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?

www.angelghosts.com 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 http://ghostphotography101.com: 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 http://www.aintitcool.com/node/68560 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: http://www.visualconnections.com/Ny2014/

More about Alex: http://thealexcenter.com/

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

DPLA-HomePage

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 jainlemos.com.

Part Two: Q & A with Senior Art Producer Chrissy Borgata Liuzzi

by guest writer Brooke Hodess

Our conversation with Innocean’s Senior Art Producer Chrissy Borgatta Liuzzi continues this week with the SoCal-based 15-year agency veteran talking about the highs and lows of the job and proves you can do a photo shoot in minus 6-degree weather.

VC: Where does someone begin if interested in art buying?

CBL: Be aware of the agencies around you, who their clients are and the work the agencies produce. Find out about internships and see if you can get your foot in the door. I’ve always had a passion for photography, and my passion has brought me to where I am today. I feel that when you follow your passion a career evolves.

VC: How much does networking play a role?

CBL: It is always good to stay connected with your peers and the community you are involved in. I try to go to as many events as possible throughout the year, including LEBOOK Connections, Paris Photo LA, and portfolio reviews with APA-LA and Art Center Los Angeles. Creative consultant Debra Weiss holds a wonderful show and tell event a couple of times a year. Also, photographers’ agents occasionally host dinners or cocktail parties with all of their photographers on their roster. Always a great time.

VC: How important is it to have knowledge of photography?

CBL: I think it’s important to have an understanding of the photographer’s process, to have an eye for the craft as well as knowledge of important photographers as reference.  It may not be the lifeline to becoming a solid art producer, but it is important to understand how images are captured.

VC: What do you like best about your job?

CBL: I love kicking off a project and sitting in a room with the entire team of account executives, print managers, product specialists and creatives and working together to get the job going. I love meeting with photographers to discuss their processes. I love going on location and seeing how everything and everyone, from the stylist, talent to car prep to riggers and the crew, come together to make the shot happen. I love knowing I helped make it happen. And, of course, I love the final result. To see your work in print, on a billboard, or online, it’s very rewarding.

VC: What do you like least? 

CBL: Telling a photographer he or she did not get the job. So much time and effort goes into an estimating process, and I’m always honest throughout the process, but when I have to make the calls and give the bad news it’s always difficult.

VC: Talk more about the estimating process.

CBL: Triple bidding is an important part of the estimating process, it helps gauge if your bids are fair, realistic and can assist as a comparison for negotiations. Before the estimate is created we hold a series of creative calls that include the art director, photographer and photographer’s producer. We discuss the approved concepts, listen to the photographer’s approach, location ideas and vision. Estimates are then sent to me and our cost control consultant for review. It is always my goal to negotiate so that the creative team gets to work with the photographer of choice. Sometimes the photographer with a higher bid may be a better bid because it is more thoughtful and precise. I need to be able to evaluate the estimate and speak to why a more expensive bid is a safer bid. I am given budget guidelines at the beginning of a project and it is my job to make sure that photography, retouching, talent, car prep, travel costs, etc. are all covered within the budget given.

VC: For a client or an agency that’s never used an art producer, what’s the argument for having one?

CBL: Art producers are negotiators, which benefits both the agency and client. I am a protector and recognize the risks involved in shoots and usage agreements, and I handle the paperwork, oversee the production, and am fiscally responsible. I feel that is a big job, and putting that in the hands of an art director is a risk. Many of them do it well, but art directors should be able to focus on the creative aspect of the job. Many agencies have print production managers work two roles and do both jobs. Selfishly, I’d like to see those roles separate.

VC: What’s been one of your most memorable shoots?

CBL: Rarely do I come back from a shoot without a story. One that comes to mind was a shoot in January of 2013 for the Hyundai Santa Fe launch. We wanted to shoot in the snow, so we headed to Mammoth Mountain. The night before our shoot day a huge storm rolled in. I recall walking to dinner with snow blowing horizontally at me and wishfully thinking, ‘It’s going to be gorgeous tomorrow, it is, it is, it is!’

