1) Rich Terfry’s “Drive” show on CBC Radio 2.
Simply the best radio show in Canada right now, and possibly the best Canadian radio show ever. Three hours of completely eclectic music, selected (or perhaps “curated” would be a better word) by the irrepressible Rich Terfry, also known as the hip hop artist Buck 65. On air every weekday from 3 until 6 pm — I usually tune in at the studio at the end of day, and then listen to it again online at home from the CBC website on the Pacific feed until 9pm. Not only has it opened my ears to all kinds of great new music (Great Lake Swimmers, Danny Michel, Plants and Animals, Abdominal, Blitzen Trapper) but his book recommendations have been bang-on as well.
2) Intersteer Tavern:
This Roncesvalles Ave. watering hole seems to have become an informal meeting place for various West End creative types. At least once every week or two I seem to end up there with a rotating group of people ranging from established talents like Clay Stang, Finn O’Hara, Erik Mohr, Margaret Mulligan, Catherine Dean, Shannon Ross (ok, he’s more of an honorary west ender), and Shanghoon, to up and comers like Nicole Ormerod, Simon Willms, Jon Brown, Mike Watier, Jason Mortlock, and Kerry Shaw. Unlike many bars, the music is never so oppressive as to make conversation difficult, and it’s great to feel like part of a creative community. It would be nice to imagine that one day the ‘Steer might be talked about in the same way as the Algonquin Hotel in the 20′s, or Harry’s Bar in Venice in the 30′s. Time will tell… And Mr. Rich Terfry, if you’re ever in the neighborhood, please feel free to join us!
Given all the alarmist hue and cry about stock photography and how it’s ruining the business, it’s nice to see an agency like Gallerystock taking the bull by the horns and altering perceptions of what stock photography can mean. Where else can you go to license a shot by Nadav Kander? Or Mitch Epstein? Or Joachim Ladefoged or Anthony Suau or Larry Fink? By making distinctive, even eccentric images from some of the world’s best photographers available for licensing, Gallerystock has found what I think is a very interesting stock photography sweet spot. I mean, try finding a shot like this on Getty:
I don’t even know what search terms you would use! Definitely not a conventional “stock shot” by any means but when you need that great polaroid of an orange-painted rock on a beach, where else are you going to go? Not only does Gallerystock in some ways redefine what stock photography can be, they open a door to clients who would never in a million years have the budget to hire someone like Stephen Wilkes to shoot something for them. And it’s kind of eye-opening to look at the work of some of these photographers and get an insight into their interests through some of their lesser-known images. I had no idea that Stephen Shore had so many great pictures of gardens! DISCLAIMER: I have recently signed with them myself.
Loathed and feared by conventional stock agencies and photographers alike, stock “agencies” or “brokers” (perhaps a more accurate term) like Shutterstock and iStockphoto have really started to shake things up. Perhaps not inspirational in the expected sense, but rather in terms of the potential for a paradigm shift in professional photographer’s attitudes — some of which are definitely due to be re-examined.
There’s a massive transformation in the status quo underway and whenever that happens people complain, loudly. However, complaining isn’t going to change anything. A lot of the angriest voices sound a lot to me like record company executives in the early years of digital downloads. They dug in their heels and fought and fought and basically ceded the digital market to the likes of the iTunes store — and to what end? After spending hundreds of millions of dollars and alienating thousands of music fans, not to mention artists, they’ve had to come crawling back with their tails between their legs and sign online distribution agreements with less-than-ideal terms in order to retain what market share they can. Can you imagine how different the online landscape would look if they had just become enthusiastic participants right off the bat? Remember, where there is change, there is opportunity. Is it really just a coincidence that the international indie music scene has become healthier than ever since digital downloading came along?
