A realistic stock photo of a beautiful beach

A very brief history of stock photography: from fake studio models to authentic backyard scenes

When a brand chooses a stock photograph to represent their desired public image, they’re faced with a “style” problem. The brilliant artist Chuck Close summarized the problem of photographic style like this: “Photography is the easiest medium with which to be merely competent. Almost anybody can be competent. It’s the hardest medium in which to have some sort of personal vision and to have a signature style.” Having a signature style is the essence of branding. When a marketing department develops creative ads for their brand, they want to distill their style into an image, while showing off the best qualities of their products or services. Companies rely on stock photography to shape their image, because as Close pointed out, finding a signature style with photography is difficult. Creative stock photographs are shot by freelance artists and can be bought from online agencies like Getty, Alamy, Shutterstock and more. In the …

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Two Ideas

“Have more than one idea on the go at any given time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I can choose one rather than the other. I ­always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something.” – Geoff Dyer I read Geoff Dyer’s book “Paris, Trance” over the weekend, and came away with a great deal of respect for his writing. Some books you pick up and read a few pages of and think they aren’t going to be great, then 24 hours later you turn the last page and realize you haven’t put the thing down since you started and it’s over. The effect is all the more pronounced when you took a chance on a low Amazon rating (I really can’t comprehend why it only has …

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I guess I like ‘Podcasts’ Now. Here’s a few shows you should check out

I had avoided Podcasts for many years after they surfaced because of what they were called. Words derived from commercial products just seem gross to me. They’re lazy. Maybe I also just didn’t enjoy listening to people yap, instead preferring all the music that became so limitlessly available around 2008. But, times change. For the past few months, I’ve been listening to several ….Podcasts…. (the term still makes me cringe) and gathering information, insight, and entertainment.   Here’s a roundup of what’s been in my queue: Longform Longform has been great to hear writers talk about their craft. It’s an interview show that spends an hour or more asking good writers great questions. So far, I’ve heard Josh Dean, Malcom Gladwell, and Carol Loomis. Listening to Josh Dean sent me careening down the David Foster Wallace rabbit hole, since some of his stories were edited by Dean for the New …

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202 days down, 163 to go

I’m still in the photo-a-day project, more than halfway to 365 pictures. It hasn’t gotten any easier, and the difficulty that’s been creeping in could be due to the repetitive nature of the project, or the wearing off of novelty, or my transition from walking everywhere to spending time in the car, or my continual pull away from photography and toward work, and writing, and home life. The catalyst for this project was thin – it was a cold, wintry Sunday and I felt the need to do at least one thing, other than nurse myself on the couch, after a long Saturday of carousing. So I went for a long walk, took a picture of some trees, and decided on the fly that I would take another picture every day for a year. That was it. No research to start, no browsing through other’s work and finding inspiration, no possible financial reward. Just a …

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on 365 (Inspiration is for Amateurs)

Twenty-four days ago I decided I would take a single photograph every day, for 365 consecutive days. I’m only using an iPhone, and I’m often taking more than one picture, but the goal is a single ‘shareable’ image at the end of each day. Creative people who ‘sit around and wait for the clouds to part,’ as Chuck Close has put it, before they sit down and get to work, are not going accomplish very much. Often it seems easier to believe that the best work only comes in moments of divine inspiration, but as I embark on this challenge I’m finding that routine & persistence is the best way to refine technique and make good work. Knowing that I need to make a photograph at some point during each day is opening my eyes in ways that they weren’t open before, when I was lazily waiting for the right image to coalesce before me. …

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Paris par Deux

I last visited Paris in November, 2011. It is a city I admire and my imagination returns to it often. Despite what the terrorists would have us believe, Paris is a city of love – maybe a cliche, but for many, absolute truth. During my last trip, I walked the city at length. I love the city’s rhythm, and my camera kept finding moments of ‘two’ – two people sharing a small corner of the city, amongst the millions who inhabit it. At a time when Paris is threatened by separation, division, and ideology that seeks to break apart – I want to pause and reflect on these small moments I last saw there, and the unity they represented – simple frames of two people, sharing togetherness, freedom, and fraternity.

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Squares and Dreams

Discovering a balance of visual elements within a defined space is exciting. Driven by the influence of Instagram, most of the photography I’ve done lately has been in a square format, and captured on the fly – pieces of everyday life that I sneak into a symmetry. I go about my routines looking for rhythmic views that I might steal from the disproportionate world. The square nudges me into looking for harmony of dimension, and the scenes I stumble on can occasionally trick me into thinking I’ve escaped the lazy, uninterpreted world… and slipped into a more astral, dreamy place. Images from the last few weeks:

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GoPro… for the Average Joe

My calendar doesn’t have any upcoming skydiving, scuba or surfing adventures, but I’m the proud new owner of a GoPro Hero III camera, and well… I’ve got to do something with it. Their small & easily portable form, rugged accessories, and reputation for being nearly indestructible make GoPro cameras the device of choice for adventure sport athletes, whether they’re trekking up Mt. Everest or scaling skyscrapers in Shanghai. The rest of us can still find ways to be creative with the GoPro. I’ve been using the camera’s time lapse feature to record activities that a typical video wouldn’t capture very well – running, cooking, feeding the cat. Anything that takes thirty minutes, but looks very much cooler when it’s played back in three is fair game. Out of the box, the Hero III comes with a waterproof case, several pieces of mounting hardware, and wireless functionality. Accessories available for purchase …

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Snow from a Phone

I (unbelievably) can’t remember how many times snow has fallen this winter. Seven? Fourteen? Twenty? I’ve been using Instagram to capture the beauty of the season. From nearly 70°F two days ago, to eight (!) inches of snow this morning, watching the deviant flakes fall this St. Patrick’s Day is a fitting way to celebrate the nonconformist Irish spirit. Sláinte!

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