VC: And if it isn’t?

CBL: Then I have to ask, how much is this going to cost in overages to wait it out? Should we go for it or wait? The photographer, his producer and I went back and forth on how cold was too cold. The discussion went on, and I finally said let’s go for it. Fast forward through a sleepless night. I walk out of the hotel at 5 a.m. into minus 6 degrees. The sky was a majestic purplish blue. As I am walking to the end of the parking lot I see a Sno-Cat towing our camera car up the mountain. I am freezing and giggling to myself, ‘We ARE going to do this!’ I don’t think anyone will forget that shoot day. The images turned out spectacular and my favorite of the entire shoot.

VC: It sounds like your tenacity paid off.

CBL: Most of the time I have a tendency to say let’s keep going; if the weather gets too bad at least an effort was made to stay on schedule, and sometimes the result is something unexpected and beautiful.

Brooke Hodess is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She can be reached at: bdhodess@gmail.com

Q & A with Senior Art Producer Chrissy Borgatta Liuzzi

So pleased to present this conversation between writer Brooke Hodess and Art Buyer Chrissy Borgatta Liuzzi.

Q & A with Senior Art Producer Chrissy Borgatta Liuzzi, Part One

Chrissy Borgatta Liuzzi

Orange County, California–based Senior Art Producer Chrissy Borgatta Liuzzi began her career as a photo editor for Entrepreneur magazine out of Irvine. There she learned to work with budgets, deadlines and production teams and began building relationships with photographers, agents and stock photography houses.

Her foray into advertising was, you could say, a baptism by fire, working as a junior art buyer with L.A.’s TBWA\Chiat\Day on high-profile accounts including Nissan and Infiniti as well as Apple’s “Think Different” campaign and the launch of the first iMac.

With stints at Y&R (Lincoln, Mercury, Land Rover, Jaguar) and Doner Advertising (Mazda), her expertise in art producing for automotive accounts led her to her current position as a senior art producer at Innocean Worldwide, working on the Hyundai account from their North American Headquarters in Huntington Beach.

Visual Connections recently met up with the 25-year photo-shoot veteran for a Q & A. In part one, we address the role of an art producer, the evolution of stock photography and the impact of digital.

VC: Describe your role as an art producer?

CBL: As an art producer I work from the agency side. Once a creative concept is approved it is my responsibility to bring the creative concept to life. I recommend photographers, illustrators, Instagram influencers, CG vendors—whichever type of artist is needed with the latest technology to create the best result. I work with agents and producers to negotiate the most cost effective way to produce the job without compromising the creative integrity of the project. I also secure and manage license and usage agreements for photography, talent and stock photography images on our client’s behalf.

VC: Throughout your career, how much have you relied on stock photography?

CBL: I use stock photography all the time, I always have. When I started as a photo editor I had huge bookcases of stock photography catalogs. For the magazine we used conceptual images for smaller articles. Back then we’d place orders over the phone, and then a research of images or the image I wanted would be sent to me via Fed Ex in sleeves of 35mm or medium format transparencies. By the end of an issue I would have stacks of packages that would have to be audited and returned.

VC: What stock house do you tend to use? Is there a reason you use one over another? 

CBL: When I worked at Entrepreneur, there were a lot of stock photography companies back then. Many of those companies have since been absorbed by Getty Images or Corbis. These are the main go-tos. I also use Shutter Stock, Veer, Jupiter Images, CSA Images and others.

I use Getty Images quite frequently because, though at times I can find the same image on another site, Getty has a stronger legal contract, and so we tend to pay slightly more for the added backing for royalty-free images. If we know we are going to use an image for a one-time use then we will go direct to the other house and pay less.

