Finding Your Lost Creativity

Finding Your Lost Creativity

{Previously published on, June 10, 2015. Additional content added.}

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” ~ Pablo Picasso

andrehermann-2Are we all born with the sense of creativity? Or is it truly a gift that is bestowed upon only a lucky few at birth? This question has recently commanded my attention. Teaching various levels of digital photography at a community college to a broad spectrum of ages, races, and economic statuses, I often hear people say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” Or, “I’m not creative.” “I can’t think of ideas. I’m not artsy. I can’t see things in a creative light.”

Recently, I was talking with a student about a project. The person asked how I might solve a particular visual problem. I responded with my solution. The student commented, “you see! Look how easy that was for you. I could never do that. I’m just not creative like that.” This person’s comment really irked me. I was so sick of hearing this ridiculous statement, especially from students. What came next—this person received the brunt of a long-winded rant that went some thing like this:

You, me, your friend, lover, wife, husband’s uncle’s kid, we are all born with creativity. Yes! We are. All of us. Seriously. Creativity is what makes us uniquely human. But I bet you’re wondering, “So why the hell are some people really good at being creative, it appears that even their pinky toe has talent, while others swear to have never been introduced to the meaning of the word?”

Read Picasso’s quote again, “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” We are all born with the gift of creativity. But, somewhere along the way, as we get older, someone and/or something tells us: “That’s not what that is suppose to look like.” “That’s not the right way to do that.” “You’ll never make a living doing that.” “Horses aren’t blue!” “Unicorns? Shitting rainbows? Baahhh.” Our artistic innocence is forever stolen from us. I bet if you think about it you can recall the exact moment, and the exact person who took it from you.

andrehermann-1For one small moment we all stand as equals at a crossroad faced with a decision. Do I continue down the path to exploring and developing an artistically creative mind, or do I follow the other path? A note here about the crossroad analogy: We don’t always have a choice. People and life events sometime play a vital role in choosing which path we travel. But that’s life. Those that continue to listen to their creative voice, or who are nurtured, learn to surround themselves with art, like-minded people, learn to be curious; always asking questions, taking risks, fucking everything up, making mistakes, all the while looking for answers and learning. Others? Well, they listen to that fucked up voice of ‘reason’ and find themselves chasing someone else’s dreams.

There’s a story I like to share with my photography students. Art and creativity has always been a major part of my life. But there was a time when I questioned it. Not by my own choice. Someone in my life was always telling me I would never make a living as an artist. “Become an engineer so you can make a real living,” he would tell me. The idea set in my mind, I went off to University of Missouri, Rolla to study Geologic engineering. Why? I like rocks, and fossils and plate tectonics. Anyways, while I was at school I found myself doing more painting, drawing, and daydreaming than my chemistry and calculus. The final clue came when I was sitting in a Calculus II class. I was taking a major test, failing. An extra credit question asked me to illustrate the previous question. I drew an elaborate picture. The next day the instructor called me to his office where he voiced his concern, “the only question you got right on my test is the extra credit question in which I asked you to draw picture. I think you’re at the wrong school.” I told him he was absolutely right. I quit. Came home and started studying graphic design. I never looked back. I started back down a new path to creativity; to what would become a well-paid creative career. I would never let someone tell me otherwise ever again.

The point I’m getting to is, when I hear someone say, “I’m not creative, or I can’t draw, or paint, or design well, or make amazing photographs.” It’s not really them saying it. It’s someone else. It’s a force, a barrier that you allowed someone else to put in place, keeping you from your true artistic vision.

andrehermann-3For some, it’s a long journey back to that fork in the road. Retracing your steps isn’t always easy, or pretty. Please. Whatever you do, don’t do it only for the sake of doing it. Do it because you want it, need it, because you want to make a difference in your life. Those first steps to defining your personal creative revolution are critical. The magic of learning to think creatively again truly happens when the eight tips listed below are religiously practiced.

  1. Stop saying you are not creative. You are. Remind yourself everyday. “I am creative.”
  2. Carry a sketchbook or a journal everywhere.
  3. Doodle, cut-and-paste, draw, or write your ideas down as soon as they come to mind. This is very important. Don’t think you can wait until later. You’ll forget. Believe me. Again, I said it wouldn’t be a pretty process at first. Don’t expect perfection. The important part is to get it all down on paper no matter how ugly the drawings are or how horrible your writing is.
  4. Keeping a visual journal is practice. The more you practice the better you become.
  5. Seek inspiration from the world around you. It can be found everywhere.
  6. Stop and smell the flowers. Literally. Slow down and embrace life.
  7. Be curious. Ask questions. Seek answers.
  8. Surround yourself with creative, like-minded folk.
  9. Consume. No. Ravenously devour visual creative content of all forms.
  10. Build a library of books about your favorite artists. This is a source of inspiration. If you don’t like collecting books use, Pinterest.
  11. Embrace your creative fuck-ups. Failure is essential for success.
  12. Have many mentors. Ask for feedback constantly.

andrehermann-4You will find your way back to the fork in the road eventually. You’ll notice by the time you reach that point you’ve already begun watering the seeds of the imagination, and cultivating the fruits that blossom.

I’ll leave you with this final thought: Stop saying you’re not fucking creative. Just hearing those words gives me hives. You ARE creative. It’s just that at some point in your life something got in the way, and you forgot how to be. Now it’s your job to remind yourself. Picasso once said that it took him 80 years to paint like a child again. So stop, turn around and march your ass back to that creative crossroad. It’s never too late. So get to it.

Many Possibilities For Many Reasons

Many Possibilities For Many Reasons by Andre’ Hermann

Never has photography been more questioned and debated as an art form, or as a continuously changing form of technology than it is today—Mobile phone photography. As another tool at our disposal as visual storytellers it is continuously morphing. One thing is for certain it’s here to stay.

As individuals and media outlets embrace the mobile phone camera as a serious storytelling tool the role we play in today’s media landscape as consumers and producers of content remains in a constant state of flux—that is sometimes a cause for people to quickly take sides over what we should call this tool, which type of camera is the better tool, and why.

Now that the honeymoon is over—technically photography is still photography. Now what?

Over the last few months I have interviewed pro photographers who are out in the real world utilizing mobile phone cameras to tell the world’s stories. We’ve heard from Ed Kashi and Michael Christopher Brown, two well-established photographers utilizing the tool (Rob Hart was also interviewed by We Are Juxt). Feeling the need to explore another perspective on the mobile phone camera tool, I recently took the opportunity to speak with the Director of Photography at one of the most prestigious news publications in the world. TIME magazine.

A little over a year ago Kira Pollack and her team made a crack decision to cover Super Storm Sandy through the eyes of five photojournalists, covering five different regions affected by the storm using their mobile phone cameras. This was by no means a revolutionary moment in photography, as much as it was an evolutionary shift in how content is produced and consumed. So gather around and hear Ms. Pollack’s thoughts on mobile phone photography—present and future, and what led up to the decision to embrace this tool at TIME Magazine.

How has the mobile phone changed photography and storytelling as we know it? How has it changed the way we consume media?

I think that the answer is, from my perspective, certainly the mobile phone has allowed anyone that’s in the right place at the right time to make a picture, whether that is by a professional photographer, or, by a normal citizen that is potentially in the midst of a breaking news story. That changes things quite a bit. The other part is speed. We can receive those pictures much quicker that we could, coming from a camera, just by the way they’re transmitted and emailed. So I think it changes the speed in which we can publish things, and that an audience can see them, and, Instagram has also enabled that to happen very quickly. That is just one form of technology. I think that Instagram has enabled us to send things straight from the field to an audience. That is really revolutionary. We used Instagram when we worked with Michael Christopher Brown and Ed Kashi for the hurricane—the Super Storm Sandy last October. That was the means in which we worked with them. They work on their cell phones often, and we commissioned them to cover that event. We haven’t done that very often. I think it really lends itself to certain, very specific kinds of stories that are breaking. But we have tried it, and successfully, I think.

Let me ask you this then, do you feel that now with the mass acceptance of the mobile phone cameras, and especially with the growing popularity of Instagram do you think journalism in it’s traditional form is more or less important?

Yes absolutely. I think journalism is more important than ever. And I think that these are new tools for journalists as much as they are for regular people. But journalism has never been as important as it is now because the journalists have the back ground to be telling these stories and these are just more tools to enable people to do that.

What was your opinion of mobile before Sandy? Was Sandy the first instance that TIME utilized mobile phone imagery?

During the campaign Brooks Kraft made photos in New Hampshire of Romney that we ran in the magazine. And they were great and he used his camera, and he used his camera phone. We just looked at both of them and that was sort of an interesting way to show that story. I think it really depends on what we’re covering. We have done it very infrequently to be honest. It’s not like we’ve changed the way we are covering things to mobile phone photography. But some photographers prefer to photograph on mobile phones. And I think that sort of dictates the people that we’re using to photograph that way. Its not like we’re asking people to photograph on their mobile phones, but sometimes, like in terms of Super Storm Sandy, that was what happened. We went to five photographers in three regions where the storm was scheduled to hit. Three of them were very, very familiar with their camera phones and two of them also had dabbled with it. They were all great photographers and journalists that we had worked with in the past. We commissioned them to shoot on their mobile phones. And because of Instagram we were able to see those photographs right away. They also photographed with their camera. And so we used some of the pictures as double truck spreads in the magazine. Those were taken with their cameras so it wasn’t just mobile phone it was both. And I think photographers are often shooting with both, and sometimes they’re liking the mobile phone pictures more than others.

Also during the campaign Brooks Kraft photographed Obama and Christopher Morris photographed Romney leading up to the final month in the campaign. They also used their cell phone for that as well. But I do just think that some photographers are interested in exploring that tool and some photographers are not. We just published our top ten photos of the year, our picks for the top 10 photos of the year. One of

those was a picture taken by a citizen in Australia during the forest fires last January. It was an incredibly compelling, emotional picture that he made. It was him, taking a picture of his five grand children and his wife under a dock escaping this fire. It’s an incredibly newsworthy photograph that a photographer wasn’t there to photograph. And this was the grand father that took this with his cell phone. The purpose of this picture was to send to his daughter so his daughter knew those children were OK. But it became a news picture. And I think that happens sometimes. That’s what cell phones have allowed to happen. There are, in some cases, newsworthy events being made by normal citizens because of the camera phone.

Andre: And I think that’s a really interesting point because there are a lot of purists out there who only believe in shooting film, and/or the DSLRs. And some people really look down on mobile phone photography as being a curse from the Devil himself, you know, and I think with an image like that one from the citizen in Australia, when I saw that image, I thought more of the emotion that’s created from the moment, the way it makes me feel rather than “Oh, that was shot with a phone.”

Kira: Right. And, it was shot by a regular guy. So it’s two things: It’s the shooting by a phone and its also citizens becoming journalist. I think they’re becoming witnesses more than journalists, and that is the distinction. I don’t think citizens want to be journalists but I think that there’s an engagement with photography that is just—the mobile phone has allowed us to communicate through pictures in a much more frequent way. It’s just like between all the things that you can have on your phone, and a younger generation that’s use to communicating through Snapchat, where photographs are actually disappearing. But that’s how they’re communicating quickly, there’s just a whole other way that pictures are moving. And it’s exciting. I think you have to use it in the right way at the right time. And some photographers are. Michael Christopher Brown is doing incredible work with his camera phone. Ben Lowy, also Ed Kashi. These guys are all great journalists. Most of them dabble in all different kinds of tools.

So back to Ben Lowy and the TIME cover, I understand you commissioned five different photographers from five various regions that were hit by the storm, so, why that particular image? If you can, share your decision making process that led to that cover.

It was the best picture. That’s why it made the cover. There was something emotional about it. It also had a painterly quality to it. It sort of transcended the news in a way, and it was about this huge wave washing in. There was just something, sort of a timeless feeling about it, and, it was an image that could hold type, which it needed to do.

Covers are tricky. There are a lot of decisions that go into it. Its easier if I could show you all the different covers that we tried that day. It was actually a decision that was made that morning that we closed within hours. We obviously had five very talented photographers on assignment for that story so we wanted to use one of our pictures. But we also always look at a wide range of pictures that were made. So that picture, it just worked on the cover. It wasn’t about saying it was a cell phone picture. It was just the best picture. And that distinction is really important because we got a lot of attention for that assignment and we were thinking that it really was the best way to cover the story because of the speed in which people could file. The fact that a lot of the power was going to be out, which it was, so you know, photographers were waste deep in the East Village wading through water, and they would have to go back into their computer to file the pictures to us. When Michael Christopher Brown was making those pictures in the East Village in the middle of the night, in the darkness, he was making them on his phone and he was uploading them to our Instagram feed, and TIME readers saw those pictures as they were being made. We were cut out of the process in some ways. We had those photographers file directly to our audience—really made it a very unique experiment. You can’t do that with every photographer. You need to very much trust the people you’re assigning, basically, the keys to the car, which is uploading right to the feed. And I think that worked because they were coming in from all different regions. It was Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Brooklyn and Queens. And I think they were all, kind of delivering, all of these different dispatches, you know, as they were happening in real time. So that was exciting. Ben’s picture just made the cover because it was the best. I know that’s not the most articulate answer, but it really was, it worked. There was an emotional quality to the way that picture felt, and it really worked. So I think it proves a picture that’s made with a mobile phone can work in a publication, or on a cover. It’s not every week that we’re doing that. It’s the first real cover that we made out of one photograph from a mobile phone but if that’s what it is, you know, it can work, and I think that to me the mobile phone is more of a tool, it really is just another tool to make pictures.

What kind of backlash did time get from the journalism community or other publications for running an image created with that type of tool?

I think generally the response was, was positive, because we were breaking through something, and we were trying something new. And the pictures were good, and, they-were-made-by-great-photographers. So I felt very confident in that assignment because we were going to true journalists to be working with their camera phones. I think that the backlash is exactly what you’re saying: purists that don’t think that journalism should be made with mobile phones. People always question the sort of toning that goes with those pictures, which we felt confident was within our standards, because it was very, very minimal. Every photographer has to make a final image. We’re not publishing raw files in our magazine. So we watched that very closely. We have great, great news editors here and that’s what we’re doing. So I think generally, it was positive and people were excited by it.

Now that the honeymoon is over, and mobile phone photography has established itself as a serious tool, rather than a passing fad, please share your thoughts on the future of mobile phone photography? How will mobile phone photography continue to redefine how we experience, interpret and consume content?

I don’t think it’s a fad but I don’t think it’s taking over photojournalism at all. I think it is another tool, like I said, and I think its worth utilizing that tool at the right time in the right situation when it’s necessary. Whether it is a picture that’s made in a breaking news situation that we need up on our homepage really quickly—that might be a situation that we would tap into the mobile phone photograph. But, really we haven’t done it very often. I think we got a lot of attention for covering that storm that way. We did it very specifically for that particular story because of all of the things I mentioned. And that was over a year ago. The campaign we covered journalistically with photographers using SLRs, and they also uploaded to our Instagram feed, you know, some pictures, but generally we are not asking photographers to shoot things on their mobile phone. But some photographers like Michael Christopher Brown we might want to go to him for that kind of picture because that’s what he’s doing. I think that the idea of the mobile phone and the technology that the mobile phone is providing in terms of distribution and how quickly we are seeing things are one aspect. The other aspect is the mobile phone photograph made by— you can take out the camera phone and the picture’s done and it can be transmitted right from the phone— it’s the technology around it rather than the actual mobile phone picture which I think is interesting. That’s going to dictate a lot in the future, how quickly we see things.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share in regards to mobile phone photography or the images that are created from the tool?

