This past March The Image, Deconstructed held it’s first workshop in Chapel Hill, NC at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication. And it was GREAT! It was very different from other workshops. Totally worth keeping in mind for students and seasoned professionals alike, so check out their Facebook page to keep up with all they are doing and when the next workshop will be held. I’m in awe of how advanced so many of the young storytellers are in their craft compared to when I got out of school. And I’m hopeful that so many care enough about what they are doing to seek out not only technical workshops in visual communication but the mental aspects of how to become a better storyteller and visual communicator. Going forward I would stress that being well rounded and balanced in all aspects of ones life can only make you a better communicator. The TID workshop helps you tap into this and offers a safe place to explore self awareness.
I’m very excited to be apart of The Image, Deconstructed’s 1st workshop to be held at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Communication in March 2013. It will focus on the purposeful, mental approach to visual communication. Please check it out the details and to see who the other speakers will be on TID’s Workshop website and pass it along to anyone who might be interested in attending.
When photographer Catalina Kulczar emailed me about an image of her’s of Matteo Bologna that as used without being credited, my advice was simple. She had already contacted designer Armin Vit, who wrote the blog post using her image, which is the correct step. Catalina wanted to make the point that at the very least if one is going to use someone’s image they should credit the work. I agree but would take it further. At the very least if you want to use an image on your site or anywhere for any reason the legal thing to do is attempt to contact the creator or copyright holder and ask permission. Crediting should happen no matter what. Assuming JUST giving credit is ok, is wrong. Images, like all creative work, are copy written. That means someone owns them. It is totally understandable that not all images will be paid for, that a photographer may be fine with a credit and a link to their work. They would view that as promotion. BUT not always and it is the photographer’s right to expect payment for use of their work and to have the opportunity to make the decision if they are ok for their image to be used some place without payment. Contacting them and keeping a copy of your attempts can save you from legal trouble as well as save your reputation, which in turn if damaged could hurt your business.
There are plenty of images out there that can be used if simply credited, but you must check. If you need a quick turnaround and can’t wait Wiki Commons is a great source and has listed below images what the usage rights are. Many just need to be credited. But for those one of a kind, perfect images for what you need, have a conversation with the creator to let them know you are interested in using your work but don’t have a budget. This can go a long way. Offering $5 is better than nothing and shows good faith and respect to the work.
Armin, wanted to make his mistake right so he posted about it and Catalina’s points on his blog. Sans image.
We all know imagery is important with how we communicate. We all know photography plays a huge role in this communication today. But did you know your personal photo might play a bigger role in you getting a job than you thought?
“The “eye tacking” technique examined the eye movements of 30 professional recruiters during a 10-week period to “record and analyze where and how long someone focuses when digesting a piece of information or completing a task.” Click here to see the image of the results.
To read the first part of this interview with Michelle Frankfurter about her project Destino, the journey by rail of undocumented Central American migrants, visit The Image, Deconstructed. Below is a continuation of that interview, which offers more background information about Michelle, how she approaches longer-term picture stories, and her thoughts and experiences when editing such work:
PJPE: Thank you Michelle for continuing the conversation with me. I always find it interesting to hear why photographers go into photography and how their experiences helped shape how they approach their work. Can you share more of your background?
Michelle: My family background and childhood had a strong influence on shaping my worldview. My family immigrated to the United States from Israel when I was six-years-old, shortly after the Six Day War. Having survived the Holocaust in his native country of Hungary, my father was later forced to flee Communist rule, arriving in Israel as a refugee in 1950, at the age of 16. My parents met in the Israeli army and married shortly after they both completed their mandatory military service.
