FREELANCING: 2 YEARS, $230,000+ AND 9 BIG LESSONS LATER

This post was originally written on July 1st and is reprinted with the kind permission of Joel Klettke, who can be found here:

Two years ago today, I stocked up on canned chili, dusted off the desk in my home office and officially left my job.

If you want the whole story from the early days, I wrote this post 150 days in on how I turned down a guaranteed 6-figure payday to go into a field that (depending on who you asked) guaranteed I’d make hardly anything for a good, long time.

For now, though, here’s an excerpt:

“I printed off the job offer and pinned it to my bulletin board with a circle around the dollar figure I’d just walked away from. This would be my reminder.

Every morning, I’d look at it and remember exactly what I gave up to chase this idiotic dream of bashing a keyboard for profit.”

I had an unspoken goal: I wanted to match it and prove that I could be just as successful (financially) on my own.

In my first year, I came up just shy.

In my second year, I obliterated that number by +28%.

Since I launched in 2013 full-time, Business Casual Copywriting has generated over $230,000 in profit and more than that in revenue.

That in a supposedly “saturated” industry that “pays peanuts”. But please don’t read me wrong:

I’m not sharing that for your applause or because it makes me feel good to wave around vague income numbers and pretend I’m king banana.

Yes, I hope the dollar figure will earn your interest – but I want the lessons I’ve learned to be the part that earns your respect.

Here are the 9 most important lessons I’ve learned in the past two years:

1. If you want to be a successful freelancer, you can’t just be a strong writer (or artist, or developer, or…)

Some of the best writers I know barely eke out a living off their craft. That is NOT because writing isn’t valuable, demand is low or the market is too saturated.

It’s because freelancing is a business, and they don’t know how to operate like one.

If you want to win as a freelancer, you need to learn how to…

– Market yourself (the most important skill you can learn)
– Handle your books
– Manage your time
– Negotiate a deal
– Meet a deadline
– Network your butt off
Businesses like working with businesspeople – they do NOT like working with clueless creative divas – although they do find how cheaply they can get work out of them attractive for a time.

If you want to win as a freelancer, brush up on your business skills. Hell, I’d say it’s even worth it to go in-house for awhile, just to see how businesses really run.

2. Confidence changes everything.

Nobody ever hit a home run by bunting. And as a freelancer, nobody is going to go to bat for you except yourself.

If you’re afraid to raise your rates, push back on a client or stand up for yourself, you will keep on spinning your tires and continue earning less than you could be.

Here are some facts you need to accept:

– If you have the talent, your years of experience DO NOT MATTER. Clients pay for your results, not your résumé.
– If you operate like a business, hit deadlines, deliver strong copy and are easy to work with, you’re already in the minority of freelancers (just ask anyone who’s hired them before). That’s worth a premium.
-You are going to hear “No”, have clients disappear and quote people who cannot afford you. Deal with it. Being exclusive to an audience who can afford you is actually a good thing.
-Your clients are making money off the content you provide – usually an out-sized return on what they paid. Don’t be afraid to make some money yourself.
Confidence in the way you charge, communicate and handle your business is attractive to the right audience – and if you don’t push the envelope, you’ll never know what you’re really worth.

Good freelancers change the conversation from “Here’s what we need and what we’ll pay you” to “Here’s the level I’m on – if you want to be on it, here’s what it costs.”

3. Find a focus.

When I started out, I cast a wide net out of fear that if I didn’t, there wouldn’t be enough work.

I don’t regret doing that for one second – it taught me what I was good at writing and showed me where the better margins were. It also helped me survive year one.

But as soon as you figure out where the money is and what you’re really good at/passionate about, you need to cut down your offering and JUST do those things.

If you’re the go-to gal for “___________”, you can command more for that type of work because you have a reputation and more power in the relationship.

I nervously cut blogging from my offering in favor of conversion-focused copy (websites, landing pages, email marketing campaigns). I worried my income would go down. Blogging work is easy to come by and pays reasonably well.

When I eliminated blogging and let the world know my new focus, my income went up instead. My fear was unfounded. Focusing works.

4. Never underestimate the power of a single connection.

I am constantly amazed at how relationships I’ve forged have turned into projects, opportunities and even a TEDx talk!

Brand new freelancers I’ve supported have turned around and sent ME awesome projects.

Whether it’s a client, acquaintance, new friend or fellow freelancer – try to treat everyone with respect and leave them better than you found them.

Not that you should go in expecting anything – but you never know where that relationship might lead.

5. Freelancing is a job.

Yes, you can work in your underwear, wake up at 11:00pm and drink beer all day if you want to.

But you shouldn’t.

Freelancing is NOT the beach vacation or easy, unbridled freedom you imagine it to be. Yes, it can be very flexible.

