Special Agent?

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects. Week 7

The solitary nature of some photographic practice may be exacerbated by the need to agree fees, contracts and delivery to customers. Agents are there to act as a connector and enabler between the source of imagery and the expectant client, they are marketeer, facilitator, specialist, editor, negotiator, communicator and morale booster.  They bring with their service a cost burden of 20-25%.  They act primarily in the commercial, art and editorial markets.

A polymath photographer may be gifted in some or all of an agent’s skills, but often are not. It is likely that an emerging photographer will realise there is a point in business growth where an agent becomes essential or at least desirable; it should not be decided upon too early in a career.   Establishing a practice approach, a client base and a degree of exposure will be key to positioning and understanding this will be pertinent to making the targeted approaches to agencies that would suit this important relationship. 

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figure 1

One web site that catalogues agencies and shows represented photographers is Production Paradise, see figure 1.

Having a strong web site and Instagram account (with images, judicious use of hashtags and also stories) are prerequisites to any approach to agencies, along with a tangible portfolio.  The relationship, once secured would be an important building block to a blossoming career. 

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Creating a profile and being published route to being noticed by agencies. In an interview and a live discussion, which I engaged with, Max Barnett the editor and owner of the London based, film-only, magazine Pylot, discussed the use of agencies.  His advice was “agents can help organise and represent you.  On big productions you can have an agent in fact a client may demand it.  Also, clients can fight on fees/prices, agents can really help with setting the value for your work.  Having trust in an agent is important and an intense partnership”.  In talking about the precursor to agency, Barnett spoke about the importance of clear websites with few images “always pick your best, hero images” and have few ‘layers’ to a site.  He quotes Tina Hillier as a good example of this visual approach, see figure 3. 

Barnett sees Instagram as the quickest and most accessible to gauge a photographers visual language, developing a personal brand is key to consistency and style.

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Figure 3

Practice Application

Through some decent networking I found myself sat with an agent who places work into commercial premises for both rental, rent to buy and direct sale.  She represents an interesting a diverse small group of artists and appeared very interested in my background, practice approach and the recent shoots.  She had checked me out on LinkedIn and Facebook, and as I started talking she was browsing through my Instagram account on her laptop.  This seemed to be very much to the ‘script’!  We have agreed that she will select 10 images from 15 that I am due to submit and then we will contract for her to have exclusive access to those images for a period of 3 month initially and then that may extend.  The small print of the draft contract is satisfactory, so I am minded to contract with her.

I will write more about this at the point where the contract has been signed and settled into flow.

References

Production Paradise https://www.productionparadise.com/

Pylot Magazine http://www.pylotmagazine.com/

Matt Barnett https://www.instagram.com/maxbarnettphoto/

Tina Hillier https://www.tinahillier.com/

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Instant Thinking

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects; Week Three

instagram symbol

The Context

Ritchen (2010) analysed the prevalence and meaning of digitation of things and image making.  He wrote about sequencing and the new reality “Like a novel, and our earthly lives, a vinyl record was created with the intention that it be experienced within the logic of a beginning proceeding to an end; a music CD or iPod is made to be resequenced, shuffled, and rethought. In digital media, nonlinear and interactive, no two people will necessarily read the same words in a book, listen to the same music, or experience a film or photo essay in the same sequence”. pp 17 He describes the digital as “the reconfiguration of the image into a mosaic of millions of changeable pixels, not a continuous tone imprint of visible reality” pp 18 Ritchen notes that image making “achieved the paradoxical credibility of a subjective, interpretive medium that has simultaneously been deemed reliable and ultimately useful as a societal and personal arbiter” it is if he foresaw in 2010 the blend of trends in society and the interface with personal insights as it was the year that Instagram was born. In October 2017 it will now have towards 800,000,000 users with over 200 million daily users.

From https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/26/instagram-700-million-users/ (visited 9.10.2017) I gleaned this historic growth over almost 7 years:

Here’s a breakdown of how long it took Instagram to add each 100 million users:

October 6, 2010 – Launch

February 26, 2013 – 100 million;  28 months

March 25, 2014 – 200 million; 13 months

December 10, 2014 – 300 million; 9 months

September 22, 2015 – 400 million; 9 months

June 21, 2016 – 500 million; 9 months

December 15, 2016 – 600 million; 6 months

April 26, 2017 – 700 million; 4 months

I recall observing the debate about titling images in the classic art word of the photographic exhibition.  What now intrigues is the fact that an image on Instagram with a narrative or hashtag or indeed a link to raise attention from some person, organisation or brand will be quickly lost in the ceaseless wash of image deluge.  The eloquence and deliberation over the words I suspect may exceed the time taken in capturing some images.