We moved to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in a suburb of Syracuse, New York after my father accepted a teaching position at Syracuse University. My parents were determined that my brother and I learned about the Holocaust – not only about the tumultuous events that transpired in Eastern Europe and Germany, but of the complicity of average citizens as well, who collectively enabled such events to occur. To that end, we watched a lot of grainy documentaries containing choppy footage of bulldozers shoveling emaciated naked corpses dusted in lime into open trenches. When I was twelve, I read Jerzy Kosinski’s violently graphic semi-autobiographical novel, The Painted Bird, based on his experiences as a child during the war in the Polish countryside. This is a read that’s guaranteed to fuck you up in the head at any age. Maybe because my family was different – we were the newcomers on the block, the parents with the weird accents and a funny last name, I was singled out for the quintessential childhood bullying experience. Being bullied by members of my own tribe effectively dispelled the myth, at least in my mind of Jewish cultural superiority. I concluded that brutish behavior was something that we, as human beings were all perfectly capable of. I developed a deep and fundamental awareness, both on a microcosmic and colossal scale of the potential for human betrayal.
PJPE: Can you give some background as to why and how you started the project Destino?
Michelle: Initially, I called the project Borderlands. I experimented with different formats – 4×5 and various medium format shapes. It was vague. I’m not sure if it was a kind of visual ADD, or as is often the case, the more you travel to a region, the more you learn and the more your thinking strays from the original intent. I had taken so many thematic detours that by 2010, I realized I didn’t really have a cohesive body of work. So I basically gutted the project down to around 3 or 4 images.
The year 2009 was pivotal for me. Since the mid 1990’s, wedding photography has been my bread and butter. I counted on the inevitability of booking 20+ weddings a year indefinitely, shooting during the spring, summer and fall. After about a month of recuperating from the post wedding season coma, I would head off to work on my loosely defined project. When the economy tanked, so did my wedding bookings. The frenetic pace of life suddenly ground to a halt. I became slightly unhinged. I read Sonia Nazario’s Pulitzer-prize winning book, Enrique’s Journey. The book had a profound impact on me, especially in my unmoored state of mind.
PJPE: Once you decided to work on this project how did you get ready time-wise, and financially, with or without support from others in the photo industry? Did you have a loose idea of what you might want to do with the project long-term?
Michelle: June is normally a busy month for me. In 2008, I shot five weddings in June. In June 2009, I had zero bookings lined up. In some ways, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind. It’s as though I could see myself sliding into a giant, gaping sinkhole of oblivion. At night, I dreamed that my teeth were falling out of my head. I tried not to take the economic downturn personally, but it was difficult not to internalize the situation as a kind of failure. Other people I knew seemed to be doing OK, despite the lousy economy. Enrique’s Journey was a huge inspiration to me. These migrants were not passively accepting their fate. They were fighting for their future. They had no safety net at all and they were making this huge leap. I think having the security of a somewhat steady income had made me slightly complacent. All of a sudden, I was being shoved out of my comfort zone. I had frequent flier miles, a fridge full of film and a credit card. I just decided to go to Mexico in June because it seemed like a better option than staying at home and feeling sorry for myself.
It’s always been a book project, even in its most inchoate state. The only outlet for photography that holds any interest for me is book publishing. When I went to Haiti in the early 1990’s, I shot as if I were working on a book project, even though I didn’t have any plans for making a book. It was an exercise in artistic and intellectual independence, free from editorial constraints.
PJPE: Why did you choose to shoot the project in black & white?
Michelle: I’ve shot all of my personal work of nearly 25 years in B/W. It was a film-era decision. I never liked juggling multiple cameras and different emulsions. I always thought it was distracting to have to evaluate a scene or situation and then try to decide which to shoot. I’ve always leaned more towards black and white than color. I just decided to pick one over the other and stick with that. In part, it was a pragmatic decision: when I first moved to DC I was broke and I stayed broke for a long time. I just couldn’t afford the cost of producing personal work in color, whereas I could build a darkroom, process film and make my own prints. I even insisted on shooting weddings in black and white, except for the few requisite family portraits. Later on, I relaxed my ruling a bit and extended my color coverage to include a few details shots. I’m amazed anyone ever hired me. I love digital because it’s enabled me to shoot first and worry about the conversion later. But I shoot my personal work using medium or large format, which has a certain gravitas that is unparalleled. I find myself increasingly attracted to color, so who knows – I may try the next thing in color.