But it’s up to you to set your schedule, nurture your body and mind, deliver for your clients and build your own future.

That doesn’t happen if you’re goofing off on Facebook every day or coasting along, waiting for work to find you.

Equally important, though: Don’t let the lines of your work and the rest of your life blur to the point that you’re staring into your phone at the dinner table with your friends or answering emails at 8:00pm on a Sunday.

This is only a job, not your life. Separate the two.

6. Scaling is harder than you think it will be.

I tried to start a little writing team – and for awhile, it worked. I had 10 subcontractors (not all busy at once) and was passing off work like nobody’s business.

But it fell apart.

I quickly learned that the time I was spending trying to train them, fix their mistakes and compensate for their missed deadlines was easily offsetting the extra income I was making.

I paid them too much, too fast out of wanting to try and prove freelancing could be lucrative.

So I killed the team.

Then, I thought I’d write a book or sell a course. Passive income, right? Both those things sound easy. Neither one is.

Perhaps hardest is giving yourself the time and space to build another asset – ignoring immediate income for the sake of building something bigger.

It’s totally possible, but it’s not as simple as you’re imagining – I promise.

7. Trust your gut (every. single. time.)

When you’re sitting there, staring at that email and feeling uneasy about the client – don’t take them on, no matter how much is on the table.

When you’ve written that quote out but you’re debating lowering the price because you *think* the client might not be able to afford it, stop and go back to your first number.

When you’re scheduling your time and think to yourself, “That’s going to be an ugly weekend.” – don’t book it.

Every single time I’ve gambled against my gut instinct on a decision, I’ve lost – and you will, too.

8. Some days will be total write-offs. That’s OK.

Any writer can relate: There are days you wake up knowing nothing is going to get done that day.

Your best work eludes you. You can’t get traction. You’re burned out, tired and uninspired.

When those days come, flex your freelance muscles and get away from the desk. Exercise. Be with people you care about. Play a video game.

Whatever constitutes a good day for you.

And then, don’t feel guilty about it. Wake up early, get back to work, and plod on.

Stop fighting off days and instead, form habits that keep them from ever showing up.

9. Money matters – but only so much.

I started this post out with some financial figures because I knew it’d get your attention.

People love talking about what other people make, and the “six-figure dream” is more or less universal among freelancers.

I’m not going to sit here on my throne of privilege and pretend cash isn’t important or worth striving for – because it was for me.

But realize that no matter how much you make, someone else is making more.

Paul Jarvis built a course that’s made him my entire years’ revenue in a few months (and growing).

Joanna from Copyhackers charges twice my hourly rate and works on projects with minimums twice as big as mine.

And my friend Ross Simmonds, who went out around the same time I did, turned my entire two-year profit in ONE year this year.

Even after crushing my first goal, I was kind of bummed out for awhile because I felt like I was behind.

But two years ago, I’d have thought that was insane. Because it IS.

I’m on someone else’s rung, and so are you.

There’s always a bigger fish, and if you choose to compare, you’ll never be satisfied or proud of the life you’re building.

There’s so much more to this than money.

Whether it was the chance to be your own boss, do what you’re good at, have the flexibility to travel – remind your self of what freelancing it means to you and what drove you to make the move in the first place.

At the risk of sounding like a cheesy motivational poster on Pinterest, don’t freelance because you want to make a living – freelance because you want to make a life.

Thank you so much to my friends, family, clients and peers who have made this journey so worthwhile.

I’ve still got so much to learn, but I’m looking forward to the trip.

If you’re a freelancer or business reading this and you want to chat about freelancing / ask questions / hire Joel to help you plan and write content that makes you money:
Business Casual Copywriting
@JoelKlettke

Have a Heart

If you’ve recently wandered through Penn Station, or the Atlantic Terminal, Malls, or the Borough President’s Offices in New York, chances are you will have seen rows of large-scale portraits of kids. These are the Heart Galleries: an initiative from well-respected non-profit Heart Gallery project: an important, high profile project to raise awareness of the plight of foster children in desperate need of permanent families. The Heart Gallery NYC works with a roster of both established and up-and-coming photographers, and includes work by artists such as Martin Schoeller, Howard Schatz, Antoine Verglas and others.

With over 100 chapters nationwide, Heart Gallery has garnered extensive positive media attention and has been featured on ABCNEWS 20/20, The View, CNN, Today Show, in publications such as People Magazine, Parade Magazine, NY Times and many others. This media outreach has helped accomplish their mission, and thousands of children have been adopted as a direct result of Heart Gallery exhibitions.

However, there is still much work to be done. Heart Gallery knows that each year “hundreds of youth ‘age out’ of the foster care system with very few resources to help them transition into economically independent adulthood.”

