Thursday Tip: On Creative Calls, Be Confident, Not Cocky
The creative call is the initial conference call with an ad agency’s creative director. It is the photographer’s best chance to hear what the client wants, and to gather the information needed to write an estimate for the assignment. It is also the time for a photographer to start offering ideas for how to shoot the assignment.
New York advertising photographer Kareem Black says that early in his commercial career, “I used to say, ‘Oh, this is easy.’” Then his rep, Howard Bernstein, gave him some useful feedback. Black explains, “What I was trying to say was, ‘This will go without a hitch,’ but my rep pointed out that [the concept] is something that the people on the call worked on for weeks or months. Saying it’s ‘easy’ makes their work sound simple. Another way to say it would be, ‘We can make this happen.’”
Photographer Kamaran Najm’s Friends Break Silence on His 2014 Kidnapping
Three years after photojournalist Kamaran Najm, co-founder of the Iraqi photo agency Metrography, was kidnapped in Iraq, his friends and colleagues have ended their media blackout and released information on his disappearance. Kamaran was abducted by ISIS militants on June 12, 2014, shortly after he was wounded while covering the fighting between ISIS and Kurdish forces near Mullah Abdullah, Iraq. Initial reports by AFP said Najm had been killed. According to Sebastian Meyer, co-founder of Metrography, which is based in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, Najm made a call on June 13 using his kidnappers’ phone. He said he had been taken to the city of Hawija.
At the time of his kidnapping, Najm’s colleagues at Metrography asked journalists’ rights groups and media outlets, including PDN, not to publish information on Kamaran or his work out of fear of increasing his value as a hostage.
Three years and five months later, Meyer writes that they are lifting the blackout.
“Although huge efforts have been made for his release, there has been no contact with him since June 13 . There have been many sightings of Kamaran since 2014, but none of them have been confirmed.”
Meyer adds, “We have decided to lift the media blackout because we think it’s important to bring Kamaran’s story to light. The risks that journalists face are enormous and we think that Kamaran’s story should be told.” After recent military advances against ISIS-held territory, “We no longer believe that it’s dangerous to talk about Kamaran. Although the odds aren’t good, we still remain hopeful that we will find Kamaran soon.”
Kamaran, 30, has shot assignments for Der Spiegel, Times of London, Vanity Fair, Washington Post, NPR, and other European and American news outlets. His work has been shown in festivals and conferences in France, Bangladesh, Georgia, Holland, Lebanon, and the US. In 2009 Kamaran founded Metrography, the first Iraqi photo agency, to train and promote Iraqi photographers.
Tuesday Tip: How to Avoid Shilling for Controversial Subjects
From stories about foreign wars to domestic political rifts, there is plenty of media manipulation. Partisans for various causes are eager to use photographers to get their propaganda out. Photographers discussed strategies for avoiding that in “Documenting White Supremacy,” a story in our November issue. Here is some of their advice:
“If you fall into the drama, if you show [white supremacists] as bad asses [and] hit it from the surface, but you don’t go deeper, and you don’t analyze, then there’s an argument to be made you’re enforcing whatever stereotype they want to project” says Natalie Keyssar, who has documented white supremacists in Europe. “If they can put their slogans all over your images to make propaganda, if there’s no context, maybe think about what you’re doing.” She adds, ““If we can’t get honestly curious, as opposed to just excited about access to something we think is bad, then we shouldn’t be working on that subject.”
John Edwin Mason, a photographer, critic and University of Virginia professor, warns photographers not to rush in naively. “To paraphrase Tod Papageorge: If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not reading enough.” He explains: “You don’t want to be the victim of your sources, some of whom are sophisticated, educated and articulate. If you don’t know where they’re coming from, you might get swept away by their rhetoric, by their personality, or by the moment. You’ve got to steel yourself against that.” He adds, “You’ve got to be really solid in your own beliefs and convictions, and you’ve got to know the subject matter past and present.”
Thursday Tip: Start Professional Relationships with “Thank you”
Thank-you notes can be a good way to initiate professional relationships with curators, photo editors, and others who review your work. Hannah Frieser, the Executive Director of the Center for Photography at Woodstock, advises artists who have entered juried shows or contests to follow up with jurors by sending a note, even if they aren’t chosen for an exhibition or award.
“If they selected you, then it’s, ‘Thank you for selecting my portfolio…If you would like an extended selection of the series, here’s my website.’ And if they didn’t select you, then: ‘Thank you so much for taking the time to consider my portfolio,’” and offer to stay in touch about new work you’ll produce in the future.