I would argue that instead of killing music (as the doomsday prophets predicted), digital distribution via the Internet has in fact liberated it. And to those who see microstock as “killing photography”, I think you should reconsider. It might make for some changes on the industry side of things, but it can’t be anything but good for photography as an art form. Maybe it’s time for professional photographers to lose some of the self-righteousness and preciousness and use some of that much-vaunted professionalism to turn these new challenges into new business — much like Gallerystock seems to be doing. By way of putting my money where my mouth is, and as a bit of an experiment, I have myself signed up with Shutterstock. I’m not sure where this will lead, but I’m hoping that it might at least make for some interesting discussions at the Intersteer. Furthermore, I encourage all the photographers reading this to do the same by following this link:
Perhaps if enough professionals can get their heads around participating in what might well be the most revolutionary approach to image licensing since, well, image licensing, we can get past feeling threatened by it and start to use it in new and unforeseen ways. After all, it’s not going anywhere; better to evolve than become extinct. DISCLAIMER: For every photographer who signs on to be a contributor using the above link, I receive a very small bonus (microbonus?) from Shutterstock. See what I mean? Opportunities.
I started running in November of last year and have found that the meditative state it puts me into has been a real factor in keeping myself centered during what is a pretty hectic period in my life. My body does what it does and my mind is free to wander — thoughts drift unbidden through my head and connections between seemingly unrelated things become apparent. Several photographic projects I’m working on started out as ideas that came to me while I was out for a run, and I’ve found that there are a surprising number of other photographers, illustrators, and designers who run as well. It’s almost like a secret artist’s running club..
6) Lynne Cohen
One of my all time favorite Canadian photographers, and one of my biggest inspirations photographically. A nominee for the 2009 Grange Prize, her work has shown a stylistic and thematic consistency for more than 30 years, an eternity in this trend-obsessed business. I really admire people who have this kind of clarity of vision. Check out her 2001 book “No Man’s Land” to see what I mean. Powerful, consistent, beautiful images. You can connect the dots from her work in the late 70′s right down to what she’s doing now.
7) Neko Case:
I find that the right music is an indispensable part of my working process, and I’ve been playing her current album “Middle Cyclone” seemingly nonstop ever since it came out, to the point where my 3 year old son can sing along to “This Tornado Loves You”. Brilliant lyrics, oddball arrangements, and that voice that voice that voice!
8) Canon 5D mk2
Okay, a bit of a equipment nerd pick here, but there isn’t a better general purpose camera out there, particularly at the price point. Compact, (fairly) durable (careful with that battery compartment door when you put the vertical grip on!), terrific resolution, and killer high ISO performance that starts to hint at how low-light shooting will one day (very soon) revolutionize commercial photography. I work regularly with Phase backs (P60, P45, H25) as well as Canon’s 1ds series bodies, and I find myself quite often opting for the 5d over one of the supposedly “higher end” systems. Oh, and incidentally, the video capabilities of the camera are also making serious waves. Download that new firmware if you haven’t already..
One significant measure of the importance of a work of art is how it grows with you. We all have examples of bands we liked in high school that we can’t stand now — they’re relics of who we were at the time. And then there are others whose music we still like — their work has aspects to it that have enabled it to adapt to and respond to our changing circumstances. Photographs can do this too. When Chris Nicholls, the photographer I apprenticed with, showed me Sally Mann’s “Immediate Family” series back in the early 90′s, I was totally blown away. By what? By her stupendous, gorgeous printing technique of course. In Chris’ words, and I agree, she’s simply “one of the best interpretive printers of all time”. I thought I was pretty good in the darkroom, but this was something else entirely. They were like prints from an alien intelligence of some kind. And given where I was as a photographer and a person, that’s pretty much all I was equipped to see. Through the years my appreciation of her work has evolved, however, and now that I am a parent I can’t help but view the work differently. And you know what? The shots are even more amazing now.
Say what you will about Archive, Graphis Photo, the CA Photo Annual, Applied Arts, PDN, etc… I still think American Photography is the cream of the crop of juried photography annuals. Perhaps not as much on the radar of advertising ADs or art buyers as some of the others, but that really shouldn’t be the only criteria for judging it’s success. Beautifully printed, impeccably edited, and always amazingly designed by a different top-notch team every year. The finalists for this years edition are now online, and I can’t wait to see what they do with the book itself.
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Alright, Derek has thrown down the Microstock gauntlet. Any self-righteous photographers willing to pick it up? What do you think? Is Microstock the best thing since the 5D or is it ruining commercial photography for sure?