The Surgeon Behind The Knick: Interview with Dr. Burns

We are so pleased to present this interview with Dr. Burns – much gratitude to Sonia Epstein, author and Executive Editor, Sloan Science and Film. This article is republished with permission from Sloan Science & Film, an online publication reporting on all things science and film, published by Museum of the Moving Image and funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (New York).

Dr. Stanley B. Burns lives in a multi-storey townhouse in Manhattan with yellow walls and hundreds of thousands of photographs—from Nazi policemen who killed the first Jews during World War II, to the complete nervous system of a female patient, to the operating theatres of the early 20th century, to a surgeon reaching his hand into a patient’s chest, to a man with his skull cut open and brain exposed.

Dr. Burns has the largest private collection of medical photography and historic photographs in the world—over one million. It is all housed in his home, The Burns Archive, drawers open to reveal pocket-sized daguerreotype portraits framed in gold, and wall panels slide back exposing shelves of medical journals and photographic albums sorted by type and color. There are old vials of medicine, such as cocaine.



An ophthalmologist who first trained as a general surgeon, Dr. Burns took over the practice of a Nazi-era doctor who was the head doctor in the Berlin Police who came to New York, married a Jewish woman. When Jewish people came from Berlin to New York many became his patients. Dr. Burns is still a practicing doctor as well as Clinical Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. He has published 45 books, most recently the seven pound book Stiffs, Skulls & Skeletons: Medical Photography and Symbolism. He has consulted on hundreds of documentaries, and recently his archive has been brought to life in two television series: HBO-Cinemax’s THE KNICK and PBS’s MERCY STREET. He and his daughter, Elizabeth A. Burns, were on set–in New York and Richmond, Virginia–for both shoots. He served as the Medical, Historical, and Technical Advisor, and she as the Photographic Archivist and Associate Medical Consultant. Dr. Burns trained the actors in both shows in surgery and period medical attitudes. Just about all the surgeries recreated on THE KNICK Dr. Burns has performed at some time. MERCY STREET borrowed his collection of Civil War surgical instruments for use on set.

MERCY STREET, supported by the Sloan Foundation, has premiered its first season. Science & Film previously interviewed showrunner and writer David Zabel and executive producer David Zucker. THE KNICK has aired two seasons and is planned for four more. Created by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, the series is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Clive Owen.

Science & Film visited Dr. Burns, his daughter Liz, and son J at The Burns Archive in the late afternoon on April 20. We talked with Dr. Burns about MERCY STREET, THE KNICK, and his collection.

Science & Film: What were the most important medical innovations during the Civil War, when MERCY STREET is set, and at the turn of the century when THE KNICK is set?

Stanley B. Burns: R.B. Bontecou was one of the only surgeons who took photographs during the war of wounded soldiers to show the results of treatment. He developed bone excision, which was to cut out a piece of the upper arm bone and simply sew the skin up. The problem was, you then had a useless arm, which was worse than no arm because it always got in your way. You couldn’t move it–you could flail it around. After the discovery of antiseptic principles in 1867 by Joseph Lister in England after the Civil War, most of these arms were cut off. Even then, very few doctors practiced antiseptic techniques, as was witnessed by killing of President James Garfield by doctors in 1881. Included in Stiffs, Skulls & Skeletons are pictures of his spine from his autopsy. The President was shot and the principle was the same Civil War bullet wound concept they were using 20 years earlier—stick your hands in the body to find the bullet. And that’s what they did: they made a huge wound with their dirty unwashed fingers. After Garfield died we finally went into antiseptic and asepsis surgical techniques. But during the Civil War you saw none of it, and doctors often held sutures in their mouths wetting it with saliva while sewing up.

On MERCY STREET we have a bone excision, which was done with a fancy saw to get around the bone.

During the Civil War, surgery was very serious work because of the large number of wounded. Doctors attempted as short a period of anesthesia as possible, so the surgery was quick—two minutes, five minutes maybe. It wasn’t a complicated procedure. Just quickly cut through the muscle and bone.

S&F: It sounds like you were teaching people how to do the wrong thing in the right way on MERCY STREET?

SB: It only was the wrong thing later. There is a lot of wrong medicine. I don’t know if you watch television, but they have lawyers on there everyday saying call your doctor if you ate spinach, or something like that. Call if your mother’s grandfather smoked near an asbestos plant. But you don’t know until afterwards the ill effects of chemicals, medicines, and procedures. But you have to do the procedures known at the time–come up with an idea to try to help and you only find out it’s wrong later.

