Two Books That Teach

Another in our series of inspirations and must-haves, this time with guest writer, Ellen Boughn

Two photography book publishers looked to their archives for material to publish in 2014. I chose to review Thames and Hudson’s Magnum Contacts and National Geographic Covers because they are books that can reinforce the editing skills of photo researchers, publishers, art buyers and photo editors.

The criteria that resulted in selecting these publications were that they be books showcasing iconic images that have passed the test of time and that show  why a photograph is chosen for key placement or is the most important in a series.

The cover of Magnum Contact Sheets-Compact Edition, Edited by Kisten Lubben, Thames & Hudson. 2014

The cover of Magnum Contact Sheets-Compact Edition, Edited by Kisten Lubben, Thames & Hudson. 2014

Jim Cornfield, the book reviewer for Rangefinder Magazine, suggested I take a look at the 2014 edition of Magnum Contact Sheets-Compact Edition. [] The book shows a large print of the select along with a copy of the contact sheet from where it was selected. Each is accompanied by photographers comments of what occurred in front of and behind the camera during the shoot.

A review of the contacts…my eye itched for my long ago put away loupe…shows why one photo stands out. It’s a good game for a photo editor to play by asking what image would I have picked and why?

Rene Burre’s exclusive interview with Che Guevara captured the many moods of the Cuban revolutionary. In some he appears exhausted or playful. The final portrait of Che with a cigar captures the face of a man with the strength and arrogance of a rebel and eyes that appear to be slightly fearful or with a hint of doubt.


Havana. Ministry of Industry. Ernesto Guevara (CHE) (1961-1965) during an exclusive interview in his office ©Rene Burre/Magnum Photos


On a lighter side is Philippe Halsman’s narrative of how he managed to get three cats air-born, while Salvador Dali jumped up and a bucket of water was tossed across the set all in one frame before Photoshop. (This image was regrettably not among those authorized by the Geographic for publication within a review.)



Once color became more popular, the light table edit replaced proof sheet. INDIA. Rajasthan. 1983. Dust storm ©Steve McCurry/Magnum Photos.                                   

Thames & Hudson’s press release states, “This landmark photography book, published just as the shift to digital photography threatens to render the contact sheet obsolete, celebrates the sheet as artifact, as personal and historic record as invaluable editing tool and as a fascinating way of accompanying great photographers through the process of creating the most enduring images of our time.

What makes a great magazine cover? A new book, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC THE COVERS: Iconic Photographs, Unforgettable Stories, [] provides a survey of covers from the late 1950s-2014.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC THE COVERS: Iconic Photographs, Unforgettable Stories. The National Geographic Society. 2014

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC THE COVERS: Iconic Photographs, Unforgettable Stories. The National Geographic Society. 2014

The Geographic stayed close to its roots, documenting  world cultures and remote geography over time. As the world began to grow smaller in the 1980’s, cover photos of remote tribes began to be replaced with cover stories such as the November 1984 cover piece on chocolate or William Albert Allard’s article on a season in baseball’s minor leagues.

Two of my all time favorite Geographic covers are of Koko the Gorilla holding a camera (just like a pro) as she took a shot  for the October 1978 issue and that of a lioness and cub taken by Mitsuaki Iwago for May 1986.


A Lioness and her cub bask in the protection of the Serengeti, Africa’s premier wildlife haven. May 1986 | Photo by Mitsuaki Iwago/National Geographic

A Lioness and her cub bask in the protection of the Serengeti, Africa’s premier wildlife haven. May 1986 | Photo by Mitsuaki Iwago/National Geographic

I haven’t read that KoKo’s photo was the first published selfie taken by a non-human primate in the recent dustup over the shot by a black macaque monkey. (We didn’t hear from the copyright office on KoKo’s photo but they now have passed a regulation [] that only human beings can own copyrights.) I taped KoKo’s cover photo on the door of my photo agency office when I was president. I think the humor was lost on most photographers passing through that doorway.

A newly minted National Geographic photographer makes her own self-portrait. October 1978 | Photo by Koko

A newly minted National Geographic photographer makes her own self-portrait. October 1978 | Photo by Koko


Although obvious to skilled photo editors and art buyers, most covers are very close up shots with simple graphics as proven in the six-page pullout showing all the cover photos.

  No copyright required

No copyright required

A word about the several super large SUMO books out this year. We live in a time when the classic “coffee table” photography book has been replaced with photography books  AS coffee tables. What I think of when I see the latest of these books named after fat Japanese wrestlers is how does one wrestle the books home without causing a back injury? Vanity Fair entitled their discussion of the Annie Leibovitz SUMO published this last February as being “Bigger Than Your Apartment” [] The special edition of Salgado’s 2014 book, GENESIS [] weighs 120 pounds. Enough!