I will add, when it comes down to it, the final decision is made by the content. The image has to be right and if it is the right image then I will negotiate the proper usage, and usage is documented so we can manage it internally.

VC: Has the perception of stock photography changed over the years? 

CBL: I have watched the stock photography industry evolve to the sophisticated digital age we are in now.  I think you still come across stock images that have a stereotypical and/or unrealistic staged look—the senior citizen in the hospital bed looking great, feeling fine and everyone is happy—and it can be difficult to find the right image that has that person looking realistic, that is not overly groomed, with perfect makeup, perfectly pressed hospital gown, and so on. I think it is very hard to capture an emotion that is authentic and appropriate for advertising. However, there are a lot of great images and photographers out there and stock photography is always improving.

VC: What about changes in licensing?

CBL: License agreements have also evolved. In the olden days it was all rights managed licenses. You pretty much paid for an image on a one-time use basis, at least for editorial, and that was it. It was way too expensive to pay for unlimited usage. Then royalty-free was introduced. At first it was unlimited use, unlimited time in all media. Now royalty-free usage is getting stricter, and it is extremely important to read the license agreements to ensure you have enough usage secured.

VC: Do you miss those old bookcases of catalogs?

CBL: Not at all! With everything online, the process is faster, research is easier, and with corporate accounts we have access to download un-watermarked images for comping. Being able to access your account information is invaluable; we have access to all of our invoices, download history and licensing updates. The old-school way, with its volume of paper, books and space … today’s process is so much better for the environment and just a simpler way altogether.

VC: Staying in that same vein of the impact of digital and the Internet on stock photography, how has the business of art producing changed?

CBL: I do not know if the job has really changed. I think I am the one who is changing and forever learning.  For example, when I started as a junior art buyer we were transitioning from shooting transparency film into digital formats. I remember looking at the digital images and saying, ‘I am not impressed.’ Well, it didn’t take long before I was impressed, and now I look back and think how laborious it was to shoot film.

Check out Part Two to this Q & A next month, where we chat with Liuzzi about breaking into the art producing business, networking, and one of her personal favorite photo shoots in minus 6 degrees.

 Brooke Hodess is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She can be reached at: bdhodess@gmail.com

Catching up with the ASPP

The American Society of Picture Professionals is the definitive trade association for picture editors, art buyers, researchers and all engaged in the business of creating, archiving, marketing, researching and licensing imagery in North America. With Chapters through out the United States offering regular programming to one of the most comprehensive benefits packages for members to the hallmark quarterly magazine, The Picture Professional, the ASPP continues to work to serve our industry. Executive Director Sam Merrell and current President Cecilia de Querol took time to answer a few questions and share plans for the organization.

How long have the 2 of you worked together and in what capacity?

SM: Cecilia and I have been working together with ASPP since December 2006, as NY Chapter Co-Presidents.  In 2010, we joined the National Board as Technology Co-Chairs. Early in 2012  I was appointed National Vice President while Cecilia remained as Tech Co-Chair with Daryl Geraci.  Early in 2014, I was elected National President, served for 16 days and then moved to the Executive Director’s post. In March 2014, Cecilia became National President.

CQ:  Our first project together for ASPP was a 2006 event on Digital Image Workflow held at ICP.  Its success led us to the chapter co-chair positions and our interest in technology helped us fit into the tech-co chair positions on the national board.  It has been a rewarding experience from the start.  It’s great to get together with a group of interested volunteers and make things happen that are of benefit to all.  I’ve made great friendships (including Sam!) and many interesting and valuable business contacts along the way.

What is your vision for your tenure, Cecilia?

I want everyone in the business to know about ASPP and to feel compelled to join. I want them to know that being an ASPP member is an essential, non-optional part of their professional toolkit. I want to raise the visibility of our association let the world know about the value of the professional skills and expertise of our members.

ASPP is special and unique because we represent the entire eco-system of the business.  I want to build on this and make ASPP the hub of the industry-wide conversation.

