Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 5

We're all about wow. Pictures that make you cry, make you cringe, make you happy. Pictures that solicit gut reaction" - Steve Fine
Day 5

Friday - And thus, this journey concludes. The group spent last night (Thursday) at the RIT alumni party. Although it started out a bit like an awkward middle school formal, people started to actively converse after an hour or so. I spent a good amount of time talking with Frank Fournier about how to create a documentary on an overdone topic in a non-cliche type of way. His insight into the photographic process is truly refreshing and very helpful. I also met and talked with Yunghi Kim. Because of her background working at the Boston Globe for 7+ years, we immediately had something in common. She was really helpful as far as helping me to create a career plan in Boston, suggesting different employment paths I had not considered.

This afternoon, we met at Snyder's apartment for our last scheduled event. Bob Elder talked about his non traditional style of street photography. It really has been interesting in all our visits to see the range in types of work photojournalists have pursued after their education. Some settled more into the classic style of newspaper photojournalism, while others have used their past knowledge to develop a newfangled and personally characteristic approach.

While this trip was somewhat terrifying in that it solidified how much I do not know and how much room for improvement I hold, it was an experience I truly needed. I had formulated a list of things to learn and polish at the beginning of the quarter, but by the end of week 3, I began to loose focus. This trip has reset my mind and aspirations.

Thus, the bucket list.

-technical understanding and improvement (I am very much aware that I'm not a technically strong photographer, and that needs to change. I can't hide from that side of the field any longer. I need to embrace my lack of comprehension and work my butt off to improve it.)
-speed (Listening to many of these photographers speak, I became familiar with my "need for speed". I edit as slow as molasses and don't usually turn out an excellent image, or something I'd even be comfortable with my peers seeing, in the beginning of any shoot. I want to work on producing great work, faster.)
-accuracy (While it's something that photojournalists are constantly paying attention to, I need to work on this, excessively. It is somewhat conglomerative of the technically inefficiency, but just to reiterate. I need to be more accurate on focus, exposure, catching moments, etc. Pretty much everything.)
-variety (This is something I'm hearing more and more lately, as I form my portfolio. Most people say that I have great moments, but the way in which I look at situations doesn't vary a lot. Same viewpoint, same composition, same lenses. I don't fully understand how I'm going to change this, but I need to. I tend to get very stuck in habit, not just in photography, but all aspects of my life. Once I get comfortable with something, I don't often take risks by trying new things. I need to break free of this and learn to take more chances. It is quite possible, and likely actually, that I'll fail. And frankly, that terrifies me. But it's the only way I'm going to learn.)

I think it's pretty obvious that I have an overwhelming amount to accomplish. I don't expect all of this to happen overnight, but I need to start seeing changes.

Day 4

"You're the wizard behind the curtain" - Patrick Witty
Day 4

Today was our last full day of scheduled activities. As our trip wraps up, I cannot believe how fast the week has gone by. It's days like this that I know, without a doubt, that I'm in the right field. 

We started off the morning with a visit to the International Center of Photography (ICP). The main display at the center was The Mexican Suitcase, a famous collection of recovered negatives of the Spanish Civil War, considered lost since 1939. Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and David Seymour were the main photographers to which the negatives belonged to. It was very interesting to see contact sheets of the original negatives, as opposed to selected images, because that gave us the opportunity to watch the way in which the photographer worked towards creating a great photograph. Often times, we see famous photographers best images, but do have the experience of viewing the process. 

After we left ICP, we headed to TIME Magazine. The DOP, Kira Pollack, talked to us about the importance of the cover, as well as many other issues the magazine deals with. This was, without a doubt, my favorite place we visited during the trip, as well as the most inspiring. Many of the other places we visited were great, but didn't thrill me the way TIME did. Ideally, I could definitely picture myself working there, for many reasons. The way in which the magazine functions is different from the newspaper, in that it is a little looser as far as captions, stories, and types of photography deemed acceptable. I think working for this type of platform would be a much better fit for me, because of the type of work I am most interested in. I was primarily impressed with TIME for two reasons. Firstly, the images they produce are amazingly high quality and stunning, aesthetically. Also, TIME is one of the first magazines I have seen that provides an outlet for interesting and relevant environmental imagery and stories, as well as offering a great platform for more "conventional" documentary stories. It was refreshing to see a channel of work that doesn't exclude more news type stories by providing a focus on the environment. The variety in TIME photography was quite appealing to me. 

Lastly, we ended our day with a visit to Sports Illustrated. Steve Fine gave us a few presentations of images from big sporting events that were truly incredible. Seeing these images brought my understanding of sports photography to a new level. Although I know for sure that sports photography is not a genre I am specifically interested in pursuing, I really enjoyed listening to Steve Fine talk about his expectations. I could truly feel his energy and passion for this type of photography, through the way he talked about it, which was very inspiring. It made me want to submerse myself in the types of photography that truly excites me, so that others can feel my dedication and love, through my work.

Steve Fine wrapped up his presentation by saying that "even a blind squirrel can find a nut", meaning that anyone can "get lucky" by creating an excellent image. The goal is to be able to produce this type of high caliber work on a regular basis. When you can go into any situation and make something great out of nothing, time and time again, you can be considered a great photographer.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 3
"It's fine to screw up, but own it" - Jack Van Antwerp

We started off today with a visit to the Wall Street Journal. I really enjoyed the smaller, more intimate feeling that this journal provided. Director of Photography, Jack Van Antwerp talked to our group about the original Wall Street Journal without photography, as compared to the remodeled journal. He talked a lot about things we hear frequently from other professionals, such as importance of excellent captions, maintaining a great reputation, ability to problem solve, etc. One of the things I found the most interesting about the Wall Street Journal is that it has no staff photographers and works purely off of freelancers.