All photos used with permission (except for the monkey selfie)

th-1Ellen Boughn acts as an appraiser of the value of copyrights and as an expert witness  in matters pertaining to standard licensing fees, copyright, unauthorized use and licensing business models in photography and illustration. Her client list includes many major U.S. and international law firms, publishers and photographers/illustrators. Her archive appraisal practice began in the 1990’s with the assessment of the George Hurrell Estate for tax purposes and she most recently appraised the value of the copyrights associated with the Bert Stern Estate. She is associated with  fine art appraiser-certified in photography, Jennifer Stoots, AAA  [] for cases that involve both the value of copyrights as well as fine art prints. In addition, she has prepared reports on patents that relate to licensing of intellectual property over the internet.

Ellen graduated from Colorado College, earned the certificate in Executive Management from the UCLA Anderson School and attends courses covering current valuation issues, as offered by American Society of Appraisers (ASA) and similar professional organization. Both Stoots and Boughn are USPAP (Universal Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) certified (Seattle 2008, San Francisco 2014, New York 2012)

Sarah Fix Inspires Us

Sarah Fix, Creative Director of Blend Images and current President of PACA/DMLA pulls from a wide pool for her creative muse:

My go to sources for inspiration are: Kinfolk Magazine, Monocle magazine, Zite app., and I know this sounds like a shameless plug but the Blend Images blog has fine art contributors that have daily posts about new artists that are fantastic,


I get fixated on specific subjects that take me down various paths for inspiration:

I’m a huge Mid-Century modern fan and a member of the Los Angeles Conservancy:

~ Julius Shulman (there are many other books of his work that are less expensive)

~ Graphic design by Saul Bass

~ Architecture by John Lautner, Neutra, Donald Wexler, E. Stewart Williams
Case Study Homes

~The movie A Single Man


~ Alexander Girard hardcover book by Todd Oldham
~Just Kids by Patti Smith inspired a more in-depth view of the early days of 70’s punk/art in NY and their inspirations.

~Please kill me: An Oral History of Punk Rock

We asked Sarah about her wishlist for the holidays: Wishlist for Xmas — Sebastião Selgado: Genesis photo book. I had the opportunity to see the prints in person at the International Center of Photography, NYC in October. If I can’t get an actual print, the book is the next best thing!
If Santa is feeling generous I’ll take a Donald Wexler home in Palm Springs… I’ve been really good.


Sarahcolor2014Sarah Fix, VP Creative and Member of Blend Images, LLC, is responsible for overall creative direction, marketing and photographer development. She began her career in stock photography in 1993 at Westlight and held prestigious posts at Corbis, Brand X and PictureArts before joining Blend Images. Sarah is currently serving as President of PACA/Digital Media Licensing Association and has lectured extensively about commercial content creation and stock library production in the United States and abroad. 

Inspiration and Aesthetic

I asked colleagues, clients and peers to tell me about their favorite books, magazines and  inspirations for a December theme. We start off the month with this thoughtful post by designer Chad Wall.

I work from, and am most attracted to, a firmly American aesthetic.  I realize that phrase reads as somewhat ambiguous, in an attempt to narrow the meaning: I usually find that I 
gravitate toward the speed shop car culture (think Shelby American), Ivy style on the West Coast, architecture, and the art scene in Los Angeles in the early 1960s through the mid-1970s. This span of, roughly, 15 years encompasses the best of American design:  clean, classic, and purposeful.

One of my favorite websites is A Continuous Lean,  by Michael Williams.

(c)Michael Williams
(c)Michael Williams

Williams travels around the world looking for original, and interpretations of, goods that epitomize the quality and craftsmanship of the American Century.  One of his most recent posts covered the pop-up fleas he set up in Tokyo that featured American work clothes/Ivy League inspired Japanese and American brands.  He shoots his own images on a Lecia and finished off the article with a beautiful shot of an 
early 70s Jeep Wagoneer parked outside the 
Tokyo flea location.

Another favorite site is The Impossible Cool, They concentrate on archival images of actors, artists, and musicians from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The large majority of the images are collections either owned or licensed by Getty or Corbis. They post infrequently, but when they do it’s worth it:

They sell silver prints of many of the best photos they unearth on their trips to archives at

I find myself buying a lot of books from Taschen.  I miss their Los Angeles store.  Now that I am living on the Great Plains I spend time perusing their website: They produce lovely books.  Beautiful images. Compelling subjects.  Here are a few of my 
favorites along with a few other books I’ve added to my collection from other sources:

(c)Chad Wall

(c)Chad Wall


I also draw inspiration from walking my company’s factory floor where we build recreational towing equipment for the motorsports and RV markets and where I serve as the marketing manager and creative director.  The first photo and third photos are of metal lathes from the 1940s, the second is a metal press from the 1930s.  Machines that are still in service.

