Failing Harder


Just coming off of two awesome days with the stomach flu.  The stress of too much going on finally knocked me down.  I had some time on the couch to read and write and to try to figure out where we are all heading on this crazy photo train.   This is welcome at a time when I am updating my print portfolio, website, marketing materials, and my overall approach to my career.

I’m still as excited as ever to be a photographer, or as some are now calling themselves, a “visual artist.”  But lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with the number of choices out there.  Everything just feels so fragmented and uncertain.

Right now I am most interested in pushing my photography to a new place, hopefully a new place that no one has visited yet.  How to go about doing this, I’m not sure.  It all starts with the first step of just getting out there to make something, and as Dan Weiden says, “fail harder.”  Doing something exceptionally well is almost easier than doing something really, truly, collossaly, bad.


Of course for all the optimism about the endless possibilities, there are some very real things happening in the world that are not good for photography as we know it.  Newsweek sold the other day for $1.  No that’s not a typo.  It sold for 2 quarters, 3 dimes, and 4 nickels.  Signs of the changes to come don’t get any clearer than that.

Neil Burgess, the former head of MAGNUM, has declared that photojournalism is dead.

If we look at the photo world as a big pie, it’s pretty clear that the photojournalism slice was pulled out, eaten, thrown away, or just went bad.  Which means less pie to go around.  It’s clear that people are working on ways to bake a bigger pie, and even new pies in crazy new dishes.  But none of them have really turned out yet.  It’s just a bunch of mad chefs in the kitchen trying a bunch of weird recipes.  (see pics above)

I canceled my NYT subscription a while back, as I was just feeling badly about all the paper that was piling up in the recycling bin each week.  Ink on newsprint just looks so antiquated and inefficient when it’s stacked 2 feet high.  Now I check in on the website, which (for now) is free.  The magazine has done a few really beautiful interactive pieces that seem like logical next steps for how photography will live on in the editorial world.  Here are a few of my faves:

Joachim Ladefoged (shooter of VII) made this short while on assignment in the Netherlands for a story on a soccer school.  I love how each shot is less like a video, and more like a moving still.  Carefully composed, without any voice overs or music, or the other stuff that we’re “supposed” to cram in there.  It’s really beautiful as it is, and adds to the richness and reality of the visual experience.

Another cool example is this still life study of the soccer balls that have been used in the World Cup.  Nicely shot, and assembled in a way that makes it fun to look at.

And this last piece on Mariano Rivera, which is more of a CGI / motion graphics piece, but pretty amazing.  This looks insanely expensive to produce, but it’s also really engaging and interesting.

This gives me hope for photography, and for the editorial world.  And the opportunites to collaborate with pros from other parts of the visual world.  But we seem to be stuck in this in-between space right now, where the platforms for the content, and the readers, and the advertisers are not where they need to be in terms of volume or efficiency.

Pictures (whether moving or still) are the new words.  And that the demand for imagery will continue to grow, as will the demand for those images to communicate powerfully and clearly. 

So let’s hope that some of these recipes work out, and that someday there will be a bigger, more delicious pie for everyone to enjoy.

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