Category Archives: Thoughts and Musings

The New Path: More Opportunity than Ever Before

The writing is on the wall: Whether you know it or not, things have changed…

A few weeks ago, I was able to be a part of an interview with Vincent LaForet who is a former New York Times photographer, a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, and more recently known as a HDSLR video pioneer.  It was a very enlightening interview and has made me think a lot about where the photography industry is headed.

Vincent LaForet wrote a blog post about 20 months ago about the fundamental changes that were happening in the publishing and photography industry.  Titled “The Clouds are Falling” the blog post took a very honest look into how the fundamental sustainability of being a commercial photographer, editorial photographer, and photo journalist has changed.   To be sustainable in this industry is becoming harder and harder.

The New York Times also published an article two weeks ago: “For Photographers, the Image of a Shrinking Path,” that dealt with how it is becoming increasingly more difficult for seasoned professional photographers to make a living due to the influx of “amateur” photographers into the market who are willing to work for almost anything.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. The tools for any digital media creative have never been as accessible and affordable as they currently are and this has created a new space for creativity and art through the photographic lens.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article on how the season’s finale of the primetime TV show “House” was exclusively recorded on a few Canon 5D Mark IIs.  “House” usually films with video cameras costing over $50,000, but yet decided on using a few $2,500 SLR cameras to wrap up its season, which happen to also record amazing footage.  The director of the show honestly stated that “this is the future…”  HDSLR video cameras definitely have their limitations, but they are nevertheless powerful tools that make movie-making more accessible than it has ever been before.

I watched Vincent LaForet’s video work before he spoke about it in the interview I sat in on a few weeks ago, and was truly amazed to see the quality of video created using the Canon 5D Mark II.  What I learnt during the interview was that he only had 72 hours of video experience before he created the short film “Reverie”.  Vincent produced the film over a weekend with a few friends, after asking Canon if he could borrow a pre-production 5D Mark II, to which they agreed.  When Vincent first released the film online, it had over a million views in the first 24 hours, and by the end of the week it had been viewed four million times.  By channeling his creativity through a new and accessible medium, a once New York Times photographer with 72 hours of film-making experience became a well-respected film maker, overnight.

Reverie from Vincent Laforet.

Two amazing artists, good friends of mine, are living proof of how the cost of being creative with the variety of easily accessible media available to artists has gone down without the need to compromise what they produce. They aren’t photographers but their story supports this current reality. Aaron and Matt of the LA-based band Window View created their album in their West Hollywood apartment, using a four year old Apple Mac Pro G5 with a hodgepodge of different recording programs. The album “Out of Order” was completely self-produced and featured on iTunes Pick of the Week, and has brought them far more exposure than live shows opportunities.

So what does this all mean? The once clear division between the photography and the film-making industry is not so clear any more. The playing field has been flattened for artists creating in both industries, permitting them to channel their art through more media. Almost anyone with a modest investment and passion to create, can stretch both that investment and that passion to create much more than ever before. This is establishing creativity as the new lingua franca, making it the essential ingredient to stand out and prosper doing that you love best.

And the good news doesn’t quite stop there. Publishing what you create, sharing your art to inspire, challenge, and transform, is also more accessible now – at a far lower cost, if any – that ever before. Regular viewers of my personal website stretch beyond our land to Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia.  I haven’t reached the masses with my work but it certainly is accessible to anyone who wants to see it, wherever they might be. Hence, as an artist, what I ought to be concerned about is what I am creating, what I am communicating through it, and how I can make it stand out.

Take one step further and consider the role Apple’s iPad might have in all this. The opinions on this new device are many, good and bad. Personally I believe that the iPad is going to drastically change the way information and media are consumed.   It will be vital to not solely create great content, but rather to create great creative content that enhances the user’s experience.  The sky is the limit when considering ways how to enhance the user’s experience. Where print media was only limited to what could be printed on a page, an iPad can display almost any type of digital media. Video, photography, and written content have the potential to be seamlessly integrated in an iPhone/iPad app or HTML5 interface.  Millions of users can consume the same content on their iPhones and other mobile devices from almost any location, which continues to stretch that artists playing field.

Change often brings forth mixed feelings of fear and excitement, but I believe that the change that is happening in the photography and film-making industries ought to instill more excitement than fear. No longer do artists have to limit their creativity according to funds available to them. Not to say that financial sustainability does not remain a challenge. Rather, the point is that the number of channels available to artists to create and share their art has never been this high, which ought to instill courage and passion in artists who desire to do more of what they love best.

A Winter’s Break

Over the last month my online presence has been very limited. Beyond the normal busyness of the holiday season, there has been a number of exciting reasons for this. It has been almost too much to keep up with!

Nathalie:

I have been dating Nathalie just short of a month. We met at church back in April. She is doing the same Masters degree at Biola that I was doing last year, but we never had class together. Nathalie is originally from Malta, and wants to work with refugees in the Middle East.

Since I returned from Congo, we have spent more and more time together, getting to know each other better. About six weeks ago, I realized how much I cared for her and began to pursue her. We have had a remarkable first month together. It has been amazing to share life and grow with her, and dream about different things. It has been an amazing journey!

Dane Sanders Photographers:

A little over three weeks ago, I applied for a short-term full-time job with Dane Sanders Photographers . I got hired as an Administrative Assistant at the studio in Newport Beach, but was quickly approached and asked if I would like to manage Dane’s wedding photography business.

Dane is truly a leader in the photography business. He has written a remarkable book on wedding photography, called Fast Track Photographer, which highly influenced my path in becoming a photographer. I attended Dane’s workshop for photographers back in June in Portland, OR, which directed and shaped where I am currently taking my business.  It is truly an honor and a remarkable opportunity to be working for Dane.

Looking Forward to 2010:

I am really excited about what this next year holds, and what is in store for me. I feel as though I am becoming clearer on who I am, and what I want to do. It sure feels as though things are finally coming together…

Counting the Cost and Following Your Dreams…

once

I just finished watching a movie that I have seen a few times before, but this time I watched it with the audio commentary on, listening to both the director and the two lead actors commenting on the movie. It was inspiring to hear the story behind the movie, to learn about the risks that were taken, and the dream of making a movie differently.

The movie is ‘Once’. It is truly unique but it involved a few risks in its making. The first was that the two lead actors, the guy and the girl, are musicians and not actors. The second was that it was shot on a relatively small budget: a mere $160,000. The third was that this movie could be best described as a modern-day musical, which, if you haven’t checked lately, is not the most popular genre of movies today.

But the result is a breathtaking movie with a real-life feel. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová wrote all the songs for the movie and performed them as the lead actors. There are many things about this movie that could have kept it from becoming a success, but by being exceptional and unique and by sticking to his dream and vision as a moviemaker, Director John Carney has managed to come up with a movie that is both beautiful and unique.

The movie was successful, winning at Sundance and also an Academy Award. Not bad for a movie shot on a tiny budget and without “real” actors.

So, why am I writing this? ‘Once’ inspired and encouraged me with what I am starting as both a photographer and as someone who wants to see profound redemption and hope come to the nations through his life. If you haven’t looked, there are not many people who are doing what I am doing. I feel like I am wrestling with questions that few have before me. By doing two things that I love, and following my dreams rather than what others say, I believe that I will be able to do something that I both love but can also make a huge difference. This involves a lot of risk, both monetarily and emotionally. But I believe that the things that are truly exceptional and that make a difference in a world of mediocrity require both the dream and the risk.

So I am jumping off the edge and giving myself to these two things… I am glad you are following me on this journey.