I think that it’s an interesting moment journalistically. There’s a conversation around citizen journalism. There’s a conversation around mobile phone photography. But, the journalists are the ones that have the experience in the field. They have the chops, the background, and the ethics in storytelling. The value of that is so crucial. If a great photojournalist picks up a camera phone and takes pictures, or an SLR, I think we’re going to be in a place soon where they’re both possibilities for different reasons.

Kira Pollack is the Director of Photography for Time Magazine, Time Pictures, Time LightBox and is Executive Producer for Red Border Films.


Photo Credit in order:

Ed Kashi
Ben Lowy
Brooks Kraft/ Corbis for Time
Christopher Morris
Michael Christopher Brown/ Magnum Photos
Ben Lowy for Time
Ben Lowy
Ed Kashi

The Art of Critique (Part 2)

Photo Credit: Rob McGuinness

The Art of Critique (Part 2) by Andre H, Part 1

The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism. ~Wole Soyinka

Critiques can be a little scary. We are essentially asking someone to purposely look at our work and tell us what we’re doing right, and wrong. But how often have you countered your critic with the question, “how do I fix what’s not working? How do I make my work stronger?” The critique is a conversation, a two-way road. A critique isn’t just someone looking at your work and sharing their thoughts. It is an opportunity to pick their brain, learn as much as much as possible. Ask questions. Engage the person. Have those questions answered. Leave so inspired that you want to immediately dive into improving your work. This is why it is so important to carefully choose who reviews your work, making sure you choose photographers who’s work you admire.

We don’t like being told we’re wrong, or that we failed. Yet, we all want to grow and have our decisions reinforced with the positive. Critiques are a necessary pill that must be taken in order to improve our work. It’s up to you to decide just how easy that pill will be to swallow. The sooner you learn how to take and interpret a critique the quicker you will begin to see your work develop, while making some new friends along the way. Keep in mind that giving a critique can be as difficult as receiving one. If you’re asking someone to give their time to critique your work, and they agree to take a look, its safe to say they genuinely want to help you, not hurt you. So keep an open mind.

Photo Credit: Jonas Karlson

The critique is like photography itself, subjective. And should be taken with a grain of salt. You’ve heard the saying, “everyone’s a critic.” Critiques from the ‘right’ people can sometimes be brutally painful to the ego, gnawing at the soul of some. Yet, like an amazing, unforgettable photograph, they can change perspectives on life and creative vision. Yet, a critique from the ‘wrong’ person, i.e., an unsolicited critique, or someone who really doesn’t want to do so, can also fall on the other end of the perspective—confusing, hurtful, and worthless. Whether you’ve experienced one, or all of these, I’m here to help shed some light on the process. In ‘The Art Of The Critique’ (part 1) we discussed how to give a critique. This time I will discuss how to receive a critique, how to find the right person(s) to review your work, and hopefully give you a new perspective on how to get the most out of a critique, with your soul and ego fully intact.

Finding the right people to review your work
I mentioned in ‘The Art Of The Critique’ (part 1) that I have given and received my fair share of critiques in my time, and continue to do so. I have always chosen the people to review my work very carefully, with exception to the few times when I didn’t have a choice in the matter. The people I choose are doing the caliber of work that I would like to be doing myself—my photographer heroes.

Photo Credit: Alexia Stins

I have seen the full spectrum of personalities from students and instructors, and their reactions to giving and receiving critiques. I have had my work critiqued by some of the most amazing photographers, some my heroes of the documentary & photojournalism worlds, Ed Kashi, James Nachtwey, Richard Koci Hernandez, Emilio Morenatti. And, I have experienced putting my work through the portfolio ‘meat grinder’ that is the Eddie Adams Workshop late night portfolio review. Each photographer had his own way of conducting a critique, some spoke kindly focusing only on the positive. Others were jaded, throwing scathing, thoughtless remarks without any care for who was sitting across the table from them. While others gracefully married the positive and negative into a mesmerizing dance that left me striving to engage, pushing my work further. Yet in the end it was up to me to direct the critique to make sure I received exactly what I needed. These people weren’t going to read my mind—ask my questions for me. Nor were they going to assume I understood every comment they made.

Some may say this is the most challenging part of the critique, finding the right person to review your work. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:

  1. Refrain from asking your mom, partner, family members, or circle of friends. Often times these people are only trying to be nice. If you want sunshine blown up your ass ask one of these people. But be prepared to hear nothing constructive, usually. Though there are exceptions.
  2. Ask a variety of photographers from various genres who know nothing of you or your work. This will help produce a broad spectrum of content for you to sift through for consideration.
  3. Look for photographers you admire in your genre, or that are proven masters at what they do, who are at a level you are striving for.
  4. No matter how successful, or popular a photographer, they are accessible, and most are approachable, nice people. All you have to do is ask. It may take a few attempts but be patient. You’ll be surprised at how many pro photographers will give you a few minutes of their time.
  5. If you are meeting in person, or by phone, and ask for 15 minutes of their time, be prepared to finish within 15 minutes, unless they offer more time. Being considerate goes a long way, especially if you want to follow-up with them.
  6. If you are publicly posting your photos to IG, Flickr, etc, be prepared for the unsolicited critique. These can be worthless at times, and even downright hurtful, ignorant. Other times, a diamond in the rough. Be careful of these and take them with a grain of salt. Ask the person to elaborate on their comment. More often than not genuine comments will be followed by genuine discussions.

Photo Credit: Massimo

Preparing for the critique
Entering a critique you need to be prepared to discuss your work and processes intelligently. Think about your work and what you hope to accomplish from this critique.

  1. Put up your best work. Focus on the most critical. Include images you feel most strongly about and those you are questioning the most. For example, when you can’t decide between two or three images. Include all three and ask for an opinion of which is strongest.
  2. Don’t overwhelm the person with more than 10-12 images. Take time to self-edit first. If you must show more than 15 images include a contact sheet of additional images. In my experience, during a critique I have been asked, “did you try this angle, or crop this way?” In which I responded “yes” but did not have the image to show. After that I began carrying contact sheets so the person could see the different variations I had attempted. Not everyone will ask for a contact sheet. Keep it on hand just in case.
  3. Create a series of questions that you want to ask your reviewer. The conversation can and will go off on tangents. You want to make sure you cover all of your bases. It’s easy to forget, especially when you’re sitting across from your photography hero.
  4. Don’t get offensive if you hear something negative. After all, it is only photography. A good practice is to critique your own work beforehand as if it was someone else’s work. What might you say about it? This will help prepare you for anything negative that might be said.
  5. Please leave the attitude at home. Don’t go in thinking your work is perfect. It’s not. Be happy for that. If it was perfect you’d probably get really bored with photography and move on to something else.
  6. Don’t expect only positive feedback. Remember, we need to know what we’re doing wrong in order to get better. Yet we need to hear what we’re also doing right to affirm our current abilities. It’s the photographer’s yin & yang.
  7. If a person says something that you don’t agree with, ask what they would have done differently. This shows that you are eager to learn, and progress.
  8. Don’t shun your reviewer’s opinion, or tell them they’re wrong because you disagree. I have experienced this in the past. This is a quick way to turn people off, and close doors in your face.
  9. Thank your reviewer when finished. Ask if you can come back, or resubmit your work for a second round review after corrections are made.
  10. It’s ok to be disappointed and sometimes feel hurt. Don’t retaliate with a random negative critique of their work. This is very unprofessional and only reflects negatively on you.
  11. Takes notes during, or write like a madman right after in a journal or notebook. You’d be surprised how fast we begin to forget details. Specifically make note of consistent comments that you continue to hear from various people. These are the points that you should really pay attention to.
  12. Once you’re finished receiving all the feedback you want, act on it, shoot, experiment with the newly acquired ideas. Don’t sit on it and do nothing with it. You’ll only find yourself feeling disappointed.
  13. Want, need, strive for comments beyond the ego-stroking techno gibberish that plagues the online communities, “Wow! Nice light! Cool! Amazing!” These do nothing to help you better understand your mistakes, or your work. They are lazy, empty critiques. If you are faced with comments like this ask the person to elaborate.

Photo Credit: Federica Corbelli

Like most people out there I was not born with a thick skin. It took me many years of critiques, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and hard work in art school experiencing both good and bad critiques to understand myself, and the critique. I’ve made just about every mistake possible you can imagine relating to both giving and receiving a critique.

In the end, hearing negative comments about your work can be a jagged pill—hard to swallow. It can feel like a personal hit against who you are as a person, especially if you put everything into your work. But it really isn’t. Believe me. The point is, the more we explore both the successful and unsuccessful aspects of our work, the more we grow as artists. So ask questions, get feedback and keep shooting. Be honest with yourself about your work and your expectations. Personally review your own work. Be prepared to hear the positive, and the negative. Soon you’ll begin to see your work develop

There are skills to this, its not luck.

Ed Kashi: There Are Skills To This, Its Not Luck by Andre H

Andre’s Introduction
Late one morning at a lesser-known tea lounge in San Francisco I was lucky enough to catch up with a long time friend and mentor, Ed Kashi of the photo collective VII while he was in town for a brief visit. Since becoming a part of the wearejuxt family I’ve had the thought of interviewing Ed to discuss his thoughts and opinions on mobile phone photography for quite some time. What I was really curious to know was how a 30-year veteran to the photojournalism & documentary world, and owner/member of a prominent photo collective is exploiting this now not-so-new photographic tool to help make the world a better, well-informed place, and at the same time continue to make a living. After our tea was served and we finished discussing apps and techniques, among other things, we began. The interview was originally recorded with an audio recorder. It has been transcribed, and is here in it’s entirety. So, lets get down to business, everyone, Ed Kashi.

A: Tell us who you are, what you do, and how long have you been doing it?
E: My name is Ed Kashi I am a photojournalist and documentary photographer and I’ve been working for over 30 years now.

Scenes in and around Aspen, Colorado with my photo workshop from Anderson Ranch Arts Center, during the annual Colorado Bike Race on Aug. 22, 2012. (Ed Kashi/VII)

A: When did you first hear about and pick-up the iPhone? What were some of the first things you shot with the iPhone?
E: I started using an iPhone when it first came out. Whatever that was, 2007 or 8. But I really didn’t think of it as a camera for the first couple of years. It was only after I started to see how other people were using it, ok, of course I used the phone originally, the camera part of it, for family snaps and, you know, hey, look were in Nevada or hey look we’re in wherever. But I never used it as a serious photographic device until about I would say, 2011, maybe even 2012. So its pretty recent and it was at that point where then, I went through my Hipstamatic period and then I think that was in 2010, 2011, and then in 2012 is when I really got serious about it, and a large part influences from folks like yourself and then kind of seeing what other colleagues, like Ron Haviv, Balazs Gardi, Ben Lowey, Michael Christopher Brown, younger photographers who were using it in very intense conflict situations and so-forth. And then it was in the summer of 2012 when I was just following my son around in his summer quest for a baseball scholarship to college that I thought, instead of bringing my 5D or my point and shoot let me just use my iPhone because I have it with me all of the time anyway. And that was really where things turned. And then The NewYorker gave me the one-week gig for their feed and then for the first time I was actually getting paid, it wasn’t much, but I was getting paid something. And more than the money I was having a chance to create, post-produce and disseminate in real time and that’s when the “likes” neuroses began. This new psychological phenomenon of the pursuit of likes, or the monitoring of likes. Its intoxicating when you think you can put something out in the world you just created and let people immediately, not only see it, but they approve of it, or they like it. That is awesome. I mean, obviously for me, I take it with a certain grain of salt because at this point I’ve been published a lot so I have a sense of, a very strong sense of having my work out in the world and having it be appreciated, but there’s still, there’s something about this that’s so direct. It’s almost visceral. It must be connected directly to our endorphins. You know, I can often say that I can have the cover of National Geographic Magazine and when it actually, physically comes out it almost feels like it past already. It’s a weird feeling, which is to take nothing away from the honor of having that happen, but on some visceral level its like it doesn’t arrive with a blare of excitement it almost arrives with a dull thud. I think that’s partly because of the way we are over stimulated, we’re also deluged with too much information and too much imagery, so unless there’s something specifically in the print publication you’re looking for it kind of comes and goes. Its weird how that is but on the other hand it stays, actually I should say it comes but it stays, where as the Instagram (IG) pictures, or the iPhone pictures they truly do come and go. I don’t see yet that they have a staying power that a cover story for national geographic has and it doesn’t radiate out in quite the same way in terms of the meaning of it. You can have 40K likes with an image you put up on lets say the National Geographic feed, which is pretty insane, but its still nothing like having your pictures in the magazine. So I’m talking about two different things here. I’m talking about the feeling I have as opposed to the actual impact.

A: Explain a little bit more about that feeling you have, the difference between the satisfaction, or lack of, seeing it online, literally how its here and then its gone as soon as the next image takes its place and actually being published in a print magazine.
E: Well, again print is much more permanent. Whatever permanence is, but print is more permanent. There is something about having it online, particularly having it on the IG feed because there’s such a volume of imagery that passes through IG that it quickly becomes something old. I also worry about how we might be devaluing images. It’s a very exciting time where there’s never been more interest in creating and absorbing imagery as there is today. But I worry that its becoming part of this steady diet of, its like candy, it comes and goes, we get a little rush, and it goes. And there’s something about, I don’t know about you, but you might show me some old family photographs, gorgeous black and white pictures that, you know, our grand parents had gotten, and there’s something so luscious about them and so tangible and tactile and they feel permanent and you want to preserve them and I don’t feel that yet with the iPhone pictures, but as I said, I’ve only been at this for a year, seriously, I think what tends to happen, is partly human nature, partly how we, how humanity absorbs and makes use of new technology. That maybe there’ll be a time in the near future where, obviously I archive my pictures whether they’re with an iPhone or with my canon camera, with equal importance, but, maybe there’ll be a time where there’s a way we can print out iPhone pictures, I mean I know you can already do that, there be some other way of archiving iPhone pictures that make them feel more permanent but right now it just feels like we’re just creating, creating, creating, this tsunami of imagery and then what’s going to happen is that each individual image by themselves might not have the same value.

Scenes in and around Aspen, Colorada with my photo workshop from Anderson Ranch Arts Center, during the annual Colorado Bike Race on Aug. 22, 2012. (Ed Kashi/VII)

A: Describe to us your first assignment shot with the iPhone. Who was it for, what was it of, and did you get paid?
E: The first time I got paid for shooting with my iPhone was with The New Yorker and that was the summer of 2012. They asked me to take on their IG feed for one week. And I was going to Aspen, Colorado to teach a workshop at the Anderson Ranch Art Center and so it was pictures of, kind of the daily life of that week, out with my students in Colorado photographing a bike race, a rodeo, my students on the art center grounds, you know, just anything that caught my eye. What was so exciting is that I could put these up immediately and there was this sense of engagement in real time with my audience. But the real first assignment to me where it was on a whole other level of meaning was when TIME magazine assigned me to cover Super Storm Sandy for two days. And that was just a whole other level of meaning. Not only were they paying me a very good day rate, like significantly better than I have gotten for their print publication, and I’ve been working for TIME magazine for almost 30 years, on-and-off, but also, the idea that I am covering something of incredible importance in real time similar to The New Yorker thing, but its in real time. I’m shooting it. I’m doing post-production on it. I’m spitting it out into the world, and beyond how many likes it might have gotten, which then because it was through the TIME feed, we’d be in the thousands, it was the idea that I was supplying information of something that was happening in real time, that was exhilarating. I mean, I think TIME‘s Patrick Witty and Kira Pollack (editors) the photo editors at TIME, they really pushed things with that assignment. I was one of five photographers, Andrew Quilty, Stephen Wilkes, Michael Christopher Brown, myself, and Ben Lowy, five photographers that received that assignment. It also turned the paradigm of my profession upside down, literally on its head, where the first use was social media and IG, then it filtered out within a day to TIME’s Lightbox blog, online presence and then the following week it was used in print.

