Saturday, December 20, 2008

Artistas: the Maiden, Mother and Crone

allowScriptAccess="always" allowNetworking="internal" data="">

Often, I talk about work on this blog, but can't show it because it is showing in film festivals or otherwise not available for online distribution. So I'm always happy when I can post work. Here is the trailer I edited for the film Artistas: the Maiden, Mother and Crone -- a documentary directed by Sue May.

Artistas Trailer

allowScriptAccess="always" allowNetworking="internal" data="">

Here is the trailer I edited for the film "Artistas: the Maiden, Mother and Crone," a documentary directed by Sue May.

Trends in Photography: Annie Leibovitz

Trend: Leibovitz Schadenfreude.

The Worst Photograph Ever Made
But for inspired badness, this recent "photograph"* by Annie Leibovitz for the Lavazza calendar has it all: a pandering (unto capitulation) to empty style; excessive color which is nevertheless unattractive; an attractive model who is also unattractive ...
Lawsuits Claim Leibovitz Owes $778K For Photo Services
The suits offer a rare glimpse into the big budgets behind Leibovitz’s celebrity portraits, which are surely among the most expensive shoots in the industry. A wardrobe stylist who worked on a Disney campaign with Leibovitz claims the photographer owes her $386,467 – including $109,960 for one shot alone.
Annie Leibovitz Looking Like a Deadbeat
Though she's paid handsomely ($2 mill/year) for her consistently newsy (King Kong LeBron! Naked Miley! Tina Fey!) VF work, there's been a stream of reports about the portraitist facing some financial straits. In addition to her cute little pair of lawsuits, she reportedly took out a $5 million mortgage on her Greenwich Village home earlier this fall. If the financial downturn affects even our most populist and wealthy of mainstream artistes, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Friday, December 19, 2008

First, Cut a Hole in the Box

Wired has an article about a "television studio in a box" that I found fairly amazing. I teach a television studio class, and we use a fairly expensive setup including a large switcher, audio mixing console, monitors, etc. to do switching (live editing) on three-camera setups. So it's impressive to see the equivalent in a small package at a sane price.

TV Studio in a Box Enables Long-Tail Television
"We had to take a process that normally has 5 to 30 people creating a show and make it easy enough for one person to run, [someone] who has never run a TV show before," explained Philips. Indeed, the TriCaster allows a single operator to mix multiple cameras (higher-end models support more cameras) interspersed with graphics, pre-recorded clips, real-time effects and more than 300 three-dimensional transitions. The box outputs to the web, television stations or big screens in churches and sporting arenas.

NewTek's entry-level TriCaster, with support for three cameras, costs $4,000. That may seem like a lot, but considering that it can be used in place of a mobile production vehicle, four grand is small potatoes, relatively speaking.

Films by Photographers

A friend emailed seeking films made by photographers. I sent back a short list, but realized that many of those that came to mind are quite hard to find. Here are a few that do show up on DVD....

By Elliott Erwitt there's: Beauty Knows No Pain

And by William Klein: The Delirious Fictions of William Klein

Or for those of you able to view PAL disks: Qui ĂȘtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Trailing Off

Since my recent adventure in cutting a trailer for a documentary, I've been thinking this might be something I should do more of. It has several pluses: it's a relatively intense, fast, and direct process and allows me to focus on editing instead of all the myriad details that even basic doc production requires.

Which doesn't mean I don't love doc production. It's just nice, sometimes, to do something that is a direct challenge: take this stuff, cut it into a trailer. I kinda like that.

Lame Ducker

So here's a question: you've most likely seen the video of the recent shoe-throwing incident. It happened in a room filled with cameras, still and video.

Which covered it better? Was there a still that will be the iconic moment from the incident, or is a still from the video enough? Does the video coverage beat the still images? Was no one able to react quickly enough to get a great photograph?

Above: accidental question mark, found in The Bronx.

Photography in the News: Blurry Blue Fuzzy Edition

I was so ready to hate this article. It's actually pretty good, however....