Here is an example of my most recent work. The minute I saw the stock photograph that I’ve used here, I thought of Grant Wood’s American Gothic.  The original image shows the man on the left side, I’ve flipped the image here to match the orientation of Grant’s painting.  I think this ad follows much of the aesthetic influences that I mention above, the clothes, the simplicity and utility of the old Airstream trailer, to me, evoke the style of the American Century.

(c)Blue Ox

(c)Blue Ox



Chad WallChad Wall is the marketing manager and creative director at Blue Ox products in Northeast Nebraska.  Before the 2008 recession tore the world to hell, Chad was at Picture Arts/Jupiterimages in Los Angeles where he was a distribution manager working with picture agencies in Europe, Latin America, and Asia.  He loves his job on the plains but misses Los Angeles.

Enter Lobster: Buttering up the Image Marketplace

Another new user content community aims to change the way we use visual materials found online. And this one has put the ubiquitous hashtag front and center.

Guest post by Jain Lemos

“We want to become the largest market for social media content,” says Olga Egorsheva, co-founder and CEO of Lobster IT Limited. Her London-based tech company is run by a close-knit group of computer science students who met at Moscow State University. The team includes a photographer, a designer and an art buyer, each clearly mindful of the create-buy-use image transaction model.

Like other startups in this space, they feel strongly about trying to prevent social content stealing.  As for the name, Egorsheva claims Lobster is fun and memorable, plus, “…lobsters grab everything in the ocean as we grab content anywhere on the Internet through social media.”


Using APIs, Lobster sources user generated content from social platforms, specifically Instagram and Flickr right now. That means maintaining working relationships with Facebook and Yahoo, even if only through the API functionality for starters. As for the popular sharing communities themselves, the prospect of a 75 percent revenue stake is encouraging sellers to sign up.

On the contributor side, sellers create a profile on Lobster and use the hashtag #ilobsterit in the caption or comment fields of images they want to add to Lobster’s marketplace. The hashtag becomes the basis for signaling buyers that their images are for sale. Selling with Lobster is on a non-exclusive basis once the content creator accepts their terms.

Bargain-basement prices are preset for all content, though Lobster envisions increasing licensing fees down the road as well as allowing sellers to set their own prices. Instagram files are $0.99; Flickr files are $1.99; video files are $2.99. Future pricing models will also be rating-based. For example, the more Instagram images you sell, the higher your Lobster rating, which then triggers a higher licensing fee.

With 75 percent of the sale going to the contributor, that’s $0.74 for a 640 x 640 pixel Instagram shot, a file size suitable for Web use. Interestingly, the downloadable file for Flickr images is sized at 7360 x 4912 pixels, dimensions large enough for nearly all print applications.


The broadly-worded usage agreement granted by the seller is for a full, worldwide non-exclusive commercial or editorial royalty-free license. Sellers are encouraged to tag their content with further hashtags:

  • #editorialuse: Content can be used for Editorial use. Any required Model Release and/or Property Release has not been obtained;
  • #modelrelease: All necessary Model Releases have been obtained by the Seller and may be provided to Buyers upon request;
  • #propertyrelease: All necessary Property Releases have been obtained by the Seller and may be provided to Buyers upon request.

For buyers, searching the collection presents the biggest hurdle. Lobster’s search parameters are limited to the image’s description, hashtags and built-in date and geographic metadata. Keywording is all user-determined and that can mean messy results. Lobster is working to educate their contributors on better captioning practices and they also plan to integrate image recognition software that automatically adds color, emotion and other symbolic keywords to files.


To improve the buyer’s research experience, Egorsheva says there will be both in-house and crowd sourced curation and rating of images. Currently, the homepage sorts photo streams by three categories: trending topics, bestsellers and nearby. Lobster runs photo challenges so sellers have topics to shoot and a chance to win site promotion and other prizes. The images curated for the nearby category result from Lobster capturing the seller’s image coordinates and then matching those with the viewer’s IP address location.

Transactions go through PayPal so buyers and sellers will need to establish an account there. Should buyers want to reach sellers for more information or alternate file sizes, Lobster plans to launch a direct messaging capability. This communication tool within Lobster will allow buyers to directly submit a buy request, even for non-hashtagged photos.

Once an image has been purchased, Lobster stores a copy on their servers so the buyer always has access to the file, even if the seller has deleted the photo from their own social media account. If a seller changes their mind about offering an image for sale via Lobster, they can remove #ilobsterit from the file but there is a delay, even up to 24 hours, before the photo will be removed from Lobster’s marketplace.


