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Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

A Good Picture Editor!

Dec 10

In Friends, history at 9:59am

Today’s blog is over at Jimmy Colton’s estimable Z PhotoJournal.

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It is high praise to refer to someone as a good picture editor. That means that he or she is possessed of certain qualities.  Among them, and not in any particular order,  would be a deep sympathy for the uncertain craft of being a photographer; an understanding of the near keening need photographers have to engage in their trade, and to tell stories that move people and create understanding; the necessary patience, acumen and diplomacy to be the benevolent bridge between the raging beast of the photographers’s needs, demands (and ego) and the matter-of-fact nature of the publication in question, which is invariably run by at least some folks who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about any need or mandate other than to sell issues and make some damn money.

As a very good editor told me once, photographers think about their story. Editors think about the magazine. The issue, in toto. A picture editor has to think about both. They have to be concerned about the overall look and feel and timeliness of the whole package about to be sent to the newsstand.  They have to think of the flow of a story, as it moves from page to page, and the linkages and issues the pictures address. They have to be dispassionate, and judge a picture based on the picture, and not favor the fevered account of a photographer who will occasionally be wildly exclamatory in the description of what he or she did to get said photo. It’s not about the shooter, it’s about the picture, and sometimes bad news has to be delivered. “The take doesn’t work.” Or, “They killed the story.”

They have to deliver this news in supportive fashion, so the photog knows they can rise from the ashes of a tough take and still have the confidence to deliver the goods on the next take.

And a good picture editor has to take the heat and defend the shooter. We are rarely in the room when judgement is handed down, sometimes unfairly. Many a good photo has gone unpublished or disregarded in the world of publishing and it’s up to the picture editor to fight to the last yard, that boundary line where they pull up just short of being fired for their passionate defense of the picture.

Being a good picture editor is a tough, essential job. And Jimmy is one of the best. We started in this business as kids, gadding about Poland, chasing the Pope. I shot probably the toughest assignment I’ve ever shot for him. (I talk a bit about it in the interview. It was a near impossible, expensive picture, and he stuck with me on it, defended the process, and got the image in the magazine. Wheeling and dealing at a major magazine is not for the faint of heart, and many a photog out there knows how good it was to have the certainty that while they were in the field, Jimmy had their back at the magazine.)

I’m so glad he is out there on the internet, writing about the craft and practice of picture making, which is an endeavor he has so much experience with. Z PhotoJournal is a great stopping by point in the cluttered world of photo news. Just like he did at Newsweek, or Sports Illustrated, when he would go through a take, he cuts to the chase, and distills what is important to remember about pictures.

He is a good picture editor, and a dear friend. More tk…..

The Nebraska Project

Dec 3

In Friends at 8:57am

One of the best ways to start a career in photography has traditionally been to get a job as a newspaper/wire service shooter. If one survives the very irreverent dip and dunk process of the daily news game, you arrive at a place photographically where you feel confident shooting just about anything. Because, at a newspaper, that’s what you do.

Bill Frakes and Laura Heald just launched an intensely personal, heartfelt project about Bill’s home state, called, simply The Nebraska Project. The directness of the title reflects the place the pictures address—the sparse, beautiful, no frills state of Nebraska.

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You know Bill as a sports shooter. He has been a long time, formidable staffer and contributor to Sports Illustrated, and has authored some of its most memorable moments and coverages. He has not just the talent, but the drive and intensity to drill through the bureaucracies and red tape of events like Olympiads and Kentucky Derbies, and fight to get his cameras in the right place. He works connections, angles, and the behind the scenes wheels and deals as well as he works his cameras.

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(Lots of folks might think that you show up at these places wearing a shiny SI badge and you are ushered to a prime seat in a great position and people are ferrying you lattes in between the making of great picture after great picture. Nothing could be further from the truth. Before you even get the cameras out of the bag, you have to do a ton of work. Scouting, negotiating, relationship building, bartering, barking, clamping, wiring, testing and re-testing, all takes place in exhaustive fashion. And then, even after all that, you just never know when a ref or a TV network cameraman will block your angle.)

So what’s he doing shooting landscapes—beautifully? Wait a minute, this isn’t track and field, fella.

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No, it isn’t. But what Bill has done has photographed from the heart, and relied on all that experience, much of it gained back in his newspaper days at the Miami Herald, when he and his mates won a Pulitzer for covering the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. The crunching grind of newspapering hones skills that stay with you your whole career, whether you are shooting a hundred meter dash, or a vibrant country sky. You know how to tell a story, no matter the subject matter.

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Bill and Laura have told a wonderful story here, albeit one off their usual assignment path. After working in 135 countries and all fifty states, Bill went back home with his cameras, and took us all along (check out some of the coverage here).


