The Value of Photography – (a reminder)

I wrote this blog in the fall of October 2013, after the Chicago Sun Times fired its entire staff of photographers.  Yesterday, the Sun Times laid off its video staff.  I thought that it would be a good time to repost this blog,  about the value of what a professional photographer brings to photography and to our lives.

The who’s who of photography gathered last night, at Carnegie Hall to honor the “masters” of their trade at the Lucie Awards. The Lucies are like the Oscars of the “photographic industry”.

2013 Lucie Awards, Carnegie Hall ©Thomas Kelly
2013 Lucie Awards, Carnegie Hall
©Thomas Kelly

I had been asked to step in to present the “2013 Deeper Perspective Photographer of the Year Award”. on behalf of the ASMP when Executive Director, Gene Mopsik and President, Ed McDonald couldn’t attend.

I don’t usually get nervous about things like this, but I was last night. As I stood in the wings with photographer John H. White, who was waiting to go on stage to accept his Lucie, for Achievement in Photojournalism, I was mesmerized as I watched John.  He seemed to glow and I felt his grace, his humility and his gratitude.  It was a moment in my life that will stay with me forever.  It was calming. I watched and listened to his acceptance speech on the monitor backstage, and I was deeply touched.  So was the audience, as evidenced in their standing ovation.

John H. White is not a “rock star” type of photographer.  His images don’t “shock and awe”, not in the way a war photographer’s images do. John’s photographs capture the subtle moments of the human experience.  His legacy of images show us life as it really is.

This past spring, after 35 years with the Chicago Sun Times, John and the rest of the newspaper’s photographic staff were fired.  It was a huge blow to the photographic community, magnified by the fact that even John H. White, the “chairman” was “let go”, without even as much as a thank you. John wasn’t bitter about it though.  Michelle Agins wrote a wonderful article for the New York Times where she quoted John: “A job’s not a job because of labor law,” he said. “It’s just something you love. It’s something you do because it gives you a mission, a life, a purpose, and you do it for the service of others.”

All he had wanted to hear from the executives who let him go was two words that never came: thank you. But even then, he did not respond with anger.

John spoke more about the Sun Times’ firings in an interview with NPR where he said: “I will not curse the darkness. I will light candles. I will live by my three “F” words: faith, focus and flight. I’ll be faithful to life, my purpose in life, my assignment from life. Stay focused on what’s really important, what counts.” He repeated those three “F” words last night as he accepted his award.  The audience was humbled.  John had shed his light.

I have been thinking a lot lately, about the value of photography and the value that a professional brings to this craft.  John H. White and his archive of work is a stellar example.  His images, capturing the subtleties of life stand out amongst the noise.  They make us take notice of what is often over looked – the quieter moments of life.

As far as what a professional photographer brings to the world, I think John stated it best: “Every day, a baby is born. Every day, someone dies. Every single day. And we capture everything in between. You think of this thing called life and how it’s preserved. It’s preserved through vision, through photographs.”

As John walked off the stage and back into the wings, I felt enveloped by his glow that had seemed to magnify.  I caught his eye for a moment and said “thank you”. He nodded, and flashed his wonderful smile and in that moment, we connected and shared our understanding, of the “value” of photography.

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Video, Work for Hire and Copyright

Many still photographers who are new to video, ask me; “A client is asking me to sign a “work for hire” contract – What do I do?” By law, a creator holds copyright to their work. imagesHowever, when signing a work for hire contract, a creator relinquishes ownership to their work, transferring it to the client who commissioned the work.

Professional still photographers are accustomed to maintaining ownership and copyright to their work and use a business model based on licensing their images and charging for usage. Video production is a collaborative effort and contracts are generated by whoever is commissioning the work and paying the bill. Most contracts are work for hire agreements between the client (executive producer) and all the players on the team, from the director of photography to the sound engineer to the gaffer (lighting). However, when I have worked direct to client and assumed the role of producer, I have been successful in amending contracts so that I maintain the rights to any unused b-roll – that is if the subject matter isn’t proprietary.

If you are working on self-initiated projects like a narrative film, a documentary or just shooting independent motion clips for stock, as the creator of the work you hold the copyright. It’s important that you register the copyright of your work. If you are registering independent video clips, you register them just as you would your still images, using the VA form. I license my motion clips, just as I do my still images.

If you are registering a movie/film, you are registering the “whole” and you have the rights to use the content that is contained within the film in the context of that “whole”. When registering a movie use the PA form.

One thing to remember; if you are a still photographer getting into video production, please respect others’ intellectual property rights. I see too many photographers using mainstream music in their videos and I know they didn’t license the rights to that music because it would have been cost prohibitive. If I can’t afford to license mainstream music for my compilations, I either use royalty free music or I commission someone to create the score.

