Category Archives: Film & Visual Arts

The Big Picture Strikes Back

A.O. Scott wonders how video convergence is impacting film’s distinctiveness from TV and other video media.

Equally hard to refute is the idea that we are approaching a horizon of video convergence, in which all those screens will be equal and interchangeable and the distinctions between the stuff that’s shown on each one won’t seem as consequential as it does now. We still tend to take for granted that a cable drama, a network sitcom, a feature film, a web video and a first-person combat game are fundamentally different creatures, but they might really be diverse species within a single genus, their variations ultimately less important than what they have in common. They are all moving pictures, after all, and as our means of access to them proliferate and recombine, those old categories are likely to feel increasingly arbitrary and obsolete. The infrastructure of a multiplatform future is before us, and resistance to it can look like an especially tiresome kind of sentimentality. Cinephilia is nostalgia. We might keep going to the movies out of habit, or because it’s sometimes nice to leave the house, but we are losing the old, sustaining belief that this is a special and exalted cultural activity, the supreme mode of participation in the popular arts.

Thomas Hawk Ditches Getty Images

Photographer Thomas Hawk explains why he is leaving Getty Images to join Stocksy, the photographer co-op.

I don’t care how you look at it, for me, 20% is not fair. It’s too low. I’ve been complaining about it for years, but have just grumbled along because Getty felt like the only game in town for stock photo sales.

Artists and photographers deserve more than 20% payouts. I understand that Getty has the buyers, that Getty is the 800 pound gorilla, but still, photographers deserve a better split than 80/20 against them.

There are other reasons why I’m quitting Getty Images too, though.

Street Life through the Nanny’s Eyes

Is Vivian Maier the Emily Dickinson of photography? The New York Times in a slideshow of prints from her previously undeveloped rolls says:

Even to those who knew her, Vivian Maier was a cipher. To the children she took care of on Chicago’s wealthy North Shore, she was Mary Poppins, if Mary Poppins carried an old Rolleiflex. To the amateur historian who unearthed thousands of negatives at an auction in Chicago in 2007, she was a revelation: an undiscovered Diane Arbus, whose work captured the grit and elegance of city life.

Takeshi Shikama (WSJ)

In this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, William Meyers briefly reviews Takeshi Shikama‘s exhibition at Alan Klotz Gallery.

Mr. Shikama is a resident of Tokyo who built with his own hands a mountain lodge in a forest with trees he felled. For the past decade, he has sought refuge there to commune with and to photograph nature. Most of these dark, haunted images of trees, woods, fields and flowers are exquisitely printed on 11-by-14-inch hand-coated platinum palladium Gampi paper. The thin, ecru paper is also handmade, and so transparent the images seem to float. Some, like “Mt. Kuromori 6” (2006), show a dense forest, and some, like “Landscape 18” (2009), a lone tree. “Landscape 3” (2009) shows just the shadows of trees. In the “Lotus” series, Mr. Shikama presents this culturally important plant in several aspects; sometimes the flower in different stages, sometimes the leaves, sometimes just the stalks, but always with reverential delicacy.

Paul Fierlinger on Paperless Animation

Animator / filmmaker Paul Fierlinger on why he has made the move to digital (paperless technology).

Paperless technology cuts away the accumulation of physical tasks associated with the handling of paper down to zero.

That’s a lot of saved time! When you think of all the tasks associated with the handling of paper, when you have to unwrap a bundle, punch holes into every single sheet, which you pick up first on your right and lay down on your left, carry the bundle over to your desk, pick each sheet up on your left and after drawing, erasing, flipping cussing and throwing a few sheets into a wastebasket you lay the good ones down on your right. All along you have to carefully number each sheet and record the numbers into your exposure sheet. There’s a lot of erasing and cussing involved in this task too.

You have to gather the finished drawings, carry them over to your copy machine and cuss and sigh as you slowly feed each sheet through the machine which is connected to your computer. This involves the lifting and laying down of the cover – twice per sheet no less – and after you’re done with that, you still have to empty the wastebasket, wipe the eraser crumbs off your desk and pat attention to this: you haven’t seen a single second of your work run before your eyes, connected to your brain, in real time! I mention the brain because you have learned very little from all that work.

This unproductive handling of paper surely takes up more time per drawing than it takes to put a drawing on that sheet of paper. Without the benefit of instant replay and the real time scrubbing that paperless work affords you, your acting and drawing skills improve very, very slowly. When I look back at my old films I see only small improvements from one to another but when I compare each paperlessly drawn film from one to the next I can see huge leaps of improvements. And that’s the answer to your question how to get money for a feature film – you get it only after you make a few good films. It took me fifty years before anyone would trust me with decent funds for a theatrical feature. You younger people have all this paperless technology available to you and so many of you are wasting precious years of your short lives by still drawing on paper. I don’t get it.

On being a great printer

Peter Turnley profiles master printer Voja Mitrovic.

I recently sat down and interviewed Voja Mitrovic for several hours about his experiences as a printer. Several important concepts emerged from this interview. He indicated to me that the three most important things involved in being a great printer are patience, developing a good dialogue and communication with the photographer he is printing for, and knowing how to read a negative. It is most important to know the photographer, to know what he or she wants, and to be able to read the image—like photographers, some people see things, and others don’t! Great printing involves knowing how to choose the right paper, having technical skills, and a strong artistic and aesthetic sense. He feels that it has helped him very much to have been himself a photographer, in order to understand the goal of a photographer.

Young Photographer Breaks the Rules, Finds Success

The New York Times writes about photographer Ted Selby, who is making a name for himself by profiling “cool” people and their personal spaces on his blog theselby.com.

Despite getting work for magazines like Spin and Dazed & Confused, his success was middling. He wanted to do a more personal project; he just wasn’t sure what.

“Usually professional photographers will have a show at a gallery in Chelsea,” he said, “or a photo book from a small art press. That was the traditional way to do it.”

Instead, he took advice from his friend Mark Hunter, who runs thecobrasnake.com, the wildly successful behind-the-scenes party blog.

“I pride myself on marketing,” Mr. Hunter said, “and knowing how to reach an audience and build a following. What I thought would be great for Todd was to create something people would want to share.”

On the Internet, he told his friend, you don’t have to be as selective as at a magazine. Share 20 images instead of one. Break the rules.

Within two months, the site had become so popular that Mr. Selby made it the center of his professional life.

“This is something photographers haven’t caught up to yet,” he said. “When I started in 2001, it was very clear. You start working for magazines, work your way up to the best magazines, the art buyers and art directors see those great magazines and hire you to shoot an ad campaign. Now it’s a totally different game. People who are making decisions about ad campaigns aren’t looking at magazines for inspiration. They’re looking at the Internet.”