10+ Derek Shapton

by Heather on June 11, 2009

Derek Shapton is a fantastic local shooter with a super fun and kinda controversial (it might upset you- see point 4) top 10 list. Derek is represented by Westside Studio.

1) Rich Terfry’s “Drive” show on CBC Radio 2.

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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!

3) Gallerystock

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:

© Mike Slack. From Gallerystock

© Mike Slack. From Gallerystock

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.

4) Microstock:

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:

http://submit.shutterstock.com/?ref=400114

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.

5) Running:

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

© Lynne Cohen

© 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..

9) Sally Mann’s “Immediate Family”

Lastlight. © Sally Mann

Lastlight. © Sally Mann

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.

10) American Photography

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?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Myles June 12, 2009 at 11:43 am

You see if I threw down that gauntlet I would have been vilified but no one is taking pot shots at you Derek. Maybe it’s the weather? Maybe they all agree? (I doubt this is the case as I too hear a lot of complaining and you are spot on when you say often it is very angry) My major beef with Microstock is that it seems a hell of a lot of people are contributing for rather meager returns. What were the results of that PDN survey on I-stock contribs? If you are relying on microstock as your sole source of income you will starve.

That said, the quality of the images on such sites is so watered down – a let’s face it, just plain old bad – that I can only see them being used for any capacity in poor (or small market) ad campaigns, briefs in mags (a dying industry) and smaller circ pubs and brochures (which rarely if ever could afford value). Sure they have devalued photography in those areas, but maybe that was the area in which the take down had to happen and by that I mean is it possible that for so long people have been overpaying – or over charging – for a commodified product? You certainly are not going to find the quality of images that one finds in Gallerystock that you do in I-stock, nor should you. And that value attached to sites like Gallerystock or Trunk I will gladly pay for.

This uprising of microstock has finally brought into the debate the value of photography. Sure you could always argue that photography is an art but when I go through a site like I-stock I certainly see a lot of paint by numbers shooters. You can argue till you are blue in the face that a simple pile of beans on white is art of value but at the end of the day your still just left with a pile of beans on white.

I am curious to see how your experiment pays off Derek.

And doesn’t this all tie into the whole ‘free’ movement that is so hot right now? Ok, was hot, like a few months back? I was never able to see a photographic angle to it, though I am convinced there is one there. Could it have something to do with Heather’s post on Wednesday for Ask an Art buyer?

Dave June 12, 2009 at 1:42 pm

I just had another photographer comment to me that I must be using medium format for some of my images. I paused – and decided to tell him the truth — that it was just a 5D. Nice to know you’ll pick that camera even when you have other choices. Oh, and Neko Case, yes!

chris June 14, 2009 at 8:26 am

I can’t argue with Derek’s stock photo strategy, although contributing to both Gallerystock and Microstock seems somewhat Jekyll and Hyde like. On one hand, he is contributing to a rights managed, usage based model and on the other he is giving the rights away for a few dollars. Editing a shoot and deciding what goes where would make me crazy.

The Microstock business isn’t at all like the music business. Most Microstock images are used to support other commercial ventures. Music, for the most part, is downloaded for personal use. If someone wanted a piece of indie music for a commercial use they could still arrange to to license it. You can’t do that with a mircostock image if it has a history of even one download.

The debate on the merits of Rights managed vs. Microstock is over. At least it should be. Both are here to stay and will continue to morph into something we can’t even imagine. Derek’s decision to contribute to both, is the real story. It is an example of the kind of decisions we all have to make to adapt to a changing and challenging business.

I have decided not to pursue Microstock for a number of reasons. I can’t see a return on my investment at the current price points and fee splits. If the average price were $200, the fee split were 50/50 and the sales volume stayed the same, I might reconsider. I don’t see that happening in my lifetime, considering today’s average price is less than $5 at a 75/25 split in favour of the distributor. Still, I know peers who think they can make it work. It’s a very personal and creative decision for some. For me, it’s strictly a business one.

I have opinions on this and other photographic matter, that I can better articulate over a pint of dark ale. Unfortunately, I’m not a West Ender. Is there an East Ender night at the Intersteer? Mmmm…… cabbage rolls!

BTW, excellent 10+ choices. Thumbs up on Lynne Cohen, Sally Mann and American Photography and thanks for the intro to “Drive”. Radio One is mostly dead in that time slot.

Greg Ceo June 17, 2009 at 9:22 pm

I also can not see the return on mircostock justifying placing content on any of these sites. Since I teach college photography students, I ask them that if they went to Medical school and spent 100k to go to school, would they work for free or very little money? Maybe if it was for charity, one day a week. Why go to Photography school and spend 100k and put great pictures up on Microstock sites? Bottom line, RF and Microstock will merge in some form in the next 5 years. RF is getting eaten up by microstock. There will be something called microRF and RM will still exist.

