Photographers/Filmmakers as Publishers/Producers

It’s been a busy year, trying to manage jobs and lots of road trips giving seminars for ASMP to photographers who may be contemplating video.  I’ve enjoyed meeting my peers and sharing information through my presentations as well as on my blog, but I need to take some time to get back in the field and capture my own “moments” and “motion”. I need to spend some time “doing” right now and ultimately that will make what I have to share that more valuable and meaningful. So I will be embarking in a couple of weeks on a “passion project” that will take me around the world for 99 days.

It’s an exciting time to be working on a personal project because of various distribution possibilities and portals that are in everybody’s hands.  Ten years ago when I got started in video, technology made it possible for me to create documentaries and films without the need of large crews and big budgets.  And now with the web, fast download speeds, video host sites, mobile devices and itunes – I can – we all can be publishers and producers and get our content out globally. The pipelines have been democratized and it’s a very empowering position.

I’ve spent a career on the road and on assignment for various publications and corporations.  I’ve been fortunate to have worked for magazines like National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian and Travel & Leisure shooting stories on destinations and people all over the world. I suppose you could say that I lived the life I dreamed of. I was shooting these assignments at a time when magazines were giving me ample time in the field to come back with a story – back when travel magazines ran stories as opposed to survey pieces or celebrity profiles. More importantly, I maintained the copyright of my images and was free to market them as I wished after a standard embargo period was over – usually around 90 days.

These days many publishers issue “work for hire” contracts, so essentially photographers are giving up their copyright. Photographers have always been strong advocates for copyright and I include myself in that position.  But in our advocacy to keep strong copyright laws in place, we end up fighting for that right for large corporations and publishing empires who ultimately take away our copyright in lopsided contracts.  And for the most part these contracts are not negotiable.  You either agree and take the job or you don’t.

These days because of technology we can be our own publishers and deliver our stories and other content in a number of different ways.  Sure it means taking the risk up front but that in itself brings its own rewards. It’s very liberating to be shooting and answering only to myself – not second-guessing someone else.  I take more chances creatively because I’m not afraid to fail.  And every time I’ve ever done that, I’ve grown and the rewards have been many – both creatively and financially.

I don’t know exactly how and where my Opening Our Eyes project will be distributed when I complete my journey.  But these days – it could be a book, a multimedia exhibition, a feature film distributed through itunes or on a DVD through Amazon, various magazine articles or broadcast.  I could package the journey and the back-story and give talks to universities.  An endless sea of possibilities.  What an amazing time we live in where we can all make our dreams come true.

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