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Not doing much of anything, except downing a coffee, glancing at Annie in the sunshine, and listening to the Chieftains in the background. The music harked me back to all the times I’ve been to Ireland, and the truly gregarious, gracious, and wonderfully fierce place that it is. Back in the day, when Kodak bestrode the world of photography like a giant yellow colossus, we would be summoned to do do a book in a day. The “Day in the Life” series was a grouping of books, about one a year, done on various countries, cultures and themes. Shooting for them was a bit of a lark, without too much pressure applied. The assignments were loose at best, and after a central gathering of the photo clan at in a major city of whatever poor country was about to be visited by 100 photojournalists (Haven’t those poor people suffered enough?) you were spun into the countryside, laden with Kodachrome.
Shot there, vacationed there, taught there, and asked Annie to marry me there. During that very nervous week leading up to the popping of the question, I managed to steady my hands long enough to make a picture of a horse in a field, close by an Irish wall. Always reminds me of quiet time on a weekend….more tk.
This is a business of bounces, sharp turns, unexpected events, lean times, occasional joyous celebrations, and bouts of euphoria measured in slices of seconds. No matter what, be it an excellent day in the field, or a humdrum day filing pictures or doing billing, it is punctuated almost incessantly with the intrusive reality of just how difficult this is to do, over the long haul. Wonderful, but tough at the same time.
I’m the last staff photographer in the history of LIFE magazine. I had the job for a brief time in the middle 90′s and I’ve likened it to the photographic equivalent of a roller coaster ride. Intense, exhilarating, wild, constantly ironical, and relatively brief. I have to believe virtually any job in journalism nowadays is replete with almost daily irony. My boss when I joined the staff, a truly wonderful editor and wordsmith, and one of the few editors in the history of Time Life magazines who really, truly understood the value of pictures, stopped by my closet of an office at one point to tell me he was heading off on a corporate junket. Private jet to Ted Turner’s private island off the coast of Georgia, and in the middle of the this executive conclave, another private jet to Atlanta to watch a Braves playoff game from the luxury boxes. He looked at me and said, “And Joe, can you guess the reason for the meeting?” I answered without hesitation. “Cost cutting and layoffs?” He winked and nodded.
My own personal bit of irony occurred in my last year at the magazine. I won one of the first Eisie’s, for Journalist Impact, for a story called the Panorama of War, all shot in various stressed places on earth, all done with a 617 Panorama camera. (This and $2.25 gets me on the NYC subway system.)
I went to a swell party, and got a $1500 check and a sculpted Eisie eye. I thanked all concerned from the podium. The ironical part of all this was that during the week previous to the photo fete, I had been fired by LIFE. Shown the door, exited. Thanks for playing. At Time Warner, you are actually not fired. They refer to it as a “reduction in force,” or, “riffed.” I got riffed.
It was okay, actually. In my last year at the magazine, I got my kid on the cover! I was told later it didn’t do well on the newsstand but that was dad’s fault, not hers.
Cool. Once a freelancer, always a freelancer. Back on the street, once again jobless, which is a condition that has existed pretty unremittingly for me for over thirty years. I occasionally send in notes to the alumni magazine at Syracuse University when they send out missives requesting updates on the no doubt sterling state of their graduates’ careers. I simply say, after thirty plus years, Joe McNally is still jobless in the New York area.
At that point, though, I had to dig in, re-direct, and find work.
Point of the parable? No matter who you work for, LIFE, Time, the East Bramblebrook Daily Astonisher, your own blog about your own life, or just your Facebook page, you are working for yourself. You cannot take a camera in your hands and hope somebody just pulls you along. You can never feel safe, or self satisfied. If you predicate your sense of self worth, or self esteem, or fulfillment as a shooter on what somebody else does to and for you and your pictures, you will be miserable, ‘cause no one—certainly no publication—will treat your stuff the same way you would. If you hit a patch of easy street where some editor thinks you are world’s greatest picture maker and lavishes praise, high paying gigs and first class air tickets upon you, know that the editor in question will be fired.
Whatever good thing you have going as a shooter, understand this—it will evaporate, deteriorate, get worse, or just shrivel up and blow away.
