“How has your art been received in your community? Do you have any detractors?”
“Oh, yeah. That comes up all the time. If you really, really commit to something, someone will hate you for it. And that’s ok. But the further you pursue your art, and the more you come to understand that it’s coming from who you are, the less that stuff gets to you. When you reach that point and put your work out there, and somebody hates it, what are your options? Are you gonna move forward or completely realign your work? Somebody will always be there to tell you they don’t like what you’re doing. To do work that pleases people is a constant investment in gauging trends and evaluating opinions and measuring yourself against them. If you align to what’s popular, and then in two years everyone hates it, you have to completely change who you are. But if you just figure out who you are and how you want to work, all you have to do is commit to that the rest of your life. People’s reactions might change, but you won’t have to. You’ll be doing something you care about, whether people like it or not.”
On the previous post I mentioned, almost in passing, how negative articles and stories are more highly engaged than are positive ones.
A few minutes later, this catches my attention:
“So, one answer to my student’s rhetorical question is “Just say NO.” As in, no, I will not make your donut commercial for free; no, I will not play at your restaurant “for the exposure;” no, you cannot have my painting to hang in your home because your “important” friends will see it; no, I will not paint your set “for the experience.” What I will do is accept a slightly below market wage because I’m still in school and you’ll get what you pay for; yes, I will play at your restaurant for one night if you provide dinner for my family of six beforehand; yes, I will loan my painting to you for a fixed period of time if I am invited to the cocktail party to meet your important friends; yes, I will paint your set with you so that you can train me on a specialized technique with which I am unfamiliar. Or, yes! I will gift my talents to you with generosity and an open heart because I love you, your cause, or your work. But no, I will not make your donut commercial for free. [In a follow-up post, I discuss saying "YES!"]“
It received over 114 responses before the comments were closed.
The following week, the author wrote “Saying YES”.
“Just – or even more – important than knowing when to say “no,” is knowing when and how to say “yes.” Giving builds community; giving builds friendships; giving builds social capital (although one need not think of it in those terms); giving lifts the spirit of both the giver and receiver. We may give of our time, we may give of our money, we may give of our things, we may give of our talent. Related to giving is sharing – we may share knowledge, share food, share an experience (good or bad), without any exchange of material goods.”
It received three comments.
Negativity is the common thread of all failed anythings. The author has it right on both of these articles. Absolutely right… and yet the negative by far has more engagement.
WTF? You think I am some sort of sociologist or somethin’? I have no data, only my life long experience of finding that negative people are more persuasive and impassioned than they should be.
It is almost as if people go LOOKING for negative things to use as some sort of blame shifting mechanism.
After all, if you aren’t successful it is probably because of ‘those people’… you know who I mean… the others that steal dreams and force us to constantly make bad decisions and sit on our fat asses whining.
My friend Jan Klier (NYC) and I were discussing the recent Getty move to grant access to millions of images for only a byline. He feels it is a good move for photographers, and while I am still somewhat ambivalent we both agree that the worst thing is the overall message that photographs are not worth much anymore.
We also agree that message will fade as photographs are becoming more and more valuable all the time.
No, I am not talking about wedding photographs or baby shots, brochure covers or even ad shots for the newest wizbang gadget.
I mean as a value to our lives. The communication and interaction they facilitate. The shared experiences and cultural manifestations of images are not to be ignored.
From Jan’s post this morning:
“Photographers lack that scale in their marketing. How many portfolio reviews have you been on in the last year? How many people have seen your entire book and seen the majority of your photos? How many people’s opinions have you gotten about your work? Is it a statistically significant number? Doubtfully. Yet, how many people have seen some of your images in some form or another without you knowing about it? How much better could your business be if you could reliably create and market your next photo with the accuracy of an Amazon recommendation?
So while Getty’s latest move may not yet be the photographer’s meta data solution, it’s a move in that direction. Paul Melcher has been involved in Stiple, another smaller endeavor in the same vein.”