PJPE: Can you share one of your most rewarding photographic situations from this project?
Michelle: One of my best experiences happened under the most miserable conditions. There was a young Salvadoran couple at the shelter traveling with their 18-month-old son, Isác, a friend and another Honduran migrant they had met along the way. I wanted to stick with them, but I had a few rules about the circumstances under which I would travel: I wouldn’t leave in the evening, because most of the trip would take place at night. I wouldn’t hop a moving train and I wouldn’t ride in the rain. It’s really tough to shoot with a Bronica in pouring rain. That day, the train arrived around mid-day and we all filed up to the tracks. But instead of leaving right away, there was an interminable delay during which cars were added or removed. It rained on and off. We stocked up on supplies peddled by local vendors who make a little bit of money selling stuff to traveling migrants: sandwiches, bottled water, hard candy, plastic garbage bags. We collected scraps of cardboard to have something to sit on. We gathered rocks, in case we needed to defend ourselves from attack.
It was nightfall when we finally boarded. The only cars available were the blocky wagon type. These don’t have side ladders or the small recessed lower platform where some people like to ride in order to escape the elements. Several of the men climbed up first, pulling themselves up the thick ridges that run across the back end of the car. Then they lowered a rope and helped the women up. A laughing, squealing Isác was handed up to his dad. I thought about bailing but I was restless and I didn’t want to say goodbye to my friends.
It started raining almost immediately. The Lowepro pack comes with a nifty internal plastic rain flap, so after I had secured it to the rope we had strung across the length of the car, I pulled the flap shut. Sometimes, lightening flashed between the hills, but otherwise, the darkness seemed expansive and impenetrable – the night endless. We shivered, wrapped in plastic garbage bags. The rain showed no sign of letting up. I clung to a 19-year-old Honduran kid named Elmer, trying to stay warm. There were shouts of “Apapáchela! Apapáchela! – A Salvadoran colloquialism meaning to hold or embrace. We all laughed. I bummed a cigarette. I’d quit ten years earlier. There were shouts of, “La rama! La rama!” and we would quickly duck as low-hanging branches swept past our heads. I found myself praying that it would just stop raining and that I would get at least a few hours of good light. I’d close my eyes, thinking I could feel the sky lighten, but after a few minutes, I would open them and there was just darkness and the monotonous rain. Just when I thought the night would never end, the rain finally tapered off and slowly, the sky began to show the first blush of dawn. The train lurched across a primordial landscape of standing water, past palmettos and copperwood bowed with rainfall as the sky gradually lightened. It was the most beautiful sunrise I’d ever witnessed. I took the camera out once it got light enough to shoot. Even with the rain flap, the water had managed to soak through the pack, but fortunately, I had placed my copy of 2666, Roberto Bolaño’s 900-page epic tome on top of the camera. The camera and film stayed dry. I only got about an hour and a half or two hours to actually shoot, but I made some of the strongest images on that trip.
PJPE: After looking at the film how did you start the process of editing? Do you work with a photo editor/collaborator for feedback on larger projects?
Michelle: I’ve been to a couple portfolio reviews, but I tend to be selective about who I show work to. I have a clear sense of what I’m doing and why. I’m not looking for community feedback. People have a lot of opinions about the “must-haves” of expose-type documentary work, which this project is, but only in part. If the interpretation is too linear or didactic, I don’t find the critique relevant. I just start tuning out. My approach to storytelling is a process of concentrating on some things – mood, for example, while ignoring others. It’s mostly an intuitive process. I shoot weddings that way as well. If I’m working from a script or spending the day taking all of those requisite shot list photos, I’m going to miss a lot of the subtle and fleeting emotive interactions that take place during the day. I like using wedding analogies because the industry clichés – the visual platitudes are so obvious and transparent. Wedding photography rarely transcends its artifice-based niche. But I think the tendency to tread well-worn ground and evaluate images based on some set idea of what a story “needs” to show isn’t limited to a wedding photography sensibility.
