All Leica All The Time: Big Changes

Hey photo peeps and friends who may have noticed me testing the Leica SL over recent months – it’s official, I’m now shooting all Leica all the time – a Leica photographer! I’m so in love with this SL and have been really thrilled with how it’s working on both commercial and personal documentary shoots. Using it for video too on our Fearless Genius doc. Not a small thing to switch after 30 years with another brand. Yet this camera truly fits my brain, my eye and supports how I think and shoot like no other. I’m not a gear obsessed guy, cameras are simply tools to me. But iI get asked so often by pros and passionate amateurs so please watch for a video I’ll be posting soon explaining more about the camera and my decision…

Sunday
04
June 2017

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MY NEW PORTFOLIO V.12.2 2016

New port cover_500xI’m very happy to share my latest portfolio update: a mix of new commercial and personal work merged with some of my favorite projects here: http://bit.ly/21aoyD3  Many thanks to my agents at Stockland Martel for patiently working on this with me. I’ve been so lucky in my career to be able to collaborate on global brand campaigns for A list clients. That work is fun and satisfying because I’m being hired for my eye but also because it funds my personal documentary projects on subjects I care about. (see www.fearlessgenius.org)

The process of creating a portfolio is sometimes gut-wrenching. You end up doing a lot of deep thinking about everything you are doing and why, and probably that’s a good thing. I was reminded recently by a former student of an essay I wrote in 2009 about creating your “fuck you” portfolio; a liberating process to find your true voice by letting go of fear. This is about making a portfolio that shows what you truly, deeply, passionately love to shoot. And want to get paid for. The essay still rings true to me, despite all that has changed for photographers since: http://dougmenuez.com/on-chaos-fear-survival-luck/

TO SURVIVE AND THRIVE PHOTOGRAPHERS HAVE TO EMBRACE ENTREPRENEURSHIP

The idea is that if you are trying to make your living solely from your photography you can’t just follow the herd and present what is selling at the moment. Although that will get you started, perhaps, it won’t last as tastes change and ends up crushing your soul. You have to do the hard work to figure out what you see that no one else does.

Once you have refined your eye, you have to build a solid financial foundation and business structure to support your vision, like all entrepreneurs who chase a counterintuitive idea. Imagine a lifetime of satisfying, creative challenges. It can happen but it’s extremely hard, no different from a tech start-up in many ways.

The problem is that if you follow my advice you are more likely to fail. But if you don’t you won’t ever hit it out of the park and live the dream. You just can’t be for everybody, only the best creatives who get what you bring.

I’ve failed hard a few times and find that the path can be a more of a cycle that we end up repeating now and again. I’m still on the journey, learning new things as I face new challenges. But I know from experience that the reward for risking everything and pushing myself to grow is indescribably sweet and worth all the pain.

 

 
 
Sunday
06
March 2016

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NEW WORK: ICONOCLASTS FOR SUNDANCE

Photograph ©2010 Doug Menuez
Every once in a while one of those really special assignments come along, this year there have been a few but now I can share one that has been personally very important to me: ICONOCLASTS. Recently we wrapped this project which we’ve been working on all year with Radical Media for the Sundance Channel to document the Iconoclasts series. The show is running now on the Sundance Channel and it is definitely worth checking out. You can see three galleries of edits of my work on my main site here: Doug Menuez

You can also read more about it here on the Stockland Martel blog: Interview: What does it take to photograph “Iconoclasts”? « Stockland Martel

This really was a once in a lifetime chance for me to do what I love to do, which is document everyday life, but in this case with leading cultural figures, some of whom like Dr. Jane Goodall, with whom we spent a week in the Congo along with the marvelous Charlize Theron, have dramatically impacted the world and how we think. I was essentially embedded with the documentary film crew in order to shoot a photo essay of the creation of each show, which features an interplay and dialog between two fascinating cultural figures. I shot stills while they shot cinema verite and also was asked to shoot portraits for the Sundance ad campaign (now in Vanity Fair), busides, web promotion, etc.