Scenes in Montclair, NJ during and after Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern seaboard with a fury, leaving many dead and billions of dollars in damage, on October 29, 2012. (Ed Kashi/VII)

A: So tell me, even though it wasn’t your image that was chosen, what were your thoughts when you saw an iPhone image on the cover of TIME?
E: Well, you know, perspective is a funny thing. It really shapes how we interpret things, so the fact that I was a part of that endeavor I thought, “oh, that’s great. That’s cool.” I thought great. Now maybe if I had not been one of the five photographers I would have looked at it and gone “what are they doing putting an iPhone picture” or I might have been a little more judgmental about it but because I was a part of it my perspective is somewhat clouded by the act that I was part of that initiative and I was excited about it and it was meaningful to me. But in general, look, we’re living in a time of tremendous change, and I know that goes without saying, but what you have to constantly keep that in mind when these sorts of things that have never happen before, happen. And so, yes, we should step back and look at it and go is this a good thing or this not a good thing, but on some level its also just is. It just is. And we have to deal with that. So I thought this is great that they tried something different. It worked out, multiple mediums, the pictures look good in print, I’m very open-minded about these things, where I am in the profession, I have all the right in the world to be completely knocked off my feet by these changes. I worked my butt off for 30 years to reach the top of this profession and the last thing I want to see is all of the standards and thee structures in which I worked my way up through, I don’t want them to be destroyed because then it reduces all I have done to nothing, and its just not me, I have a family, there’s a greater responsibility I have now in life, its not just about me and my little career, its about much more than that its about my family, its about my kids, its about my studio, employees, you know there’s a lot riding on my work and so on one level I resent, and I am very angry about how convulsive the changes have been and forms of income and certain standards I became accustomed to, are, if not destroyed, they’re disintegrating or going away, but on the other hand, there’s nothing I can do about it, so instead of complaining about it, I’m going to put my energy into creating and trying to take advantage of these new tools and these new opportunities because that’s not only fun, because I have fun making pictures, beyond the money part I-love-making-pictures I love the way photography allows me to interface with the world, I love the way it enriches my life, the way it makes me see things. Not only do I love the creation of it but it also problem solving, so while something is going away, instead of sitting in a corner crying about it “I want it back the way it was,” no, I’m going to say “cool. What’s this new thing? How can I use in a way that is good or comfortable for me?” so I’m not only enjoying the creative process like I always have but I’m also able to survive and continue to make a living. And again, I always feel like every few years I’m repeating this, but, we have to always remember that photography is absolutely the offspring of the industrial revolution and technology so its only fitting, I really feel like I say this every few years, its only fitting that as technology advances and changes and morphs photography will do the same thing so while you can still shoot with a pinhole camera, literally, not the app pinhole [laugh] or you can use film or you can shoot with a 4×5 or an 8×10 camera or an iPhone, whatever device its all part of this continuum of  what photography is which is truly a reflection of  they industrial technological age, so its only fitting that now we would have these incredible little devices called smart phones that make beautiful photographs, its all part of the natural evolution of things. And so, I guess, if you look down the road, and if we ever, and I don’t want this to happen, if we ever become robots, or bionic, its only natural to think that we’ll cameras implanted in our heads or something. I’m not saying I want that to happen, but I mean, I guess we didn’t need to go there, but… I did go there.

A: So you’ve covered a lot over the last 30 years. Are there any events in your history where you wish you had what you have now, in regards to the capability of the iPhone?
E: That’s a great question. I guess no because I don’t tend to think of what could have been. That’s not my nature. I accept that the devices I had at those times were the one’s I used, what I would say is: I would have loved to have had a digital capture device in many situations. Whether it was a phone, or one of the great new canon DSLRs because then it would have allowed me to shoot in lower light, use less artificial light, have a higher ISO with image quality. All those things we now take for granted.

A: Tell me your thoughts about IG, and more importantly share your thoughts on the image you posted of your son in the hotel room on the National Geographic feed, and your reaction to the firestorm of comments and critiques that erupted from it.
E: There are aspects of IG, and the whole phenomenon it represents that I absolutely love, and its almost like a narcotic. I’m sure I’m not a lone waking up and going to sleep with it possibly being the first and last thing I do in the day, not everyday, its become quickly another touchstone of a kind of communal reality that we can live with this digital revolution and social media so as a photographer IG, at this point, reaches a height of what social media can be, as a photographer. But what’s so exciting is that there’s apparently 90 million other people who 99.9 % of them are not photographers that feel the same way, like my kids. Like so many other people that love to take pictures and use them to share with their friends and family and the public. Its interesting, this phenomena, IG in many ways captures the moment of social media, were living through no other form of social media, and again, as a photographer there’s obviously a particular importance and meaning to me. On the kind legal, professional implications side of it, I’m very concerned. I’m concerned as I said early how its devaluing the individual images both monetarily and almost in a, not a spiritual sense but, uh, the gluttony of it. Each morsel doesn’t mean as much, so that’s a concern, and of course the copyright issues are a concern and the issues of compensation and what IG and FB might decide to do, but as they learned, they’re not going to get away with it. And I might add, it wasn’t just the professional photo public who was part of that backlash, it was civilians as I call them who said no, no, no. I just ran into someone yesterday at Palo Alto high, a student, a high school kid who basically shared the same reaction as national geographic magazine, and professional photographers like me shared when IG announced the rights grab, they cancelled their IG account, a high school kid so I mean they have to listen to this people are not stupid.

Ed Kashi photographs his son, Eli, in Chapel Hill, NC during Eli Kashi's summer baseball trip in July 2012 (Ed Kashi/VII)

A: so please share with us your reaction about that [picture] did it change your perspective on what IG is, or, the people who use it?
E: through a series of communications between myself and a photo editor at National Geographic last summer when I was photographing my son as I went with him around the country to baseball tournaments or showcases um I had made a picture of him on the bed in a hotel room on his phone and I was reflected in the mirror taking the picture and I was just in my bathing suit, basically, or boxer shorts, um, the photo editor at the geographic said oh post that one on our new IG feed and it was literally one of the first images to be posted IG Geographic feed and I didn’t think about it. I wrote a caption, on the road with my son following his baseball dreams, or something like that, and within an hour there hundreds of comments a lot of them very nasty like “oh, what’s that man doing with that boy” or “this isn’t the sort of thing that I’d come to the National Geographic for” or like “eewww” things like that, and the final straw for me was “ I don’t want to look at that man’s ugly body” and so I then took it down and because I, you know the thing about the digital domain is its very easy, this is the bad part of it, its easy for people to be incredibly abusive. It’s basically cyber-bullying. I mean really, in its essence is what cyber-bullying is. You don’t know me and I can say whatever the hell I want no matter how painful or hurtful it may be no matter how much I misrepresent you or the image you’re looking at. And so thee impact, the comments to that picture reflected that sort of negative aspect of that sort of social media, that people feel like they can say whatever they want and I wasn’t prepared for that emotionally, and also showed me that people on IG don’t read the captions so I made the decision to take the picture down because it was too hurtful and I had shared something very personal. Since then I have also come to not only witness some work my colleagues have done particularly John Stanmeyer of VII but also I’ve recently done where you use IG as a form of raising awareness for an issue to fundraising and taking a very serious issue that I’m reporting on and photographing using this as an additional platform to communicate to a broader range of people I might not otherwise reach, and, but that endeavor is predicated on a very rich caption with strong meta data and hash tags so the reaction to those have shown me for all the people who don’t read the captions there are people who do. And so, in a sense we get back to the essence of doing this photojournalism or documentary work or any kind of informed reporting is that if you have a powerful image and you contextualize it with strong relevant data you will reach people. So for all the idiots who don’t look at a caption, not that they’re idiots, who just don’t care about that because they’re just into the pictures, there are those who will read it all, who will respond and comment and not comment with stupidity but comment with “wow I didn’t know about that” or “where can I, how can I get involved?” “How can I help?” So lets build on that positive stuff.

A: Do you still use IG especially after the TOS debacle?
E: Well, I still use IG. I did pause for a few days there after that, as you say, debacle of theirs, basically trying to make a rights grab. Which was also illegal for them to do because they didn’t have model releases so how could they use a picture of someone recognizable for commercial purposes, you know it was like a triple stumble on their part. You know, legally, ethically, and morally.

Car accident scene in lower east side of New York City on 10/8/12. (Ed Kashi/VII)

A: How has the mobile phone changed the way you shoot and or see life?
E: well, what’s so exciting about mobile phone photography is that I can now take pictures, I can have this visual diary of my life in a way that’s so much easier and less cumbersome than when I had to bring the camera with me. And then also, its allowing me to shoot in square format, well at least that’s how I’m choosing to deal with it because I’m generally working towards, shooting towards my IG feed, and I’m loving that, again you know what I love, you know, really, this gets back to the essence of when I was 18 years old and I was 3 months into learning photography, and I was in the dark and I had just learned about Imogen Cunningham, this is 1977, and so she was in her 90s living out in California, and I was like oh my god, you mean if I could live into my 90s I could still be taking pictures, like I could be taking pictures of nude women in redwood forests of California after having done 4×5 portraits and square format still lives and photojournalism or whatever you know, or fashion that photography is a series of endless opportunities to create in so many different directions now I have chosen a very focused direction and I have no plans to change that but this model photography is such a perfect manifestation what originally got me hooked on photography which was if I get to live a big long life that I’ll never run out of creative ways of utilizing photography so in a sense, in my rudimentary knowledge when I was 18 years old and I had just learned about black and white film processing and I thought “well I want to be like a photojournalist, but wow, I could take  4×5 nudes of people or 2.25 square pictures of people when I get older or do landscapes, this in a sense is, in a mid career now, so here it is I have a new thing. It’s not just a 35mm camera it’s a square format, it’s a different approach to things. Its also much more haphazard, for instance, were out in a sunny day, when I had to shoot in these situations I could barely see what I was getting on my screen unless I get all these accoutrements to outfit my phone which would destroy the purpose of what I love about this which is this little thing in my pocket and I just pull out and start shooting, but on the other hand its part of the magic of photography is that unknowing of what you’re getting its all great man and then I’ve since then shot my third sort of paid gig with the phone was in Burma in December for Global Post where I had been working on a project about income disparity and I shot in Connecticut and Bangkok, but the Burma piece I shot on the iPhone. And that was sort of interesting because I had to shoot in a sort of a shanty town area that was adjacent to a super fancy golf resort and on the golf resort we basically had to sneak in and shoot on the sly and that was a case where having, shooting with my iPhone didn’t telegraph immediately to security people and all that, what I was doing.

A: As a member/owner of VII, how do the iphone images play into overall scheme of the collective?
E: Ok. That’s an interesting question. The spirit of VII is such that while there is a very cohesive vision of how we want to look at the world in terms of looking at the world in a serious manner, and a meaningful manner there’s also the very strong edge of activism in many of the member’s photography and purpose that we’re not just there to make photography just to make photography we’re there to improve the world and advocate for certain issues and all that. So in that sense the iPhone has become yet another tool of expression and an effective tool of communication and again I go back to John Stanmeyer over the summer he did this big project for MSF in South Sudan on neglected diseases he maintains that through social media while he was there he reached an additional 500K people and so that’s powerful. So that not only raises the awareness about the issue he’s reporting on but it also raises money for the organization, you know, its all good. So that’s great. And I just experienced a much smaller version of that in Nicaragua. I’m working on a project about the epidemic of kidney disease among sugar cane workers in Central America. I decided to post a couple of portraits of sick sugar cane workers on my IG feed and within 24-hours the organization I’m working with started to receive some donations and people saying “how can I help? This is terrible.” Even like another photographer saying “I’m working on the same thing in Burma.” Its amazing the way we can get connected with each other. So to me, going back VII, its all a part of our purpose, and one of the main purposes of the agency, the cooperative is to do documentary photography and photojournalism that is not only meaningful but has an impact on the world. And then more over, we have a current group show called, iSee, that is touring its been in Boston, its been in New York, I don’t know where its going next. It may be in Italy, Stefano de Luigi, who’s based in Italy, he had a New Yorker piece called “Idyssey” where he followed along the Mediterranean Odysseus’ journey with the iPhone, Davide Monteleone another Italian photographer has done some beautiful work with the iPhone, Ron Haviv and Gary Knight two of the founders, you know, so, we’re totally into this, we’ve embraced it. Not everybody, we’re not autocratic in that way either, we’re not uniform. So VII is very well positioned in how its using the iPhone, or mobile photography both in artistic self-expressive sense but also in one of our main missions which is in a journalistic advocacy sense.

Hassidic man at the beach during the Polar Bear Club annual swim in Coney Island on New Year's Day, Jan 1, 2013. (Ed Kashi/VII)

A: What does the future look like for Ed, the collective (VII) and does it include mobile phone photography?
E: The future for myself and for VII the agency is extremely exciting and I prefer to look at it as very bright in an optimistic way. But make no mistake about it we are going forward through a lot of booby-traps and mine fields. It is not easy. It’s not straightforward, and there’s no assured success. Specifically, the twin pillars that were the underpinnings of our profession that held up the profession of photojournalism were editorial assignments and archival resale. That’s a photojournalist survived. Ok? And they’re both under threat. Those pies are getting smaller. Particularly archival sales, and that’s across the board. What its forcing us to do both individually and collectively as a company is to find new sources of support to commission, to help produce the field work, and then finding more innovative, new ways to disseminate our work. Disseminating the work isn’t the problem. There’s lots of ways to get our work out there all over the world like there never were before what’s difficult is how do we get renumerated for it because how we are able to survive. So that in a sense is the minefield, or lets just say, the challenges. The challenges are how do we remake the economic structure of our profession? Any iPhone can be part of that.

A: How has or is mobile photography changing the industry for photojournalists and conflict photographers?
E: For photojournalists and conflict photographers the iPhone, or mobile photography is presenting new opportunities to actually work more safely and more covertly and then on the other hand, its becoming more accepted as a form of image capture that magazines are willing to publish it. I just recently won a couple of awards and it was not an iPhone competition. So my iPhone pictures were along side Paulo Peligreen’s 35mm classic black-and-white pictures. So there’s an acceptance increasingly among picture editors and art directors and photo buyers. And as with everything, as the march of technology goes forward the image quality will improve, everything will improve, you know, like, the whole quality issue will not be an issue anymore. I see it as a meaningful and productive part of our future, and absolutely exciting too.