S&F: That’s one of the things I love about THE KNICK—that it dramatizes that discovery process.

SB: You see every discovery, you see the thought process. What you’re witnessing there, a lot of the stories, are from my material. I have the complete library of the major medical journals from about 1885 to 1935. We have 10,000 books here.

S&F: Do people come here knowing exactly what they are looking for?

SB: Not extctly. People come here not knowing what they’re looking for, and then they find it. That’s why we were THE KNICK advisors, because I had written an article about a woman with nasal destruction from syphilis—this is one of the things I’ve been promoting for years because I have great pictures of that. All of that came out of here. When they came here they had a pilot, they left with a season. Where are you going to look for historic medical photographs? Here.

S&F: So the writers knew they wanted to write this show?

SB: Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, the writers, and Steven Soderbergh, the director, came here to discuss their pilot. They were supposed to be here for a half hour or so, and they stayed for several hours, and they got the stories because I showed them each and every one. That’s what I do; I’m a storyteller. I’ve written 1179 articles. From that day on I was a member of the team. Liz and I were on set for the entire production. Then we went through the procedures to show them what to do. We made sure the surgeries were period perfect.

We walked into MERCY STREET, into their big “idea” room, they had a room in this great gothic Moroccan building – the former Richmond City Hall–and it was just filled with photographs from my book Shooting Soldiers. So it was my photographs of wounded soldiers and operations that helped create the show. The nice part for me was that they listened to me when I made corrections and introduced some dramatic visual effects.

S&F: How was working on these shows different than consulting on a documentary?

SB: Usually a documentary is someone else’s story. These are my stories. The showrunners came to us with an idea and we filled in the blanks. The whole part of the brain that is filled with songs, for me is filled with pictures and stories. I don’t remember songs. Just think of all the songs you know, that’s all the pictures I have.

S&F: Can you give me an example of how you worked together with Soderbergh?

SB: The first day of shooting on THE KNICK they filled up the big surgery amphitheater with about 100 doctors, and Steven walks into the room and is getting ready to shoot and I said, this isn’t right. You have all these young, good-looking doctors up front. If Spielberg or Scorcese invited you to watch them film, would you be in the first row, or the last row? So it’s all the older experienced professors up front, and all the younger, inexperienced doctors who know nothing, who barely know what they’re seeing, in back. Steven listened–he then spent a half an hour rearranging the audience so that the older-looking doctors were right up front like they were meant to be. Had it been done the wrong way, all the historians in the world would have watched it and said, what’s Jake Gyllenhaal doing in the first row, and Sean Connery doing in the back row?

S&F: Have you ever had any historians critique the show?

SB: THE KNICK has only received positive feedback. I am a member of many surgical groups and all the historical groups. THE KNICK is perfect. One of the results of the series is the realistic and medically accurate medical models and prosthetics. Between Season 1 and Season 2 Fractured FX (the make-up FX company) was hired by Boston Children’s Hospital, a division of Mass General, to create prosthetic body parts so that surgeons could learn to operate. The neurosurgeons worked with [Fractured FX] to make sure that the skin and tissue and brain was exactly accurate. You couldn’t tell the difference between a real person and the prosthetic. That’s an example of how medical science was advanced from The KNICK.

What I say in every one of my lectures is that the doctors 100 years ago or 200 years ago were just as smart, just as innovative, just as interested in helping their patients, but they labored under inferior knowledge and technology. The one critical thing to come away from this is that 100 years from now they will look at us the same way. The way medicine is advancing, bacteria can be used as indicators of everything from asthma to diabetes. In 50 years they will be swabbing all your orifices and skin to see what’s growing on you and in you, and will be able to tell what you have and what you will get. Yesterday alone I was absolutely thrilled to see that they discovered how to diagnose pancreatic cancer through the growth of a certain bacteria. Martin J. Blaser, MD is Director of the Human Microbiome Program at NYU and was the major proponent of that theory. We were pleasantly surprised when Marty was one of the 100 most influential people in the world according to Time Magazine, because he has totally changed the concept of causation and diagnosis of disease.

Although I’m a practicing ophthalmologist, I am in both the departments of Medicine and Psychiatry at NYU, so I go to medical and psychiatric grand rounds, and it’s absolutely amazing. When I went to medical school they taught us that 50% of what we learned in five years would be outmoded. I’ve had so many five-year periods.

S&F: Did you have a good time working on the show?

SB: We had a great time because I saw my stories come to life and had the honor of working with such amazing people.