From my half of the email exchange this morning:
Change is hard. Change is always harder when multiple models change at the same time. The traditional ‘dollars for hours’ model of the service sector is being tossed on its head. The traditional ‘licensing’ for use’ model is being challenged and in many cases eviscerated.
When we take today’s market and look at it from today’s perspective (rather than one of 20 years ago) we can clearly see that if we began this industry now, we would be using a far different set of tools to create the values we want to maintain. We would not be looking at day-rates, licensing, and controlling access, we would be looking at reach, engagement and open access.
Business models that made no sense 20 years ago, and will make a lot of sense 20 years from now. Or something else entirely, change is indeed constant.
Simply said, the old models don’t work smoothly in today’s environment. It will not get smoother.
And yet that failed model of trying to shoehorn an unworkable model into a clearly bad fit is what so many spend their time and efforts on.
The old model of the business of photography is breathing its last breath. Mediocre photographers who got by in years past are today’s roadkill. Big time shooters are finding other models to follow (McNally the celebrity, Heisler the sage etc…) and this is the natural progression of disruption, be it good or bad not withstanding.
The new model of photography is also quite difficult to see at the moment. It is still in flux, and in fact may never again ‘gel’ into a single, describable entity. It may remain ethereal and erratic, shifting forever without a clear and discernible set of parameters.
Quickly changing cultural beliefs and communication standards will be entering and weaving for quite a few more years… and the pace will most likely not subside (barring a catastrophic failure of society, which may not be out of the question these days).
The fear that photographers have over losing what they had is misplaced. It is already gone. Looking back and wishing it were not so is of no value, and it will avail nothing but more distraction and pain and time lost from moving ahead.
Looking forward may indeed be painful, but it will at least be a start toward understanding the changing nature of photography, how photography is perceived and used, of what value is photography to the culture and how one who creates imagery fits in.
This of course requires more effort, so we will continue to bitch and whine, which of course provides nothing of value, but is far easier to do.
Notice the amazing hit counts on the ‘oh poor woe is us’ posts at Petapixel, VSL, f-stoppers and such. Doom and gloom are still the big attractions for the human race. Early newspaper owners knew it. Media organizations know it. Nothing different in the photography realm.
But we are all aware of those that ignored the doom and gloom fascination of the day to move into a more prosperous tomorrow. Instead of wringing hands and enjoying each other’s suffering, they went out and did… something else. A choice we all have an opportunity to make every single morning we open our eyes.
Today I am trying to figure out how to incorporate Snapchat into my business… not sure I have a breakthrough yet, but I believe there is a way.
From Seth this morning:
“Culturally, we create boundaries for what something is worth. A pomegranate juice on the streets of Istanbul costs a dollar, and it’s delicious. The same juice in New York would be seen as a bargain for five times as much money. Clearly, we’re not discussing the ability to pay nor are we considering the absolute value of a glass of juice. No, it’s about our expectation of what people like us pay for something like that.”
And that is the problem – and the solution.
If people are complaining that your photography prices are “too expensive” they may be telling you loud and clear that what you are offering is not ‘worth it’ to them.
That your work is “too expensive” gives absolutely no actionable response. We don’t know what that means. Whether they are low on money or are comparing your pricing to their brother-in-law’s new portrait hobby.
But if they say “your work is not worth – to us – what you are asking for it” then we have something to go on. We can ask why they do not value it more. We can look into creating a value that surrounds the imagery by creating a better story about it. The story is the thing that makes it different.
Things that are ‘worth it’ are usually accompanied by stories that create the value. Without a good, compelling story, it is just a photograph… and that may not be worth it to anyone.
What’s your story?
Do we think that by having a great twitter feed and a bunch of cool likes on 500pixies or GPus is the same as having buds? Friends?
People to hang out with – and NOT at a keyboard while in our underwear… real interactions.
I can say unequivocally that the difference that being connected 24/7 has made in the photography business (BEYOND the cameras) is profound.