Growth is steady. Lobster reports about 100,000 images and videos to date from about 1500 users. The first paying customers are starting to arrive as their marketing efforts ramp up. They’ll be pursuing other social media sites including Vine, Twitter and Behance and audio sharing sites such as Soundcloud. In the meantime, Lobster will be attempting to crawl through as much territory as possible in an ocean of online content.

Image credits:

New York Sunset by Andrew Giacalone (@azgiacalone)

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge by Todd Perzel (@compasscomfort)

Seaside Relaxation by Miriam Häring (@frozen_foxy)
Oxford Traffic by Dmitriev Andrey (@elvendi)

Seaside Relaxation by Miriam Häring (@frozen_foxy)

Jain LemosJain Lemos has been deeply involved in photography publishing and licensing for more than twenty years. She shares her informed perspective about our visual industry on her blog

Picture Palace of Movie History – the Ronald Grant Archive

by Julian Jackson

Modern Times

Modern Times

The Ronald Grant Archive is one of the best privately-held collections of cinema images in the world today.  Founded in 1971 along with its sibling The Cinema Museum in 1984, it covers the  history of cinema.  In its temperature-controlled vaults lie over 1 million images from the beginning of the movies in the 1890s to around 2010.

Martin Humphries, the CEO and co-founder explains, “We are a specialist collection which is broad in what it covers: more than 50,000 British, US, European and World Cinema titles, and we also offer in-depth material – publicity shots, posters, on-set and behind-the-scenes content, as well as images of movie theaters themselves, the picture-palaces of yesteryear.”

They have a huge range of material. During the years I spent researching they were one of the three places I would always go for cinema images, the other two being Kobal (now licensed by The Picture Desk) and the British Film Institute.  If you are interested in classic film stars like Audrey Hepburn or Charlie Chaplin, they are here, as well as stuntmen, animations, special effects, film industry people, and goodness knows what else.  They also have an extensive collection of  UK and US TV programs, variety and musical performers, popular and classical musicians, singers and songwriters, as well as song sheets and theatre related material.

Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday

It is more effective if you are interested in a particular actor or director to search the online collection by film title, rather than the person’s name as sometimes this has not been sufficiently cross-referenced. If you have a list of films that you are interested in, this will speed up the process.  Or you could always give them a call:  the staff pride themselves on their film knowledge and expertise. I don’t often reckon many people can out-film-geek me, but in this case I bow down and murmur “Respect!” Martin Humphries says, “What we offer is a bespoke service, without the frustration of searching the internet.  In our field, we have either got it, or we can point you in the right direction if we haven’t, we don’t just say “No sorry,”  in the unlikely event we can’t satisfy your request from our vast archives. Sometimes we get asked for a particular image from a film that someone has found on the internet, and if it is a frame-grab, then unfortunately it probably isn’t good enough for quality print reproduction and there may not be a still from that particular scene.”

In searching the archives I had a jolt of memory. I recall sneaking in under-age into my local picture house to see a double bill of classic British horror The Wicker Man, followed by Don’t Look Now. I staggered out a bit shell-shocked by the power of cinema.  Over the years I have begun to doubt that I could have seen those two great films together, but the archive has a front-of-house card showing that my memory was correct.

The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man

The Ronald Grant Archive shares its building with The Cinema Museum, a lovely collection of movie-making equipment, décor and design. They are basically two arms of the same organisation. A few years ago they were threatened with eviction from their premises, which would have meant the break-up of both collections, but negotiation and a campaign to stop this by film buffs eventually made the landlord relent.  Now they hope to buy the building so they can have a secure future. Although they are located in South London, not far from the Imperial War Museum, they are easily reachable from Central London, so would be worth a visit (by appointment only) if you are in London. One of the best collections in the world for movie-related projects.



All images copyright of Ronald Grant Archive and may not be reproduced without permission.

juliancoffeshopcuJulian Jackson is a writer with extensive experience of picture research, whose main interests include photography and the environment.  His website is  He also runs a Picture Research by Distance Learning Course profile.









A Museum Without Walls…for an Art Without Boundaries

Sometimes, if there ain’t a museum for what you want, you just have to set it up yourself…which is precisely what Bill Becker, a television producer and writer and noted historian of photography (his research has been published in American Heritage, History of Photography: An International Quarterly and other forums) did. Also; if you don’t necessarily have the resources of thousands of square feet of wall space, attendants’ wages, the need for a board to be fed canapés and wine whilst arguing over acquisitions and purchases… then maybe it’s time to set up a virtual museum, open 365 days a year, 24/7.

