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Saturday, June 29, 2019

Reading

Sometimes I find it better to read about photographers than it is to view their photography. These are a couple of the books that I've read over the last couple of years. I'm still trying to find the big W Eugene Smith biography for a decent price. I recommend any of these books and you might want to check your library if you don't feel the need to own them. My library has cut back on their books and has stopped transferring a lot of art books outside of its central branch.

 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Lesser of Two Evils

 Two years ago I would have told you that Instagram was the lesser of two evils between them and Facebook, mostly because of the non-stop political crap on Facebook but also it's new horrible algorithm that lets around 2% of your friend see your posts. Currently I've been off of Facebook for 19 months but I have a business page being managed by my wife that's mostly useless . Today I think Facebook and Instagram are tied for who's worse. Once again it's algorithm is horrible, it's just about impossible to gain real followers with in the program itself without outside help, and it's been infested by scam artists, fake influencers and bots. So at this point where do you turn ?

 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Spoiled


 With my blood pressure through the roof I just walked in the door and felt the need to write this. I just spent almost the last hour waiting for a bus that never came. My plans were to go a couple of towns over and photograph a few buildings. As I stood there waiting I was thinking about how spoiled you become living in the city with it's easy access by walking, the subway, buses, and taxis. No I didn't forget about Uber and Lyft....FUCKEM ! As a photographer it's a dream unless you're a landscape photographer. I would say it's next to impossible to photograph what I want to out here without a car but first of all I can by no means afford one and second I have no wish to own one. So my options are to take the train back into the city when I can afford to or photograph my neighborhood which isn't holding my interest.

 

Monday, June 24, 2019

What Would I Spend The Money On ?

Today's topic of conversation was: As photographers what would we do if we won a $75,000 fellowship.

Frankly I think I have a better shot being elected Mayor of Philadelphia than being awarded a $75,000 fellow from the PEW, and no, I'm not kidding. That being said I'll give a somewhat brief answer.
Two years ago my answer would be slightly different as the first thing we all said was to be able to pay our daily bills without worry; freeing us up to solely concentrate on our work.
Today, I would purchase an affordable used car and document Pennsylvania, as in disappearing Americana, old factories, stores, porn stores, gas stations... You get the idea.
The hyper change that's whitewashing seemingly everything. I call it the beige-ing of America.
I don't think I would need much in the way of gear, maybe a zoom lens.
At the end of the project, I would want to publish a book and host an exhibition. I have no idea what a project like this would even cost without seriously sitting down and calculating every little aspect of it like  gas, food, flat tires, etc. But here's to dreaming.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Weegee The Famous for $5

My iStock/Getty photo stock experiment has been a financial failure but a valuable learning experience.

I stopped uploading specialized photos (not photos from my project portfolios) over a month ago and in the last three months I've earned a whopping $6.26 from 9 image sales. That's 70 cents a photo!!!
A couple of the sales went to news publications including Forbes magazine. I don't think it's possible to make a living off of stock photos anymore and to make one or two hundred dollars a month you need a few thousand good photos listed.

To put my experiment this into perspective, Arthur Fellig, also known as Weegee the Famous was still a part time "squeegee "man at a news photo agency in 1939 when he was earning $5 a photo from tabloid papers.
This was before he became known and agencies never credited the photographers which is something he was responsible for changing a couple years later. 
Weegee's $5 earned per photo in 2019 money would be $90 a photo today. People who are willing to give their photos away for exposure or linked from instagram have made it close to impossible to make enough to buy a cup of coffee a month.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Just Another Typical Day

I'm trying to figure out if it's better to read emails right after you awake or before you go to bed. 

People who know me will tell you my responses, my criticisms, and my opinions are honest, bluntly stated, to the point, with no punches pulled. I expect to be treated the same way.
As an artist you submit to a lot of things such as exhibitions and book publishers where the majority if not all of the responses are a rejection; and that is the reason for this questioning.
Today was just another one of those days where, during my morning coffee, I received an email from a book publisher who rejected my submission. While most rejections are usually met with just a shoulder shrug by me, some like this rejection by a publisher will put me in a pissy mood for the whole day. Not only because it's a rejection but because of the typical sunshine being blown up my skirt response of it's not you it's us.
If you're telling me you like the work but your publishing schedule is full for the year what about making it for next year? That, right there, is telling me there's another issue that can range from you truthfully don't like the work or the response I've heard before "books on Philadelphia don't sell."
It's usually these kind of soft rejection responses that put me in an even worse mood. I want the truth no matter how harsh it is.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Back To Regular Size Prints

