Friday, August 28, 2009

Theater is Dead?

Have you ever heard that Theater (Theatre) is dead? Natasha Tsakos doesn't think so. She loves theater and is making sure kids love it too. Check out her TED 15 minute presentation and performance, in which she mixes science and art.

"We're not here to question the possible, we're here to challenge the impossible. In the science of today, we become artists, in the art of today, we become scientists. We design our world, we invent possibility. We teach, touch and move. It's now that we can use the diversity of our talent to create intelligent, meaningful and extraordinary work. It's now." -Natasha Tsakos.

Photography is dead? Think again.

PS. Incidentally, I'm starting to collaborate on a play with my son's 5th-6th grade class. More to follow.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Difference Maker 1: Wavy Gravy

Helena Hernandez and Nancy Black put together a beautiful eBook, Difference Makers: Environmental Portraits by Isaac Hernandez, featuring the photographs I was lucky to take with some amazing people, from Amy Tan to Wavy Gravy. The eBook is available for free at

Following the example of other photographers, and using my experience in filmmaking, I created a multimedia presentation with photographs I took of one of the Difference Makers. I dedicate it to Wavy, and my friend Lisa Law, who just completed a full documentary on Wavy, Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Movie.

The sound is a bit rough, since it was recorded for the purpose of transcribing the interview for print (please receive my apologies), but well worth listening. The full interview and photographs are available for publication.

I will be putting together more of these videos, featuring Isabel Allende, Michael Pollan, Tan, etc.

Enjoy, and please comment.

The New Photojournalist

Connor Risch interviews Stephen Mayes, managing director of VII Photo Agency, on PDN Online. It´s a bit long, but full of gold, especially if you´re intrigued about the future of journalism, and photojournalism. Mayes sees the agency turning into a publisher, and the magazines into partners, which makes sense, because the Internet has turned us all into journalists/filmmakers/photographers/publishers, some better than others. How are you going to distinguish yourself?

"When I look at an environment where there’s absolutely too much information, information becomes valueless," says Mayes in the interview. "What everyone is suffering from is that a photograph is just more information. It becomes very hard to put a price on it because there are too many pictures out there, but if you suddenly start rethinking it and saying, “We’re not selling photographs, what we’re selling is believability,” then actually we have more value than we had before. VII offers a benchmark, which now has increased value because of all the information that’s out there."

Kenneth Jarecke thinks that true grit is what will distinguish the new photojournalists, in an essay comparing photojournalists to cowboys, featured in the New York Times. "The photojournalism field is too competitive to enjoy success without giving it everything you’ve got," says Jarecke. "The highest level is filled with people who don’t have a backup plan. If they had, they would have already used it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

d and D get married

I'm joining the multimedia revolution. Watch video at the link.

Real Life

Thank you Glamour for showing us a beautiful real woman in page 194. Over 200,000 people have checked the story of Lizzi Miller, photographed by Walter Chin. Lizzi's even been on the Today Show. Given the great response, will we see more reality in magazines and less... glamour? Excuse the expression. I guess the magazine has shown that real people can be glamorous.

I hope all the magazine editors of the world are listening. Celebrity stories are not the only thing that sells magazines. Real stories sell magazines.

It's sad to see great stories not get published because magazines are afraid that they don't sell ads. Rob Haggart explains it best in his A Photo Editor blog, speaking of a story by Matt Mendelsohn, about Lindsay, who lost all four limbs fresh out of fashion school and now teaches fashion at Virginia Commonwealth University. He was moved to photograph her, even without an assignment, and couldn't get it published in print. Sportsshooter published it online here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Taste of India

Mo McFadden contacted me to be the official photographer for Boxtales' Om, an Indian Play of Good and Evil, to show at The Lobero October 1-4.

I worked on some photos for the poster, together with director Michael Andrews and the rest of the crew. The costumes by Kira Jones and masks by Timo Beckwith will take your breath away.

We had a fun time at the first photo shoot. At this point I cannot show you any more than this picture, for you to get a taste, to dip your toes in the Ganges water of this wonderful production.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Profit Margin

Very interesting piece on profit margin, by my friend Doug Menuez. I quote the introduction from the site:
"So far in his “Seeing Money” column, Doug Menuez has covered several important topics for starting a photo business: getting loans, managing your expenses, and staying on top of Accounts Payable and Receivables (see his blog for more on cash flow and “must pays”). Here he explains why being “busy” is not the same thing as being profitable — and how to figure out which one you are."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How two covers are made: Time vs. Macworld.

Cover creation from Peter Belanger on Vimeo.
I guess there's still a market for professional photographers to make covers. Not all the covers have to be $30 iStock photos. That's what Time magazine paid for a cover photo made by Robert Lam, who didn't even get credit (he was happy about it, regardless). The irony is that the cover was illustrating the New Frugality, or perhaps Time was trying to make a point. I say Time was successful. And the fact that they paid so little has generated hoopla. I'm not going to go into detail about this, as many others have already. Some photographers are upset. I found this explanation by King Kaufman the most balanced.