The first motto of The Burns Archive was “Preserving the Vision of American Medicine.” The Historical Collection includes sections on Death & Memorial, Judaica, War & Conflict, and more; the Medical Collection includes Anatomy & Education, Operative Scenes, Pioneers & Innovators, among others. A number of photographs from The Burns Archive are currently on display in the exhibition, “Crime Stories: Photography and Foul Play,” up now through July 2016 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Photographs © Stanley B. Burns, Md & The Burns Archive

Candidly Posting

We have been office bound for a bit, taking care of all those bits of paper, unanswered emails and tackling projects that have been gathering dust. Hard to stay put with Spring calling; but we have been able to take a journey, none the less, complements of “The Candid Frame,” a photography-based podcast by Ibarionex Perello.

This gem has over a decades worth of interviews, conversations and observations, with photographers such as Mary Ellen Mark, Matthew Jordan Smith, Douglas Kirkland, Reza, Maki Kawakita, Joe McNally and hundreds of others. I have been introduced to so much I was unaware of: like Kiliii Fish (#296), an indigenous shooter and adventurer who explores indigenous peoples and wilderness preservation. He works as a survival guide and teaches the traditional skill of native Kayak Building. Listening to him speak passionately and knowledgably about his work makes one forget about four walls and being inside.

Then there is Donna Pinckley (#306), a native of Louisiana and currently Associate Professor at University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Her “Sticks and Stones” series of interracial couples, paired with handwritten slurs that have been thrown at them, are a silent and damning statement; made all the more powerful as she talks about her work in her soft Southern accent.

Images from Flickr Pool expand the traditional podcast to include supplementary and informative visuals. Each week , Ibarionex pulls images submitted by listeners to explore issues of technology, conceptual practices and disciplines.

Ibarionex is a photographer, educator and author, recently taking The Candid Frame over to Patreon, the platform connecting creators to audience crowd-sourcing in a long term dynamic. This is a resource well worth supporting – for as little as $2.00 a month, you can help invest in equipment, software and resources to improve the audio quality of The Candid Frame photography podcast. This would include microphones, digital recorders and software which will help increase the production values of the show. Funds also provide host greater flexibility for scheduling and conducting interviews.

Have a look… and a listen:

Dispatches From Chicago

By Michael Masterson

Chicago’s mercurial weather graced Visual Connections with a beautiful, sunny day on May 5th. Returning there for the first time since 2014, Visual Connections came back in great form with an expanded and sold-out roster of exhibitors. It attracted a record number of attendees drawn by the diverse group of exhibitors and excellent educational sessions all held at a stunning venue, The Ivy Room.


Because many of the attendees at Visual Connections use a mix of assignment, stock stills and footage, the show has broadened its exhibitors to include commercial artists reps, CGI companies, production companies and other services. In addition to stock agencies such as Stocksy, Alamy, Bridgeman Images and Danita Delimont, the Chicago event showcased many of the top Chicago artist reps such as The Rep Roadshow, Schumann & Company, Jodie Zeitler, Marge Casey’s Wave and Rad Represents plus out of town agents like Illustration Ltd. and Janice Moses. Other providers such as 360 Cities (interactive 360 still images), Catch&Release (proprietary search tools) and the Artists Rights Society (copyright and licensing services) rounded out the wide offerings for attendees.

The morning keynote session focused on sourcing and using social media, an increasingly omnipresent component in advertising and publishing and one that key art buyers we surveyed requested. Helmed by Melissa Hennessy, longtime artist agent in Chicago, the panel featured Bill McGrath, a noted attorney specializing in copyright and intellectual property rights law; Liz Baugher who heads Emissary which represents top commercial photographers and directors; art producer Lindsay Tyler and Nuno Silva, a founding member and VP of Product for Stocksy. Bill kicked off the session by updating the nearly standing room only crowd on some of the latest issues in copyright law especially regarding social media and fair use. He cited an example of a drugstore chain that Tweeted an image of an actress coming out of one of their stores carrying their branded bags with the message that even celebrities shop there. She sued for infringement and won, setting a precedent in how “street” imagery can be used for promotional reasons. One of the main takeaways was that this area is constantly changing and new uses and permissions are still being shaped by settled cases or defined by the courts and legislation.

The afternoon sessions focused on capturing motion and stills simultaneously and search and licensing. The first session was moderated by Melissa Thornley, a creative consultant, and featured Jonathan Chapman, the noted photographer and director, Cliff Grant from STORY and Laurie Rubin, an award-winning photographer. More clients are asking for motion and stills to be done together to save time and money, but that sometimes proves challenging according to the panelists. As an example one client questioned why the final video had such a bright light in it, not realizing that the still photographer needed it to do his part of the job.


