Inspired by Sarah Moon: 8 Week Portrait Class Student Work

This week we studied the work of Sarah Moon for inspiration. The students looked at Ms Moon’s work, analyzed it, found what they liked and used it for inspiration. The goal is not to copy the masters, it is to understand them and let that understanding inspire the work.

Some photographers may never use what they learn in their personal style, and others will let the influence become a part of their unique vision.

As the legendary jazz musician Clark Terry said; “Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate”. A time tested way of finding your own voice. Congrats to the photographers in the class. This is a very creative and beautiful set of images.

“Protectionism” is NOT The Way of Professional Photographers

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The “Protectionist” Attitude Among Photographers

Well, not all photographers, but a considerable few. Enough that they can make a lot of noise and bluster.
I don’t suffer that attitude well, never have. The whining about how there are too many photographers and how we should NOT be helping them enter the business or ‘feeding them dreams’ or whatever, is simply a lame, self-serving sort of sod that never sits well with the facts.

Here are Five Myths of Protectionism in Photography.

If we do not teach the young photographers entering the market, they will flounder and get out.
Wanna bet. You cannot keep people from doing what they want to do. Not yet, anyway. And many people want to be photographers. They crave the craft and live every moment thinking about making images. Not teaching them the correct way to enter the market, and compete fairly, is folly beyond imagination. They will enter anyway, and have more chance to screw it all up than if they KNOW what they are doing.

And when did we photographers become so, well, mean. I have no appetite for watching people flounder and fail. I love it when they succeed and win. Creating winners amongst us is exactly what we ALL should be doing. To turn from that path is petty… and pathetic as well.

Training more people will hurt the industry because it will create a glut.
Wrong. There is and has always been a glut. Simply stated, that argument doesn’t work because it is putting a false parameter on something that has no parameters. There is no finite amount of work to be divided equally among the anointed players. Each photographer gets the work they get. It is either enough to sustain them or not. Artificially stating that there is some sort of ceiling is not logical.

There isn’t enough work to go around.
Well, maybe not for you. Or her or that guy over there. But there is a lot of work to be had out there. We know and follow too many successful photographers to even think that there is not ‘enough’ work out there. And even if that were true, and it is not, who is to say that the same shooters who are working now wouldn’t have those jobs all to themselves. The market picks winners and losers, not artificial quotas and protected participants.

Prices are plummeting because of the influx of talented photographers.
Yeah… so? Why would photography escape market forces. I paid $2500 for my Mac Classic in 1986. In today’s dollars that would be about $9,000. Anyone complaining about computer prices? Or memory? Or music? A single song on a 45 RPM record was a buck (I say single cause the other side was likely crap). And today at Amazon that single song is.. a buck.

However, I will say this. In 1984 I was getting day rates of $1500 – $2000 and those day rates have not gone up in any significant way since. (No, I usually do not charge day rate these days, but many do and I am pointing out the stagnation, not the method.) Was it because of digital?

Hardly. It was because things were changing and lots of photographers were entering the market. The market I wanted to be involved in. I had the choice to do that or get a job that no one wanted. I briefly thought about being the conductor for the New York Philharmonic… but the competition for that single position was pretty stiff… So I opted for competing for a lot of jobs instead of just one.

If we could somehow keep the beginners out, there would be more work for us.
No. There would be more for the folks that are already working. If you are not working and blaming it on the newbies, you will still not be working when the newbies are actually thrown under the bus.
Talent always wins when it is bundled with good business skills, marketing plans and a driven, nothings gonna stop me mentality. Thinking that somehow shutting off the spigot would stop those for whom photography is a calling, not just something fun to do would make ones life easier is simply looking past the problem into the face of a cure that has no merit.

I tell photographers who are complaining about how tough it is and how they can’t get work because of all the other photographers out there to take a look at the real culprit. Look right there…

In the mirror.

Protectionism, unions, state licenses and such are simply ways to garner income and keep out the competition, whether or not the competition has the talent to actually compete.

A photographer told me on twitter once that he was comfortable and loving being a photographer, but didn’t want any more people in the business because it was cutting down on his ability to get work. They were “talentless hacks” or something like that.

So what he told me in essence is that his work is so lame that talentless hacks were beating him out at his game and he didn’t want to actually have to improve above the level of talentless hack himself.

