Tuesday, March 30, 2010

from the NY Times on Photography

March 29, 2010
For Photographers, the Image of a Shrinking Path
By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD
By the time Matt Eich entered photojournalism school in 2004, the magazine and newspaper business was already declining.
But Mr. Eich had been shooting photographs since he was a child, and when he married and had a baby during college, he stuck with photography as a career.
“I had to hit the ground running and try to make enough money to keep a roof over our heads,” he said.
Since graduation in 2008, Mr. Eich, 23, has gotten magazine assignments here and there, but “industrywide, the sentiment now, at least among my peers, is that this is not a sustainable thing,” he said. He has been supplementing magazine work with advertising and art projects, in a pastiche of ways to earn a living. “There was a path, and there isn’t anymore.”
Then there is D. Sharon Pruitt, a 40-year-old mother of six who lives on Hill Air Force Base in Utah. Ms. Pruitt’s husband is in the military, and their frequent moves meant a full-time job was not practical. But after a vacation to Hawaii in 2006, Ms. Pruitt uploaded some photos — taken with a $99 Kodak digital camera — to the site Flickr.
Since then, through her Flickr photos, she has received a contract with the stock-photography company Getty Images that gives her a monthly income when publishers or advertisers license the images. The checks are sometimes enough to take the family out to dinner, sometimes almost enough for a mortgage payment. “At the moment, it’s just great to have extra money,” she said.
Mr. Eich and Ms. Pruitt illustrate the huge shake-up in photography during the last decade. Amateurs, happy to accept small checks for snapshots of children and sunsets, have increasing opportunities to make money on photos but are underpricing professional photographers and leaving them with limited career options. Professionals are also being hurt because magazines and newspapers are cutting pages or shutting altogether.
“There are very few professional photographers who, right now, are not hurting,” said Holly Stuart Hughes, editor of the magazine Photo District News.
That has left professional photographers with a bit of an identity crisis. Nine years ago, when Livia Corona was fresh out of art school, she got assignments from magazines like Travel and Leisure and Time. Then, she said, “three forces coincided.”
They were the advertising downturn, the popularity and accessibility of digital photography, and changes in the stock-photo market.
Magazines’ editorial pages tend to rise or fall depending on how many ad pages they have. In 2000, the magazines measured by Publishers Information Bureau, a trade group, had 286,932 ad pages. In 2009, there were 169,218 — a decline of 41 percent. That means less physical space in which to print photographs.
“Pages are at a premium, and there’s more competition to get anything into a magazine now, and the bar is just higher for excellent work,” said Bill Shapiro, the editor of Life.com, who ran the print revival of Life before Time Inc. shut it in 2007. And that is for the publications that survived — 428 magazines closed in 2009 alone, according to the publication database MediaFinder.com, including ones that regularly assigned original photography, like Gourmet, Portfolio and National Geographic Adventure.
And while magazines once sniffed at stock photographs, which are existing images, not original assignments, shrinking editorial budgets made them reconsider.
“When we began, stock photography or licensed images, preshot images being licensed, was perceived as the armpit of the photo industry,” said Jonathan Klein, the chief executive of Getty Images who helped found the agency in 1995. “No self-respecting art director or creative director would use a preshot image, because it wasn’t original, it hadn’t been commissioned by them, it wasn’t their creativity.”
At the same time, the Internet has made it easier for editors to find and license stock photos — they can do it in seconds with a search term and a few clicks, rather than spending seven weeks mailing film transparencies back and forth.
Concurrently, digital photography took off. “It used to be you really needed to know how to use a camera,” said Keith Marlowe, a photographer who has worked for Spin and Rolling Stone. “If you messed up a roll, you couldn’t redo the concert.” Now, though, any photographer can instantly see if a shot is good, or whether the light balances or other technical aspects need to be adjusted.
That meant a flood of pretty decent photographs, and that changed the stock-photography industry. In the last few years, stock agencies have created or acquired so-called microstock divisions. They charge $1 to $100, in most cases, for publishers or others to rerun a photo, often supplied by an amateur. And Getty made a deal with Flickr in 2008, permitting Getty’s photo editors to comb through customers’ images and strike license agreements with the amateur photographers.
“The quality of licensed imagery is virtually indistinguishable now from the quality of images they might commission,” Mr. Klein said. Yet “the price point that the client, or customer, is charged is a fraction of the price point which they would pay for a professional image.”
In 2005, Getty Images licensed 1.4 million preshot commercial photos. Last year, it licensed 22 million — and “all of the growth was through our user-generated business,” Mr. Klein said.
That is because amateurs are largely happy to be paid anything for their photos. “People that don’t have to make a living from photography and do it as a hobby don’t feel the need to charge a reasonable rate,” Mr. Eich said.
With stock-photography payments declining and magazines pulling back on original assignments, some Web sites like Life.com and BurnMagazine.org have popped up as homes for original photography. Life commissions about two projects a month — it sent Mr. Marlowe to Haiti after the earthquake, for instance, and the entertainment photographer Jeff Vespa to cover the European news media tour by the “Avatar” cast.
There seems to be an audience for professional photography on these sites. The average number of photos each visitor viewed for “Michael Jackson: The Memorial” at Life.com was 41, for example, and for “Oscars 2010: The Best Dresses,” it was 38 images.
Still, the pay, compared with print, is “less, for sure,” Mr. Shapiro of Life.com said, since some professional photographers “are really more excited for the exposure than they are to drive a hard bargain.”
But it is hard to live on exposure alone. And some professionals worry that with ways to make a salary in photography disappearing, the impact will be severe.
“The important thing that a photojournalist does is they know how to tell the story — they know they’re not there to skew, interpret or bias,” said Katrin Eismann, chairwoman of the Masters in Digital Photography program at the School of Visual Arts in New York. “A photographer can go to a rally or demonstration, and they can make it look as though 10 people showed up, or 1,000 people showed up, and that’s a big difference. I’m not sure I’m going to trust an amateur to understand how important that visual communication is.”
“Can an amateur take a picture as good as a professional? Sure,” Ms. Eismann said. “Can they do it on demand? Can they do it again? Can they do it over and over? Can they do it when a scene isn’t that interesting?”
But amateurs like Ms. Pruitt do not particularly care.
“I never followed any traditional photography rules only because I didn’t know of any — I never went to photography school, never took any classes,” she said. “People don’t know the rules, so they just shoot what they like — and other people like it, too.”

