Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Required Reading: On Media and Myths of the Internet


“But people made the same complaint about comic books, they made the same complaint about paperbacks, and they made the same complaint about the vulgarity of the printing press. Whenever you let more people in, things get vulgar by definition. And people who benefited under the old system or who dislike or distrust vulgarity as a process always have room to complain. But, the interesting thing is, when you say so many people believe this, in fact almost no one believes this, right? There’s a tiny, tiny slice of the chattering classes for whom “Life was better when I was younger” is an acceptable complaint to make, and they have these little conferences or whatever and agree with one another about that phenomenon. But when you look at the actual use of the Web, it is through the roof. And it has continued in an unbroken growth from the early ’90s until now. So, in fact, almost everybody thinks it’s a good idea because they’re embracing it and they’re experimenting with it and they don’t really care what we think.”

—-

“If you took the contents of an average Barnes and Noble, and you dumped it into the streets and said to someone, “You know what’s in there? There’s some works of Auden in there, there’s some Plato in there. Wade on in and you’ll find what you like.” And if you wade on in, you know what you’d get? You’d get Chicken Soup for the Soul. Or, you’d get Love’s Tender Fear. You’d get all this junk. The reason we think that there’s not an information overload problem in a Barnes and Noble or a library is that we’re actually used to the cataloging system. On the Web, we’re just not used to the filters yet, and so it seems like “Oh, there’s so much more information.” But, in fact, from the 1500s on, that’s been the normal case.

So, the real question is, how do we design filters that let us find our way through this particular abundance of information? And, you know, my answer to that question has been: the only group that can catalog everything is everybody. One of the reasons you see this enormous move towards social filters, as with Digg, as with del.icio.us, as with Google Reader, in a way, is simply that the scale of the problem has exceeded what professional catalogers can do. But, you know, you never hear twenty-year-olds talking about information overload because they understand the filters they’re given. You only hear, you know, forty- and fifty-year-olds taking about it, sixty-year-olds talking about because we grew up in the world of card catalogs and TV Guide. And now, all the filters we’re used to are broken and we’d like to blame it on the environment instead of admitting that we’re just, you know, we just don’t understand what’s going on.”

-Clay Shirky (part two here)

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 6:16 am  

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Strange Tests


I found these two on a roll from last spring. I was testing the 580ex flash on my Mamiya 645 afd. It seemed to work alright, especially when metered. Most of the shots are pretty boring, but these are a little extra weird because I was working on the Exposure Therapy project at the time. Bonus Chair-Leg.





posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 7:03 pm  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Huge Website Update


A whole bunch of stuff. I’ll talk more about it later, I think I just stayed up till 9am.

Short of it: Complete photos from books online (Even my new, as of yet unprinted Gray Days), Mary’s Republic Gallery, seperated photo sections, combined words into new upcoming zine (page not working yet), and some coding, organization changes. A lot of the actual jpgs are new, some need to be retouched because I resized from the wrong source files, etc. Major work in progress.


But check it out and let me know if you find something HORRIBLE!

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 10:07 am  

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Welcome Friends


posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 4:49 am  

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Entopic Group Show: Far Between


Group Exhibition: Far Between

Nils Orth, Daniel Szymanowski, Kasey Andrews,

Olivia Locher, Thomas Macker, Stephanie Kwak, Ian Aleksander Adams

Curated by César Rodrigues, David Arantes and João Gigante.

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 5:20 pm  

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What’s to Gain With Working for Free on the Internet?


This is old news: a lot of creatives are worried about the internet. They’re worried that they are losing control over their work and that they will lose control over their income. They should be worried, of course, the same old business models might not work anymore. At the same time, there are so many opportunities out there that didn’t exist before, and just like putting in a little time in a local community based arts initiative, putting in some time on the internet can net some serious gains.

Every artist knows about fighting to get by. We don’t have an employer health care system and we don’t have an hourly wage. Sometimes it’s easy to be cynical and bottom line everything to the mouths you have to feed (now or in the future.) It’s important to remember that most other people in your field have similar problems, and a little intelligent cooperation can benefit everyone. If we get past the fear associated with competition and see the strength in working with others, there’s a lot to gain.

I’m going to have to deal with this from the perspective of a photographer, though I know a lot of the concerns are applicable to different types of art. Much of this fear is specific to our times – there are those that tell us that they could take the same digital photo with their new camera or think they are a digital artist just because they know some photoshop filters. It’s that fear that usually would stop us from helping a newcomer to town set up a photo store right next door. We then think it extends to helping someone set up a website. Except it doesn’t – artists are very rarely direct competition online.

Just because someone has a website does not mean they’re going to take traffic away from you (unless they unfortunately share your first and last name.) In fact, setting up a community of websites can do a lot to further the causes of an artist. This can be seen particularly in the photographic community where bloggers constantly support each other’s projects. Zoe Strauss, for example, released a book this week called America: We Love Having You Here, and it’s already been featured in several blogs. Just by linking back and forth with periodic posts to each other’s projects, photographers drive traffic around the web in surprising numbers.

