NEW ON LIVEBOOKS RESOLVE: SEEING MONEY

Please visit my new column on RESOLVE, liveBooks new blog, about the business of photography called “Seeing Money” where I hope to provide some fundamental business information for those just starting out or trying to re-boot their careers.RESOLVE — the liveBooks photo blog » Doug Menuez

THE OLD MODEL IS THE NEW MODEL

I’ve been having lots of discussions around the country lately about what viable new model might be developing for advertising and editorial photographers to survive in this new economic era and beyond. Guess what: there isn’t one. Yet. And probably at this point there won’t be one. Photographers are too fragmented and pulling at cross purposes for too many years. We’ve been giving away internet rights for so long that’s become entrenched as pretty much free.

Right now I have to believe the old rules still apply. Photographers who develop their eye and can present their own special way of seeing the world and can then build a reputation around that work will thrive. And copyright, feeding photographers and their families for so many years, has no substitute. Of course, supply and demand will always play a role in terms of the leverage photographers have. The more you build your name, the more leverage you’ll have. Right now supply is at an all time high. Demand is at an all time low. Now is the time to hone your skills like crazy, and at the same time you must as always market yourself using all the new marketing tools available, including social networking first and foremost.

The one thing photographers can do right now is improve their business skills so we are all pulling in the same direction. The better photographers get at running their businesses the better we’ll all be. If photographers follow similar best business practices that will make us all more effective in leveraging what we have built up. We will never get back to the golden age of past pricing and trade practices that made advertising so lucrative. But the more existing and new photographers embrace and understand the power of unifying their business practices and protecting their rights the sooner things will improve.

There are lots of expert consultants out there who can take you to another level. The main thrust of the work I see that is valuable is around marketing and honing your creative vision. Five who come to mind who I know, trust and recommend are Mary Virginia Swanson, Debra Weiss, Allegra Wilde, Ian Summers and Susan Baraz.

I have either consulted with or worked together with them on panels and I know how powerful their experience can be for a photographer trying to push forward creatively and marketing-wise. But before even taking that step it’s important to do your homework on a basic structural level.

BACK TO BASICS

What I will be sharing is a report from the front lines from a working photographer perspective. At first I’ll discuss the basic stuff and then later some of the mistakes I’ve made, what worked for me, things I learned the hard way. Bankers can’t help you until you know how they think. Most accountants don’t understand the photography business. Most photographers I know have no idea what a P&L is or how to manage cash flow or get an SBA loan. Very few are effective at collections without alienating clients and almost none have learned basic bookkeeping. Yeah, the boring, yet essential DNA building block items of a growing business.

Please take a look at the new column and let me know what you think and what you want to know more about:

RESOLVE — the liveBooks photo blog » Doug Menuez

Friday
26
June 2009

Bahador Irani Sent You A Message On Facebook

As blood spills in the streets of Iran I watch from the safe distance of television and internet, sorry for the lost lives and fearful for colleagues covering the story. Today I got another note from a student in Iran who I met through Facebook. I can’t do much to help this courageous young man– his name literally means “brave Iranian”– except what he asks me to do: relay the message. So I’m sharing this valuable first person witness to the repression:

Bahador sent you a message.

“Dear doug Please let the world know what is goin on in iran. please let the world know about iranian youth cries in lack of justice in our elections.”

Subject: doroud (hi).

“dear doug thanks alot for your kind reply on my previous post and please accept my appology because of the long delay in getting it back with you. as you may know every communication mean is blocked by our government in iran, speacially internet and depndent stuffs to it. our cellphones, sattilites, internet access and everything is blocked and filtered.
yeah 4 days ago before our supreme leader speech we were asking for a new election and that is 80% of the voters oppinion but when he showd us his real face the protesters demands were taken to another level and after killing more of our citizens by his command, oppinions got changed and people can not stand his leadership anymore. they are setting up  our 2 candidates, mir hossein moosavi and mehdi karoobi a crime to arrest them and kill all other protesters. they use snipers, tear gases , batons and everything possible to use the highest level of violence against the protesters. they have killed at least at least and at least 50 persoan by far. unfortunatly president obama is not takeing a more seriuos dicision againts iran and we iranians are suffering from his being this cold blood against this much bloodshed. we belive that political sanctions from america is needed. thanks again for your kind support and hope you keep supporting us to a better end. for humen being, humen dignity, humen rights and a peacful life. at least this tragic story allowed us to prove to the world that iranian peopl are not happy with their government and the whole islamic republic of iran, but we were all dominated under this shameful system and what i garantee is that my citizens are not looking for atomic bomb we are are all friends with american people and european people and we are looking for the real peace. please let our american brothers and sisters know, that iranian people were dominated and they can not take this anymore. my sister was born in america in oklahoma and she is an american/iranian citizen. and please if its that reachable for you guys use the NGO powers to help us. a heartfelt thanks goes to all of you from my people and we are looking for your help indeed. wish you all the best of lcuks and a peacful life for all of us. good luck.

