ALL NEW SITE: WWW.MENUEZ.COM

I’m really pleased to announce we have completely overhauled our web site and are soft launching it now. An email blast will go out in a day or so after we are sure all the obvious bugs are solved. I was very happy to work with liveBooks on this using their new custom service. They were incredibly helpful and creative problem solvers as we worked out how to fit a large amount of work into a simple interface.

Please have a look and let me know what you think: Doug Menuez

Tuesday
28
July 2009

RELATIONSHIP BANKING: On liveBooks RESOLVE

If you’re starting your photography career or re-booting it, please check out my new post on liveBooks RESOLVE blog about the business of photography:

RESOLVE BLOG. SEEING MONEY: Getting a loan for your photo business

Wednesday
22
July 2009

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PREGNANT

From “Blur: A Memoir,” an ongoing and random series of stories, dreams, and memories from my life as a photographer. This is #3 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.

©2009 Doug Menuez

©2009 Doug Menuez


We were about to leave Sausalito for Hawaii on an assignment when Tereza came down with a serious fever. I took her to the doctor right away and he became very concerned, forbade her to travel and did some tests. I went anyway as we needed the money but I hated to leave her like that.

The next day I called to see if Tereza was well enough to join me. She said the doctor told her she had severe thyroiditis and would have died of shock within twenty-four hours if she had gone with me undiagnosed. A really long week passed until I was able to finish my shoot and get home. She was feeling better and we went to see the specialist our doctor had arranged. A pill, each day, would regulate her thyroid and keep her well.

Forty-five days later, Tereza tested positive. She was pregnant. Tereza had never been able to have children in her previous marriages and was told in Brazil she never would, so birth control was not in our picture. It turned out the reason was related less to my Basque heritage and more to the new thyroid medication, which the specialist knew would make make her fertile but, um, forgot to tell us.

I was shooting a movie star in Aspen when I got called to the phone by the star’s husband, also a movie star, who happened to be my favorite TV actor when I was a kid. He played a cynical, daring thief, my perfect role model. Tereza was calling with the good but shocking and completely unexpected news. That night at dinner after the shoot I was in a dream-shock state. The star’s husband, still handsome and flashing his trademark grin, asked me why I thought I was the father since I travel so much, and, he added, he was in Sausalito a lot. The movie star kicked him under the table which snapped me out of my shock. I began making plans. Our lives were changed, blessed to be sure, but I had to grow up quick and figure out how to be a father. Something I was sure I would never be, nor be any good at.

Sausalito, 1987.

“Tesão” is from our publication URGE and can be purchased through my web site:

http://menuez.com/ Then select:  Information > Store > Limited Edition Books > URGE/Tesão


Tuesday
14
July 2009

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CASH FLOW: Smooth The Cycles

I’ve got a new post on liveBooks RESOLVE blog today in a continuing series called “Seeing Money” about  the basics of the business side of photography:

RESOLVE — the liveBooks photo blog » Archives » Seeing Money: Tips for capitaziling on your cash flow

Here as promised is some supplemental information to the RESOLVE column:

One of the hardest nuts to crack for any freelancer is how to manage cash flow. I’m the first to admit that most of this is theory and putting it into practice takes nerves of steel. I’ve gone through phases where things are better planned, and phases where I’m so caught up in a special project or on the road shooting to the extent it’s just not possible to stay on top of things. If you can afford a business manager or bookkeeper or have a spouse or someone that can oversee and do some or all of this for you, fantastic. Currently we work with a business manager and review the payables with him and work together but I can rely on him to handle it if I’m out of the country. But as I’ve said, I did all this myself for years and even if you have help you owe it to yourself and your future to learn how it all works.

In my studio, we always insist on advances on jobs, which helps with production expenses, but even then we are often only covering 75%. And if we are producing a portfolio, book project or new web site or whatever marketing we do, we are spending without direct compensation.
Having a P&L and a budget that allows you to plan and track these expenses is critical. Getting monthly aged Accounts Payables and Receivable reports are also essential. You can look out over the next month, quarter and year and estimate your fixed expenses, taxes and probably income based on past income and see where the spikes and valleys of cash flow will occur. Try to get all your regular vendors on account so you can pay for supplies net 30. Negotiate in advance with printers and others for better terms if possible to stretch out payments. Rearrange your credit card payments so they are not all at once but spread out in the month. I limit my credit cards to one Visa and an AMEX also, keeping it simple.

So you’ve done all that and every two weeks you go to pay the bills and perhaps you see there are more bills than cash. Ouch. You can hit your line of credit if you have one, take money from savings (never do this) or call your vendors and negotiate longer payment terms. Typically, what happens is most photographers end up spending every dime they have on overdue bills or just not paying some. That leads to bad credit, ruined relationships with vendors and just a lot more stress.