The final session of the day was moderated by Doug Dawirs, creator of DMLAsearch among many other things, and included Brian Novy from Dissolve and Lisa Vazquez Roper from Alamy. Brian advised that licensors thoroughly review rights associated with any licensing models and opined that as providers offer new bundles and licensing options to make purchases ostensibly easier, they often make things more complicated.

Doug demonstrated the DMLAsearch tool which indexes over 167 million licensable images (including motion and footage) from dozens of agencies and outlined the many services DMLA does on behalf of its members and the image industry including lobbying Congress, promoting best business practices and spearheading technical initiatives.

In a nod to Cinco de Mayo, the lunch buffet featured Mexican food as did the margarita happy hour afterward hosted by the Workbook, the top creative resource and also the principal sponsor of the event. 500px, another sponsor, made sure everyone got a keepsake from their photo booth on the show floor. So, notch another success for Visual Connections and mark your calendars for the next event in New York on Thursday, October 27th. As Deborah Free, VC co-president says, “We’re very pleased with the turn out for this event in both the diversity of exhibitors and buyers attending and look forward to continuing to expand both bases to better meet the needs of all involved. 70% of attendees this year were newcomers, with a strong showing of art buyers and producers, thanks in large part to having Workbook as our Principal Sponsor. Our events are well on course to being the meeting place for everyone involved in sourcing or commissioning photography, illustration and footage.”

Photo Credit: (c) 2016 Bonnie Robinson/Workbook

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 3.35.52 PMMichael Masterson has a broad range of experience in marketing, business development, strategic planning, contact negotiations and recruiting in the photography, graphic design and publishing industries. In addition to his long experience at the Workbook and Workbookstock, Masterson owned and was creative director of his own graphic design firm for several years. Masterson has been a speaker or panelist at industry events such as Seybold, PhotoPlus Expo, Visual Connections and the Picture Archive Council of America (PACA) national conference. He is past national president of the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP). He currently heads Masterson Consulting, working on projects ranging from business development for creative companies and sourcing talent for them to promoting and marketing industry events as well as providing resume and professional profile services for job-seekers. He can be reached at


Finding Creativity Using Stock Photography.

By Nuno Silva (VP Of Product Stocksy United)

While working at a stock photography agency it’s always impressive to see how images are being used, how your customers are interpreting visual trends, and how they’re using photography to communicate creatively. At Stocksy we’ve been fortunate to work with some very talented creatives who have learned to see beyond the stock photography clichés. Here are a few recent examples from our clients that really inspired me.

Using illustrative photography instead of illustrations

(c)Catherine Macbride/

(c)Catherine Macbride

This particular client was very dependent on iconography and illustrations and was reluctant to use stock photography. During a branding exercise, they stumbled upon a collection of simple yet clever still life photos that relayed playful concepts using paper-craft and flat lays. These minimalist yet effective images had the depth of photography but also the whimsical charisma of illustrations. The versatility of being able to use real-life objects to illustrate concepts and human elements really opened up their design possibilities. Using these types of clean and simple images, they were able to keep their visual branding consistent across several platforms without shifting too far from their previous brand aesthetic.


50 is the new 30 (or 20)

(c)Jill Chen

(c)Jill Chen

At Stocksy we have been following the trend of the hip and adventurous 50-somethings. It was validating to hear from several senior lifestyle publishers that they were using photos of this group doing the same things that 20 and 30-somethings were doing. Generation X (folks born between 1960 and early 1980s) grew up with video game console systems, the internet and a lot of the modern conveniences that are now common place. So why are we portraying the eldest of that generation as geriatrics confused by ATMs? It no longer makes sense that older people are luddites with health problems. People in their 50s are healthier, more active, and more connected than ever so pushing the boundaries of what society expects is a refreshing trend.


The medium is the message

(c)Wendy Laurel

(c)Wendy Laurel

Everyone has been saying “there’s something about film.” It’s something that fascinates me personally and something I’m experimenting with. I love the colors, the truthfulness, and the imperfections in the medium. Many digital filters have tried to emulate it, but there’s no denying that there is something unique about the physical medium and you know it when you see it. One of the best examples I came across recently was a client who used film as part of their narrative when it came to relaying nostalgia and “the past” in their campaign story. The shots used weren’t over filtered or faux-film looking. They were genuine shots with beautiful natural grain and the slight focus imperfections. Non-photographers can understand this without really knowing how the subjects were of a specific era and moment in the timeline of the story. We’ve also seen the same type of creative usage of a medium applied with mobile photography interwoven as part of a larger story.

