Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Advertising and the Economy

So while Wall Street is in a panic and the bailout bill failed yesterday, we sit here and wonder what is going on and what is going to happen, especially in the advertising world.

I want to share a few different reports regarding the economy and the advertising industry. Time to tighten the buckle on your spending and for those who are self employed to keep your heads up.

Suze Ormann was on the Today Show and CNN yesterday urging consumers to cut back their spending on unnecessary products. She stated that consumers need to reduce their debt and stop buying stuff.

AdAge is reporting the AdMarket 50 crashed 6.4% in yesterday's scramble. They're also reporting that McDonald's is getting hit from the credit/banking crisis. But on the upside AdAge has an article that retail brands are already clambering with holiday promotions which means more seasonal work.

Danny Flamberg has an interesting article on Talent Zoo, After the Crash: Rebuilding Financial Services Marketing.

Take a look at how the industry is being affected then take a look at your own marketing plan - how do you rise above others to ensure you get the job?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Client Projects

When assigning/awarding a project I do my best with the art director to give the photographer/illustrator a sense of the project at hand and information about the client. I also hope the artist does a little research on their own as well. It's most certainly not expected but goes a long way.

Granted the ultimate reason the artist is hired for a job is because of their work and the images they can create for the client but the artists who do a little client research on their own also adds to the project. It helps to understand the client and their product. For example if you're working on a project for a commercial retail client, go into the stores and check out the products and the signage, take a look at the catalogue, look at the most recent advertising campaign, etc.

Understanding where the client has come from and taking a look into the brand and their brand positioning can help you interpret the project better. Essentially artists are hired for their creativity and what they can bring to the project, not always do we want to hand over layouts and have you simply recreate something similar to the layout.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


├ůsk over at AdLand has posted an informational (and hysterical) tutorial [here] about how to work with freelancers. It is smartly written and helpful to those on both sides (the actual freelancers and those hiring). Definitely worth 10 minutes of your time to read through and I'm sure there are a few items in there we can all relate to.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

iPhone vs. Android

Which to get???

Check out the pros and cons at Popular Mechanics [here].

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

de Blob

©2008 THQ, Wii, Blue Tongue

It's a new game for Wii and it's creative. de Blob was designed by Dutch students that shuns violence and promotes creativity in the video game era.

I remember as a kid not being allowed to play video games and instead being enrolled in classes at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design). For kids today the art programs are still there however the new rage is video gaming so this game seemed the sensible next step.

The concept: "Long live color!" and fight back from monochromatic mediocrity. It's an action puzzle game that allows players to explore and embark on a quest to re-animate and re-colorize the city. Splatter buildings, landmarks, and citizens with color.

Interested?... it's being made for Wii, Nintendo DS, and the iPhone.

I still prefer the "old school" way of creating art (with my own hands) but to each their own and whatever gets kids interested in art is okay in my book.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hitting the wall

There comes a time every once in a while where you hit a creative wall and aren't sure what the next step is. Reason I haven't posted in a few days... I hit a wall and wasn't sure which topic to discuss. I try to pull from my experiences as an art buyer and I also pull from the creative community (questions from artists, images from artists, discussions on blogs or articles from advertising/design sites).

The last few days I tried to think of things to share and was not coming up with anything. I personally don't feel like I have to post everyday just to post, I want to make sure it's relevant, interesting or entertaining but I do want to make sure I post frequently to keep people coming back to the blog and to promote discussions or thoughts.

So what to write about when I can't think of something to write... creative blocks. Do you get them and if so what do you do? Do you have a process or do you pick up your camera and run outside or into the studio?

I don't believe creative blocks come from self doubt or low self esteem or something from psychology monthly (Van Gogh cut an ear off.. I'm certainly not headed in that direction). But I do believe all creatives at some point experience creative highs and lows, the lows when they are not thrilled with what they are producing.