With the super storm Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the New Jersey, New York harbor, the scene at the Hudson River waterfront is ominous in Jersey City, New Jersey on October 29, 2012. (Ed Kashi/VII)

A: Any final thoughts or anything burning on your brain right now that I didn’t ask?
E: Well it’s just that, photographers have to be able to grab opportunities. And mobile photography is just another opportunity that is being presented to us. That doesn’t mean you have to do it. But think about that this is a cool new way to make pictures and potentially make some money. And I wanted to add, one of the aspects of monetizing this, and its still untested except in isolated cases, is if you can increase your following, then that’s something you can bring to the table to a client so you’re not just saying “hey, I’m Ed Kashi and I have all this wealth of experience under my belt, I’ve also got X number of thousands of followers.” So you know if you work with me I now can bring this audience along with me. And that’s something that I think we’re talking about at VII and other places. This is a moment that is insanely exciting for creativity, bringing worlds together that we could never have imagined doing in the print analog world, but damn its tough. And there are going to be a lot of photographers who don’t make it, there are all ready who have not made it. There are going to be individuals and organizations and institutions that are part of our world that won’t make it, and that’s sad.

A: So in the end a lot of working photographers, semi-pros, pros all worry about how the iPhone has eliminated the professional market of photography, yet in a sense what you just said, would you agree then, that actually, its actually helped to separate even more? And that really, as a professional photographer do we really have anything to worry about in regards to the moms-and-pops, soccer moms and your 12-year old son having a camera?
E: Citizen journalists and the casual photographer might on occasion make images or be in the right place at the right time where their work ends up being the work that show that situation but in the long run, in the aggregate, the larger picture citizen journalists cannot replace the professional photographer, they just can’t. They’re not going to go spend weeks or months with a homeless person or in a conflict zone or telling the story of a child with a genetic disease. They’re not going to do that. So only the professionals, and the really dedicated journalists and documentarians will do that. So that alone separates us, besides the fact that, you know, ya, I went for TIME magazine to cover Hurricane Sandy for two days, sure you could have handed a smart phone to somebody who’s a mom or a pop and said go cover it, and sure they may have taken a picture here or there that was good. Maybe even better than what I did, who knows, in the grand scheme of things they may not have been able to fulfill the assignment that the desk at TIME magazine could not have necessarily relied on them to know where to go, to know how to get there, to get the information to know the right place to be to show what’s going on to contextualize what they’re seeing in a proper manner so that’s its good reporting and then to get back and send it off all in time and all that. There are skills to this, its not luck.

A: So in the end can we agree that the iPhone is not a magic key for everyone to become a photographer over night with just because they have it, that in the end its still just a tool?
E: Absolutely

Contact Information:
ED KASHI PHOTO LIBRARY / 110 Montclair Ave. Montclair, NJ 07042 USA /  tel: 973.746.9096 fax: 973.746.9612 / email:
Ed is represented by VII AGENCY
For queries about assignments or licensing images, please contact Alina Grosman at VII. / email: or call: 212.337.3130

Twitter / Instagram / Website

Originally published on 02/18/2013


Refining Observations

Refining Observations: An Interview with Michael Christopher Brown by Andre H

In a world where nearly everyone is a photographer, and we are inundated with millions of images a day, its hard to keep track of who’s who, and, more importantly, the critical stories being told throughout the world. You all may recall earlier this year when I sat down with Ed Kashi to discuss mobile phone photography. It was during that interview that Ed introduced me to another photographer who was also using the iPhone to tell important stories. What later caught my attention was that this particular person had recently been accepted as a nominee into the legendary Magnum Photos with a portfolio dominated by mobile Phone images. Exciting, right? After reviewing his images, I wanted to know more, as I’m sure you do. So, lets do it. Everyone, Michael Christopher Brown.

AH: So tell us, who are you, what do you do, and why photography?
MCB: I use photography in areas of conflict. Photography, because it is the best way for me to communicate.

AH: Where are you right now? What story or project are you working on as you respond to these questions?
MCB: Thailand. I just photographed a friends wedding and am in the north now with my girlfriend. These past couple months I have not done much photography wise, just working on updating the stock archive and looking forward to a project in the fall.

AH: The explosion of mobile phone photography is beginning to settle now as it finds its place in the photography ring? What are your thoughts? Is mobile phone photography a blessing or a curse?
MCB: Well it depends how somebody uses the phone – in certain situations the phone helps and in other situations it hinders. But with respect to the mobile phone as an additional tool for photographers and artists, it is a blessing. 

AH: As a working pro do you feel the mobile phone has leveled the playing field between dedicated pros and the average enthusiast? Why, why not? Is really just another tool, or is it something much more?
MCB: Taking professional looking photographs is easier and faster with the advent of the iPhone. There are tons of apps that make your picture looking ‘pretty’ in a matter of seconds, without having to learn Photoshop or other complex computer based imaging applications. So yes, it is possible for an average enthusiast to compete with a pro. But pretty pictures are not always good pictures, so in general it is not about the recording device that levels the playing field; It is about the developed eye and craft and the way a project is assembled that separates the pro from the enthusiast.

AH: When you’re not out in the field covering conflict what other types of subjects or genres are you shooting?
MCB: People I know, family and friends. I am not inspired now, as in the past, to do much street photography or photography of others I do not know beyond the projects that interest me.

AH: When did you first start using a smartphone professionally? What were your first thoughts on the process? How much have you changed since that first time?
MCB: I began using the phone in late 2010. I was attracted to the simplicity of operation, the size, the high ‘aperture’ (everything was in focus) and how, when using certain applications, the images would look like medium format transparency or color negative film in a matter of seconds. The quality was much lower than say 6×6 medium format, as it is still, but the benefits seemed to outweigh the drawbacks. The phone was particularly useful when photographing people, as it still is, because the public perceived a phone differently from that of a camera – they did not see it as an effective visual recording device so they were unafraid. This opened the opportunity to take certain kinds of pictures, for example the Line 2 subway series on my website. Most of the people in those images were unaware that I was taking their picture, generally from several inches away.

AH: How has the mobile phone camera changed the way you perceive photography and the world around you? How has the your mobile phone work changed the way the world perceives your work, and the issues you cover?
MCB: I used to take photography too seriously and the camera controlled certain aspects of my life. Removing the camera created a certain independence and I was able to see the world from another perspective, perhaps one more true to who I am. I am not sure if the mobile phone work changed the way the world perceives the work, perhaps the photography world but not necessarily the world in general. Images of war are images of war and for the most part it is about the content and if it is 35mm or Medium format. But I hope with this soon to be published book, Libyan Sugar, that I will be able to share something a bit different, at least with the photography world, and that the Libya work will be perceived a bit differently (more than just a body of war work created with a phone) as a result.

AH: You were recently nominated into Magnum Photos, an organization known for their traditional ways of shooting film. How will this affect your use of the mobile phone in your work? Was this considered in the acceptance process?
MCB: The portfolio submitted included only phone pictures from Libya and Congo, though I am not familiar enough with the details to comment on the acceptance process. So far it is a great relationship and I hope it continues into the years ahead. I applied because I have the utmost respect for the agency, the work of Magnum photographers was what inspired my initial interest in photography as a primary and worthwhile means of communication, but my acceptance will not inspire any further or lesser use of a phone.

AH: Can you please give me a brief breakdown of what the story was you pursued in the Congo. Why did you feel it was important? Why was this body of work submitted for consideration to Magnum over another story?
MCB: Initially I went for TIME magazine, working on a story about conflict minerals and the effects on the population in the Kivu provinces of the D.R.C. I proposed the story for TIME, to be included in their first every wireless technology issue. I photographed in Uganda, Rwanda then the D.R.C. in part of July and August, then returned again to theD.R.C. in November when the M23 rebel group took the city of Goma. I returned again in March and stayed until June, documenting mostly the population. Much of the conflict is never seen and inaccessible due to the fact that they do not want press there, it happens in the jungle and away from the main cities. I felt it was important for TIME as it showed where much of these minerals necessary to mobile technology was extracted from, and that it was important to show those involved and effected by that extraction. I submitted it to Magnum, along with the Libya work, as it best showed the direction my work was heading. Also I just spent a couple weeks in Egypt and plan to return to continue photographing the aftermath of the military takeover and the Egyptian population.

AH: How do you think mobile phone photography will continue to change the professional visual storytelling world?
MCB: Well it is not necessarily phone photography that is changing visual storytelling in the mobile world. It is the applications, the delivery platforms, and as they evolve so will visual storytelling.

AH: What is the “standard script for war reportage?” How is the iPhone changing that?
MCB: That phrase, the standard script for war reportage, may be looked at in different ways. It might, among other things, refer to the equipment being used, to the approach to war reportage in terms of the distance inspired by the equipment, or both. In this case it was both, but the importance of that work is not so much that a phone camera was used. The work takes on another meaning in book form, where the images set the stage for an experience expressed through journal entries, skype/email conversations and sms/facebook messaging. That experience takes place during the Revolution and it is about a young man going to war for the first time, searching for that age-old desire to not only be near a conflict but to get as close as possible to it in order to discover, quite purposefully, something about war and something about himself – perhaps a certain definition of life and death. So the 80 or so Libya iPhone images on my website does not do justice to that body of work. The book is sized and presented more like a novel than a photo book, and one has to go through the text to get the full message of the work. So this is all to say that it is not about the phone camera but the type of work a phone camera may inspire.

AH: You continue to shoot with hipstamatic? Even though it is known for its slow processing time, what’s your rationale forusing it in conflict zones? Why not another app? Other photographers covering conflict have been scrutinized for using heavy filters and hipstamatic when covering news worthy topics. What are your thoughts on walking this fine line between photojournalism and the fine art world?
MCB: Hipstamatic used to be very slow, about one picture every 15-30 seconds. But I enjoyed that process because it slowed me down and enabled a different way of seeing. I miss the slow version. Now one can take nine frames before having to wait for it to process, and it is interesting how the process has become lazy as a result. I did contact Hipstamatic at some point regarding the heavy filters, the splotches and vignetting, which I think looks terrible, but they were not interested at the time. When another friend and colleague then contacted them later, they worked with us to create a better lens and film though I have yet to try it out.

AH: What’s your work flow when using the iPhone. Break it down for us. What’s app(s) do you use in what order? Do you post only to IG or other photo sharing sites?
MCB: I have used the app 645 Pro. I like it because there is a spot meter and the exposure and focus can be locked, but it is slow compared with Hipstamatic. I still defer to Hipstamatic as I have yet to find an app that has less ‘shutter lag’ than Hipstamatic, though the regular camera on the iPhone 5 is now as fast if not faster than Hipstamatic, but it does not have the square frame. I post mostly to IG and sometimes will use IG to share on Facebook and Tumblr.

AH: Explain your initial reaction of being one of the 5 photographers chosen to cover Super Storm Sandy by TIME magazine with a Mobile phone. Had you already been using an iPhone to cover conflict? Was it business as usual for you, or did you have to change your workflow?
MCB: I had used a phone before on assignments, in conflict and at the time had just finished a job for TIME in the Congo using a phone. Sandy was the first time I was given an assignment to post to Instagram and I was assigned to specifically cover Manhattan. Though I could not venture out to the coast where the most intense wave action was happening, I was able to find enough to photograph, sometimes due to the Instagram comments of followers.

AH: Please explain your thought “shooting with an iPhone is similar to keeping a notebook.” What does this mean?
MCB: During the photographic process, I don’t take the phone as seriously as the camera and that makes a big difference. It starts with the physical aspects – it weighs less, has no moving parts and slides effortlessly into and out of the pocket. Then there is the photo bag – there is none, and there are no other lenses, memory cards and such to worry about. There is just one button and the world. Much like a notebook, just a pen and the world.

AH: You’ve mentioned that the limitations of an iPhone can also be beneficial? Please explain.
MCB: Well a vice is a virtue. From an artistic standpoint, the limitations are the limitations of any other camera with one lens. Because the photographer is given one focal length and ‘look,’ making a cohesive project can be easier because, beyond a certain physical distance that is then necessary, determined and perhaps predictable due to the lens and vision of the photographer, the photographer is not only mindful of the end result, how a scene will appear photographed before actually photographing the scene, but becomes a non-participant at the technical end of the photographic process. So throughout the process a photographer is never a technician, but an observer, and this role reduction refines the observation.

AH: You were quoted “ I am convinced that a photographer’s professionalism lies in the approach taken to the work, not the equipment used.” Some people may argue this point especially those who spend thousands of dollars on high quality ‘glass’ and other equipment. Why do you feel the approach is so much more important than the equipment?
MCB: I was partly referring to photographing people, when approach is everything. Body language, what you say and how you say, largely determines access and the way in which people respond, not equipment. I was also referring to the vision of the project and, in reference to the above, that equipment can negatively interfere with the quality and intensity of observation.

The Art of The Critique (Part 1)

The Art of The Critique (Part 1) by Andre Hermann

Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.
–Frank A. Clark 

As artists producing work in the world of photography, we all want, we all fear, and we all rely on the critique, more importantly, the result of the critique—constructive criticism. And yet it is one of the most misunderstood, poorly practiced, and guarded of treasures. We look to our peers, our mentors, friends, family, and sometimes unsolicited strangers, for their honest thoughts and opinions of our work. So what is it about the critique that makes people so uncomfortable? How can we go about conducting a constructive critique in a way that helps everyone grow emotionally, and professionally?


The reason we ask for critiques is because we know deep down inside our work can be improved upon on one level or another. We all want to see our work evolve, elevating to a new level. We want recognition that what we are attempting is successfully communicating the intended message, and if it’s not doing it properly we want to know what we can do to make sure it succeeds.

I’ve always been in awe of the critique. Most people want it yet shy away from sharing it as if they will suffer some great torture at the hands of the photographer for sharing their thoughts. The blind stares, one-word answers, and strange soliloquies that dance around protecting one’s creative decisions from their reviewer’s honest opinion exist in a space of confusing absurdity. I honestly believe people have an easier time critiquing their friend’s failing relationship than their creative endeavors.

All too often I hear of slanted critiques that fall on one side of the fence or the other—someone only giving positive feedback, blowing sunshine up someone’s ass. Or, nothing positive is said at all leaving the person mentally broken with nothing to strive for. Both of these are tragic, and do nothing to help develop strong storytellers.


As an educator, mentor, and professional photographer I have been learning the graceful dance of giving a critique, pinpointing both the positive highlights, and, negative shortcomings of my students work while managing what peers are saying to help everyone get the most out of the experience. And yes, you heard me correctly, I said ‘negative.’ The critique is an art form, as subjective as photography itself. It is a fine balance between the positive and negative, and the informed and personal opinion. Believe it or not, people do benefit more from hearing the negative.
Nowadays we are conditioned to take a critique as being one word answers or short phrases such as “cool,” “awesome,” “great,” “cute,” “nice light,” and the use of thumbs-up emoticons, and other gibberish. Ask yourself, what is the real takeaway from responses such as these? Often times this is where the process ends. Without out proper constructive criticism we learn nothing of ourselves. Our work. Or how we can improve as storytellers by receiving this strangely seductive 21st century ego stroke.

So what is a critique?
According to, ‘critique’ is defined as ‘the art of criticizing.’ Moving one step further,siting the same resource, ‘criticize’ simply defined means to ‘to judge or discuss the merits and faults of.’ Pay close attention to the word ‘discuss.’ What I want you to realize is that a critique IS a conversation, a two-way road driven by give-and-take. Like photography itself, the critique is a form of communication in which we are inviting the audience to engage the image(s), start a dialogue about the work and processes, and share thoughts and experiences with each other with the intention of learning more about who and why we are.


