Something to SAY

Legendary creative director John Doyle recently asked me to make portraits of kids who are working to overcome severe stuttering problems with the help of a nonprofit organization called Our Time, which John is rebranding as SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young. I have an old friend who built a career as a top photojournalist despite a severe stuttering problem. From him I learned a lot about the challenges people who suffer from this disability go through and was so impressed by how he overcame his problem to succeed. Shooting kids is always a tough job. Even as a parent and someone who has always shot kids, I know from experience you can’t push things or try to control things too much. You have to be patient and open to the kid’s frame of mind, and try to connect. Essentially, you are a passenger on their train.

John said he needed a lot of portraits, all in one day to save money as the project was pro bono. In this case, we were talking about young kids but also teens. Which raises a whole host of other issues around self-esteem, identity, and general discomfort with self-image that are just part of the package of growing up. Add in a disability like stuttering, and I knew it might be tough to deliver the portraits I envisioned.

I wanted to connect emotionally with the kids and try to show their sense of pride and accomplishment for what they were overcoming. It was an exciting opportunity. John and I talked at first about photographing to seven or eight kids, then maybe 12 or more. I thought on the outside we could get to 15.

Then he asked if I could shoot 20 kids—in one day. Hey, I’m game for anything. But to connect with these kids and shoot a range of images in the time allotted with a limited crew and budget (the crew was paid) was a daunting thought, to put it mildly.

Then came the shoot day––big surprise: The kids came in and rocked the house. They burst into dance, they sang, they talked and talked. We had a blast! It was such a gift to meet them and be part of their world. And we got the 20 kids done, barely, as the natural window light faded and our studio time ran out. It seems the Our Time/Say program is working wonders with these bright kids. And I just got a lovely note from John thanking us and saying how happy everyone was with the pictures. It’s a project I’m extremely proud to have been part of.

Sunday
09
March 2014

Tagged , , , , , ,

Copyright hopes & Representative Nadler

     I was delighted to part of a panel meeting recently with Rep. Jerrold Nadler at Columbia Law School in New York City to discuss the future of copyright. Representative Nadler was interested in hearing the views of a range of artists and publishing veterans from his district as he considers a transition to a leadership role in the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, IP and the Internet.
Above photos ©Doug Menuez. Left: Chris Barron of Spin Doctors opens the copyright meeting with a solo performance. Next photo: Sandra Aistars, Copyright Alliance, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, right, with the NY Times Ken Richieri and legendary TV director Vince Misiano (backs to camera) continue the discussion after the meeting. 
     Put together by Washington, D.C. based Copyright Alliance, and led by Sandra Aistars and and Pippa Loengard (Columbia Law School), with participation by Ken Richieri (EVP and GC, New York Times Co.), Ed Klaris (SVP, head of IP Conde Nast), me, talking about my documentary and commercial work, which funds my non-profit work, Robert Stolarik (freelance photojournalist for New York Times), Vince Misiano (director of episodic TV, including West Wing, and National VP of the Directors Guild), Russ Hollander (DGA Associate National Executive Director).  Sandra described the informal meeting with Rep. Nadler as covering constitutional issues related to copyright and how copyright supports creators and journalists in their work – creating and disseminating various types of works, supporting jobs, allowing artists to pursue charitable work by licensing their works, etc. Also joining the discussion was ASMP Executive Director Eugene Mopsik and General Counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Mickey Osterreicher.
     Singer/songwriter Chris Barron of Spin Doctors performed solo with acoustic guitar to open the meeting and told his classic starving artist to rock star tale and made an appeal to Rep. Nadler to help preserve the opportunities for future songwriters. I couldn’t help but quote the lead singer of the band Cracker, David Lowery, from his appearance on Kurt Andersen’s Studio 360, whose hit “Low” was played on Pandora 1 million times and earned them a total of $16.85. Hmmm…
     I believe compromises will need to be made as the law is clearly outdated, but copyright remains a vital tool for artists and content creators to earn a living. Rep. Nadler was funny, sharp and sympathetic and pointed out that enforcement is sorely lacking, without which any law is meaningless. He implied sacrifices would have to be made by both sides and described a hypothetical outcome with photographers being thrown under the bus to make the point of how extreme the debate might get. Despite this scary moment, I felt terrific about his approach and think he will bring fresh eyes and an open mind, which is all we can ask.
     I’m hoping we can educate the next generation that they too can feed their families, put kids through college, buy a house, all through the power of the copyright of their works. It’s pretty amazing and most young people I meet have no idea or completely ceded their rights away to some misguided digital pipe-dream. These rights are written into the US Constitution and functioned pretty well for 200+ years, let’s keep it going.
Saturday
06
July 2013

