Commentary

Helpers and Healers | The UCF connection to the Pulse nightclub shooting

Their presence was so soft, kind and motherly.

When I got a call from Ron Boucher, the CD at UCF, asking if I would be interested in doing a portrait series on the connection between UCF and the Pulse shooting in Orlando I immediately said yes. A lot has been said about the shooting, much of it more eloquently than I can do justice. 

I've lived in Orlando all my life. Not long ago I wanted to escape this town. I thought it had nothing to offer. I was always annoyed with its ties to tourism, its transitory population and The Mouse. As the years passed I began to see an alternate identity emerge and it started to grow on me. Now we've got a great food culture, several great universities that invest in the community and many more opportunities for artists of all kinds to thrive. Now it feels like a place I'm proud to call my home.

Someone attacked my home. They attacked my people. To be honest I don't think I really processed it all until this shoot. At times photography feels like a job. This time it felt like therapy. I mentioned to my assistant on the day of the job how comforting and kind so many of the subjects were. There were a couple people who I just wanted to hug. And it wasn't that I wanted to comfort them. I wanted them to comfort me! Their presence was so soft, kind and motherly. 

I'm thankful for the people pictured here. They gave themselves to the service of others. They made themselves less to make my home a better place. 

You can read the article as it appeared in Pegasus Magazine here.

Become More Productive When Working From Home, Part 2

This is the second post in a series on being productive when working from home. You can read the first post here

5. Work for a sustained period and then take a break.

I consider a sustained period 1-2 hours and a break 10-20 minutes. If I'm on a roll and getting stuff done I'll go longer and then take a break. This allows you to reward yourself for work well done and helps you to break down tasks into manageable chunks, something our brains need. This article touches on this a little bit. Again, an app like 30/30 can help you.

6. Turn off all notifications.

Does your phone or computer buzz, ring, or dance when you receive a new email or when someone responds to that photo you tweeted with, "Whoa Bra! Awesome sesh at the beach! #rad #gnar #killer." Don't let it. When I'm working and I hear an alert my mind instantly looses focus. I want to check what's going on so badly. I'm like a dog salivating at the sight of a bone. I have to know what's going on and it's pathetic. What if someone is trying to warn me the four horsemen of the apocalypse are about to ring my door bell and I need to run? Blocking these notifications allows me to focus.

7. Stop multitasking.

A lot of experts are starting to find multitasking isn't productive. Personally, I try to allocate my first 1-2 hours of sustained work to one task. Sometimes I start to get exhausted from this one task, which usually leads me to start multitasking. After this work period and my break I'll tackle another project or task then revisit the first project on my third set of sustained work.

8. Start a project with a deadline.

Nothing kicks your butt into gear like a deadline. For me, a self imposed deadline isn't good enough. They come and they go and I simply ignore them. What is better is having someone keep you accountable (which is why we have bosses). Being held accountable to your deadlines really makes a difference. Find a good friend, someone who cares about your success, and have them keep you accountable to your project's deadlines. Tell them to be hard on you (just don't let it ruin your friendship). If you can find a friend who also works at home whom you can keep accountable too, even better.

I did this by starting my 11 Questions blog posts. I knew I needed to get more work in my portfolio. I needed to get out there and shoot. Photography gives me joy. Conceptualizing a shoot, pressing the shutter, and editing the photos invigorates me. I also knew I wanted to create some rich content for my blog as well as get to know some new people in my community. The 11 Questions series has fulfilled all these needs and more.

Do you have any tips on staying productive at work? I’d love to hear them so leave them in the comments below!

 

 

Become More Productive When Working From Home, Part 1

For me, being productive is important. If I'm not productive things don't get done. When things don't get done I don't make money. When I don't make money I don't eat. When I don't eat I loose weight (a good thing) and I can't pay the bills (a bad thing). Additionally, if I'm not efficient with my day I spend my spare time stressing over work. When I have been efficient I notice that my mind is able to rest at the end of the day, knowing that I accomplished all I could during the day. There are a million articles telling you how to become more productive at home. I've probably read half of them, which now that I think about it, has probably decreased my productivity. I don't want to restate what they have said. The following are some practical ways I've been able to become more productive with my time. A lot of them deal with technology and how it gets in the way of what I need to do.