For me I think one of the solutions is keep pushing forward, I think laziness begets laziness. If you start suffering from inertia it can become your worst enemy and in the long run it makes it harder to create something. If you're running low on creative fuel, run with ideas... any idea because from just doing and being active with your work can come something fantastic.

Dad always says Carpe Diem (Seize the Day).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Personal Project - Chris Crisman

My favorite part about featuring these personal projects is that each photographer I've spoken to feels very strongly about the subject matter he/she has shot and a big part of them is in these photos. I just hope that passion comes across in these posts.
Chris Crisman's personal project in Titusville, PA is a great story and the images walk you through that story and the significance it had on the photographer. I think the characters chosen and their environments are brilliantly showcased and Chris has done a fantastic job to capture the human emotions and honesty in each.

©chris crisman

What made you choose this project?

I actually started a project connected to this back towards the end of college. This start was more concerned with the remains of the space that was Cytemp Specialty Steel in Titusville, PA. This is actually my hometown. The steel plant there is where my father worked during the years I was growing up. In the mid 90's the business there started to be sent overseas and the workforce was being drastically reduced. It was the largest employer in Titusville and it was a major economic disaster for the small community. When the mill was going down my father served as the Vice President of the Steelworkers Local Union. He knew every one of the men in the photos.

After I finished the college project and graduated from school, I decided I wanted to continue the project. I also realized that the more integral part of the story was actually the men that had worked there. In the winter of 2005 I started taking trips back to Titusville to photograph these men. At that point I was also trying to my career as a commercial photographer off the ground. Every week I would try and get any work I could here in Philly and if I didn't have any jobs around or through the weekend, I'd get in my car and drive back to Titusville to meet and photograph 2-5 of these men. It's about a 650 miles round trip from Philadelphia to Titusville. I think I have racked up about 12,000 miles in the car so far with this project.

These men are really quite a throwback. It's not just the men, but the entire community of Titusville. Growing up, I guess I always knew this and that's why I made the decision to move to Philly and live in a city for awhile. Most of the men in the photos worked at least 20 years in the mill, with some of them putting in over 40. You can see the toll it put on their bodies, but after working on the project I really feel it's a labor of love. My father was really such a big part of this project as he is the one who helped me find and make contact with the steelworkers. I also would usually bring him along on the shoots as most of the guys felt more comfortable with him there. At some point the shoots even started to have a script to the process. We would arrive, do an introduction to the project, then I'd sit them down with my dad as he would take them through a portfolio of my work. While they were looking at photos together I would scout around their home and/or property searching for some options for the photographs.

In the scouting process I usually would lean towards spaces or environments that would convey something about the current passion. Some of the men would live alone for different reasons and you can see that in the photos. There are others where the men still lived with their wives and you can see how much impact the wives have on the decor. In most situations, I would try to not disturb a room or space in any way. I really wanted to bring as much of a journalistic process as possible to what was coming into the camera. The post process is a different story.

How many photos were there before you edited it down to the featured images?
The photos you see is a pretty good sampling of the best of the best. I would usually shoot 2-3 scenarios with all of the men, then choose just one photo as my favorite. I would say there are 10-15 men/shoots that aren't represented in the edit that is online. A few of them didn't sit well with me, a few others just aren't that strong. There are even a few shots that I thought I had great options with a different setups, but those that I didn't select have just been tucked away for another day.

What was your favorite aspect of this personal project?
My favorite part of this project while I was doing it was the time I was able to spend with my father and these men. It was such an amazing feeling to listen to the conversations my dad and any of these men would have with me in the other room. Just sitting and talking about their lives and the time they worked at the mill, their families, the reconnection this project created because of it, and so on.

