Photographers You Should Know: Nadav Kander

Nadav Kander shoots a lot of different subjects and I think he does them extremely well. I love his classic approach to composition, and the understated approach he uses to lighting and presentation. His imagery is clean, uncluttered and created with deliberation and attention to detail.

From Wiki:
Nadav Kander
(born 1961) is a London-based photographer, artist and director, known for his portraiture and landscapes. His work is included in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and other galleries and museums.

Nadav Kander: Radioactive ruins of secret Soviet towns: a fantastic set of images of places we may never see.

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From his Rep Agency in Europe: We Folk.

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From Nadav Kander’s American Representatives: Stockland Martel

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From Nadav Kander’s Website.

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Are We Clear About What We Do as Photographers?

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Are We?

Two things recently formed today’s article. One was a note from a commercial shooter who was being setup to fail, and the other from a consumer shooter angry that the client kept wanting more and more retouching… and feeling trapped that it must be done.

To both I responded with one word: contract.

I know we all hate that contract crap… at least I know I do. It starts out a relationship saying “I trust you, but I really don’t so sign this.” Maybe I am being a little melodramatic, but it seems that way to me.

The commercial situation was this:

The photographer had submitted a bid for the job and the client said “Wonderful. We love the bid. It’s a go… with just a few minor changes. Of course.

1. We want every shot you take in RAW.
2. We want there to be very little Photoshopping on the images (how does that square with #1?)
3. We want the images to look like the images in your portfolio.
4. We want the images to look just like what we want them to look like although we can’t really tell you what that is until we see them.
5. We want 60 days to pay instead of 30.
6. We want the copyright to all the images forever.

He was concerned about these requests… as he should be.

Whether intentional or not, they were setting him up for a major fail. Conflicting expectations and demands that are clearly not in the normal way of working will always create confusion. And give the client something to use as leverage to bash your price down.

The photographer asked me to review his response which was lengthy and detailed with explanations of why he doesn’t feel good about giving the RAW files, and what copyright really means to him and how he wants to do a great job for them but is a little confused about some of the terms.

I simplified the response to only a few lines.

60 Days is acceptable (from billing date).
Backup RAW Files for the chosen 16 images.
Responsible client representative to art direct the imagery and/or provide a shot list.
Responsible client representative to approve images on set.
Copyright will be retained by the photographer, but client can have a buyout for chosen images for this much more money.

Done.

I always hear photographers talking about educating the client. Well, I am not one that believes the art department of a major corporation needs educating. They know this stuff, they are only playing politics.

By the way, they said yes to the revised bid with 5 paragraphs stating what the PHOTOGRAPHER was going to do.

If I sound jaded, I apologize only slightly. I have seen too damned much of it, and on occasion been on the receiving end. In my case it doesn’t last long because I have a contract and a clear method of working that prevents that.

I have a very simple contract that has the deliverables plainly stated. You get this. This way. By this date.

The client is responsible for the shot list, and someone with the responsibility to do so, must approve all images. Without client approval process, they get what they get. In writing this is.

The consumer shooter had a customer from hell… asking for more than 15 rounds of ‘editing’… from ‘fly away hair’ (shot in a breeze) to making a chin smaller and opening up the eye a bit.

The photographer was mad at the client for all these demands and that shouldn’t be the case. I am happy to make all the changes you want. At $90 per hour.

The contract should state what is included: Color Correcting, skin cleanup, some creative expression (hey, it’s consumer… gotta love them actions). Additional changes are happily made at $90 an hour (or whatever your charge is).

“While every attempt is made to provide a perfect photograph for you, changes in reality can be costly and time intensive. Digital liposuction/cosmetic alterations are supplied at a rate of $90 per hour and estimates must be approved before work commences.”

In the design/web business we call that “Change of Work Order”.

Since we were clear in what we are going to deliver, it is a change to that deliverable schedule when things are added. This also goes for the “Hey, you’re here with your camera already out… can you get a shot of the whole facility from that forklift?”

“Absodamnlutely I can. Hold on, that will require a change of work order… I have one right here. I can add the fee to it and we can get that shot.”

You will quickly find out if they want the shot that bad.