Sadly, many of these youth end up homeless. Not surprisingly, 26% of the shelter population in NYC are graduates of foster care. So,

this year, Heart Gallery NYC will expand their mission and utilize the high profile visibility of the Heart Gallery to launch the important initiative, Through the Eyes of the Homeless. A generous network of celebrity, notable and emerging photographers will donate their time and talents to mentor up to 40 individuals, who have found themselves in the unfortunate circumstance of becoming homeless.

The participants will be encouraged to photograph New York City as they see it…living on the streets.

Their goals will be to:

  • dignify and empower homeless individuals through photography
  • raise awareness of the vast numbers of homeless and send a powerful message about street outreach needs and the lack of truly affordable housing here in NYC
  • raise awareness that not every homeless person is mentally challenged and/or to be feared, but that many individuals may have become homeless simply due to unfortunate circumstances, a situation that could potentially happen to any of us.

As of April 2015, there are nearly 580,000 homeless people in the United States! An alarming study found that record numbers of single adults in shelters will grow by a whopping 59% in five years in New York City alone, if additional support for this vulnerable, often forgotten population is not forthcoming.

High profile Heart Gallery NYC exhibits are seen by millions, raising awareness of our causes and acknowledging the generous support of our sponsors and supporters.

If you want to make a difference in the lives of these forgotten and often misunderstood individuals (the project is currently looking for a camera sponsor), you can start by checking out the project website at:

http://heartgallerynyc.org/HomelessProject2015.aspx

logo

The final date for the exhibit will be during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week – November 14- 22, 2015.

 

A Little Summertime Reading

Taking a gander around the interwebs to see what there may be going on in the photography world during long hot days. A few items of interest:

Everyone is talking about the Sundance darling film shot ALL on an iPhone:
http://www.pdnonline.com/features/techniques/video/Sundance-Favorite-Tangerine-is-a-Feature-Film-Shot-on-iPhones-14018.shtml. The reviews agree that is is well worth the time. Shot on a 5s with an 8 dollar app.

tangerine-poster
For more serious consideration –
The article sparking summer conversations everywhere –
Social Media Usage

We have all been wondering and Paul Melcher weighs in on the Adobe acquisition of Fotolia.
David Hockney has a new show – “David Hockney: Painting and Photography ” in Venice, California. He states: ‘If you really think about it, I know the single photograph cannot be seen as the ultimate realist picture. Well not now. Digital photography can free us from a chemically imposed perspective that has lasted for 180 years.” (David Hockney, AnnelyJudaFineArt.co.uk)’ If you can’t get to  LA Louver by September 18th, take a look at this review.

 

Will wrap this up with a look at Danny Clinch’s new book, Still Moving.
Opens with an essay by the Boss himself. As Willie Nelson says, “Still is still moving to me.”

What do all these pictures mean, anyway? And whose are they?

1.3 billion images a day. Rosette Nebula [PUBLIC DOMAIN] 15 APR 2015 DYLAN O'DONNELL  CATEGORY : ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY

1.3 billion images a day.
Rosette Nebula
[PUBLIC DOMAIN] 15 APR 2015 DYLAN O’DONNELL 

In a world where we now upload 1.8 Billion photos a day, maybe it’s time to take stock of all things ”photographic” and what those little image suckers – both professional, amateur and press – might actually mean in the scheme of things; as our high art, media and pop culture changes; both aesthetically and also within what early twentieth century politicians and creatives called – almost quaintly now – “the means of production.”

One thing is for sure, amidst all the sides being taken: the issue of authorship, and control, may be different in 2015, from 1915, but it remains as vital and contentious as ever. Let’s look at a few current examples:

1.) FOO COMPLEX FOR MORTALS:

The Washington City Post has decided that it will not photograph “Foo Fighters” because of what it sees as (and make your own mind up on this) injurious and unreasonable conditions demanded by the band. They indicate that if they signed the contract to have a staff photographer shoot Dave Grohl and his cohorts on their latest gig, that:

“…the band approving the photos which run in the City Paper; only running the photos once and with only one article; and all copyrights would transfer to the band. Then, here’s the fun part, the band would have “the right to exploit all or a part of the Photos in any and all media, now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in all configurations” without any approval or payment or consideration for the photographer.”

