Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

With all apologies to illustrious spaghetti western director Sergio Leone for lifting the title of his classic 1966 film for today's entry, I present a quick rundown of all that's good and some that's not so good...

The Good:
The Maui County Fair kicks off this afternoon with a gala parade down Kaahumanu Avenue to the fair site at the War memorial Stadium Complex in Kahului. Afternoon rush hour drivers be advised that K Avenue will be closed... find an alternate route home from work. Food, rides, cotton candy, a midway, games, 4-H exhibits, a photography and art exhibition, the best orchid show of the year... it's all there along with all those friends you may not have seen since last year's fair. It's the perfect way to spend a warm autumn weekend's eve... and a fistful of dollars in the process. The fair runs thru sunday evening.

Steady workload continues unhampered... another good thing.

New gallery representation begins next week with the grand opening of Gallery Rinko Maui, located on Market Street here in Wailuku, in the space previously occupied by artist Pat Matsumoto's atelier. There will be an opening on Wednesday, October 5th from 4-6pm. Drop by and say hello if you're in the neighborhood. I will also be around on Friday, October 7th for the First Friday Wailuku activities. New work is being readied at the framers now!

The relatively new Daily Edit feature that began appearing at Rob Haggart's APE blog is pretty cool and features some stunning ( occasionally some not so stunning) editorial work culled from the news stands. Another thumbs up to Rob for his eye & effort.

The island weather for the past month or so has been not good... it's been exceptional! Clear skies, light winds, amazing sunrises & sunsets... the best time of year in Hawaii in my opinion, even with the increased humidity and heat that comes with tropical autumn.

Tickets are now in hand for the Asia adventure to commence in late November. A very good thing! So looking forward to being able to work at length again on a project begun several years ago... a series of photo essays and armchair anthropological studies on Ritual, Trance & Majick on the Island of Bali. We are now in cremation season on that island with ancient rituals in full swing and the island's graceful inhabitants at their best as they prepare the way for the liberation from the flesh for family and village members.

I may be moving the studio to a new location very soon. The new space is very close to the current one, has much greater traffic visibility and a large display window, suitable space for a working studio and gallery, all for less rent than I'm currently paying. This may end up, even with all the hassle of packing up 18 years worth of accumulated gear and miscellaneous crap, being a very good thing.

The Bad:
The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), once a leading advocate and business resource for photographers, has done the unthinkable. By teaming up with the Copyright Clearance Center to jointly produce a series of webinars to educate creators and users on copyright, licensing and monetizing of content, again gives a forum to those intent on undermining creative authorship and the rights that accompany that authorship. As photographer and consulting group D-65 founder Seth Resnick says in a recently published article on the matter:

Let me start by saying that I have been a long supporter of ASMP and have been a member since 1979. Having CCC as a partner being in the best interest of the ASMP membership  is akin to Having BP partner with The Florida Beach Association and present a program on the importance of clean beaches or for the AMA to partner with Camel and do a program on the importance of clean air or proper health care. 
I especially feel the first webinar called ”What Everyone Should Know About Copyright” makes a complete mockery out of copyright with this partnership.
 You can find Seth's full statement on this travesty here. If you're an ASMP member, now is the time to make your voices heard at National. 

New studio/gallery space I'm considering won't have a darkroom.

The Ugly:
My current commercial property managers... consistent targets of the Craigslist Rants & Raves section (all rant-no rave), continues to plague me with petty attempts at rent increases and lack of fulfillment of their maintenance commitments in a down and struggling economy. The building's owner is a lovely and generous man who has always treated me fairly. His middleman agents, however, are another story. May be time to cut & run... motivation is currently high to do just that very thing. I've been here 18 years now, never caused a problem and have only been late with the rent two months out of the entire time of my tenure. Fortunately, a new space (see above) may be actually more suitable than the current one, with the notable exception of no darkroom space.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Race To The Bottom?

There have been a couple of phone calls recently that have 1) left me scratching my increasingly balding pate in wonder & 2) left me considering whether or not to begin arranging proper funeral services for the once great profession of photography. 