Sam, where do you see the organization going?

Interesting that you ask. Where do we want ASPP to be in five years? The same? Different? How? What we need to do to get there?  At our upcoming October board meeting during photo week, we’re devoting a significant portion of our annual in-person board meeting to just these questions.

Commercial photography markets have changed dramatically in the past five years and in the same way that many of our members are having to adjust to the changing workplace in the midst of a difficult economy, ASPP itself is having to meet new challenges of rediscovery and finding new ways to unlock value for our community.

That said, I don’t see our local educational events going away. There’s a perception that online channels are replacing our traditional membership association value-proposition (providing educational and networking opportunities).  But while there is some truth to that perception, it’s also true that face-to-face contact at events with  groups of people is powerful stuff too. Useful in a way that’s different from Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. So while Cecilia works at dialing up our advocacy of the value of hiring picture professionals, I’ll be doing everything I can to support our local Chapter boards as they make networking and educational opportunities happen around the country.

Both of you – can you talk about what the ASPP has historically been and how it is staying relevant?

CQ:  ASPP was founded to be the umbrella association for all the picture professions in 1969.  Almost everything has been transformed since then.  Change has been constant. It didn’t just start now.  Picture professionals have been hard at work through these decades. Their titles and job descriptions may have changed, but they are still picture professionals. Though it all, many have turned to ASPP for guidance and many of them have been drivers of the changes and have shared their knowledge and experience. The ASPP community has been evolving and will continue to evolve in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine.

I believe the key to staying relevant is to keep in mind that ASPP is an association. Our power as a community comes from our members and the power of our community flows back to them.

SM: Recently we’ve turned some of our member events inside-out: Instead of a panel of experts dispensing the latest information from a podium, our Peer2Peer and Town Hall events do exactly the oppisite. They put the audience front and center; we ask questions about attendee’s jobs, careers, their workplace and the market for what they do… and then we listen very carefully to what we hear back. We take notes, and are beginning to distill the results with an eye towards posting these results to our Members-Only website later this fall. We will probably publish some of this information as well, it’s very useful. And the events themselves are quite exciting! There’s nothing like a roomful of people coming alive in a discussion of possible solutions to issues that we are all facing.

What drew you both to your current roles?

SM: I’ve morphed throughout my career — photographer, digital photographer, writer, project runner, digital photo evangelist and consultant, stock agent, producer, even a college teacher — all of it centered around visual media.  So ASPP is the perfect organization for me because our members come from so many different job and career categories.  And being ASPP’s executive director is an great job for me–I get to do the things I’m good at, and it’s about photography so I’m passionate about it.  I wasn’t expecting to enjoy publishing our Picture Professional magazine as much as I do. We have a great magazine team and I feel privileged to be involved with everyone (including our great advertisers)!

CQ: I started in this business as a liaison for the Japanese photo agency, Pacific Press Service (PPS) working as both as a photo researcher for their clients’ projects in Japan and as an agent for PPS’s photographs when clients based in the U.S, wanted to use them, so I was aware of how both sides of the business work.  I never stop being impressed by the power of photography.  I love the way that it brings the past and distant places alive to the viewer.  And when I start to think that nothing new can be done, along comes an image that blows me away.

I’ve always worked either in small offices or in my home office, so ASPP is very important for me as a way to get out, meet, and be with other people in the business.

I’m happy to be back in a social and creative position as president of ASPP.