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Expanding Architecture

This is a nicely done collection on the role of design in the realm of service and social justice. From temporary requirements after disasters to long term solutions for affordable housing design professionals can make a big contribution to the value and durability of work which does not always benefit from quality design. I have now worked with enough non-profits and enough high-end projects to see the need and understand the possibility of making a significant difference in the lives and health of those across the full economic spectrum. The inverse is also true.

So much of it starts with those of us in the profession.

Click here for an excerpt

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Architecture Section

http://ecoabsence.blogspot.com/2010/03/architect-discusses-crown-square.html

Special thanks to Michael Allen for promoting hte event on his blog. (see link above)

The next meeting of our section is this Thursday at the Guild at 7:00PM. Feel free to come by and check us out. It will feature a presentation by Rob Wagstaff on the design and re-development of the 14th Street Mall in Old North.

The meeting is at The St. Louis Artists' Guild in Oak Knoll Park

http://sustainstl.org/intersection-of-art-architecture-and-sustainability/
is Sustainable St. Louis' intro to the Architecture Section.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Herzog by Saul Bellow


Here is a review from the book's publication. It is now considered one of the top 100 novels of all time. Herzog, the protagonist, seems a characteristic member of his generation. Reading novels from this period always gets me thinking about my father's generation. Between the depression, WWII and the expectations placed upon each gender in this period, life could not have been easy. In the end Herzog finds a bit of peace because he is no longer at war with the way things are.

from Time Magazine

Friday, Sep. 25, 1964
Books: The Good Guy

HERZOG by Saul Bellow. 341 pages. Viking. $5.75.

