Bits and Bytes Bouncing in My Head

Some days, my mind seems hyperactive, bouncing from one thought to another. Is it a mood? A result of caffeine (I haven’t ventured off my norm)? The weather? I don’t know, but I do want to jot down some thoughts careening throughout my cranium today:

  1. Been reading some comments about photo editors and art buyers being tired of viewing portfolios on the iPad. The way I see it is if an editor is hung up on the how I show my portfolio instead of the work itself, then my images aren’t getting it done.
  2. Do blogs and websites routinely post copyrighted written material (say, from a substantiated author), or do they know that’s illegal? If so, why do most claim they didn’t know a photo was similarly protected by copyright? Because they do know, they just mostly try to get away with it.
  3. Five months to receive payment for work done for a large, respected law firm, yet my smaller, relatively unknown clients pay extraordinarily fast. Hmmmmm……
  4. How’s the iPad working out for magazines?
  5. Seems a few years ago the saving grace for photographers hoping to gain assignment work was a quick transition into video. Now everyone seems to be a multimedia specialist and I’m not so sure the quantity of assignment work is measurable for the vast majority.
  6. I enjoy the mix of work I get from non profits, magazines and teaching.
  7. Rights Managed images appear to be licensed for a mere fraction of what they were just a decade ago.
  8. You may not see their work as much in mainstream media these days, but many of my friends and colleagues continue to make meaningful, beautiful and important images.
  9. Met and photographed a well known, award winning author recently. We traded emails and he’s going to read a book I suggested. How awesome is that? Not the typical behavior of the rich and famous.
  10. The Social Media experiment: I’ve been using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for a year now (LinkedIn longer) and as the fine folks a Photoshelter assured in the guide they produced, it works to raise awareness of your work. Like anything, use it responsibly!

The Food on our Plates

In the world of journalism, it’s well understood that timing is a great asset. Time the story right and it will often receive more attention. A poorly timed story will languish in the background of a world of information overload.

With Thanksgiving, the end all holiday for food, upon us the Southern Poverty Law Center released a special report long in the making about women in the food industry. “Injustice on Our Plates: Women in the U.S. Food Industry” takes a look at women toiling in the fields picking grapes and fruit to women across the country working in fields and factories producing food for our consumption. Living on the margins of society and impoverished by most accounts, these women often are victimized in a multitude of ways. From unsolicited sexual advances to unfair labor practices and pay, women in the food industry often suffer out of fear of being outed as an undocumented worker. It’s worth noting that many of the women who I photographed as part of the report are reluctant to complain. Humble and grateful for what they have, it’s not always easy getting the women to open up about abuses.

Migrant woman working Central California field

I spent a bit of time photographing various women in central California who either worked or are currently working in the fields. From the Grapes of Wrath to many other accounts, much has been written about the plight of migrant field workers. But when you see them twisting vines, snapping twigs and yanking oranges, it gives you a new perspective. This is truly tough work. The women, hands offering a contrast of nail polish and hardened dirt, work long hours in tough conditions. And as the SPLC report clearly defines, the wages are low and the workers are destined for a life of poverty.

No matter where you stand on the immigration debate or your political leanings, the next time you pick up some grapes at the store or enjoy a glass of vino at Thanksgiving, just give some silent appreciation for those who picked them.

Give the report a look here. It can be downloaded as a PDF: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/publications/injustice-on-our-plates

One last thing! SPLC is one of the nation’s most diligent non profits working on behalf of those with no voice in society. They have fought the long hard battle for decades dating back to the Civil Rights movement. Please consider donating, even a small amount is helpful. Go here if you can swing a small gift: https://secure.splcenter.org/donations/donate/overview

Veterans Day Honor

Participants in the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego, California

 

In honor of the day we celebrate veterans who have served our country, a gallery of images from a shoot I did for Sports Illustrated last year: http://archive.toddbigelowphotography.com/gallery/Injured-Vets-for-Sports-Illustrated/G0000IdG1YXI4WnE

These vets, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan though also from Vietnam, left an indelible impression on me as true survivors. They had such positive energy and didn’t seem to view their serious injuries as a great burden. What examples of determination, humbleness and appreciation of life.

With love and respect to these fine vets and all those currently serving, or having served, our great nation.

 

Reaching Out to the Next Generation of Photojournalists

I spoke the other day to a group of students at the Greater Los Angeles Press Photographer’s Association about their career expectations. Had a great time, saw a number of my former colleagues, all of whom I respect and admire greatly.

It was a short presentation. I tend to shy away from the quintessential “let me show you my work” approach usually found at these seminars. I remember vividly being in their shoes years ago and having so many questions yet not really knowing what to ask. Speakers at various workshops like the San Jose Mercury News Graphics Conference or the NPPA’s Flying Short courses, to say nothing of the Eddie Adams Workshop that I attended in 1989, would show their award winning work and I would sit and wonder how the hell do I put together a portfolio? In an effort to make things practical, whatever image I projected I talked about the expectations from the assigning publication, the result of the shoot and a few interesting stories associated with the image.

Forty five minutes is a quick presentation and I really wanted to go more deeply into the business aspects of freelancing. I told them that the likelihood of them freelancing straight out of college these days compared to a decade or two ago is quite high. With fewer publications and fewer staff positions, it’s important that the emerging photojournalists not only have multimedia story telling skills, which most universities now offer instruction in, but that they understand how to present a portfolio, how to make appointments and what to expect from the publication. No one knew what a Work for Hire agreement was, though the vast majority of them will be presented one when they seek freelance work from major publications. That’s just a fact of doing business, I told them, and they need to understand what arrangements they are agreeing to. I made a point of not “telling” the students what to do, but instead guided them to seek an understanding of contracts, licensing and income avenues that’s necessary to stay relevant in the freelance market.

I like the chance to give back a bit especially when it involves helping younger photographers find their way. I was there once and had wonderful mentors and friends guide me into the freelancing world. It’s only right I do the same for others when given the opportunity.