To get a better handle on assessing my bills and cash flow every two weeks I get a special spreadsheet report that combines my A/P with the balances from my various checking and reserve accounts, plus any income we truly expect will arrive within the next few days. This is broken out as “MUST PAYS” and which include ANY credit reporting item or crucial must pay business item such as credit cards, loans, health insurance and the like. By just sorting your bills like this you can really clarify things in a hurry. You just must pay anything that might send you to collection or for which a late payment will be reported to a credit agency. The one thing you must preserve as a small business is your credit.

I have a total column under MUST PAYS so I can eyeball quickly what that amount is and start thinking about what’s coming next. The next section is a snapshot of my Payables and it’s aged by under 30 days, over 30 up to 60 days, 90 days and longer. Sometimes this is important to have not because we are late on something but we are able to see long term balances that are slowly being paid off.

I then look at the total due for all the bills that are due now or overdue, combined with the MUST PAYS. I then look at the balance of our main business checking to see if we have enough or if we will have to transfer cash in to cover this amount. If we are tight, my next step is to scan the bills due now to see what is under $500 and make sure we pay those first. The smallest bills should always get paid quickest in my opinion, as those vendors need it most usually. Sometimes if we know a check is coming in a day or two we might cut and hold checks. And then if there is anything that we can extend by perhaps paying half now and half in two weeks. We then call that vendor to see if that’s ok with them.

This is another step in the process I’ve added that happens to work for me and my brain and the way I process information. It might not work for you and you might be way more organized and have a mind for numbers. If so, I’m very jealous but at least I have my system to fall back on. And if you’re like me, now you can too.

Thursday
09
July 2009

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100 EYES: Stunning New Issue

Picture 2

Photographer Andy Levin has created a singular publication well worth following, but with a new issue out he’s brought together an extraordinary collection of important photo essays. Please take a look:

100Eyes: Photography Magazine, Photo Workshops

Tuesday
07
July 2009

A COPYRIGHT MANIFESTO: REALITY vs. BULLSHIT

Just as the economic collapse was the result of cannibalistic, blind greed driven by a demand for profits, so to will be the coming collapse of the community of content creators, of the artists. The shake out is already beginning.

"The Beast That Must Be Fed" ©2009 Doug Menuez

"The Beast That Must Be Fed" ©2009 Doug Menuez

ROBBING AUTHORS 1776

Publishers were exploiting authors in England and the colonies. Thus our founding fathers in their wisdom allowed those who create to own their works, enshrining those rights in our founding document. Copyright and licensing creative content was born. Was this unwise? Do we really want to change the US Constitution? Because new technologies enable the easy rip-off of content? Because you can steal you should be able to steal?

So let’s settle the question of whether using a photograph or text or music outside of “fair use” without permission is stealing. It is. Period. Look it up. It’s illegal. Whether you think it’s morally ok to steal is your problem and karma. If you want to roll through stop signs, cheat on your taxes, or avoid paying sales tax in your home state by buying online, that’s your choice.

But just because a misguided groundswell that began in the 80′s and 90′s out of an idealistic dream driven by new technology we should erase Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 from the US Constitution? Because millions of kids started downloading music because they could? And now they think it’s a right? I forcefully disagree. Just because it’s socially cool to steal my photographs does not mean I have to give up my only way of making a living, granted to me by the Founding Fathers no less. Socially cool behavior has never made a good basis for legal or social policy as far as I know. Gimme a break.

“Information wants to be free…” is the rallying cry for free content supporters. It actually comes from an comment by the brilliant technology observer and writer Steward Brand in a speech in 1984 and later from his book “The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT,” Viking Penguin, in 1987. The problem is Mr. Brand’s comment is almost never quoted in full. The second half of his observation is very important: “Information also wants to be expensive…” and he goes on to describe the tension between the push to distribute free information over the ever cheaper distribution platforms and the extremely valuable nature that the right information for the right person at the right time can have. It can be life changing.

MOB MADNESS

The tension between the public benefit of free information versus the benefit bestowed on the artist creating the content has always existed, and in fact tends to be settled in favor of the public in most cases. There is remedy for the public with “fair use” interpretations of copyright law. I personally support fair use and have donated my work to librarians, students and teachers for education, non-profits and various causes over the decades. Most photographers do, it’s just common sense. Taking away our rights is mob rule, common madness.