More tk…


The Power of a Returned Photograph

Nov 13

In Friends at 7:09pm

Dave Burnett is over in Dubai right now, working with Mohamed Somji and our dear friends at GPP. I have known David since the late 70’s, and have always stood back in awe as he amassed a visual archive that is the stuff of our collective histories. Got a wonderful email from him this morning that mentioned Ravi’s Restaurant. (I’m in Hong Kong, and bouncing off the walls of my hotel with the false energy of jet lag masked by a couple espressos.)

Last year, I made a few portraits of the staff at Ravi’s, a wonderful restaurant on the streets of one of the those out of the way neighborhoods in Dubai, far from the soaring towers of steel and glass. Beautiful food, and the kitchen crew are an affable, decent bunch. David and Mo wandered over for a meal last night, and Mo had thoughtfully taken the time to make some prints out of the quick pix I had shot last year. 

It was just heart warming to see these expressions, all the way from Dubai to Hong Kong. I have to expect this doesn’t happen everyday for these fellas. Thank you David and Mo….makes my day. Or night. Or…whichever it is.

And, it appears their visit wasn’t just about distributing pictures. David, ever the story teller, sent this as well. When you’re talking Ravi’s, it’s all about the bread.

More tk….

One Jersey Guy to Another….

Jul 17

In Friends, Rambling at 8:13am

K-Man and I go back aways. I’ve worked for him as he has organized a number of annual reports and portrait assignments over time. We got to know each well over the course of some occasionally arduous travel. I’m even acquainted with Flo, his non-stop roadie mate. He runs a blog, Jersey Style Photography, and has a passion for old style Hollywood noir. Hence it was a natural to include him, his fedora, and his formidable mohaska back when I was putting together the Hot Shoe Diaries.

He shoots good stuff, and we have always traded pics and chatted about shooting. He commented on Monday’s post when I discussed grain, Tri-x and the amazing advances in digital photography.

“I certainly haven’t done it nearly as long as you (you’ve forgotten more about photography than I’ll probably ever learn) but isn’t it something: You put those first photos online today, and you’d be flamed for “all that grain.” Yet, that baseball pic is, to me, one of your iconic images, one I think about often. Because you got the moment: the expressions, the dust, the dirt. All those old cool concert photos shooters did in dark clubs…the Tri-X is pushed and the grain is there. And the grain is good.

Yet today, we’re trying for those clean photos at hi ISO. It’s a wacky thing, this photography.

Thanks for introducing me to it.”

It is a wacky thing indeed, doing this, either for fun, or serious intent. Grain is good, and has character, and in a funny way, almost immediately locates the viewer of a photo in terms of the era it was made. It’s a totem, a harking back, a reminder of where we came from, long before the age of the highly polished pixel. I find myself experimenting with film again. And at the same time appreciating the unbelievable gifts digital photography has given all of us.

But given the fact he took the time to chime in this week, and mentioned shooting concerts back in the day, I thought I’d ease into the weekend and throw up a few ASA 1600, Tri-x snaps I made at a show with the ultimate Jersey Guy, the Boss, circa 1977-78, Madison Square Garden. Enjoy the weekend everybody! More tk….






Adorama Meets Fashion Week

Feb 10

In Friends, Links, News at 9:02am

Adorama, the camera store, took a plunge into the wild world of fashion this past week. Yowza.

Seems the store had a vacant space, big enough for a runway, chandeliers, and a press lounge, not to mention dozens of impossibly tall women wearing everything from sequins to feathers. In a city where there are lots of folks trying to make a statement, every day, nothing takes a back seat to Fashion Week, which explodes this time every year, colorful as a Carmen Miranda headdress. This year it’s been a refreshing splash of vibrance and life in the midst of a burg traumatized by a Polar Vortex, desperate for winter to be over, and so bored with waiting for a sliver of sunlight as to become heated over the way the new mayor eats pizza.

Getting the management of Adorama, whose sartorial tendencies favor black and white, on board with the wild and wooly nature of the fashionista crowd, was an interesting leap, indeed. My wife, Annie Cahill, who runs the Adorama Pro Department, is nothing if not fiercely determined, saw the possibilities of the empty space, and fashion folks who needed to display their wares, and made the match. It’s also been an opportunity for multiple communities to get together…..the photo folks, the fashion folks, and even the whole neighborhood of Chelsea. I tried to get a coffee at a local bistro I drop by every once in a while and forget it, the line was out the door. Busy, in a word. 

So, it’s been nothing short of fantastic! An otherwise vacant storefront on 17th St. is swirling with life, color and clothes that I guess some people wear, sometimes, quite likely well after I go to sleep. And of course, where there’s designers, gowns and models, there’s photographers. Lots of them. Some, admittedly, more professional than others, and some who look like they belong on the runway on the other side of the lens, but photogs galore, and pictures by the thousands.

I dropped by after straight after getting off a plane the other day, stupidly, without my DSLRs, and just an Iphone.(Which actually made me fit in quite well with all the other fancily dressed swells and assorted hangers-on.). And of course, my bud Peter Tsai snaps Numnuts here chimping on the damn smart phone. Sigh.

More tk….