Thoughts

On the ridiculousness of photographers needing to also be videographers

I’d like you to look around and take a mental poll of all the famous photographers you know. Off the top of your head, how did you find out about them?

Chances are you found videos they made, where they talked about some aspect of photography or some other thing, and showed you some of their photographs, or at the very least, had links in the video description or on-screen to their portfolios or websites. What likely didn’t happen is you didn’t see one of their photographs in a publication somewhere, then you looked them up online, found their website, read their bio and looked at their portfolio.

When you step back and look at this whole cockamamie situation, and by that I mean that you get a bit of historical perspective on it, you begin to see how bonkers things have become. You can blame it on social media, you can blame it on the newer generations who grow up mugging for the camera almost every moment of the day, whining about this and that, publishing private thoughts out on the internet for anyone to see (whereas those things were confined to the privacy of their journals in years past), you can blame it on a loosening of the underpinnings of society as a whole… I don’t know what to blame it on, and yet I see how ridiculous things have become for those of us who are passionate about photography.

It used to be that if you got your photos published, you were an established photographer. People got to know you through your photographs and that was enough. Maybe they met you at an art gallery or at a seminar, but by and large, your contact with the public was limited. If you were really famous, there might be the odd TV interview with you that could be seen here or there, but mostly, there were your photographs, that could be enjoyed in magazines, books, prints and maybe postcards, and that was enough, and it was right, because it should be about the photographs.

Nowadays, getting your photos published means absolutely nothing in the eyes of the “public”. As a matter of fact, good luck trying to sell a book of your photographs, even if you’re a good photographer. No, what matters today is whether you (who are typically behind the camera), stick a camera in your face and you mug at it as often as possible, gesticulating and yelling about some thing related to photography, trying to look cool while begging people to subscribe to your video channel and to like your videos and to give you money on Patreon.

I find the whole situation repulsive. It’s not only because you’re forced to make videos about your photography, and you’re forced to brag, directly or indirectly, about your photography, and you’re forced to beg for likes and shares and other crap online currency — but also because so many of the “photographers” that are well known today aren’t really good at photography. What they’re good at is running their mouth off in front of the camera, often as close as possible to the lens, so they’re right in your face as you watch the video, with cameras behind them or in their hands, because they have to appear to be photographers. More often than not, they’re ridiculously young, too young to be expert photographers, yet they have no problem posing as experts and selling the “public” courses on photography or presets or some other shit product that copies what everyone else is doing. These ninnies have no problems modifying the integrity of their images to make them more pallatable to the “public”, to the point where replacing entire skies has become common place. Sure, let’s “add a moon”, “add some stars here and there”, let’s “add some more trees”, let’s “take out this building and add a lawn instead”, let’s “take out these people because they’re ruining the composition”, let’s “replace this whole sunset with another one” because why not, software makes it easy, let’s smooth out this woman’s skin to the point where it looks artificial, let’s take out all the wrinkles, change the color of her eyes, maker her thinner, never mind that it barely looks like her anymore, etc. This is no longer photography. Go ahead, look up the definition of “photography” in the dictionary! Whatever happened to proper composition, to taking the time to set up an important shot, to waiting to press the shutter button until the moment is just right? Whatever happened to capturing the image in-camera, as it is presented to the lens, honestly, realistically, but artistically?

It’s so ridiculous that a photographer would need to spend more time in front of the camera, making videos, instead of making photographs, just to keep up with these times, because that’s what’s expected of him or her. You’re not even safe out in nature, where you go to be by yourself, to eliminate everything but your focus on photography. You’re expected to bring back how-to videos and vlogs and making-of videos and jeebus… this crap just goes on and on, doesn’t it? It’s no longer about the photographs! It’s no longer about the art, about capturing that fleeting moment that moves you, it’s about mugging for the camera! It’d be pretty safe to call this new generation of video-photographers “muggers”, in the real sense of the word, because they’re stealing the focus from what matters, from the photographs, and they’re keeping it instead on their mugs, while they blather on and on, throwing a link here and there to some course or a set of presets for you to buy.

Standard
Thoughts

Thank you TH!

It goes without saying that Thomas Hawk loves photography. It also goes without saying that he writes about photography. In spite of all those givens, I still got a pleasant surprise when I saw that he took time out of his truly hectic schedule and went to the trouble of identifying 1,500 great photographers who are active on Google+. He posted the full lists on his blog and also on Google+.

What surprised me wasn’t that I was on the list (although that was nice). The real surprise was the effort involved in manually identifying 1,500 people. It takes a lot of time and effort to do that! It shows genuine interest in others and a desire to see them succeed and be recognized!

I’ve known TH since 2006. We’ve met and talked during his trip to Miami in 2010. The man is consistently nice, online and offline, obsessed with his art, works punishingly long hours, is constantly working to improve his craft and trying new things, is always pushing the envelope when it comes to photo sharing technology and is concerned with the welfare of other photographers.