This seems a little weird, given the band’s stance on protecting its own intellectual property, to say the least…

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/artsdesk/general/2015/07/02/why-were-not-photographing-the-foo-fighters/

2.) SHOOT THE MOON:

Other artists seem to have a different approach to IP issues. Something a little more mellow (or is it provocative? Nobody seems to know the difference, any more…), a little less hysterical… Photographer Dylan O’Donnell proclaims a clear stance on how he perceives how certain elements of his portfolio are intended to exist within the public domain, by way of the following statement:

“I can’t think of anything more anally retentive than amateur photographers uploading mobile photos of their morning coffee and then claiming copyright – just in case some evil corporation uses their award winning image to (heaven forbid) sell something. Instead, the photo will sit unused forever, tainted with the smell of legal copyright. “

Basically, Dylan shoots the moon… and gives it away:

http://deography.com

3.) SCALDING ISSUES:

Meanwhile, artist Maya Hayuk has her own IP beef with Starbucks. Her series of colorful, geometric designs – The Universe, The Universe II, and Hands Across the Universe – evoke splintered prisms of neon light forms. Starbucks approached Hayuk to use her designs as ‘backdrops’ on its new Mini Frappuccino campaign; but the artist demurred.

Starbucks seemingly used a variation therein, and Hayuk feels like they co-opted her work. However, once one gets into the IP of geometric forms, what does actually constitute an original work? This blog seems to come down pretty firmly on the side of the artist; but looks forward to a vibrant comments section…

http://www.wired.com/2015/07/maya-hayuk-starbucks/

 

 

Cartel Photos – University Runs its Own Photo Agency

by Julian Jackson

Cartel Photos is an exclusive photo-library – it only consists of Falmouth University photography students. It is based in a picturesque seaside town in Cornwall, southwest UK. Its objective is to give existing and graduated students a taste of the business end of the industry by finding them assignments and photo sales. Started in 2011 by former professional photographer turned lecturer Mal Stone, “Cartel Photos has been very successful,” he says, “but we are not running it as a business. It is an educational tool. For us it is putting students in an environment where they get the feel of what it is like to work for a real agency.”

Porthleven during the storm in the early hours of the 5th of February 2014.

Porthleven during the storm in the early hours of the 5th of February 2014. (c) Annabel May Oakley-Watson/Cartel Photos

It licenses individual pictures – last year’s storm images from Cornwall found their way around the world and onto the front page of the Telegraph newspaper, which earned the student about $230 after Cartel had taken its 20% cut; it sends out feature stories, and it gains assignments for those students who are able and confident enough. Students with lower experience are sent out as assistants to others to gain knowledge of the sharp end of the photography business.

The attraction for Falmouth University is that Cartel Photos is an incentive for people to sign up for the degree course. The students get real world experience, working for local newspapers, doing event photography for the college, and commercial work.

The most successful individual picture to date was one of UKIP politician Nigel Farage, in a typical pose with Barbour coat and beer, by Tom Pullen, which has been syndicated nationally and even turned up on the Graham Norton TV show.

(c)Tom Pullen/Cartel Photos

Nigel Garage (c)Tom Pullen/Cartel Photos

 

Another of the working graduate photographers is Sam Barnes, who wanted to remain in the Cornwall area. The college helped him obtain start-up business funding. Specialising in sport, he has had pictures published in the local paper.

Day-to-day running of the photo-library is in the hands of Celine Smith, former student and now picture manager. She says that for her the importance of Cartel Photos is, “The personal development side of things – students gain confidence in their ability to manage the business side and deliver good work to the client as well as practical experience of editing photos from a shoot, ftp and keywording.” It has now amassed nearly 40,000 images in its collection.

Local photographers were initially worried that Cartel would undercut them, but the hint is in the name. The agency charges commercial rates for assignments and image licensing, although non-commercial fees for charities and non-profit projects can be negotiated. Mal says, “We look at each job in the context of how long it is going to take and how much work is involved for the student.”

Amy Romer, a second year student, who enjoys photographing performers, has had four assignments from Cartel. She took an “environmental portrait” of a pianist who had come to play at the Performance Centre. Her most recent job was to take pictures of 30 acting graduates which will go into Spotlight – the actors directory. Mal continues, “We are going to be doing more performance and portrait work in the future, in partnership with the Centre, but this pilot project was very successful.”

 

Amy found there was a steep learning curve between the leisurely pace of course assignments, which might take months, and having ten minutes to shoot a portrait in a studio. “It puts you right into the reality of freelance work – you have to get it right and deliver at speed, so it makes you aware of the constraints of professional work, which is valuable.”

The course has strong ties with Rex Features, the news agency which celebrated its 60th anniversary last year. Second year students have to do a work placement, and many opt for six weeks paid work for Rex, which throws them into the centre of a fast-paced and turbulent industry, dealing with newspapers and TV, with a spectrum of news, celebrity and lifestyle subjects. Some students have gone on to work for Rex after graduation. One lucky individual did so well he was posted to Rex’s Los Angeles office, an extremely good break for a young photographer.