In retrospect, it's a good feeling that this project is getting some kind of recognition. When I started it I was in such awful financial shape, I had very little work, and I could hardly pay my bills. As a matter of fact, on one trip back to Titusville I was absolutely broke. I had enough money for gas and a meal and I thought if I just made it home I would be okay. About 50 miles from home my car broke down with a snapped belt and I was in trouble. My credit cards were maxed out and I had to call my parents to have them pay for a tow truck to get it back to Titusville. I was very embarrassed and to make matters worse my landlord at the time called me to tell me my rent check bounced and I was going to have to move out of my apartment. Did I tell you it was raining, too? It all worked out and I went on that weekend to make two of my favorite photos from the series. Actually, I think one of them got into the Comm Arts Photo Annual that year.

It might also be of interest to you to learn something about Titusville that has quite a bit of significance in our country right now. You can learn that here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titusville,_Pennsylvania

Check our Chris' Titusville project [here] and his other work at crismanphoto.com.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Creative Opinion - Responses

This month's Creative Opinion question was:
What do you wish/think art buyers or photo editors can improve upon?

And responses were pretty similar: returning a call or taking a risk

- I would like to have phone calls and emails answered in a more timely manner. regarding an ongoing project or introducing myself to someone for the first time.
- I know it's a bit much to ask, but would love to know the real reason why I wasn't the one chosen for a project.
- I've heard this "but we are oh so busy" excuse, but in all honesty, how long does it take you to apply some professional courtesy and drop a 1 line e-mail?
- I wish Photo Editors/Buyers would take more chances on talent that they aren't incredibly familiar with.
- Whether the price isn't working or whatever the deal is, it would be nice to get an acknowledgment for our response to their inquiry and an opportunity to try convincing them of our value.
- a return call or email when you bid on a job - especially if you don't receive the job - is greatly appreciated. it's frustrating putting time and effort into a bid and then never knowing what happened. Were we too high, did they go with a different style, did the job get killed?
- Letting us know if we DIDN'T get a project without me or my rep having to call or email 10 times about a job we were asked to bid on. Most of the time when we aren't awarded, we don't even find out until weeks after a projects been shot. I know everyone's extremely busy, just a quick email would show some respect for our time.
- I'd like to know what might get a PE or buyer to work with new talent? Great work is a definite I'm sure, but beyond that what can a photographer do to start a relationship? I understand that often it means putting their neck on the line, but what might make them take that chance? Or is that a risk they don't take?

My response...
I can only answer for myself as an art buyer, these are my opinions only. I would however like to try and formulate some of the questions above to get a few anonymous art buyer responses (I'll work on this but can't guarantee anything).

For the callbacks:
I think everyone deserves a callback or an email. I am guilty as well of not returning a few phone calls... more often than not it is because I didn't get the call out within the first few weeks and procrastinated so it turned into a non-returned call. (sad excuse I know). I can say that I try to return all calls as a professional courtesy especially when it involves a job. The complicated part is calling someone who did not get the job and letting them know why - sometimes there is no answer.. the AD just didn't think the images jived with the project at hand and therefore the portfolio was cut from the running. Sometimes the images are just not good or not what the creatives wanted to see - the hard part of my job as an art buyer is placing these calls and discussing why you didn't get the job. I try to be as honest as possible in the most professional manner. I do think it is the responsibility of an art buyer or photo editor to take the time to make these calls in regards to projects.

As for the "too busy" excuse. We are busy and many times are juggling several projects, inquiries, legal clearances, stock photo searches, productions, and fielding calls and emails. I think if a photographer or illustrator is calling or emailing just to check in or see if there are any ongoing projects they could be considered for, give the art buyer/photo editor a few days or weeks to respond. Since these are not urgent they sit on a back-burner. Some people do not return these calls, I'm not sure of the reasoning, if it is too busy or if it's can't be bothered right now or having a bad day, but don't take it personally. I like to save Friday afternoons to make my callbacks and email responses. I think it is important to respond to these because it helps strengthen relations between art buyer and artist/rep. It doesn't hurt to send a follow-up to remind them but don't push the annoying envelope by emailing or calling on a weekly basis... give it a few months but continue to stay on their radar.