Over the last decade there have been a lot of bad trends in photography but one of the most annoying has to be very large prints. I'm referring to prints larger than 20"x30" and continue out to where they're measured in feet. These are things that make interior decorators happy but can frustrate the hell out of a photographer, especially those that do their own printing.
Until recently, if you wanted a very large print you had to use the digital-c process which has proven to be anything but archival but then Epson, HP, and Canon started to manufacture home printers that could make 60"x 90" prints with a press of the button.
For several years, I was bombarded by people asking for these large prints thinking that they cost as much as a store bought poster. Mostly they wanted something that looked good over their sofa. They were quickly brought back down to Earth after explaining what a print would cost to make. I don't have an idea of per print ink cost but a roll of paper is $500 and the printer itself is now approaching $9000. Then there is the print storage which would require very large flat files and are extremely expensive. Also. one has to remember that at any given point in this process, the purchaser can decline the print.
Once received they have to consider the massive cost of mounting and framing, and if it needed to be shipped there's another few hundred dollars at least. Not a single person who contacted me were aware of the costs associated and most didn't give any thought to the framing costs. This was turning into a huge headache!
Over the last two years, I've noticed a reverse in that trend. People want normal size prints on 8.5" x 11" to 17" x 22" paper. I'm not sure if the cost wore them down or the fact that living spaces are becoming smaller and there simply isn't room for such large prints, but I'm glad it's leveling.
Partial blame for that mess belongs to the "art world" treating photography like painting, where they claim bigger is better when the fact is that most of the greatest photography prints in history could fit in a folded newspaper.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Nostalgia

Another day and another discussion with photographers who are trying to figure out how to survive.

Today's conversation focused on nostalgia and why print buyers (notice that I didn't say collectors) are set on buying photos of things and places they've never experienced; some place or thing that was before their time. It reminds me of hipsters who wore clothes from the 70s and 80s, and bought vinyl records.

Two of the photographers questioned if they would continue to take photos if the photos were never to see the light of day, garner interest, or if there are also 100 other photographers taking photos of the same thing.

I thought it was a fair question and I can relate to interest only being shown towards my most earliest work. It is frustrating and can make you question if anything today is not only photo worthy but print worthy as well.

I try to read as many articles as I can about the current climate of photography but there's rarely an article that isn't about someone's massive social media following or how the smartphone has turned everyone into a photographer and that has rendered photography dead as a form of art.

Am I worried? You're damn right I am! I'm worried that the couple thousands of prints in my archive will become worthless and end up in the trash after I'm gone. I'm worried that this climate will stop me from printing whether from lack of interest or the finances to pay for the supplies needed to print.

Mostly I'm worried that so much damage has been done to the medium that it will never recover, or at least in my lifetime. I use to think I was the only photographer who felt this way but these group conversations I've had lately made me realize that others are worried too, really worried.



Saturday, June 15, 2019

Selling Prints, Support and Survival


 There are a handful of photographers that I speak to on a regular basis and our conversation usually steers towards selling prints, support and survival as photographers. None of us have regular jobs and all of us have tried to survive from our art but lately have found it more difficult if not impossible to do so. They vary in the stages of their careers with time ranging from 15 to to almost 50 years as a photographer. The consensus is that over the last three years we've seen a decline in print sales with much of the blame being put on a generation that doesn't understand photography as a form of art, mostly they all think they're photographers themselves because they own a smartphone and an instagram account. The blame being put more squarely on instagram itself where it's hard not to find an endless supply of people with "DM for print sales" in their bios. The photos rarely sell for more than $50 and are usually sold through a printing service. The result is damage to the support system that photographers whose prints have sold for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Real prints done by the photographer themselves whether inkjet or darkroom, signed and maybe editioned...not massed produced out of the photographers quality control in an Etsy or IKEA like fashion. The threat to photography and photographers ecosystem as an art forum continues its downward spiral.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Print Your Photos

I can't stress enough that photographers should print their photos instead of letting them rot away into digital dust. Hard drives crash and become corrupt, back ups fail, and online accounts get deleted. If photography is important to you nothing beats a physical print. It's being predicted that even though we live in a time where more photos are being taken than ever before well into the future they may not be many that remain because of the reasons I mentioned above. While not necessarily a bad thing due to the internet being overrun by bad photos deemed worthy because of someone's high social media numbers, and narcissistic selfie and food photos. I do have a feeling that worthy photographers are not printing photos as much as they use to or at all. I'm not necessarily speaking about building up a portfolio archive because I know of the expense and physical space required. I speaking about printing to be viewed such as 5x7 or 8.5x11 photo albums. Personally I'm tired of only being able to see photos in the small dumbed down digital format. THERE IS NOTHING LIKE LOOKING AT A PHYSICAL PRINT. A month ago I put my archive printing on hold mostly due to cost and began printing for 8.5x11 portfolio albums that I can carry around to show people. The reaction I've received was completely different than sending photos to be viewed on a small smartphone screen. The engagement seems to be more genuine and positive.









