The Digest – Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

©Matteo Muscivia Feature Shoot

So, how do I determine what goes into the digest? First I look back at the articles that I’ve tweeted and tumbled during the week. Then I set my photography folder to ‘all’ in Google reader and start reading, opening the articles I find interesting. Then I start I start to put it all together right here. The process has forced me to think differently about the way I consume articles and information during the week.

It’s been liberating to actually sit down for a few hours and work hard to sort through the information and ideas I find relevant. I like to think I’ve developed a decent eye for spotting what might resonate with people but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss relevant stuff. I do, so this digest is by no means comprehensive. It’s narrowly focused on the blogs, magazines and individuals that I’ve chosen to follow. I suppose all of this is just a long pre-emptive answer to the inevitable “but you missed this or that” comment. Anyway, so did you hear?

Kodak Files For Bankruptcy

As many expected, Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection last Thursday. “Oh fuck! Start stocking up! First they took my Kodachrome away, now they’re taking away my Tri-x and Portra! FUCK!” That’s sort of what it sounded like on ze internet. I think people should relax. They’re going to do some major restructuring and I’m confident they’ll keep making film… least until the day we all fully embrace digital, which will happen eventually!

The BJP’s technical writer Jonathan Eastland suggests they focus on the film market. A good idea? I’m not sure.

Kodak’s got to go back and crunch their numbers about the film market. All people want are these little yellow boxes of film, and that should be their core business, even it means reducing the company’s size further. Kodak needs to hire people that actually know about film photography. It needs to market it properly and set up some great labs in strategic places with great customer service.”

The most interesting article I read was an article from The Economist that analyzed why Fujifilm was able to evolve while Kodak faltered. I thought this nugget was particularly interesting.

George Fisher, who served as Kodak’s boss from 1993 until 1999, decided that its expertise lay not in chemicals but in imaging. He cranked out digital cameras and offered customers the ability to post and share pictures online.

A brilliant boss might have turned this idea into something like Facebook, but Mr Fisher was not that boss.”

I remember uploading photographs to those Kodak Galleries. They sucked, but now that I think about it, they could have easily become Flickr, or even Facebook. They simply failed to fully grasp and embrace the impending photo-sharing boom. This might be a crazy idea, but I think they should move into publishing and celebrate their history, perhaps mirroring what LIFE is doing right now. It wouldn’t be a very profitable business but the brand and history would live on. They could fully assert themselves as experts on film and the history of film photography. A long shot I know, but I don’t think selling printers is going to save them either.

©Reuters/Stringer – via In Focus

Crowdfunding Insights

I haven’t been reading much about crowdfunding these days. It seems we’ve turned a corner. Now I’m seeing more bloggers and writers actively promoting projects they’ve funded or think deserve backing. The ecosystem is developing which is interesting. I don’t think we’ll  have a firm grasp of how it’ll all work out for a few years yet.

This week, a few good articles popped up, first there was Joerg with “Crowdfunding is not a cash cow.”

Crowdfunding is more complex than that: When you have a funded project, people are already – literally and emotionally – invested in you. As with any investment, you want to make sure your supporter’s return-on-investment is maximized. Giving them what they paid for is good. But you want to give them more. Treat the people who supported your work not as customers, but as patrons – patrons in the old sense of the work. Think of them not as current supporters but as potential future supporters.

There’s definitely the potential for people to just see the $$$$ signs and forget the importance of creating a connection with their supporters or patrons as Joerg refers to them. Something to remember is that if you don’t meet your patrons expectations they’ll likely let the world know. A good example comes from Matt Haughey who wrote Lessons for Kickstarter creators from the worst project I ever funded on Kickstarter.

I might not have included any of this in the digest if were not for Mr. Pete Brook’s excellent article, ‘The Etiquette of Crowdfunding: A Recipient’s View.’

6. Involve the community.

If you’re asking for community funding then involve the community.

Firstly, it’s much more fun. Obviously, some projects are more suitable than others for community involvement. It was much easier for me to involve folk because I proposed interviewing scores of photographers, I slept on people’s couches, and I relied on prison photographers to provide the high-end Kickstarter incentives.

Another advantage to this is that all those people you involve will promote your project in their networks.

This echoes something I said last year around this time in ‘Community, Crowdfunding & Incentives.’ 

…and here’s where it could really get interesting, I’d like to participate in the project.  It sounds sort of crazy. Why would you pay to participate in a project?

There are many ways you can participate though. For example, with work in progress, a photographer could elicit opinions from valued supporters about the work. The supporters could put together small edits, voice opinions about the photographs, brainstorm about potential subject matter, provide research about a subject, etc.  A good example of this in action is David Hurn’s recent exhibition at Third Floor Gallery in which he had the members of HCSP pair together photographs from his archive.

This is right up the path of Clay Shirky’s ‘cognitive surplus’ as well.  I think people will pay to contribute to exclusive projects. Naturally, this could get complicated but with clear rules about what a donor receives for their pledge, there shouldn’t be too many problems.

What I’m currently interested in, is how crowdfunding can support collaborative projects. The type of project where patrons become participants. I’m currently working on a project that’s going down this path, so stay tuned!

Speaking of Collaboration….

Miki Johnson has written an excellent article about it….and adaptability.

5. Communicate successfully: The writing on the wall says that soft skills (largely interpersonal ones) are king in today’s economy. In our super-connected world, you must deeply understand your own communication preferences, be aware what other people hear when you talk, and be comfortable with a variety of communication modes.