Taking a chance on new talent: it takes risk on both parts but even more than that it takes great work (whether photography or illustration). To get an art buyer/photo editor to take a risk on you, you have to have the work to back it up. Make sure you are a good match for the client you're trying to go after. I've said it before... I am a huge proponent of face-to-face meetings and think this can get you far. The art buyer/photo editor can put a face and a personality to the portfolio of work. This is a good start to forming a relationship with the art buyer/photo editor. We'll take the risk if you're right for the project.. and being right for the project means you have beautiful images but it also means you have a personality, creative mind and production value to back it all up.

I'll see what I can do to get other opinions than mine. I also appreciate the responses I received because it helps me be a better art buyer.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Notable Items

I'm sad to say that last Thursday I read Rachel Hulin was leaving PhotoShelter and Shoot! the Blog is no more. I have to admit I was one of many who had a blog crush on Hulin. Her witty and conversational writing kept us reading but also the photography she showcased, sharing all aspects of the art with all of us multiple times a day. Over at Heather Morton's blog she discusses the situation and debuts her own blog, where she remains ever faithful to photography and artists.

Over at Leslie Burns-Dell'Acqua's blog she has posted about the job of an art buyer. I commend Leslie for writing on both sides of the issues but also injecting her honest opinions. As an art buyer, I thought I should comment. We have to walk the fine line of working for the agency and doing what is best in the interest of the client and agency and also act as an advocate for the photographer. Because we went with another photographer who shot it at half of what the other photographer bid at doesn't mean we're anti-photographer. It means the client made the decision to shoot with the photographer who bid cheaper or undercut their costs quite a bit to get the job. There are a ton of photographers out there competing for all the same jobs. We look at several photographers' websites before we call in portfolios, then we weed out the portfolios with our creatives, and then we bid. The fact that a photographer got to bid is a good step because it means the creatives liked the work enough to push it in front of the client. Ultimately it is the client's decision, but don't point fingers there and don't be cranky because you didn't get the job. It happens.

I want to work with the best photographer for the job and the photographer that the art director/designer feels can best accomplish the project/s. If your costs are not in line with the client's budget I'll tell you and I will do my best to be honest about the job. I cannot however force my client or creative team to choose you if the quality is comparable to your competitors but cost came in higher. I try to present the best case for each photographer, explain the costs of the line items and be a creative consultant. Art Buyers get flak, and that's okay it comes with the territory but be sure to understand the world of advertising... you need to have some thick skin in this industry. (more to come tomorrow with the creative opinion discussion).

And lastly, Jill Greenberg. Who knew another photographer (besides Annie Leibovitz) could cause such a commotion? PDN featured an article about her recent photo shoot with John McCain. Politics get heavy and people get very passionate and emotional about their views. Greenberg owns the images and negotiated certain usages regarding these images. McCain's people and the magazine should have had a legal person (or a producer, art buyer, etc.) review with her all their stipulations regarding his imagery and had someone on set to watch and manage. I'm not supporting Greenberg's actions (including her statements) or the reactions in the community.. I'm completely neutral on this but Greenberg does own the copyright to her own images. The magazine should have put limitations in effect prior to the shoot.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

5 Things to Improve Business

I read an article in Ad Age, Five Things to Do Now to Improve Your Agency, and I think it's definitely worth a read. I think it applies and is relevant to people outside of agency life, who are their own small business or freelancers. In an earlier post I mentioned using the beginning of the Fall season to revamp marketing strategies and I think these are another few ideas to gear yourself up for a successful season.

In the article Marc Brownstein (AdAge Small Agency journal reporter and president of The Brownstein Group) lists the 5 things as:
Grow Organically
Grow with new clients
Grow through merger/acquisition
Grow by improving your talent
Grow your profits

My own take/ideas on each:
Grow organically - you are your own leadership team with your own client relations, how do you continue these relationships and keep them coming back? What else can you do to "up the ante" for your current client roster? Marc mentions capabilities presentation... I say for photographers and illustrators what about a test shoot or rough sketch?