Photography captures spirit of the spirit world
"Now, you might assume a class titled paranormal photography would focus on things like which shutter speed is ideal for capturing otherworldly entities or what kind of lens is best for grabbing shots of ghouls. But Nathan Lewis actually spends most of the course debunking so-called spirit photos."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Elliott Erwitt Would Have Gone

I wasn't able to go to Santacon this year. Chris Corradino did, however. His photos can be seen here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Robert Frank in the NYT

The Sunday New York Times has a piece on Robert Frank.

I always use Frank's The Americans when I teach photography classes. Sometimes students look at it blankly at first, sometimes they get a few ideas about working at the portfolio level (as opposed to the single-image level) and sometimes it sneaks up on them -- where they find they think about it later, while doing their own work.

Snapshots From the American Road
He didn’t seem interested in reflecting on why the book continues to have such an afterlife or why it has become a cultural touchstone, but chose instead to explain why it is still meaningful to him. “I’m very proud of this book because I followed my intuition,” he said, speaking with the clipped inflections of his native Swiss accent. He added that the idea of making a photographic chronicle of America wasn’t simply to take one picture at a time; it was a larger endeavor, “a matter of putting a book together the way I saw it.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Umbrellas of The Bronx

Mrs. New York Portraits needed a new umbrella. The small, ultracheap ones you buy in a Duane Reade don't last, so she pointed me to a good one -- with white puffy clouds on blue skies underneath. I bought it for her, and it arrived, and it was great.

I mentioned, though, that it seemed like it might catch the wind. Like most things, we debated that for a while.

This morning, walking in the Bronx, I was very surprised to see the identical model, clearly blown far away from its owner. It sat just inside the fence of a park where the famous black squirrels roam. I'm hoping they figure out how to use it.

Photography in the News

Fantastic post by the NYT's Moises Saman on photographing in Iraq:

Hide the Camera
"Through most of the eight hour journey we were not able to get out of the car, making it really frustrating for me as a photographer, as we passed some incredible scenes that would have made for very interesting images. When we approached checkpoints I would hide my camera in the back seat, under a newspaper, or between my legs trying not to look suspicious to the policeman or soldier glancing inside the car.

"Photographing in this kind of situation is tricky. Sometimes I did not even have the opportunity to raise my camera to eye level and look through the viewfinder, instead shooting from the hip or at arms length. I usually work with two cameras and two fixed lenses, a 35mm as my widest, and a 50mm, but in some of these situations one camera is enough. I rarely use any longer lenses."
Follow the link -- the photos are outstanding.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Big Sky Here We Come

I admit it -- I've been doing all my posting over at my other blog: New York Portraits.

But I want to share one bit of good news over here: our film Bend & Bow will be screening at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in February 2009.

Bend & Bow Screening at Big Sky

This just in: our short film Bend & Bow will screen at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in February 2009. This will be the second year we've had a film selected as an "official selection" for Big Sky.

(That's not the royal "we" or the editorial "we" above -- "Bend & Bow" was made with my Profluence pals, so there are six of us involved.)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Inside Looking Out: Tribeca

Had to run down to the triangle-below-Canal to drop off a video. Followed my iPhone to the address I was given, and walked in through a closed door.

Quickly got the feeling I'd trespassed into a place I wasn't supposed to be or even supposed to know about. An alarm rang, a nice lady came out. She looked at the address on the package in my hand and said "They've moved to Number Six now" and sent me down the hall.

I left with the feeling that if I'd just known the secret password, I'd be on to a plane to somewhere right now, being briefed for a mission.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Trailer Trash

So I spent the weekend editing a trailer for someone's documentary. I liked the final version, and I think it's a good match for the intended audience. The thing is, though, that a lot of it was cut "to the bone" -- meaning the footage was difficult and problematic, but after extensive editing jiggery-pokery and some serious scalpel work to trim out every last troubled frame, you probably can't tell there were major problems.

When you see the finished product, it looks sensible, I think. But beneath the surface, everything is held together with duct tape and rubber bands. If you wanted to extend this shot one more frame, you couldn't -- because the camera moved. If you wanted to add another line from this interview -- there's no way, because of an audio issue.

But that's okay -- cutting material with problems is a great workout, and you can find solutions. Half-way through the process, though, I find myself thinking: there's no way, this is just unfixable.

I'm always surprised to make it to the end with a watchable piece.

Trends in Photography: Free! Edition

Trend: photographers arguing about working for free.