Truely yours.

Bahador.”

Please pass it on.

Tuesday
23
June 2009

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NOTHING CHANGED

From “Blur: A Memoir,” an ongoing and random series of stories, dreams, and memories from my life as a photographer. This is #2 in a continuing series from “Tesåo,” about my wife Tereza and our relationship. A recurring theme in any photographer’s life is how to maintain some semblance of family life, or to even keep friends. This story reflects parts of my personal evolution and naive attempts to balance my work and family and make my second (and hopefully last) marriage work.

©2009 Doug Menuez from "Tesão"

©2009 Doug Menuez from "Tesão"

After we broke up I drove cross country to attend the San Francisco Art Institute, determined to lose myself in photography. Tereza quickly tired of America and moved back to Brazil in 1977, entered University, got married, got divorced, graduated, moved back to New York to work for Globo TV eight years later, got married again, and in a devastating setback got separated from her new husband within a month.  She began looking for me. Not knowing where I’d moved, she was calling around the US for two years, city by city, finally in late 1985 finding my number in San Francisco with the help of her sister.

I had suffered night after night in those ten long, sad years we had been apart, listening to Brazilian records and memory-etching each detail of that summer together. She found me in California and left a sweet message, which I played upon returning from a shoot. I’d been flying all day in a helicopter with Wayne Newton at the controls, his german shepherd barking continuously in the co-pilot seat as Wayne roared through canyons near Vegas, inches from the red rock walls.  Exhausted, I arrived home and hit play on my answering machine. Her soft voice barely audible with my cocaine-fueled wife screaming for a divorce behind me (“OK, you got it!”).Then I flew all night to New York City full of elation, adrenaline and dread. Laying in bed that first day back together, it was then, looking into her eyes, that I experienced true peace of mind for the first time. We’d found each other again and nothing whatsoever had changed between us.

I was always flying in those days for the magazines and was able to start making weekend trips to New York to see Tereza from wherever I was shooting. We slowly got to know each other again over five months of visits. I started secretly grabbing some of her stuff and putting it into my suitcase to bring back to Sausalito, while slowly trying to convince her to leave New York.

The last weekend before she finally decided to move with me to California, Tereza remembered her visit to a psychic who made some predictions on a tape that she had put in a drawer and never played. She had just forgotten about it. As a young journalist, I was pretty skeptical of psychics but was willing to listen.

Tereza found the tape and put it on her little cassette player. We sat together and listened. The psychic spoke in a calm, even voice. He said that in two years time Tereza would meet a man from her past with the initials “DM or MD” and that he worked for the magazines. We both got chills as we realized it was two years to the month since she had been given the tape. We looked hard at each other. I knew she was deciding that moment to go with me, to trust me. Well, there are just some things that can’t be explained in life. Some force is at work we can only guess at. This then, our meeting again after all this time, was fate.

©2009 Doug Menuez from "Tesão"

©2009 Doug Menuez from "Tesão"


Sunday
21
June 2009

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INKJET'S SILVER LINING

“There are relatively few things I truly despise: beets, liver, Karl Rove and RC paper, in that order. RC breaks my heart. It’s to those who print on matte rag paper yet remember silver gelatin before the Hunt brothers cornered the market on silver in the late 1970’s that I address.”

Pulling a perfect print from the wash was one of the great joys in life for a photographer. While still wet the image glowed supernaturally, tones luminous and rich. Judging how much it would dry down was one of many subtle skills gained in a darkroom. Working all night with a bottle of scotch and Miles playing, we were ecstatic in our solitude.