Grow with new clients - this is the goal for most, get new clients and to keep them on your current roster. How do you approach new clients? Is there a new way to attract clients or to market yourself other than traditional approaches and email bombardment? Do you have a new business program?

Grow through merger/acquisition - this doesn't really apply but it can resonate. My post from yesterday discussed a creative gathering, networking in the creative community is the greatest tool. It may not be a merger but you can join forces through networking, photography seminars, rep partnerships, etc. Connecting with other artists to discuss the industry and talk shop can get ideas flowing and create a support system.

Grow by improving your talent - you are your own talent (along with your crew on shoots). To improve your own talent, keep up with the personal work, try out new things with lighting or post-production techniques, push yourself. As for your crew - you know how you work best and you want to have the best support team around you to make sure things move along seamlessly and the best work comes out.

Grow your profits - In this economy, agencies are tightening up and cutting costs, budgets are getting even smaller. Don't sacrifice your pay and undercut by bidding incredibly low (this approach can back fire when the economy is on an upswing). There are ways to make things happen without breaking the bank.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Creative Gathering

Last night the Boston creative community of photographers, stylists, producers and art buyers came together for a social outing. It was incredible and smartly organized by Tanya Mathis and Maggie Yarlis of Fidelity along with Ennis Inc.

The idea of these gatherings is to foster camaraderie, networking and dialogue in our creative community. It's a great idea to get people of all facets together in one room and put the faces to the names and make new contacts.

I had great conversations last night about the industry and how we are being affected by this economy, about other people's experiences, about production value, about the value of a peer's critiques, about putting a photographer in touch with a company that I have a contact at, etc.

Advertising, print and photography - it really is a small world and even if you have never met someone before, you have this industry in common and therefore people in this industry generally want to help you out - this is how it should be.

Thing is, if you want to start this in your community or your city, do it. It's a great concept and it cultivates/promotes new partnerships and networking in your industry close to home.

Here are some of the people I encountered last night (some I knew and had worked with, some I knew their name, some I had never heard of before but am glad I met them last night:
Margaret Lampert
Dave Bradley
Bruce Peterson
Cheryl Clegg
Jonathan Beller
Kate Kelley
Francie Hill (rep for Scott Goodwin)
Mari Quirk - no website but a stylist extraordinaire who has at least 25 years under her belt
The ladies of Ennis Inc
Steve Marsel

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Personal Project - Graeme Mitchell

I'd like to share Graeme Michell's personal project, NYC Journal. It's a look into the regular life happening in New York City. The images have a gritty feel to them with the black and white photos. I personally like the natural feel of it all, the implied motion, and the different perspectives of the chosen object in frame.

What made you choose this project?
The short answer to this is heartbreak. And on that note, as is often the case, the project choose me more than I it. It was a necessity, not a whim. But the impetus for the NYC Journal was left by the wayside rather quickly and is now incidental. What became interesting is not the inspiration, but the motivation, or what kept me and keeps me working on it. It was so far from anything I'd ever even considered doing; one day I began it, and now over two years later I still work on it on a pretty consistent basis. The reasons why are various, ranging from the physical to the metaphysical, but most of all I do it (and love it) b/c the act of physically shooting it, that process of it, is rife with knowledge. And I love learning.

How many photos were there before you edited it down to the featured images?
Those sets on my site are not by any means static. the NYC Journal changes monthly, or every two months or so, and is not finished. To get an idea of how I work on it, and of the "journal" aspect that is in it's title, go here: graememitchell.com/blog/category/nyc-journal. On my blog there is pretty consistent update to it in the spirit of a journal. Then when I have new favorites, I do better scans, and then post them on my main portfolio page. The portfolio page is edited to ones that I think are effective (logos); the blog is more a stream of conscious - though not in the true sense - and is more visceral (pathos).