Creativity is all around us and we are seeing so many fascinating concepts and ideas come to life, especially through our clients. With photography, the boundaries are limitless and we support that on every level.


Image Credits:

Catherine MacBride

Jill Chen

Wendy Laurel

Nuno-SilvaNuno Silva is a successful commercial photographer who became a founding member of the Stocksy United co-operative in Feb. of 2013, where he started as the director of content and is now the VP of product. Building upon an experienced career, with over a decade of industry knowledge, at companies like iStock and 500px, Nuno is also an active member of the Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA) and currently sits on the board of this international trade organization. Nuno currently resides in Toronto, Canada with his supportive wife and son.




All things change, especially in the fast-moving world world of photo licensing. For some time, now, industry professionals have noted that PACA (Picture Archive Council of America) has evolved into the DMLA (Digital Media Licensing Association); but do they also know that PACA’s fantastic mega metasearch engine of licensable content has been updated into DMLASearch?

Simply put, DMLASearch is the kind of tool that puts a spring in your step. As a tool, it radically reduces the time spent searching for images. Aided by a predictive text menu and built-in disambiguation of homographs and capitonyms, researchers, photo buyers, creatives and licensers can now search dozens of still and motion archives in seconds.

So what’s the drawback? Well, there isn’t any. DMLASearch is free to use. That’s right. If you want to search a horde of agencies for exactly that right image, just dive into a photographic gene pool representing over 171 million images (and growing): pooled form agencies ranging from Shestock to Goodsalt, eStock Photo to Trevillion Images, Media Bakery to Venus Stock.

Christopher Bain, the Photography Director of Sterling Publishing Group, perhaps puts it most succinctly:

“If you use Google to search for everything else in your on-line life, you really should be using DMLAsearch to seek out the best images on earth. It continually reminds you of dozens of sources that might have the image you seek, helping you keep out of the rut of using the same old source day after day. The blindingly fast two-column search result shows two views, the raw count per agency and the results as a percentage of an agency’s collection. This helps you see who has the true depth in the subject matter you are looking for. I love it!”

The navigation protocols of DMLASearch don’t reinvent the wheel: buyers simply submit a keyword or term in the search box to locate the best choice of image to meet the need. And that’s about it for the hard stuff… The easy stuff is being rewarded – instantly – with a dizzying array of thumbnails to start scrolling through. Oh, and if you want video footage: there’s a separate “media type selecter” for that too!

DMLASearch first returns two columns of results. On the left is a list of agency libraries ranked in descending order for the total number of images found in each. On the right. a column of libraries is ranked by the relative percentage of images in relation to the total collection; thereby highlighting those archives that offer specialty content in a relevant subject (you may find that agencies highest ranked by relative percentage tend to specialize in that subject). The relative ranking helps buyers zero in on those collections that can yield surprising depth and selection on a particular subject while also maintain clear line of sight to those collections which offer the greatest breadth on the same topic. Contributing agencies do not pay to be included in index. It is a benefit of DMLA general membership.

The images are not free uses; but researchers can also take comfort that the  images are available for licensing. Once you’ve found the material that you require, you negotiate the transaction directly with the agency. You will find that licensing options vary by agency. The DMLA does not profit from that transaction.


To visit the DMLA search engine, visit:

Scopio Takes On Authentic Content Access

Guest post by Jain Lemos

Stop photo searching like the century and get in sync!



There’s tons of new technology popping up around the ability for buyers and creators to record transactions, track and share content, and basically get down to the business of image curation and usage. Scopio has jumped into the fray as another go-between, where you give them permission to access your social accounts so you can request images directly from the plethora of user-generated visuals.

As background, Columbia University innovators Christina Hawatmeh and Manoj Pooleery put up a post for an interaction designer at Parson’s so they could visualize big data on image sharing from Twitter, based on real time hashtag events through Twitter’s API. “We specifically were running an experiment on capturing image content from the Arab Spring,” explains Hawatmeh. That led to them being accepted to Columbia’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program, a springboard leading to the Scopio enterprise.