Ritchen perhaps laments the loss of the gaze at the world at large, but rather the fixation on the small screen that is the camera back or the phone “It is not because it makes it more immediately “real” that we prefer the image, but because it makes it more unreal, an unreality in which we hope to find a transcendent immortality, a higher, less finite, reality” pp21

Instagram World: Holding Oneself to Account

Yet we now find ourselves bound up as emerging or amateurs photographers or ad ‘men’ having to navigate around the use of Instagram if we are to avoid the worse by committing a silly mistake and instead maximise its opportunity to share our practice.  From some web research and from my own account https://www.instagram.com/philip.d.singleton/

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I would make these observations;

The square format will often create an annoying vertical and horizontal restriction to tall or wide images.  Unless shooting for Instagram (with the camera on the ‘square’ setting) then this will cause issues and cropping.

I need to begin tracking traffic on my account as I have yet to implement that

http://collectivedge.com/blog/bloggers-you-can-now-track-instagram-clicks-in-google-analytics/ although this is restricted in its use.  I have tasked myself with further investigations on this topic as part of my merging marketing plan.

I have noticed, for example during my current exhbition, that ‘cross promotions’ using the bar’s and visitor’s Instagram tags result in tagging in return and double exposure.

Having a landing page in the ‘bio’ section will drive traffic to a web site.  Mine currently lands on my vernal web page about my consultancy work and this needs to be revised.

I have deliberately used a greater number of hashtags in the last week on my posts and this helped raise my fowler numbers (admittedly along with my university peers starting to all floor each other) from 312 to 328 in a week.  A total of 16; modest but a good proportion.  Again I need to up my game and be more thoughtful and strategic about my use of hashtags.

I have found that sharing from Instagram to the Facebook platform (on which I have a photography business page) is effective but sharing onto Twitter provides a textual link and not the image; I assume this is to do with the joint ownership of Facebook and Instagram, leaving Twitter a little out in the cold.

I tend to follow established, internally know photographers, galleries globally and locally, friends and people who work in similar way to myself or capture buildings that fascinate me regardless of the image making style.

 

References

Ritchin, F. (2010). After photography. New York: W. W. Norton.

Hanging and Responses

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies

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Figure 1

Surface : Exhibition Time

As my part in Landings2017, the peer group international work in progress exhibition first day dawned on 11th August I arrived with my hanging kit (drill, plugs, screws, brass hooks and dust-sheets) at Opus Restaurant in Birmingham.

The planned 4 areas of wall had been cleared in readiness for my 4 framed prints; 2 at A2 and 2 at A3.  Al matching the original measured and photographic survey I had undertaken.

I created a guidance sheet for the restaurant staff to give to interested parties and customers.  This provided a context, title (The Pause Project) and details of the printing and the decision I made following discussions with one of my tutors David Ellison about getting the pitch right.  I also provided a labelling guidance sheet as the restaurant wanted to use their house style to label each (although on a revisit I had to reposition these correctly!).  Each print is limited to 3 with one artist’s proof.  The only other available format would be postcard size published as my self assembly photobook (see separate post).  I took advice on costs and value for sale and pitched sale prices accordingly.

I asked a restaurant team member to use my camera to capture the proprietor and I in front of the two principal prints.

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Figure 2

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Figure 1 shows the simplest print hung on the visually most striking backdrop of Spanish wallpaper.  Figure 2 is against a grey wall above the waiting counter and Figure 3 on a mustard coloured wall which worked well with the two principal prints.

Before leaving I posted on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The responses were positive; I was pleased with the coverage. LinkedIn showed 2,170 views (as of 14th August 2017).  Facebook had a reach of 804 with 23 likes, 2 comments and 4 shares.  Samples are shown, figure 4

The restaurant tweeted the picture from its own account on 14th August.

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Figure 4

Learning: planning, negotiation and communication paid off.  Paying attention to lighting (noting this is not a gallery venue and hence lighting is at times problematic with reflections being evident) and colour were strong defining factors when deciding what work to display and where.

Figure 5 shows the text of the guidance note printed for the front desk of the restaurant.