Thanks to both for this insight – for more information about the Association, Membership and how to be involved, please see ASPP.com

Revisiting Vivian Maier

Shortly after the insightful review of the acclaimed documentary, “Finding Vivian Maier”, written for us by Michael Masterson and found here, news surfaced with an interesting development around her work. Michael filed this update for us:

Subsequent to the original post, there has been a new legal twist regarding Maier’s work and estate. The New York Times reports that David C. Deal, a lawyer and former photographer, filed suit in Cook County, Chicago claiming the assets of Maier’s estate properly belong to a first cousin once removed of hers in France. John Maloof had hired genealogists himself to determine if there were legitimate heirs and found a different first cousin once removed, Sylvain Jaussaud, to whom he paid an undisclosed amount for the rights to her work. Now Mr. Deal has uncovered another first cousin once removed named Frances Baille who never knew of Maier or her work. Maloof also found Baille in his research but determined that Jaussaud was a closer relation. Deal’s suit resulted in Cook County creating an estate for Maier and warning those selling her work, including Maloof and others, of the potential for lawsuits regarding ownership. As a result, some galleries have suspended sales and exhibitions pending legal clarification.

Because owning a negative or print is different from owning a copyright, Maloof has been pursuing copyright registration for the works he owns based on his agreement with Jaussaud.  He’s concerned that this legal wrinkle could force removal of Maier’s works from the public, depriving the world of her unique vision. However, Deal says it is “profoundly unfair” for others without copyright registrations to profit from Maier’s work rather than her legal heirs. When questioned about his own motives in pursuing this, Deal stated that he was interested in the legal challenge and would only like to come “out on the other end of this issue breaking even.” He says that Baille only wants to be compensated for what is legally his. Unfortunately, the copyright kerfuffle could result in the curtain being drawn back around Vivian Maier’s work for years to come.

Many thanks to Michael for keeping us informed.

Celebrating the FIRST 60 Years with Rex Features

by Julian Jackson

Rex Features is a fixture of the British media industry. It celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. Founded in a front room in 1954 by husband-and-wife team Frank and Elizabeth Selby, it has provided news, celebrity and royal imagery globally for six decades, in the process turning into a global media operation, while remaining headquartered in a former ragged school near Fleet Street in London.

Photo by TIM ROOKE/REX (275505a) Princess Diana at the American Red Cross Charity Ball in Aid of Landmine Victims Princess Diana visit to support the American Red Cross, Washington DC, America - Jun 1997

Photo by TIM ROOKE/REX (275505a)
Princess Diana at the American Red Cross Charity Ball in Aid of Landmine Victims
Princess Diana visit to support the American Red Cross, Washington DC, America – Jun 1997

The transition to being a 24 hour operation in the last five years has really made Rex a force to be reckoned with. They have two shifts, with London handing over to LA, so they can distribute content throughout the 24 hour news cycle.

The Selbys finally retired in 2011, after a major innings by any measure. Getty Images was going to snap Rex up but when the proposed deal was referred to the Competition Commission both parties pulled out of the sale. Uncertainty about the future of the agency ceased after a management buyout led by Larry Lawson, Rex’s existing Director of Sales, with the backing of business advisor Miguel Ferro and other personal investors. Parts of the industry breathed a sigh of relief.

What really helped Rex take off during the film era was that it was ideally placed to make use of advances in newspaper use of colour images. Rex opened their own on-site colour lab to speed up film processing. Teams of motorcycle couriers hurtled around between news desks. In 1981, the agency raised its profile dramatically with its coverage of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Its fast and comprehensive service beat many other agencies into the pages of newspapers and magazines around the world. With the introduction of colour reproduction in UK national newspapers and the increasing demand for celebrity and entertainment images Rex grew considerably during the next twenty years and made a successful transition to digitisation with its highly regarded website whilst retaining the company’s traditional character and highly personalised service.

Rick Colls, Rex’s Director of Operations has been with the company for 30 years and seen the whole photo industry transition from the front row. “The industry has changed so much in the last five to ten years. Digital capture and distribution has allowed so many more photographers a platform and the overheads are lower. This has resulted in a ubiquity of content in the news, editorial and celebrity markets.  We find the marketplace a lot more competitive. And there is the enormous threat of Getty – every day, we go head to head with them.”

He adds, “The fees are still tumbling. Newspapers are constantly trying to drop the prices of their bought-in images.”