Tagged , , ,

CICADA SUMMER

The strange subterranean world around us has opened to release the Cicada after 17 years and our yard is abuzz. My wife Tereza adores these creatures that terrify me.

To me they are red-eyed monsters. She gathers them up and lets them climb her arms, gets them out of the driveway to safety while telling me stories about playing with them as a child in Brazil. YIKES! But I have to admit, they are definitely cool looking. Scary but cool.

Monday
27
May 2013

Tagged , , , ,

The Cause of the Global Financial Meltdown?

©2013 Doug Menuez
Apparently a new trend among tourists visiting the mighty Wall St. bull sculpture has been added to the previous fad to rub the bull’s balls. Now they do a head thrust. Go figure! This image is from a previous post about my recent shoot for Nikon’s new Coolpix A camera: SANDY, MEET NIKON; NIKON, MEET SANDY | DOUG MENUEZ 2.0: GO FAST, DON’T CRASH
Thursday
14
March 2013

Tagged , , , ,

SANDY, MEET NIKON; NIKON, MEET SANDY

My wife and I awoke in our apartment the Monday morning after Hurricane Sandy hit to find we had no power and, worse, no plumbing and, even worse, no Internet. As for cell service, it was ridiculously spotty. We were 16 floors up, our apartment surrounded by water, with a production meeting scheduled with my clients from Nikon’s Tokyo ad agency K&L, who had arrived from Japan just before the storm. We were supposed to shoot a worldwide marketing and ad campaign for a top-secret new camera, the COOLPIX A. And Nikon was also planning to shoot a video of me working with this new camera, directed by the distinguished director Naoki Fukada. I hadn’t seen the camera, let alone learned how it worked or used it. Let’s just say I was very nervous.

Our clients—who were on the 16th floor of the Standard Hotel—also awoke to find they had no power, toilets that didn’t work, and no means to communicate. My studio building on West 26th Street, which houses my servers, computers, and gear, was flooded, along with the whole neighborhood. The basement and first floor remained underwater, with crews pumping water like mad into the street. I called 300 hotels to try to find a place to stay, with no luck. Finally, after a frantic few hours, I managed to secure a friend’s empty apartment uptown where my wife and I could evacuate. I got our stuff up there and myself back down to my studio to secure our servers and get ready for the production meeting.

We met in my freezing, dark studio to plan the shoot, which started on Wednesday and ran through Friday. Mr. Miyama, the veteran producer, and his associate Naoya Watanabe were already hard at work booking talent who’d been cast the Friday before. We had about 20 talent to locate in the middle of a disaster, all around the boroughs. Real people plus the model agencies had to be contacted and logistics arranged for talent and crew. Everyone on our crew and most of the talent were without power or transportation. How would the talent even get into Manhattan? The bridges and tunnels were closed, and subways and trains were all down. It was hard to see how we could manage all this. I was more than worried at this point.

The meeting started. I asked Gen Umei, my longtime friend and client from K&L, if he thought we should reschedule the shoot. “No! Absolutely not! We must proceed!” Then he smiled and we both laughed, because over the last 10 years we had shared some amazing but extremely difficult shoots for Nikon around the world. This would be no different.

The producers and agency folks were also talking about our predicament when suddenly everyone got quiet. Gen was opening a black bag and pulling out three prototypes of the new Nikon COOLPIX A. He instructed us to never say its name, as it was so top secret. We all signed nondisclosures and agreed to no Facebook or Twitter postings. We decided to call it our “friend” for the rest of the shoot. I would be the first in the world to use it, and I was beyond excited.