Unidentified photographer, Girl with Columbia Graphophone, platinum(?) print(app.4.25X5.5

Unidentified photographer, Girl with Columbia Graphophone, platinum(?) print(app.4.25X5.5

Maybe the American Museum of Photography is the most apropos museum of this time: because it fully embraces the digital instantaneous nature of the medium, but tempers it with a deep respect for the necessity of recognizing history, and the inherent need for preservation and dissemination.

This isn’t just another online library. Becker has spent an enormous amount of time – dating back to 1968, as a teenager – searching for images. How does he know what he wants? Becker quotes a Supreme Court Judge talking about pornography (not that Becker’s looking for that. Or maybe he is? He didn’t tell in this interview…) : “I know it when I see it.” A more kiddy-friendly metaphor that he also uses: when he sees a photograph that he wants, it’s like “Sylvester seeing Tweety-Pie. His eyes bug out…”

Three Men with Fish & Lobster Unidentified Photographer.  Tintype,  Carte de Visite format (approx. 2.25 x 4 inches)  Daguerre’s American Legacy, p. 215; included in MIT Museum exhibition: Also available as a postcard from the MIT Museum bookstore.

Three Men with Fish & Lobster
Unidentified Photographer. Tintype, Carte de Visite format (approx. 2.25 x 4 inches)
Daguerre’s American Legacy, p. 215; included in MIT Museum exhibition:
Also available as a postcard from the MIT Museum bookstore.

So Becker searches, and ruminates, and searches some more. But, between IP issues, and a digital pop culture world where every meal is photographed on Instagram, Becker is curating an astounding body of compelling images that occupies an area of interest somewhere between the archival, and the still-immediate effect of a decades-old image on the retina.

Images have been loaned for exhibitions including: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, Maison Europeenne de la Photographie (Paris), and the Museum Folkwang.

What makes Becker’s virtual museum distinctive is the quality of the images. From over five thousand photographs, Becker’s selection for individually-curated shows (from the overall resource) range, according to him: “From the earliest daguerreotype portraits, through to the work of Ansel Adams. Each photograph has been chosen for its visual impact as well as for the importance of its content.”

Native American with Blonde Baby, albumen print on cabinet card mount(4.25x6.5in.), after 1885   Daguerre’s American Legacy, p. 168; included in MIT Museum exhibition: Also available as a postcard from the MIT Museum bookstore.

Native American with Blonde Baby, albumen print on cabinet card mount(4.25×6.5in.), after 1885
Daguerre’s American Legacy, p. 168; included in MIT Museum exhibition:
Also available as a postcard from the MIT Museum bookstore.

It’s an impressive range of images, and all of them are open to scholarly interpretation, based both on historical perspective, but also how these records of past eras resonate in contemporary times. Curations have been organized on subjects including: how photography has bridged East and West cultural gaps (a daguerreotypist accompanied Commodore Mathew Perry on his first mission to Japan); 19th century “slave” photographs by a variety of unidentified photographers; through to more playful exhibitions such as “Do You Believe?” a collection of spirit photographs, begun back when people were first seeing the results of double-exposures.

From the surreal to the kitsch, via the “important” and the incisive, there’s a democratic impulse of wonder – like a collector suddenly finding a treasure trove at a market stall; or the wonder of finding some cool images when one surfs the website – in the breadth of the collections; a playfulness that both has fun with the wonderful idiosyncrasy of the archive, but also honors the invaluable nature of these snapshots. When asked if his own model is a subversion of the museum model, Becker is adamant that it isn’t; rather “It’s not oppositional to institutions, that do amazing work, and are vital. I see this more as supplemental… and fun.”

R.M.Linn&Brother, Civil War Soldiers Returning Home, Sightseeing at Point Lookout, Tennessee, tintype(3.25X4.25in.) June, 1885

R.M.Linn&Brother, Civil War Soldiers Returning Home, Sightseeing at Point Lookout, Tennessee, tintype(3.25X4.25in.) June, 1885

Becker has, currently, supplied images to the new exhibition: “Daguerre’s American Legacy:  Photographic Portraits (1840 -1900)” at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts which contains more than 170 American portrait photographs, including 100 daguerreotypes.  The exhibit in the Kurtz Gallery for Photography is based on the first-ever public display of photographs in the home of Louis J. M. Daguerre, in the City of Bry-sur-Marne near Paris.

Visit the American Museum of Photography here:

Ghouls on Film

Settle down, pull your blankets tight, as we gather around the campfire, and listen to stories of the weird and wonderful. It’s that time of year again… time to carve the pumpkins with dull knives, put up ecologically-unsound fake spider webs, and let your children wander around threatening strangers, who, in turn, give them unmonitored foods. What could possibly go wrong?