That was simply sad. I thought his work was pretty good, and that he should be doing well. Unfortunately, people with that mindset are usually not excited by the mornings, driven to make new work, striving to become better and better with all they create. Instead they brood and whine and look for people to blame for their own intransigence.

I love working with new photographers. After forty years in the business, I know I have stuff that can help, knowledge from the trenches that can answer questions – or even cause questions to be answered in the new world we find ourselves.

Be a mentor. If you can help a struggling photographer, do so.

What you give is so much more powerful than what you hold back.

Portraits Inspired by Yousef Karsh

This past week we looked at the work of Yousef Karsh. The students in the 8 Week Portrait Workshop are learning a ton and putting it to practical use. Here are their images from last weeks assignment.

Creating a Photo Portfolio That Represents Your Work

“What makes a photograph “Portfolio Worthy”

I want to talk about what makes an image worthy of your portfolio today, and have you think about your work in possibly a different sort of way.

What is your portfolio, anyway?

It is the repository of the work you have made, and limited to be the outstanding pieces from the volume of work created. It is the instrument you use to say “this is what I do.”

Whether it is a printed book, a ‘traditional portfolio’, an online gallery or your website, your portfolio is a collection of your best work. And hopefully one can see a style emerging from that collection.

A portfolio is not a congregation of your most popular shots, nor is it the ones your mom or boyfriend think ‘rock’. Those are great compliments of course, but the portfolio images should show more of another viewpoint.

Yours.

The images should be chosen with care and the knowledge that they reflect your sensibilities, with your unique vision stamped across them clearly.

In fact, they may not be the most popular shots in your collections. They may be a bit on the obtuse side, or more challenging in composition and design. They may show your more experimental choices or they may be the quiet nature of simplicity that you love so much. They can range from mild to wild, black and white to HDR, people to landscapes to interiors to food.

But they are yours. They represent the images you want to make, how you want to make them and with all of the parts genuinely yours.

Why? Because that ‘genuinely yours’ approach will help you as you begin to develop a style, a vision and a body of work that you will be proud of.

Shooting what other people like will make you madder than the proverbial hatter. There is no style in the world that will satisfy everyone. No matter what you shoot, someone is not going to like it. Changing your work to match their needs only means you will alienate someone else.

So don’t bother.

Shoot your work. Shoot it your way.

Find out what the images you love have in common.

Here’s a little assignment for you;

Put 20 of your favorite images onto a single large image… a collage. Photoshop can do that for you now (again) with a tool under the File menu.

File/Automate/Contact Sheet II

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Put the twenty images into a single folder and run the Contact Sheet II script. Choose the largest paper size you can print (or take to Costco/Sams Club/Walmart… whatever) so that all of the images are displayed together on one sheet.

This one is done on 8.5 x 11 and I used a setting of 12 images per page.

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Now take that sheet and look at it closely, with the intent of really seeing each image.

What are the similarities between your images?
What are the differences that jump out at you?
Which images, if any, look out of place in the selection?
Which images, if any, look wrong or not as good as the others that are similar?

Show the sheet of images to people you trust to give honest feedback. Even your mom, BFF, buds, and the guys you hang out with and discuss photography. As long as it is honest, it will be good feedback.

It is not a good critique, however. Critiques are done with intentions in mind, goals determined, and a frank discussion of what the images were created to do.

But feedback is good, and if you don’t know anyone who can give a good critique (yet) they are a good place to start.

The last thing to do is to analyze the ways the feedback made you feel about your work. Do you agree with their assessments? Do you believe they see what you shot the way you see what you shot? Does an image still stand up in your mind as being a strong image even if others say it was not their favorite?

Do this repeatedly with 20 images at a time. Find the ones that really resonate with you. The ones you want to show to everybody, everywhere, every day.

I’ll close with this quote by Photographer Bela Borsodi:

“If it touches you, if it excites you, if it makes you cry, if it makes you smile. A good photograph is something you cannot resist looking at. There might be a sense of surprise or discovery. something pleasant or painful. There is this quote by Oscar Wilde: “I can resist everything except temptation” In a way a good photograph is what you can’t resist and want to engage with. It doesn’t matter if you take photographs of your dog, or girlfriend, or whether you’re in a big studio with supermodels in it. If it speaks to you, then that’s when you know you have a good photograph.” 

(Thanks to Hiram Chee for finding this great quote.)