The COOLPIX A looks like a gorgeous, small black rangefinder, but actually is the world’s smallest compact DSLR with a DX CMOS sensor. When I held it, I was surprised to feel that it was made of metal, not plastic. And it came with a fixed 18mm 2.8 lens (equivalent to 28mm), which was a fine idea, the 28 being a classic lens for street shooting. I was in love. I’d been hoping Nikon would make something like this for years. My favorite thing to do is walk the streets and document what I see, and I’d always wanted a very lightweight, unobtrusive camera that could also deliver high-quality files. Well, here it was. I read the specs: 16.2 mp files, 4 frames per second, and full 1080 p HD video with stereo sound. And I could shoot manual. Clearly, this was designed to be more than an advanced amateur point-and-shoot; it would also meet the needs of pros. There was more to learn, but I wanted to go shoot with this thing, storm be damned.

We produced shoots with some very interesting talent and situations, and it was pretty wild getting around the city, to Brooklyn and back, with our driver sitting on a gas line for three hours every night. Mr. Miyama and his team managed to get almost all the talent to all the shoots, although almost all our locations were closed due to flooding. Most of our shoot was to take place on the High Line, for example, and months of meticulous location scouting and planning had been invested, but the High Line was closed down. We scrambled for replacement locations.

In between the produced shoots, they let me roam freely around the streets so I could grab real moments. Although they were paying me to test the camera and appear in a promotional video, I have never promoted something that did not truly work for me. The COOLPIX A was a dream to shoot with. Fast, quiet, small, and nonthreatening. Fun. And after I got the files downloaded, I confirmed they were beautiful. Outstanding results for such a small package, the lens bokeh was lovely, and it was superb at low noise in low light, as expected with anything Nikon.

By Friday, we had a great range of stuff from all around downtown, from West Chelsea to the Lower East Side to DUMBO. But we were all completely exhausted. (It also felt surreal not to be covering the disaster itself.) I had been driving pre-dawn every day from the Upper West Side—I still didn’t have power at my apartment—down to our shoot. I was really missing my home, clean clothes, and the other things we take for granted. But as I learned the extent of the damage that the horrific storm caused in the other boroughs, I realized how incredibly blessed I was compared to those who lost everything.

I said goodbye to Gen and my clients that night and started to drive uptown to my wife, Tereza. As I reached the corner of 26th Street and 10th Avenue, there was a surge of light all around as the power was switched on after five days of complete darkness in lower Manhattan. Tenth Avenue had been under water, but now lights were glowing all the way down the avenue. What an incredible sight. We got our shoot done despite Sandy, and I was going to go home after all.

Monday
04
March 2013

IN GANGNAM EVERYDAY IS GANGNAM STYLE

It took a billion hits on “Gangnam Style” before I finally got around to checking out the video. So I’m watching this crazy guy and catch some quick cuts of Seoul and wondering what the hell Gangnam Style means and something tugs a memory. This area where we were shooting in Seoul a few years back really struck me then as unusually hyper-stylish, expensive and fashionable. It was like Roppongi Hills meets Beverly Hills on crack. I was jet-lagged and flew in for two quick days shoot at Chaum, a futuristic longevity medical center. So I looked on google and yup, we shot in the Gangnam District it turns out. It’s real, forms a neighborhood on the South side of the river in Seoul, and the basis for the style driving Psy’s video. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangnam_District)

For those as easily amused by coincidence as I am, here’s a quick look at the actual Gangnam of everyday in the streets around the Hyatt and at Chaum in 2 galleries below.

©Photographs by Doug Menuez/Stockland Martel

Tuesday
08
January 2013

Tagged , , , , ,

NEW PARADE MAG COVER SHOOT: BUSH 41

On shooting President Bush for the second time for the cover of Parade Magazine.