Four Reasons to Consider Working for Free
"As for me, what am I really giving up? Not money, unless someone would have hired me that day to do something equally interesting. I am giving up time I would have spent shooting something less useful for me."
"IF YOU ARE WORKING FOR FREE - simply to get “a” job - you risk destroying the entire business for everyone. In fact - your dream job - that you do for free - will be a job that some qualified person will no longer be getting paid for. And you’ll hurt that person’s chance of feeding their family in accepting to do that job for free. It’s quite that simple."
Free is Killing Me!
"The next day I heard from them: Both schools are going with someone else. I asked them who the photographer was and how much was he charging and I was told it was a professor from the UCLA Science Department."
A Rant about “Free Photography” Rants
"Come on, Vincent... destroying the entire business for everyone... that's pathetic. Does this mean that you will go back to shooting film so that those who manufacture and develop film can feed their families? I could insert a thousand similar analogies here, but the point is that technology has already changed the entire business. The only “destroy” part is what those who refuse to recognize and adapt end up doing to themselves."
Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business
"The rise of "freeconomics" is being driven by the underlying technologies that power the Web. Just as Moore's law dictates that a unit of processing power halves in price every 18 months, the price of bandwidth and storage is dropping even faster. Which is to say, the trend lines that determine the cost of doing business online all point the same way: to zero."

Photography in the News, Scout Edition

Nice article on Scout Tufankjian in the Daily News today.

Obama's run: The inside view from a Brooklyn photographer
"Riding on the campaign buses and planes, Tufankjian went almost everywhere Obama did, following the candidate to 39 states. "It got a little rock star in the sense of, 'Good morning, Butte, Mon- - no, no, we're in Tampa," she remembers. When she could, she got back to Brooklyn to remind her boyfriend what she looked like."
Of course, it's meant to sell her book Yes We Can: Barack Obama's History-Making Presidential Campaign. It's still a good article, though.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Brooklyn Film and Arts Festival

"12th and 3rd in Brooklyn" screened Friday night at the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival. It has played slightly differently for each audience I've seen it with. This was a very attentive audience, and I think it went over well.

Above: J L Aronson, director of "Up On the Roof" and "Last Summer at Coney Island" listens to Stefanie Joshua, director of "Bushwick Homecomings" during the filmmaker question-and-answer session.

Trends in Photography: Sony Alpha 900 Edition

Trend: people are starting to realize that the Sony Alpha 900 is a great camera.

The Sony A900 and the Nikon D3
"If I were an art photographer, especially shooting for fine printmaking, I'd get the A900. Its image quality is superlative, yet it's still reasonably portable, fun and comfortable to shoot with, and easy to use."
Sony Alpha 900: Camera Test: From megapixels to viewfinders to sensors, size matters.
"Resolution? Excellent across all ISOs. It was best at ISO 100, with 3230 lines. For comparison, Canon's 21.1MP EOS-1Ds Mark III ($7,500, street, body only) scored 2830 lines and Nikon's 12.3MP D700 ($2,700, street, body only; $3,375 with 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR lens) turned in 2350 lines in the same test."
Judging Value
"That's something of what I feel about the D3x and why I cancelled my order. Yes, I can afford it, but I simply find it not to represent good value. After testing the 24MP Sony A900 (which I purchased for less than the equivalent of US $2,500 here in Toronto last month) the thought of paying US $8,000 for a camera that that has the same resolution, the same frame rates, a similar large and bright viewfinder, etc, just seemed to me to be a bad value proposition. The Canon 5DII at well under $3,000 is another current alternative in a full-frame 20+ MP camera."
Sony A900 Field Review: And Then There Were Three
"In the light of the just announced (Dec 1, 2008) price for the Nikon D3x (US $8,000) the inherent goodness of the Sony A900 comes into focus (no pun intended). For the cost of a D3x one can buy a Sony A900 plus the exceptional Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, the very fine Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, a Sony A700 body as a backup, a flash, a couple of 16 GB high speed memory cards, and still have enough left over to pay the sales taxes. The same goes for the Canon 5D MKII, though you'll have to pick two or three of your favourite lenses from that company's lens line-up and something like the 50D body as backup instead."