While I’m fairly sure that I came across as a bit odd to him in person, because I’m much more comfortable interacting with people online, we had a nice conversation and a nice little photowalk on Hollywood Beach. Here are a couple of photos I took of him back then.

Thank you TH! Keep up the great work! 🙂

Standard
Events

Interviewed by Jen Consalvo

I was recently interviewed by Jen Consalvo about my photography. She’s conducting a series of interviews with selected photographers. The series, along with photos from each one, will be included in an upcoming book she’s writing, entitled “Love Your Photos“.

If you’ve been wondering why I write so much about Romania these days, you’ll find the answer in Jen’s interview.

Quoting from her intro:

“as i mentioned in my last post, i’m thrilled to kick off my interview series with photographer raoul pop. i think i first saw raoul’s work when he photographed a tech cocktail event in dc, and was quickly enamored with his style. raoul can turn a seemingly mundane scene into something completely eye-catching, romantic or exciting, which is why i’ve looked to his work for my own inspiration. his photos speak for themselves, but raoul was gracious enough to answer my questions with amazing energy and detail and provide some beautiful examples of his work. i hope you enjoy this interview and raoul’s gorgeous photos as much as i do.”

If you don’t know Jen, she works at AOL along with Frank Gruber, is involved with TECH cocktail, and runs her own projects from Shiny Heart Ventures — websites such as ThankfulFor, BodySoulConnect and Shiny Maine Lobster. She blogs at JenConsalvo.com.

Jen, thank you very much for the wonderful interview, and I’m very glad you find inspiration in my photographs! I wish you all the best in your endeavors!

Standard
Thoughts

Where’s the SmugMug Publish Service for Lightroom?

I love the Flickr Publish Service in Lightroom 3, and would love to see SmugMug make their own.

The only thing missing for the Flickr service is for it to know which photos I’ve exported and uploaded to Flickr before the service became available, in previous versions of Lightroom. I for example have either tagged the photos uploaded to Flickr with, obviously enough, “Flickr”, or have added them to a Flickr collection in Lightroom, so I could easily find them.

Here’s where SmugMug has the chance to shine! I’d love to be able to publish my photos to SmugMug directly from Lightroom, using the Publish Services functionality, so I could always sync up any photos that I’ve re-developed or where I’ve updated the metadata. But for this service to really stand out, it needs to know which photos I’ve already uploaded.

You can see where this is going, right? I’ve already tagged all my SmugMug photos, and have already placed them in collection sets and collections that match my SmugMug categories breakdown exactly. With a little bit of computing power and some smart algorithms, the folks at SmugMug could put together a killer Publish Service for Lightroom that incorporates all the Flickr functionality and bests it by matching my already-uploaded photos.

What about the cost? The Flickr Publish Service is free to use for all Flickr users, but you cannot re-publish uploaded photos if you’ve changed them in Lightroom. (You can, but if you’re not a Pro, it’ll wipe out any comments and faves on the photo, so it’s not advisable.)

SmugMug could use a similar approach. Their Publish Service could be free for basic SmugMug users, with limited functionality, and it could offer full functionality to Power and Pro users. (I myself have the Pro membership.) I’d even be willing to pay a one-time fee to download and install the service, because I think the functionality would be amazing.

Standard
Thoughts

Energizer's new Advanced Lithium batteries

In early January, I was contacted by an ad agency on behalf of Energizer. Would I be willing to get the word out about their new Advanced Lithium batteries, as a blogger and photographer? Sure, but I’ll need to try them out first, I said. I promised I would use them in my Canon 5D’s vertical grip and in my 580EX II speedlite, and see how long they last.

Energizer Advanced Lithium Batteries

Well, I just got the batteries. I picked them up at the post office a couple of days ago, and it’s time to try them out. I’ll let you know how things turn out in a little while. Just to keep things on the level, I was not paid to write about them. All I got from the agency was the batteries, as review units.

In the meantime, if you have something to say about the batteries, feel free to do it, either here on my site, or on the forum that Energizer’s already set up.

Standard
Thoughts

Using the economy as an excuse to shortchange employees

I’ve seen companies do some pretty disgusting things in my time, and the move some of them are pulling lately definitely ranks right up there with some of the biggest stinkers.

In effect, they’re using the current weak economy/recession as an excuse to lay off employees and burden the existing ones with the extra work, while keeping them mum under the fear of losing their jobs. If this isn’t corporate exploitation of its workforce, I don’t know what is.

I’m going to give you three examples, each juicier than the other, but I’m sure you can come up with more if you’re in the US and you’re employed in a full time job.