There are celebrity shoots, and then there are celebrity shoots. Most involve tense publicists and tense famous people not thrilled to be photographed, as well as very tense crews full of stylists, assistants, etc., not to mention the very tense photographer upon whose shoulders the final result will rest. When the celebrity in question is the former President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, and his wife, Barbara Bush, for the cover of Parade magazine with a circulation of approximately, oh, 1 billion or so, one might expect a double dose of all of the above.

But with Bush 41, it was nothing but relaxing ocean breezes, Kennebunkport casual hospitality, and zero tense anything. The Bushes are very much a down-to-earth semi-retired power couple—what you see is literally what you get. (read more below)

This is not to say I wasn’t terrified anyway and working at a fever pitch despite the calm setting. And I had been warned by the incredibly kind Bush family publicist, Jean Becker, that President Bush would be in a wheelchair and had great difficulty walking. And I had only one assistant—just like on a news assignment—and no stylists, and we did have a very tight time frame to work within given the state of President Bush’s health, which is stable but certainly declining with his advancing age and a form of Parkinson’s that limits his ability to walk.

Everyone at Parade—photo director Miriam White-Lorentzen, editor-in-chief Maggie Murphy, creative director Richard Baker, and writer, reporter and LBJ Library Director Mark K. Updegrove—was extremely supportive and counting on me to not only nail a candid portrait for the cover but also somehow make something happen that might yield inside images, as well. I expected I would have 10 minutes. In the end, I had that and maybe 5 minutes more after the interview.

I shot what I could during the interview over Mark’s shoulder, and when my time came I got the cover shot quickly, with the Bushes on the couch where they had been sitting. Listening to them talk, I was taken back to a different political era, when despite the passions of the left and right, laws were passed, compromises were made. A lifelong Democrat, I leave my politics at the door when I’m shooting journalism. But I love history and the people who make it, so I bring an open mind and a level of respect even to those I might disagree with.

Knowing that movement would be a huge challenge, Jean encouraged me to simply ask President Bush for whatever I needed. And from my past cover shoot with him, I knew that he loved getting outdoors and to the sea in particular. I thought somehow getting him over to the window would make sense and would give me some opportunity to make a more lasting image of an American President toward the end of his life. I decided to take the risk and made my pitch.

While I was suggesting that he and Barbara come over to the French doors overlooking the sea, I quickly moved a wingback chair and lamp. I came close to the President and looked him in the eye and said I’d like to shoot him looking out at the sea that he loves so much. “Getting all arts and crafty, aren’t you, Doug?” said the President. “Exactly,” I admitted. “But I think it’s worth a try.” “Great. Let’s do it,” he said and began to rise.

Immediately, it was obvious he couldn’t really walk at all. He made a half step and held position while Barbara had one elbow and I grabbed the other. At one point, I let Jean and others help him move while I moved the chair to the best angle for him to slide in. It was excruciating to watch this man struggle step by step. At one point, someone loudly said, “Mr. President, you don’t have to do this!” He smiled, turned, and forcefully said, “I’m gonna make it!” and “We’re gonna do this picture!”

He was determined and slowly but surely made it into the chair, which I rotated back to the sea. There, I made a quick shot of him looking out the windows and then jumped outside and closed the door behind me. My quick-thinking assistant, Josh Dick, who specializes in mind-reading photographers, was ready to help as he realized the reflections would be cool on the glass but would also obscure their faces due to the lighting conditions. He held up his jacket to flag their faces, and I gestured for them to come close together.

I made a couple of portraits that worked, both of them fairly radiant and looking in tremendous health despite all their earlier talk about being old and their imminent demise. I called a wrap. Then in an instant, Barbara leaned over and kissed the President on the head. I barely fired one shot. This is my favorite image from the shoot and the picture I will take away as an authentic reflection of their relationship but also kind of interesting as it was shot through the glass. It’s intimate and real, and I’m proud of it. A bit of directing on my part, but even with something conceptual there happen to be real moments that are gifts, and I was lucky enough to press the shutter just in time. Within the context of a celebrity shoot where there is a lot of pressure, I think these little moments are the greatest gifts. This is what I always strive to bring back—something more than expected.