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Emergent Convergence

Informing Contexts

Week 6 Reflections, MA Falmouth University

The Context

Our global society is indulging in generic algorithmic behaviour; we are predictable in that we take many more photographs each year than the one before shared on platforms which model our mode and mood.  We do this on an ever increasing scale. Whilst predictions vary, here are just two; in 2017, between 1.2 – 2.5 trillion photographs will be created. (cited http://mylio.com/true-stories/tech-today/how-many-digital-photos-will-be-taken-2017-repost  https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/tmt-pred16-telecomm-photo-sharing-trillions-and-rising.html ).

The facilitated mutual online sites that host individual (and corporate) interactions, which are collectively termed social media, are dominated by image and video based forums, the numbers of which are astonishing.  For example, the topical market flotation in New York of Snap Inc, owners of Snapchat, had 161 million daily users at the end of 2016, 10 million of which were in the UK. It is calculated that some 10 billion daily video views are made via the hosting of this site.  Thus I calculate that is some 3.65 trillion video views per annum.  (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/02/snapchat-ipo-valuation-evan-spiegel-bobby-murphy-snap-inc)

Critical Analysis

From the earliest trace left around the cave painters’ hands humanity has sought to capture and leave a mark.  Seen as a precious, preserved moment of imprint we contrast this with the flushing stream of images and in the case of Snapchat, an evaporation of the image after 10 seconds.  The act of seeing and making the image is in an instant; made and lost.

Walter Benjamin noted we can make pictures at the speed of speech. “For the first time, photography freed the hand from the most important artistic tasks in the process of pictorial reproduction tasks that now devolved upon the eye alone. And since the eye perceives more swiftly than the hand can draw, the process of pictorial reproduction was enormously accelerated, so that it could now keep pace with speech”. Benjamin W. 2008. The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media.  Edited by Michael W. Jennings, Brigid Doherty, and Thomas Y. Levin. Harvard University Press. London, p20

We should question if our visual scan and memory capacity begins to respond to this exposure or over-exposure of imagery by converging many into an indistinct morass of muddled medium.  A shallow veneer; an endless frameless, formless, froth.  An image convergence.

Benjamin bemoans the plethora of images and its impact on art…”The simultaneous viewing of paintings by a large audience, as happens in the nineteenth century, is an early symptom of the crisis in painting, a crisis triggered not only by photography but, in a relatively independent way, by the artwork’s claim to the attention of the masses. (Ibid, p36)

But Baudrillard deepens the analysis to a greater level of concern  “We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning”… “Everywhere socialization is measured by the exposure to media messages.  Whoever is underexposed to the media is desocialized or virtually asocial”. Baudrillard J. 1981. Simulacra and Simulation.  Editions Galilee p79.   He observes that whole concepts, places and people are now crafted, a development from the uncanny of deceit of “the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept.  Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. (Ibid p2)

The writer Andrew Robinson in 2012 applies Baudrillard to society “Hyperreality is a special kind of social reality in which a reality is created or simulated from models, or defined by reference to models – a reality generated from ideas. The term has implications of ‘too much reality’ – everything being on the surface, without mystery; ‘more real than reality’ – too perfect and schematic to be true, like special effects; and ‘para-reality’, an extra layer laid over, or instead of, reality”.  He posits the idea that “an entire culture now labours at counterfeiting itself” by suggesting that “there is an ideology of exhuming, documenting, rediscovering the real – from reality TV to the preservation of historical artefacts and indigenous groups – which according to Baudrillard, simply reinforces the process of killing and then simulating. What is preserved is never what it would have been without intervention. We constantly recreate and relive bits of the past and present which are now simulated.  The real has become our utopia, that we dream of as if of a lost object”.  https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/in-theory-baudrillard-9/.  He powerfully implies that much of what we show is a myth built on a deceit.

A Practice perspective

Being part of the ‘sea’; I am increasingly aware that my practice as an interplay between the ‘every day’ walk, dwell, look, shoot and the planned and considered series (see my previous post).  The former tends to be instantaneously shared primarily on Instagram.  That platform is actively used daily and is presently seen as a key ‘store front’ to my practice.  I am now regularly saving a format of my series images for use on Instagram to demonstrate the broader aspects of my work.

Creating myths; my series work captures the ordinary, the unseen, the neglected and the abandoned.  The overarching theme is ‘re-seeing’.  I thus tend to regard my work as the antithesis of the myth-creating, but I shall be mindful of slipping into myth making as I regard it as a negative outcome.