Carl Bower has traditionally filled the role of editor, friend, mentor, motivator, I.T. guy, and Pez dispenser of feedback. I met him shortly after landing in DC in the early ‘90s, one of four people who answered an ad I ran in the City Paper looking for someone to share a darkroom space with in a part of town that was like a war zone at the time. The rent was $150 a month – too hefty for me to handle by myself. One guy who responded to the ad wanted me to take nude photos of him. Another identified himself as Mistah Green, like some Jersey Wise Guy, who wanted to know if it would be OK to run hookers out of the space during the off hours. By the time I met Carl, I had already found a darkroom mate, but we decided to meet up. DC is saturated with photographers, but it’s a regimented niche discipline kind of environment. “Who do you work for?” is a very common introductory question. Until then, I hadn’t met another photographer who seemed to be interested in taking pictures for the same reasons as me, motivated by some ineffable ideal. Everyone else seemed to have a concrete reason for shooting, whether it was doing corporate or commercial work, freelance editorial work, or covering the political landscape for a newspaper or wire service. Carl and I were just trying to survive doing whatever, while carving out time to pursue some self-generated project with no clear outlet in mind.
When I met him, Carl was working at a temp agency during the day while on his days off, he was shooting a story about a woman battling breast cancer (the story was later published by Newhouse News Service and Carl was named a Pulitzer finalist, coming in second to Stephanie Sinclair’s essay about female genital mutilation). The similarity between us was unsettling. I had moved to DC after returning from Nicaragua, where I had spent three years on and off working for a human rights organization and then as a stringer for Reuters. Carl had spent a couple of months traveling through Nicaragua. We both shot black and white. We had nearly identical presentation styles: small B/W images printed horizontally across 8×10 fiber paper. The first thing that struck me about Carl, other than his piercing blue eyes, was how much better a photographer he was than me. I was instantly intimidated. But over the years, we developed a close friendship and I can honestly say that he was the single most important influence on my artistic development. Looking through my contact sheets when I came back from my first trip to Haiti, I went through some kind of hysterical blindness: I couldn’t see a single image. It just looked like a giant pile of garbage. I dumped the contact sheets in Carl’s lap. A few days later, he brought them back with tiny grease pencil marks underscoring the images worth having a look at. I still think What Would Carl Do? when I’m shooting and I feel overwhelmed or just not “seeing it”.
I met Maggie Steber in Haiti in 1994. I had her World Press winning photo taped to my refrigerator when I still lived in Syracuse, years before I ever met her. After one week in Haiti, I contracted dengue fever. With a fever spiking at 103 degrees, I managed to drag myself to the Hotel Oloffson, where I knew a lot of the journalists were staying. I was totally delirious. I had this vision of Maggie descending the hotel steps in a halo of light. I’ve never met anyone like her. She’s a blend of brains, beauty, charm, wit, disarming sentimentality and sobering practicality. I’ve shown her work over the years. I’ve had her give proposals the once-over. Mostly, I just like hearing her stories and sharing ideas with her. Of the 7 billion people that inhabit our planet, she’s my favorite.
In 2010, I took a bookmaking workshop with David Alan Harvey. I had just returned from a five-week trip to Mexico, and had spent a solid month and a half scanning negatives. I made a bunch of 5×5 proof prints and drove down to Nags Head. At that point, I hadn’t shown anyone these photos, except maybe Carl. There were only five people in this little workshop. The first night, we had drinks out on DAH’s porch facing the dunes, taking turns introducing ourselves and describing what our projects were about. Well lubed on gin and tonics, I launched into a two-minute breathless, impassioned monologue. Before he’d seen a single image, he got it. I mean, he inherently understood the intent. He grasped the narrative. He helped me see its potential and the project, in my mind went from being some pipe dream or some explanation I give to people in order to justify my presence, to something real.