My killer first assistant Demetri Fordham (and when shooting locally also with my insanely good digital tech Quinton Jones)  travelled to Australia to shoot Cate Blanchett with environmentalist Tim Flannery at Cate’s theater company and with a Komodo dragon, to the Congo to shoot Jane Goodall with Charlize Theron at Jane’s chimpanzee research station, in New York we shot Hugh Jackman with restauranteur Jean-Georges boxing and cooking together, to the Bahamas to shoot Lenny Kravitz with director Lee Daniels where Lenny was recording his upcoming new album, and to Chicago to shoot director Ron Howard with Phoenix Suns basketball star Steve Nash where Ron was shooting a new movie. The last show was shot most recently in NY with painter Chuck Close and magician David Blaine where we visited Chuck’s Soho studio and David’s inspiration Houdini, at Houdini’s grave in Queens.

What was so cool for me was having shot many, many artists, actors, musicians over the years, but particularly in my early photojournalist days in the 1980’s, there was a wonderful, easy atmosphere and complete access. Back in the day, you rarely had publicists controlling the shoots, unlike now where there is intense control. You also usually had much more time to spend with people in the early 80’s. Of course there were publicists but rarely did one ask what lens you were planning to use or approve your idea before you shot, and it was very rare that anyone asked to approve the work before publication. You could sometimes get days or a week with someone and document their daily life, building a rapport and from which would come candid moments as well as a meaningful portrait. The magazine might only want and need that portrait but you were given time to get it in an organic way that involved a lot of trust on both sides. Now with the relentless onslaught of paparazzi and general nasty coverage of personalities there has come a natural desire by the artists to control their image.

This makes sense but it leads to an impossible situation in terms of getting natural, documentary images. There has been a breakdown of trust. The publicists are just doing their jobs, even if with someone they trust their efforts actually can work against the best interests of their clients in terms of getting images that really stand out and show their clients in ways that resonate with their public. But I can’t blame them. And for Iconoclasts, a rare truce is invoked, honest interplay between the personalities on the show ensues and the results are fascinating. Anyway, this shoot was a rare breathing space for me to photograph some really innovative, creative people doing amazing work in a truly intimate way. Just a sheer joy for me and I thank Radical and Sundance and the Iconoclasts themselves of course for the stunning opportunity.

Thursday
04
November 2010

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CK OUT 100 EYES: CHRISTIAN POVEDA TRIBUTE

Photograph ©2009 Nanni Fontana from "Honduran Death Trip"

Photograph ©2009 Nanni Fontana from "Honduran Death Trip"

Andy Levin’s always amazing blog features a tribute to the slain photojournalist Christian Poveda who was gunned down at 52 in El Salvador while covering the gangs. Ironically he was just having a resurgence of success with his work on the deadly Maras gang and documentary “La Vida Loca.” Reportedly the gang was demanding money as they learned of the increasing success of his work. Many issues to think about and discuss here. Nanni Fontana’s outstanding images from her essay on gangs in Honduras illustrate the tribute to Poveda with an essay by Carlos Lopez-Barillas. See it and all the other stunning work on 100 Eyes here:

100Eyes: Photography Magazine and Photo Workshops for Emerging and Professional Photographers

Tuesday
15
September 2009

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THE WISDOM OF NY: A Work in Progress

EACH MONTH SOMEONE FROM A DIFFERENT COUNTRY AND THEIR SAYINGS WILL BE FEATURED AS WE COMPLETE THE PROJECT

In New York City what we call “street smarts” is considered our highest form of wisdom, hence the rueful admiration of our “wise guys.” But there is another kind of wisdom to be found in the collective wisdom of the proverbs, sayings and idiomatic expressions brought to New York by the vast range of immigrants coming here.
Samuel arrived from Ghana ten years ago. He prays to get up early each day to work as a limo driver. "If the strength is there, if God grants me another day, I get up at 5 am and go to work... But as of now I would not say there is a future for me here in New York." ©2009 Doug Menuez.

CLICK ABOVE TO SEE ROUGH EDITS. Samuel arrived from Ghana ten years ago. He prays to get up early each day to work as a limo driver. "If the strength is there, if God grants me another day, I get up at 5 am and go to work... But as of now I would not say there is a future for me here in New York." ©2009 Doug Menuez.

