Beyond the Still

Posted on: December 30th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

The multi-talented photographer Vincent Laforet announced on his blog today a very unique film contest. People are encouraged to use Canon HDDSLR cameras to shoot individual chapters as part of a large film “each video chapter will start with and end with a still image… you need to interpret the previous photographer/filmmaker’s still to start the (your) subsequent chapter (those are pretty much the ONLY rules/guidelines (outside of the obvious))… should make for a pretty unique series of chapters in the end!”

What a fun idea, should be interesting to see where people take this.

Multimedia Opportunities

Posted on: December 21st, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

I first met Brian Storm in 2003 when he was vice president of News, Multimedia & Assignment Services for Corbis. Storm left Corbis and launched MediaStorm in 2005, a multimedia production studio that produces high-quality content from a combination of audio and still photography (and sometimes video). The company’s received a slew of recognition and awards, including two Emmys, and has quickly become one of the top companies creating multimedia content based primarily around still photography. I asked Storm a few questions about multimedia and what opportunities it can offer still photographers.

As audiences continue to move from print to online publications how will multimedia evolve over the next few years?

I think the single most exciting thing that’s happening is that the very best visual journalists are now making the transition to cinematic storytelling. For many years there was a debate about whether a multimedia approach mattered and that is now very clearly the case. I think we are still in a learning mode as a profession. If you think about newspapers and how they matured over 150 years and that multimedia is really very young then I think we are in for some exceptional growth in terms of sophistication in the final pieces.

Of course, there’s a strong need for training during this transition. We offer a workshop as well as a list of other great training opportunities.

What opportunities does multimedia offer for working photographers?

The opportunity to give your subject a voice instead of just taking their picture. To have authorship of the story. To reach a larger audience in a variety of platforms and to generate revenue on top of your existing clients and outlets.

Multimedia storytelling is a powerful tool. It is also time consuming and more expensive to produce then a print piece. Does compensation for multimedia pieces fairly match the effort and expense involved in producing the projects?

No question it’s far more complex to report and produce in this format. We are finding fees match our efforts and our business is growing. I think the expectation that photographers doing their first multimedia piece will be compensated exponentially for that work is flawed. The profession has to grow the skills and the market will be there when those skills are developed.

Photojournalists have been getting more involved in multimedia over the past few years, have you noticed that trend among commercial and/or fine art photographers as well?

Yes, there’s a strong interest from both the commercial and fine art communities. We’ve done some very interesting projects this year with George Lange and Doug Menuez that were outside the journalism sphere and we are currently in production on a stunning piece with Lisa Robinson called Snowbound that will premiere at the Houston Foto Festival in March.

What advice do you have for photographers who want to get into multimedia?

Don’t wait. Add the new skills to your reporting process now. Get some training. Diversify your skills and your perspective on storytelling and your business opportunities will expand.

In Memoriam: Larry Sultan

Posted on: December 18th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

The highly talented and influential Larry Sultan passed away this week from cancer. I’d like to honor his life with a few of his images that will surely live on…

Photograph by Larry Sultan

Photograph by Larry Sultan

Photograph by Larry Sultan

Photograph by Larry Sultan

Another Dreamy Design

Posted on: December 16th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

Fantasy concepts about how magazines will look and  feel on tablets of the future seem to be coming out as often as a weekly glossy but this one is definitely worth checking out. Some very intelligent ideas…

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

Positive Signs for Tablets

Posted on: December 16th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

Last week I wrote about the announcement that five large media publishers were partnering up to gain control over the future of tablet devices. This new development has the potential to substantially impact how people consume magazine and newspaper media in the future and I’ll continue to post about it as developments take place.

A recent article in The New York Times goes into greater depth about the effect all of this could have on the industry. There seem to be many positives here. First off quality of content will improve: “The technology will allow these magazines, and these advertisements, to look as good as they look on the magazine page,” said Louis Cona, senior vice president of the Condé Nast Media Group. If the tablet could be the Web’s equal in terms of targeting and measurement, it has better potential in terms of what the ads look like, being capable of rich visuals and add-ons like video.”

Advertisers will benefit too: “A problem advertisers have had with print is that it’s not very measurable. They know how many magazines their ad was printed in, but not whether readers saw it or reacted to it. “The metrics for print have been far less precise than any kind of metrics around digital media,” said Barry Lowenthal, president of the Media Kitchen, a media agency.”

This consortium of media publishers could influence what new tablets will actually look like (hardware manufacturers would have trouble ignoring the will of all these content providers acting as one) and this would likely mean hardware that is geared more towards an experience rich in images then one concerned more with just plain text.

It’s unclear what the real effects of this new media partnership will be but in the meantime I can’t help getting excited about the potential opportunities for image makers in what will almost certainly be a brilliant new visual medium. Oh yeah, and the possible salvation of the magazine and newspaper industry too.