PJPE: You focused on portraits in this project. How did you feel the landscape worked into an edit? Did the landscape feel like a character of its own as part of the visual story?
Michelle: My first job as a professional photographer was for a small newspaper (two dailies owned by the same publisher) in Utica, New York. There was a photographer on staff who was like a feature picture producing machine, cranking out visual anodynes like they were chocolate bunnies. He once shot an entire photo essay about the Amish with a 300 2.8, from the hatch of his Honda as a friend drove. Every shot was beautifully composed, the background slopping off gradually into shallow depth of field mushiness and aesthetically pleasing long lens compression. In the foreground, horrified Amish eternally frozen at 500 of a second were captured in various attitudes of camera avoidance. My point being, if you approach people as if they were wildlife, you may make some pretty pictures but without much intimacy, your subjects gazing back at you like alarmed wildebeests.
With the portraits, I’m searching for that unguarded moment when the eyes shed that invisible nictitating membrane to reveal a mix of openness and vulnerability. Or sensuality. It’s not all gloom and doom. The journey is arduous and there are moments of intense suffering. Migrants are extremely vulnerable, but also exposed to instances of exquisite beauty. You’re rendered breathless by the the changing landscape, the train lurching past mango groves and massive ancient trees, and you’re aware of just how intense your experience of it is. Migrants often speak of this as well, along with some of the hardships they suffer. In Terrence Malick’s 1998 film, The Thin Red Line, the lush island scenery is just as much a character in the story as the men engaged in combat.
PJPE: Is there anything else you might want to be known about this project and your feelings about how or why you work on projects such as Destino.
Michelle: I guess because I’m a romantic. When I first moved to DC, I used to ride my bike down to the Mall a lot. It was one of the few things I could afford to do. I especially liked going to the East Wing of the National Gallery to look at the Impressionist paintings. I just imagined what it must have been like, living off bread and wine in some unheated garret on the Montparnasse overlooking the Seine, subsisting off commissioned work while furiously painting what you were passionate about. I couldn’t imagine anything more romantic than that lifestyle. Had I lived in the 19th Century, I’d like to think I would have tried to be part of that scene. I’m not a starry-eyed humanitarian. I don’t have any illusions about who we are as a species. I’m not blithely wandering among a group of people who I naively perceive to be inherently good. I am, however reacting to what I see as a growing xenophobic trend in our society, promulgated by a conservative Republican leadership in order to manipulate its constituency by exploiting their fears. Quite frankly, I feel as though we are living in an age of willful ignorance. It’s distressing and infuriating. Working on this project has helped me channel some of that rage.
I do some volunteer work with the blog The Image, Deconstructed (TID). I was lucky enough to interview my friend, fashion photographer David Surowiecki. Sometimes parts of interviews get cut. The team and I felt David had more good things to share so I wanted to post the rest of what we talked about. To read the first part, visit TID, where David describes a fashion shoot with Czech model Linda Vojtova and shares his thoughts about the shoot and process. Here’s more:
TID: Can you describe what you were thinking in terms of how you wanted this image to look and how did you know when you got the right frame?
David: The day before this, we had shot the same model in a beautiful daylight studio using minimalist styling, with a clean almost soft vibe to the photos. It was the middle of winter in New York and it was dark and rainy all day, so even in this amazing studio we had no strong light and barely any shadows. This experience really set us up for the shoot and main photo we are talking about. The styling and production decisions on this shoot were made very last minute. We wanted to shoot this story in contrast to the one the day before.
TID: Did you have a plan or storyboard to follow when shooting this fashion story?
David: Generally, I don’t shoot from a storyboard, the exception being in advertising shoots. For editorials/fashion stories like this however, I will write down the various scenarios and shots that I’m planning, and particularly, if I’ve been able to see the clothes beforehand as well, what the model is wearing, and how I will light it. A lot of the time, the first thing that I do on the day of the shoot is look through the clothing rack with the stylist, talk over the various options, and then we’ll have the model try on the looks. After the fitting the model will go into hair and makeup, and I’ll have a couple of hours to fine-tune the possible shots, coordinating the styling with the locations and poses I’m planning.
