When Getty Wins, We All Win

I’ve been hating on Getty for years. They sponsor a few grants and buy their way into a few photo festivals and pretty much silence all their opposition. Meanwhile Cassandra over here is likened to the old man yelling at the kids to get off his lawn.

Well, enough of that…


Getty hands Google users free commercial images. Photographers get $12.

This is a great opportunity and you’re all so stupid for not recognizing that! Twelve whole dollars for an image (or is it six?) and all I have to do is upload my snaps and wait for the monthly checks to arrive?


Obviously none of you realize how much Ramen Noodles you can get for six dollars. Face it.

You’ve all had a good run, but your time has passed. The world no longer belongs to you, your fancy cameras, your outmoded ideals about ownership, copyright, private property, your work ethic, and high professional standards are so 20th century. Everything you’ve worked so hard to accomplish can now be easily duplicated by a Hipster with an iPhone. Furthermore, he or she (Hipsterette?) can do all this with one hand in their pocket.

What a bunch of pussies. That legacy, that archive, you desperately cling to… you didn’t build that. If it wasn’t for the good people over at Getty, and Google (who I see now owns Nik Software, wonder what that’s about?) people wouldn’t even know who you are. They created this market. They built the roads that the customers travel on to find your work. You should be grateful, instead all I hear is a bunch of complaints.

How much money do you need? At some point you’re just being greedy. Stop your whining, shut your mouth, get an Xbox and move back into your parents basement already.


Okay, that’s passed. Now seriously, if you’ve had any dealings with Getty, you’re part of the problem and you have nobody to blame but yourself. At least the staffers get a regular salary, camera gear, maybe some benefits to justify the trade-off. The rest of you have no excuse, and this goes for all my dear friends who market their work through Getty (or Corbis for that matter).

Photoshelter is an excellent option and there are still a few mom & pop photo agencies out there. Start a co-op, work together, protect your work and set the terms for how you profit from it.

And for gosh sakes, I just threw some seed down, get the hell off my lawn!

Joe Klamar, My Hero

Joe Klamar, works for AFP and made some pictures that some people aren't happy with. Joe Klamar is my new hero.

You can see his portraits of U.S. Olympic athletes here.

You can see some of the discussion here.

Personally, I love these images.

I don’t think Joe was making a artistic or political statement, that would be more insulting than any of the other criticism he’s been getting. He’s a photojournalists not accustomed to doing these type of photo junkets and did the best job he could.

Portrait wise, the shoot didn’t work out as planned, but only because we have this stylized idea of what portraits like these are suppose to look like. Where everyone from the PR person, the photographer, the editor, the publisher and the advertisers share the common goal of properly packaging the merchandise, err amateur athlete.

Ironically, the portraits he captured, coming from a photojournalist background are more truthful, hold greater insight and have more artistic merit than what will be churned out this Olympic cycle by anyone else.

Yeah, they’re hard on the eyes, but that’s beside the point.

Sports Illustrated (emphasis on illustrated) announced another round of layoffs about a week ago, which will mainly affect the photo department. The suits at Time/Warner don’t care, they’ve already decided that Getty can do a better, read cheaper, job for them.

Gannett isn’t sending it’s “A” team of trusted staff photographers to the games as it’s cheaper to send a bunch of hacks who work for a two-bit agency, get paid in peanuts and sign away their copyright.

Gannett and Sports Illustrated have plenty of money. They’ve just made an editorial choice to serve their readers sub-excellent content (Sports Illustrated has offered their columnist millions of dollars to keep from losing them to ESPN).

I know it’s not news here, but this is what you get when you fire everyone that has talent and cares enough to use it… an unintended commentary on the state of the editorial world.

I think it’s also telling, that several commentators here attempted to spread the blame around to;

Lack of post-production… have we really gotten to the point where people think the photographers only job is capturing all the relative elements and handing them off to someone else to reassemble? Here’s an idea, make a good frame to start with. It’s easier now than ever. A lot easier than when Avedon was doing “The Family” or “The American West” (although he did resort to some darkroom trickery in some of his New Yorker work).

Lack of attention on the part of the PR person… as a photographer you’re suppose to be working for yourself and the person that signs your checks (OK your editor, who might not physically sign them), not the PR person. The PR person is the bad guy. They’re the ones who have destroyed the editorial portrait. They’re not your friends. They are working for the people who sign their checks. They have their best interests in mind. They don’t care if you fail, as long as they don’t get in trouble with their client.

The PR people will be the ones who use this to approve every photographer who ever has special access to their clients again. They don’t want to do these junkets (either?), and now they have an excuse not to.

Getty bought and paid for the Olympics, so it’s nice to have this thing slap them in the face.