I’ve had my work critiqued by some really amazing photographers. Some famous, others less known who have poured their passion and experience for the craft into the critique in hopes to help cultivate another strong storyteller. And I have had my work critiqued by some real cards who were far beyond jaded, caring nothing for the person sitting across the table from them, or for the further development of the craft. So what I am about to share with you is a culmination of what I have learned over the years not only as a student ravenous to devour as much knowledge as I could from my photography heroes, and my like-minded peers, but what I have learned along the way translating my past experiences to critique the next generation of storytellers in the classroom.


You’ve been asked for your opinion. Now what? So, you’ve been asked to critique someone’s photography. First of all, feel blessed. This person cares enough about you, your skills, and your opinion to ask for your help. Before accepting the request, ask yourself, “Am I knowledgeable on the subject or genre I am about to critique? Or am I just highly opinionated?” For example, looking at the We Are Juxt Art Critique forums, I would probably not volunteer to critique the ‘Mobile Artistry’ community. I am a street photographer & documentary photographer. I know nothing of the apps one utilizes to create these amazing images, or the subtle nuances involved in the Mobile Artistry workflow. I could tell you what I think looks “cool and awesome,” and why I feel that way. But what good would that do you?

The critiquing process relies on asking questions, engagement, and answers. So ask some questions. Get to know a little about the person, their thought process, and their image(s). Ask the person what they are specifically looking for. This is very important. Photography cannot be properly critiqued without knowing who the intended audience is, what the person is hoping to accomplish, or a clear idea of what exactly they want from you.

OK. So lets get to why you’re really reading this, The do’s, the don’ts, and the how-to’s

What TO do

  1. Ask the person what they are hoping to get out of the critique.Are they lost, seekingdirection? Or are they only looking for insight on how to polish, or further develop the work?


  2. Inquire about their work. The critiquing process involves asking questions. Who is the intended audience? Why did they create this image or series? What do they hope to accomplish with it? This will help you can gain a better understanding of what you’re looking at, and how you might relate to it.
  3. Take your time critiquing the work. Give the person your undivided attention. Take time to look at their work. Step aside, come back and look at it again before sharing your thoughts to make sure you are comfortable with your feedback. Treat it as if it was your own.
  4. Invite the person to ask questions as you go. This only applies if critiquing over the phone or face-to-face. Remember, a critique is a conversation between two people. Make sure the person understands what you’re saying.
  5. Relate to the work by sharing a story. People like to hear that their heroes and peers have lived and learned the same experiences both positive and negative.
  6. Reference another photographer’s work. This is extremely valuable to the learning process. Introduce someone to another photographer’s work.
  7. Look at the [objective] technical qualities: focus, exposure, contrast, quality of light, color, DOF (depth of field,) composition, framing
  8. Look at the [subjective] emotional qualities: Is the subject clearly defined? Is there emotional appeal? Is the story or concept well realized?
  9. Make sure your critique is clear and easily understandable. If you’re doing it by email type it out in a word processor. Sit on it overnight. Revisit in the morning before sending. Read it out loud to yourself.
  10. Suggest ways to improve or correct the issues. I like to call it ‘the take-away.’ Your suggestions are what will help the person grow. Believe it, or not, they will remember you for the suggestions you give them.

What NOT to do

  1. Do not ignore a request to critique someone’s work. It is an awful feeling to be ignored, especially if it’­­­s from someone you admire. If you are uncomfortable, or for some reason cannot find the time, or are unknowledgeable of the content let them know that. And don’t give a half-assed excuse why you can’t critique their work, like “its hard to critique such a personal story.” These sound like cop-outs and don’t help anyone. Remember the golden rule. You know, do unto others…


  2. Do not start with the negative. The critique is all about first impressions, and how you set the stage for the discussion. This is something that I’ve found a lot of students do. No one benefits from it. Find something positive to start with.
  3. Do not assume that everyone has a “thick skin.” Everyone reacts to critiques differently. Some people are very sensitive about their work and may have never had experienced a critique before. Sometimes people feel that any comment less than positive is an insult to their very soul. How you present your feedback, and knowing a little about who you’re critiquing will serve you well to navigate.
  4. Don’t be silent. The person is looking to you for insight. If you can’t find anything positive or negative to say tell a story, ask a question. Dig a little deeper. Take control of the situation.
  5. Don’t forget there is another person on the receiving end of your critique. Don’t talk down to them or ride a high horse. You may just learn something from the person and their work.


The Critiquing Process
Now that you know the do’s and don’ts lets talk about the how-to’s. When critiquing I always try to start with something positive, something the person did right—something that is ‘working.’ Then something that needs help or is lacking, followed by suggestions of how they can potentially fix it.  Remember, the ‘take-away’ is very important here—what you want the person to question and hopefully explore. There have been times when, for whatever reason, I was not able to find anything positive to say about someone’s work. This happens. It can feel dreadful—puts us on the spot. Embrace it as a challenge. Just as there is always room for improvement, there is also always something positive to compliment, even if it’s something as simple as, “your choice of working with this subject shows your dedication to addressing this issue and telling its story.”

What I look for when critiquing

  1. Architecture of the frame (elements form visual triangles in the frame, simply; all of the elements feel good and are well positioned.)
  2. What’s happening on the outer edges? (Are there any distracting elements that distract our eye from the subject?)
  3. What is the subject? And, is it clearly in focus?
  4. Technical [objective] qualities (see #7 above)
  5. Emotional [subjective] qualities (see #8 above)
  6. Did they show their image some love? Curve adjustments, sharpening, color corrections?
  7. Can they clearly describe their work or concept?
  8. Color or black-and-white? What is their rationale? “Because everyone else is doing it doesn’t cut it.”
  9. Is the moment spot on or did they miss it?
  10. Does the image have a clear voice? What is it trying to say?
  11. Does it leave a strong first impression?
  12. Does the image have a caption? Does it help, or distract from, the image?


Giving a critique is not always easy. Similar to photography it requires a little time, patience and a genuine curiosity for life happening around you. By reviewing a person’s work you are playing a significant role in helping them to develop skills to create better photography, in the end contributing to a better, more sophisticated photographic world, all the while helping to build a strong sense of community. So pay attention to who’s sitting on the other side of the work you’re about to critique and remember you were there once yourself. You might be surprised to find yourself asking them for a critique next time.

In part 2 of the Art of The Critique, I will discuss how to find the right person to critique your work, how to receive and interpret a critique, and other things to keep in mind to make sure you get exactly what you want out of it.

Editors Note: Please see our ongoing series, Art Critique & Community.  It’s an opportunity to participate, engage, and learn through the art of the critique.






1 –Eric Ward “The young prince defends his queen”
2 –Dopez (Email) “where_ love can take you”
3 – Maria João Fitas  “Cotton Candy”
4 – Jani Lewis This sweet lady lives next to Waves of Mercy’s mission quarters in Port-de-Paix, Haití.  Every morning at five a.m. we pass her on our daily walk.
5 – Mauricio Hoyuelos “The pause that refreshes”
6 – Caroline MacMoran Instagram //  IPA   “Riding the Ferry”
7 – Criky Perez His name is Eduardo. He is 62. He was born Argetinian but he feels American. He can speak 6 languages and he came, as he says, for a woman`s love. Despite that love, he had another one in his born Argentina. The result of those 2 loves: 3 sons and 7 grandsons. Actually, he passes his days en a bar called La Cerdanya, in Gràcia, a neighbourhood from Barcelona city. And he is alone, without those two loves, just with his cigars, his beers and his half broken and old radio accompanying him wherever he goes.
8 – Nick Becerra (Email) Sunset behind Giant’s Graveyard from camp at Toleak Point on the WA coast… a perfect end to an incredible day of adventure, full of laughs, mishaps, whiskey, seals, bald eagles, bouldering, hiking, collecting mussels for dinner, swimming from sea stack to sea stack, passing a dead whale on the beach, and collecting tons of new ‘fun marks’. such a restorative few days in the mountains and on the coast.
9 – Stefanie lePape Flickr “Too far south”
10 – Delphine Dabezies “I never thought that tonight could ever be this close to me…” – Cure
11 – Baltasar Lopez Garcia This picture is taken with hipstamatic (Americana + Blackeys Supergrain). The low contrast I got it before uploaded to EyeEm, with the Steph filter. I like to use Hipstamatic for the great combination of lenses and films. Actually I use Oggl which allows me take the picture with exposure control and finally chose the combination. I’m a partner of shootermag, the first photo mobile magazine in the world.
12 – Selena-Lani Williams “Home”

The Purge

The Purge by Andre H

From the time I began shooting with the iPhone 3G years ago I have experimented with many apps and styles as I navigated the developing world of mobile phone photography. I have seen my images pass through many phases, and fads. I have grunged the hell out of my images, sometimes losing them to unsalvageable damage, tiled them together to form visual quilts in a David Hockney sort of way, shooting through digital lens onto digitally replicated film types, all in the name of, and for the thrill of experimentation. Since that time I have worked my way back to where I am now. Through my street photography I have come to embrace and love the simplicity of a minimalist workflow shooting primarily black-and-white with little, if any post-production.

I know a lot of us have made names for ourselves by developing, and holding to very specific styles, or subject matter, but how healthy is it to limit ourselves to one particular workflow or style? Every now and then we need to purge, step away from our self-determined styles and subjects for a moment, and try something completely new, 180 degrees away from “normal” in order to help us to understand ourselves and continue to grow as creatives. After recently losing my job, now facing a temporary run of unemployment, and at a loss for my daily serving of the streets of San Francisco, I looked for the positive. And, there it was, right in front of me. My attention shifted to my 3-year old daughter. I was given the gift of enjoying more time with her. Spending all day everyday with her, she became my new muse.

The tender moments and portraits of a little girl and her daddy served as proof of our time spent together. I may have lost my job, but thank God, not my imagination. With these intimate moments of Wren and I at home I asked myself the magical question, “What if?” I had recently begun exploring a new app, “Mextures.” I had also begun revisiting an old favorite, “Pic grunger.” So, “what if I degraded these images to the point of becoming more graphic in nature, both conceptually, and visually?” For so long I had bound myself to an almost photographic “purity” involving no heavy filtering. Now I was ready to embrace another side of my creativity, one that had been lying neglected for sometime. I wanted to see just how far I could push my photography in the opposite direction. It was time for a brief purge. For two-weeks I would let go of who I was as a street photographer and run my photos through the filter meat grinder, tweaking and grunging photos of my daughter and I out beyond my normal style.

Depending on the light, the moment, composition, and the amount of post-production, each image began taking on a new creepy, disturbingaesthetic. I liked the results I was seeing. I immediately began posting on IG and Eyeem. The reactions were interesting. Some people absolutely loved my horrific “purge” series, while others hated them. Some thought they were fun. Others threatened to “un-follow” me if I continued to post similar images. Some people even demanded more. I knew I had something here that was striking people’s emotions.

These were not necessarily for everyone. I was creating this series for me. As I mentioned earlier, I needed a change. I had a lot of pent-up anxiety and frustration. So I purged it through my photography. I embraced something new. Not really photographing a new subject, but rather exploring how I could transform an image perceived as “innocent” and elevate it to another level of perception. Now, before we move on, I want to make it crystal clear here that there are no weird, intentional underlying messages within these images symbolizing my relationship with my daughter, or my feelings toward her.

The Purge!

We all need to let go sometimes. We need to step out of our comfort zones and embrace for just one short moment, another side of ourselves uninhibited. It’s needed. We all try so hard to live within the boundaries of what our peer groups or followers are expecting and willing to accept that we forget about the search for the new and unknown. Especially now, as we all search for that virtual pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—more followers, internet fame, global acceptance and the digital pat-on-the-back-high-five by strangers acknowledging that we’ve done something good. Normally known for street photography, I took a brief break. I wanted to explore what potentially could be hiding just below the visual surface. Think of it like another dimension. Not only would this involve myself. But as I would later find out while posting that this would take my audience on a new journey as well. Introducing them to a side of me that they may not have ever been expecting to meet.

The Process—How I did it

1. Camera+
This experiment began with innocent experimentation with an innocent moment. I followed my normal recipe. I photographed my daughter using camera+. Under the “scenes” tab I chose clarity. Effects tab–retro–Ansel. I now had the first step of the process down.

2. Mextures
Next I imported the image into Mextures app. I cropped the image to my liking and moved forward into the texture packs. This is where I made the real discovery that propelled my project forward. This is also where the most experimentation happened, and the most nuanced tweaks made the biggest difference. Next I chose “emulsions” followed immediately by clicking the far right icon that looks like a magic wand with three stars, or, “blending modes.” I clicked on every single option in the beginning to see what each did. The one that caught my attention was “color burn.” Using this with a black-and-white image produced a high contrast image. The beauty of this option is that there is a sliding scale that allows you to control the level of the effect. But it gets better. I was hooked. I clicked the check mark. Selecting different emulsions I realized that the image was once again drastically affected. Each emulsion created a different effect in the color burn blending mode, and each was controllable using the slider bar. Oh ya. I was excited. I explored each one until I arrived at a “look” that I was satisfied with. At this point I was surprised to see how a photo of an innocent little girl was transformed into a horrid, evil looking creature. I loved the possibilities. My curiosity was ignited. I began experimenting with more and more images, more about that later. Once I found the right “emulsion” I clicked the “+” symbol to add a new layer of effects. Select “new pack.” I did this multiple times adding layer after layer of grunge effects, grit and grain, and more emulsions until I was satisfied. I exported and saved to the image library.

3. Pic grunger
Pic grunger is a pretty amazing app that has been around for quite sometime. I used a long time ago to add an old rudimentary warn photo look with an interesting border. This app is amazing because of the grunge possibilities it gives you. I will easily lose a lot of time exploring the infinite possibilities in this app, as did I. After exporting from Mextures, I imported the image into Pic grunger for its final round of filtering. This is where I would add the polish to my fear invoking images. After importing you see many different options some I used and others I never touched. For this example I used “streaked.” At this point, if you haven’t realized it, you’re falling down a rabbit hole. There are four different ways to tweak this effect.  “Style” “Strength” “Border” “Texture.” I really didn’t waste my time with “Border” it seem to ruin the affect I was after. I really didn’t do too much with strength either. I primarily explored style and texture. Those were my favorites. Under the texture tab my favorites were “pulp” “wrinkled” and “newsprint.” The style tab adds contrast to the final image. I found the results differed from image to image depending the quality of the image upon import and the texture used.

Photography is about context and how we perceive what we’re looking at. What are we questioning, hoping to discover? Sometimes we find answers to our questions, while other times we are introduced to concepts and truths that we wished we had never unearthed. Looking over these images that I was creating I began to question if this is how we perceive ourselves when we’re depressed or stressed? What might we all look like under stressed, graphic conditions? A good innocent smile becomes a dark, horrifying creature reminiscent of a nightmare. What we initially perceive as happiness really dark? Is this how I was seeing myself, and life? Was I looking at the visual representation of my anxiety and depression? Or was it just an innocent experimentation that I stumbled upon by accident one day. I’m not sure how to answer that question just yet. But what I do know is that the importance of the purge is to clear our systems, experiencing a new perspective with the intention of coming back to a normal way of doing things with a new outlook. I did just that and enjoyed every minute of it. Through that process I came face-to-face with a new series of questions that have helped me grow and reconsider how people not only perceive my images but also how people might perceive me as a person. Man, I love photography.