David: Usually on a fashion shoot I’ll have two photo assistants to help me with anything and everything that might come up during the day. The assistants will help set up the lighting, set up backgrounds, move light stands, hold reflectors, run the wind machine, manage my memory cards and computer, trouble-shoot any technical issues that arise and generally serve as a second and third set of eyes on the set.
One of the most valuable things that the assistants do is free me up to concentrate on the photography and not think about the production side of things. If I can be relaxed in the knowledge that all the gear is working well, the lights are firing as they should, the exposure is on, the files are being copied to the computer and backed up, then there is that much more mental space to think about the photo itself.
Apart from photo assistants, on a normal shoot we’ll have a producer who is in charge of coordinating everything and everyone. There will be a makeup artist and a hair stylist, and often on smaller productions this is done by just one person. There will be a wardrobe stylist, and also usually an art director or fashion editor. All of these people may also have assistants if the production is a bit bigger.
TID: Do you have a say in the frame that is used and how many frames per set you are expected to submit?
David: Traditionally yes, you have a say in which frame is used in the magazine, but it’s not an absolute say, and it really just depends on your relationship with the magazine or client. In this case, with Elle, I have always sent them various options for each look that we shoot, while noting which image I think is the best one or ones. Then they will usually send me back their selections and we’ll have a little back and forth over the images. If I feel particularly strongly about a photo, either positively or negatively, I’ll tell them and we’ll try to come to a consensus. The main thing that you learn is that you have to pick your battles, because you are developing what is hopefully a long-term working relationship with your clients, and you have to understand that their needs for a photo will not always match up exactly with what you think is the absolute best image for a particular look.
For this photo (the first image in this post) I sent 4 images to the magazine to choose from, and their choice wasn’t the one I would have picked, but I liked the other image as well, so I saved my negotiating for other photos in the story. On average for a fashion story I probably send the magazine between 8 and 12 variations per look.
TID: Is there any special strategy to push them in the direction you want?
David: Well, you didn’t hear it from me, but as you are generally sending un-retouched files, you could do some subtle photoshop work on your preferred image… And then, wow, that one looks good!
I know other photographers who think that if they include a couple of bad frames along with the one they like, then they think it will be so obvious which is the better photo that they’ll get their way. But that’s too risky for me. I don’t ever send something to a client that I don’t want to have printed, because inevitably that will be the image that ends up in the magazine.
TID: How many different images typically do you need to make sure you have in a fashion story?
David: Before the shoot you always know how many pages the magazine has budgeted for the story — anywhere from eight to twelve or more. And basically you need one photo per page, or maybe you can have a couple of horizontal images that run double-page. As you shoot, you are checking off the pages and maybe even matching up the pages in your mind, or making a rough layout on the computer. If the shoot is going well, you might shoot a couple of extra looks and hope the magazine will extend the story.
TID: Did you encounter any difficulties during this shoot and if so how did you solve them?
David: I wouldn’t say that we had any difficulties on the shoot, but there are always editorial decisions that need to be made, and you are never sure how they will play out. The main decision on this shoot was about the hair and makeup. It is all pretty over-the-top and highly specific, so we wouldn’t have much flexibility in the look of the shoot once the decision was made. Making the call to go with a near-afro for the hair was kind of an all-in move. I’ve have some bad experiences in the past with this kind of hair, because it takes a very long time to prepare, and then once it’s done, oh, maybe the model doesn’t look great with this hair and then you’re stuck.
But in this case, the team was all for it, and they convinced me, so I gave the go-ahead, and it ended up really helping define the shoot.
TID: Over the last decade you have mostly been living and working in Europe. Why did you choose to be based there?