Monday, June 10, 2019

Small Towns

 Last night I spent a couple hours looking through one of my notebooks that was filled with ideas and places that I wanted to photograph. Once I moved out of center city I wanted to venture into small towns and photograph what remained of old diners, factories, and other things that are disappearing from the landscape at the speed of light. With the city being cleansed, whitewashed and modernized I thought I might still find some of what I was looking for in these small old towns far from an urban center. Then like most of my dreams reality came crashing down with a hard thud. It's the same story over and over what's preventing me from starting any of these ideas. IT"S MONEY, IT"S ALWAYS MONEY! With the largest portion of it need for transportation. Unlike traveling to New York City which can be done by train or bus these in the middle of nowhere places would require a car, most likely a rental car. I can't imagine the feeling some artists get after receiving grant or fellow to pay for these expenses, to not having to worry about finances and being able to fully concentrate on what they're doing. It's disappointing to think that this is just one more project that will never see the light of day. Especially with at the rate places of interest are disappearing.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

When In Doubt, Shoot.

  I haven't been downtown to photograph in a couple of weeks. In the beginning I was happy to be on the street again but things changed over the last 14 days. Bad timing, bad weather, travel expenses, and frankly a boring slow paced city. I plan on going there tomorrow and while there are several events going on I'll most likely avoid those areas. There will be enough weekend photographers out there already. My goal with all of this is to get enough good photos every year to fill three 48 page 8.5x11 portfolio book and I'm only a few photos away from completing the first book. My focus has spread to a 24 or 48 hour project, putting together another typology portfolio, and now that I'm finally comfortable with color I've been spending more time out in my new suburban neighborhood. Maybe it's my age that makes me feel like I need to do more or the regret of not taking photography more seriously when I was younger. When in doubt, shoot.


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Who Loves Ya Baby ?

If you were born after 1990 you missed out on a world full of color. Today the non colors of black, white, gray, and beige rule the landscape both urban and suburban. Growing up in the 70s and 80s the streets were still full of cars, neon, signs and clothing consisting of every color found in a large box of crayons. The people themselves were as colorful as their surroundings. All it takes is to watch a TV show from that period of time that was mostly shot on the street and not in a studio. Kojak is one of my favorite tv shows and to see the colors of the cars is a feast for the eyes, even the tuxedo black color can't be emulated by today's automobile manufactures. The colors of the clothing, interiors, neon and painted signs brings to me more than just a feeling of nostalgia, it's a feeling of great comfort. Why have people become so afraid of color ?


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

24

 I've always wanted to to a project over the period of 24 hours. I decade ago I approached Nikon about being a sponsor for this but they responded by saying they no longer support individual photographers. Ok not that big of a deal since I could get a full frame dslr and a fast lens from a couple other manufactures. Nope, not one of them were interested in supporting photographers unless they were in fashion or wildlife/landscape. I put the sponsorship on hold and contacted the New York Parks Department about photographing in Bryant Park for 24 hours. After a week I received a response that the park closes at midnight and that if I was going to be photographing in the park for long hours that I was going to need a special permit and insurance. That pretty much put the kibosh on this idea. I'm use to rejection and in 2001 after 911 I was turned down for every project and place that I wanted to photograph. Well it's been a decade and I'm thinking about doing it again, much like how I revived my typologies after 11 years. The question now is what or where do I want to do this. Off the top of my head I thought Times Square. The problem is that I hate today's Times Square because when you've experienced in the 70s and 80s.... well there aren't enough four letter words to describe the tourist trap it's become. Besides there too many photographers currently working there. I then came up with a 24 hour supermarket. They are becoming a thing of the past and now mostly in the suburbs but I can't imaging the hoops I would have to jump through. Permission from the market, most likely a notice posted outside that you could be photographed, would I have to ask permission to each individual and obtain a signed release. Most like this would be a no-go. A 24 hour gas station might be interesting if people still pumped their own gas. People in the backseat of a taxi ? It's already been done by David Bradford. This country is becoming less of a 24 hour world so this might be more difficult now a decade later.

 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Diners

I've always loved diners. Those mostly 24 hour greasy spoons full of all walks of life. From the time I was a small child walking into the Empire Diner to just this morning having breakfast at Bob's Diner it's one of the few things in life I just can't do without. Unfortunately at some point in what's left of my life I might have to deal with the loss of all of them near me. Over the last 25 years I've watched one after the other close, most over the last 12 years. Off the top of my head I can name four dozen diners lost in Philadelphia and Manhattan, more if I count the local suburbs. Right now there are only two diners left in all of downtown Philadelphia with one them rumored to be closing soon. In New York I've watched so many close that there are only a handful if that from Penn Station all the way down to the South Street Seaport. Many that are left can't find third shift workers so they're ending their 24 hour service. To me and my friends who feel at home in these places we are devastated.


Things

 I've decided on the Canon S45 as a backup to my Canon G2. It has the same 4 megapixel sensor as the G2 and the rest of the specs are cl...