Monday, January 31, 2011

Back to work

"rebel without a cause" Paris, 2009

I've been at the Sundance Film Festival, where I saw 28 films in about 8 days. Now, after all of that moving image consumption, I'm playing catch up at work and I'm dying to get back to still images. Exciting posts that have nothing to do with movies are coming soon.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Take-Out Movies launches

Take-Out Photo is here to stay, but I'm now launching a little side project: Take-Out Movies. Read the inaugural post to here about its origins. I won't re-post it here, but in a nutshell:
  • its a blog co-written by members of a movie group (think book club but with movies) I formed about 8 years ago
  • it is starting now because 4 of us are attending the Sundance Film Festival for the rest of the month
  • there are no rules. any member of the group can publish whatever and whenever he wants
  • some members may use pen names at times
Check it out. Tell your friends. If you like movies, you will like take-out movies. Or not. Keep in mind that this is a group of guys, so you probably won't see a lot of posts about romantic comedies. But who knows?

Monday, January 10, 2011

The not-for-anal/OCD-types photo display

I was reading DesignSponge's post about Fiona Douglas of Bluebellgray, and while I think the designs are perfectly lovely (many more photos in the DS post), this particular display would push me to the brink of insanity. Just looking at the photo of it makes me want to straighten at least 6 of the frames. But what does that reaction say about me? Hmmm. I will just choose to ignore that question, and instead will invite you, dear readers, to share your own reactions and/or photos. If anyone would like to share a photo of how you display photos in your home (I promise I won't ask to straighten them), email me a photo or put a link in a comment. I am very interested in real life examples of how you display photos.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

JPG Magazine

screenshot of the cover of JPG's current issue

My new treasure trove for talent and hopefully some publication is JPG magazine. I used to get RSS feeds from it, but it fallen completely off my radar once it was reported to have met its demise. But to my surprise, it is not only back from the dead, but completely revived and healthy.

I came across JPG recently when I was following a link from a post about how some photographers are using Magcloud—a nifty print on demand magazine service—to market themselves. Once I looked at the link, I started browsing the 1,000+ titles in Magcloud's listings of photography magazines and there was Issue 24 of JPG. From there, I went to JPG's site and quickly came to the following conclusions:

1. It's more focused and more aesthetically pleasing (barring the necessary evil of ads that you get on the free account) than flickr

2. It has a friendly community of photographers

3. In some ways, it is what the "monthly special" would have liked to be

4. It could be a good venue for getting published

Obviously, in a free community of photographers, the quality of work varies. But because the free membership only allows 10 uploads a day, you find a more thoughtful selection of photos. This is not meant to be a flickr-style archive of every photo you have ever taken.

I have found some pretty amazing talent on JPG and I plan to start up interviews again with one of my favorites. It also turns out that two of the photographers I have already interviewed have accounts on JPG.

JPG has "themes" to which you can submit one photo. Members vote, editors decide, and that's how people end up in the quarterly issue. I have submitted to a few of the themes, so we'll see. They also have "stories" in different categories. One of my "contacts" (think "friends" on Facebook) is a trucker named "Slimeface" (reminds me of a trucker friend of mine who lives just one street over) who has had a story published. So that got me looking at the stories, and I discovered that 1. there are a lot fewer people taking the time to write stories and 2. (don't take this wrong but) not everyone has had a lot of experience writing.

Given that one of the three themes for the next issue is "frenzy," I decided to do a photo essay based on the crazy "10 seconds at the Paris techno parade" I posted about last year. I stayed up until 2 a.m. (typical, really) writing the essay to go with the photos, I titled it "10 seconds," and now, I am very happy to see that it is "story of the week." This doesn't mean it's accepted for publication, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I guess you can say that JPG put the final nail in the coffin of my "monthly special," and I'm more than happy to promote it as a place where you can do photo challenges. Check it out (feel free to vote for me if you sign up), and look back here for some upcoming interviews with exciting talent.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The "yearly special" for 2011: getting published

The photo has nothing to do with the post, but I hate to do posts with no photos, so there you go—a photo I took from Sacré Coeur in Paris this past July.

And now on with the theme. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I'm changing up a few things. The monthly specials are gradually being consolidated into plain old "specials" and I will add links to them whenever I do related posts. I am also adding the "yearly special," which is simply a recurring theme that I will post about during the year. At the end of the year, those posts will be consolidated (like I just did with the grids posts) and will become a new category in the "specials" sidebar.

This year's special theme: getting published. I have been doing photography since I got my first camera at age 7, but I never actively pursued publication of my work until my ABC Paris project. I did a post in 2008 about my attempts to publish the project as a small book. I got really close to a publishing deal with Assouline, but what I learned in the process is that the standard "coffee table" book market is in decline. If you have followed my blog for a while you know that I cannibalized the book project into a series of art prints that got a lot of press and in turn, led me to sign a 4-year art licensing contract with Wild Apple Graphics. Do, the more commercial ABC work has run its course as far as I'm concerned.

Then came my photography book obsession. As I started to explore the world of photo books, I realized that an edition of 2,000 copies is a relatively large run for most art presses. And while I love those books, most of them feature artists that have been famous for decades. "Emerging" photographers have little chance of breaking into that world. This shouldn't have surprised me because when I was guest curating my "Nostalgia and Technology" exhibit, I spoke with curators at major museums who told me that they routinely lose money on exhibition catalogs and that all but the largest of exhibits come and go without a publication. The remaining exhibition catalogs from my show are in their bargain-basement phase of only $5, but we knew going into it that we wouldn't sell them all. I insisted on doing the publication (as a condition of curating the show) because I think that exhibits need something that outlasts the physical show. So, let's say you are a photographer lucky enough to get into a small gallery somewhere. What are your publication prospects. Pretty bleak.