Cartel have also newly linked up with famed French agency SIPA, and are offering them features. Documentarist Marco Kesseler covered Albanian Blood Feuds, which have re-emerged since the fall of communism. His work was short-listed for the Taylor Wessing prize and he won $8000 from Ideas Tap and an intern-ship with Magnum. NOOR Agency in Amsterdam and VII are some of the other agencies which are linked with Cartel.

One of the stars of the course, Mal described him as “A very pro-active young photographer. I got some funding for him to do four months at NOOR. For me, the understanding of working in that environment gave him the tools to go out and tell interesting and sensitive stories, like his final piece on the Albanian blood feuds.”

Cartel Photos is an interesting development for an academic course, residing as it does in the divide between educational development, and commercial practice. It will be interesting to see if other academic institutions follow its example.

11092013_CompassPhotos_010

Jo Moore (c)Annemarie Bala/Cartel Photos

www.cartelphotos.com

juliancoffeshopcuJulian Jackson is a writer with extensive experience of picture research, whose main interests include photography and the environment. His portfolio is here: https://julianj.journoportfolio.com/ He also runs a Picture Research by Distance Learning Course www.picture-research-courses.co.uk. Linked-in profile.

 

Talking About My Generation

Peter Tosh. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones during the Don't Look Back video shoot - Strawberry Hill Jamaica 1978.

Peter Tosh. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones during the Don’t Look Back video shoot – Strawberry Hill Jamaica 1978.

We age, but photographs don’t; they capture in aspic, those moments when we were at the height of our vibrancy– and how often does that happen when we are pogo’ing in a mosh pit (try doing that in your fifties and see what happens…); or forgetting three out of four days we spent at a rock festival when the outside world faded away; or when we swayed and sang the words to our favorite rock anthem in a stadium?

The UrbanImage Photo Agency collects a whole swathe of archival materials that recall any number of music, travel and lifestyle images. It’s a rare and diverse mix of subjects that slams together genres ranging from Rock, Punk, Reggae, World Music, Dancehall, Travel, Tourism, Art, Culture and People.

The Clash at Rehearsal Rehearsals Camden London 1977

The Clash at Rehearsal Rehearsals Camden London 1977

Established over 15 years ago by Adrian and Felix Boot together with the IT and business skills of Richard Horsey, the collection continues to accrete new images (even though it already has too much material to scan!). The collection is currently building a third generation site, to even more effectively offer bigger, better, faster, easier, higher resolution images, vivid presentation and mobile friendly materials.

Images are available to license for a wide variety of uses. Online archive images are all available as high resolution scans, and on request they can, sometimes, custom rescan at an even higher resolutions.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Left to Right: Ron Blair, Mike Campbell, Beamont Tench, Stan Lynch, Tom Petty It was taken behind the studio that they were using in San Francisco in  1979

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Left to Right: Ron Blair, Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, Stan Lynch, Tom Petty
It was taken behind the studio that they were using in San Francisco in
1979

Adrian Boot responded to some questions that we asked him:

How does one go from having a philosophy to present a certain lifestyle/attitude; to actually compiling such an amazing amount of diverse material? Did you have any idea what you were taking on when you started the project?

No real philosophy… [I’m] not trying to pre-visualize a “cause”… Instead, looking for life, people, and inspiration, in the moment. My best work is opportunistic… not planned or styled. It’s not a project, it’s a life. It all pre-existed the Internet. The challenge was always reacting instantly while fighting with (inferior) film cameras in fast-moving low-light situations.

Jukebox at First and Last Bar Port Antonio 1972

Jukebox at First and Last Bar Port Antonio 1972

These days the technical mountain has been eroded… most people can take technically better pics on an iPhone than most pros could with a manual-film SLR 30 years ago. Photography is ubiquitous… 

How do you add new material to your project? Are you always on the look-out for new photographers? Do you have long-term relationships with photographers who are clearly documenting this subject matter for the rest of their lives?

Most new content is added to the online archives based on demand. If everyone wants pictures of “The Clash” then we will scan more and expand the collection. What this does mean is that many, many, photo sessions don’t see the light of day; most of our best photos remain deeply filed in [the] archive. Photos that sell are of important artist and events, so these get used and made famous. Urbanimage probably represents less than 20% of the content in our physical archives.

Blondie Debbie Harry Live London 1977 - Multi image contact sheet large format

Blondie Debbie Harry Live London 1977 – Multi image contact sheet large format

We do scan in other stuff [such as] urbanimagetravel.com but this is more a vanity project.

We are not looking for new photographers, except if it fills a gap in one of our more important collections. These days it’s better and easier for a photographer to create his or hers own online sales platform via something like photoshelter.com .

After fifteen years of this, how do you keep the material vibrant to current youth audiences? Is age and/or nostalgia a potential pitfall of identifying what is currently  “fresh”?