Like Kaufman says, Time got what they paid for. Macworld got what they paid for, plus a beautiful time lapse video of the process of making a cover, from photographer Peter Berlanger. I bet the editors of Macworld are extremely happy about this video, and the cover. It's called taking care of your client. The video shows the process of photography, post-production and graphic design, with beautiful music by The Brokenmusicbox (who donated the use of the song, but did get credit and a link to their MySpace site). Find more information on the Macworld site.

So what kind of photographer are you going to be? The one that competes with iStockPhoto or the one that goes the extra mile with value added service?

©2009 Isaac Hernandez

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mad Men, fiction vs. reality

A great slide show by Fast Company, featuring the ads of Mad Men versus the real ad campaigns of the late fifties and early sixties. Yes, sometimes, reality is stranger than fiction.

On Being a Photographer and Interventionism

Had the photojournalist not been there with a camera, it would have resulted in these kids not looking into the camera. I exist, therefore I intervene. Photo: Isaac Hernández

I love Photo District News. Yet, I love to disagree with an article in their August 2009 issue, which unfortunately you cannot read unless you're a subscriber to the website, or have the print magazine. But you can see the video/slide show (for free) featured in the story, at Soul of Athens, a website produced by students at Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication and E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

The story in question is titled "A Lesson in Observation vs. Action," signed by David Walker, senior editor at PDN. I quote the introduction: "Photographer Rachel Mummey struggles with her obligation to maintain a journalist's distance while documenting the unplanned pregnancy and abuse of a vulnerable 18-year-old."

I don't get the "lesson". I read the story twice and I still found no moral. Is Mr. Walker's point that we have to be unbiased photojournalists and not intervene in what we document?

In Walker's story Mummey says of her 18-year-old subject, Caeshel Sue Rae Allen, "she thought I was nice and polite to her. She said I wasn't just taking pictures, I was talking to her and trying to help her through it. I guess this is what I had trouble with. I saw things that I thought that were wrong that no one should have to put up with. And it was really hard to create that boundary."

When Caeshel got pregnant by her boyfriend Mark, Mummey offered to document her life during the following nine months. At one point, she was pretty certain that Caeshel was being beaten by her boyfriend. And Caeshel had the words "Property of Mark Anthony Butcher" tattooed on the nape of her neck. "But," Walker writes, "as a journalist, she didn't want to interfere with the story by calling the police to intervene."

The moment one breathes, there's intervention. If you have a camera, you influence people to do things they wouldn't if it wasn't for the camera being there. Isn't Susan Sontag's On Photography required reading at the graduate program of Ohio University, where Rachel studies?

Sontag quotes Diane Arbus on pages 41-42 of the book: "the camera is a kind of passport that annihilates moral boundaries and social inhibitions, freeing the photographer from any responsibilities towards the people photographed. The whole point of photographing people is that you're not intervening in their lives, only visiting them."

It's as if we're having the same conversation from when I went to photography school 20 years ago: If you know a monk is going to set himself on fire, do you not show up to try to stop him, or do you take a Pullitzer Prize winning photo? At what point do you give up on the story? When do you stop being a journalist, and tell the woman you're photographing that she'd be better off not having the baby from a boyfriend that hits her?

As we all become journalists with our blogs and photographers with our cellphones, at what point do we intervene, even if it means not getting the story/video/photo?

Don't get me wrong. I believe in ethics in journalism. There are photographers who have intentionally changed the course of an event, or even "photoshopped" a photograph in order to make the story. I don't agree with that behavior. But I also believe in ethics in humanity. Sometimes you have to follow your heart, stop being a journalist and just be a human being.

©2009 Isaac Hernandez

Are you a TED fellow?

David Elliot Cohen at the EG 2008. Photo: ©2009Isaac Hernández

Apply now to be a TED Fellow at the 2010 TED conference, February 9-13, 2010, in Long Beach, California. If you don't know about TED Talks, it's time you do.

TED Fellows attend without charge and participate in a two-day pre-conference where they can present a short talk or video, attend elite skills-building courses taught by world experts, and share social opportunities and surprise extras.

The TED Fellows program is accepting fellowship applications through Sept. 25, 2009. TED Fellows may apply themselves or be nominated by another person. Follow this link to apply. To nominate a candidate, email

I haven't attended the TED Talks yet, but I was at the EG (Entertainment Gathering), a mini TED, in Monterey last year, as a guest of David Elliot Cohen, co-creator of the photography book series A Day in the Life, and of the beautiful and poignant project, What Matters. And I did attend and photograph the TEDx Hollywood 2009 event, organized by ad man Tito Melega.

The talks from TED and EG get posted online, many of them with subtitles to many languages. And there are plenty of talks about photography. Twenty-one, as of today.

©2009 Isaac Hernandez

A horse and his friend.

As photographers, we dream of traveling to faraway places, documenting for National Geographic and transforming the world with our breathtaking, award-wining images.

But you don't have to go farther than your own home or win contests to make a difference. Sometimes all it takes is photographing a friend and her horse. And you know you made one person happy. That's what I did today. :)

©2009 Isaac Hernandez