Grab Shots: Get Out of the Rut

Erica AllenWhen I’m feeling less than creative (too often) or think I’ve fallen into a rut (taking the same shot over and over), I look to other photographers for inspiration, especially those whose images are very different than mine. Here are a few I admire for their eye and creativity:

* Erica Allen — The image at right is from her series Untitled Gentlemen, which she calls “fictional portraits created using discarded studio photographs and anonymous faces from contemporary barbershop hairstyle posters.”

 * Ross Sawyers — Like me, he’s intrigued by empty rooms. Unlike me, he photographs them and makes rich, emphatic images.

* Bill Mattick — I can see him wandering the fringes of L.A., pausing before empty lots, dirt roads and billboards, and seeing among the detritus an honest, but lonely beauty. See it for yourself in the Gardens of Los Angeles.

* Phil Toledano — This London photographer says “photographs should be like unfinished sentences. There should always be space for questions.” His series on plastic surgery, A New Kind of Beauty, raises plenty of questions. (See Conscientious for more on Toledano and the project.)

Grab Shots: Fashionably Avedon

Richard Avedon and Twiggy * Avedon Hung Up: The International Center for Photography in New York is showing a Richard Avedon retrospective (until Sept. 16) and the New York Times has the story behind the exhibit. It summarizes his work this way: “Avedon’s photography has always amounted to a plea for beauty — to see it mysterious, to see it raw but ultimately to see it whole.”

Avedon’s early fashion work (he’s with the model Twiggy here) was before my time, but when I his American West portfolio, which I saw in a Berkeley museum when I was a young journalist, left an indelible impression for its straightforwardness and honesty.

* Avedon’s Competition: Irving Penn.

* Fashion Photography: What is it? Now you know.

Grab Shots: Annie Hocks Her Work

*Pawn My Photos: Annie Leibovitz has hocked all “copyrights … photographic negatives … contract rights” to work (past and future) as well as several pieces of real estate in exchange for a $15.5 million loan from a company called Art Capital Group, essentially an art pawn shop for the well-to-do. In other words, as the New York Times put it today, “one of the world’s most successful photographers essentially pawned every snap of the shutter she had made or will make until the loans are paid off.”

* Shooting Annie: Seattle photographer John Keatley talks with Feature Shoot about photographing Leibovitz: “I didn’t want to over think it, or get too worked up so far in advance. So I took a vacation to Mexico!”

* Making a Difference: Zack Arias produces a video for Scott Kelby in which he explores how to make his mark on “this massive matter of visual pollution we serve up every day.”

* Hot Shoe Diaries: That’s the title of Joe McNally’s new book on shooting with speedlights. Good stuff for those of use who don’t know everything. Pre-order it here.

* May I Shoot? No! Mary Ellen Mark talks about photographing Marlon Brando on the set of The Missouri Breaks. Brando’s rule, she tells LA Weekly, “was that set photographers must always ask permission before shooting him. Every time. And the answer was always no.” (Via A Photo Editor.)

Grab Shots: Autumn and Annie

* Mystery Image Revealed: While doing some rainy day bookmark cleaning, I found this aging link from David Pogue of the Times about one man’s quest to find the origin of the Windows screensaver image you see at the left. Here’s the whole, hilarious story from writer Nick Tosches. One quote: “I see people in black hoods and robes sitting round a table, bound by blood oath never to divulge the latitude and longitude of Autumn.” Read on.

* Annie Works, We Watch: Annie Liebowitz photographs pairings of actors and directors for Vanity Fair. Here are the vids. Make sure to watch Mickey Rourke, then click to this Huffington Post collection of Rourke photos with him posing with one hand down his pants.

* Blogging Photog: A new entry on the blogroll is travel photographer Paul Souders. His blog is well worth the click. Here’s a takeout from an entry on shooting surfers in Costa Rica:

“I have never been much of a surf beach kind of guy. I grew up next to a chicken farm, a long way from any ocean. Plus I have issues with public nudity stemming from low self-esteem and a rigorous Lutheran upbringing.”

* Wayback Machine: Ever wondered what big city newspaper photographers looked like a couple of decades ago? Here’s the answer. The big guy on the left, Kim Komenich, won a Pulitzer; the pretty boy on the right, Kurt Rogers, is one of the founders of Think Tank Photo. All worked for the “old” San Francisco Examiner.

* Burning, Man: Magnum shooter David Alan Harvey has started Burn Magazine, an online platform for emerging photographers.

Grab Shots: Zelman, Reputation and a Duck

* Inside Bill Zelman: Strobist David Hobby does an interview with photographer Bill Zelman. Among other pearls he lays before us swine is this one: “Shooting good portraits is equal parts psychology, trust and technical expertise — with the technical part probably being the least important.” Read the whole interview. Check out the video as well.

*Wish You Were There? So, you couldn’t make to Joe McNally’s lastest lighting workshop, heh? No worries. Click here. Plenty of good photos and explanations of how they were made.

* Word of Mouth, Word of Mouth: That’s what Tom Miles, a 16-year commercial photographer in England, tells a college student is the secret to his success. He adds: “Doing a good job, being reliable and professional will get you more repeat work than any other method.”

* What the Duck, Man? Economy dragging on you? Editors treating you bad? Need a laugh? Go here.

* No Wimpy Photos: That’s the new mantra of Santa Rosa newspaper photographer John Burgess (and not a bad slogan for the whole newspaper industry). Here’s a result of that outlook — a portrait of Joel Peterson of Ravenswood Winery — and the story behind it.

Don’t Shoot, I’m a Shooter

The harassment of photographers in the name of security continues, reaching the point of ridiculous in some instances and infringing on basic civil liberties in others. Here are a few recent examples of America, home of the paranoid:

* Scott Kelby writes on his blog, Photoshop Insider, how he and some fellow photographers were braced by security guards in a New York hotel for carrying tripods. (Hold it right there, fellow, and don’t unfold that thing!). In response, Rob Jones, one of Kelby’s readers, created the shirt you see at left is selling it on Cafe Press. Get one.

* The yahoos in the Shelby County, Tennessee, sheriff’s 0ffice are asking the local citizenry to call in reports of photographers taking pictures of buildings. “You may think a guy is just shooting pictures, but if you report it to us, we’ll send it on to the FBI and they may have four or five other reports of the same thing.”

* War on Photography is a blog that keeps track of these sorts of things, like the Minnesota photographer accosted by guards while shooting a refinery.

* Do your know your rights? Good. Then carry them around with you so others will know them too. Get a printable PDF of The Photographer’s Right.

* Photographer or Terrorist? That’s the headline in this BBC News Magazine story about increasing harassment of photographers in Britain. (Tip from Thomas Hawk, who’s been all over this issue.) Quote from the story:

“It’s a sad state of affairs today if an amateur photographer can’t stand in the street taking photographs.”

A sad state indeed. Keep shooting.