What was your favorite aspect of this personal project?
Like I said in the answer to the first question, it's all the things I learn doing it. The people I meet. The things I see. And it can be intense shooting it too, standing toe to toe with uncomfortable situations... Yes, it can be uneventful on some days when I work on it, but at it's best there are moments at once terrifying and sublime. That's a drug. It elevates. It can make the rest of the day seem slight.
The pictures are probably better without my attempt at talking about them.

And on that end note check out the project at graememitchell.com.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Back in Action

Heather Morton is back from her summer hiatus. Check out her blog and get reacquainted.


In this business we often run into lots of personalities, some welcoming and knowledgeable, others that want to slam our fingers in the door. But it's all how you deal with them and to take it in stride.

I had a few people vent to me today about frustrations and impossible expectations being placed on them. Unfortunately you can't always say "yes" to everything but you can't say "no" either. Becoming a problem solver is a talent and a necessary one. Learning to deal with difficult personalities is another.

Don't be passive-aggressive about things, being a decisive prioritizer is key to collaborating with a team.

Don't get steam rolled. Different personality types is what makes the workplace and the projects. A good manager (not always of people but of situations) knows how to manage themselves as well as the things going on around them.

Don't be sensitive.. it's business. "It's just business" may sound like a cop out to some, especially those who are so passionate about what they do, but it's a reality.

Now get out there and play nice.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Creative Opinion

Trying to make this idea a monthly discussion on the blog.
You have the option of leaving a comment but you can also email your opinions to me (here) and I can post them in an anonymous manner. Depending on the amount of feedback I'll post answers next week or the week after.

Here is this month's question:
What do you wish/think art buyers or photo editors can improve upon? (whether it's regarding feedback, working on projects, responding to calls, etc. etc.)

Candid and honest answers are always appreciated focusing on positive and negative but still professionally appropriate.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Personal Project - Anthony Georgis

Back to the grindstone after a lovely long weekend and starting to ease back into things. I'm glad a lot of you found the rep list useful. I also am psyched about the personal projects post from last week, quite a few of you emailed me with links and info of upcoming personal work.

And on that note I'd like to share the first by Anthony Georgis. What I love about this project is that these girls are bruised and bleeding and ready to kill the opposing team yet at the same time thinking about prom and Anthony captures each aspect of them in a beautiful way.

What made you choose this project?

I walked out my front door and there it was. I know it sounds absurd, but I live across the street from a park. There was a big commotion over there one day with lots of girls shouting and pushing each other so I went outside to see what was going on. At first I thought, "Wow, that's a really violent soccer game" which was followed by, "Oh no, wait, that's just rugby" which was in turn followed by, "OMG!!! Are those high school girls playing rugby?!?"

I was fascinated by what was going on and I knew immediately that I wanted to go and take pictures. At that point I wasn't really thinking of it as a project. I watched a bit, took a few frames and talked to some of the girls. What really struck me was how much intensity these girls played with. They'd hit really hard but after the match they were as sweet as can be. That's when I knew there was something there and that I had to shoot more.

How many photos were there before you edited it down to the featured images?

I was using medium format film (which will either make me sound heroic and crazy or like a total elitist). In a way the format was helpful because there's always the "Who's this weird guy with the camera?" factor and the YashicaMat helps relieve a little of that, making it "Who's this weird guy with the cool camera?"

In the end I shot about 500 frames - 23 made the cut.

What was your favorite aspect of this personal project?

The project has been really well received and it's generated a couple of good assignments. From a personal standpoint, getting an assignment based on something that I loved shooting and that I would have shot anyway is truly a great feeling.

The most incredible thing, however, has been hearing back from some of the players who've seen the project. They love it and have gone on and on about how great it is, how it's a true representation of rugby culture and how they've never seen anything like it. They've also told me that I'm "super rad" and that's cool too.

Check out the project at www.bloodmakesthegrassgrow.com