How about if you captured a ghost on film? If you’re a normal human being, you’d probably run a mile; but there are various photographers, and photographic groups, out there, whose chief ambition is to actually do precisely that: to go forth with one intent: to capture the ethereal and otherwordly on silver nitrate… or, these days, digitally.

Let’s face it, it’s probably going to be digital ghost-capturing now— which is a shame, in a romantic way; because there’s something so much more apt about spirit forms being ‘trapped’ on those old school light crystals. Maybe, we could postulate, pixels aren’t a suitable ‘home’ for spirit forms, and they are the round ethereal grain that won’t fit into a square hole? has a, perhaps, more practical theory about the benefits of digital versus film:

“Most ghost hunters today are using digital cameras because they are easier and less expensive to work with and easier to upload images to a computer for examination and editing. Plus, you can delete all the images that are not paranormal (which will be most of them). Novice ghost hunters prefer the digital camera to the old standard 35mm models because of the sheer amount of orbs that appear in many of the pictures with cheaper, point-and-shoot cameras.”

Yes, that’s right: if you’re going to spend days, or even weeks, in a moldy house in rural Connecticut, or in a swanky penthouse in New York (let’s not be biased… ghosts can live wherever they want… and if this writer came back in the afterlife, he’d definitely go for the latter option…), you’re going to spend a lot of time waiting. And your chances of capturing a ghost might increase, proportionately, if you can click off a lot of images, rather than running to the lab with a roll of “36- did we get anything?” shots from the inky darkness.

But, technique issues aside (let’s not even get started on infrared, or use of flash, or experimentation with different filters; or even start to open that can of ghoulish worms…) there is plenty of evidence, throughout the history of photography, that photographers have, indeed, claimed to have captured ghosts on film.

Self-portrait of William Mumler, showing himself and purportedly the ghost of his cousin.

Robert Bronner with the spirit of his wife.

William H.Mumler was the progenitor of such images, back in the 1860s… except that his credentials as an authentic ghost hunter do leave a little to be desired; seeing as his ‘discovery’ of a second person in one of his photographs turned out to be nothing more than a double exposure. This may have become a common phenomenon over the subsequent 150 years; but back then it must have seemed that, if you believed that photography was intrinsically “real,” then this must surely be proof of the netherworld!

Even Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of “Sherlock Holmes” – a character known as a debunker of lies and fantasies – got into the act, and interpreted the infamous “Cottingley Fairies” photographs by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths [taken in Bradford in 1917] as clear and visible evidence of psychic phenomena.

But, I hear you say: “Those are just fairies?! And, anyway, in 1980, Elsie and Francis admitted that (most) of the pictures were fakes anyway, using cardboard cut-outs.  So let’s get back to those creepy ghosts!”

Well, according to if you’re going to put on your extra thick fingerless gloves, parka, night goggles, set up your EMF meters [electromotive force], and, even after that, be prepared to sit on a cold floor, then you might as well know what ‘kind’ of ghost that you’re looking for, as you peer into that dusty basement.

They fall into various categories: ghosts in ‘hot spots’ that (conversely) will give you chills; those that appear simply through a ‘gut feeling’ (this must be like a “lucky point and shoot” that wildlife photographers occasionally succumb to, after weeks of tracking, say a snow leopard?); sparkles and flares that usually appear 30 feet away from the camera; translucent circular or spherical shapes knows as “orbs”; or – the grail of grails! – “our old dear (dead) friend “ectoplasm.”

Whatever you might capture: whether it exists in this plane or the next; whether it is benign or malevolent; whether it wants to take you to another plane of existence, or merely lock you out of your children’s nursery whilst it drags them away to inky underworld; whether it glows like a fairy, or hums in the darkness like shingles in a rat; there is only one true, immutable, certainty betwixt this world and the next…

… make sure you get a model release.

And if it’s got to be signed in blood… but then, what else is new? Happy Halloween!

An image of Moses A. Dow, Editor of Waverley Magazine, with the spirit of Mabel Warren

An image of Moses A. Dow, Editor of Waverley Magazine, with the spirit of Mabel Warren.

Images reproduced with permission of the American Museum of Photography.

Simon Herbert, a curator and filmmaker, only knows about ghost photographs because his new horror feature film “Savageland” features a border town massacre that was captured on one roll of 36 images. Any suggestion that these “harrowing” pictures (see for a review) were photoshopped to suggest the existence of otherworldly beings will be met with letters from his lawyers “Spook, Ghoul and Rube-Wrangler.”