The small miracle of a silver gelatin print yielding its hidden image in the developer and the joy of the process was unequaled for me in the digital realm until recently. With the introduction of inkjet paper that emulates the look and feel of silver paper a rather larger miracle has been produced.

A whole generation has grown up thinking expensive, delicate rag type paper such as watercolor or other less costly types of matte papers are what you use to make prints. To them, this paper is photography. Better this then plastic, resin-coated stock. For those who embraced RC paper in the darkroom, or it’s evil mutant digital version, I can’t help you, hasta le vista. There are relatively few things I truly despise: beets, liver Karl Rove and RC paper, in that order. RC breaks my heart. It’s those who print on matte rag paper yet remember silver gelatin before the Hunt brothers cornered the market on silver in the late 1970’s that I address.

It’s true many in my generation have embraced rag papers as I did, at first because the alternative was the horrific sheen of plastic. What choice did we have in the early days of digital? Good rag papers are an important link to art and the history of printmaking, and can deliver stunningly beautiful prints for the right images. I grew up using it for etching and lithography, not photography. But over time, every generation of digital printmakers has grown to just accept matte paper as the norm.

The difference for me is simple: matte paper absorbs light and looks flat. A traditional silver paper of the type I grew up like Kodak Polycontrast F, famous as Ansel Adams favorite, or Agfa’s Portriga Rapid or the orginal Ilford, had a “supercoating” of a hardened gelatin giving it what was called a semi-gloss surface. It wasn’t glossy like RC paper, but it had a sheen that reflected light and gave depth to the blacks. And that difference was its power.

After a speech at RIT four years ago where I lamented the lack of an inkjet substrate equaling the look, feel, and tonal range of long-ago papers I was approached Eric Kunsman of Booksmart, a talented local digital printer and bookbinder in Rochester. He told me my wait was over. He was testing a brand new paper from a new company called Innova.

The company was formed by a band of Hanemuhle rebels who left when the parent company refused to fund their dream of making and distributing a paper that rivaled silver gelatin for inkjet printing. There was a story about an eccentric German scientist who also missed silver paper laboring to solve the technical challenges involved in getting a silver gelatin-like emulsion on a cotton paper base.  Innova got a hold of this guy and set the goal of producing a fibre based baryta paper that no one could tell from silver.

Until that moment, no major manufacturer appeared to be interested in this idea. I’d spoken to Epson and others and was told that it was technically too difficult and expensive to produce, and there was essentially no demand. Yet here came this little company with the crazy idea that there were photographers who remembered and missed the silver print. They also felt there were plenty of people still printing away on silver paper that might be tempted into digital printing.

With the invention of Innova FibaGloss paper the doors opened and Hanemuhle, Ilford, Epson and others got the religion and all today now distribute similar papers, creating choices and competition. I’m mentioning Innova because they were first, remain my favorite and now thankfully sponsor my projects. But I do this also from pure self-interest: I hope photographers will buy this extraordinary paper so I get to keep printing with it.

Tequila, Mexico. ©2009 Doug Menuez. At Fotokina a silver gelatin print of this image was hung next to an inkjet print made on Innova FibaGloss in a comparison test. Most photographers chose the inkjet print when asked to identify the silver print.

Tequila, Mexico. ©2009 Doug Menuez. At Fotokina a silver gelatin print of this image was hung next to an inkjet print made on Innova FibaGloss in a comparison test. Most photographers chose the inkjet print when asked to identify the silver print.

For a long time I did not even realize how I was missing silver paper. I was caught up in learning to master inkjet printing, especially the amazing color possibilities. I woke up in 2003 while comparing a black and white silver print I had made of men in vats of agave juice making tequila from my book “Heaven, Earth, Tequila” to a rag print. The first thing I noticed was the true continuous tone, the rich blacks and overall luminosity made me feel I could almost fall into the print. The rag paper had its lovely texture and handmade feel, but the image lost some impact. I felt separated from the content by the paper. And then I really noticed the limits of ink jet. While it was much easier to use Photoshop to dodge and burn I started to see where the lower gray tones were blocking up, the upper grays jumped to white and subtle banding I’d ignored somehow. Measuring the d-max showed the silver print to have deeper blacks as well.