The above answers this: I would need another lifetime to ever finish scanning or adding material… and without ever having to take another photograph.

Grace Jones – New York Roof Photosessions – 1981(c)Adrian Boot/UrbanImage

Grace Jones – New York Roof Photosessions – 1981

 

Please see more: http://www.urbanimage.tv/#!/index

All images (c)Adrian Boot/UrbanImageUI_LOGO_LARGE

 

 

Chronicling Illinois… chronicling us.

What is the legacy of a President of the United States? It’s measured in the effects of his (or, in the future) her administration’s management of their time in power, but also the way that decisions made in those corridors of power resonate through the years afterwards… and even further back into history, as the decades pass.

In recent years, the National Archives and Records Administration has established a national network of thirteen 20th-21st century Presidential libraries in the home states of each President, starting with that of Herbert Hoover. However, over the sweep of more than two centuries, earlier libraries – often run by private foundations – have established an archive of individual Presidential legacies; so perhaps it’s no surprise that the state of Illinois established the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM).

Lincoln may have been born, technically, in Kentucky, but he made his ‘bones’ in Illinois as the lawyer who would eventually – as the 16th President of the United States – abolish slavery, safeguard the federal government, and save a devastated economy.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum contains thousands of primary documents, books, pamphlets, photographs, broadsides, ephemera, and artifacts related to the life and times of Abraham Lincoln.

For the use of the general public, students, and scholars, Chronicling Illinois provides digital access holdings that include more than 6,000 individual manuscript collections, hundreds of newspapers, and tens of thousands of photographic and audiovisual materials pertaining to significant aspects of Illinois history. Chronicling Illinois showcases digitized collections and exhibits from the ALPLM’s diverse holdings.

In between a treasure trove of papers and documents – ranging from Lincoln’s sheet music; letters of condolence from world leaders after Lincoln’s assassination; and Civil War song sheet music collections – perhaps the most interesting artifacts to researchers would be those located in The Illinois Photographic Collection; which contains images from the more than 400,000 photographs and 5,000 broadsides.

The images represent aspects of the social, cultural, educational, economic, political, and military experience in Illinois during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Types of photographic technology in the collection include daguerreotype (the earliest commercial photographic process), ambrotype, tintype, glass negatives, albumen prints, stereograph, safety, and polyester film.

It’s fair to say that the research behind these images is exhaustive; within one picture from the “American Civil War Collection” subsection, and amazing photograph identifies the following in a photograph of Grant and his nine officers sit or stand under a tent during the American Civil War. The men are: Ulysses S. Grant, Adam Badeau, Cyrus Comstock, Frederick T. Dent, William L. Duff, John A. Rawlings, Henry Robinett, Ely S. Parker, and Horace Porter. There is only one unrecognized officer… which is pretty good going after 150+, or so, years…

However, the core beauty of the collection – both in terms of the images themselves, but also as a meditation on Lincoln’s legacy – is how the years after his passing, in Illinois, have become increasingly recorded… and how his era and then subsequent ones, up until the present, have melded into a continuous – if abstract – skein of events. A skein that passes through Lincolns’ time up until now: through our leisure times, our incarceration of those who would commit criminal acts; the portraits of children of both races playing baseball in a world that Lincoln might not even have imagined (but would probably have been proud of).

Other subsection collections include a host of images from other eras in Illinois life, and whether it’s a document the aftermath of the 1937 Ohio River flood (the Dan Reeves Collection); the political cartoons of Harold H. Heaton from 1885-1924; churches being built as recorded by the Great River Region Collection; or even back to the portraits of the men who tried to steal the body of Abraham Lincoln (on the night of November 7, 1876), we can see the time and tide of history and our place within it.

What would Lincoln make of photography now: of the prevalence of it? The ubiquity of both pool parties and transgressions recorded – as still images and videos – on a volume that he could never have comprehended? It’s fair to say that he would have approved of emancipation images of black workers in factories standing side by side with white people….

That is speculation, of course, but whatever his thoughts might have been, he would probably have approved, overall, of the sheer accreted range of human endeavor, in the contents of the Illinois Photographic Collection.

http://alplm-cdi.com/chroniclingillinois/collection-tree

For image reproduction requests: http://alplm-cdi.com/chroniclingillinois/contact

Many thanks to writer Simon Herbert for contributing to this piece.

 

 

The Evolution of Art Production

Written By Nicole Bishop. Originally featured on the Foundfolios Blog and reposted with their kind permission.

It is estimated that in 2004 there were 900 art buyers and producers in North America. Today, data shows there are only 400. What does that mean for the industry?