It could take less than a minute to make a post of work you like and it’s easy for the recipient to see where the traffic is coming from. Getting involved with discussions, sending a few jpgs in emails, and continuously linking to good work can help you as much as it helps the community as a whole. Everyone loves getting featured and everyone loves seeing new art.

Personal websites and blogs are only the first step. Once you’ve got a good personal presence, then it’s a good time to make sure you’ve got a bit of a social networking presence as well. A lot of people do this backwards – they get a MySpace and put it on their business card “temporarily.” This is a mistake, as that business card is a physical object – there is nothing temporary about it. Domains can cost less than ten dollars. Buy an easy to remember one that you probably won’t change – yourname.com is always a classic – and stick with it. Then build your Facebook or Myspace profiles, with a prominent link to your domain.

The objective here is to participate in community while driving traffic back to your website – not compete with your website for attention. You can use these profiles to communicate with other professionals and fans, but it’s not the place for your portfolio. It’s great to have – a lot of galleries, contests, and art fans have them and you can get a steady stream of invites to art functions and competitions while sending out invites to your own events. Some speakers I’ve heard have said they’re always unprofessional – but if it’s good for MOMA and Jen Bekman, I’d say it’s good for you too.

For a lot of people, this is probably going to be the extent of online community building. For some, it’s just the start. If you’re comfortable with your small corner of the web – your personal website, blog, and social networking pages – you might want to start branching out and run some community projects. It isn’t for everyone, but some donated time can help a lot of fellow artists, be a really educational experience, and have some visible benefit for yourself as well.

One person who has talked about how free projects can help revitalize the photographic community is the prominent photography industry blogger Rob Haggart. He started his tell all blog A Photo Editor (APE) while working for Men’s Journal and Outside Magazine. The blog often discussed the changes in the industry caused by online distribution. He put his money (well, time in this case) where his mouth was when he decided to create and curate a free folio of work online.

The goal of this project was to create a Blackbook like database of work without the work displayed being based on the money put in – his theory was that the editorial industry was losing out by looking at books controlled by the amount of money the creatives had to advertise themselves instead of the quality of the work. The final selection is now up at FolioBrowser.com.

I contacted Rob to ask him how the project turned out for him. He told me that he saw the free projects as “experiments.” He continues, “I wanted to see how difficult it would be to assemble and if it would work. It’s interesting though because when you’re thinking free you know it’s not going to be perfect…” Since he didn’t want the design to look cheap and unprofessional – “That’s a huge mistake” – he says he ended up getting a business partner involved to bring it together. “Ultimately I proved that something like that can be very useful. Lots of people found photographers and lots of photographers got jobs because of it.” There was a business benefit for Rob as well: his partnership evolved into a new company at APhotoFolio.com that builds portfolio websites for photographers.

Since I’ve participated in his FolioBrowser project, I’ve seen a few good hits from the site myself – visitors that stayed longer on the site compared to visitors from many other sources. We talked a bit about how it benefits photographers to have their images available to browse through on such projects: “Yeah, the idea is that the photographers are vetted first so you know the results are good. Then there’s a preview image so you know when you visit it’s because you’re interested in the photographer to give them a job and that leads to an extended visit.”

The FolioBrowser project succeeded in part because of Rob’s prior success as a photo editor and blogger. You don’t have to be well known, though, to start a community based project. Lindley Warren is a young photographer currently located in the Netherlands and her project started mainly as a collaboration between herself and other young photographers she knew on Flickr.

It was called The Ones We Love, and had a simple guideline on a simple website: “Each artist contributed six photographs of the person(s) who is most important to them, taken outdoors in a natural setting.” The work was beautiful and people passed the website around the internet, crashing it a few times, and many more photographers submitted images through the email on the website.

After being featured on Wired.com and with JPG magazine possibly doing a print feature, a little time spent putting together some community images seems to have gone a long way. I asked Lindley what she learned from the project and how it’s benefited her personally. She tells me “One thing I’ve learned about myself though is that I’m obsessed with how text and images relate. I love having people say things through their photos — with some way of words. I’ve found I want these people’s image to actually speak and say something– to somehow be valuable.”

However, she says “it has been annoying at times” because she’s so overwhelmed with emails trying to submit – “I became really jaded for a while, but I just had to take a break for a bit and just ignore emails more or less for about a month.”

She mentions “As far as my own publicity, I’m not really sure … It was funny to see my name in Elle magazine, it was the first time anyone here where I lived seemed interested in my project or thought it was something cool.” She may be underselling herself, as TheOnesWeLove.org is the top result for the phrase on Google, outperforming album names, and several more We Projects are currently underway, including Where We’re From already online.