The life of a shooter is driven by passion, not reason. This is not a reasonable thing to do. A colleague I know offers this advice: “If you want to do this, you have to make uncertainty your friend.” Indeed, you do.
In this life of uncertainty, it is, however, absolutely certain that some shit’s gonna happen to you. What follows below are some notions on coping.
If the angels sit on your shoulders on a particular day or job, and you knock it out of the park, feel good, giddy even, but get over it. Tomorrow’s job will be on you like a junkyard dog, and will tear the ass outta your good mood in a New York minute.
If you win a contest, appreciate it, be gracious, and give thanks to everybody involved, especially your editor and the magazine, even if they had nothing to do with it and actually did their level best to obstruct you at every turn. Contest wins give a warm fuzzy feeling inside but shrug it off ‘cause tomorrow you still have to put on your pants and go find work.
Understand that the money monitors who show up at these contest driven rubber chicken dinners and breathlessly exclaim, “Love your work!” while shaking one of your hands with both of theirs’ are simultaneously eyeballing you and wondering why you cost so much money and there’s lots of pictures out there for free nowadays and why aren’t we using them? Smile back, and be thankful to them that for a brief interlude, they lost their sense of fiscal responsibility, and somehow you got a bit of budget to do something that was terribly important originally only to you, but because you executed it with such passion and clarity, it has now become important to lots of people, given the impact of your photos.
Know that whole bunches of folks will try to take credit for everything you just did. It’s okay. You got a chance to do it.
Understand that in the world of content-desperate big publications, and the multi-nationals that own them, that next year’s contract will be worse than this year’s. And if the contract is real, real bad, they might actually hire somebody to come in and explain why it is “good for you” in so many ways. Know that the phrase “good for you” is interchangeable with, “you’re screwed.”
(Recent update on that type of language. Lots of contracts now are accompanied by language that state that what’s being offered is in keeping with “current industry standards and norms.” For the translation of that, see the paragraph immediately above.)
Know there will be days out there that feel like you’re trying to walk in heavy clothes through a raging surf. The waves knock you about like a tenpin, you have the agility of the Michelin Man, and you take five steps just to make the progress of one. The muck you are walking in feels like concrete about to set. Even the cameras feel heavier than normal as you lift them to your (on this day) unseeing eyes.
There will be these days. You must get past them with equanimity and not allow them to destroy your love of doing this. Know on these days you are not making great art, and that every frame you shoot is not a shouted message of the truth that will echo down the corridors of time forever. You are out there with a camera, trying to survive, and shoot some stuff, however workmanlike or even outright mediocre, that will enable you to a) get paid, and b) live to fight another day.
There will be times when you cannot pay the bills. You look at your camera and desperately wish it was an ATM or the stock portfolio of a far more sensible person. Have faith. Return your phone calls. Keep shooting, if only for yourself. Actually, especially for yourself. Use this work to send out reminders that you are around and alive. Stay the course.
Love this fiercely, every day. Things change, and generally for the lonely photog, they don’t change for the better. What you are complaining about today, after the next few curves in the road you’ll recall with fond reverie. “Remember those jobs we used to get from the Evil Media Empire wire service? The ones where they paid us 50 bucks, owned all our rights, and we had to pay mileage and parking and let them use our gear for free? Remember those sumbitches? God, those were they days, huh?”
Remember we are blessed, despite the degree of difficulty. We are in the world, breathe unfiltered air, and don’t have to stare at numbers or reports trudging endlessly across a computer screen. Most businesses or business-like endeavors thrive on a certain degree of predictability, sameness and the reproducibility of results. They kinda like to know what the market’s gonna do. By contrast, we are on a tightrope, living for wildly unlikely split second successes, and actually hoping those magic convergences of luck, timing and observation will never, ever be reproduced again.
We don’t know what’s gonna happen, and most of the time, when it does, we miss it. Or what we think we’re waiting for actually never happens. It’s anxiety producing, and laced with forehead slapping frustration. If we were a stock or a bond, we would undoubtedly get a junk rating. Not a smart pick, no, not at all.
But what a beautifully two edged sword this is! What shreds your hopes one day cuts back, just sometimes, and offers up something to your lens that’s the equivalent of paddles to the chest. Clear! You’re alive again, and the bad stuff and horrible frames fall away like dead leaves in an autumn rain.