In her article, she references a great piece from Fast Company: This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business.’

Any business that ignores these transformations does so at its own peril. Despite recession, currency crises, and tremors of financial instability, the pace of disruption is roaring ahead. The frictionless spread of information and the expansion of personal, corporate, and global networks have plenty of room to run. And here’s the conundrum: When businesspeople search for the right forecast–the road map and model that will define the next era–no credible long-term picture emerges. There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos.

For me, this means photographers and all creatives need to be bold and ready to take big chances. Pretending that old models are going to return or that fixed new models are going to emerge anytime soon will only lead to dead ends. I think the people that will thrive in this environment will harness the power of collaboration to explore new territories and opportunities.

SOPA died this week. Good job internet!

by Sanna Dullaway

Links of Note

DLK COLLECTION: Jeff Wall @Goodman: A Review Conversation with A.D. Coleman

The show review as conversation. Mr. Coleman’s name has been popping up frequently the last few weeks. I wonder if he hired a social media consultant? via [DLK Collection]

After Death, Part II: “Fake it until you make it”

LPV contributor Dan Abbe has started an ongoing blog correspondence with the aforementioned Mr. Coleman (Seriously, I wonder how much he’s paying this social media consultant!) via [Street Level Japan]

What’s the value of a blog post? I wouldn’t look at it strictly in terms of money. A friend of mine in San Francisco had a video Tumblr whose tagline read: “New media existentialism. Fake it until you make it.” She’s now the online video editor at The Atlantic. Is each post she made on that blog worth a fraction of her new salary? Probably not, but that activity has value as a whole, in the same way that this blog is the resume that got me a job at American Photo.

This may appear to have an only tangential relation to the problem of making a living as a photo critic, though I think it helps set the stage of online media, where bloggers can be called up directly to the big leagues without any seasoning.

Washington Post raises eyebrows, questions with ‘composite’ photo on front page

HDR (or composite, or whatever) on the front page of the Washington Post! Gasp. Get ready to read similar outrages more and more in the next few years. via [Poynter]

Camera Store Gets Virtual Tour From Google Street View 

In case you were under the illusion that I make my living from LPV, I don’t! I have a full time job at B&H Photo. I don’t work in the store, but you can now take a stroll through the first floor courtesy of Google. via [Raw File]

Famous Photogs Pose With Their Most Iconic Images

A nice gallery. Take a stroll. via [Raw File]

‘Vintage 80′s – London Street Photography’ by Johnny Stiletto

But if these street scenes are still haunted by the shadows of the metropolitan past, they’re also full of portents for the future. Looking back on the 80s from today’s vantage point, Stiletto says: “There’s a chapter in the book called ‘Prisoners Of Design’ and it’s called that because in the 80s art turned into design and design turned from men with pipes and rolled up shirt sleeves into crucial haircuts, black, Dieter Rams and Bauhaus.” – via [The Guardian]

Cody Paul for ESPN the Magazine

I really dig Emily Shur’s blog and how she shares her editorial work. Through her blog I ended up reading this story on ESPN about Cody Paul, someone who’d I’d never heard of before. It’s an interesting modern day tale – young kid becomes famous because of Youtube leading to huge expectations which he can’t meet up to. – via [My Four Eyed Fantasy]

Publisher Q&A: Alec Soth of Little Brown Mushroom

It is a thrilling time. There is a ton of fantastic, energetic work being produced all over the globe. This moment won’t last. Along with people’s energy moving elsewhere, I already sense a backlash to the quantity of books. But I’m happy to have been part of this unique moment of book production in a time where everything else seems to be on the computer.” - via [fototazo]

This Week In Photography Books – Robert Adams

Jonathan Blaustein‘s non-review review of Robert Adams.- via [A Photo Editor]

Maybe I’m just afraid to write anything negative about one of the photography world’s true gods. I saw a small exhibition of his work at the Nevada Art Museum in the Fall, and felt like everything after 1990 was just not up to snuff. So if I don’t open the books, I won’t see the failures, and then I won’t have to write about them.”

He Made Blood and Guts Familiar and Fabulous

Weegee the famous. via [The NYTimes]

From 1935 to 1946, he lived by his wits and mostly at night, taking harsh, flash-lighted pictures of fast-moving, often violent breaking news that he sold to the city’s several dailies. Dead criminals — killed by one another or the police — fires, gruesome accidents and other catastrophes were his initial subjects. The show zeroes in on these early works, mixing in a raft of contextualizing materials, including photographs by others.’

Are We Snobs?

Yes, probably. – via [Conscientious]

We don’t have to like books like Geddes’ or Arthus-Bertrand’s (just like we don’t have to like each and every book on any of the “best of” lists). But I think it’s very worthwhile to realize that they have a large appeal. What is more, that large appeal can possibly translate in people getting interested in books that are more along the lines of the photobooks we tend to like.’

Snow Day from Paul Octavious on Vimeo.

Snow has returned to NYC. Until next week, Formhals

  • Lloyd Spencer

    Really excellent work. This is by far the best way to connect (and collect) a week’s discussion… because it allows one a feel of responses and inter-connections. 

    Very nicely-judged spare writing, Bryan. 

  • Blake

    Good wrapup. A few people sent me the link to Sunna Dullaway’s colorized iconic images, which I thought were fascinating. If only the colorist had taken the time to research the names of the photographers! Instead they’re just posted anonymously as if they fell out of the sky (except Migrant Mother, for some reason). Anyway small pet peeve, but one I see repeated chronically online, so I’m calling it out here.