My studio in Phoenix was always the center of a lot of social activities. Models, MUA’s, stylists, photographers, people in the arts… they would drop by, especially on Saturdays. Just to chat. Just to hang out.
It was a really fun time.
Now… not so much. The studio is there, but the people are hooked to their devices, their networks… and the effort it takes to go ‘somewhere’ is not worth it because when they get there, everyone would be on their devices anyway.
Yeah, it seems strange to write an article on why in particular I really love my Nikon Df. Why would anyone give a shit what someone else likes as far as a camera?
And yet, they do. And I kinda get that on some level.
I have heard this camera derided as being too “retro” by people who like the Fuji X-100… yeah. OK. (I love the Fuji as well, but this is not about the Fuji… so I am digressing.) I have read the litany of complaints from those who list no video, dials, slow to operate… blah blah. Yeah, them ‘grampacams’ are like that.
So let’s start out with what I do not care about. If you do care about all this stuff, then this is definitely NOT a review you want to read.
- High ISO (for me, shooting ends so there’s more time for drinkin’…) Shooting at 267,842 ISO means little to me.
- File size. Meh.
- Speed of the camera controls. Actually, I LIKE that they slow me down. More on that later.
- Ergonomics. Fits my hand just fine.
- Controls. Seem easy enough to me. I am fairly smart and can learn to twist a dial. Try it… not that hard actually.
So what do I care about?
- Image quality. Dayam this thing rocks.
- The size/weight of the kit. I already have a bigass kit of Canon DSLR’s in a huge roller bag. We good.
- The way the camera invokes a shot in my mind.
The way the camera itself invokes a shot… and that is IT, man. THAT is what I love about this camera.
Some background… I have been a photographer since before dirt was completely made. I have been a photographer since the Kodachrome days. And being a photographer meant that we had different formats of cameras for different types of work.
In my line of work, a generalist with a specialty of people, that meant a lot of kits.
I have an 8×10 Deardorff, a 5×7 Linhoff, a 4×5 Toyo and 5 lenses for that group. I also had a full set of Mamiya RB67′s, a Hassy Superwide, and a bigass kit of Nikons with 4 bodies all motorized.
When a brief would come in, there would be choices to be made. Film, processing, location/studio?
But usually there would be the first inkling of the system choice. Was this to be a view camera shot, or was this a shoot that simply called for 35MM? Should we go MF with the Mamiyas, or could it be time to haul out the big Deardorff?
The images in my head were inexplicably tied to the camera I chose. The camera I chose was absolutely indicative of the images I would make.
Fast action fashion? 35MM probably.
Portraits of cowboys on location? Medium format… even view camera possibly. And the choice would dictate the kind of work that would be produced.
Food would usually mean the view cameras, and model work would usually mean the 35 system.
Personal projects were many times created with the format of the camera in mind – sometimes chosen first. Along with the film of choice.
I did a shoot of old mines in southern Colorado on 8×10 B&W, and the next week shot Navajo coal miners in color on the Mamiyas. A week on the road for Motorola shooting executives in out of the way places was a 35MM shoot, and following that we shot stills of the first cellphones on both view camera and medium format. I would even pre-visualize the final print, as well as the look of it from the choice of film and format as well.
Contact prints of the 8×10 negatives were stunning, and the prints coming off the Mamiya were amazing… and different.
Shooting with a view camera is slow, deliberate and exacting. Each exposure takes a considerable amount of time. Focus upside down and backwards on the ground glass – under a black cloth, tilt the lens board, shift the back, adjust and focus again, shut down the aperture, prepare the shutter, insert holder, pull dark slide, wait for camera to settle, make exposure, insert dark slide, remove holder… prepare to do it again. Slow. Deliberate.
And the work that was created was deliberate and exact. There was no ‘rushing’ when using a view camera. A tripod was absolute, as was the preparation before going out to shoot. One shot at a time. One shot.