As I started to read blogs devoted to photo books, I learned that some photographers have managed to overcome obstacles and subvert the system through self-publishing. I am not talking about Blurb (or Picaboo or whatever) books but self-published limited edition books. In some cases, these may even be artist's books on newsprint or gloriously staple-bound hand folded editions of 10. It's not Steidl by any means, but some of these books are making their way onto prestigious best-of lists. I recently ordered Sébastien Girard's self-published book Desperate Cars after reading about it on the "Best Books of 2010" post on my favorite photo book blog, 5B4. I am impressed that Girard has made it onto a list that includes the likes of Baldessari, Eggleston, and Baltz. And his is not an isolated case. Last year, RJ Shaughnessy's Your golden opportunity is comeing [no, that's not a typo] very soon (an addition of 500) was all the rage. Another inspiration: Alec Soth's Little Brown Mushroom books. And now, Princeton Architectural Press is coming out with a book called Publish Your Photography Book. Moral of the story: big things are happening in the self-publishing world.

2011 looks like a good time to explore publishing opportunities that are out of the mainstream. I realize that not all of my readers care about pursuing publication, but I will share what I learn anyway as I try to navigate my way through that world. For some it will be a helpful resource, for others, it might at least be an entertaining journey.

Monday, January 3, 2011

"The grid" posts

  • a tutorial for making a photo grid was the first "monthly special" back in 2008. It shows you step by step how to make a grid of 9 photos. If I were to go back in time, I probably would have done my 2010 post about creating templates instead:

  • design your own wedding templates works for any type of photo collage, grids included. It is especially handy if you plan to re-use the same layout for multiple projects.
  • a one-photo grid cheat made more sense to me when I wrote it than it does now. I don't know what I was thinking then, but I'm pretty sure the templates tutorial would have solved it. Hats off to you if you understand what I was talking about.
  • the dots tutorial is probably better than the original grid tutorial and uses basic masking principles to make a "grid" of dots.
  • also, a dots grid project, I showed how to make a pretty darn cute (if I do say so myself) Christmas card.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Take-out photo in 2011

In with the new...

Some changes are coming for 2011.
First, the big one:
  • the death of the "monthly special" as we know it.
Let's review....

1. What it was.
The idea was to have a monthly theme that would encourage community-like participation. The start looked promising. Nearly 40 people (links have since disappeared because I stopped using Mr. Linky) tried a grid project, posted their results, and linked back. Sadly, the first month was the best participation I ever had.

2. Where it went wrong.
Hard to say exactly. My guess is that it has something to do with audience. As my readership grew, the participation declined. My Google Analytics stats soared, but who were all these people? Many of them were coming for the tutorials. I like doing tutorials (when I can find the time) because I always learn something by teaching, but I also want to explore other photo themes and interests. For a while, I started to see more readers from the photoblog world. I started to get requests from photographers to critique their work. Some even asked for career advice. Although invisible, my diverse community of readers made we wonder if I should cater to one type of reader over another. But each time I questioned where things were headed, I came up with the conclusion that since I'm not getting paid to do this, I need to follow my own interests, however mixed they may be.

3 Where it is going.
Naturally, I would still LOVE to get comments and develop some sort of community, but I'm no longer going to do a formal "monthly special." Instead, I am re-organizing everything under a "Specials" category during the month of January. For example, the "grid," "squares," and "dots" specials all have posts that will contribute to a "grids" specials meta-post (which I will post immediately following this one). Any post that relates to the grids theme will be added to the "grids" post under "specials" in the sidebar. This will make navigating my archives very user-friendly.

Now, instead of a "monthly special," I will have many "specials" and will add to them whenever I do a post related to that theme. New "specials" will appear, but not every month. And for participation, I will still WELCOME any links from someone who has worked on ANY project under the "specials" and wants to share. Send a link in a comment and I may even do a post recognizing your efforts.

Other changes for 2011:
  • more interviews. I have loved the interviews, but had trouble coming up with new people that I felt like interviewing. That has changed. I have a new treasure trove of photographers I would love to interview. I'll explain where I found it soon.
  • what's on my coffee table will be a new regular feature. My passion for photography books is not dying anytime soon, so I plan to do regular posts to document and share books in my collection.
  • real-life retouch will be a regular feature. Posts that walk through the retouching process can be more helpful than a typical tutorial in some ways.
  • tutorials are not going away, but I am more likely to do micro-tutorials that teach a basic principle on a regular basis, and save the bigger tutorials for when I feel inspired to do them.
  • physical printed photos interest me, so I will do at least one post a month about displaying photos, getting photos printed, making a book of photos, or anything else that will inspire you to put your digital photo in paper form.
But wait, there's more!

Two more things:

1. I am doing a yearly theme that reflects some sort of long-term interest of mine. Posts on that theme will occur throughout the year and will then be grouped into a new "special" category in the sidebar at the end of the year.

2. I am launching a movie blog: take-out movies! I am really excited about the new blog, because it will be co-authored with members of a movie group (like a book club, but for guys who just want to watch movies) I founded years ago (8? who knows? I'll figure that out for the inaugural post). Four of us attend the Sundance Film Festival every year, so you can expect festival coverage the last part of this month.

For me, this will revive my blogging for 2011. Keep reading and tell your friends>

Happy New Year!