Andrew Zuckerman: Flying High

Posted on: December 15th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

I had the pleasure of interviewing photographer Andrew Zuckerman in his New York office back in the fall of 2008 for a feature we did on his high-speed photography. In ’08 we discussed his books Creature and Wisdom, both of which showcase their respective subjects against white backgrounds. As you may have heard Zuckerman has a new book out called Bird which features an almost encyclopedic list of birds against, you guessed it, a white background.  In our interview last year I asked Zuckerman if he had an overarching message in his bodies of work that were joined by the common white background and he responded “I gravitate towards reductive work and minimalism. I try to create an arena that’s really clean and clear so that my subject or my collective subjects are easily understood and not clouded by style or extraneous information. I tend to elevate my subjects by reducing the elements around them. I’m interested in the bare essence of the subject. I found Zuckerman to be a very thoughtful and intelligent photographer, in addition to being a very effective marketer. I’m sure, especially considering he’s only in his early 30’s, that we’ll be seeing a lot more from him.

I recently asked Zuckerman a few questions about Bird, his answers plus an enjoyable behind-the-scenes movie follow below.

Where did the idea for Bird originate?

During the Creature project I had made an image of a Macaw from the back – it was one of those images that demanded more investigation.  So I made more pictures of birds and eventually I had enough for a book.  I was also very interested in a subject that had been explored for so long.  Imagery of Birds are found in all ancient art and have been repeatedly used throughout history – I was curious if I could add something to this tradition.  The Audubon collection has always fascinated me specifically because of his ability to strip away context and focus our eyes on the bird itself, the drawing s are incredibly detailed which also amazes me.  So, like any project, a number of factors from past and present in ones life add up to the inevitable reality that one must commit and create.

Photo by Andrew Zuckerman

How did you get access to this incredibly diverse group of animals?

Access is always the issue – it is the number one factor in making my pictures.  In this case I had the fortune of already publishing Creature and therefore having a calling card to begin a conversation with collectors and institutions.  I travelled to places as diverse as Qatar and Pittsburgh.  The most fruitful locations were at the aviaries, where I was able to setup my studio in a large free flight room and coax the birds to fly across the white set (usually with food).  In addition to the aviaries in San Diego and Pittsburgh I was fortunate to shoot at a conservationist center in Doha where I made the image of the Spix’s Macaw- probably the rarest and most endangered of all of the birds in the book.

Photo by Andrew Zuckerman

Please describe you basic lighting and technical approach to these shoots.

My choices in lighting are driven by the desire to reduce the information in the image to just subject – no shadows or background elements that could distract,  In the case of the birds moevement was of course a major concern which led the decision to use Broncolor Grafit A4 with pulso twin heads for short flash duration.  For the camera I used the Leaf Aptus 75s tethered to a laptop.

Photo by Andrew Zuckerman

You have a real affinity to the clean white background, do you ever have an impulse to break away from this tradition?

I use the white background because it is a void.  The void is one of the determining factors in allowing the subject to stand alone and rise to surface of the image.  My long term published projects all work in a tradition of cataloging – almost encyclopedic – and the consistency is very important to me.  The impulse to make images not on white is something I dont ever think about.  I make lots of different images – many not on white- it is just the on white work that is most focused and thorough and therefore most recognized.

Photo by Andrew Zuckerman

First was your book Creature and now Bird, anymore animal projects in the pipeline?

Working on the next one with Insects.  I imagine I will be working on this project for many years.

Ad Roundup

Posted on: December 11th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

I’ve got a real weakness for clever advertising photography. Here are a few recent pieces that caught my eye (click on the images to see them full size and for photographer credits).

Photographer: unknown

Photographer: Markus Georg

Photographer: Charles Howells

The Writing’s on the Tablet

Posted on: December 9th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

Is print dead? Well many agree that yes, print will eventually be gathering as much dust as your CD collection. That’s not the important question though. Will the companies that create the content that is distributed on the print medium survive? That’s what I want to know, and it seems more and more likely that the answer is yes.

The New York Times reported today that five large newspaper and magazine publishers announced they would be investing in creating software for media devices that don’t yet exist. The idea being to differentiate themselves from the e-readers of today, like Kindle, that are geared mainly towards books, which are much lower on slick graphics (think photos and ads) then magazines and newspapers. If these media companies build software that supports high-resolution photography and graphics now, then once the next generation of devices come out they will be in a good position to display content that gives a similar feel to a high-quality newspaper or magazine. Without all the costly ink and paper.

It’s worth checking out this example of how a magazine like Sports Illustrated could make the transition to one of these futuristic tablet devices. Notice that the content emphasizes still photography.

I also found this video that shows a fairly new flexible LED screen technology, called OLED, just to get your mind going about the potential of these “futuristic devices.”

If high-quality content lives beyond the “death” of print then so too will still photographers.

Vanishing Act

Posted on: December 8th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

Allow me to apologize for not updating the blog over the past three weeks. Just as I was starting to put time into the blog again I had an incredibly last minute assignment that came up. In short, I had 24 hours notice that I would be shooting in Africa for the following three weeks. A fantastic assignment but not one that allowed me much time to plan for my absence…let alone pack!  In any case, I’m back now and will be sure to give advance warning of any future disappearances.

In addition to new blogs stay tuned for an interview with photographer Chris Buck on January 1st, 2009. I met Chris in New York back in October and had a very enjoyable time interviewing him about his unique approach to portrait photography. His concepts are what define him as a brilliant photographer and there is no shortage of revealing detail about his process.

Finally you may notice that things look a bit different around here. Just before I left I put together a new design for The F STOP. Please excuse any bugs or busted links as the kinks are ironed out.