Art buyers and producers have had many struggles within the agency world due to budgetary constraints in an ever-evolving industry. As we all know, art buyers and producers work very closely with art directors and creative teams to secure proper images along with photographers and illustrators based on specialty. They all play an intricate role in securing rights and making sure all images are legally sound, based on the client’s needs.

For an agency perspective, I interviewed Brian Stabile, a Senior Production Specialist from LLNS in Manhattan, to gain some feedback on his experiences with the art buying and production departments. He is not only in charge of working on several campaigns and projects creatively, but he also serves as Quality Control. He noted that when he started his career in 2002 with an agency that employed roughly 200 people, there were five art buyers and producers at the company. To date they have narrowed down the department to one.

Many art producers are spread thin and it’s extremely difficult to include them in every facet of a project’s life. This, in turn, creates a larger issue for all agencies. From a legal standpoint, this puts an agency at risk for legal ramifications. Working in a churn and burn industry, several jobs could potentially be released with flaws. This creates an elevated level of stress and concern for the creative and studio departments as they have to diligently search for the perfect stock image (pending no photo shoot) for their layout, adding unnecessary hours to their day.

Jackie Contee, Art Buyer and Print Producer from The UniWorld Group based out of Brooklyn, New York, is finding that the art buyer and producer role is currently being segued into an art buyer, print-digital producer and content producer role. She’s been able to step into these shoes and facilitate the production of every facet of a shoot including stills, b-rolls, etc.

How does this affect the project life of a job? It touches every aspect of all teams involved on the job. From the project management department in charge of estimates and timing, to the account management departments, including the creative and studio teams who have to deliver on time.

On the flip side, photographers and illustrators also feel the brunt of many agencies eliminating Art Buyer and Producer roles. For these artists, FoundFolios addressed this concern years ago by creating FoundPicks. FoundPicks is a free service offered to help support all creatives, particularly helping Art Producers with a limited staff of Art Buyers to find appropriate talent for their specific needs.

Reflecting on Mary Ellen Mark

Any ‘photographer’ can capture something by being in the right place at the right time – all it takes is a fortuitous click of a shutter, and the recording of one iconic image – but few can sustain a lifetime of cogent work of repeating the same ‘trick’ of capturing something potent over and over: wherein being in the right place at the right time isn’t an accident of wishful intention, but, rather, because that photographer, at their core, was always out there, looking. Searching for that image, knowing that it came not from that 1/8 of a second, at F16; but from a life spent in places where they maybe weren’t even welcome to begin with. The trick is not to be there once: the trick is to be there time and time and time again…

In 1978, Mary Ellen Mark wasn’t welcome in Falkland Road, but – fascinated by the lives of Bombay prostitutes – she endured hostility from both the sex workers and their clients until, eventually, they simply let her in to their lives through Mark’s sheer endurance. The resultant portraits shone a lens on a hitherto unseen world.

Writing of her experience, Mark stated, ”Falkland Road remains one of the most powerful and rewarding experiences of my photographic life. Not only because of its visual richness, but also because of my extraordinary friendships and adventures with these women. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the people that I met on Falkland Road. I wonder how many are still alive. This book was done a few years before AIDS became a known phenomenon.”

Mary Ellen Mark was one of the protean photographers of her time: a photojournalist who, after her first day on the streets with a camera observed, I love this. This is what I want to do for ever.” In later years she would document the lives of the dispossessed and the afflicted (she called them, “Those who hadn’t had the best breaks in society”); her next iconic series of studies “Ward 81” were created of the patients in the women’s’ security ward in Oregon State Hospital; virtually living with her subjects for 36 days.

The pictures are strangely tender, a mix of the mundane and the profound, filtered through a haze of daily reality for the patients. Mark observed, “The women had very strong personalities. Some of them were funny, some romantic, some social. You could label them just the way you might label your friends — that’s the comedian, this is the social one. The difference was that the feelings were so much more exaggerated. There’s no bullshit; the emotions are pure.”

Maybe her essential humanism came from being a twentysomething child of the Sixties: after all, a photographer’s life dealing with the Vietnam protests; fringe gender and social identities in her beloved New York; and women’s liberation, reflected her own journey to find essential truths in a world in radical flux. Later portraits of Seattle junkies (commissioned by Life Magazine) in 1983, followed in 1996 by portraits of homeless children, showed that her empathy for the dispossessed never evaporated with age, or cynicism.

It might seems strange, then, that Mark was also equally at home in more glamorous contexts. She was the on set photographer for over 100 films, including Apocalypse Now (1979) and Australia (2008); but she seemed equally at home moving through disparate worlds. She transitioned into, and then excelled in, many creative identities and directions in her work: creating parallel commercial and artistic lives in portraiture, and advertizing.