‘iPhoneography’: The Gimmick That Grew Up [OpEd]

The Gimmick That Grew Up by Andre H

Sitting here I ponder the relatively new medium of photography, the mobile phone camera. I think of the reactions people have had to the Mobile Photo Awards that continuously shock the world with images that were to many, too good to have been created with smart phone cameras. My thoughts are left considering the impact of the TIME magazine editor’s decisions, and the five photojournalists changing the world by proving how important, how relevant these new forms of cameras are to the world, to storytellers, to us, to everyone, as they reported the effects of Super Storm Sandy in real-time. I think about the skeptics and why they still exist. Why is this tool, this new photographic medium, still scrutinized? Why is it still discredited?

I remember there was a time when the newness of carrying a camera in our pocket, apps that did wonderful things to help expand our creativity, an introduction of a brave new world of photo communities, was exhilarating. New titles and terms for what we were doing were created to help distinguish us further, “iPhoneography,” “mobilephoneography” “streetphoneography” and plethora of other derivatives emphasizing the uniqueness of the mobile movement. These terms meant something to us then. It even meant something to me. We needed them. We had to emphasize that this was photography created with an iPhone. I’m sure many of you, as was I, were faced with the naysayer traditionalists who warned you to put the toy down and shoot with a real camera. And, similarly, we all responded, a feeling in our guts, “no, there’s something to this, something special.” We kept shooting with the our pocket cameras. We felt different, we felt we were helping pave the way each time we proudly said I’m an “iPhoneographer,” or such.

I know many of you love the term iPhoneography, and hold it dearly close, along with all the many other derivatives that have popped up over the last few years to define the mobile movement. But what purpose do these terms serve now as mobile phone photography matures from the angsty teen trying to be different, bucking the system, into an experienced, respected adult? Are they doing more harm than good? Do we really even need them anymore? I say, “no.”

As I type this I consider the relevancy of these terms to our beloved medium. I think back to Cartier Bresson when he bought his first Leica in the late 1920’s. This new medium, the 35mm camera was small, different. It would soon prove to allow photographers to go places and see things never before imagined. Sounding familiar yet? It should. This is exactly what’s been said about smart phone cameras. Anyways, Bresson found no need to label this new medium “leicaography” “decisivemomentography” or even “bressonography.” It was simply just photography. It didn’t need a new term because what mattered was the subject, the moments that were being recorded on the film. The importance of this new medium was defined and quickly led the way to what we would soon come to know as the Golden Age of Photojournalism.

The gimmick that grew up

We’ve seen the proof that smart phones and the mobile photography movement had progressed beyond a fad or a gimmick. We have seen the proof hanging on gallery walls, on the covers of prominent weekly publications, acceptance in the news media, and used by major brands. There are still many skeptics, and naysayers who condemn the mobile movement to a fad that will pass. To a point I agree with their argument when I still see the term “iPhoneography” being used in serious photo circles. There is an honor and respect that must be given to Apple for giving us the iPhone. But in the end, it is only a camera with a phone attached. It did not change the way we think about photography. Apps did that.

Many of you, like myself, have spent a lot of time promoting the mobile phone movement as a serious professional form of photography. This is an interesting time. We are still struggling to elevate the medium to a higher ground, as it balances on the edge of adolescence and adulthood. Outside of the realm of apps, and filters and, “oh boy, everyone’s doing it, how do I stand out now,” we must ask, “what importance do these terms really hold for us now?” What good are they doing? Are we held back by the very idea that we need a term to stroke our own egos and reaffirm our own self-importance in an over-saturated world where everyone claims to be a photographer? Why can’t we just call ourselves photographers? As the mobile phone photo medium matures in the world, the use of kitschy terms such as these only reinforce the critics thorny opinions that mobile phone photography will never amount to anything, and will always be a gimmick.

Ironically, maybe now is the time that we lovingly lay the terms to rest, remove the mask that we’ve been wearing to gain attention, and leave it pressed in the pages of history. Lets look in the mirror to see ourselves for what we really are, storytellers. Photographers. We don’t have to let go of what iPhoneography meant, nor should we forget. But we should realize what we truly are, and what we continue to be. Let the world know that we are no longer that teen with something to prove. We’ve made our point and this new and exciting medium of photography isn’t going anywhere. It’s a force to be reckoned with, and will continue to develop with age. The longer we hold onto these gimmicky terms the longer we will postpone our place at the photographic table, with a voice. We’ll remain the pestering child who’s parent’s tell them to be quiet while the adults are speaking.

Instagram: I’d buy that for a dollar

I’d buy that for a dollar: 6 Juxters share their thoughts about IG’s new TOS by Andre Hermann

“We don’t own your photos—you do.” Kevin Systrom, CEO of Instagram mentioned earlier this month as he tried to quell the firestorm that erupted after the release of Instagram’s new terms of service (TOS.) Was it really their intentions to own our photos, or were they after something much more valuable? We. Us. You. Him. Her. Essentially, our identities, and the prized, highly valuable user data that comes along with it, which could very well including access to, and, usage of our images.

In the world of social media where our hunger for apps and photo sharing is ravenous, an old comical TV ad in which a mustached gentleman wearing bottle-capped specs in the 1987 movie, Robocop says excitedly, “I’d buy that for a dollar,” echoes in my head. Instagram (IG) now owned by Facebook (FB) has no intention of paying us anything for access to our prized personal data, or our images. The irony is that IG is relying on the sale of personal information to advertisers to turn a profit. The future of this dynamic community is dependent on it.

Sitting on what could possibly be considered the world’s largest stock photo collection, IG initiated a new term of service (TOS). The new terms spelled out in blurry detail quickly spread like wild fire, shocking the world of professional photography and hobbyists everywhere into a crazed frenzy. Given a deadline of January 19, 2013 to make a decision to leave, or stay and accept the new TOS facing a world of future uncertainty, many people quickly jumped ship into the first available life raft in hopes of a safer alternative. Within days the web was flooded with tweets and posts of people quickly downloading their feeds, moving to other services. While others held on, hoping for a solution that would restore the sinking ship to its current state.

As an IG power-user, and professional photographer who has embraced, and, invested so much time into this amazing community, I was truly shocked to read the details of the TOS. Frustrated, I joined the empty black frame protest that spread quickly across the IG community including some notable members such as National Geographic. I patiently waited to see what the outcome would be. Such a protest, and loss of members, a number that IG would never publicly declare, yet admitted was far less than they thought, did not go unnoticed. Announced in a public apology posted to the IG blog, Kevin Systrom announced that IG would revert back to its original 2010 TOS, including a few mandatory additions, which some deemed more blurry and open-ended to users than the new TOS. More frightening was the inclusion of their arbitration clause, which pointed out, “the new terms still contain a mandatory arbitration clause, which is not included in terms of service for other leading social media companies like Twitter, Google, Youtube or even Facebook itself. That immunizes Instagram from many forms of liability, according to legal experts.”

Did this minor damage control symbolize that the sinking ship was fixed, ready to sail forward again? Now tarnished, could the once quirky, photo community that we had all come to love recover? Could IG, under the umbrella of FB be trusted in the future?  Like many of you reading this I had many questions and concerns. What could I believe? What would this mean for my archive of IG images online, my network of followers that I’ve spent so much time sharing daily posts with? What did this mean to me personally, professionally, and legally? Is IG really a ship that sailed? If so, what are my alternatives? If I decide to stay are my images safe? What will it cost me to use the service? What about my privacy, and the potential consequences of posting under the new TOS?

So, for my first blog post since becoming a part of the wearejuxt family, I decided what better way to get started than to write about this copyright issue that deeply affects us all. We juxters thought it would be interesting to collaborate and address these questions and concerns. I asked 5 different Juxters to answer all of the same questions allowing them to share their opinion regarding the new TOS, giving you 5 very different, yet similar perspectives on the issue. So lets start.

1. Please briefly introduce yourself: name, where do you live, how long have you been shooting, and describe your main style or genre of mobile phone photography, i.e. fashion, street, decim8r, food, fine art?

BP: Seattle, shooting with iPhone since 2009… like many I started shooting anything and everything then HDRing the crap out of it…then found street and people and really getting comfortable with it… most notably when I started covering Occupy Seattle… that was when it started to make sense to me… still got a long way to go but feeling comfortable is my first step…

JPB: My name is Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt on IG and other platforms) and I’m a Los Angeles-based travel photographer. While most of my IG stuff is related to my “brand” my Instagram feed also contains lifestyle stuff. I’ve been shooting for over 20 years, but on Instagram since November 2010.

NC: Nicholas Carron: Columbus, Ohio, USA : I started sharing my mobile photography in March 2011 when I launched : Photojournalism, Storytelling, Artistic Compositions

RG: Richard Gray, @rugfoot on IG, flickr and Twitter. Shooting 20 years or so, 3 with the iPhone and 1 year professionally with a big camera. I’m a bit of a dabbler with styles and subjects, which I guess goes with my thing as a teacher. I’ve been running an introductory course in iPhoneography the last year in London and am planning an advanced course for this year. I write too:

RC: Ryan Coleman, Houston, TX.  I’ve been shooting since I first downloaded Instagram 2 years ago.  My style is always incredibly varied.  However, I always seem drawn towards the type of photography that would have me working for a tourism board for whatever city I’m living in at the time.  I thoroughly enjoy being a tourist in my own city.  My only catch is that I can’t seem to stay away from black & white photography.

2. Upon learning of IG’s new terms of service (TOS) what were your initial thoughts? How’d you react? Did you cancel your IG account immediately? Put it on hold? Did you migrate to another community? If so which one and why? How have your followers responded to your decisions?

BP: actually I was stunned by the information i was more taken aback by the tone…it felt very disrespectful despite the fact that the platforms success is based on its “loyal” and “active” community…couple that with the lack of adequate and quick response to the already building issues; spam, cyber-bullying, facebook-esque approach etc. etc., this was the ‘straw that broke” it…did I delete…nah but I needed a break to be honest…I needed something new or at least something to make it feel new again…I’ve always been on the other platforms, but I definitely looked deeper into those platforms and assessed what I need to feel good again…followers were supportive for the most part…I think some thought it was an over-reaction from folks as a whole…but I think this time I had to say something even if it was just a I’m taking a break post…

JPB: I wasn’t really surprised by the new TOS announcement– no one builds an app with the intention of NOT selling for a billion dollars, and no one who sells their app/social media platform for a billion dollars can go un-monetized forever. I will applaud IG on giving a long heads up before the proposed changes in the TOS go into effect—that seemed much clearer than how FB does it.  I haven’t killed my IG account and I hope not too. I’ve always been on EyeEm and I’ve seen a huge surge in followers there (my follower count there is now thousands more than it was on IG), but it’s time to seriously consider how to go forward with IG. The few, watermarked or otherwise frivolous images I’ve posted have gotten much less interaction since the Instageddon fallout has started, but it’s also the holidays… a perfect time for a little IG vacation in my opinion. I’m posting less, being more selective about what I post, and waiting for the new TOS to change five more times before going into effect. I want to see what model they come up with before I leave IG. But they certainly let the world know they aren’t the only game in town. EyeEm and the New Flickr seem to be handling refugee influx quite gracefully.

NC: My initial reaction to Instagram’s new Terms of Service (ToS) was more curiosity than anger, confusion, or complacency. My engagement in social media, especially in regards to Instagram, has always been guided by fascination, experimentation, and a sense of adventure. My perspective may come from being engrained in the interactive design and strategy field that regularly exposes me to a digital communications world that is fluid, lacks standards, and literally presents me with new challenges on a daily basis. Since Instagram announced it’s Terms of Service change, I have not closed either of my Instagram accounts (@urbancurse and @njcarron). I’d like to see how any repercussions will play out and, although my activity may lessen, I still see value in maintaining a presence on Instagram.

RG: Like everyone, I’d been expecting something after the Facebook takeover. My initial reaction was to stop using Instagram. A few months ago I started sending my iPhone images to an agency and amazingly they’ve managed to sell a few. So I would get into trouble if any of the images I had sold ended up on any form of ad. It’s a small likelihood but still. I’ve kept my account open but I have revived my interest in flickr, especially after the launch of their new mobile app, which I like a lot because: 1) Full-res uploads so it effectively works as a back-up service.

2) It connects the mobile world with the big-camera world.

3) It’s a serious place for photography with less emphasis on likes and follower numbers.

4) It’s a pretty cool app with some more advanced features than IG.

5) They have user-friendly TOS with no risk of your photos being used in ads.

6) I like the old-fashioned business model: you pay a fee, you get a service. I should say that I helped flickr with their app’s launch in London, though I’m not getting paid by them now, so I’m independent.

RC: My initial thought was, “Really?”  I was taken aback to be honest.  I thought it was incredibly selfish to think that it was ok to sell users photos and give them not a single penny.  I’ve been disenchanted with IG for quite awhile now, this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I didn’t know exactly if I was going to delete the account or not.  But after a couple days of mulling it over, I decided to just delete all of the pictures that I’ve uploaded.  Not that I felt that my pictures were SO good, I just felt that deleting the pictures was me standing up for my principles and values.  Their actions and decisions were made clear, and Instagram would no longer be what it once was.  After deleting all of the pictures most of my followers seemed to understand, however, there were many that were upset.  I watched as I lost over 200 followers in just two days.  Some being followers I had had for quite some time.  I was a little shocked being that I told them that once the dust settled from the TOS nightmare I would begin posting again.  I will post again, I just will probably begin posting pictures about my life, not my photography.  Flickr has become my new home for photography.  I’ve had the account for quite some time, and now that they’ve introduced their new app, I think it makes for a wonderful transition.

3. What was the most important issue for you in regards to IGs new TOS? Or any social media site’s TOS as it relates to photography? Privacy? Freedom? Copyrights and usage?

BP: I think all of it is intertwined… so I’m talking to one of my friends about it… he says the new TOS is the same thing except they weren’t scared to tell you what they want to do… he had a friend find out a photo he posted had already been given/sold to a company… and the only way he found out was by purchasing the item and then finding it on the item… then he looked and found that it was the photo he put on IG… the funny thing is he was flattered about it and didn’t mind it at all… I think that’s fine for a lot of folks… the general mass actually… but I also think there are those who are really trying to hone their craft and for those folks… the co-opting or even the stealing of the imagery is just uncalled for… on the networks that I am on now, I’ve read their TOS’s and I’ve decided the photos that I am more attached to, I’ll be a LOT more careful in where I put them… while the shit I put on IG or other platforms that are similar for their TOS’s I’ll be a lot less caring…

JPB: For me, it’s all about copyright and usage. I consult with travel brands on social media issues and I also generate a lot of content for them. If someone is going to use my stuff, I need to know, sign off on it, and be compensated for my work or decide to give it away.

NC: The most important issue for me regarding a social media platform’s Terms of Service or Privacy Policy is assessing how flexible and clear the details are written. Some entities present their information very abstract and others very clear. Regardless, I understand that Terms of Service and Privacy Policies are always subject to change, and there is an inherent risk that content I post on the web and social media platforms could be re-purposed by any party without my knowledge or consent. Thanks to the efforts of Jen Pollack Bianco, whom informed me in October that one of my Instagram photos was on the August 27th cover of Time Magazine’s Wireless Issue, I have first hand experience knowing how the content I share can be accessed and used without me having any knowledge.

