gill moore photography

Archive for the 'learning' Category

Manchester Artist heads off to “Th’Arctic” …

As ever Kate @ the Manchizzle shows she has the proverbial finger on the pulse of all things interesting and arty in the Manchester region.

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Kate gave a mention to local artist Rebecca McKnight and her mission to explore the icy beauty of “Th’Arctic” (that’s Lancashire for The Arctic in case you were wondering).

A place so cold that the Ocean frequently freezes solid and only the hardiest of animals and plants survive. It is here the Polar Bear, Arctic Fox, Wolverine and Arctic Hare find their natural habitat.  For much of the year things are so unbearable that most living things hide away til the warmth of the short summer gives them a nudge to briefly explode into life. Though, if you are lucky, you may catch sight of the Aurora Borealis to take you mind off the biting wind!

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I got to know Rebecca last year as we both had work displaying at the Chorlton Arts Festival. This was May 2008 and she was already focused, excited and working hard on plans for the trip, so I have seen first-hand how dedicated she has had to be to make this project happen.

The logistics of pulling something like this together requires nearly as much determination and effort as surviving the Arctic elements. Sponsors and funding, website, journal, publicity, technical gear, experienced mentors, involvement of the community, travel plans, flights, visa’s, communications … not to mention a map and route! I’m sure that’s only the half of it.

She is hoping to become one of the first British people to ski up to 300 miles pulling a pulk (sledge) from Resolute Bay to Grise Fiord, the most northerly Inuit community in the Canadian Arctic. So, getting supremely fit prior to the attempt has been one side of the preparation, plus this trip is also a live art project which aims to “explore personal identity in relation to situation and environment.”

The use of the word ‘live’ was not a mistake. Check out Th’Arctic website, which has regular updates from the location, a live tracker map showing the groups progress and there is the ability to send the Team a text or email to keep them all on their toes and gain a real insight into the experience. There are no photo’s on the website just yet but as they have only just arrived at base camp I am sure some amazing work will surely follow.

The actual trek starts tomorrow (1st April) and the latest weather conditions sound tough (-60oC and blizzards). So best of luck Rebecca and everyone else, what a fantastic effort to bring such a dream trip to life.

You can follow things and send messages of support via:-
Th’Arctic website
Facebook page
artist’s talking a-n website
The Big Screen Manchester

plus there will be a live-link up with the team which is being co-ordinated with the guys at the Cornerhouse on Saturday 18 April.

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Free Workshop @ Chorlton Library – “Selling on the Web” Thurs 5th Feb 09

For anyone in Chorlton or South Manchester thinking of setting up a website for selling this could be worth a look.  It is a free event organised by Manchester City Council and the MDDA (Manchester Digital Development Agency) with 20 spaces but only 5 left at the time of writing.  Hopefully it will be a good chance to pick up some good tips.  Here is the info from the MDDA site and to book a place click here: UPDATE, SORRY THIS EVENT IS NOW FULLY BOOKED.

mdda_info

In fact the MDDA site has some really useful articles, links and webcasts on this topic, including “How to attract customers to your site”Marketing and Social Networks” and one I shall definitely be investigating “How to choose the right payment system for selling online“.

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19 steps to be a great Photographic Assistant … and beyond.

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Many people dream of a career as a photographer and there are certainly a myriad of ways to get into the photographic industry.  My own path started by studying at college for 3 years, but the learning really only properly began when I became a Photographic Assistant in a large commercial studio assisting 10 different photographers.  I worked hard and learned a great deal.

I have now worked as a photographer for well over a decade and I have gleaned a fair bit of insight on the question of “What Makes a Great Assistant?”.  So, using my own experiences, reading around and from listening to the many folk I have met along the way I have attempted a potted guide which I hope may prove helpful to others .

Of course, it is all subjective (and by no means definitive- I certainly don’t know it all!)  so take or leave whichever bits you like.

