Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Advice to photographers

The other day a young photographer contacted me asking for some advice about going freelance, and what I'm looking for when I commission people for Privateer. Once I started writing, well, I lost track of the time a little and my email reply got pretty long. So long I figured it might be worth sharing on here...
Hey XXX, I think the biggest - BIGGEST - thing for me is getting photographers who have ideas of their own and the wherewithall to actually put those ideas into practice. 
I get quite a lot of portfolios sent to me and they nearly always have great shots, but by and large they expect me to find them a subject to photograph. Generally speaking, if I've got an idea, I'll shoot it myself and save the contributors' budget to spend on something special I couldn't/wouldn't have thought of.

Here's a list of thoughts in no particular order...

1: I commission on the strength of someone's ideas – technically perfect photos of boring/over-done subjects are ten a penny. Original ideas and a unique viewpoint aren't. 
2: Ideas are free, don't hog them. Talking to editors/other photogs about ideas will lead to more, better ideas. Collaborate. Everyone likes an excuse to go for a coffee and talk shit, don't be afraid to give people a call and ask if they want to go for a coffee, it will lead to good things. Working together with writers particularly – having a writer/photographer team that comes to us ready to work together – is a major plus. 
3: Ideas are easy, getting a project started isn't. If you've got an idea for a project or a feature, get it started, even if you only get the very bare bones of it. If you go to a mag like Privateer with the beginnings of a project, we will be able to see the potential in it, and if it looks good he'll commission it and support you for the duration.

4: Do the stuff that interests you. Chances are if you're passionate about something, you won't be happy with "good enough" and you will go the extra mile. That will come across in the work and the way you're able to sell that work to editors, which in turn will get you a good reputation.

5: Show editors the stuff you want to do, not the stuff you've done for money that came out looking good.

6: Don't think that once you've sent your shots in you're part of the job is over, be a control freak and demand to see proofs of how they have treated your work and don't be afraid to demand changes. In fact, if you've got an idea of how you want them to treat your work, send it over with the shots – we quite often get sent sample layouts with the photos. We always laugh at them, but at the same time, it's reassuring that the photographer has thought about the narrative of the story, and I reckon most of the time, the art ed will take that on board. 
7: Keep your edits tight, and only show the best shots. I've had photographers send me 400 images in the past, their whole memory card. If I wanted to be a dick – or I just had really bad taste and a bad eye – I could use the most poorly exposed shots, all out of focus with non-existent composition. That shows a complete lack of care, confidence and competence on the part of the photographer. Only submit shots you'd be happy to show to biggest paying clients – hide the rest on a hard drive, and bury that hard drive somewhere no one will find it.
Erm, I reckon that will do for now. What do you reckon? Anything in there you hadn't thought of? I think the biggest thing is to be proactive, put ideas into practice, socialise and be entrepreneurial about it – you've got to be a salesman as much as an artist.

This isn't really relevant but it looks like a cool movie.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Death on Holborn

Cyclist death on Holborn

This morning a cyclist died on Holborn, just outside the tube station afer being crushed by a lorry. When I came into work late, the police still had the area on lockdown, as can be seen in the photo above.

As I rode past Cycle Surgery onto Holborn a police woman told me to look after myself.

Thanks, I will, I thought. But what are you doing to help?

I've only just started working in this area, so I'm learning the roads and my route to the new office. Last Wednesday was my first ride in. I came along Theobalds Road, and where the traffic turns left down to Holborn, I carried straight on in the bus lane, heading towards Bloomsbury Way. I waited at the lights at the crossing of Kingsway, where a fine fellow spoke to me to warn me that the police were waiting across the junction fining cyclists riding in the bus lane. This bus lane runs contra to the main flow of traffic, but is only about 200m long, and the fastest, safest way to get towards Oxford Street. I thanked the man, got off and walked across the junction.

Sure enough, the cops were waiting on Bloomsbury Way fining cyclists.

Another pedestrian pushing a bike (like me) stopped to ask why they were doing it. "It's busses only" they said. But why? we asked. "Because it's too narrow for a bus to pass cyclists safely, you have to go round."

Going round involves dropping onto Holborn and negotiating four lanes of traffic. I've done it every day since and it makes even me, an experienced cyclist nervous. Motorbikes buzz you, taxis rush red lights to get through and huge trucks obliterate the view. It's hellish.

So it was sad but unsurprising to find a cyclist was killed there this morning. Stupid road planning is to blame, as are the police for enforcing a rule that prevents cyclists using the safer bus lane along Bloomsbury Way. 

The idea that that bus lane is too narrow is hokum: A - show me any bus lane in the land that allows busses to pass cyclists with the amount of space recommended in the highway code; B - it's only 200m long, even a slow moving commuter on a Boris bike won't hold the bus up too long in such a short space.

The fact the police were targeting cyclists on this stretch only five days ago smacks of money grabbing opportunism, the real world safety of the issue be damned. If I wasn't so resigned to the fact that we are second class citizens, useful only as a cash cow to prop up dwindling tax revenues, I'd probably be furious right now. As it is, it's just another depressing day for London cyclists