 

6 New Books I Have Ordered


From Amazon:
“W magazine is renowned for its avant-garde fashion stories, those elaborate confections of magic and mystery that have inspired and captivated readers for more than two decades. This volume gathers 10 of the most remarkable stories, each in its entirety, along with never-before-seen outtakes. Each story was the centerpiece of the issue it appeared in, and together they ride the razor’s edge between outrageously provocative and enchanting, from the bizarre (Steven Klein’s “One for the Ages”) to the alien (Tim Walker’s “Planet Tilda”) and whimsical (Paolo Roversi’s “Carnevale”). These and other stories by Klein, Walker, and Roversi, as well as Steven Meisel, Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, and Alex Prager, are featured. A special code inside the book provides access to short films shot on the sets of the featured stories by Meisel, Walker, Klein, and Prager.”

Awesome book if you like new fashion photography.


From Amazon:
“How can a photographer of internationally known stars create iconic portraits that linger in the memory–especially since these actors have already been photographed and filmed millions of times? Vincent Peters–who has been working since 1995 for magazines such as Vogue and GQ and fashion brands including Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Yves Saint Laurent–relies entirely on the classic art of portrait photography for his pictures. Focusing on small gestures and subtle productions instead of prominent poses, he ensures that his subjects do not disappear into the backdrop and that their faces are the focal point. Emma Watson’s features are lent a tragic note with white makeup. Annie Lennox appears like a stern missionary in a suit and fedora. Photographs of stars such as David Beckham and Christian Bale are markedly masculine. Even more intimate are the images that Peters has taken in private surroundings, like when he accompanied Monica Bellucci during her second pregnancy. His sophisticated lighting has the most impact in his black-and-white photos, bestowing them with a breathtaking cinematic quality.”

Cinematic lighting, classic style of the 40′ – 50’s given new life with Vincent’s contemporary approach. I was not all that familiar with is work, and the book is expensive – but worth every nickel. Wow.


From Amazon:
“Moss’s magic has been captured by the world’s leading photographers, and this volume spans the entirety of her unparalleled career, from model to fashion designer, and muse to icon. Told through images that Moss has personally selected, KATE shows the influence of her collaborations with top photographers and artists over the last two decades, and clearly demonstrates why her career has had, and continues to have, such incredible longevity.

Photography by Arthur Elgort, Corinne Day, Craig McDean, David Sims, Hedi Slimane, Inez & Vinoodh, Juergen Teller, Mario Sorrenti, Mario Testino, Mert & Marcus, Nick Knight, Patrick Demarchelier, Peter Lindbergh, Roxanne Lowit, Steven Klein, Terry Richardson and others”

You see that list of photographers there, right? And the incredible Ms Moss?
This one is so full of ideas and brilliant photography that it addles the brain. Simply astounding.


From Amazon:
“This new collection of Peter Lindbergh’s photographs presents his work from the past ten years. The prolific fashion and portrait photographer is one of the leading commercial artists of our day. His special subject are women.”

Because Peter Lindbergh… duh. If you are not familiar with Peter’s work, and love fashion/beauty… well, you need this book.


From Amazon:
“Stephen Shore has had a significant influence on multiple generations of artists and photographers. Even for the youngest photographers working today, his work remains an ongoing and indisputable reference point. Stephen Shore: Survey includes over 250 images that span Shore’s impressive and productive career. The images range from 1969 to 2013, with series such as Early Works, Amarillo, New York City, American Surfaces and Uncommon Places, among others. Stephen Shore: Survey elucidates Shore’s contributions, as well as the historiographical interpretations of his work that have influenced photographic culture over the past four decades. The narrative of the catalogue is conceptualized around three particularly revealing aspects of Shore’s work, including his analysis of photographic and visual language, his topographical approach to the contemporary landscape and his significant use of color within a photographic context.”

Stephen Shore is an enigma to me. I both love and dislike his work… for sometimes the very same reason. He will challenge your beliefs in what makes a photograph as well as show you ways you have never thought about. Not an instant attraction, Shore takes a bit of time to digest. This is, in my opinion, some of his best photography.


An older book, and still available at a decent price. I loved this approach, and look forward to hopefully seeing another book on a select group of women by legendary photographer Peter Lindbergh (who we are studying next week for the 8 Week Portrait Class (see workshops tab).

Yeah… I done spent all my Christmas money. But then I love books, and books full of photographs… how can you beat that?