She advises photographers to plan their follow-up strategy even before entering the competition. “You can’t expect the curator [or any other reviewer] to follow up,” she says. If you’re waiting for a response, it might never come. “If you have a strategy, you can say [to yourself]: ‘OK, this was my first thank-you note. In three months or so, I’ll send something else,’ if you have permission [to keep emailing the person].”
Photographer Bill Frakes Loses Sexual Harassment Appeal
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) has rejected photographer Bill Frakes’s appeal in a sexual harassment case, because “clear and convincing evidence” showed he had violated university sexual harassment policies, according to a report in the Omaha World-Herald.
Last summer, Frakes lost his position as an adjunct professor at UNL because he had “engaged in sexual misconduct” and “created a hostile environement” for a female student, university investigators concluded in a report obtained by PDN. Frakes appealed the ruling. Last month, the university affirmed the original ruling, the Omaha World-Herald says. The newspaper cited a confidential, 35-page report on the appeal.
Frakes’s violations included “making unwanted comments…regarding female students’ bodies and clothing” and instilling fear that he could “negatively influence” the careers of students, according to the report obtained by PDN last summer. That report said Frakes commented on the appearance of female students, scrolled through photos of “scantily clad” women on a phone while driving with female students in his car, and told students he was not a person to “‘piss off’ and he could ‘end their careers.’”
Journalism student Calla Kessler filed the harassment complaint against Frakes, and other students confirmed her accusations, according to the Omaha World-Herald report and the documents obtained by PDN. In an interview last summer, Kessler said she and other students were initially reluctant to speak out. “We feared retaliation,” she said at the time. With the support of other students and women journalists she contacted through social media, “I felt I had enough support to undergo this grueling process,” she said.
Frakes denied the accusations against him, saying Kessler was retaliating for negative criticism about her work, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
The newspaper also said Kessler and Frakes both declined to comment on the appeals ruling because of a confidentiality order.
Tuesday Tip: Clear Your Calendar for Your Kickstarter
“I don’t think people are prepared for the amount of work it takes to be successful with Kickstarter,” says photographer Ryann Ford. She ran a a Kickstarter campaign to subsidize publication of her 2015 book called The Last Stop.
powerHouse had expressed interest in the project, which is about the architecture of disappearing rest stops along America’s interstate highways. But the publisher wanted to gauge interest in the project before committing to publication. So editors asked Ryann to do a Kickstarter. She set a fundraising goal of $25,000, then launched her month-long campaign in November, 2014.
“I sat a the computer for 18 hours a day, for 28 days, eating microwave quesadillas,” she says. She spent the time appealing for donations from everyone she knew, posting repeatedly to Twitter and Facebook, and pitching the project to media outlets. Those pitches led to numerous interviews with media outlets that were hungry for blog content, and decided to feature her project.
“I noticed that when I walked away from the computer for a break, the pledges would stop, so I got back on there, tweeting and sharing. It was like stoking a fire. As soon as you stop, it stops.” But her efforts paid off: Ford exceeded her goal, raising more than $35,000.
See “Book Publishing: The Costs and Benefits of Creative Control”
Four photographers who have used Instagram to raise money, promote their work and land assignments explained how they curate their Instagram feeds during a seminar at PhotoPlus Expo. They also explained how they handle clients’ requests and expectations about sharing assignment images with their followers, and how they interact with their audiences.
When outdoor photographer and director Chris Burkard was crowdfunding the documentary “Under the Arctic Sky,” he promoted it through Instagram. He created a Google calendar to plan and schedule social media posts that highlighted different pitches. After the film was finished, he made a trailer promoting a worldwide tour to screen the movie, then cut a second, shorter version for Instagram. “You need a 30-second cut down for social media,” Burkard said. “This is the way we digest information.”
Malin Fezehai, who uses both Instagram and Instagram stories to share images she has shot while on assignment for UNICEF, the Malala Fund and Water Aid, noted that some of her nonprofit clients have seen increased donations via social media. This is thanks in part to the Instagram Stories swipe up feature, which makes it easy for viewers to make donations. Like other panelists, Fezehai asks clients who hire her if they want images or outtakes shared while she’s in the field, after the assignment is published, or never.
Dina Litovsky said she was always “bad about self-promotion.” She says that through Instagram, potential clients can see her work “without me pushing it in their in-box.” As her following grew, she says, she began paying attention to the images and captions that work well on the platform. She loves layered images that fill the frame with information, but when posting on Instagram, she says. “I think the graphic, simple ones with a lot of colors work best.” People check Instagram while commuting to work, Litovsky notes, and she views Instagram “as an entertainment platform.” She keeps her captions short, with few hashtags, and strives for humor. She uses a DSLR and flash on assignment, and picks one or two images to post on Instagram, she says; iPhone imagery “was not my look.”