Knowing there was no such thing as a semi-gloss silver type paper on the market at that time, I began to further explore image processing and printing with the goal of getting as close to continuous tone as possible. RIPs and processing techniques for digital converting color files to bw from Greg Gorman and other tips from Seth Resnick helped. And overall, there has been tremendous progress in inkjet printing. But even so, I grew to miss the look and feel of my old paper more and more.

In the late 1980’s I was experimenting with digital printing on rag and other papers, printing on wax printers at Adobe, where I was documenting the engineers, and later at Electronics for Imaging, where they were developing what later became the Fiery RIP. Around late 1992 I printed a portfolio on an early version of Supermac’s dye sublimation printer, a breakthrough on price and color. It had what was essentially continuous tone, far more similar to silver than what I could get from inkjet, with its dithered ink droplets. But the trade off was that the paper was resin based and it also faded quickly. I turned to Iris printers and lush watercolor papers. Those papers quickly became available on the much, much cheaper Epsons, so I joined the hunt to make beautiful prints with inkjet.

And that was all good until my wake up call. Sometimes we forget what we truly love and what defines us. Now my long nightmare is over. For me a big quest in digital is to find and implement metaphors for what I had in analog. Now I’m pulling prints out of my inkjet printer with that same rush as I had pulling them from the wash. They glow.

So the challenge is lessened but is essentially the same: to make prints that move us emotionally. It’s about the image, but also the print as object, as a beautiful delivery system for the subject matter. The choice of substrate says as much about the photographer as the content of the work and can affect our perception of the photograph as subconscious filters. To each their own of course, but I finally found mine; the look and feel of silver. Can’t beat that.

Saturday
13
June 2009

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Beach House '76

From “Blur: A Memoir,” an ongoing and random series of stories, dreams, and memories from my life as a photographer.

When Tereza arrived in New York City from Brazil in 1976, her older sister Magda got her a job in a sweatshop on 23rd Street sewing leather bags for Carlos Falchi. Magda was representing the hot new Brazilian designer, filling orders she’d taken from Bloomindale’s and trendy boutiques downtown.

tesao_021

Every day at lunch the women would rise from their sewing machines and gather by the huge windows on the 10th floor. Across the street, like clockwork, they would see this freaky old guy jerking off on his rooftop, looking over at them as they laughed in amazement and disgust.

At night, Tereza and Magda would go to huge parties downtown wearing black leather mini-skirts. There were East Germans, Russians and Poles who’d escaped through the Iron Curtain, Brazilian diplomats and musicians, French filmmakers, Italian playboys, heroin dealers, dancers, painters, and a few Americans trying to dance the Samba, with everyone high on Capirinhas, shouting over the music in a Babel-like cacophony of miscommunication.

It wasn’t long before the sweatshop job wore Tereza down and she quit, retreating to the calm of Magda’s beach house on Eaton’s Neck, not far from where I grew up in Northport. On Easter Sunday I was making a rare visit home when Magda called me from the city. For three years Magda had been telling me her younger sister would come to live with her as soon as she could arrange things. And finally her sister had arrived, was alone at the beach house, and needed cheering up. I was busy and still a bit mad at Magda for some long-forgotten reason, made some excuse and hung up. Five minutes later, Maria Tereza Pires Machado, 21 years old, called and asked in very broken English why I would not come and see her. Her voice was soft and sexy as hell. I grabbed a bottle of wine and my Nikkormat and hitchhiked the 30 miles to see her. Although I did not understand her Portuguese, language was not an issue that night and we talked for hours. She insisted I stay the night, pulling me into bed. I watched her cross the kitchen into the back bedroom. With a quick, graceful gesture she simultaneously dropped her sun dress revealing her naked, perfect brown body, while slapping her hand on the bed, and said “You stay.” I did.

This utterly blew my 18-year-old, Long Island mind. The night became a week. I was overwhelmed, transported to another planet, converted to a new religion––the religion of her––with the total devotion and hallucinatory intensity of a convert, and in way, way, way over my head. I’d had girlfriends; this was a woman.

We began an affair that lasted almost six months until she abruptly broke up with me. She got bored and wanted to see older guys. On our last date I tried to impress her and took her to Fire Island in my “new” ’65 Opel and we ran out of gas on the highway. She didn’t really speak to me after that, although I continued to visit her sisters. Devastated, I moved to San Francisco determined to forget her and dedicate my life to photography.

Sunday
07
June 2009

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