Secondly, we visited AP. Somewhat similar to Getty Images, AP was a large company that dealt with a mass number of images and photographers, worldwide. Santiago Lyon, the DOP at AP compared the company to a photo airport. "It is our job to make sure images land and get shipped out successfully", he said. 

Our visit to Human Rights Watch was the last organized association vist of the day. Emma Daly explained the business to us, which was actually quite intriguing. Many of the photographs shot for Human Rights Watch actually played a significant role in changing global policy in the category of human rights, which was really inspiring to see that photojournalism can indeed inspire change, in  the right circumstances. It made the cliche of "changing the world with our photography" appear as more of a realistic possibility.

To finish off the day, the group went to Clay Patrick McBride's studio, in Brooklyn. With his individual spin on photojournalism and somewhat rebellious attitude, he gained most of our attention during the entire presentation. He talked about dealing with what people expect from your work, as opposed to our own personal goals for your work, and how he balanced the two. 

Due to my severe dog allergy, I wound up missing a big portion of the presentation. That was certainly less than ideal, but nevertheless, an informative and fun day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 2

Day 2
"The only problem I see is that people aren't kicking enough ass" - Brian Storm

Day two is almost over. Although still excited, the initial joyful attitudes about getting up and going early seem to have diminished a bit. As our group walked to the subway this morning, everyone seemed a little worn out and cranky. We arrived a few minutes early to VII, leaving us time to grab a cup of coffee down the street. That helped me get myself together a bit. The warmth of sunshine on my face certainly didn't hurt either.

At VII, Alina talked to the group about the changing industry of photojournalism. She discussed how people hiring in the current economy are paying less but expecting much more from us. Although she covered this issue by saying that there is "no prescribed way to work successfully", we shouldn't become too flexible with price, allowing clients to take advantage of us. it was helpful to hear her advice on how to deal with these types of situations.

We then headed to MediaStorm, and Brian Storm talked to us about the business. It was interesting to hear Brian talk about the amount of work they actually turn down, due to overflowing opportunity. Putting a large stress on high quality and longer term projects, the company is completely financially comfortable. As PJ students, we often hear about the lack of jobs and how the industry is failing. It was inspiring to hear how comfortable Brian seemed with his future in photojournalism. "The only problem I see is that people aren't kicking enough ass", he shared with us. "A sense of purpose is crucial - in this kind of profession you lead a rich life but you don't get rich. It's a trade for quality over quantity".

Lastly, we visited Getty Images. This was probably the most eye opening and simultaneously intimidating visit yet. The director of photography, Pancho, talked with us about how there has never been more opportunity for photojournalists, but there has never been more competition, either. During Getty's presentation, Pancho put the most emphasis upon the marriage of great photography and speed. "If you can't transmit, you're dead. You might as well not even show up", he said. All of the editors that spoke with us at Getty agreed that if you haven't transmitted an image within the first five minutes of a game, you're late. Although Getty's work is not exactly the kind of work I'm interested in doing personally, it was definitely an eye opening experience as to the kind of expectations of modern photojournalists.

All in all, this day motivated me to step up my game, improve the aesthetic and technical quality of my work, and learn multiple ways in which to transmit images. I have a lot of learning and work left to do before graduation. A little scary, but hopefully in time,  I will acquire the skills necessary to survive in this competitive field.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 1

"If you don't shoot, you're dead" - Frank Fournier
Day 1

Singing, laughing, and chatting, we girls got ready for our first day in NYC. Everyone was in a pretty good mood and excited about the things planned. Prisca repeatedly serenaded us with select verses from Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind while we took turns huddling around the mirror to do our makeup and hair. The joy in her voice and expressions, as she looked at everything with awe, summed up how most of us were feeling.

We made our way to Frank Fournier's studio apartment, where we talked to us for a few hours. The apartment was completely adorable. Complete with makeshift furniture, a little bed tucked into the corner and a beautiful darkroom, I instantly fell in love with the apartment. Seeing the photographs and items he had casually laying around his apartment gave it character and provided a bit of insight into where his passions lie.

Listening to his speech, the main thing I gathered was his appreciation for simplicity. He really stressed that long lenses and lots of pricey equipment will not make you a great photographer. Shooting things you actually care about, practicing constantly, and letting your photographic experiences internally consume you in a fulfilling way is what will drive you towards success. 

As he stated "I work for the trash". The photographs you have published in newspapers or other media outlets are great, but publications all eventually get thrown out. Possessing a real love for photography is what good photographers must thrive off of and your biggest motivating factor, when the financial side is lacking.

After our meeting with Frank, we we met Alan Chin and Anthony Suau from Facing Change, a nonprofit group of photojournalists and writers who develop projects dealing with themes of future and change, within America. Their presentation was really interesting in that it showed a more documentary side of photojournalism than I am used to seeing. I feel as though their images were less obvious and more open to viewer interpretation, which made them intriguing to look at. 

We spent a good chunk of the evening doing portfolio reviews, socializing, and having dinner with Alan Chin and Anthony Suau, at William Snyder's apartment. I started to get sick towards the end of the evening and headed back early. However, all in all, it was a pretty good start to the week.