It may be that Saul Bellow is just too nice a guy. He obviously wishes the world well; he wants the world to be pleased with him; and this benevolence, or "potato love," as Bellow calls it, may have damaged the work of a writer who has long been on the threshold of the U.S. literary pantheon but has never quite managed the "big" novel that would put him there permanently.
Bellow's early novel, The Victim, had the tension of tragedy: an eerie encounter between a Jew and an anti-Semite in which the Jew turns out to be as much persecutor as victim. This first succes d'estime was followed by the book that made Bellow a popular success as well: The Adventures of Augie March, a picaresque tale of a Jewish Huck Finn who bounces about the U.S. and Mexico sampling and quickly tiring of all manner of jobs, creeds and persons. But Augie sacrificed the dramatic tension of The Victim and rambled. Bellow's sub sequent novel, Henderson the Rain King, rambled even more; and in Herzog the tension has snapped completely in a flood of good will.
Pet Goose. Few novels have been longer awaited or more often deferred. It has been seven years since the publication of Henderson, during which time Bellow has traveled in Europe on a Ford Foundation grant, then settled down at the University of Chicago as Fellow of the Committee on Social Thought. Lecturing on literature in the afternoons, he has spent his mornings working on Herzog and on his first play, The Last Analysis, about an aging Jewish comedian with a scheme to save humanity, which will open on Broadway this month.
Individual episodes in Herzog are brilliant; Bellow can wring a rare pathos out of the most unlikely, unlovely material: scenes of common, everyday, squalid home life, with the kids sniffling, the wash on the line and mommy savaging daddy. No one, in fact, slices life with a sharper eye than Bellow. But on the whole, the new novel is disappointing. Moses E. Herzog, teacher-scholar, is everybody's door mat. Things happen to him; he does nothing. He is tossed out of his own home by his wife and her lover. He is bullied by lawyers, psychiatrists, cops, a priest and friends. At the beginning of the novel, he is at least dashing off undelivered letters to all sorts of people, living and dead, who have offended him. At the end, he gives up even that. He is unfit for the rough-and-tumble of the world, he acknowledges, because he was "brought up on moral principles as Victorian ladies were on pianoforte and needle point. He had been spared the destruction of certain sentiments as the pet goose is spared the axe."
Herzog, despite his learned jokes and sophisticated dalliances with a series of ladies, is that common figure of today's literature: the anti-hero champion of the ordinary life, whose plain decency is contrasted with the theatricality and contrived cruelties of everyone around him. The novel is an attack on the proud intellectualism of over-ratiocinative Jews (and others). "We love apocalypses too much," Herzog decides, "and crisis ethics and florid extremism with its thrilling language. Excuse me. I am a simple human being, more or less."
All Is Dust. But if Herzog is an emotional deadbeat, other characters have plenty of chutzpah. Herzog's wife Madeleine is the perfect man killer with her cold, carnivorous smile, her facial tic and gnawed nails; she strips Herzog of his bank account during the day, ridicules him into impotence at night; after meals she is in the habit of applying her lipstick while gazing at her reflection in a knife blade. Her lover, Valentine Gersbach, is an ex-disk jockey who loves to "yuk it up" with intellectuals, gives Herzog fatherly lectures on how to get along with his wife.
In keeping with the chief character, Bellow's prose is sometimes pudding-soft, mushy and too sweet; but at other times it is as good as anything he has written. In fact, where the novel does not limp, it moves majestically, as in a grimly tender description of the death of Herzog's mother. It is just that Bellow does not seem to be covering any new ground. Toward the end, Herzog reflects: "I look at myself and see chest, thighs, feet—a head. This strange organization, I know it will die. And inside —something, something, happiness . . . Something produces intensity, a holy feeling . . . 'But what do you want, Herzog?' 'But that's just it—not a solitary thing, I am pretty well satisfied to be, to be just as it is willed, and for as long as I may remain in occupancy.' "
There must be more to say than that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Big, Big Tour


Click on the image to go to the website.

St Louis’ only FREE City-wide tour of for-sale residential properties will kick off its 2010 Big BIG Tour on Sunday, March 28, 2010 from 9am to 2pm with the City Living Expo.
The City Living Expo and Big BIG Tour starting point is Compton Drew ILC Middle School, located at 5130 Oakland Avenue just west of the St. Louis Science Center. Compton Drew School is a great central location, allowing attendees to easily explore the Big BIG Tour properties listed throughout the City. Big BIG Tour properties will be open to view between 10am to 2pm on March 28. Specific open house times for each property are listed in the free tour program available for you to pick up at the City Living Expo.

Accompanying the Tour is the very popular City Living Expo located at the starting point. The Expo is a chance for real-estate related services, local businesses, non-profits and schools to connect directly with the home-buying public. To familiarize themselves with the home-buying process, attendees can arrive early to talk with Realtors and architects, review financing options, meet with neighborhood and community organizations, as well as check out information on local schools.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Habitat in Florissant

This SIPS (Structural Insulated Panel System) is tracking LEED Platinum. It sits on an existing foundation and takes advantage of existing infrastructure and site development. The HERS Score (Home Energy Rating System) is in the 40s. On the energy side this home will have utilities about 45% of a typical code-built home of similar size.

uHome uCity

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=lf#!/pages/University-City-MO/uHome-uCity/160658013324?ref=ts

Become a Facebook fan of uHome uCity and keep up to date with the latest design info!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Then and Now in Belleville


West Bound


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Real Estate in University City

Things get around in funny ways on the web these days. This link: http://realestate.yahoo.com/promo/where-home-prices-are-rising came from an HBA Twitter post to a yahoo news thing to a Forbes piece on areas of the country where home prices are rising. U.City is an inner ring suburb and one, in my opinion, where the new rules of lending and the old rules of appraising are still in play and quite dysfunctional. There has to be a middle ground between the Utopian and the Dystopian where things can, more or less, function.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Habitat ReStore

The ReStore had a fabulaous set up at the home show and, I hear, they did quite a bit of business. They had a hip set up, full of info and product. Congrats to them!