Here’s more information about copyright for motion and video as well as information about fair use:

Copyright Registration for Motion Pictures Including Video Recordings

Gail is President of the National Board of ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers)

Timing is Everything

NPPA_MultimediaImmersionWorkshop
© 2014 J.C. Carey

Have you ever looked back at your life and wondered “How would things have turned out differently if…..I hadn’t have moved to a new part of the country when I was 13 years old or if I had stayed at Syracuse University instead of leaving school after completing my sophomore year and traveling around the world?  Or if I had taken the job at Boeing after graduating from Brooks Institute…..or  if I hadn’t seen that article in Time Magazine about “Indie” media ventures, referencing the 1st Digital Video Symposium that was going to take place at the American Film Institute?” Every one of those events at pivotal points in my life, carved out my next “chapter “ – determining who I was going to be and where I was headed. Some of my life’s twists and turns, I had no control over – like moving from Rochester, NY to the greater NYC Metro area when I was barely a teenager. But there have been a lot more pages turned in my life since then, and along with that a whole lot of decisions to be made along the way. The best decisions I’ve made in my life happened when I was open minded to possibilities and I listened to my gut. Last week I coached at the NPPA’s Multimedia Immersion Workshop.  It was a perfect example of peers helping peers and a wonderful collaboration between NPPA and ASMP, my trade association that I’m about to be President of next month.  Even though these workshops are exhausting in every way, I get as much as I give on so many levels. Ultimately the workshop is about learning good solid video journalism storytelling, but the technical learning curve can be daunting to many coming from a still photographer background.  Many of the students were totally green when it came to audio, movement, sequencing or the post-production editing process.  Some became so overwhelmed by the gear that they lost focus of the most important part of the workshop – “the story”. It’s easy to lose sight of the “story”. At the workshop, Bruce Strong from Newhouse School of Journalism gave a talk about “Storytelling Basics”.  He said something that really resonated with me “Ask the why behind the why.  Look for the emotional core of the story”. I realized that I needed a reminder at this particular time in my life, as to what was the essence of a good story. I’m currently working on a documentary film about a family that has a deep and rich history. To be honest, I had been floundering on the story aspects of the film as I had begun to get lost in the details and facts. I had an epiphany as I listened to Bruce and realized that my job wasn’t to document the timeline of this family, that had already been done in written form – my job was to “tell a story”. That epiphany may sound obvious and simple, but sometimes I get blindsided by the daily consumption of life, and the “obvious” gets overlooked.  But if I put myself in a different place, in body and mind, at a time in my life when I am open and receptive, the “right” path does become obvious.  That path was there the entire time, but perhaps it wasn’t the right time for me. As Orson Welles once said “If you want a happy ending, than it depends on where you stop the story”.

The Value of Photography

The who’s who of photography gathered last night, at Carnegie Hall to honor the “masters” of their trade at the Lucie Awards. The Lucies are like the Oscars of the “photographic industry”.

2013 Lucie Awards, Carnegie Hall ©Thomas Kelly
2013 Lucie Awards, Carnegie Hall
©Thomas Kelly

I had been asked to step in to present the “2013 Deeper Perspective Photographer of the Year Award”. on behalf of the ASMP when Executive Director, Gene Mopsik and President, Ed McDonald couldn’t attend.

I don’t usually get nervous about things like this, but I was last night. As I stood in the wings with photographer John H. White, who was waiting to go on stage to accept his Lucie, for Achievement in Photojournalism, I was mesmerized as I watched John.  He seemed to glow and I felt his grace, his humility and his gratitude.  It was a moment in my life that will stay with me forever.  It was calming. I watched and listened to his acceptance speech on the monitor backstage, and I was deeply touched.  So was the audience, as evidenced in their standing ovation.

John H. White is not a “rock star” type of photographer.  His images don’t “shock and awe”, not in the way a war photographer’s images do. John’s photographs capture the subtle moments of the human experience.  His legacy of images show us life as it really is.

This past spring, after 35 years with the Chicago Sun Times, John and the rest of the newspaper’s photographic staff were fired.  It was a huge blow to the photographic community, magnified by the fact that even John H. White, the “chairman” was “let go”, without even as much as a thank you. John wasn’t bitter about it though.  Michelle Agins wrote a wonderful article for the New York Times where she quoted John: “A job’s not a job because of labor law,” he said. “It’s just something you love. It’s something you do because it gives you a mission, a life, a purpose, and you do it for the service of others.”

All he had wanted to hear from the executives who let him go was two words that never came: thank you. But even then, he did not respond with anger.

John spoke more about the Sun Times’ firings in an interview with NPR where he said: “I will not curse the darkness. I will light candles. I will live by my three “F” words: faith, focus and flight. I’ll be faithful to life, my purpose in life, my assignment from life. Stay focused on what’s really important, what counts.” He repeated those three “F” words last night as he accepted his award.  The audience was humbled.  John had shed his light.