At those moments, the camera is no longer this heavy box filled with mysterious numbers, dials and options. It is an extension of your head and your heart, and works in concert with them. Whereas many times you look through the lens and see only doubt, at these times, you see with clarity, precision, and absolute purpose.
Know these moments occur only occasionally. Treasure them. They make all the bad stuff worth it. They make this the best thing to do, ever.
(A good deal of the above is reprinted from a book called Sketching Light. I hope the author doesn’t get teed off I swiped it.)
UPDATE: Most items are in the process of being sold, and as soon as orders go through, each item posted here will be updated. If you have made an offer, but haven’t heard back, hang in there. If a sale doesn’t go through, there’s still a chance of getting an item- but we will be in touch with you if this is the case.
Drew here. You can only begin to imagine the amount of photo gear Joe’s collected over the years..so it’s time to let a few things go, and hopefully some of you can get some great use out of Joe’s old (or new) gear.
Some is basically brand new, and has never been touched, and other gear has been out on the road for some time. We priced everything based on web prices we’ve researched and averaged- then in most cases, went a bit below, as to make these a bit more enticing. Everything listed here is in good, working order, and has been tested- though a few have minor issues, which are listed below.
Being that we have a pretty sizable community here, it seems as though doing this here on our blog makes the most sense.
PLEASE READ ALL OF THESE GUIDELINES:
- Any and all questions should be asked in the form of a blog comment. Emails should be reserved solely for those interested in purchasing an item. This makes it much easier to keep track of inquiries, and ensures that we’ll get back to you in a timely manner.
- If you’d like to purchase an item, please send an email to email@example.com. The subject line MUST read the item # and name (“2- Nikon 20mm f/ 2.8″). The body of the email should just list the price you’re offering, followed by your name and phone #. ($600, Mike Cali, 858-555-1212).
- We’re doing our best not to treat this like an auction, as we think the prices we’ve set are very fair, and in-line with the current value. However, if you’d like to make a reasonable offer on any piece of gear, you’re obviously welcome to do so. If a price listed isn’t met, but we receive a high enough price to sell the item, whoever submits the highest offer gets the item.
- Once someone submits an offer that is the same as what we’ve listed on the blog, and the sale is processed, the item will be updated/removed from the blog post.
- If we don’t sell a particular item within 7-10 days, whoever submits the highest offer gets the item. However, If we don’t get an offer that deems a sale to be worthwhile, we reserve the right to not sell any item.
- ALL shipping will be done through FedEx (it’s what we use and trust), and buyer pays shipping and insurance (which is recommended). We’re not responsible for any damage that may incur en route, so insuring a package for it’s declared value is essential.
- You must have a FedEx account #, which can be set up very easily on their website.
- NO international sales will be accepted. Hate to have to do this, but it adds a whole lot more work on our end to be able to pull that off, so we unfortunately can’t do it.
- Payments must be made in full before we ship out any item, and will be processed through PayPal- with confirmed addresses ONLY. The buyer will be contacted with payment info.
- All sales are final.
1- Nikon 18mm f/ 2.8 – $600.00 – SOLD
Some cosmetic wear, minor scuffing around rim of lens – overall good condition – no box
2- Nikon 20mm f/ 2.8 – $280.00 – SOLD
Comes with lens hood – a few tiny scuffs on the front element (along with a small speck on the rear element) – little cosmetic wear and tear – no box
3- Nikon 35mm f/ 2.0 – $180.00 – SOLD
Cosmetic wear on the body and around the outside of the front element (not on glass). Focusing works fine, but AF motor makes noise when focusing close. – no box
4- Nikon 50mm f/ 1.4 – $250.00 – SOLD
Good condition – little wear on the body – no box
5- Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 – $200.00 – SOLD
Great condition – Very little to no use – no box
6- Olympus 500mm mirror – $110.00 – SOLD
Good condition – very minimal wear on the body – no box
7- Nikon Coolpix s8000 (2) – $100.00 – SOLD (both)
Great condition – Very little to no use, though tiny scratch on each of the rear LCD’s – with box
8- Nikon sb400 (2) – $85.00 – SOLD (both)
Great condition – Very little to no use – with box
9- Nikon sb600 (4) – $180.00 – SOLD (all four)
Great condition – Very little to no use – two with box, two without box
10- Nikon sb800 w/ (3) – $320.00 – SOLD (all three)
Good working order – Have seen their use in the field – Some cosmetic wear – no box
11- Nikon SD-8a battery pack (3) – $80.00 – SOLD (all three)
Good working order – Have seen their use in the field, but always covered with the case – no box
12- Epson Powerlite 6110i Projector with Lightware Travel Case and brand new extra bulb – $1,900.00
Great Condition- Very little use – no signs of wear – comes with box, remote, and all cords – with box
Hey guys- Drew here. Just wanted to send a huge thank you for all the feedback, positive or otherwise on our brand spankin’ new website. After several of us here in the studio spent literally months digging through the archive, scanning, re-scanning, editing, and designing the site, we’re VERY happy to finally have it up.