RG: The risk of my syndicated photos turning up in ads. Also, the very pointed statement that IG would make money from our photos and not pay us anything was a bit irksome. It was basically Instagram saying they want to squeeze as much money out of our photos and our data as possible.

RC: The issue was their selfishness and true colors.  IG was simply becoming a money hungry animal that I wanted nothing to do with.  My work is only mine to sell.

4. After a community backlash IG rescinded their new terms of service to their original 2010 form, with exception to a few new updates to the TOS that were buried in a link for everyone to carefully read through on the IG blog. Did you read the new update to the reinstated 2010 version? What are your thoughts? Was it clear and easily acceptable for you? After reading them did you feel you could forgive and trust IG, continue participating in the community?

BP: Still the same to me.  Just going to go as planned and post but more weary about what I post.  I’ll definitely treat it more as a social network now as opposed to a creative community.

JPB: I read them and they are not all that clear. I also suspect they’ll change several more times before going into effect. I’m once bitten twice shy– I know they need to monetize, and I’ll participate in a limited way until they finalize.

NC: I read both the initial and rescinded versions of the Instagram Terms of Service and I believe the first announcement was quite clear. Since Facebook acquired Instagram earlier in the year, leadership intentionally began to set a path that would make the product profitable. Just as Instagram blazed a trail for social media enthusiasts to connect by sharing photography, it’s since had to take the success of the photo-sharing model and pursue uncharted territory to make money.

RG: It was a bit like finding your partner in a bar with someone else with all the signs they were about to cheat on you, but when confronted they changed their mind. They didn’t actually go through with it, but you’ve discovered something about them that you didn’t know before. Yes, I’ve been trying to read the new TOS coming in on Jan 19. There’s a link to the “previous” terms but I’m not sure if these are the 2010 terms. But my general view is that, yes, they now seem to be fairly similar to before. Which isn’t to say that they are particularly good. For example, they still allow ads to be placed on your photos. This was the case with the previous TOS, but it is only now that I am aware of this after the recent furor. I feel a lot less trust for IG now despite the TOS reversion.

RC: I read the update, but the damage was already done.  As far as I’m concerned now, IG will once again bring that selfishness back to the table.  That was their intention to how they figured they could make the most amount of money, and I doubt they’re going to forget that anytime soon.

5. With the initial news of IGs controversial new TOS feeds were still alive with activity from within the community. Do you think the new TOS made any difference to the average user? Or just to pros and semi-pros who feel they have something to lose?

BP: I think to the casual user/ average user the TOS didn’t really bother them.  I think the culture of FB and other social platforms has conditioned folks to not really care.  I think that it has opened folks to reading into it more and it was great to see a lot of users protest… but really… once the rescind came out, it became all good again… I know that I’ve seen a lot more posts from folks who are saying “whew, thanks IG” type stuff… its funny because the rescind was more of “what had happened was” response… but really… if it quacks like a duck, then its probably a duck!

JPB: For the average user: probably little to no change. But for someone like me, who is building a personal brand that includes a strong visual/photography component, I need to protect my work and my clients. But we all have something to lose if IG loses steam. Some of my favorite IG interactions are with people who I have little in common with– I really enjoy following a 19 year old Hooters waitress in Kentucky and the UN Photo Council. I’m not sure those members of my instagram fam will find me on EyeEm or flickr, and I get something out of those relationships.

NC: I don’t think the Instagram Terms of Service will affect engagement of the average user. Throughout my experience on the platform, I frequently remind myself that Instagram’s large user base replicates society as a whole. The extrovert popular crowd wants attention while the creative demographic is fulfilled by collaboration and critique. Many people want to journal their lives in real time while others contemplate and share deeper initiatives. Business professionals want to use Instagram to market a product while proven artists want to promote their unique skill set. Instagram is so vast, however it is my impression that leadership has identified an “average user” to best fulfill their goals.

RG: Yes, I don’t think it made much difference to 95% of users. But the other 5% were very vocal and they could have done a lot of damage to the brand.

The average user posts pictures of themselves in the bathroom mirror with the always amazing, “duckface.”  Do I think they cared?  Probably not.  The actual photographers, or wannabe photographers like myself all probably felt they had something to lose.

6. With millions of people actively using IG who do you think would be the most affected by the new TOS? Do users really have to worry about their likeness, photos, and info being used, ever? Or are the power users who have substantial followers, views, or with a recognizable brand be the only group to worry?

BP: I think it’s a mixture of both.  To be in the shadows is good for them also not just those who are in the spotlight.  For folks in the shadows, they probably won’t find out (story of my friends buddy finding his photo on a product without his consent) and also if they did the response would still be “oh cool, thanks for the 15 minutes” While for those who are “influential” I think it does the same ego-stroke and may not be in monetary value but the return would be increase audience and opportunities etc. etc….who knows… I’m not in the business of that type of stuff…if you ask me personally, I’d say that my privacy, my work, my content… that’s my stuff…but I’ve always been this way…and so now I’m more sensitive to it…

JPB: This remains to be seen. Obviously power users have more to lose because they don’t own their followers (IG does). But until we see what this new advertising model actually is, we won’t know. Also, at this point it’s obvious that there is more than one photo-sharing platform out there. For me-and-my-personal “brand” it’s going to make more effort to go find them wherever they might be.

NC: I think all users should understand that their content could be used no matter their likeness or subject matter. It seems likely that the demographic who uses Instagram to post their fashionable attire or culinary choices would be the most affected.

RG: My case is quite unusual, but the super users trying to monetize their followings would also have been negatively affected indirectly since many of the brands would now see IG as a less attractive platform. They might also have been the main targets if IG wanted to associate profiles with ads. Potentially under the revised TOS, IG can still put ads on their photos, but I can’t see that happening.

RC: I think it’s plain as day who should be worried.  Yes, those “power users” should definitely be worried.  They became popular for a reason – people like their pictures.  Plain-and-simple.  Even if Instagram doesn’t “like” certain power users photos, they’ll want to use and sell them because the masses seem to think that they’re awesome.  That’s what every business decision is based off of, “Will the people of the world like this and want to buy this?”

7. With the 2010 TOS reinstated with a few minor updates what should we expect from IG? Some people are saying that this reversion to the previous TOS is a loss for users because they are so broad? What do you think is it a loss? Are you still hesitant? What are your plans come January 19 when the planned change goes live?

BP: Yes a loss. Will I be back? We’ll see. Hesitant yes.  I think they need to revisit the TOS (and all other platforms that deal with creatives) need to review and actually engage their user base for help in what makes sense.  I don’t think anyone is saying IG don’t make money, we just want to make sure that in doing so, we aren’t and or work isn’t the pawns in lining your pockets.

JPB: My first reaction is to call them “flip floppers” but I suspect I am not alone in knowing I will decide on or before January 18th. I plan on investigating all other options before then and seeing how many new followers on other platforms—like EyeEm—actually use it. I’m in an “observe and report” phase. But I also need to figure out what works best for my brand. I suspect I’ll remain on IG in some form, although I might be posting less and more selective about what I post.

NC: I think Instagram will continue to pursue ways to make the platform profitable, whether this means solely through advertising revenue or not remains to be seen. This is something that I have come to accept and would argue has been on the table well before the Facebook acquisition, as indicated in the September 2011 Adweek article, “Instagram CEO Talks Advertising and Growth”.

RG: It looks like a PR disaster for IG. They’ve made no commercial progress with their TOS, yet their brand suffered hugely in the media and they have made a lot of users look elsewhere and become very suspicious. I’ll probably keep my IG account going, though I don’t have the time to run multiple accounts and if the flickr one goes well, I’ll probably switch permanently.

RC: My plans have already been set in concrete.  I deleted everything, there’s no going back now.  I think people should be very hesitant.  Like I said, they made their intentions clear.  The future as they’re stating is broad.  I don’t like anything in a gray area.  As of now, Flickr is the only site that is very clear about their Terms of Service.  They will never sell your photos under any condition.  If someone wants to buy your photo, they have to go through you, the user.

8. What are your thoughts regarding a pay model that reimburses photographers for usage on per-click or per-view model? Is it possible? Should the advertising wealth be shared with the content creators?

BP: Hmm. Lots of work to do that and those incurred costs wouldn’t benefit photographers but swing the scale back to IG.  I think IG needs to figure out a model that is democratic with its user base.  I think they should look at Flickr.

JPB: If I could pay to use the service and opt out of the advertising model—like I for the Shazam Pro, I’d do it. I live in L.A. and this is an entertainment industry towns built on residual checks. Yes, if IG is going to act as an agent of sorts, they should get an agent’s fee of 10% but it’s always the talent that gets to decide whether or not they take the gig.

NC : See 9

RG: I can’t see that being viable on IG.

RC: I don’t see it happening.  From a business point of view, how would this make sense?  They would stand to lose money, not make it.  Even if they did profit, how much would it even be?  If I were on the board and cared about my pocketbook like they do, I would be dead set against it.

9. There’s been a lot of discussion regarding FB’s need to generate income to offset IG’s hefty price tag. One thought was charging for what has otherwise been a free service. Would this be successful? Would you continue to use IG if you had to pay for the app or have to pay to access different tiers of viewability, or interaction? Kathy Ryan, Director of Photography at the NY Times Magazine was quoted as saying, “I would pay $100 a year for the app.” Is this reasonable for the average user? Would you pay this much to you use the service?

BP: I think it is a model that they should look at.  The user can determine their level and these “freemium” models can work.  Is it the best way? Who’s to say.  Would I pay for it…yes, I pay for camera apps and other types of apps all the time…why wouldn’t I pay for an app that I use or have used daily? Especially if then by me paying it holds IG accountable to not only FB or advertisers…but to me as a paying customer…

JPB: Would I pay for a version of the service that would let me opt-out my feed from their potential advertising scheme, sure.  My issue isn’t so much would I pay for it, but would my audience?  At the end of the day, the audience for my personal brand is potential luxury travelers– my work needs to reach them. Even if I paid for the service, would they?

NC: I would be inclined to pay to use an app like Instagram, and I can see a subscription-based model being successful. $100 a year seems high and would probably result in a very niche user base that has input in the direction of the product.

RG: No, it’s too late to charge fees on IG. The shock would be too much for most users. Ironically the 5% serious users might be the only ones prepared to pay. The 95% of casual users would immediately stop. Flickr are in the great position of having already established charges.

RC: I think people would.  Many users like myself have allowed IG to become and big part of their daily lives.  I still wonder how my transition away from IG is going to feel a month from now, or even 6 months for that matter.  I have lived and breathed iphoneography for the last two years. It’ll be hard for me to transition away from it and take on the next stage of my photography.  I probably would pay some amount of money to use the app.  How much?  Not sure.  $100 a year does seem a bit steep.  But I could probably get on board with something like that.  More so because I think that introducing a membership fee would get rid of a lot of the users that see the app as a Twitter with pictures.  Guess what?  I don’t care that you’re sitting on the porch right now, I don’t care about the slutty dress you’re wearing to the club tonight, and I certainly don’t care about your need to be on the “Explore” page so that you can get all of those lovely ghost followers.  Hey…  “Follow for a follow?”  😉

10. Do you feel that agreeing to these new terms of service, and FB’s ideas of integrating in-feed marketing into the IG experience will have a direct affect on how we interact in the community? Who we follow? what images we comment on? In the end will IG continue to be about photography and the art, or just another annoyance cluttered by marketing noise?

BP: I don’t think so… I think it clutters everything up just like FB and like FB for someone like me… I just quit using it… the reason why IG is successful is because its simple user interface, ability to social, its relatively quick speed… you bog that down more than it already has been and you will lose folks to it… especially the folks who look at it more for creative community as opposed to the social network side of things…

JPB: I think that IG was never really about photography, photographers just found a way to use this micro-blogging platform that used images to their own benefit and to promote themselves and their brands. Photographers go on endlessly about the crappy resolution and mandatory square format of IG. But as a mobile experience, and as a social media platform, The IG experience is far more palatable than the never-ending clutter of FB. My IG profile page looks way more appealing my Facebook Page, and I think that shift in the social media landscape towards the visual in many ways makes IG way more valuable than FB. I know that when the IG Profile pages started appearing and I found out how much better my profile looked if I committed to one aspect ratio, I started playing to that and thought the tail had started wagging the dog.

NC: Despite the recent Terms of Service announcement, it became apparent to me that the Instagram experience was becoming less and less favorable. The impact of the Facebook acquisition may have certainly played a key role in it’s slide, but a saturated user base, the inundation of spam, ghost followers, and lack of innovation have been prevalent issues for quite some time.

RG: I think it will be impossible to integrate ads to feeds. For one, the screen is too small. Second, those people who’s feeds were used would immediately be unfollowed by a lot of people and they would be very unhappy and would probably consider leaving. I think part of the reason IG misjudged people’s reaction to their change in TOS was because they didn’t realize that many users take pride in their photos. And this is because IG has never really been about photography. Listening to many interviews with their owners, their idea has always been about sharing experiences (e.g. Look! I’m at a baseball match), not about exploring photography.

RC: It’s just becoming myspace.  Can’t we all agree at this point?  Facebook is heading down that path, so of course, IG will too.  Let’s just sit back and look at the obvious.  Remember when myspace was the end-all, be-all?  And now it’s just this “thing” that nobody wants to talk about?  Myspace was amazing at one point, just like Instagram was.  It’s obvious where it’s going, so it should be obvious where all the users will go.

11. Do you have any other thoughts on this? Do you have any tips or suggestion for people who are unsure of how to move forward?

BP: I say the user has to read and they can decide… if they read it through and research it… and it speaks to them in one or another then they can make an informed decision… if they go into it blindly on either side then truthfully, they’ve made a decision that they can’t complain about… it’s like what I tell my kid… if you don’t know why you do something and you do it… then your the dummy…

NC: I will continue to assess how involved I want to be on Instagram as the platform and community evolves. It’s important to consider the repercussions of sharing content on Instagram under the new Terms of Service, but it’s also necessary to evaluate the value of investing time and creative energy in the platform.

RG: I thought IG handled the whole thing atrociously. I feel they tried to mislead their users on various points:

1) They kept on denying they would sell their users’ photos as a smoke screen to hide their real intentions, which is to sell their usage. Of course, IG could not “sell” photos (i.e. transfer their ownership) because they don’t own them. But they CAN sell their usage, or, in other words, rent them.

2) I felt that the emphasis on SPAM as a reason for the change was pure pretence and another smoke screen to hide their real intentions.

3) Looking back at the introduction of the geo feature, we see now that it formed a big part of this change in TOS and was basically a way of making photos more commercially viable.

4) in retrospect, the whole IG project now looks like a huge con. IG deliberately got millions of people hooked on a “free” service simply in order to sell the use of their photos and their user information. It feels like they’ve been dishonest with their users.

5) IG’s blogs, their main form of communicating with their users, seem very insincere. The almost exclusive use of this medium itself makes them seem distant and arrogant. It would almost be better if they took FB’s approach and simply didn’t pretend to engage with their users.

RC: I do.  I wrote about my entire thought process in a previous blog entitled The Break Up on Juxt just a few days ago.  I think my advice, my thoughts, and emotions were captured a bit better when the wound was still fresh.  Feel free to read that to get a better understanding on how I feel on the matter.