David: My choice to live in Europe was initially inspired by the photographic possibilities that I saw in Central and Eastern Europe. I did a lot of personal work photographing in Romania and Poland and the Czech Republic. It was the mid-to- late 1990’s and that part of Europe just coming out from behind the Iron Curtain, and it was an amazing place to be a photographer. My choices at the time were either to work at a small newspaper somewhere in America, or else live in Warsaw or Prague or Budapest and photograph these lives and parts of the world that were new to me, but disappearing quickly. It was a pretty easy decision really.
And then, I stayed. Prague became my home for a long time, and it was there that I started shooting fashion. It was a good place to begin, because the market was smaller and newer, so the competition for the magazines was much less than in a place like New York. I think that my first fashion story for a magazine was for Esquire, something which never would have happened somewhere with a more developed market.
The kind of fashion photography that I am good at is really appreciated in the European market. Something as simple as that, being connected in some creativeway to the zeitgeist of a place and time, well, that’s something unique, and fleeting. This business is always changing, always moving somewhere, and you really can’t try to chase it.
You are who you are as a creative being, and yes, you are constantly working on improving your vision and developing new techniques. But if you are changing to try to fit what you think the market wants, then I think your pictures are going to show that and they won’t ring true. The key is to find a way to shoot your style in a way that remains relevant and interesting.
If you haven’t already, do check out TID for more about David and his approach to a fashion shoot.
It’s a quick and friendly book, thankfully, because with two kids constantly interrupting me, it took me just 4 hours over 4 days (about an hour a day) to finish. I even highlighted as I went. I’m talking about Leslie Burns-Dell’Acqua’s book Tell the World You Don’t Suck: Modern Marketing for Commercial Photographers. It’s worth the money. The information in the book also applies to photojournalists, art photographers and really any self-employed creative running a small business. It can save you thousands of dollars by helping you focus your vision, mentally and physically, as well as save all the wasted time, ink and paper when printing those portfolios…Yes, all photographers should still have a print portfolio, in my opinion, no matter what kind of clients you are shooting for.
This book mainly focuses on advising photographers how to better view themselves as a business and gives plenty to think about. Leslie gives insight to the elusive photo editor/art buyer relationship as far as new photographers reaching out to them. After you try to decompress from all the swarming thoughts you have been motivated by, Leslie gives you tools to motivate you to shape a successful business. Don’t overlook the footnotes. Tell the World You Don’t Suck is chock-full of tidbits of info from cover to cover. Even if you only follow half of what is recommended you will be on a better path to focusing your vision, client base and energy so you can spend more time shooting images that you are happy to be shooting.
As I start to reshape some of my professional efforts I have found Leslie’s words helpful and motivating. She breaks down her advice into workable chunks as to not overwhelm while being frank and honest about what is likely to happen or, better phrased, not happen if you don’t focus your vision and marketing plan. Follow Leslie Burns’ blog for more helpful advice, but I highly recommend you read this book.
Photo and video journalist (and my dear friend,) Yoray Liberman has been working on stories in Israel since his return in 2009 after living abroad in NYC, Paris and Istanbul. CNN.com, TIME.com and The Daily picked up his latest footage of Jewish settlers running drills for self-defense against potential Palestinian attacks. Having a story tied to current or spot news picked up by a few different media outlets in a relatively short amount of time can be tricky as generally publications and broadcasters don’t want to repeat content a competitor has run or is planning to run. It was CNN International who first licensed some of Yoray’s raw footage and edited it into a report they prepared covering Israeli and Palestinian preparation for the September Palestinian bid for recognition of statehood in the UN. After the report was broadcasted on TV it was also used on CNN.com. Shortly after TIME.com picked up Yoray’s whole report, one that Yoray had edited from his raw footage. The Daily has also licensed the story for their iPad edition, which they have yet to run.
With ever-changing technology and the news media’s need for quick turnaround Yoray’s decision to shoot video not only gave him the ability to tell a story using a different medium but also allows for other revenue and exposure opportunities. I asked Yoray a few questions in the hope that his experience helps others learn more about how news stories,whether still or video, get sold.
To start off, what is it like for you as a journalist as well as an Israeli to document such emotionally charged stories?