Like those before them, they saw a gap between searching for socially-shared images and getting permission to use them. Access, directly from the source, they saw as a big data problem. “We had dreams of how we could bring these macro speed-of-lightning events to be visualized and communicated in a simple and impactful way, through images.” stands for “Scope it Out” and therein lies the key to using their platform. Buyers need to shed their old stock search terms and employ social’s ubiquitous hashtag language. Using a search for Puppies and Dogs, here are some example hashtags: #dogsofinstagram #doglove #campingwithdogs #mypuppy #nationalpuppyday. While traditional keywords will work (each Scopio search allows for seven hashtags and five keywords), keeping up with hashtag vernacular and trends are going to bring you the best results.

Some observers claim there are up to 4 billion photos and videos posted on social media every single day. Figuring that a good portion of those are what Hawatmeh terms, “commercializable”, she projects a growth rate of 20 to 30 percent. “We have gone through and manually coded over 600,000 images by hand,” she says, plus their database holds more than 40 million images stored from Instagram and Twitter, also manually coded by Scopio.

Because both Instagram and Twitter have restrictions on interactions, Scopio can’t broker sales between buyer and seller. What they can do is display the content to you through a dashboard on their site. Clients pay for curation and licensing via a subscription. When an image is used, Scopio offers compensation for the license.

Scopio spent nearly three years building out their software and they are still improving their learning methods to, “dig through the garbage of social media,” Hawatmeh says. “We discover gems in the millions of images posted to social media and give you a way to license them for your own use,” she promises.

While the two founders are not photo people, their CCO, Nour Chamoun, is a photographer and design and technology grad from Parsons. They engaged industry advisors to learn about the image buying space including Barbara Roberts (formerly FPG), attorney Nancy Wolff, and a Thomson Reuters consultant. Scopio also joined DMLA, which Hawatmeh says has been helpful.

With yearly microstock revenue around $2.8 billion, and a global spend on social marketing tools between $2-5 billion, Scopio sees themselves in-between those markets. They’ve already received recognition from several online tech buzz sites including The New York Observer and Founders Grid and appear ready to take on the challenge. Right now, Scopio offers a free trial as part of their launch, so give it a whirl.

Example of how an image is used from

Example of how an image is used from

JainLemos-600x600Jain Lemos has been deeply involved in photography publishing and licensing for more than twenty years and shares her informed perspective about our visual industry on multiple platforms including her website,

Mobile Photography Blurs the Line

Our correspondent from across the pond, Julian Jackson, has been thinking about mobile phone photography. Serendipitous in view of the upcoming Panel session on all things Social Media at Visual Connections Chicago!



Mobile photography has taken off. This year Shutterstock has had a 40% increase in submissions of images taken with phones or tablets. iPhonography – for want of a better word – has been around for a while, but as cameras on devices got better it has become a part of the photographic industry. Probably the impetus came from two areas – instant images from phones for the news, and the advertising industry’s latching on to the connotations of immediacy and “reality” which came from the less-polished quality of phone images.

Things have moved on. Many “proper” photographers have ditched their DSLRs in favour of a phone. Alan Capel, Head of Content at Alamy saw “A couple of years ago we decided we’d be made if we didn’t take advantage of the fantastic pictures that had been taken on phones – cool creative work and interesting reportage where someone was at the right place at the right time.” Alamy created their Stockimo App two years ago to facilitate this – users can upload their images directly to Alamy from their phone which makes it a lot easier – previously the shots would have to be transferred to a computer to be uploaded.

 © Teresa Williams / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

© Teresa Williams / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

The content is not niche. Keren Sachs, Director of Content at Shutterstock says that the images she is seeing now are across the board from all different types of images. Those are not just shot on Apple products but all kinds of mobile platform. Shutterstock launched their Android App in December 2013, which made it very easy for mobile photographers to keyword and upload their content from their mobile phone. Keren says, “Now the options are open for anyone who owns a phone to become a photographer. We are seeing more people adding their content to our site. We take any images that pass our quality tests. Advertisers are using these images more and more because they like the look and feel. We don’t categorize the imagery as mobile or not mobile because the lines are so blurred.”

© graham jepson / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

© graham jepson / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

The iPhone photography world would probably not have taken off so quickly without Instagram. Since its launch in 2010 the “Twitter for Photos”, has grown 400 million active monthly users. It pioneered easy uploading for photos, and is a social market leader with celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez posting their images on the site. As magazines decline, the need for high res images has been overtaken by the immediacy of smaller, more adaptable content.