A few months ago I started working on a new documentary film called “The Wisdom of New York” which is a work in progress about the sayings, proverbs, insults and jokes that people bring with them to New York City from their home country. I thought it might be great to share here some very, very rough edits of the interviews I’m doing as the project develops. What these people have to say is valuable and interesting even in rough form and so every month I’ll feature a different person from a different country. I hope you find this a new filter through which to view the city and our chaotic life here.

Although I began this as a simple, light piece, sometimes the sayings have much deeper meanings. These are everyday sayings people recite to console or encourage, or to affirm some beliefs about life, and provide a connection to their homes far away. Through these sayings we can get a glimpse into another culture. Without having grown up in the subject’s culture we may never really understand the true meanings, but we do get a fresh awareness of just how differently we all view the world and life.

Over 100, 000 new immigrants arrive here each year, making up more than a third of the population and approximately 45% of the New York City workforce. We often hear that the city is a melting pot, but to me it’s not really true. There is more assimilation with higher education and income of course but most new immigrants stay in their own enclaves. As you move through the streets it feels like a cacophony of misunderstanding as we talk past and around each other. Yet it all somehow works because everyone who comes here have the same goals: to make it, to have a home and a job, to find that melting pot and fit in. To many of those I interviewed, these sayings can be quite meaningful and helpful to the newly arrived immigrant in search of comfort for the soul as they fight their way up the food chain in the big city.

My emotional connection and inspiration for this is the convergence of my return to NYC five years ago and getting to know the city with fresh eyes with the memories of my wife arriving in NYC as an immigrant from  Brazil in the 1970’s, learning English as she worked in a garment sweatshop, then babysitter, teacher and then assistant TV producer for O Globo. To this day she always has these sayings from the rural area of Brazil she came from that to me sound crazy– something is always lost in translation even though I speak passable Portuguese. In 2005 and 2006, I was commissioned by the Mayor’s office of Ecomonic Development to document the five boroughs. That put me back on the streets, meeting lots of new immigrants. So I’m combining a lot of those still images with the interviews in the final film.

A few weeks ago we shot Samuel from Ghana, see above  video link, who had some great sayings and stories. One of my favorites of his is “If you think you are smarter than everybody, you’ll end up wishing a goat ‘Good Morning!'” Meaning, if you get too conceited or overconfident you’ll soon make a foolish mistake. Samuel’s life here as an immigrant has been difficult and he thinks he will be returning to Ghana soon. Business has been bad ever since 9/11 and the recession has made it only worse. Yet he was very positive and commented that he often bolsters the hopes of his fellow drivers and Ghanians with appropriate sayings from home to keep them going here.

Our shoot day was saved when by multitalented Ron Dawson who filled in as DP. He blogged about our day here: Shooting Doug and “The Wisdom of New York” – Blade Ronner: The Blog of Ron Dawson

Please enjoy and let me know your thoughts– that’s the point of sharing a work in progress!

Friday
21
August 2009

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A TALK & WORKSHOP AT CPW

“ART vs. COMMERCE” Workshop at CENTER FOR PHOTOGRAPHY WOODSTOCK AUG  22/23 – Some space still available, call now!

The Center for Photography at Woodstock

AND: SATURDAY, AUG 22, 7 PM: A TALK AT CENTER FOR PHOTOGRAPHY WOODSTOCK: Fearless Genius: Silicon Valley 1985-2000, A Work in Progress
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Please join me at CPW for a presentation about my new book and documentary film in progress: “Fearless Genius.” The project covers the explosion of new technology in Silicon Valley in the 1980’s and 1990’s, from the digital revolution through the rise of the internet. I was in the right place and lucky enough to get access to the key innovators of the era, such as Steve Jobs and many others and spent 15 years inside the leading companies. The work explores the human side of technology development; the manic passion, struggles, and joys of the silicon dream, as well as the sacrifices made to create a whole new world.

Thursday
13
August 2009

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