These two free-entrepreneurs are the tip of the iceberg, of course. The beauty of the internet is that your project doesn’t need to take any particular form. FlakPhoto.com is a complex rotating gallery showcase created by Andy Adams. Women in Photography (at wipnyc.org), started by Cara Phillips and Amy Elkins, uses a simple one post per page blog format to feature curated solo shows of work. Noel Rodo-Vankeulen’s photography blog We Can’t Paint recently expanded to include an online photography magazine, Wassenaar and a gallery where he features other photographers work along with his own.

These people, all photographers themselves, are prominent members in an online community dedicated to supporting the art by supporting each other. There are no fees to submit to their websites and no fees to view them – but growing the community as a whole benefits everyone involved.

It all comes back to a philosophy described by Rob Haggart in our interview, one about sharing your images as much as possible instead of restricting them to one specific physical gallery or internet site: “[The internet is] massive and you need to place yourself for casual encounters.” You could try and email a link to your website to everyone who you think might be interested, but it’s not as effective.

He continues, “Everyone knows how to get into someone’s face with their work but how do you get someone to run into you? Because that’s a more powerful experience. The only way is to do projects that will be distributed and participate in all manner of sites that are right for your work because in this day and age you never know where a client may come from and sometimes consumers can turn into clients.”

Posted, along with full text from interviews, at CMYK Magazine Blog

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 5:02 pm  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Two Interviews – Rob Haggart and Lindley Warren


Here are a couple of tiny interviews I did for a paper/article with Rob Haggart of A Photo Editor and Lindley Warren of We Projects (The Ones We Love, etc). If the article doesn’t end up in print, I’ll direct you to it online, but for now, here are the interviews.

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Interview with Rob Haggart

Via Email

IAA: I remember the blog comments, but it’s been a little while since you did your folio project, so I’d like to hear if there has been any significant response since then. Obviously you’re continuing to think about digital presentation of work, since you’re now working with a team on your photographer portfolios project. Was that a direct result of your free project?

RH: The free projects are experiments. I wanted to see how difficult it would be to assemble and if it would work. It’s interesting though because when you’re thinking free you know it’s not going to be perfect but then the design and way it looks makes it seem cheap and unprofessional and that’s a huge mistake so I ended up getting my business partner involved to make it better. Ultimately I proved that something like that can be very useful. Lots of people found photographers and lots of photographers got jobs because of it.

IAA: Also, has there been a noticeable benefit to any of the photographers included? From my own website stats I know I’ve gotten a few hits from the site, and they tend to visit for a relatively large amount of time. I’m not sure if that’s the average result, perhaps you’ve heard back from others. Do you think a specifically targeted low hit amount with a large amount of time spent on the site is a standard result? And is this what you hoped for? Worse, better?

RH: Yeah the idea is that the photographers are vetted first so you know the results are good then there’s a preview image so you know when you visit it’s because you’re interested in the photographer to give them a job and that leads to an extended visit.

IAA: I’m hoping to encourage people to continue to run projects, and show it can be beneficiary to themselves (in terms of exposure and knowledge – I know I’ve learned a lot from looking at and selecting from work) and their peers (encouraging community participation and creation of new work).

RH: My philosophy with the internet with regards to reaching consumers and clients is that it’s massive and you need to place yourself for casual encounters. Everyone knows how to get into someone’s face with their work but how do you get someone to run into you because that a more powerful experience. The only way to do projects that will be distributed and participate in all manner of sites that are right for your work because in this day and age you never know where a client may come from and sometimes consumers can turn into clients.

Interview with Lindley Warren

Via Email

IAA: I was wondering how the We project had gone for you. You’ve offered your time and webspace for free to feature other’s work. Has it been educational? Or even good for your own publicity? It’s wonderful to do projects for the kicks, but even cans of beans add up (not to mention film costs). I know I’ve had to cut back on my installation work to have a couple shows where stuff was actually for sale, to try and fight a little of my school debt. Let me know any thoughts you might have.

LW: We Projects has been great…I mean, it must’ve been somewhat great if I’m just now starting another project..that isn’t even part of We Projects for that matter. One thing I’ve learned about myself though is that I’m obsessed with how text and images relate. I love having people say things through their photos– with some way of words. I’ve found I want these people’s images to actually speak and say something– to somehow be valuable. It has been annoying at times, to get a ton of e-mails from people and to not really like any of the photos that people want to submit– I became really jaded for a while, but I just had to take a break for a bit and just ignore e-mails more or less for about a month. However, for The Photographic Dictionary I’m going to be working with another photographer, Mick van de Wiel, to get submissions and manage the site- which makes it fresh and exciting to not be doing this project alone. As far as  my own publicity, I’m not really sure. I mean, some people around the internet and such probably know my name because of We Projects…however, I haven’t worked very much at all on my personal photography work in the past year, so I don’t know as far as that goes. It was funny to see my name in Elle magazine, it was the first time anyone here where I lived seemed interested in my project or thought it was something cool.


posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 4:33 am