Alamy’s Stockimo images are on the site alongside conventional camera images. About 50% of submitted images are rejected for various reasons, usually technical flaws. Alan Capel says that they are selling very well, and not at reduced prices. Buyers don’t think they are an inferior product, and the smaller file sizes are not a handicap for the sort of media these images are used for.

Putting “stockimo” in the Alamy search engine will pull up purely mobile content.

© MARKSY / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

© MARKSY / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

Other agencies have taken a different approach, for example Arcangel’s Smart Collection is carefully curated and edited mobile imagery, which has a deliberately arty feel, aiming at a bohemian audience.

The exponential growth of the sector, and its sales, shows that there is definitely a future for mobile imagery. Keren Sachs says, “It is changing the way people are producing content and allowing more people to become photographers. The content has to be very strong to stand out in a market like that.”

(c)Nejron Photo/ Shutterstock

(c)Nejron Photo/ Shutterstock

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


The Half-life of Censorship

With retrospectives at both the Getty and  LACMA and a new HBO doc about his life and work, Mapplethorpe sparked this editorial from writer/curator Simon Herbert:

Given the current tone of political discourse in an election year, it’s tempting to think that we’ve hit new lows in civility; yet rewind to 1989, on the floor of Congress, where NC Senator Jesse Helms was striding up and down the floor, trying to make political hay out of banning federal funds to the National Endowment for the Arts. Back then, the “culture wars” between right and left were beginning to metastasize for the first time; and Helms, in his inflated piety, had decided to focus on whether public money should not be directed to the funding of “obscene” artworks. At a time when HIV funding was being denied; and 28 years before the White House (as of this month) installed a gender-neutral restroom in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; it’s hard to reimagine the level of vilification that alternate sexual orientations aroused at the time (or, unfortunately, maybe not…). Helms chose one particular artistic icon to funnel his outrage through…

… the work of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

Mapplethorpe is currently the focus of both a HBO documentary ”Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures”; and two-tier simultaneous retrospective exhibition: “Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium,” at the Getty Center, Los Angeles (March 15-July 31); and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (March 15-July 31).

We all know Mapplethorpe’s photographic works so well, that there’s little need to describe them in this article: they live in the public imagination in a way that Helms would despise, were he (or Mapplethorpe) still alive today. Especially since Helms’s symbolic gesture, on the floor of Congress, actually contributed to Mapplethorpe‘s “infamy”: his action was to, literally, rip up a Mapplethorpe photograph: one single print that, presumably in Helms’s mind, stood testament to all of the other bullwhips, rectums, cocks and polyester suits that hovered out there as part of a society where gender and sexual behaviors were being challenged.

Let’s think about that for a minute: a US Congressman used vandalism and destruction to make a point about his own personal preferences, and did so in front of a group of men and women who are supposed to be the best and brightest minds of our land: the people who ‘manage’ us; who legislate for us; who take our hopes and fears and carve them into either trickle down economics, or FEMA aid, or tax cuts…

… and the best that Helms could do that day was a violent gesture not far distant from Nazi book burning.

Of course, it was always meant as a snake oil gesture – an act of political circus – on Helms’s part; but what is truly interesting about the causality of Mapplethorpe’s work is that, 27 years later, the idea of destroying a single print is even more futile. Our society has changed, mainstream sexuality has changed; and the valences between what was once taboo and is now ‘acceptable’ has mutated way beyond the narrow strictures of Helm’s rigidity. His gesture was futile then, but in the explosion of digital information, and access, since then, Helms seems, in the prism of history, even more pathetic; trying to hold the pictorial waves at bay, even as they lap up around his feet in a rising tide of pixels. History, and technology, and art, and social change, have rendered Helms an irrelevance: a museum curio, interesting only for the futility and savagery of his performance art.

The great (and delightful) irony is that, long after Helms has retreated to a Wikipedia footnote, the legacy of Mapplethorpe has only increased in currency; both cultural and monetary (a print of “Man in a Polyester Suit” recently sold for nearly a half a million dollars at Sotheby’s last year). The museums that Helms and his rabid brethren were trying to shut down, still have open doors; citizens of all stripes pass through them in their millions every year; consuming new and old art; and many of these institutions will doubtless also – like the White House –be installing gender-neutral restrooms.

Museum visitors will be funneled through the exit, to the inevitable gift shop where postcards of Mapplethorpe’s photographs sit in revolving stands. His work will be forever cemented, centuries from now, in “high art” culture; next to the the Warhols and the Koons and the Harings; all inheritors of the legacies of the Van Goghs and the Monets.

Now that’s a most excellent way to repudiate tyranny.