Minor Disaster

Today, just after noon, a section of the ceiling fell in.

On the plus side: there was no nude man playing the tuba standing in a bathtub following it. On the negative side: I count on the ceiling to stay where it belongs.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

No Dogs or Photographers

Speaking of beach weddings....

IOP Keeping Photogs Off the Beach
"With an engagement ring on her finger, the North Carolina stylist was set on a small beach wedding and shelled out thousands of dollars for a house. She went found local photographers online with hundreds of beautiful beach weddings. Then she tried to book one to shoot her nuptials. No dice."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Photography and the Mumbai Story

Mumbai photographer: I wish I'd had a gun, not a camera.
"It is the photograph that has dominated the world's front pages, casting an astonishing light on the fresh-faced killers who brought terror to the heart of India's most vibrant city. Now it can be revealed how the astonishing picture came to be taken by a newspaper photographer who hid inside a train carriage as gunfire erupted all around him."

Helpful New York Tip #7

"So, when do you want to put the wreath up? "

"I dunno. When do you want to put the wreath up?"

"Well, why don't we do it when there's a long line of people trying get onto campus?"

"You read my mind."

And How Does the Subject Feel?

Well, it seems the current economy has had people looking back to the WPA photographers....

Girl from iconic Great Depression photo: 'We were ashamed'
Lange was traveling through Nipomo, California, taking photographs of migrant farm workers for the Resettlement Administration. At the time, Thompson had seven children who worked with her in the fields.

"She asked my mother if she could take her picture -- that ... her name would never be published, but it was to help the people in the plight that we were all in, the hard times," McIntosh says.

"So mother let her take the picture, because she thought it would help."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Early Photographers Like ... Caravaggio

Are there any news stories about Photography today? Do they involve famous painters and fireflies? Yes. Yes they do:

Caravaggio experimented with photography

If You Can't Hire Miley, Get Helena

Speaking of Miley Cyrus and her future as a photographer, are there any models or celebrities who are now switching careers? You know, because modeling or being a pop star -- it's just not as fun as photography?

Yes there are.

Helena has photography passion
"I've had four or five exhibitions so far but I think this will be my first one in New York. I'm a little freaked out because I don't have it all ready yet but we'll see. It might be very big prints and very few!" she added, laughing.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Chalk Talk

So I've been teaching various versions of my Seriously Fun Photography course for a few years now. In that time, a lot has changed: quality DSLR cameras have dropped to under $500, cell phone cameras have become omnipresent, and the idea of photographs living in the computer rather than a shoebox is now well established. More significantly: we've seen the rise of the Serious Amateur, the Prosumer, and the Weekend Pro -- all of whom take photography very seriously, but don't fit in the traditional niches.

So I'm considering developing another class with a different approach. "Seriously" came about because people wanted to go one step past the basics and start developing their creativity. This new class would be more like what I imagine the best camera clubs might have been in the era of the 35mm camera. It would cover a broad range of skills, be repeatable, and be an experience even advanced photographers could benefit from.

I've been writing notes about it during my morning subway ride....

"12th and 3rd" Screens Thursday and Friday

My short film on stickball, made with Iris Lee and Maya Mumma, will screen Thursday and Friday nights at the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival. I'm teaching Thursday night, so I'll be attending Friday.
The "Observing Brooklyn; Encountering Change" documentaries series will illuminate a broad range of Brooklyn life including exploring a recently rediscovered century old tunnel beneath Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn stickball players sporting reunion, 1969 family outing in Coney Island, period Brooklyn footage, Brooklyn senior citizens doing some combative reminiscing and several other short Brooklyn films.

The screenings will be held at the Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street, in Brooklyn Heights.

Programs begin at 6:00 pm and admission is $5.00. Please call 718-222-4111 for information.

Photography in the News

Speaking of Annie Leibovitz, it seems she's been able to help an otherwise unemployable youth find a career:

Miley Cyrus Inspired To Become A Photographer By 'Naked Scandal'
Miley says, "I do want to come to London to study photography. I hear there are some really great art schools, so I would love to do that. I got to work with an amazing photographer. Leibovitz was amazing and so talented. And that's what I want to do with my life. I would love to be a photographer. I would love to work with her again."