  1. Find out and learn as much as you can about the key bits of equipment used by professional photographers in your area (and I’d include software in that too).  A good place to look would be the main source for hiring professional gear, ask them what gets hired out the most … what manufacturers people tend to use.  This increases your value as an Assistant if you can show a range of knowledge and familiarity with all the latest kit.  Hire it out yourself or strike a deal testing it for the hire company.  If you are at college use every piece of equipment regularly and know it backwards.
  2. Learn the going rate for an Assistant, never try and undercut others … usually not a clever or productive route to go especially if you are just starting out without a decent reputation.  Different commissions will have different budgets, often Digital Assistants get more than Studio Assistants.  Be prepared to work long hours on some shoots and get no lunch break.  On another day you may find you finish early and go to the beach.  To get the best answers ask other experienced Assistants, if you ring up a photographer, most will give you an honest answer.
  3. Shoot as much as you can yourself, develop your own style, practice using all available equipment and cultivate how you like to do things and slowly build up a folio and a nice set of reliable photo gear.  Once you start thinking like a photographer you should become a better Assistant; able to anticipate and be a real asset.
  4. Be reliable, discreet, loyal, unobtrusive but helpful and decisive when necessary.  Being adaptable, easy-going and good company helps.  Don’t underestimate how important good social skills are in being a good Assistant.  Each photographer is different, some will prefer you to be gregarious and take the pressure off them with models and Clients etc. However, be aware that others may hate that!  You need to read people and their needs pretty well.
  5. Ask if you don’t know how to do something. Never just muddle along and then end up breaking a piece of equipment.  Though not too many questions, or you will make the photographer nervous!  If you can, ask someone else who might know an answer (other Assistants or people who work at the studio if it is a Hire place?).
  6. Learn skills from everyone else connected to the shoot.  Watch how they work as part of a team, how do they conduct themselves and use their skills?  Be helpful to everyone;  yes it is a nice way to be and it can lead to other contacts and work.  Network and cultivate useful contacts yourself and make recommendations should someone come looking.  What goes around comes around.
  7. Keep good notes and contacts of anything you learn.   You think you will remember it all but you won’t.
  8. Create an ideas and influences book. Read, visit and study other photographers.  Come up with a shortlist of your favourites from the emerging to the worshipped.  Analyse why you like them.
  9. Never forget your main role is to support … you are all part of a team, don’t try and take over but a useful suggestion at the right time can be invaluable.  Cultivate showing the right amount of initiative, don’t always be waiting to be told what to do.
  10. Always be a little early, NEVER be late.  If, for some reason, you will be late then phone ahead and let the photographer know.  Don’t turn up with a hangover.
  11. Be available should the photographer need you, “busily hovering” is a very useful skill.  If you go off to do a task then let the photographer know.
  12. Dress to blend in, you’re a creative; you can be stylish but practical.
  13. Be keen and able to drive a car and a van, try and have a clean licence.
  14. Don’t moan on a job, if a photographer is a nightmare then do your best on the job and don’t work for them again.
  15. Keep your private life out of work, put your phone on silent&vibrate. Yes, you are running a business, but when you are on a job, don’t take other work calls unless absolutely necessary.  Try and make your calls back at a suitable moment if there is such a thing.
  16. Don’t approach or show your own work to a Client on a job.  If you fancy collaborating with a Model, Make-Up artist or Stylist then agree to meet up some other time.  It might be nice to let the photographer know of your plans as they did put the two of you together in the first place and it could be better than them finding out from someone else.
  17. Do a business course, understand the market you are in, look at other Photographers and how they have positioned themselves within their sector.  Do you want to specialise, do you want to be your own boss?  Read lots about marketing a creative service.
  18. Understand copyright and Intellectual Property, protect your work. In the UK Own It is a good place to start and often run free workshops and Copyright Action has some excellent advice and links.
  19. Get feedback on your work, listen to advice, enter competitions & awards but always read the small print, make sure they are not Right’s Grabs:- a great place for advice is Pro-Imaging: Competions the Good & the Bad.  Keep shooting, but follow your own instincts too.  Love what you do and never lose sight of enjoying taking photographs.