Beyond Novelty, the Changing Face of Photography Pt. 2

Read Beyond Novelty, the Changing Face of Photography PART One

Hiding and Seeking A Photo Book Kickstarter

B: BP A: Andre

B: Tell us more about the idea of the project, mission and vision.

A: This project originally began as an experiment in self-promotion. After being given the opportunity to exhibit my camera phone images at a local gallery I began thinking of how to promote my work. The idea was to create a series of small photo books and hide them throughout the city, giving people clues on where to find them in hopes to generate interest in my work. At the time I was also questioning whether people (the general public) with their smart phones, still believed in the printed image. Or had everyone’s perception of photography been conditioned to see it only as digital images viewed online. How were people interacting with these images online? Had it lost its personal, intimate touch? Had photography been boiled down to sitting at a computer or using our smart phones clicking the “like,” “comment” and “send buttons?” Is this what our experience with photography had become? A physical photograph is the very thing that makes photography, well, photography. So what has photography become? What does it continue to be? What happens to all of these images we create? Do they get stored on HDs never to be born into the physical world? If these digital files don’t last forever, what remains? What of our memories? I wanted to address this.

With this experiment, I considered how I could connect the audience with my work through physical interactivity. Aside from challenging people’s perception of photography, I wanted to challenge how people interacted with the physical images and the urban environment. With physical photo albums we could flip through pages. There was something very intimate and personal about holding, controlling those pages. By creating a photo book and hiding it for people to find I challenged them to get out from their computer, engage their environment, along the way they’d find something new, be rewarded by a truly unique experience, and a free signed and numbered photo book that would contain a one-of-a-kind story, theirs. This was a book that was created especially for the one who found it. And my plan was to engage every individual in the creative process. They would help create their own experience.

I thought about what I would like to experience if given this opportunity. What does it mean to create a book? What would it mean to find a book? Is there a story within it? Can there be a story attached to it? A memory? I thought of this experiment from the user’s perspective in two ways:

  1. Everyone loves a treasure hunt and exploring new places, sights and things.
  2. If I could engage them in the process, and they were successful at finding the book, they would have a photo book embedded with a memory of the adventure they went on to find it, a book that only a small number of people would own. This book would be extremely specialized because no two people’s experience finding the book would be the same.

Would people go out and find this book, a free book? Did it matter who made it? Did a book in printed form, that intimate experience we have touching and turning its pages matter anymore? An adventure outside of traveling to the bookstore or buying a book online that everyone and their brother may own? Oh no, there had to be more, and I was going to challenge this idea.

After hiding two different series I realized that people would be challenged on multiple levels. People’s perception of what a book was, where one would go in order to find one, and how they might interact with the environment once there.

“Life is a game we play with friends in a park.” Lower East Side, NYC

“They casually strolled looking for the catch of the day.” Coney Island, NY

B: Can you provide some testimony/ story with the first book? Who found it?

A: I’ll share with you the story of SF book #15. It has the most interesting story of all. This particular book had one seeker, two finders, was lost and then found again. Book #15 was one of those books where I found myself tired. I really wanted to just get it off my hands. I had walked all over trying to hide it. I knew that right across the street from my office in an alley was a beautiful graffiti mural. I knew I wanted to hide it there but was stumped on how to do it. Taking a quick walk over before a meeting with a student, I got to the mural and looked around, first for security cameras, and second, for a hiding spot. After a little thought I found a fire main that ran down the building ended in a large brass fitting that had four nozzles on it. Bingo.  No security cameras, bonus. I hid the book in a newspaper disguise, so it looked like someone had just stashed a read newspaper. I hid the book behind the large pipe, sat there for 10-15 minutes to enter the hint on the blog. Satisfied, I split. Here’s where it gets interesting. After meeting with my student he emailed stating that he saw the book was hidden near by and went to find it. “Has anyone found it yet?” I answered, “no.” Check again, I told him, revealing an additional hint. This was one of the more obvious books. The book had been hidden right outside of a bar/art gallery called 111 Minna. While my student was standing there looking for the book a guy came out of the building to have a smoke. The student asked if he had seen a tall tattooed guy hide something right around here. The person answered that he had. He sees everything, he stated, there was a well-hidden security camera apparently. After witnessing me place something behind the pipe, he came out to see what it was after I had left. He admitted looking at it. He was quoted as saying it was the weirdest gallery submission they had ever received. Obviously, uninterested, and failing to be unique enough for him, he threw it away. Really? After hearing this the student asked where he discarded the book. The guy point at a trash bin, and my student retrieved his book.

I was surprised to hear this story. Man, this kid had one hell of a story attached to this book now. He couldn’t believe the person at the bar/gallery had looked at it, seen a photo book and then threw it away. I would have put it back or kept it. Its not everyday you find something like that on the street. My student loved the experience, and the idea. He had been following the project but never had the opportunity to find a book. When he was finally given an opportunity he had to put one hell-of-an effort into getting his book. And now he’ll never forget it.

This obviously was an extreme example but it shows that each person’s experience in finding one of these books is unique. This experience is embedded in the book as a memory forever. Making the book even more unique. I created the book, and he helped create the experience that would define his book. It really is truly awesome.

B: What are some of the lessons learned being that this is such an innovative project under the new social networking/social media/ mobile photography/ tech world we live?

A: Hiding books in both SF and NYC posed their own unique challenges. I swear it feels like almost every book was a lesson learned. But to keep it simple here’s a list:

  1. Embrace the digital in order to love the physical. Yes, sounds oxymoronic. But this project would not have been possible without the web.
  2. I thought it would be really easy to hide small photo books in a dense city. It’s actually a lot harder to hide a book than I thought it would be.
  3. When I first started hiding books I went in with high expectations. “This is new, fresh, everyone will love this, it’ll go viral and life will be good.” Um, ya, don’t go into a project like this with expectations. Just do it because you feel passionate about the concept or the thought behind it, and then just go with the flow if it takes off. Otherwise, you’ll be distracted by a self-imposed sense of failure.
  4. One of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to promote the hell out of this idea. Let’s face it. You could hide a million dollars out on the streets, no one’s going to find it unless you tell them its there. I had to figure out how to create a want, a need, for these books. I wanted to get people talking about it. This was probably my biggest challenge, especially being a book of images created using a smart phone. Not everyone values these images or what they represent. When someone found the book I would post a congratulations stating their name and the book number so everyone would see. I spread it all over the web, IG, FB, twitter, my blog. I had a big wall to scale. And honestly, I’m still scaling it.
  5. People will put their hands in strange places to find a book
  6. Wrap your books in waterproof storage bags, rain and sprinklers aren’t healthy for a book.
  7. Hide your books in stable locations and include a brief “finders‘s” statement inside so if they’re found accidentally the person will know what to either log it or put it back. Expect one or two books to be lost to oblivion. Yes, it’s happened, SF, book #13, NYC books #6, 10, 11. They were either trashed, or someone found them and didn’t know what to do with it.
  8. Have a theme or an idea of where to place the books otherwise you’ll spend more time walking and less time hiding.
  9. Disguise your books. This is where you can be really creative. I disguised them in daily newspapers. This aided my success in NYC where there seems to be a million “eyes in the sky,” and a public policy that if you see something, say something. I would hide the book in a paper sit down and take my time reading an article and then stash it as if I was done reading. No one thought twice, and I hid some books in some extremely popular places.
  10. There are now options at book publishers where you can also create a digital version of your book for people to purchase or download. I considered making this available for my books. I decided against it. I wanted to retain a mysterious aura to the books. There was only one way you were going to get this book and that was to go out and find it.

“In his dreams maybe.” East Village, NYC

“There comes an image that defines every photographer’s existence, reason for being. This is mine.” In the subway coming from Yankees game, NY

B: Were there any historical references you used in developing this project? 

A: Good old treasure hunting, adventure, and the love for printed photography. 

B: Can you tell the readers more about why you feel that this validates the photography developed from a mobile device?

A: This validates mobile phone photography by proving that these images we are creating with our phone-enabled cameras are in fact a true form of photography, coming full circle. We are creating images and completing the photographic process by printing them. No matter what device we are using to capture the image it is still, and always will be an organic process, unique to the individual. Without that final step in the process of making that physical print, the process lies incomplete. And lets face it. There are a lot of people out there who don’t believe a good quality print can be pulled from the images being created on these smartphones. Making books like these, and prints prove that wrong.

B: When putting a book together, what do you look for in your images that you put in the book?  Can you give us some production ideas as I know that some folks have stated they love the idea and may possibly try something smaller scale amongst family and friends?

A: When I put a book together I find it to be a somewhat simple, yet difficult process. What makes this process simple is the fact that I shoot in one genre of photography, street photography, with a specific style. I don’t have to worry about what images to combine. I just have to choose my favorites. I DO NOT choose everyone elses favorites or my most commented on or popular as seen on my IG feed. Be careful of this. In the beginning I was tempted to choose images from my IG feed that had the highest views to put into my books. I realized very quickly that by going this route my audience wouldn’t be seeing me for who I really am, but as everyone else thought I was. These books are an opportunity for me to share my work, what I feel are my strongest, and my thought process on a more intimate level. Maybe even throwing in something you’ve never seen before as a little surprise.

Once the images are chosen I then face the challenge of arranging them in an order, what images is first? What image is last? My goal is to create a flow, a rhythm. Think poetry. Verts, horizontals, squares, b&w, color, how will all of these elements relate with one another on the page, communicate as a whole in the book? Once I get an initial layout then begins the process of finessing to finalize the feel of the book. The challenging part of all though is choosing the cover, and deciding on a title.

Production ideas

  1. Have a theme for your book. Try to keep it consistent. Not to say that chaotic book without a theme can’t be your theme.
  2. Pool your choice images into a working edit before you begin designing the pages.
  3. Edit that pool down to your favorites, based on how many pages you’ll be including.
  4. Think about layout. If you’re going to put multiple images on a page how do they relate to one another? How do they communicate as a “whole?” Are you Juxtaposing thoughts? Pairing similarities? Or just randomly placing images? Give sit some thought to bring deeper meaning to your book, and the story within.
  5. Consider writing captions for your images or include some text about your process. Everyone loves a little extra story.
  6. Title your book.

“Peeking into his subconscious the man knew there was work to be done.” Brooklyn, NY

“I had no idea what I had until I looked later.” Times Square, NYC

B: What do you feel about your project being duplicated by others?

A: I think that’s an awesome compliment to myself, and my project if others find it fascinating enough to want to explore the concept as well. What I would challenge people out there to do who might be considering a project like this is to not copy my project verbatim, but take the idea and use it as a spring board to create a unique project of their own. I was originally inspired by a local illustrator who was a stay at home dad. To pass his time he created 100 illustrations with one theme and hid them all around our town, one a week, using a blog to post hints. The idea was awesome. I even went looking for them with my wife and daughter a few times only to be beat to the treasure. But what I was fascinated by was the intimacy of the search, how I was included in the process. Look, there really are no new or original ideas anymore that weren’t inspired by something or someone else, as is the case with my book project. Think of it as an open source project. We’ll all benefit from the proliferation of creative ideas, and if we all contribute to ideas that help move the art of photography even one baby step forward then we can say we were successful in leaving our mark, even it’s a tiny one.  If you find inspiration in this project, great! Now take that inspiration and spin it into something that reflects you.

B: In each book, can you tell us the storyline, the effect you wish to have on the audience?

A: These books contain my favorite images at a particular moment in time that I took great care in choosing and editing. Throughout the pages I am sharing my thought process visually. I want the audience to look at these images. Touch them. Feel the paper. Smell the ink. Well, ok, maybe that’s going too far. I am hoping to create an internal dialogue in their heads. Why did he choose these? “Oh, that’s my favorite as well.” Or, “Not my favorite. He has better.” “Where’d he print this?” “Man! It looks so much better printed.”

There isn’t necessarily a storyline in the books when I hide them as much as they’re a portfolio of images, a celebration of the street, and how I see it. The images in the book are important but not as important as the memory of the experience that will be embedded in this book. That’s the effect I hope to have on my audience. They may be going to find one of these books because they like my images, or just want an adventure, or enjoy collecting photography. But one thing’s for certain, when they’re done this book will now contain a story that tells the tale of their adventure to find it, transforming it into a book that is uniquely theirs. Essentially, they help to complete the book with their story.

B: Share with us the process of developing the book, deciding where you want to hide, the significance of where you may hide a book, what hints you share with the audience?

A: When I first started the project in SF I truly had no idea where to hide these books. I just knew I wanted to hide them in random places. Honestly, this made the project even more difficult. Each time I went out to hide a book I would walk for blocks, sometimes miles unsuccessful. Unsure of what I was looking for, aside from an interesting crack or crevice that was slightly out of view. This made for some really obscure hiding places and even more general clues.

SF Book #2, “There’s a tunnel in the city, a gateway from the new and modern to the old. A gateway to another world that moves both people and vehicles. The book is hidden near the entrance. Look closely. What you find may be deceiving. Post your find here.”

With this problem at hand I would find myself wanting to get rid of the book as quick as I could, stashing them in the first place I could find. I had to fight this. I did not want to succumb to this laziness. After that experience which wasn’t bad, I thought about how I could approach hiding books in a dense city in which I was completely unfamiliar.


The second series in NYC I was particularly challenged because I knew nothing of the city’s urban landscape. I had to come up with a game plan if I was to successfully hide 20 books in NYC over 5 days. Giving it thought I knew that NYC was swelling with photographic history. I chose to hide books in, around or near locations that were historically relevant to street and documentary photography allowed me to add a whole new level to the experience for the audience. Whether you were actively searching for the books or just following the project’s progress you were about to be taken on a journey through photographic history, and hopefully learn about a photographer or event you knew nothing about. And that’s exactly what happened in NYC.

For example, Book #15, “Photographer Helen Levitt spent nearly 70 years shooting street photography in NYC. She had an eye for capturing private, tender moments that would otherwise go unnoticed. According to her Wikipedia page, she has been called the most celebrated and least known street photographer of her time.

Book #15 is hidden in the lower east side. Near the corner of Stanton and orchard are two faded blue boxes. One hides your disguised book. Have a seat and look carefully.

Please log your find here.”

“She pushed her cart up the hill like a modern day Sisyphus.” Chinatown, NY

B: How can we help you in your project?  (insert kickstarter or any other fashion you think folks can help out)

A: Thank you for asking. Throughout the life of both SF and the NYC campaigns I received many requests to hide books in other states across the US and in other countries. I couldn’t believe the interest that was generated from this project. I began to toy with the idea of approaching a much larger project, hiding books across the country. As you can imagine this would be a major undertaking. I quickly began to write out details and create a game plan. I won’t get into the process in full detail here. But lets just say I knew I wanted to up the ante here and make this special. I wanted these books to be hardbound. I approached a few different book-publishing companies. Of those, the folks at saw the unique value of this project and jumped onboard immediately to help produce the books that would be hidden upon the successful funding of this project. I also wanted to make sure that all of the donor rewards were also physical, printed limited edition items. The folks at,,, and all got on board to help produce some cool rewards featuring my images.

So please if you really admire the idea, wish you had thought of it first, want a aeries of books hidden in your town, or just like my photography please donate to the cause at: Kickstarter, if you can’t donate at least $1 or $5 please share the link with your friends and family I would really appreciate it.

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