The niche business with an owner

I talked with an employee from a certain company lately, one which specializes in a niche market that has not been affected by the economic slowdown, nor does it look like it will be affected any time soon. I can’t disclose any identifying details, because the employee confided in me. What he told me was this: the president (and owner) of the company fired some employees while cutting year-end bonuses for the rest of the employees, using the recession as an excuse. The employees, the ones doing the hard work, have been handling a record amount of business for the past year, but the president cited a slump in incoming business. I was told the same president has been spending lavishly to expand his own mansion and buy extra cars and toys, during the same year when the supposed slump in business took place.

Adobe’s record profits

This example is more concrete than the previous one. In December, Adobe reported record revenues for the 4th quarter of 2008, and the sixth consecutive year of double-digit growth, yet they still laid off employees in November just the same. I’m not surprised though. I talked with a friend who is a long-time software developer, and he told me Adobe has another ugly habit: historically speaking, they have relied mostly on contractors, because it’s cheaper, and they’re easier to shed without bad press.

JPG Mag starts a bidding frenzy

Let’s look at JPG Mag. It’s the darling of many amateur photographers, because it gave them the chance to publish their work when other magazines might turn them down. I never really liked it, and I’ll tell you why: I thought they were cheap.

Here was an easy way to get print-worthy photographs without paying a dime. Turns out you could get amateur shutterbugs happy and willing to give away their work simply by dangling the illusory promise of publishing their pics in your magazine. The incentive was fame, which is as fleeting as a fart and just as troublesome, if you’ll excuse my expression. Where’s the moolah? Last I checked, bills were still payable in money, not fame.

When they announced they were going under, I thought it fitting. Good riddance to bad rubbish. First they don’t pay the photographers, then they fire the founders, now they’re going under — okay by me. Unfortunately, the buzz generated by their announcement stirred the vanities of those with bigger wallets, and a bidding war began.

But wait, there’s a nugget of bitter truth to be found among all this fake glimmer and shine. Turns out they fired all their employees, and now the CEO trumpets the company’s earning potential in messages to the bidders. PDN Pulse called them out on this, and rightfully so. Sure, now the company has earning potential since everyone’s gone. Hire a skeleton staff, make them do double or triple the work, pay no money to the photographers, and you’ve got a hand-dandy business model fit for the 21st century.

To sum things up

So you see, it’s okay to use the economy as an excuse when it befits your bottom line. Apparently, it’s okay to lay off people, it doesn’t matter that they’ve got bills to pay, that they’ve put a lot of hard work and time into your company. You shouldn’t do what you can to protect them in a weak economy when it’s harder to get jobs.

None of that matters, right? Ethics are so passĂ©. You just use whatever excuse you can to make sure your precious bottom line gets bigger and bigger. It’s all about GREED. You can never have enough money, and people are only a means to it, right?

Well, I think that’s wrong. I don’t care if you’re afraid that the recession will affect your company. I don’t care if you really want that shiny new toy and a couple of employees and their mortgages stand in your way of getting it. I don’t care if your stockholders will bitch. If greed and money are your only motivators when you run a business, and you’d gladly step over people to balance the spreadsheets — don’t give me any of that I’m so sorry and I feel your pain crap — then you’re a spineless, slimy, pus-covered slug, and you deserve to be squashed under a steel-toe boot.

Standard
Thoughts

Parish Kohanim: the pursuit of beauty

Apple Pro Profiles currently features eminent photographer Parish Kohanim. With an impressive career that spans 30 years, his photographs speak for themselves. Here’s a quote:

“Every image he shoots is animated by a single urge. ‘My obsession is to capture the beauty life offers,’ says Kohanim. And despite the way contemporary critics often measure artistic significance on a scale that ranges from the merely controversial to the outright disturbing, Kohanim staunchly defends the pursuit of the beautiful.”

His philosophy strikes a chord in me. It’s what I try to do in my photography. I don’t want to focus on the ugly, the negative. I want to try and find the beauty in everything I photograph, and in my personal life as well. There’s so much ugliness to life, so much misery, that focusing on it the way some artists do is just too much.

Here’s what he believes about portraits:

“‘There’s something beautiful about everyone, whether exterior or interior,’ continues Kohanim. ‘What I love to do is draw out the beauty that is there.'”

This is what I strive for as well. Obviously, I have a ways to go in my photography, but at least I know what I want.

As for his work philosophy, I love this quote:

“‘What I admire is someone’s devotion and commitment to his or her craft,’ he muses. ‘These are the winners in our society: the people who take pride in what they do. And it could be anything. Whatever you do, do it with 100 percent of yourself.'”

Mr. Kohanim uses Aperture to manage his photo library. I’ve got to give it a try one of these days. I’ve been using iPhoto, and on the whole, I like it, although it has certain limitations, such as the inability to move photos between film roles that are months/years apart (scrolling becomes uncontrollable and drag and drop won’t work), and the impossibility of editing the EXIF data in the photographs. Another photographer whose work I love, Thomas Hawk, has just recently started using Aperture, so I look forward to seeing what he has to say about it.

Standard