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January 2010

Our Winter


Kenneth Jarecke/Contact Press Images

Jim Nachtwey, a PFJ of the first order, is taking an undeserved beating over an offer for an unpaid internship.

The controversy started here, on a blog called Jamie's List.

Personally, I think interns should be paid, for a couple of reasons.

One, the overhead saved on having unpaid interns is passed along to the photographer's clients and serves to lower what customers expect to pay for photography. To put it another way, if I have to hire someone to help me print, I'm going to have to raise the price of each print to pay for that expense. If I have an unpaid intern, I don't raise my prices and the customer gets a discount on the true cost of that image.

Two, people that get paid usually work better and stay around longer than unpaid interns. In the long run, it's probably cheaper to just pay somebody in the first place.

Three, it's the right thing to do.

However, people are free to make their own decisions. Would you rather have a government agency tell Jim and his potential intern what kind of a relationship they could agree to?

Unlike many, I'd have no problem saying any of this to Jim in person.

That should be the end of the story, but no, the interesting part is how the comments aimed towards Jim turned real nasty, real quick.

The only way I can explain it is, well sure there's probably some jealousy factored in, but it has to be a manifestation of the overall desperation that has the photography world in a death grip.

I mean, there are people out there that are displaying a real level of contempt for both Jim and his work, which is not only uncool, but must point to something else. Something a whole lot deeper than just not liking a certain photographer.

Jim has, for the permanent record, been an extremely positive influence in both my life and my work. His work has forced me, and every other photographer working today to produce better images, not just images of conflict, but in all branches of the photojournalism tree. Furthermore, You can not work with a camera today (regardless of your field) without somehow being influenced by Jim Nachtwey.

Let me say that again,  Jim's influence has made you, and any working photographer you admire, better.

There are a few misconceptions floating around this controversy.

Time Magazine did not create Jim Nachtwey. You can argue that Jim had a couple of editors that helped him along, but who doesn't? If anything, Jim's work has given Time a level of gravitas and credibility that it doesn't deserve.

Originally Jim either had only one, or no images (I don't remember which) in the now famous, black-bordered, post 9-11 issue of Time. The entire issue was rebuilt around Jim's images on the insistence of one editor. Today, those images are what everyone remembers. That's just one example, there are others. Jim's work (and that of other great photographers, great editors, and maybe a writer or two) is what allows Time to enjoy a certain level of respect.

Having a contract with a big magazine is not what makes a photographer great. Magazines (at one point, long ago) sought out great talent and put them under contract to ensure that they would have great work to publish. The fact that this no longer happens is ( I think) a clue to why this anger has been directed towards Jim.

By the way, when was the last time you saw a picture of Natchwey's in Time?

If quality doesn't matter (and the magazines have decided that it doesn't) then what hope do any of us have? Isn't that what we're really asking here? Jim's not the problem. Yes, the ad was poorly worded, and yes interns should be paid, but do you really think Jim had much to do with placing that ad?

It was a small mistake. Let it drop.

Personally, I don't think Jim should have tried to rebrand himself as an "anti-war" photographer. That didn't make sense to me, but still he's earned a pass.

It doesn't pay much, but we do offer an internship out here in the wilds of Montana. It's cold, zero degrees right now, and along with some basic Photoshop and filing skills, you need to have some advanced fencing skills (the kind that uses barb-wire, not those sissy swords). Being comfortable in Carhartts is a must.

We also serve lunch. Today we had pie... cherry, slightly over-sharpened.

Kenneth Jarecke/Contact Press Images


Foreign Tongue Exhibit

The Foreign Tongue Exhibit, curated by Andrea Serbonich is opening tonight and running through January 16 at the Central Utah Art Center in Ephraim, Utah.

I have to apologize, I should have posted this a few days ago. I'm not such a good public relations type of guy.

I've seen most of the work and it is a very impressive. I'll post a few images from the opening when I get them. Here's the info...

Foreign Tongue

Foreign Tongue: David Burnett

An Exhibition curated by Andrea Serbonich. 
December 12 - 
January 16, 2010

Opening Reception: Saturday, December 12 from 6-8pm

Central Utah Art Center 
86 South Main 
Ephraim, UT 84627 

Foreign Tongue situates a photojournalistic approach in a fine art context. Most of the photographers in this exhibition have renown for their arresting and captivating imagery in traditional media such as Time Magazine, The New York Times and Life Magazine. For others, they are fine art photographers using a documentary style to evoke visceral feelings.

Using a narrative approach, a story of an outsider unfolds; intimate and familiar emotions are provoked and juxtaposed with feelings of the strange and unfamiliar. Media surrounds us with images of conflicted countries and corrupt states that it is hard to imagine this discord exists in our own backyards and that in some war –torn countries, peace and unity exist side by side with terror. Foreign Tongue challenges preconceived ideas of boundary, intimacy, community and what is deemed foreign and exotic today.

In a series of photographs by David Butow entitled China Youth, the growing pains of China and their large and youthful population are documented and explored. In David Burnett’s series of Cuba, the viewer takes part in a world that is forbidden to the United States. Egypt, a biblical land known for some of the world’s most incredible wonders becomes updated and modernized in Kenneth Jarecke’s photographs. Also included, are vibrant photographs of Mexico City by Alexander Pincus and a side of New York City that most have not seen before by Juozas Cernius.

Andrea Serbonich currently coordinates exhibitions for Gagosian Gallery and is an independent curator. She lives and works in New York City.