1. Make your Facebook password absurdly long, complex, and don't allow Facebook to remember your password.

Why do this? Because you probably spend WAY TOO MUCH TIME on Facebook like I do (consider my blog a safe place, you can admit it here, it's ok). Doing this will mean you will have to enter your password manually every time you want to login. I've found the extra little time it takes to login gives me a second to ask myself, "Why the heck am I getting on Facebook anyway? Don't I have things that need to be done." When you start to memorize your password change it again. I don't believe Facebook in itself is bad but if Facebook is blocking you from being productive then you need to punch him in the face and show him who's boss (it has been confirmed that Facebook is a male). I'll call this step a barrier. What do I mean? We often think of barriers as bad things. But in this since I think a barrier can be a good thing. By having your password memorized and allowing Facebook to remember it you have taken down all barriers to entry. By constructing some barriers you have made it harder to login, which gives you time to think about why you are logging in in the first place.

2. Hide all posts from certain people on Facebook.

I can hear you say it now, "WHAT! BUT THEY'RE MY FRIENDS!" Yea right. Real friends don't fill up your feed with a million "selfies" in succession. Hell, you already know what they look like anyway. But seriously, look in your news feed. How much of that stuff do you really need to hear about? When you are on Facebook you end up looking at a lot of inconsequential stuff. This may sound mean but I've found it to be true. If you can limit the time you spend on Facebook then you've got more time to get work done. How do you hide posts? In your news feed you'll see a little down pointing arrow to the right of someones post. Click on it and select I don't want to see this. Then click Hide all from _____. You will no longer see posts from that person. Personally, I have hidden a majority of the people in my feed (if you're reading this then I didn't block you...I promise). Be picky on whose posts you see. I have found that I'm not missing much from the people I hide.

3. Limit the people you follow on Twitter to 100 or less.

I have a good friend who does this and at first I thought it was odd. Then I went through all the people I followed and discovered that I either had no connection to that person, thus no reason to follow them, or they were not posting things that I was interested in or with which I wanted to interact. Some people do the whole, "when you follow me I'll follow you" thing. Call me an idealist but I want my follows to mean something. If I'm following you it's because I value what you say. I'm not in it to stroke your ego. Now one thing you can do, which I really love about Twitter, is create lists. You can add as many people to a list you want and you can make it private. I have a list containing people in my industry, people I know in passing, and people I would like to do business with. I'll check this feed a few times a week in hopes of interacting with a few of these people. Since this list is private I can add and subtract people from it without hurting their feelings and I don't feel like I need to read every post made by someone on the list.

4. Set a time limit on how long you'll spend on social media each day.

An app like 30/30 can help you do this. While you're at it, delete Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media apps from your phone and replace them with Buffer. Buffer allows you to schedule when you're updates to social media will be posted but it doesn't let you view their feeds. Basically you can post but you can't view what everyone else is doing. Consider this another barrier. I could easily not visit social media sites on my computer but pick up my phone and go right at it (and data suggests this is exactly what is happening). Deleting these things from your phone has an added bonus. It removes an unnecessary distraction when engaging with people around you.

 None of the things I've mentioned above are hard. They do take a lot of discipline though. I constantly find myself breaking these points. Every day I have to put work into staying on task. The pay off is I feel much more accomplished at the end of the day. I'm able to rest and pat myself on the back knowing I put in a good days work.

Do you have any tips on staying productive at work? I'd love to hear them so leave them in the comments below! Be sure to read Part 2.

 

James Mollison Talks Shop

I really love James Mollison's work. It's straight forward, direct, almost in your face. Although he photographs some touch subjects, I don't think he takes advantage of the people he photographs. I feel his photos are showing what real life is like without being manipulative. He has some good things to say about photojournalism and documentary photography in this video. Check it out.

On a similar note, what is the line between showing reality (what is really happening) and being manipulative (like the stereotypical poor, bloated, flies around the eyes african child)? That's a question I've been wrestling with a lot lately. Leave your comments below. I'd love to hear them.

You've Gotta Fight For Your Right To COPYRIGHT!

How serendipitous. A day ago I post about Copyright (here) and now I find this via FStoppers. Take a look and keep reading:

Some people are really put off by what this guy did. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with his actions. He was professional and cordial. The bottom line is this, the paper STOLE something. Professions that don't produce a physical product (photographers, writers, programmers, etc.) have become devalued to the point where we think it is ok to take without regard of payment. Just because it's on the internet doesn't mean it's free. If I go into a clothing store and steal a bar of candy, do they send me a letter asking for payment? Do they request I give it back? No. They call the cops and I go to jail.

I would feel totally different about this if the blogger was rude and combative. He wasn't. In fact, the paper was rude and combative. Some people say, "Well why didn't he just send them a letter asking for payment?" Do you think sending a letter to this guy 15 times would have done a thing? When he does nothing with the letters you've got to call a lawyer. You have lawyer fees. This drags on for months. Finally he gets his check. How many hours of work has he put into pursuing this guy for payment when that time could have been spent writing more articles?