“We’ve got quite a lot of good things going for us.  We’ve been moving into new areas. Sport is  a key one.  We covered the [Soccer] World Cup for the first time this year and Commonweath Games.  We have just completed a project to scan 300,000 of the Daily Mail’s archive prints, keyword, index and host them on our website.”

Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland, FA Premier League football match, White Heart Lane, London, Britain - 19 May 2013 Photo by Back Page Images/REX (2589378g)

Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland, FA Premier League football match, White Heart Lane, London, Britain – 19 May 2013
Photo by Back Page Images/REX (2589378g)

“We are changing as our industry demands change.  We are finding new content, new areas, for example, we host the ITV archive – they have 60 years of programmes. Our photographers are on-set for all of their daytime shows, so we have exclusivity – you can only get those images from us.”

In 2008, Rex acquired the Los Angeles-based Berliner Group of photographic companies, with the aim of strengthening Rex’s presence in the USA and guaranteeing a reliable supply of high-quality celebrity portraiture and coverage of  “red carpet” events from the US. Celebrity images are a big part of their offering, with photographers in London, NY and LA. They cover the Oscars and the Emmys and have both staff and freelances for red carpet and pap work.  They have a daily feed of the latest film stills from the Everett Collection in New York, who they represent in the UK. They are also now shooting assignments, primarily for PR companies and using their leverage and reputation to place these with major media companies.

In 2013 they helped to rescue SIPA, Rex’s longstanding French partners who had been supplying images to them since 1968 but had recently got into difficulties . Other partners include Xinhua in China and they have agencies on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, which results in what Rick calls, “Some pretty heartbreaking images.”

Perhaps Rex is most famous for its coverage of celebrities.  Some of the most iconic images that are seared into the popular consciousness are from Rex.  Elizabeth Hurley in the Versace Safety Pin Dress that started her career.  Michael Jackson dancing on the Billie Jean video set. Kate Moss, David Bowie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, the Beckhams, Lady Gaga, more Royals than you can shake a stick at.  Their images of the music, lifestyles and fashions of the sixties and seventies is magnificent and they hold a remarkable archive of popular culture from the fifties to today.

Photo by Tim Rooke/REX (229189a) Elizabeth Hurley 'FOUR WEDDINGS AND A

Photo by Tim Rooke/REX (229189a)
Elizabeth Hurley
‘FOUR WEDDINGS AND A

While it is dangerous to make predictions, after 60 years, Rex looks like being a fixture on the international media scene for a good few decades yet.

See a selection of images from Rex’s 60th Anniversary compilation here:

http://www.rexfeatures.com/livefeed/z13350bd36/rex_60th_anniversay

http://www.rexfeatures.com

 

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

 

 

The Circle Will Not be Broken

Delighted to find out about the Photographic Archives at the Grand Ole Opry. Simon Herbert chatted with Curator Brenda Colladay recently.

In the current Grand Ole Opry theater, there is a six-foot square of wood cut from the home’s main original home, the Ryman Auditorium, which was home to an iconic range of musical stars from 1943 to 1974. As part of the Opry’s uninterrupted 88 years live on air, this piece of timber has a simple, but profound, purpose: to allow contemporary musicians and singers to perform on, literally, the same stage that the likes of Uncle Dave Macon and Patsy Cline did, years earlier.

Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner on Opry, 1974.Les Leverett photograph © Grand Ole Opry, LLC

Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner on Opry, 1974.Les Leverett photograph © Grand Ole Opry, LLC

No wonder, then, that an institution so steeped in tradition, has also turned its gaze to recording and collating the visual record of the too many to name stars, and more obscure artists, that have become a part of the longest-running radio show in America, that started in 1925, just five years after commercial radio was born in the United States.

