September 29, 2004

Roman Numeral Seven

My photo friend Sara pinged me today with a flash question and as the conversation progressed she spoke of her admiration of photographer Lauren Greenfield. I too am a huge fan and added that all the VII photographers are great. I returned to their site as a reminder of their greatness. It's totally inspiring to me to feel like an amateur. These folks are so good and so immersed in their art that
my little life as a photographer doesn't do that title justice. While the site is kind of annoying in it's navigation scheme, it's well worth perusing once you get the hang of it.

Funny that they would come to my attention again as I struggle with that client and the issue of rights. VII is born of that same struggle. A kind of spin-off of Magnum, these folks are a bright light in a photographic world dominated by Getty, Corbis and corporate ownership.

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September 28, 2004

What price rights?

I am in a debate. Should i take more money and lose the rights to my portraits or less money and maintain some ownership of them? That is the question i am currently struggling with as one of my clients wants me to sign a work for hire agreement. My gut says not to sign away my rights but until i see the price at which they are willing to buy me out, I remain open. Jobs will be lost if I don't sign something soon but I won't sign something that is unfair.

Silly business.

Stay tuned.

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September 27, 2004

I got lucky with Keith Urban

Keith Urban
Keith Urban
Originally uploaded by Clay Enos.
In photographing celebrities there are two things to worry about beyond the photographic issues. Them and their people. My experience has been that the celebs themselves are terrific folks more than willing to cooperate with me. Their people however are a different story. Such was the case with Keith Urban. I had set up a shot that would require a little cooperation with Keith. He'd have to stand still in an elevator while i popped around and made some shots. Simple enough. I set up my lights, got everyhting in order. It wasn't going to take more than 2 minutes to make my photo.

Then along comes his publicist. He tells me "Keith HATES posing" In short, what I had set up wasn't gonna fly. He said, "we'll take a ride in the elevator. Up, down, done." I accepted the challenge.

As Keith entered the elevator i took a few frames of the image i had intended to make then scooted into the elevator for the 6 story ride. This was no ordinary elevator. It was a very cool looking freight elevator that's been made into a bit of a showpiece for the recording studio. As we began moving I noticed that the sun was streaming in and on to Keith's face. I quickly changed my ISO to 200 and went aperture prioirty, slightly underexposing the meter's reading. It worked out.

I got an image that would not have happened under my original plan. A publicist's interference gave me a cooler portrait than i could have otherwise conceived. Flexibility and fast adaptation to new light was all i brought to the scene. Sunlight is the real magician. I got lucky.

Also, I'm still experimenting with blog software. What a facinating world. Today I'm playing with and

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September 22, 2004

I can only wish

I just got out of the movie theatre. I just saw Control Room. I can only wish to make images with the power and poignancy of that film. I had visions of taking my portable studio across Iraq. I'd wear a t-shirt that said simply, "SORRY" on it and I'd make portraits of the people. If I didn't think I'd be killed in the process by an angry Iraqi, I'd be on a plane tomorrow.

There were so many amazing folks in that film. I want to make portraits of them. I look forward to the day when I have a reputation like Annie Liebovitz and I can shoot people of importance (instead of celebrities) and fill albums with these "little people" whose voices matter and whose stories and lives are vital to keeping the human spirit aflame.

Of course most of this country can't see Control Room because it's not playing anywhere near them. Cross your fingers that it wins the Academy Award for Best Documentary.

I am inspired by non-fiction. It is what brings me to portraiture. It is real life meeting contrivance. The people are real, they are themselves, even if they are putting forward something superficial. Then the methods and magic of photography pop on the scene and we are able to see that person anew. Throw in audience interpretation and you have this wonderful triad of humanity, cold technology and subjectivity. And unlike the other modern visual mediums like television or film, time is stopped and given to the viewer to extend as they wish. And they may extend it in either direction yet they always return to that moment of the shutter's grab. It is that fraction of a second that we must linger on that gives photography its power and what is so alluring to me. While one photo may not have the narrative agility of a good documentary, I like that it also privileges composition and quality of light more than film and TV. I accept the artifice of photography as more legitimate than the moving image's. I like that what i felt was too contrived in film and television (hours of take after take and lighting the most mundane things) is legitimate artifice and ultimately an equal partner to the subject matter of a photograph.