I have listed some links for obtaining critique on your photography below.  I am not endorsing any of these and the standards of photography submitted varies but you may find it is useful for looking at other work and getting feedback.  Please let me know any others which you have found worthwhile and I can add them to the list.

Photoassist … good UK Assistants website and forum, features a showcase gallery for current test work.
Photo-net
J M Colberg website … US-based, you have to pay a fee for this one ($75) see further comment on this offer at the “A Photo Editor” site.
Photosig
Photozo.com Forum
Photopoints.com
PBase Forum
Flickr photography critique group.
Modelmayhem.com.  You can have a profile and if offers critiques but you have to join, mostly fashion.

For actual one-to-one reviews

Format Festival. Photography Festival in Derby, UK.
Redeye. Photography Support Group in Manchester, UK.
Rhubarb Rhubarb. West Midlands, UK based photo-development Agency.

To finish off, here is a link to some respected and experienced photographers on the Magnum blog, featuring brilliant work and some insightful advice on being a photographer ….  “Wear Good Shoes – Advice to young photographers”

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Excellent websites for Movie Reviews …

For the film fans amongst you, here are my two favourite sites for checking out reviews for movies old and new.

1) metacritic.com (“Metacritic compiles reviews from respected critics and publications for film, video/dvd, books, music, television and games. Features the nifty Metascore which shows the critical consensus at a glance by taking a weighted average of critic grades).


2) mrqe.com (“provides a searchable index of all published and available movie reviews.” Includes 69,993 titles and 684,131 articles).

 

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Orphan Works : What is it, where can I read about what is going on in the US with this proposed new Bill?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very simply Orphan Works are creative works which have been produced (including photography, music, articles, cartoons, books, painting the list goes on) but the creator of said creative endeavour (or copyright holder) cannot be found to gain permission to reproduce the work.

At the moment, if this occurs, then the photograph (insert relevant option) just cannot be used but with the new legislation here is what would happen. The hopeful user of the creative work would firstly have to exercise “due diligence” to try and track down the copyright holder. If they cannot be found then the the person wishing to use the work would be able to go ahead but must ensure this useage is logged onto a register. The problem seems to be just what exactly is “due diligence” and is this pushing creatives to have to submit everything they produce onto a register so putting the onus onto the creator to protect.

This is a massively contentious area, many creatives are hugely worried and justifiably confused as there seems to be many arguments and scenario’s. That alone makes me think this is an ill-thought out Bill. I do not claim to understand properly and so I will not try and argue things out but I do urge you all to read more on this subject (as I will) we need to protect our right to own and control what we produce.

Pro-Imaging (a UK-based photographers organisation and discussion list) have an Action Alert on their site at the moment and have sent a lobbyist to meet with Senators and Representatives in Washington to educate them to the dangers of the Orphan Works 2008 legislation. Photo Business News has some interesting discussion on their site and to balance things a little Chase Jarvis’ site has arguments on the other side including a link to the ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) site; this organisation have come out in favour of the Bill.

 

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Cardboard Toys Anyone ?

Paperpod are a new and pretty innovative company based in East Sussex, UK. They take a well-known fact; that children actually have far more fun playing with the packaging their presents arrive in than the actual toy, to it’s natural conclusion. They produce kids toys and furniture made completely out of cardboard such as a den, a rocket and a dolls house. All items are lightweight, low environmental impact, easy to store and decorate.

It is not clear whether the cardboard is made from recycled sources, nor how outdoor products like the playhouse are waterproof. Maybe someone can enlighten me there? Nevertheless, it seems an interesting angle to approach the normally horrendously wasteful kids toy market. Do you think one day they will do an adult teepee, I like the sound of that? :-)

UPDATE : September 2009.  For any US-based readers, check out designer Ben Blanc’s latest sustainable designs including cardboard animals for kids and room dividers.  All made for US company Cardboardesign who specialise in all things eco and made out of cardboard.

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