Her portraits often hint at the rich interior life of her subjects; so maybe it’s no coincidence that she herself could splice together her own rainbow of interests: from a foundation of harsh and unflinching glimpses into the human condition to idealized filmic icons.

In 2014, the World Photography Organization awarded Mark the Outstanding Contribution to Photography. It was a timely award, a year before her passing on May 25th of this year.

 http://www.maryellenmark.com

 

The Apotheosis of Appropriation – Richard Prince

Guest post by Simon Herbert

Appropriation has always been a part of the history of art (Renaissance painters regularly ‘lifted’ iconography from one another), but it truly moved into the mainstream as its own accepted sub-category in the twentieth century. When Surrealist René Magritte deconstructed subject matter in his painting “The Treachery of Images” that a painting of a pipe was not, in fact a pipe at all (“Ceci ne’st pas un pipe”), he was marking artists’ increasing obsession with validating the truth of one’s own eyes; in an increasingly agnostic world, it seemed that subjective truth was rapidly becoming as reliable a guide as objective truth. Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” had already opened the conceptual floodgates eleven years earlier, in 1917: a porcelain urinal he entered into the Society of Independent Artists in NY. Unsurprisingly, at the time, the work was rejected, in a last gasp attempt to repudiate Duchamps’ provocations that “anything could be art.”

98 years after “Fountain,” Richard Prince has arguably reached the apotheosis of appropriation with his recent show at Gagosian Gallery in New York: “New Portraits,” features 37 images lifted from other peoples’ Instagram accounts. Enlarged to roughly 4 x 6 feet and printed on canvas, they are snapshots of people in the era of digital media, and reflect the narcissism of a continual “selfie” culture. The works sell for upwards of $100,000, fueling both outrage and acclamation in equal measure. The former camp is populated by those who think that there is little creativity in Prince’s lifting of other peoples’ images, and cite his decades of lifting other artists’ and photographers’ works; they believe it to be lazy at best, and outright theft at worst (the subjects of the paintings do not receive any percentage on sales). They also point out that Prince rarely creates the physical works himself; he employs assistants to fabricate them.

The latter camp – the defenders of Prince – will cite, doubtless, some of the artists mentioned above, and point to the consolidation of appropriation throughout the last century: Andy Warhol’s Factory was created by Warhol’s own recontextualization of found imagery (such as “Electric Chair” in 1963), and he, too, used assistants in a conveyor belt operation that worked both commercially, but also as a further critique of authenticity. In the nineties radical devil’s advocate and high art court jester Jeff Koons employed a small army of artisans to recreate mass-produced cheap kitsch objects as unique expensive one-offs; effectively inverting notions of “taste.”

So far, so good then: both sides make valid arguments, and it’s unlikely that any rapprochement will be made any time soon. Just as you might think that something is, or isn’t, a pipe; people project their own subjective values of work, authenticity, authorship onto both the processes and results of art making. In short, it’s a discussion that will never be “won.”

So what is left, in the case of the Richard prince show, is the guessing game of that other old chestnut: “the artist’s intentionality.” By any stretch of the imagination, Prince could put anything on a canvas or a plinth, and there would not only be sellers for it, but the run would be snapped up by buyers; so it’s fair to assume that Prince must have made the critical issues of his choice of subject matter for a reason?

It’s with this defining question that the conceptual aspects of the work, perhaps, begin to crystallize. To the subjective eyes of this writer (who usually falls into the camp of appropriation defenders), the schism between source material and artwork is pronounced and profound enough to justify the works as “art.” Consider the rarefied high art atmosphere that these selfies now exist in: surely that sense of inflated worth, and uniqueness, is exactly what the subject matter wanted for themselves when they first started documenting themselves? At a time when literally millions of people have an active compulsion to surrender portraits of themselves to a vast (but mainly imaginary: maybe a ‘tribe of friends numbering in the hundreds actually sees these photos, rather than the tens of thousand theoretically out there…) imaginary audience, Prince has amplified their narcissism and taken it to another level. The original Instagram portraits would have been consumed in split seconds, before the viewer moves on to absorb hundreds of other images that same day, with the click of a mouse of track pad; whereas now, in the Gagosian gallery, the subjects’ aspirations have reached a stillness, and permanence, beyond their wildest dreams. They remain inviolate, serene, loved, valued and magnified.

But just because Prince’s work is valid in this context, does it make it great art? That’s an argument for another time…

Simon Herbert is a freelance writer and editor, and has written for magazines including: Creative Camera, High Performance, Border Crossings, Art Monthly and Artists Newsletter; and catalogues for the Sydney Biennale and Henry Moore Sculpture Trust. As an art curator, he co-founded Locus+, which commissions a variety of digital-based artist’s projects.