We can look at a good portrait and acknowledge that it is a construction and incorporate that into our critique. That doesn't happen as readily with film or video unless you happen to work in the trade. I remember an audio engineer at college who would listen for the edits on NPR broadcasts. His analysis was affected by those technical concerns. He was an exception. Most of us go blindly into the evening news or multiplex. That's all well and good. But when we look at photographs, technique is part of the deal. I like that. No suspension of disbelief. No manipulation. It's part of the art. We photographers, photojournalists included are closer to painters in our attention to the medium. Only exceptional images like Dorothea Lang's Migrant Mother or Gordon Park's Government Charwoman
can get away with being out of focus.

I tell you, blogs are hard for me. I prefer a dialogue. I feel like I am rambling without seeing a person's responses to my jabber. Am I making sense? I hope so. I can feel my thoughts running. More later.

Take pictures.

September 19, 2004


Self Portrait @ Burning Man
Originally uploaded by Clay Enos.
I'd been thinking about adding a blog feature to my website. This morning Andrew Jones tipped me over the edge and i downloaded iBlog. Thoughts no more, I'm giving this thing a try and I can tell you right now, it feels pretty self-centered.

The reason I'd been thinking about blogging about my photography is because there are so many little stories to tell, secrets to reveal, tricks to share and if I'm lucky, people to inspire. By sharing more than just my images, I can use words to hash out issues and explore the meanings behind some of my work. In the end, this is meant to be a simple playful place for sharing. We'll see.

This week I had the pleasure of sharing my Burning Man portraits with all the folks who posed for me. To fill you in, I ended up at Burning Man without preparing as I would have liked. I knew I wanted to make photographs there but had done nothing special to see that happen. As luck would have it, the folks with whom I shared camp had extra PVC pipe and after some lessons in engineering, PlayaStudio was born. Named after my Streetstudio,, PlayaStudio is a temporary photo studio intended to make portraits of random passersby on the flat dusty earth of the black rock dessert aka the playa. It doesn't alliterate as well as Streetstudio but I'm OK with that.

The gift economy that runs Black Rock City and the fantastic folks that inhabit it seemed like a perfect place for me to make portraits. I stuck out my sign reading "Latent Gift Portraits. Pose Now, Email Later" After each person posed for me, I asked for their email addresses. It was my gift, albeit, to be delivered later. That later was this week and boy has it been fun.

Unlike the New York Streetstudio project that was shot on film, PlayaStudio was shot using my Nikon D100 and everyone who posed was able to see themselves. Everyone who gave me an email address was notified (sadly, about 5 of the 250 bounced back due to delivery failure) and the feedback has been a treat. My site traffic jumped and loads of kind words came my way.

Here is a sampling:
"Thanks so much for the gift of pictures. They are exceptional! They really capture the wild/strange individuality of the playa denizens."

"Your work is not only true and stunning, but it is inspiration at its best."

"Charge ME, to support your ART."

"was very gratified to see you're wearing one of my fucking gifts round your neck - specially after seeing the lovely lovely portraits."

"Your photos are simply incredible! I mean all of them. After seeing all of the magnificent creatures on the first three pages, we were wondering how we'd look. We are hot!"

"the photos are as wonderful as it was watching you take them"

"I really enjoyed going through all the other amazing shots of those playa darlings , Thanks-a-Bunch."

"Beautiful to see fellow burners shine so much in nice clean shots (for a change) away from all the visual distractions. Really really nice!"

"I had thought we would just get our own shot but this is much more fun. hope to pose again next year"

See what I mean. People are amazing and burners are particularly so. I was suffiently inspired by the whole experience that i am now in the process of designing and building a mobile/collapsable studio that i can and will be taking to the playa next year and Union Square in New York City next month. Streetstudio is reborn!

Anyway, I've lost track of my direction here and I'm too lazy to edit. Until next time...

Take pictures.