Litovsky, like the other panelists, never posts more than twice a day. She notes that she’s “unfollowed” people who post too often.
When Ryan Pfluger began making road trips to explore what it means “to be queer in America,” he would post images in the morning and at night, offering a glimpse of his process. He showed, for example, an image of his car broken down by the side of the road.
Sharing his struggles “builds camaraderie,” he says. When a client publishes an image he’s shot, he posts the image on Instagram, always thanking the subject, stylists and photo editor. “I think other photo editors see that, for me, it’s a collaborative process.”
Many of the celebrities he photographs repost his photos. In his agreement with celebrity publicists, he notes that his credit must appear with all his photos.
Panelists emphasized the need for an authentic, intimate voice on social media. “As a photographer you’re asking people you photograph to be personal, so I feel it’s important to be personal yourself,” said Fezehai. Moderator Conor Risch, senior editor of PDN, noted that Burkard uses a “heart on his sleeve” tone in his captions and his interactions with followers. “I’ve placed emphasis on getting to know followers,” Burkard said. “If you don’t like people, you shouldn’t be on social media.”
Burkard says every commercial assignment “now has a social component.” Some commercial clients ask his advice on how to appeal to the climbers and outdoor enthusiasts who follow him. “If they’re trying to market a product to your demographic, they want to know what you think,” he says. He added that he’s talked to book publishers “who take into account your following” when evaluating an idea for a book and its potential market.
Burkard says that when he submits a bid for commercial jobs, he makes his fee to share on social media a separate line item on his budget. Once, he said, a photographer could shoot a job for Toyota one week, and shoot for a competing car company the next. However, when photographers mention a client on social media, competitors notice. These posts are an implied endorsement that may hinder a photographer’s ability to get work from a competitive brand.
The panelists see Instagram as a supplement to their portfolios. “Don’t put work out there that you don’t want to shoot,” Burkard advised. Certain commercial jobs he’s done that don’t fit his usual style or favorite subject matter are found deep within his website, but not on his Instagram feed. While his portfolio is more “carefully curated” selection of portrait, landscape and fine-art work, Pfluger says, any client following him on Instagram “could see the consistency of my visual language regardless of what I’m shooting. It looks like me and feels like me, no matter what I’m shooting that day.”
Copyright Watch: In Apparent Retaliation, CBS Sues Photographer Who Sued Them for Copyright Violation
CBS Broadcasting Inc. has filed a lawsuit against photographer Jon Tannen for allegedly posting images from a television show on social media. The complaint appears to be an attempt to retaliate against Tannen for trying to protect his copyright. In February, Tannen, a New York City-based photojournalist, sued CBS Interactive Inc. for willful copyright infringement after a sports website owned by the corporation allegedly published two of Tannen’s images without permission.
Tannen’s suit, filed in in U.S. district court in New York City, claims that 247sports.com, published two of his images without permission. The suit alleges that 247sports.com, a sports news website owned by CBS Interactive, willfully violated Tannen’s copyright when it took two images of a standout high school football player off of Tannen’s Facebook page and ran them in a story about the player. The suit also claims that 247sports.com falsified and/or altered Tannen’s copyright by adding their own watermark and credit to the photographs.
Tannen is seeking either actual damages—including any profits CBS made from the violations—or statutory damages up to $150,000 per image for the copyright infringement. He is also seeking up to $25,000 for each instance of falsification/alteration of copyright management information, plus his expenses and attorney’s fees.
CBS’s suit against Tannen, which was first reported last week by Torrentfreak, alleges that Tannen posted images from a 1958 episode of Gunsmoke, a rerun of which recently aired on classic TV network MeTV. CBS owns the copyright to the Gunsmoke television series, which aired from 1955-1975. In their complaint, lawyers for CBS Broadcasting wrote that Tannen “hypocritically engaged in this act of infringement while simultaneously bringing suit against Plaintiff’s sister company, CBS Interactive Inc.”
Tannen hadn’t yet registered the copyright for his images at the time 247sports.com published them on January 23, 2017. Tannen applied to register his copyright for the images three days later.
A network of advisers is helpful as you plan your career or just make difficult decisions, says Danese Kenon, Deputy Director of Photography for Video/Multimedia at Tampa Bay Times. She has taught multimedia through organizations such as The Diversity Institute Scholars at the Freedom Forum, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and Kalish Workshops.
“I encourage all young journalists to develop a network. You need almost like a personal board of directors. I call my network The Great and Wise Photo Counsel. There are eight of them: men, women, black, white, Latino. They’re the people I’ve clung to. I can say: ‘This is what I’m dealing with, what do you think?’ or ‘This is what I’m thinking of: Can you check this?’”