Brenda Colladay, the Museum and Photo Curator for the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium, oversees a vast collection of photos, both researched and donated. As she explains: ” Like any picturesque entertainment icon, there is great imagery associated with the Grand Ole Opry, and we have a photographic archive that spans from 1925 to today. It is comprised of candid backstage photos, transparencies, stills, and so on, of various events for the radio station, and the parent  company; which was the National Life and Accident Insurance Company.”

Opry Cast 1934 ©Grand Ole Opry, LLC

Opry Cast 1934
©Grand Ole Opry, LLC

Comprised of 150,000 plus images, it contains a wide swathe of country music history, and, even more specifically, Nashville history. The Grand Ole Opry is still in the process of digitizing this huge collection: in Colladay’s words the resource is “more than anybody would ever possibly measure,” and that’s before they even get to the digital native material that photographers have been shooting since 2001 (comprising many more hundreds of thousand of images since then).

The original show was born at a time when archiving wasn’t exactly a priority, so the historical cultural value of this record seems – like most enterprises, be it punk rock, or old TV shows – to have only been realized much later. As Colladay explains:” The audio was very rarely recorded; only if an sponsor needed “air checks” to see if they were getting their money’s worth. In the mid 60s they created a program where they would sell the Grand ‘Ol Opry to other radio stations in the week, and that was all recorded, and pressed onto vinyl LPs, and sent out to 400 stations out over the country.”

Now, of course, The Grand Ole Opry records everything, both acoustically and visually, but it’s in hindsight that this remarkable collection has begun to try and fill in the gaps.

“They would come to realize the value of this as publicity, and that was always the impetus. We’re much lighter on the earlier days – from 1925 until 1950 – we have fewer images, before the 1950s onwards. We are always looking to find photographs that have [been] scattered over the years. This was a live radio show on a live radio station, that was broadcast seven days a week, and it was just live radio, so… it wasn’t recorded or documented, doing what you had to do every day and get the content out.”

The collection is mainly supplemented by those who might come across something in an attic, or want to trace their own relative’s contribution to the pantheon of music. Colladay indicates that the Grand Ole Opry doesn’t have a purchase budget, or necessarily, a way to advertise for materials, but that people “Often call the main office and say ‘Hey we have this,’ or there are family legends when people are told that their great great aunt performed in 1937, and do we have a recording and a video?”

It’s a common misconception – that we think that we used to record events in the 20th century in  the same forensic detail that we do of our own lives today, on cell phones and the like – and Colladay gently acknowledges as such: “ The Grand ‘Ol Opry is like what they say about Woodstock:  if everybody who said that they’d been here had been here… we couldn’t have fit the people in the building.”

However, the archive continues to accrue, and even though it’s fine to get new material on famous performers, often the most interesting contributions or finds are those relating to the more obscure performers, that might fill out the gaps in this unparalleled train of musicians and singers, both long-time icons and one-off performers. As Colladay indicates, she will happily accept any new pictures of Hank Williams, or Johnny Cash, “but it’s great when we can actually help someone document a family member, or illustrate a book.”

The archive is pretty much being built as a record, foremost, rather than specifically for commercial usage, but that is also clearly a target too. As Colladay indicates, “It’s mainly archival, for own use. Creating books, and advertising, and marketing, and the web site. We do license, over the last 15 years, and actively try to. We also have a range of video collections. Various TV shows, and so on. We have wonderful photographs and people want that, so…”

Brad Paisley Chris Hollo photograph ©2013, Grand Ole Opry, LLC

Brad Paisley
Chris Hollo photograph ©2013, Grand Ole Opry, LLC

They say that music can transport you instantly to a prior time in your life, but then they also say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Maybe the material at the grand Ole Opry is worth a 150,000 plus tunes too…

As Patsy said: ‘Carnegie Hall was real fabulous, but you know, it ain’t as big as the Grand Ole Opry.’

The Grand Ole Opry Archives can be sourced here: http://www.opry.com/photoarchives . They will also be at Visual Connections.  Many thanks to Museum and Photograph Curator Brenda Colladay for the interview and photos.