This exhibition is one of many at the CUAC that features highly acclaimed artists from around the world.  A review of our programming has recently been included in the highly influential international Flash Art magazine published in Milan, Italy.  Artists who have shown at the CUAC over the last four years have been included in the Whitney Biennial, the Venice Biennial, collected by Charles Saatchi; they have been exhibited in the Getty Museum, Whitney Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Saatchi Gallery, major museums in Switzerland, Germany, Iceland, Korea, and Spain;  They have shown in Deitch Projects, Mary Boone Gallery, Freight and Volume Gallery, the Drawing Center, and many other important New York, Los Angeles, and international venues.

Foreign Tongue: David Butow


Printing for this exhibition was generously donated by Replicolor.


Watch Out Honey

The editorial publishers of the world are starting to act like they're serious about placing firewalls around their online content and developing a way to distribute their product that doesn't rely on paper. Sadly, I don't think either of these things will cure their ills.

The firewall idea seems like a no-brainer.

Lock up the content and then sell it to your audience. That should work, until you stop to consider that the audience has never paid for content.

That's why publishers decided to give it away on the internet in the first place, right?

Network television, as long as you had a TV set and continued to make your electricity payments, equals free content.

Magazines and newspapers same deal. The subscription rate or cover price barely covers the costs of printing and delivery (not to mention the cut the newsstand guy made). Consumers just pay for the delivery, not the content.

In the past, publishers used content to attract readers and then rent those reader's eyeballs to those who could afford to buy advertising in their publications.

That's how it works. Content brings readers and readers bring advertising dollars.

Well, that's how it worked until Google stepped in and swiped the lion's share of advertising revenue away from the publishers. 

The exception of course, is cable television. From what I can tell, it works. Consumers buy the TV, pay for the electricity, pay for the delivery, and they pay for the content, plus there's advertising! This is why the major editorial publishers are working together to create a Hulu type of system for delivering their content. Here's today's press release.

At first glance, this seems like a great idea, even this imaginary version of Sports Illustrated looks interesting, but only at first glance.

You can see that a lot of hope and effort has been thrown into this lifeboat, but it is so far off target that I have to make some comments. Remember, this is also just a computer generated mock-up. We have no idea what they actually have. We can however, assume that this demo represents their ideal.

I'm not really interested in the technical problems, so I'm only going to mention one.

Trying to support multiple platforms is a huge mistake. You don't need to work on every delivery system, just the best. Concentrate on whatever Apple and Sony are building. Apple will win this contest, if the actually release one. If not, Sony will be the winner.

I don't need or want to see video of the football game from Sports Illustrated. I can get that from ESPN online for free. I can even see the complete game via ESPN 360. You will never complete with them by becoming TV-lite, and if you do, you haven't licensed the ability to do so. CBS just spent about a billion dollars licensing the broadcast rights to the SEC. Why would anyone let you do it for free? In fact, every game is tied up in someway, by companies that already have a recipe to capture, deliver and get paid for delivering the game(s) to their customers. ESPN/ABC has their own sports magazine. Do you think they're going to let you throw some video up? In fact, how long before they wrap the still rights into the broadcast rights and shut you out completely?

Even if you are allowed to use seven or eight seconds of video that morphs out of a still image, where are you going to get it? This is a real problem. Not only will your photographers be standing behind whomever paid for the broadcast rights, you're going to start asking them to do both stills and video now? Maybe shoot the whole game on video? Who's going to edit the stuff, let alone shoot it? It's won't happen.

Maybe license a little HDTV and clip all of your moving and still image needs from that? That could technically work, but then why would a consumer pay for stale content that they've already seen on the web/TV a dozen different ways? Because of your editing skills, maybe your brand? Please, the best editors in the world couldn't add that amount of value, and whereas Sports Illustrated may still have some value as a brand, that doesn't hold true for the rest of the Time Inc. stable.

The demo shows me how great content can look on a digital platform, but where will this content come from? I think the real problem is that all of the Time Inc. magazines seem to have forgotten who they are, and Sports Illustrated is no exception.

At one point, before cable TV and the internet, having Sports Illustrated cover a football game was a big deal. They'd produce content that you couldn't get anywhere else. They'd come into town and beat the locals, not just because it was in color, but because the pictures were better. Sure, better glass, faster motors and autofocus raised the quality of sports photography in general, but that just makes the elite images so much better. I don't see a commitment from any editors or publishers to keep reaching for that higher level, and it's the only thing that will allow them to compete. It's the only thing that they might be able to get people to purchase.

It is no longer a big deal to have Sports Illustrated or Time show up in your town. They need to recapture that prestige, but they've wasted their reputation, and soiled their brand by publishing less than great content.

At some point in the not so distant future SID's (Sports Information Directors) will realize they can just as easily hire their own sports photographers, not the grip and grin guys they've always had, but real sports shooters that have lost their newspaper jobs.

How can you compete with them? How can you compete with TV and the internet? You can't, so don't. Magazines need to remember what they do, and then do it better than anyone else.

Modern technology gave us the ability to watch Iggy and Tom having a conversation on this blog, but the delivery system is not what makes it interesting or informative (well, I find it interesting and informative). Their thoughts and ideas are what make it compelling, not the fact that it's available on Youtube.

Publishers, there is one thing (besides amazing content) that could make this digital version of Sports Illustrated successful. If you could somehow make the game playing while watching a sporting event, an interactive play-by-play gambling system. Will he pass the ball, or run a draw? Then, I think you've got something. It goes right along with the swimsuit issue too!

Hey, don't laugh. Hire some lobbyists. You think the politicians wouldn't love to tax this? Responsible gaming the whole family can enjoy, from the comfort of your own home! We've got to pay our bills somehow (unexpectedly, the good senator from Nevada sours on healthcare reform).