Right now, photographers are feverishly working on special portfolios of Olympic athletes for Sports Illustrated, Time, and a host of others. It would be fitting, because they’ve done so little to support their own photographers, if four years from now these magazines were instead given a bunch of handouts by the USOC. This way, the USOC and the advertisers wouldn’t have to worry about a photographer not knowing what is expected of them (actually the magazines wouldn’t mind not having to pay for the production themselves either).

Finally, given the continued post-modern collapse of what constitutes a great image, I advise Joe to polish these babies up, maybe hire one of those post-production gurus, and get ready for an free trip to Amsterdam!


btw...I understand the difference between Getty and AFP. If the credit reads, AFP/Getty, than it's Getty's content. Just like if you went to a dealership that sold you a crappy car which had different franchises on it's shingle. The dealership's overall reputation would still be tarnished, regardless of the car's maker.
The point is that all of these "portraits" are contrived and designed to fool the viewer. Telling them that they, by looking at this "portrait", are getting a unique insight into who this person is... that's what portraits are meant to do. The Getty, A.P., or Reuters staffers may have done a technically better job, but Joe Klamar is the only one who made a true portrait.
The portrait of a bored athlete, in a makeshift studio, wishing they were spending their precious time before the London games getting better prepared for their competition.
So yeah, if we're talking about the cover of Parade Magazine (do they still print that?), the other shooters did a better job. Otherwise, not so much.


Chances Are, You Suck

Worse yet, nobody is going to tell you.

In the past, before the internet made us equal, your friends, the ones you had actually met in person, would let you know when your pictures didn't quite cut it. Most of the time they wouldn't even have to say anything.

You'd know it yourself as soon as you showed them.

Of course, plenty of other times they'd publically bust your chops, but that was a different time. Before we all became so polite. Back when respect was something earned and not a right of birth.

Do you know that feeling? The one when you're showing images to someone (perhaps an editor that you were hoping to work with) and you get to that picture, the one that looked perfectly acceptable moments before, but as soon as you show it, you're filled with regret.

Yeah, I hate that feeling.

There are plenty of things photography wise that I'm not very good at. I'm not great at creating images, but I'm pretty good at finding them. I'm terrible at selfpromoting, marketing, and the business stuff makes me squirm. Yet I'm a decent journalist, travel well, and strangers often accept me into their lives (maybe I've got one of those faces).

There's nothing really exceptional or surprising about that evaluation. It's fairly common among photojournalists.

So that's me, those are my strengths and weaknesses. I also publish too many pictures on my websites. I'd look better if I kept the numbers down, but this post isn't about me. It's about you and why you suck.

There's nothing wrong with not being any good at photography. Everybody started out bad and none of us does all aspects of it well. But it's a crying shame to want to be good at it, to spend time and money trying to be good at it, and not getting any better.

This isn't like teaching a child to read. Positive reinforcement is your enemy. Your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers... hate you.  Instead of taking ten seconds to say. "This doesn't work. You need to do better". They readily push that "like" button, because it's easy and they hope to get the same from you, but also because they're cowards.

They're afraid of the internet mob. Nobody wants to get on the wrong side of a mob, so it's easier to play nice. Go along to get along seems to be the secret to a happy online life.

The first night before a shoot, I never sleep. It could be something easy, a situation that I know will produce a good image, but that doesn't help. Fear of failure is a great motivator. The trick is to use it to get as well prepared as you can possibly be, and then ignore it once the shooting starts.

You shouldn't be afraid of risk, just failure. I suppose that's another trick.

So how do you become a better photographer when you're reinforced with so much unearned praise from your interent buddies? What's your motivation, to get a hundred likes instead of just ten? There's an easy recipe for that. Start making pictures of cats. Better yet, kittens... kittens and children. You'll soon be more awesome then you could possibly imagine.

I only bring this up, because I stumble upon (as do you) so many Facebook groups (or other social networking sites) which are just filled with hideous images underscored with meaningless praise. I find it depressing. If nothing is bad, can anything be good?

More depressing, google "great photography", better yet don't. Some things, once seen cannot be unseen (either me or Gandalf said that first).

There are some sites that are doing an amazing job at publishing great photography. If you want to become a better photographer, look at these sites. When looking at the work, ask yourself, "How would I have approached this situation?" and/or "Would I have done better or worse than this photographer?" and also simple technical things, like what shutter speed or aperture was used.

Right off the top of my head, here are three sites that are doing a consistantly excellent job of publishing great photography...

Time's LightBox

The New York Time's Lens Blog

The New Yorker's Photo Booth

For commentary on the editorial world of photography...

A Photo Editor

And two amazing apps...

Once Magazine

The British Journal of Photography

Not sucking is worth the effort. Seek out great photography. Devour it, and be suspicious of any undue praise.

"Just Another War" by Exene Cervenka and Kenneth Jarecke is now available for the iPad.