What are your thoughts?

Photographers Breaking Copyright

If you've been reading my blog regularly you know I'm a big proponent of copyright (see here for past musings). If you head over to YouTube or Vimeo you'll see the abundance of copyright violations as it pertains to music. There is a part of me that understands some of these violations. I think a lot of people are uneducated on copyright and don't know what they are doing, though that doesn't excuse the violation. Surly we need to do a better job of educating people on copyright.

That being said there are certain people who should know about copyright and their infringement shouldn't be excused. I'm specifically talking about photographers. I've seen countless photographers using copyrighted music in their videos lately. Not only is this a dangerous practice (you could get sued, like this guy) but it's also hurts the creative industry.

How is a creative person supposed to get paid for their work if they keep perpetuating the thing that keeps them from getting paid? It's a damaging practice. In all my videos I use music that is fair use or I buy a license.

Want to stop stealing music for your videos? Excellent! Don't know how to stop? Don't fear. There are plenty of sites out there that provide fair use music or music that can be licensed for a small fee. Here are 4 that come to mind:

Vimeo Music Store - This one has a ton of great music. A lot is free and they offer a personal use license for $2. Don't know which license you need? Click here for a quick rundown.

Free Music Archive - A great resource for music. Everything on here is free (at least to the best of my knowledge). Make sure you check the Creative Commons license terms before you use the song though. I really love their Music for Video curated section. It features some great music that would work well for the indie film maker.

Incompetech - I haven't perused through this site very much but it seems to have some decent stuff on it. Some of it feels a little synthy but I think there are some gems to be found. Anyone can use the music for free under the proper attribution Creative Commons license. If you don't want to or can't attribute the work you can buy a license for fairly cheap. Details are here.

Friendly Music - These guys have partnered with YouTube and offer some great music. Personally, I think their new redesigned site is hard to navigate. If you agree you can still visit their old layout here. Take caution with this though, if you gain revenue from your video via ads (like the ones YouTube runs at the beginning or during a video) you need to negotiate for another license (this is probably true for all the above sites too).

There are plenty of other resources for music that I haven't mentioned here. If you have any I'd love to hear them in the comments. On a final note, I am not a lawyer so don't read what I said above as the letter of the law. Make sure you do your homework when buying a license and you fully understand what you are agreeing to. It's not easy but it's worth it.

My Opinion On Copyright

 

If you are an artist and you're trying to make money you have to at least understand copyright. You don't necessarily have to do anything about it but you should know it.

I'm a photographer so I'm only going to say my opinions on copyright as it pertains to photography and social media. I could go on for days about this subject as it's a complicated one but I'll try to keep it to one post (albiet a long one). Pull up a chair, grab a glass of water, and be prepared for my opinion.

First off, we live in different times. The internet has changed everything. Before it exploded, the internet was thought to be a flash in the pan. I remember listening to Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor for The New York Times, state that when the Times first published its paper online in 1996 (for free, mind you) everyone thought it would be over and fail fairly quickly. In everyones eyes the interwebs (as my dad calls it) wasn't supposed to last so why charge for anything. This set a president. Since everything in the beginning was free people thought it should be free forever (wether you like it or not isn't the point, this is just how it is). In my opinion, this is what brought on Napster, bit torent, and many other "sharing" sites. Keep this in mind as you continue reading.

Nowadays there is a lot of commotion regarding copyright with sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitpic, Pinterest, Tumblr, and yadda yadda yadda. The biggest thing I don't like, and many artists would agree with me, is the rights grab you agree to when you sign up for these services. What do I mean by "rights grab?" When you sign up many of them they say in the fine print that you agree to give them the full rights to use your content (in this case photos) for any reason they desire (like making money) till the end of time throughout the known universe...seriously. So anything you upload to Facebook can be used by them in any way they see fit and you won't make a dime. Not cool, right?

So how do you get around this? You can either join and not post anything (which is pointless) or take the risk and hope they don't use your content, relying on good faith. I have posted many of my professional photos to my Facebook fan page (or whatever they call it now). I do this because the likelihood of Facebook taking my photos is slim and the reward of being on Facebook is high. This goes for all of the social media sites. If I was a big time photographer and didn't need these services to market myself I probably wouldn't be on them.