I did push beyond what I might normally do given his high station and health, but nothing great ever happens without risk. I  also sensed in him a desire to make it happen and the grit to get to that window.

http://stocklandmartelblog.com/2012/07/17/doug-menuez-on-photographing-former-president-george-h-w-bush-and-barbara-bush-for-parade-magazine-cover-story/

Wednesday
18
July 2012

Tagged , , , ,

Farewell, Dick Clark (from Stockland Martel Blog)

Back in 2000, veteran creative director Jeff Griffith asked me to do Dick Clark’s portrait for his Atomic magazine interview. We showed up with my longtime stylist extraordinaire, Juliette Smith, at Mr. Clark’s Santa Monica Boulevard headquarters early one morning and were put in a waiting room so stuffed full of rock & roll  history and memorabilia that we couldn’t speak. Our eyes were bugging out of our heads as we tweaked on one sacred relic after another, the iconography of the religion of rock: an early Chuck Berry guitar; Little Richard’s first 45 rpm of “Long Tall Sally”; signed kit from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, you name it. Plus, original jukeboxes stuffed with old records, posters, letters, clothing—just about everything that Dick Clark could gather to tell the story of American music and his own role in helping launch rock & roll through his seminal show American Bandstand. The collection continued down all the halls and throughout the bunker-like offices…

Read full post here >>  http://stocklandmartelblog.com/2012/04/18/farewell-dick-clark/

 

Sunday
22
April 2012

Tagged , , , , , ,

MOSCOW PHOTOBIENNALE: “FEARLESS GENIUS” INAUGURAL EXHIBITION

Just back from Moscow Photobiennale- what an amazing experience! The Russians have a long tradition of scientific and engineering excellence and seemed to really appreciate my project on Steve Jobs and Silicon Valley in the Digital Revolution. My booth was mobbed the whole night and 600 people showed up to hear my lecture Saturday at Skolkovo, the new tech institute and business school modeled after Stanford and MIT. They want to build the next Silicon Valley in Moscow and it looks like they can do it. Education and history are so important in Russia, which are key themes in my work I hope to create dialog around here in the US. What Olga Sviblova has built with the Moscow House of Photography is so impressive, a stunning cultural landmark for photography. Also inspiring was the work of my fellow photographers. I was honored to exhibit alongside such great artists as Harry Gruyeart, Andrew Bush, Alec Soth, Alinka Echeverria, Stephen Shore, Ouyang XIngkai, hilarious madman Tim Davis, Sergey Shestokov, Jane Stravs and several others. Getting to know some of them and hear their stories was life affirming for me. The vodka, great food and the Metro – which is like an art museum itself worth the trip – were all a sweet bonus to the trip.

Wednesday
04
April 2012

Tagged , , , ,

MY “FEARLESS GENIUS” PROJECT IN MOSCOW PHOTOBIENALE!

Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow | Exhibitions | FEARLESS GENIUS: THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION IN SILICON VALLEY 1985-2000

 

I’m thrilled to announce the world premier exhibition of my project “FEARLESS GENIUS: THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION 1985-2000″ which is opening at the Moscow Photobiennale, March 29th, at the Central Exhibition Hall on Red Square. In addition, I’m giving a lecture on the 31st on my work documenting the digital revolution at Skolkovo Innovation Centre and Institute of Science and Technology. This is a project I’ve been working on for decades, which all began when Steve Jobs let me shadow him for three years, and includes a documentary film, app, book and educational program.

This show was a fantastic surprise and came at just the right moment. I have to thank Olga Sviblova, director of MAMM, for choosing this material, and Jean Jacques Naudet for his championing it on La Lettre de la Photographie .

I’ve been working for a few years to edit and scan the work which has been insanely difficult because I shot so much stuff. 250,000 negs were counted by the master picture editor Karen Mullarkey who has been working on this since 2004 when Stanford University Libraries acquired the archive. If you’re in Moscow then please come to both.