And the mob can be quite innocent. It is disheartening to see the NY Times publish a misguided and seemingly harmless suggestion to download Flickr photos to decorate your home. See: Flickr as an Interior Decorating Tool – Gadgetwise Blog – NYTimes.com By SONIA ZJAWINSKI. While certainly creative and well-meaning the effect is to continue the social trend to denigrate and rationalize stealing images. Which is why I was so happy to see Malcolm Gladwell’s new review of the Chris Anderson’s new book “Free.” Malcolm Gladwell reviews Free by Chris Anderson: Books: The New Yorker. Mr. Gladwell points out that the arguments Mr. Anderson and other advocates of free content have put forth are based on false assumptions.

What is particularly insane is this veneer of new age humanism that coats the hollow arguments against copyright by painting this free concept as beneficial to humanity. There is also a specious line of propaganda that blends copyright protection with the interests of big corporations, thus pairing artists with corporate desires. In fact, big corporations recognized early on the importance of intellectual property and were fine with trade practices that respected the intellectual property of their vendors as they respected their own. For decades. Once upon a time even GM once respected photographers rights in the same way, in exactly the same way they protected their design center trade secrets. It made sense. It was fair play. It was American. That was then…

Corporations are not inherently evil. Some even have codes of ethics and support social causes and do good in the world. They employ people who live in cities and towns and villages who pay taxes that support the police and fire and school services in those towns. In other words they are a big part of the fabric of our country. Yet as we’ve seen with the economic collapse some regulation is a good idea. Even Greenspan to his chagrin admitted he had not realized the degree to which human beings would fall and need to be regulated. Big surprise: markets are not rational. Humans are flawed. Greed takes over and corporations, big business, and Wall Street will eat it’s young and itself. The crisis was a giant orgy of cannibalism.

In the 80′s and 90′s the growing insatiable demands made by Wall St. for quarterly profits, fueled by waves of mergers and acquisitions and taking on of massive debt, ran parallel to this populist rise to steal content on the internet. Corporations needed to save money at the same time as technology was turning analog to digital and teens were saving by downloading music. A nice dovetail evolved to ultimately serve the same master: get as much content as you can for as close to free as possible. It’s not random that more and more corporations are pushing to do buy outs without paying for those rights. Yet they will fight to the death to protect their own intellectual property, I assure you.

So the very idealistic young people who distrust and criticize big business and large corporations are on the same team as these corporations they purport to hate. Together they are working to destroy the fundamental rights of all artists enshrined in the Constititution. Let me be clear: If you think it’s ok to download photos or music or content for free you are on the same side as the large corporations now pushing to crush copyright so they can get cheap or free content for their ads or marketing materials. They have the same goals. How ironic indeed. Yet people love the work of the artists they steal from. Where is the culture going with this thinking?

WHEN ARTISTS ARE PAID EVERYONE WINS LONG TERM

Who benefits when copyright goes away? Basically the same people who download images to decorate their homes or dormrooms, or music, or corporations seeking cheaper ads. But it’s short term gain people, a false utopia. In fact, the counter-intuitive reality is that copyright laws are good for everyone. What is in the long-term best interest of corporations, and of the music, photo, content loving public that steals, is a vibrant community of artists getting paid enough to keep food on the table so they can keep creating the work that everyone consumes and needs.

Just as the economic collapse was the result of cannibalistic, blind greed driven by demand for profits, so to will be the coming collapse of the community of content creators, of the artists. There is already a shake out beginning. No one sees it yet because along with the rise of this new easy tech the barriers to entry fell so low there are more creators than at any time in history. So we think there is an unlimited supply, and there is a lot of content now for sure. And most of it is crap. It’s been proven that crap does not sell. That fact, just like the fact that regulations work, will be re-learned. Soon enough the economic impact of stealing content will swing like a scythe, slicing through creative lives until a tiny group is left to supply a giant demand. Guess who will have the power again then? If they can hang together with similar trade practices then content creators will rise again.

Why go through this chaotic, stupid mess? Let’s instead embrace the laws that have worked so well for so long. Of course libraries, students, schools, educators, and researchers should have access to cheaper or free content. Of course photographers and musicians should support non-profits, within reason. But those specific interest groups should not drive the last nail in the coffin of the creators who barely get by. Check out the Orphan Works bill and who is behind it.

Please, those who agitate for free content, just show me how writers, musicians, photographers and all who create can support their families when their sweat and labor becomes free and I will drink your Kool-Aid. Until then, your brand of Kool-Aid looks to me the suicidal variety gulped by the poor, bullied cult followers who took their lives at Jonestown. They stood in line to take their poison while Jim Jones booming voice commanded his followers to drink so they could be “set free.”

KILL COPYRIGHT = KILL ARTISTS. That’s a fact and the reality, and all the rest is bullshit. Have a nice day.

Friday
03
July 2009

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