Now that we have lightly covered copyright & social media let's move onto the idea of sharing. My mother always taught me to share and hopefully your mother did too. (My dad did as well but it just sounds better when you say your mom taught you, sorry dad). Before the internet people used to sit around the dining room table with their family photo albums spread open, sharing those beautifully toned prints made from negatives shot inside cameras suffering from light leaks (no kids, not Instagram). I remember when people would go to the store to get 4x6 prints made and they'd order duplicates to give to all the family. This is sharing and it should bring a warm and fuzzy feeling to your heart. Today, this is done through social media. It's a lot more convenient (if you know how to operate a computer...ZING at you old people! I kid.) and wastes a lot less. The downfall is stated in the above paragraph. I like to share my work. It's one of the biggest reasons I do it. If people want to share my work I am all for it (especially when they give me credit). In my opinion it only benefits me. The more eyes that see my work the more work I get. The more work I get the less I am at home yelling to my wife, "WHERE DID I PUT MY KEYS!" which makes her happy. It's a win win for everyone.

Now my mother also taught me not to steal (my dad actually taught me to steal so I can't co-credit him for this one). For me stealing is when you take my image and intend to make money off it (like putting it on a products packaging, using it to sell an item, etc.). Thankfully we live in a place where I can track you down and serve you some papers (so watch yo back fool!). Some people would say, "Well smarty pants, if someone runs a blog and makes money off their blog through advertising isn't that stealing?" To that I would say, "First off I prefer Mr. Smarty Pants, and no, I don't believe it is stealing. The job of many blogs is to spread information. If you have enough readers that you have paid advertisers then I see it as a good thing. There are more eyes on my images, thus driving more work to me." I say this with the assumption that the blogger has clearly credited me and asked for my permission. I could see how someone could argue against my opinion and I get their point but I just see it differently (which is fine, we can disagree, let's not get all crazy rabid about this stuff. Who knows, I may change my opinion in the future).

Going back to what I said earlier (because I am running out of stuff to say), we live in different times. If you don't want to change with the times and see that things are different you'll probably end up like the dinosaurs (no, not the cool TV show from the mid 90s). Remember, back when the printing press was coming around people were freaking out about that too.

Thoughts, opinions, comments? I'd love to hear them.

Video: What is photojournalism?

I'll be brief. I promise.

2:05 into this video Pierre Gleizes is asked if he is a journalist or an activist. He believes he is both. While I consider him an activist I do not consider him a journalist. He is paid by Green Peace, whos goal is to "use peaceful direct action and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future." If you are being paid by an organization to further an agenda you are not a journalist, even if that agenda is noble. Essentially you are in the business of marketing.

Ethics

Several months back I read an article in PDN about a woman who was doing a photo project on a pregnant teenager just out of foster care who was being abused. One thing saddened me about this article, which I'll get to in a minute. First, let's talk about ethics in photojournalism. Ethics in photojournalism is a weird thing. Everyone would pretty much agree with most of the standards that have been set up (you can see them here). Everyone knows you shouldn't pay sources and you shouldn't except gifts or what not from people that might seek to influence your coverage. Yadda Yadda Yadda. The hard part comes when your subject is in need or is being beaten/abused. What do you do then?

In the particular article I am referencing the photographer was having a hard time coming to terms with this very issue. She had been invited to the house of her subject and her abuser would be there as well. The photographer didn't know what she would do if the abuser became abusive to her subject. The photographer didn't want her subject getting beat up but as a journalist she says she didn't want to interfere with the story by calling the police to intervene.

Later, when asked if she thought her presence was affecting the relationship between abuser and abusee she said:

"It crossed my mind. I think that photojournalists always struggle with that line - what's too close and what's close enought. I had a struggle with what my role was. I didn't want to change her situation, but felt bad that I couldn't. I saw her make these decisions that I wouldn't have made for myself." (emphasis added)

I am saddened by this photographers response. I understand the desire to want to be impartial. I understand we should portray a story as accurately as possible. I don't understand how you make a story more important than a person. Maybe this is the reason I have never really covered abuse. I wouldn't be able to be impartial in this situation. My heart cries out for these people. My camera must take a back seat and the person and their well being must become more important. Granted, there are times where you may not be able to help and you must let those who are more prepared to help come and do their job (I am thinking war, riots, etc.).

At what point do we throw out our "journalistic ethics" because we care so much for our subjects as people that we don't want to see them hurt? In our pursuit of telling a good story and being impartial are we allowing people to suffer? What is more important, a story or a person? Has photojournalism become callous?

Number 5 of NPPAs Code of Ethics says:

While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events

I believe we should add an asterisk. It would go something like this:

While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events*

*unless they are in desperate need and you can help

B