Understanding and Serving Niche Markets

Guest post by Sheridan Stancliff

Some may argue that there is already a flood of imagery available in the stock photography market with collections such as Getty images, Corbis, and Alamy hosting millions of images. There are still, however, some topics that are not being well represented by the “big boys” for various reasons and that is where the niche agency plays such an important role.

Images that are truly specialized may not be viewed as commercially valuable to an agency that covers every general topic out there, but an art buyer who may be looking for something off the beaten path may run into some problems finding a photograph to fit their needs. An art buyer may then turn their sites from a larger house and instead contact a smaller agency that specializes in a particular type of imagery. Not only will this niche agency be more likely to have what the buyer is looking for, but they also have direct connection to photographers that specialize in those subjects.

StockFood has remained true to their specialty of food imagery around the world. I spoke with StockFood USA General Manager Shannon Mahoney about the benefit of a niche collection such as theirs. “A niche agency is a true specialist in their field making them the respected choice for end users requiring additional service.  Representing niche subject matter not only sets an agency apart from the rest but allows for a level of concentration and focus. For end users with a similar focus the field experts are their go-to resource. Key-wording is highly detailed and specific to the collection. Trend scouting is high priority.  Sales teams perform like service teams, offering custom support on a project-by-project basis.”

From a photographer’s perspective, Mahoney notes, “For contributors shooting targeted content, niche representation is important in order to get the content seen by the right people.  The specialist agency works to get very specific subject matter in front of their very specific client base and can do so with a very specific marketing plan.”

When I decided to start Novel Expression, this very specific and targeted content was something I needed as an art buyer for authors. The lack of historical imagery that would work on a Regency romance or edgy shots that would appeal to paranormal writers were greatly missing in the space. Images that fit the bill in larger collections were being used over and over again since they were the only ones readily available.  There are a few other players in the same market, and their specialization makes them appealing to the exploding ebook and print on demand market.

In both instances, an art buyer can work directly with an agency that focuses on their needs and is readily available to help them find or obtain the image they need.  This personal and knowledgeable touch is invaluable. The agency understands the market: StockFood knows that something as simple as French fries are likely to be served with mayonnaise in the Netherlands, banana ketchup in the Philippines, covered in gravy and cheese curds in Canada, malt vinegar in the UK, and ketchup in the USA. If you’re an art buyer in these locations, the difference may be small, but pronounced.


(c)Chip Latshaw

(c)Chip Latshaw

Sheridan Stancliff has spent more than 15 years in marketing and marketing communications, working in all aspects of the industry, from public relations photography and event management to advertising, direct mail and sales. She opened SheridanINK, a boutique marketing company specializing in helping fiction authors, in 2011 and Novel Expression in 2014.

Alex Center is Pretty Special

If you think that it takes some moxie for a designer to get this compliment from rapper 50 cent – “You must think you’re pretty special” – then Alex Center wants you to know that his response was to be nervous and “instantly start sweating.” It’s probably a career first for a man who seems to not be intimidated by much in life; after all, it takes some moxie to try and reinvent the vitaminwater brand; after a few years of other competitors clustering around, turning those crystal clear waters murky.

Cue an advertising campaign with a bold graphic stripe running through it: a barrier to be traversed by skateboard, or leapt over by snowboard, or arched over by a high jumper, or… you get the idea, it’s for fit people. With some big goals. Even those of us who only jump when a waiter asks, “One pastrami dog?” couldn’t help but be transfixed by the giant billboards in New York and other cities, a kind of almost three-dimensional trompe l’oeil that almost literally jumped off of hoardings. The ads kind of dare you to become invested, even if it’s only to stop and marvel.

Maybe being a designer, earlier on, for the New York Knicks, honed Center’s sense of athletic competition; but it’s not all adrenaline and “hoo-hah” gusto. Center has a keen eye for the mechanics of storytelling and consumer collaboration which goes way beyond fist-pumping, and Visual Connections is proud and excited to have him as the first subject for their first ever guest speaker slot.

Over the years, he has designed packaging across the globe, created breakthrough marketing campaigns, launched innovative new products. In 2011, Alex was named one of the 200 Best Packaging Designers by Luerzers Archive. In 2012, he started sharing his story with speaking engagements at The Dieline Forum, HOW Design Live and as a guest on Debbie Millman’s famous Design Matters podcast.

Center, who also improvs at the UCB Theatre in what spare time he has, can riff across a range of subjects: “User experience design, brand personality and tapping into culture.” It’s a holistic approach that might just empower the brand target with a little more sense and sensibility (and moxie all of its own) than other brands might admit to. Center is adamant that there “are ways to design for people, not products.”