A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from a friend & art director at a major H'lulu ad agency. This AD called to ask me if I had ever heard or knew anything about a certain BRAND-X digital capture back. I hadn't and as I am a curious sort anyway, asked in return why she was asking me. The reply came back that PHOTOGRAPHER X (from the west coast) was touting this brand of digital capture back as state of the art and just the thing my friend the AD needed in order to capture images of jewelry for a prominent chain of island jewelers... a client my friend has been entrusted over the years to produce high-end catalogs for (and she does a damn fine job of it too). It seems that PHOTOGRAPHER X had all the cool, techie schizzle needed to win this account and if that wasn't enough, was planning to do it for $30-$35 per shot. 

There was a time when I worked on this account... pre-digital... shooting large format, 4x5 studio cameras on sheets of transparency film. Even back then, maybe eight to ten years ago, I was also working "by the shot" but at a rate more than twice the fee X is currently pitching. Yes, even though several hundred shots were required, the project tied up my studio & in-house lab for nearly a month. Days were spent polishing pendants, arranging chains and small groupings, meticulously filling in reflective surfaces, carefully testing each exposure on polaroid. I would have done it again had it not been for the client insisting that the AD shop around for a cheaper rate the next time the catalog was slated for production. Having done it once already, I was fully aware of the time required, the amount of work involved and there was no way I was going to tie up another month of studio time for less money. 

In the end, it wasn't necessary for me to lower my rate... the job went elsewhere. There seemed to be no shortage of photographers out there willing to do the job for half the money and the client got what they wanted and the price they demanded. Welcome to the new economy.

Yesterday, I get a call from a long time, well established H'lulu architectural photographer. Though we had never met previously I had both seen and admired his work over the years. His call came to inquire whether or not I was interested in working with a client from the mainland, advertising and booking Hawaii vacation rentals. This photographer was going to work for the client on projects on Oahu. The client needed another photographer on each neighbor island to shoot properties on those islands. The job, as it was described, involved going to multiple Maui vacation rental properties and photographing them inside & out... quickly and efficiently, no lighting required. The pay was $40 per property. Was I interested?

Which brings me to the point of today's entry. Those of you that follow my rantings here know well that I have been consistently lamenting the demise of the photographic industry since first taking up this chore of blogging. There was a time when there existed a demand for the services of highly skilled, creative, photographers. In exchange for our skills and talents, most of us were rewarded with the ability earn a comfortable lifestyle, afford new equipment, health-care, maybe an annual vacation...  If current industry trends continue to head in the direction we've seen ever since the advent of digital capture, I fear it won't be long before those days will be just a distant memory.

I see it here on this island more & more amongst my colleagues. Check the Creative Services Offered section of Craigslist in any city or town and you will find so-called professionals offering their services for about the cost of a Happy Meal. There's a group of photogs here, crowding and jostling amongst themselves at the foot of any performance stage, just dying to shoot bands established or not for the privilege of posting their photos on their Facebook News Feeds and blogs. One would like to hope that these photogs are at least hoping that a band or two will throw work their way at some point when promotional materials are needed, but from my experience, that's just not happening. 

Coincidently, Rob Haggart, author/editor of the ever-so-popular A Photo Editor blog summed things up rather nicely in today's entry titled: Welcome To The Demand Economy. Rob argues, and most of us would have to agree, that photography has now reached a point of oversupply: 

"If your job is simply delivering a photograph then all you are doing is adding to the oversupply. You don’t have to look further than the discussion boards on Sports Shooter where it was revealed in a deal for Gannett to buy US Presswire that photographers were happily shooting games for $100 (or on spec). How’s that for oversupply."

But fear not... Rob goes on to state that there always has been and will continue to be a demand for those with creative problem solving skills, with the flexibility to adapt to new ways of finding clients and most importantly, meeting the needs of those clients in increasingly creative ways. Find a demand... then strive to fill it.

Our jobs have evolved over the years. When I first got started, you had to be a bit of a mad scientist/chemist/print maker. That quickly evolved, with the rise of digital technology, to becoming a tech-wiz and problem solver... the evolution in recent years has been furious, swift and radical as Rob points out. Still, opportunities remain for those of us flexible & creative enough to adapt to the times. Even with the current climate of oversupply & a couple of years of failing economics, I'm finding that a demand still exists for my services though the balking at my fees is at an all time high. That said, there ARE clients willing to pony up for creativity, expertise and the ability to visually communicate ideas and solve problems. Fill those voids and learn when to say NO and there may still be a future for those of us that have chosen this profession. It's not always easy... sometimes it may even be painful. Evolution is the key.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 15, 2011

I think I've neglected this thing long enough. It wasn't because I didn't want to write, or didn't have the best intentions of writing, updating the blog. The fact of the matter is that I've been busy... busy and exhausted. Ten consecutive days of shooting resort projects on Kauai's North shore kept my days & early evenings fully occupied, leaving little energy or time for anything but a quick dash into town for a meal, some post-meal evening post & upload work and finally, a crawl into bed to rest for the next day. 