Or you can just go shoot it for them… I don’t care. Just don’t whine about being taken advantage of later. Gift the client that shot since you already had your camera out… or don’t. You have the ability to do either because you have a specific job to do.

Inherent in all of this is the comfort level you have for ‘walking away’. In Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal” he makes a very important point several times; if you are not willing to walk away from the deal, you aren’t in the deal, you are taking an order. Desperation breeds a bad deal if you are the one that is desperate.

Your choice. Are you an order taker or are you negotiating a position or compensation. Being willing to walk away gives the confidence to make your demands known, and feel as powerful making YOURS as they do making theirs.

I don’t usually do full RAW file transfers. It’s rare. 16BIT Tiffs… whatever. But RAW generally stays in my purview, just like my negatives and transparencies. And I don’t transfer copyright. Ever.

I can negotiate most other things and depending on the client and the gig, I can be pretty flexible. But core principals will not be swapped away, and I am totally fine with walking away. No gig is worth giving up my core values and deeply held beliefs.

Be smart, be clear and be deliberate. Eliminating those things that can go wrong upfront is the best way to make the ending a smoother, more enjoyable one.

PS: If your contract requires a Harvard Law Professor to make sense of it, then it’s wrong. Plain old speech is fine. Spell it out clearly with clearly understood words… it’ll hold up.

Great Reads: November Books 2014

“A Road Through Shore Pine focuses on a series of 18 never-before-seen photographs by Robert Adams (born 1937), taken in Nehalem Bay State Park, Oregon, in the fall of 2013. Adams documents a contemplative journey, made first by automobile, then by foot, along an isolated, tree-bordered road to the sea. As presented through Adams’ 11 x 14-inch prints, the passage takes on the quality of metaphor, suggestive of life’s most meaningful journeys, especially its final ones. For this group of photographs, all of which were printed by Adams himself, the artist returned to the use of a medium-format camera, allowing the depiction of an intense amount of detail. Through experience gathered over more than four decades, Adams’ trees, especially the tips of their leaves, are etched with singular sensitivity to the subtleties and meanings of light.”

“The definitive monograph of American photographer Vivian Maier, exploring the full range and brilliance of her work and the mystery of her life, written and edited by noted photography curator and writer Marvin Heiferman and featuring 250 black-and-white images, color work, and other materials never seen before.”

“Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse worked at Ponte City, the iconic Johannesburg apartment building which is Africa’s tallest residential skyscraper, for more than six years. They photographed the residents and documented the building-every door, the view from every window, the image on every television screen. This remarkable body of images is presented here in counterpoint with an extensive archive of found material and historical documents. The visual story is integrated with a sustained sequence of essays and documentary texts. In the essays, some of South Africa’s leading scholars and writers explore Ponte City’s unique place in Johannesburg and in the imagination of its citizens. What emerges is a complex portrait of a place shaped by contending projections, a single, unavoidable building seen as refuge and monstrosity, dreamland and dystopia, a lightning rod for a society’s hopes and fears, and always a beacon to navigate by. This long-term project obtained the Discovery Award at Les Rencontres d’Arles in 2011.”

“Julie Blackmon has transfixed the contemporary art world with images of her children, nieces, nephews and friends (and their children). Following the success of the bestselling volume Domestic Variations (2009), Homegrown shows how Blackmon’s style has evolved, as she continues to capture the tensions between the harmony and disarray of everyday domestic life. Though her photographs continue to be undeniably contemporary, references to classic painting and portraiture can be detected: the influence of seventeenth-century Dutch painter Jan Steen mixes with more contemporary figures, such as Balthus, Edward Gorey, Tim Burton and Federico Fellini. Included in this new volume are 45 works made from 2009-2014, along with an introduction by renowned poet Billy Collins and an interview by the actress Reese Witherspoon.”

“Nadav Kander (born 1961) is a recipient of the renowned Prix Pictet and one of today’s most successful photographers. Upon learning of the existence of two “closed” cities on the border between Kazakhstan and Russia, he decided to visit them. For Dust he photographed the desolated landscapes of the Aral Sea and the restricted military zones of Priozersk and Kurtchatov, which did not appear on any map until well after the end of the Cold War. Long-distance missiles were secretly tested in Priozersk, and hundreds of atomic bombs were detonated in the so-called Polygon near Kurchatov, until the program ended in 1989. The bombs were exploded in a remote but still populated area, and covert studies were made of the effects of the radiation on the unsuspecting inhabitants. Kander describes how the ticking of the Geiger counter on his belt while he photographed served as a foil against the aesthetic allure of the ruins.”