Monday
12
March 2012

Tagged , , , , , ,

La Lettre Features “Fearless Genius” Project

For constant inspiration, education, and exposure to the unexpected please visit the vast photographic universe that is La Lettre de la Photographie. The range of material they present is incredible, eclectic and global. I know of no other source quite like this. We all get locked up sometimes in our own private hell of work. We know we should go out and see the shows. When we do, our world brightens a bit, we get ideas, we get energized. La Lettre is like that, but via the internet. Cé tout.

So I was honored to see my long-term project about Steve Jobs and the development of new technology in Silicon Valley during the digital revolution in the 80′s and 90′s featured on La Lettre. I must thank Jean-Jacques Naudet and Gilles Descamps for the lovely presentation. Gradually the project is progressing, with a lot of new scans, plus getting some interviews done for my film and book. But seeing it here makes it a bit more real after all this time working on it. Have a look if you get a moment:

La Lettre de la Photographie

http://lalettredelaphotographie.com/archives/by_date/2011-12-06/4844/doug-menuez-la-saga-de-silicon-valley

Tuesday
13
December 2011

Tagged , , ,

COPYRIGHT IS NOT DEAD… yet.

Robert Levine has written a surprisingly readable, fascinating deconstruction of the rapid breakdown of the music and entertainment industry business model that began in the late 90′s and continues. “Free Ride: How the Internet is Destroying the Culture Business and How the Culture Business can Fight Back” is a sign of life for copyright as thinking people are sorting out how to save it. He details how the rapid rise of piracy as the internet grew, along with downloading and file sharing of music and videos, killed a muilti-billion dollar industry and taught a generation that stealing was ok. He does not cover photography, but our world and methods of earning a living from the sweat of our labor, also was devastated by the fantastic and wonderful new digital technologies. Russell Brown of Adobe once said about Photoshop in the beginning that it would not kill photography, it would simply be a new tool. With a hammer you can build a house or tear it down, he said. And I agree. The tearing down phase of our happy world has gone on mostly unabated by young happy consumers of free everything. The bad karma Steve Job’s predicted for these youngster’s naive theft may be that there are no jobs waiting as they graduate with their photography degrees. It’s time to start rebuilding.

Understanding what happened is part of the process of rectifying the situation. I recommend this book highly to all photographers. I’m hoping he’ll add an addendum about photography in the next edition.

Article in Businessweek about Google’s anti-copyright lobbying -
Saturday
29
October 2011

Tagged , , ,

A SABEDORIA DO BRASIL: A work in progress

I’m just back from Brazil where I’m continuing work on a project that seeks to find the roots of a vast culture at a time of massive change. Check out some of the images below. These are just a few from a small segment of the project about the Jangadeiros of the Northeast, traditional fisherman who risk their lives everyday in simple boats. I expect this to track over a few years and will post new material as time allows.

A Sabedoria do Brasil project traces a visitor’s journey (me) through a vast country with a singular mission: to gather the favorite proverbs, idiomatic sayings and stories of diverse people from all walks of life in every region. These sayings and proverbs, while sometimes trite, often provide real comfort and meaning while revealing the hidden roots and collective wisdom of the Brazilian psyche. It’s a simple idea that yields a fresh way to look at the culture.

Brazil is on fire with change. Beaches, Samba, Carnival and fútbol, although still fundamentally part of the culture, are moving into a supporting role as business is booming. Just as the country declared energy independence they found one of the world’s largest reserves of oil. The Olympics and World Cup are coming and real estate is off the hook expensive. The economy grew at something like 7.5% last year and although down closer to 5% this year is still smoking the US and Europe. The world is watching as the previously tagged “country of tomorrow” is fast becoming the country of today. Although the infrastructure remains challenging, crime and poverty are still massive problems, there is a new expanding middle class and lots of manufacturing, technology, financial and business jobs.  Brazil’s first female president recently took office and is continuing the trade practices of her predecessor.

Yet traditions remain, as you can see in these images of the fisherman of Flecheiras, Ceará. Orson Welles began a film about them in the early 1940′s that was never finished. The cinematography was stunning, and I took that as a good enough inspiration to make the trek up there to meet and visit. One older man told us a story about his grandfather out to sea and trying to drown a cat they discovered on board eating their bait. They pulled up the line later and were shocked to discover the cat tangled in their line, but amazingly grasping dozens of fish in its claws and teeth. Shocked but happy, they kept the cat going at this and came back with double their usual catch. As I listened at first I completely accepted this story as I’ve seen a lot of mysterious stuff in Brazil at this point. But then as I questioned the fisherman he then said that he heard this from his grandfather as the god’s truth.