Just like our last website, we worked with Livebooks, and are certain that this is a huge improvement over the last iteration. Looking back, it seems as though the previous site just barely scratched the surface, so we made a point to include a ton more from the archive and a bunch of cool stories this time around. We plan to post a bunch more content in the “Special Projects” and “Selected Campaigns” sections, but needed to cut bait and actually get the site live, or it wouldn’t have ever happened…Speaking of which, if there’s anything in particular on the site that you want to see more of, or are still having any technical issues, please drop us a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject “Website Feedback”- and give as detailed of a description as you can. We want to hear your thoughts, and read through every one that comes our way.
Very interesting to see all the comments revolving around our website’s use of Flash. We work with Livebooks simply because without their amazing back-end edit suite, we’d almost never have the time to update our site. The fact that they provide us with a super user-friendly, clean means of uploading, organizing and displaying imagery is priceless. Sure, Flash gets knocked around quite a bit, and understandably to some extent, but we’ve come up with that we think is a very clean and simple website that we’re pleased to have representing the studio.
As for responsiveness of the site, some of you mentioned that the photos are a bit slow to load, and that comes down to our workflow here in the studio. Being that the site is scalable, the images are inherently large. Some load up very quickly, while others didn’t look suitable after being compressed, and therefore, ended up being a bit larger than we would have liked…not a whole lot we can do in that realm.
One major downside is the fact that it currently doesn’t have the same user experience on mobile devices- a lot of you have commented about this, and we’re very aware that it needs some work. It’s definitely a tough issue to figure out, and is currently being resolved as we speak. Livebooks is also in the midst of redesigning the mobile experience that they provide, and should be updated very soon.
Again, thanks for taking a look at the new site, hope you continue to enjoy the updates, and looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts.
Every studio out there has multiple things going on at once, in the background. Shooting, editing, blogging, writing, organizing, printing–it’s pretty endless the stuff you do to keep your head above water since this thing called digital landed on the front doorstep. One of the things I tell any class I teach is that if you don’t have a website, an online repository of your work, you basically don’t exist as a photog. And it can’t just be a thrown together collection of stuff. You gotta think about it, design it, and make it user friendly. The average art director, or creative at an agency, has got, oh, about 2.5 seconds to finagle their way into your website and be struck enough to keep clicking. You gotta make it simple, approachable, and fast. And, by the way, you gotta have some good pix to back up all the dissolves, fades and type treatments.
Today, we are launching a new, updated website, in collaboration with Livebooks. Notice the royal “we” there. I’ve been on the road, and Drew back at the studio has been hammering this into shape, along with Mike Cali. Drew’s got good picture sense, and good design sense, and the results, hopefully speak for themselves. I invite you to cruise a bit, if you have, you know, hopefully more than 2.5 seconds.
A few very cool tidbits about the new site…
- There’s a ton more depth to the site than any previous iteration we’ve had- stories, lots of new photos, video content built-in, etc…and there’s a bunch more on the way.
- The site is now fully scalable, thanks to Livebooks’ new Scaler feature.
Take a look, and let us know what you think.
A huge thank you goes out to Matt Bailey, Ryan Mahar, Adam Royer, Dayle Hendrickson, and everyone else at Livebooks who helped us piece all of this together.