Medium format was a bit faster. We had a roll of film and a winder tool to advance it to the next frame. But this camera had something else that was unique: We held that camera at waist level, looking down into it. I had viewfinders for eyelevel work, but honestly used them rarely. It was the configuration of the camera that was tactile to working with it that made it part of the choice.
I liked looking down into my SuperWide Hasselblad, and the Mamiyas. I had a stack finder (a vertical tube to look into that kept out the ambient light) but still looking down.
Working with the medium format cameras was also deliberate, although we could move quicker than with a 4×5, and occasionally shoot off-tripod, it was still more meticulous than the 35MM cameras. We had fewer lenses to work with, and yet that too was part of the creative attraction. The big, bulky medium format cameras harkened to me a particular kind of photograph. There was something that the tool brought to the making of the image that I simply cannot explain, other than to say it was real.
The 35MM’s were the most dynamic. Shooting from eye level on a wide assortment of lenses, the work tended to be looser, more fluid… like the tool in the hand of the photographer would allow. Because of the faster cameras, I would make images in bursts (not really easy to do with a 4×5) and from places with difficult access (not easy with the MF cameras). The 35′s were an extension of my eyes. The MF’s an extension of my brain.
The view camera was an extension of my heart.
I don’t know if I have explained it well enough for others, and really, not a big deal.
I loved that tactile /creative part of the process. Still do.
Sometime along 2000, it all went away.
The DSLR replaced it all. Food shooters, architectural shooters, fashion shooters, portrait and product shooters all began to use the DSLR for ALL of the work. And the work started to show it. There was something missing from my imagery that was – at the time – unexplainable to me. I did not see the loss of the formats as big of a deal as it invariably was. I have learned over the years that it was indeed a love lost quietly, in the stills of time.
I think it explains my Df attraction.
I love it precisely because it is NOT another big DSLR. It is slower to operate, with deliberate dials and knobs. That slows me down, and it makes me think differently about the image. Holding it feels different as well. It is the first DSLR (SLR) that I have been happy with without a grip. Seems to fit my hand well, and feel very good in the way it handles both at the eye and in the resting position.
I would not have purchased a Nikon (although I do love the D700/D800 and secretly have pined for a D3400 in Ferrari Red… ). It would not have been a move up, but simply another big DSLR that – for all their differences – is really not any different than what I already own.
But the Df feels different and that makes me think differently about the photographs I would use it for. The lenses I have for it are all old model AF so they are tiny in comparison to their bigger, newer siblings. I like that as well. A tiny bag (in comparison) with four lenses and I am out the door. No shoulder stress, and no bag on wheels to find a place for.
The slowness, the deliberateness of the camera means a slower, more deliberate approach to the images. Earlier this week I went out to shoot a project for a client. I knew that the Canons were the right choice. Tomorrow I am doing a set of environmental still life and the Df will be on my shoulder. This coming weekend is the Renaissance Fair with my daughter. Nikon V1 is the chosen tool… great images, fast and easy to carry.
I would like to have a Fuji X-100 as well, and a fixed lens 35MM equivalent rangefinder… more choices for different ways of shooting.
So now I find myself with a big DSLR Canon kit (6 lenses – 20MM – 200MM), a single Nikon Df kit (4 lenses – 28, 35, 50, 85) and a Nikon V1 with 24-200 35 equivalent zooms (2). Different strokes and different approaches.
Not the same as before, with all the widely differing variances of tools, physical sizes, film choices, processing choices and more that was such a big part of the mystique, but it will have to do and for the most part, it does rather nicely.
So there you have it. My big reason for the Nikon Df is that it makes me think differently about the images I want to create because it IS different.
Nothing to do with the ‘retro’ of it, or the cool dials, or the amount of megapixels, or the shutter speed or buffer or yaddayaddayadda…
Yeah… big deal, eh?
(Oh, I like the new Sony Quattro system as well. So sue me.)