I have been thinking a lot lately, about the value of photography and the value that a professional brings to this craft.  John H. White and his archive of work is a stellar example.  His images, capturing the subtleties of life stand out amongst the noise.  They make us take notice of what is often over looked – the quieter moments of life.

As far as what a professional photographer brings to the world, I think John stated it best: “Every day, a baby is born. Every day, someone dies. Every single day. And we capture everything in between. You think of this thing called life and how it’s preserved. It’s preserved through vision, through photographs.”

As John walked off the stage and back into the wings, I felt enveloped by his glow that had seemed to magnify.  I caught his eye for a moment and said “thank you”. He nodded, and flashed his wonderful smile and in that moment, we connected and shared our understanding, of the “value” of photography.

Five Things Photographers Should Do if They Want a Future in Photogaphy

An RKO publicity still of Astaire and Rogers d...
An RKO publicity still of Astaire and Rogers dancing to “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” in Roberta (1935) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Understand there’s no such thing as “just do it”.  Nobody “just” does anything; even the folks that make it look that way. I used to watch old Fred Astaire movies and he always made dancing look effortless and easy. But he worked every day of his life on perfecting his skills. It takes a lot of hard work to make a life “your own”, rather than follow a more conventional path.  If you want to sustain yourself financially with a profession like photography, you have to be prepared and willing to do what it takes to make that happen.

Don’t just say no – come up with alternatives. About a decade ago, photographers started rallying together to stand up and say no to bad contracts.  It didn’t work and still doesn’t because there’s always going to be somebody that will say yes.  The problem with “just” saying no is that photographers are only focusing on the problem and not coming up with better options or solutions.  These days photographers have the benefit of technology that has made possible a variety of new options photographers can use to promote and market their work. If we all start focusing on what we can do, instead of just saying no to bad deals, we’d all be better off.

Collaborate/Partner with other creatives.  Photographers have always been fiercely independent creatures.  That has its benefits creatively but can be a real detriment in business.  These days it is a lot easier to connect and collaborate with others, even virtually, and in the process we become stronger as a team of creatives.  Think about teaming up with people who are good at skills you don’t possess, whether it is video or CGI or graphic design.

Walk the Walk – Don’t Just Talk the Talk.  If you have something to say, then by all means say it.  Don’t be a whiner or hang around other whiners and say, “somebody should do something”.  If you don’t like what is happening around you – then do something about it. I am on the board of directors of my trade association, ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers).  I feel that my role on the board is to share my knowledge and skills at this “table” so our members may benefit and the industry stays healthy.  I can only do that if I have something to share and that means I need to be walking the walk – not just talking the talk.  If you are an ASMP member and feel you have something to share with your colleagues, I encourage you to run for the board and become part of the solution. You can declare your candidacy up until December 31st.

Don’t aspire to be part of the status quo.  That just doesn’t work in photography.  You need to be better than the rest to stand out.  What does that mean and how does one do that?  There’s only one way – listen to the voice inside you – and shut out the “noise”.  If you can remember to be true to who you are, you’ll knock the socks off the status quo.

 

Forcing Accountability

Yesterday was one of those days that I had a hundred things to do and only a few hours to do them.  I had to give final approval of an ePub I was wrapping up, package and send out exhibition Blurays and posters to film festivals that I have been invited to and finish a video job I was editing, all before heading into NYC to moderate a panel discussion on video for the NYC chapter of ASMP.  My mom used to say, “If you want something done – ask a busy person”.  I never did understand that when I was younger but I know now, that the busier I am – the better I am with utilizing my time.

I was also fine-tuning the presentation that I was going to be giving to the students at Brooks Institute next week. As an alumna of Brooks,

Gail Mooney as a student at Brooks Institute
© Chad Weckler

I was honored when I was asked to speak. I was also taking this responsibility seriously and I was getting a bit stressed over it, which is uncharacteristic for me.  I’m usually very comfortable with public speaking.  I knew I wanted to talk about the value of “community” and how being part of the ASMP has played into that, but I didn’t want to sound “canned”.  I knew that I needed to personalize that message and really boil it down to what that has meant to me.  But I also knew I needed to come off as someone who is still relevant and not be perceived by the students as just someone whose their mother’s age. I needed to show my spirit inside that hasn’t aged at all since graduating from Brooks all those years ago.  I knew I needed to put myself in their shoes and see through their eyes in order to really connect with them. I started thinking in terms of what I know now and what I wished I had known back when I was a student at Brooks.

So, as I headed into NYC, I had a lot going through my mind.  The ASMP event was great.  It was a packed room with an engaged audience and terrific panelists.  But the best part of the evening was the networking after the event.  That’s where the real sharing of information happens and a sense of community is felt.  It’s easy to get disconnected these days from the human connection because we all spend so much (too much) time online.  That human connection will never be replaced by technology. That was one thing I wanted to point out to the students when I talked to them next week – to physically get “out there”.

