band here in Los Angeles including going out on a couple tours with them for weeks on end. I think in the reportage sense of photography there's a lot of great work out there. Look at Jim Marshall for a real historical viewpoint. And, more recently, Christopher Wray-McCann has also created some great images. I'll even post a few of my own shots from being on the road with some "painfully self-aware 20 somethings in their hipster finest," and contend that it doesn't reek. Yes, I know, I'm putting my own work out there and saying it doesn't suck, but hey, if I thought it sucked, I wouldn't show it off anyways...