I don’t think I would like to separate myself from a story. I don’t believe in “one truth,” every story has many viewpoints, many ways, angles to see and show it. So I believe that when I (or anyone else) report a story I have my personal input. At the same time there is a need to be open, to have all opinions and viewpoints regarding the story and to pass them on. Telling stories is why I chose this profession, I like being there, talking to the people, feeling them, understanding the story and telling their story. I use still images and video (or mix them both). It’s important for me to be close, to spend time, and that is why I usually prefer (but not exclusively) working on more in-depth magazine type stories within the news rather than shooting spot news. Also, competition in spot news these days is tough for a freelance journalist like myself. In times of rapid, quality and well equipped wire services with very good photographers on every spot news story, they can sell their visual stories for lower prices than I can.
How do you choose to shoot stills verses video when not on a specific assignment from a client?
Hard question to deal with at first when approaching a story! Ideally, I would prefer shooting both, then I have 2 products in hand to offer to different clients in different markets. I also like working on multimedia in which I edit still images into a video piece. I have to say that this is possible only if I have enough time to shoot both. In the case of the above mentioned video report about the settlers, the choice was easier; I knew in advance that visually not much would be happening except for the settlers training. No other journalist (stills, video, written) had access to the training. When I knew I had gotten the access, I knew I would not have much time to shoot so I decided to shoot only video verses only stills. Shooting only stills would leave me with a set of images of settlers running around with guns. That was not the story. I wanted to tell and show more than that.
I contacted CNN in Jerusalem and went to show them the exclusive raw footage right after I shot it. They were interested in using part of the footage for a piece they were doing. Then I went to finish editing my version of the report including the narrations, sound etc. (The interviews were in Hebrew so I had to translate it all). Only then did I sent it to other clients. I guess it is not necessary to do it that way. TIME came back to me after seeing my email to clients. I went through editors I knew at the magazine and they directed me to TIME.com editors. TIME.com picked up the story, reworked the narrations together with me to bring it up-to-date (as they picked it after the speech of Mahmoud Abbas in the UN), and edited according to the narrations. They also added their logo and used their fonts. It went online on the TIME site probably a week after they agreed to run the story.
The Daily was a personal pitch I did through a friend. The Daily has not published yet. They are waiting for some actuality before uploading it to their site. The process is not very fast, it is not like the newspapers running images the next day or the evening news on TV. This work is more a magazine-type story and so it’s treated that way time-wise by the media desks.
It took me few days to edit my story after I finished shooting. A few days was a bit longer than it should have taken but my editor had some other jobs at the same time so we edited at night. I guess the material could have been shown to potential clients earlier then that, it might not have been necessary to edit the story as finely as I did this time. At the same time, editing a story to a final product might help the clients understand the story better. It also helped me have my say over the story more, in a precise manner. I surely kept in mind that the clients might want to make some changes in my edit, like TIME did, and that was more than fine with me. The only thing I insisted on was that these changes will not take the story in another direction and change the meaning. It was very risky with a sensitive issue like armed Jewish settlers. I made sure the narrative TIME prepared was following the story I wanted to tell.
How did you go about selling your footage to both CNN and Time? When sold to CNN was there an embargo on when or where you could also sell the footage?
As I mentioned, CNN bought only footage of the training, in the contract I made sure there would be no exclusivity or embargo. TIME did not ask for exclusivity. They only wanted exclusivity on their own version of the report. This was the same agreement with The Daily. It’s always important for me as an independent who has direct relations with clients (stills and video), to do things in 100% transparency on all sides.
Steve Jobs, and all who worked for him, made my life easier and better in many ways. There was a brief period in NYC when I worked with Ron Hall, a freelance certified Apple consultant, where I helped do basic maintenance on Macs for clients. I learned so much from Ron and about Apple itself. Some of it was scary enough for me to stop doing my own maintenance on my Apple products to this day. This news we all knew was coming, unexpectedly, deeply saddens me. His genius, drive and love for cutting edge technology will be missed.