And then his grandfather told him: “O pescador  não mente; ele aumenta, mas não inventa.”   “The fisherman doesn’t lie–he might embellish, but doesn’t invent.”

Thursday
06
October 2011

Tagged , , , ,

SLANDER, STUPIDITY & THE MINDLESS MOB ATTACKS ON JAY MAISEL

The following is my personal opinion. This post has been updated to reflect new information.

There’s always that terrifying moment when a large, seemingly peaceful gathering turns brutally ugly. In an instant, blood is drawn and you could easily be crushed by the swirling, pulsing chaos of what is now a mindless, violent mob. Sadly, we all know that inexplicable self-destructive stupidity is not limited to the streets, but can be witnessed quite often online. And it’s happening now, in an ignorant, misguided and ruthless attack on Jay Maisel.

The attacks were a reaction by the supporters of former Kickstarter board member and CTO Andy Baio after he posted his recent blog Kind of Screwed – Waxy.org giving his sad spin to the story of how he appropriated one of Jay’s most famous pictures, Miles Davis on the cover of the seminal album “Kind of Blue,” without permission for his own project called “Kind of Bloop,” got sued and settled for $32,000. Andy claimed it was Fair Use and fails to mention the fact that he was selling the album he created, and still is, through PayPal which is clearly a commercial use. Not exactly fair. And the image is clearly recognizable as Jay’s. This is the comparison as shown on Andy’s and other blogs:

Given that Andy describes in his post how confusing the murky mess of Fair Use with its contradictory precedents is, and how unfair this is to those who might get sued, it’s surprising he decided to risk getting sued and not ask permission. Even more surprising is that Andy did in fact call Jay’s studio to inquire about the image after he posted it in May of 2009. Jay’s studio manager at the time was unaware that Andy had already used the image and asked what he’d like to use it for and to send an email with details. Was it personal, commercial, did he want a fine art print for his wall or..? Andy responded that he was just interested in the picture. when asked again, he was vague. He said he just wanted to see it and would like to buy a print someday. He never called or emailed back. And then continued using the picture, fully aware that there might be usage rights to pay for a commercial use.

He also fails to mention that he used the project and Jay’s picture while generating tons of worldwide publicity for his project and Kickstarter, getting web sites worldwide, TV time and exposure on cable news, nightly news, print media and, all using Jay’s picture. The latter usage is important as Kickstarter gets 5% of all donations to projects on Kickstarter. To me it looks like a rather large grass roots ad campaign in support of a start-up company which as it grows stands to make millions of dollars for the founders, for Andy, either directly or a future exit. Then when you find out that Andy has a habit of using other artist’s work without permission––The Beatles, Bill Cosby–– and bragging about it on his blog you kind of start to smell a very clever, social media manipulating… you fill in the blank.

A key question Andy so far won’t answer is why he paid for the rights to use the music and not the photography for his project. This again to me looks like a calculation that it would be cheaper to defend against a photographer then the music label, since his past history indicates he has no respect in general for copyright. But it does look like a lack of respect for photographers in general, which is typical of all those needing our content. In the current economy photographers are really struggling so they look like easy prey.

Meanwhile, the flames from Andy’s blog were fanned by the mysterious Stone & Youngberg stockbroker Andrew Peterson, who posts his images online under the pseudonym of Thomas Hawk. He has a large following and posted an angry rant against Jay here: Thomas Hawk Digital Connection » Blog Archive » Photographer Jay Maisel Extorts (Opinion) $32,500 Out of Andy Baio The comments are almost all against Peterson/Hawk, but it did not stop anonymous haters from acting out. Oh and there is one very interesting attacker who publicly admits to hiring someone to vandalize Jay’s building on his very incendiary and completely uninformed blog here: Breaking: Millionaire Extorts $$$ From Artist, Street Artists Strike Back It is interesting that since they can’t really criticize Jay for protecting his copyright they try to attack him for being successful.