I agree that the 5D MKII is amazing. I love the camera. I sold the Hasselblad H2 and stopped waiting for an affordable medium format camera back. I now have it in my 5D MKII.

Finally, Gallery Stock may sound cool, but the amount of sales from these images, I would guess, would not amount to much. Sure, once in a while there will be a big sale, but not enough to buy you lunch every day like 2000 images on Getty will do. Ask anyone who has worked in the sales department of a large stock photo compnay, and they will tell you that the “Weird, artistic images,” do not sell much. Very soon, all images on the web will be on Google Images and attributed to their owners. Searches across ALL images in existence will be possible and stock sales of images will not be dependent upon companies like Getty or Corbis or Gallery Stock. Check out licensestream and you will see the future. I haven’t bought their software or hosted images on their platform yet, but I do believe this is the future.

dShapton June 18, 2009 at 8:11 am

Thanks for the comments! Some thoughts:

1 – I didn’t mean to draw exact parallels between the music business and microstock (I’d love it if they were more alike, perhaps then I could go on tour doing photo shoots on stage in front of a paying audience!) but rather just wanted to say that both commercial photographers and professional musicians are both working in industries that have experienced radical changes thanks to the Internet. It’s imperative that we re-examine certain entrenched attitudes and try to see the possibilities in what might initially seem to be discouraging. Chris talks about licensing indie music; the fact that it’s become so common is exactly what I’m talking about — working musicians, by becoming much more open to licensing their music commercially, have already taken a hint from other art forms like photography, where licensing one’s work has always been a valid revenue stream. They may have come around to that perspective reluctantly, but come around many of them have, and I think we can learn something from that.

2 – As a photographer who generates “surplus” imagery almost out of habit, both in my spare time as well as on assignment, does it really serve me in any way to then bury it in my archives, never to see the light of day? I am experimenting with a very broad approach to stock (I also work with Masterfile, and it’s true, I make more through them than I expect to anywhere else); I’m trying to allocate certain types of images to certain agencies by way of attempting whenever possible to ensure that ALL of my licensable images are available somewhere searchable. I would never dream of dividing images from the same setup or shoot amongst all the agencies I work with; not only does that not make sense creatively, it’s also opens up breach of contract issues (it’s generally not acceptable for a photographer to license “similars” with other agencies). Keeping images out of circulation because I don’t want to dilute their worth may speak to their value in some abstract sense, but over the years I have become less interested in abstract value and more interested in getting my images working for me any way I can. We all aspire to create great pictures that we are proud of; even after years of shooting I know of nothing more satisfying than that moment, even before seeing the end result, that you KNOW you’ve shot something fantastic. However, those moments are part of a connect-the-dots game that by necessity results in a lot of other shots too. It’s taken me a while to be able to say this, but what’s wrong with commodifying that work?

3 – In terms of return on investment with Microstock, I really think that professionals who can integrate the submission requirements into their everyday workflow may well see some kind of a return. That’s the tricky part; the way things are structured, only the most disciplined among us will be able to make it happen. I’m skeptical that I’m going to be disciplined enough myself (it’s such a boring process) but I’m going to try. The other fly in the ointment is of course the time required to create images. I’m lucky in that I tend to work in a manner that generates a lot of pictures with very little setup anyway. I can see it being a different beast for someone who has another style of shooting. As Greg points out, spending a fortune going to medical school and then working for free doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But working a day a week for charity? No problem. I suspect if I were to devote a day a week to microstock I would quickly build up enough images to start seeing some kind of return. Even setting aside two hours a week might be enough. And it wouldn’t even be for charity, although it might feel that way for a while. It sure does right now!

4 – Totally unrelated. Someone sent me this link to Mos Def performing a song from his new album on David Letterman earlier this month. Fantastic track:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3k9uZ17Afc

Reinfried Marass July 28, 2009 at 4:38 am

Many thanks for the flag on Gallery Stock. Their biz-model is outstanding and a really great counterpart to the most other stock agancies on the market, giving especially fine art photographers or non-main stream photographers a broader showcase to the industry and a chance to monetize their work.

I’m tired of looking at images of man,woman,girl,boy,family (and any combination of it)+notebook+green meadow+blue sky. Or whatever is ‘en-vogue’.

Do you think any image of e.g. a Joel Meyrowitz, Nadav Kander, Vitali, Watanabe, Shore (just to name a few) will ever pass the eyes of a microstock image editor ???

Even if they never would make any cent of a license sell it’s important to such an agency like Gallery Stock exists at all. Microstock is one of the most worst things that could have happened to photography,imho.

Cheers, Reini

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