I got home late and woke up early and needed a good jolt of coffee while I checked my emails.  One email jumped out at me. It was a newsletter from Jonathan Fields who I started subscribing to after hearing Jonathan speak at the World Domination Summit this summer.   The newsletter had a link to a video of Jonathan interviewing, Chris Guillebeau the founder of the World Domination Summit.  Chris writes a blog that I follow, called the Art of Non-Conformity.  As I listened to the interview, it became clearer as far as what I wanted to say to the students in my presentation next week. Chris said one thing that was right on target.  He was talking about pursuing an idea and he said that by putting your idea out to the world – by telling someone about it – you were in fact “forcing accountability”.

I thought back to when I first had the crazy notion of traveling around the world with the purpose of creating a feature documentary about individuals on six continents who were making a positive difference in our world.  The idea had been tossing around in my head for months before I told anyone.  Then one evening as I was walking back from dinner with fellow ASMP board member, Blake Discher, I decided to put the idea “out there”.  It was something I did on impulse, but as I look back on it now, Blake was probably the right one to “test run” this crazy idea on.  He responded with an affirming, “thumbs up”, but not overly exuberant, which was exactly what I needed. Blake is a very grounded person, so for someone like him to not look at me and tell me that I was out of my mind, was the nudge I needed.  So, it was that short, impulsive, casual conversation that forced me to be accountable with my idea.

I went on to make the movie that I set out to make and even better, I got to share the experience with my daughter Erin.  It has changed both of our lives for the better.  That’s not to say that everything has worked out in ways that I may have wanted or thought I wanted.  But it has been a journey that I was meant to take. I have met people that I never would have met in the process and that in turn has led to so many more incredible experiences and adventures that I couldn’t have possibly imagined.

I started thinking about my life’s journey and all the things I have learned since my days as a student at Brooks.  And then I thought,  “what if I knew then what I know now? “  The thing is, if I had already known all those things back when I was a student, I never would have had the journey that I’ve had.  Everything happens in its own time and when it is meant to happen.  And that’s what life’s all about – the journey along the way and that only happens when we leave room for the unexpected.

Saying Goodbye to a Friend and Colleague

Today the photo world is mourning the loss of Susan Carr.  Susan died yesterday after her long battle with cancer.

Susan was perhaps the strongest woman I have ever known.  She was also the most giving.  She gave above and beyond, everything and anything she put her mind to. She tirelessly gave to ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) and many of her colleagues will attest to that.  But I will remember Susan beyond her work for ASMP  I will remember Susan for her positive spirit.

One fond memory I have of Susan is the day my daughter, Erin graduated from Northwestern University.  My husband, Tom and I were the only “family” members to attend Erin’s graduation because most of our family lives on the East Coast and Chicago isn’t exactly around the corner.  We were going to have a nice, but simple celebration lunch and I called Susan and asked if she would like to join us.  She happily accepted our invitation and was humbled to be included in our celebration. Her presence that day was so joyful and she made the day even more special.  She was part of our family that day and she helped us celebrate one of life’s wonderful moments.

Susan and I didn’t always agree, but we always had the utmost respect for one another.  We were both women in a business that was dominated by men – at least that’s how it was when we first started out in our careers.  That’s changed over the years as more women have entered into the business of photography, but back then – you had to be a strong woman to compete in what was then, a “man’s world.”

But as strong as Susan was, she also had a heart of gold and a deeply intuitive nature. You could see that in her work. Her ongoing project, photographing people’s environments, really showed her spirit to be true.  She gave her still images of these environments  a “voice”,  even though there was no sound. Even when no people were present in her photographs, you could hear and feel the inhabitants of the environments that she selected to shoot.  She leaves behind a wonderful legacy with her work and a testament to the time she lived in.

I will miss Susan in many ways, but mostly in how she encouraged me.  When I first started giving seminars and had a few bumps with some negative feedback, Susan had faith in me. She supported me  and gave me helpful advice that was right on target and just what I needed.  She was also a big supporter of my film, in many ways.  On September 20th, Opening Our Eyes will screen at Valencia College in Orlando, FL as part of a celebration for International Peace Day and The Global Peace Film Festival.  After the screening, the students will congregate outside and make a human peace sign – each one bearing a lit candle.  Those candles will be for you Susan – your life on Earth was far too short but you burned so brightly while you were with us and you will always be remembered.

“To find your calling is a gift.  A purpose provides the drive to pursue
excellence along with an unwavering belief that your work is of value.
When you can take this resolve and turn it into a vocation you achieve
a rare and extraordinary feat.”

~ Susan Carr, “The Art and Business of Photography”