“F—ck ‘em if they can’t Take a Joke” – Letting go of Things

I was fortunate, early in my career to have a mentor that not only encouraged me to do my best but also taught me not to be afraid of taking risks. There were times when shooting assignments for him, I’d push the envelope maybe a little too far with some ideas or images but when it came to him to make a decision on whether or not it made the magazine, I’d see a devilish twinkle in his eyes and he would say, “f__ck ‘em if they can’t take a joke”. Sometimes, he’d catch a little flack from the publisher but most of the time; it turned out to be the right decision.

This past week, we cleaned the office and in the process purged a LOT of unnecessary things. We’d  been creating new imagery for decades either shooting paid assignment work around the world or executing personal projects. We were surrounded by dozens of boxes containing slides from shoots for National Geographic, B&W negatives and contact sheets from hundreds of corporate jobs and dozens of tear sheets of ads and magazine stories. Adding to that we had hundreds of CD’s and DVD’s containing digital files and hundreds of mini DV videotapes from shoots. We had been creating content and adding to the office for 24 years but we hadn’t been getting rid of things that we no longer needed. Now was time to let go. We were being choked by an analog legacy that was encroaching on our space and zapping our creative energy.

After separating our personal photo archives from our job assignments, I set up a criteria for determining what to keep and what to toss by asking myself two questions:

Does it have any value for my current business?

  • There was no longer a need to keep hundreds of contact sheets and negatives from decades of corporate shoots. They had to be tossed along with hundreds of 120mm and 35mm film that had been shot on corporate assignments. I decided that it’s not our job to store a company’s photo archive indefinitely. Unless the photos were of notables, such as the portrait we took of attorney Roy Cohen, they were thrown away. Incidentally, The Cohen photos were assigned by a magazine early in our careers. What ultimately transpired with the cover is another story which I will tell when/if I find the tear sheet of the cover.
  • We tossed analog stock photography catalogs containing our work along with old promotional mailers and Blackbook, Workbook and AR ad reprints. They no longer had value.
  • There were hundreds of magazine tear sheets of our work. Most were recycled and a handful were kept for scanning.
  • There were and still are dozens of boxes of slides shot for travel assignments around the world for major magazines. They need to be edited. I have found with travel photography that it either has to be contemporary (less than 5 years old) or it has to be old enough (more than 20 years old) to be relevant.
    Statue of Liberty and The World Trade Center at dusk, New York, NY
    ©1983 KellyMooney

    There is a historic value for photos that can no longer be taken, like the Statue of Liberty and the Twin Towers at dusk.




Is the photograph something iconic from my past that I may want for my memoirs?

  • I set the bar high and tough decisions had to be made as to what images met the criteria. Which photographs were worth keeping for my legacy? What I discovered was that the images that made the cut were the images that I made when I took a chance or pushed myself a little harder. I could hear my mentor’s laugh and his irreverent words every time I salvaged a photo for saving “f__ck ‘me if they can’t take a joke”. Ultimately it is my legacy, isn’t it?








FOLLOW UP – Virtual Reality. Is it for You? – Exploring NYVR

I attended the NYVR conference last week at the Javits Center in New York City, which collocated with PPE (Photo Plus Expo). I’m not quite sure that VR is for me especially from a content creator’s point of view


but I do see a lot of possibilities as a user.

Here are some highlights from the NYVR show and seminars:

The conference took place over three days with two days of seminars directed to those in the industry and one day toward users or consumers. I attended sessions on all three days, which gave me great insights from different perspectives. The sessions directed toward those already working in the industry were very compelling even though a lot of the information was over my head. However, I had the extra value of learning from the attendees and their questions

The VR industry is making a big presence in New York City. Los Angeles is a huge center for content creation and San Francisco is a big center for tech and New York City is where major Networks are located and where a lot the money is. The industry is in its infancy so for a start-up company it’s a big plus to be just a subway ride away from major Network headquarters and Wall Street investors.

One session that intrigued me was Spatial Audio in VR. VR isn’t or shouldn’t be just only a visual experience. It should be an experience that touches upon many of our senses and certainly sounds. That’s what makes it immersive. Mono audio in VR is somewhat like watching black & white TV. To truly give a viewer an immersive experience the audio that a user experience needs to impact them as well as the visual does. Sounds should change as the user walks through an environment or turns their head. Prices have come down for binaural audio headsets making them more affordable and accessible for the consumer. Check out Hooke Audio.

Another session I attended was VR Tourism with a speaker from YouVisit who is working in that space.

Some interesting stats about the travel market:

  1. It’s highly competitive
  2. Consumers seek large amounts of resources before finally making a decision.
  3. Usually, a consumer makes 350 touch points before making a decision.
  4. Tourism has one of the lowest conversion rates in the e-commerce space.
  5. VR lends to have a much bigger conversion rate – about 24%! The more immersive the experience is, the more engagement a user makes and the more of an emotional connection they have with the content, bringing the consumer closer to their decision. It’s important to get the user to “buy” and make that possible for them while they are still in the VR space.

I sat in on a panel discussion about Branding and Marketing with VR. VR does well with brands that are emotive, brands that you have to feel. If you are able to identify the emotion that you want someone to feel about your brand, then you can create a good VR experience. VR also turns someone who has had a VR experience into an advocate because they talk about. And that has real value. VR is a good space for capturing user data because it’s interactive. It’s easy to see how and where the user connects with the experience.

Traditionally, advertisers have targeted people in the 18-34-age bracket. VR has also been targeting that same demographic because their typical user comes from the gaming space where VR has played a big role. I wonder though if that target will change somewhat and perhaps include the “baby boomers”, especially since it’s a huge demographic and still holds the majority of the wealth? It seems to me that there is a lot of opportunity in that area and not just in the area of pain management. I see opportunities in travel and entertainment that can provide VR experiences when the real experiences are no longer accessible – like climbing Mount Everest.

It’s a brave new world. Or is it a virtual one?

Check out more about Virtual Reality in my last post from NAB New York.