What’s really crazy about this last blogger’s headline is that, A. Andy himself admits he is not an artist as he hired an artist to do the pixelization work, and B. Andy is worth millions and millions due to the sale of his start up Upcoming.com to Yahoo in 2005. How does any of this make sense?

You can read an excellent synopsis of this story on Moscow-based photographer Jeremy Nicholl’s blog here: The Photographer, The Entrepreneur, The Stockbroker And Their Rent-A-Mob » The Russian Photos Blog

Facebook actually took Jay’s page down after it was deluged with vicious comments such as “hope you get colon cancer and die” and worse. Sickening and shameful. Makes you want to just move out to the wilderness and get off the grid.

Jay doesn’t need me to defend him, he’s led the master class for us all in how to fight for our rights. Nevertheless, it’s appalling to see such uneducated vitriol directed at one of my heroes. It is just crazy to me that someone would even think of infringing on Jay’s seminal image of one of the greatest jazz musicians of the 20th Century; a photograph that contributed to the iconography of Miles Davis and forever defined our visual memory of Davis’s masterpiece album Kind of Blue. Jay Maisel is one of our living treasures, a master photographer and pioneer. He has worked his ass off to get where he is today, and contributed more good will, more inspiration and joy through his trail-blazing photography, generous spirit and years of teaching, and beauty to our culture then can be measured over his stunning sixty-year career. Those who are casting aspersions and criticising Jay reveal a serious ignorance of the US Constitution, copyright law and the rights of artist’s to control their own work. Are you guys advocating rewriting the Constitution? Really?

I have nothing against photographers who use photography as a hobby and want to give their images away. They have income from their day jobs. But don’t try to take away my rights and how we make a living. Why would you want to tear down the professional community anyway? All of us share our expertise with up and coming and hobbyist photogs in workshops and give images to students, researchers, non profits and generally give back to the communty. It just makes no sense to me.

Because a lot of people grew up downloading, i.e., stealing, images and music part of the problem is we have a generation of who expect to get images for free and don’t really understand how copyright could in fact help them make a living. Another factor here is certainly the false class warfare angle.

Take a moment and imagine what it must be like to actually make a living from your photography. Or from any of the arts ––dance, painting, writing, music. I don’t mean posting pictures on Flickr and getting 50 bucks here and there when you are not out skateboarding, or playing in a band for another 30 bucks here and there, or whatever odd job you do to keep going when you are not borrowing money from your mom. Ouch sorry. I mean, imagine you spent years perfecting your craft and got so good at it through intense, hard work, year in and out, that you actually are able pay your bills and support your family. You actually buy food, clothing, and pay a mortgage through the value of your photographs. Imagine the responsiblity of providing for your family from your work, your photography, and competing with thousands upon thousands of other hungry photographers. Now imagine that every content user on the planet would really like to get your work for free if they could, to steal it and use it for commercial gain for as little money as possible. It is a constant battle to survive. It’s just hard to do, if not nearly impossible. You just can’t imagine how hard it really is unless you have done it. And once you’ve gone through the hell of making it, you will fight tooth and nail to protect what you’ve earned.

I’m sorry andy Baio felt he could act without the basic respectful act of reaching out to Jay without subterfuge. And from reading his blog, I get the feeling he’d be a great guy to have a beer with, smart and funny. He clearly knows what he is doing in social media and how to build value into a start-up. He professes a lot of noble ideals. Yet he pushes this agenda that maligns and abuses an artist of the first rank. He clearly values the intellectual property he himself has created and sold. Why be a hypocrite now? Disconnect.

These attacks on Jay Maisel by Andy Baio and his supporters are unfounded, and disgusting and reflect the ignorance in the truest sense of the uneducated, mindless mob mentality at play.

For such smart guys, this whole thing is kind of…stupid.

Sunday
10
July 2011

Tagged , , , , , , ,
Page 1 of 1012345...10...Last »