Overall the project was fun, though tedious at times. Some of the units photographed were quite nice, one in particular approaching the level of very nice. A couple of them were sows requiring the "silk purse" treatment and lots of extra lipstick. After a few days, they all began to look the same as a routine became established, though each with it's own set of challenges - walls of tinted glass reflecting back like a mirror to reveal hidden lights, wrapping light that was both interesting and BELIEVABLE around furnishings rearranged to better guide the eye through the space...

Creative Directors back in Florida waited patiently each morning for uploaded previews of the previous day's efforts. All was approved as we moved through the entire Princeville Resort, shooting a different property each day.

None of this would have been possible without the stellar assistance of B, dragger of heavy equipment cases up many flights of stairs, illuminator of rooms and hider of light stands, guardian of the canned ice tea stash, breaker of wind, packer of equipment & organizer of the disorganized. It was a long & difficult assignment and B hung right in there, maintaining good humor and providing entertaining company at mealtimes. Thank you!

Now that we've been back nearly a week now, three days of post-processing has been handled and the project results tidily tucked into a FedEx Mailer now winging it's way to Orlando. Two out of three projects, immediately on the front burners for a client we hope to have a long and mutually beneficial relationship with, have now been completed and plans are underway for the final phase of Phase One to take place early next month on the Big Island.

Pristine lagoon between Princeville & Kiluea on Kauai's North Shore

Fresh water streams and rivers, originating high in the mountains behind, cut paths in & around Hanalei

Groovy Juice Bar

And immediately at hand now are a slurry of additional assignments... round two of a national print ad campaign for our local Visitors Bureau, a two day health care industry project, a stack of artwork piled up in the studio awaiting documentation, a potential creative meeting with an up & coming Oahu based band and this afternoon - a confrontation with mortality as I meet with legal counsel in pursuit of drawing up my first last will & testament.

The past few months have been SO busy that I've been forced to vacate my weekly resort fine art showings at the Four Seasons Resort & Spa, allowing me to reclaim my sundays which will now, for the next several months, be devoted to catching up on much needed domestic duties, house and yard maintenance. There is, however, an invitation to hang in a new gallery... location to be disclosed very soon. I'll keep you posted.

There is also the hope & plan to spend most of the month of December in Indonesia... though getting there these days is becoming quite a convoluted ordeal with no more H'lulu->Guam->Bali direct flights. Trying now to find the most expeditious/cost-effective routing thru Singapore or Manila or Tokyo or Taipei or Bangkok or Seoul or Sydney... oh, the choices. Meanwhile, I scrape, hustle and beg for assignments to work on while there to pay for my passage. Any Travel-Food-Lifestyle Ediitors & PE's out there reading this with space and taste for any number of interesting story ideas from S.E. Asia, contact me here. I'll bend your ear... promise!

One more bit of good news came in this week... a story I had hungrily pitched to a local lifestyle publication over a year ago, a story initially green-lighted but then had the plug pulled due to budgets just before production began, has been resurrected by a call from the pub's managing editor. It seems there is renewed interest in publishing the project as early as Spring of next year. There has been guarded talk of revitalized budgets and promises of 8-12 consecutive pages to get the thing to print and I am elated to once again move this one to the front burner along with having the funds to finally produce, what I think, will be a fantastic visual essay illustrating a part of Hawaii's lifestyle & cultural rapidly moving towards extinction.

So that's the haps on this end. We are now into the autumn season, my favorite time of year with light to still trade winds, cloudless morning skies, first arriving winter surf and balmy temperatures. Most of us have now returned from vacations and are settling in for the long fall/winter work seasons. New email and direct mail marketing efforts must soon come to fruition and another round of H'lulu portfolio showings need to be put in order & soon if we're to keep this past year-long assignment uptrend going...