Center continues to steers brands for The Coca-Cola Company. Named a Person To Watch by GDUSA Magazine – joining the likes of legendary prior recipients such as Milton Glaser, Primo Angeli, George Lois and Saul Bass (Hitchcock’s title sequence designer; who would probably have been proud of Center’s dynamic clarity) – also oversees campaigns for global brands at Coca-Cola that include vitaminwater, smartwater & Powerade.

Alex will share how his experience working on the vitaminwater brand.

There is no need to register for the session, just register for the expo and turn up in good time to grab a beer or glass of wine before the start at 5:30pm (it will be popular, and space is limited).

Entry to the exhibit floor, Footage Q&A Session and Guest Speaker are all free. Tickets for the Keynote Q&A Session cost just $35 in advance (or $50 at the door, subject to availability). Complimentary lunch, snacks and beverages will be provided throughout the day, with beer and wine served after 5pm.

Register now at:

More about Alex:

Diving into the DPLA: Getty Research Institute Adds Nearly 100,000 New Items

If you haven’t spent time lately navigating the collections of the Digital Public Library of America, now is a great time to revisit this fabulous content resource.

Guest post by Jain Lemos


Headquartered within the Boston Public Library, the DPLA’s online experience for researchers couldn’t be better, but hanging out there is time consuming. That’s because you’ll want to spend just another hour or so looking to make sure you haven’t missed a perfect jewel. The digital repository houses dozens of collections and millions of records, including materials from many state libraries, the Smithsonian, the Medical Heritage Library and the Government Printing Office.

This month, the Getty Research Institute announced their contribution of nearly 100,000 new items to DPLA’s ever-growing fountain of history records. The J. Paul Getty Trust is one of DPLA’s content hubs, contributing the GRI’s metadata for digital images, documentary photograph collections, archives and books dating from the 1400s to today.

To become a hub, organizations are required to have an active feed to at least 200,000 metadata records that resolve to digital objects. These include online texts, photographs, manuscripts, artwork and other materials. If an archive doesn’t meet DPLA’s requirements, they can possibly join a state or regional hub. The Getty’s holdings are expansive, with millions of items, so they certainly qualify.

“We’ve included some of the most frequently requested and significant material from our holdings,” says Kathleen Salomon, assistant director of the Getty Research Institute. These include some 5,600 images from the Julius Shulman photography archive, 2,100 images from the Jacobson collection of Orientalist photography and dozens of art dealers’ stockbooks from the Duveen and Knoedler archives.

Salomon adds that more Getty archives will become available through the DPLA as their collections continue to be cataloged and digitized.

Here are a few gems from the new Getty material:

The Julius Shulman Photography Archive

Caption: McKinney House (Santa Fe, N.M.; 1951), for House & Garden magazine. Julius Shulman. © J. Paul Getty Trust.

Caption: McKinney House (Santa Fe, N.M.; 1951), for House & Garden magazine. Julius Shulman. © J. Paul Getty Trust.

Julius Shulman was an architectural photographer from 1936 until 1986, known for the thoughtful manner in which he conveyed architectural design. Getty’s archive of his work documents the modern movement in architecture spanning several decades.

Ken and Jenny Jacobson Orientalist Photography Collection

Caption: Paraphernalia and decorative items including a hookah, vase and fabrics. William Morris Grundy; 1857. Ken and Jenny Jacobson Orientalist Photography Collection. © J. Paul Getty Trust.

Caption: Paraphernalia and decorative items including a hookah, vase and fabrics. William Morris Grundy; 1857. Ken and Jenny Jacobson Orientalist Photography Collection. © J. Paul Getty Trust.

The Jacobsons have assembled one of the most extensive libraries in private hands devoted to the study of 19th century art photographs. Based in Great Bardfield, England, they’ve amassed an incredible collection and devoted a lifetime to studying the photography of India, China, the Middle East, Japan and Sri Lanka among other artist studies.

Duveen Brothers Records

Caption: A Duveen Brothers original London cablegram dated September 29, 1941. © J. Paul Getty Trust.

Caption: A Duveen Brothers original London cablegram dated September 29, 1941. © J. Paul Getty Trust.

Absorbing to read are various documents from the Duveen Brothers firm. Their choppy cables are akin to reading Twitter posts and often convey equal drama. The collection preserves records of their dealings in transferring master paintings, antiques and art from Europe to the United States.

The dispatch above (dated nine weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor) relays Duveen’s expectations for the price a George Romney portrait of Admiral Horatio Nelson might fetch. Of a higher concern might have been the difficulty travelling in England at the time.

To find your own treasures among the Getty Research Institute’s new items at the DPLA, start here.

JainHeadShotJain Lemos has been deeply involved in photography publishing and licensing for more than twenty years. She shares her informed perspective about our visual industry on her blog