“Find out how Alec Soth constructs his projects, why Trent Parke relies on old-fashioned Polaroids and hand-made books, and how forty-one other photographers experiment with new and old technologies, turn their photo-diaries into exhibitions, and attract audiences of millions via online platforms.

This book celebrates the creative processes of the modern photographic era, in which blogs and Instagram streams function alongside analog albums and contact sheets, and the traditional notebook takes the form of Polaroid studies, smartphone pictures, found photography, experimental image-making, and self-published photo-zines. Each photographer presents his or her sketchbook: several pages of images that convey his or her working methods and thought processes. These intimate, oneoff presentations are accompanied by engaging interviews that reveal how the simple act of pressing a shutter can capture and express a fully realized personal vision.”

“Throughout his prolific career as a photographer, Emmet Gowin has threaded together seemingly disparate subjects: his wife, Edith, and their extended family; American and European landscapes; aerial views of environmental devastation, brought together by his ongoing interest in issues of scale, the impact of the individual, and notions of belonging. This long-awaited survey pays tribute to Gowin’s remarkable career and his impact on the medium. Following his marriage to Edith Morris in 1964, Gowin began work on a series of images of his extended family that is now recognized as a touchstone of twentieth-century American photography. He photographed the children and the aging parents, and made intimate portraits of his wife, continuing a photographic tradition inherited from his mentor, Harry Callahan, with whom he studied in the 1960s. His focus broadened in the 1980s, when he began an exploration of landscape and aerial photography, most specifically in his documentation of Mount St. Helens and the American West”

Halloween Shoot: Project 52 Members

Halloween Shoot: Project 52 Members

The assignment was to illustrate a double truck (2 page spread) magazine story on the Origins of Halloween. Layout was furnished as a layered PSD file and the P52 students had to shoot TO that layout – reversed copy and all. The assignment was a great example of how photographers can take a single topic and make something totally different than other photographers. (NOTE: a few of our photographers are from areas in the world that do not celebrate Halloween. They chose something more in tune with their regions.)

The images:

Photographers You Should Know: Aaron Jones

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The first time I saw Aaron Jones work was in a Communication Arts Magazine a long time ago. At that time he was in Portland (I believe) and the work was so amazingly incredible I will never forget that moment. Those images must have resonated with a lot of other folks because soon afterwards, I started seeing his work in national magazines and some very high end advertising. Soon after, he moved from Portland to San Francisco.

Jones invented a lighting tool that provided a unique and very interesting look. Over time, he was able to turn that lighting tool into a product, “The Hosemaster”.

Here is a good article on how the Hosemaster works.

Essentially the Hosemaster was a very fancy tool for light painting.

In the early 90’s Jones moved to Santa Fe and built a studio there. He continued to work as a commercial photographer for many more years. I am not sure what Jones is doing today. If anyone one knows, let me know. Thanks.

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Project 52 “The Catalog”

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In this assignment, the photographers had to jump through a few hoops. The previous week they had to submit a “Creative Direction” shoot showing at least two different approaches to doing the fictitious catalog.

Those approaches had to meet some criteria. First is that there are 200 similar items, and the art director wants the catalog (traditional paper and online) to be as consistent as possible. The second is that there is a limited budget, and while the money is pretty good for a two day shoot, it dwindles fast past that point. Shooting 100 items in a day, and having them all be matching takes some planning and a stylistic approach that will allow them to be shot quickly and efficiently. (NOTE: In the fictitious brief all items are similar in size.)

So the photographers have to show a creative direction that also makes it possible to do this catalog in two days, not a week.

The students did a bang up job of it as well. The creative direction shots were reviewed and we assigned that look. This is the finished catalog page in that creative style. The layout was delivered to them as a layered PSD and they could not change anything on it – just insert the photographs. Understanding how to work with a layout, and shooting to that layout is a very important part of commercial photography.

The results are wonderful.