For more information on the HBO documentary, and the Getty Center/LACMA exhibition:

Simon Herbert is a curator and writer. In 1991, he curated “Burning the Flag?” a survey show of the work of three of the (so-called, and mislabeled) infamous “NEA Four” performance artists (Tim Miller, Holly Hunter and Karen Finley), who had their funding revoked by Congress in the culture wars at the beginning of the 90s.



Photocase: The Anti-Stock Image Undertaking

Fifteen years in the running and still inspiring buyers to license images without corniness.

Guest post by Jain Lemos



Photocase launched from Germany in 2001 as a creative stock photography marketplace with a determination to deliver the anti-stock image. All their photos are hand-picked, meaning you won’t slog through millions of repetitive or inferior quality images. The founders are all graphic designers who used to work for the same company. “We were constantly, like all other designers, on the hunt for good photos,” says Frank Erler, Photocase’s customer service manager. “But everything out there was either expensive or not so great looking,” he adds.

At first, they came up with the idea to build their own platform so they could share their own photos. Once they allowed other contributors to participate, growth was fast and furious. Their business model changed from a free platform—set up by image buyers who were also amateur photographers—to a robust agency offering photo downloads and modern user features. Through the transition, they remained vigilant about offering what they see as true alternative visuals to traditional stock photos.

In general, pricing is set up in the form of credits. A standard size photo—3600 x 2400 at 300 dpi—will cost 6 credits (about $16) under the basic license ($2.67 per credit). Credits can be purchased for as low as $1.35 each when buying in bulk and special offers are teased periodically. They offer three license options: basic, extended and merchandising. These will cover the most common applications. Options include an “omit copyright” license and one allowing unlimited print production runs.

Contributing photographers earn up to 60 percent, with no strings attached. Photocase has strict size guidelines which have been raised from their original specs. Images must be at least 2500 pixels either long or wide. “We raised this from the old minimum resolution because most consumer cameras (and cell phones) are capable of producing much higher resolution photos,” they explain.

When it comes to the criteria for the style of photos accepted by the agency, Photocase says there are some images they will never accept, “no matter how cool they are, ” including “no fancy Photoshop work or insane retouching.” The collection has grown to around 500,000, which may sound small in comparison with other agencies. They insist that’s because they have always preferred quality over quantity, only accepting 10 percent of the photos submitted.

Patrick Lienin/

Patrick Lienin/

When asked how Photocase describes the undesirable “typical” stock photo, Eler says it depends. “It’s mostly photos that show a situation in a cliché kind of way: woman with a headset, handshakes, people with thumbs up… you get the idea.” He goes on to explain that there is nothing wrong with a photo showing a woman wearing a headset, but that image is often presented so cheesy it has nothing to do with reality. How true.

The tech team has spent considerable time on expanding their search functions. The most fun is their color search capability which allows users to click on a checkerboard pattern to brings up a spectrum. Clicking on any point in the spectrum lets users choose a general color shade first. Then, you are led to an array of colors in a box with adjustable crosshairs to narrow down the exact tone you are looking for.



Something different to explore are their Public Lightboxes which feature collections of thematically linked photos created by users. Their #photocasetakeover event provides account keys to their Instagram feed for three days so one photographer is allowed to share their photos with Photocase’s community and followers. Creative marketing and participation ideas are ongoing, such as their Super Still Life Challenge, where their community invites photographers to make photos on a special topic or idea, often allowing buyers to vote for a winner.

Overall, their site is friendly and easy to use. To register you only need to submit a name and email address. It’s easier than ever to get inspired and license photos. They also update functionality often, making sure the user experience is superior. Look for them to update their terms of use to include their images on social media platforms.

JainLemos-600x600Jain Lemos is the Director of Content and Collections for Come Alive Images. She has been deeply involved in photography publishing and licensing for more than twenty years and shares her informed perspective about our visual industry on multiple platforms including her website,

Visual Connections Coming to Chicago!

We are prepping, planning and scheduling for Visual Connections in Chicago on Cinco de Mayo!

Join us at the lovely Ivy Room for a day of networking, meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones. Evocative sessions covering Social Media, the marriage of Stills/Motion on sets, licensing models and trends in stock are scheduled throughout the day, allowing ample time to visit the Exhibitors from around the globe who gather to showcase the work of some of the top image makers/collections today.

Take a look at what the New York show was like to get an glimpse of what Visual Connections offer:

Visual Connections New York 2015 from Visual Connections on Vimeo.

More here, including registration(free!):