Do you remember your first time? Your hajime? First romance. First true love. First camera.
Hajime translates from Japanese to mean beginning. When Japanese meet for the first time they commonly say Hajime mashite which expresses the same feeling as, “Nice to meet you” but literally means, “Our relationship begins” as much as, “We are meeting for the first time.”
My first real camera was a Yashica. That was my hajime.
A Yashica Minister III with 45mm f/2.8 lens, to be precise. It was a squat, fat lens that had a row of selenium cell metering sensors surrounding it like a cheap pearl choker. I bought it at the Osco Drug Store in downtown Terre Haute, Indiana for $59. The salesman’s name was Tracy Page. I remember because a hundred years later, while living the wonderful life of a Minolta sales representative, a life I couldn’t even possibly begin to imagine as a college student, I met Tracy at Galloway Photo. Chuck Galloway became my friend and a staunch Minolta dealer in the early years.
That $59 equals more than $350 in 2017 money. To put things in perspective, one semester hour of college credit at the university I attended cost $32 my freshman year. The price tag is $304 today. I couldn’t afford it, not by any stretch. I did not come from a family with means. The only automobile in the family was the one I had purchased working as an industrial painter-sandblaster during the summer. Fortunately, I was able to graduate from college on scholarships and summer employment.
The camera came with an ever-ready case that had a permanently attached top cover. I paid a shoemaker $1 to replace the rotating rivet with a snap so that I could leave the top of the case at home and look more professional. I had an empty metal film canister fastened to the strap with electrical tape. When possible, I kept an extra roll of film there, just in case.
That Yashica Minister III was dear to me. There was no way I could have known that it had been discontinued a few years earlier and sold on close-out to drug stores. I was not yet a camera snob, so the Yashica brand was not something to be reviled as a camera fit only for amateurs. Although that notion was suggested to me during my college career.
A student activist made an unannounced appearance on campus and our school newspaper had no one to cover it. I had a roll of Kodak Panatomic-X loaded in my Yashica, a slow ASA 32 film, and the visitor was speaking inside a marginally lit cafeteria. I leapt into the breach and photographed the event despite the dim conditions. I couldn’t afford to change to ASA 400 Tri-X and waste a valuable roll of film.
I notified the newspaper editor that I had captured the radical on film. They developed my roll – “souped it” as they called it – and ran the photo I shot without a byline. The anarchist’s right hand was blurred as he thrust it into the air. It was unintentional, the consequence of a too-slow shutter speed, but I kind of liked it. It had the Robert Capra look. That was a beginning, too.
The newspaper staff photographer asked me what kind of camera I had used. I showed him. He snickered and said he shot only with “Knee-kon” which I later learned was customarily pronounced “Ny-kon.” He then lamented that he had to drive to Chicago and visit Altman Camera to buy more lenses before the prices went up again. I could not comprehend the idea of being able to buy more equipment for such a flimsy reason. Nor could I understand that I was presumed to be less of a photographer because I had a $59 Yashica instead of a $350 Nikon F.
I didn’t keep the Yashica for long. Before graduation I found a Leica IIIa with a 50mm f/2 Summar lens at a junk vendor on Chicago’s then-famous Maxwell Street weekend outdoor shopping bazaar. I paid $10 for it, fully realizing that I could never again say that I was never lucky. Another Leica followed: a two-stroke M3 and later an original Leicaflex. Eventually I added a secondhand Nikon F with 24mm f/2.8, 105mm f/2.5 and 50mm f/3.5 Macro Nikkor lenses.
I used nearly every flavor of Minolta camera ever imagined during my long tenure of employment at MC which ended as Vice President of Marketing. I like to say that I was hired when the SRT-101 was being phased out, and I was phased out when Minolta was cruelly sold to Konica.
With all modesty, I can say that I was instrumental in the development of the digital camera world we live in today. I was part of the very small team that developed and marketed the original Quickscan film scanners, the revolutionary RD-175 three-chip digital SLR, and ultimately the DiMAGE series, which began with the Dimâge V.
Funny story: We were exhibiting at the Consumer Electronics Show, introducing the Dimâge V to the world for the very first time. It was another beginning. The lens could be detached from the body and used while tethered by a 1-meter cable. To promote the concept, I created the tag line, “Wait until you see what Minolta pulled off,” meaning, of course, that we’d managed to pull the lens off the camera body.
We had one physical sample on the first day of CES, and it didn’t work. More were due in from Japan, being carried by factory people who were attending the show. But they wouldn’t arrive in Las Vegas until late afternoon. We’d hired a presenter to tell the Dimâge V story but I couldn’t trust her with a fully nonfunctional camera.
So, I demonstrated the defective Dimâge V camera on stage continuously for five hours without taking a break and without letting anyone in on the secret that the camera I clutched didn’t work.
The thrill of that moment was surpassed in 2001 when we won the DIMA Award at the PMA show for the DiMAGE 7, the world’s first 5-megapixel digital camera. But that’s a story for another time.
I do not know the Japanese word for final as in final camera, or the last camera I will ever want to own, the one that does everything. I own some mighty fine cameras that have enough features to last the rest of my life, but I don’t want them to be my last camera unless fortune and circumstances make them so. I don’t want to reach the conclusion of my quest for camera equipment any more than I want my love for photography to ever dim. Cameras are responsible—directly or indirectly—for every good thing that’s ever happened in my life. And looking back, it’s been a pretty good show.
As the Vice President of marketing, Minolta Camera USA from 1975 to 2004, Jon Sienkiewicz has been a voice in the photo industry for longer than he cares to admit. Future installments of Industry Focus will contain Jon’s insights into the present, and predictions for the future, of photography and the industry that surrounds it.
Finding and Writing Grants for Working Artists
How can a photographer get a grant, and what kind of photographs do you have to take? This article will explain it and give you resources to finding and writing your first grant proposal.
The images for this page are from a young professional photographer who goes by the moniker, Shiva, for his art work. His images reflect some of the core issues in photography. Like most photographers, Shiva must decide whether to sell images or find funding for these images, photo excursions, materials and more. How does an artist-photographer create an income?
Believe it: a simple Google search can be incredibly helpful. Most grants come from non-profit organizations, so pay attention to the web address; while not a hard and fast rule, more likely than not, most foundations will have a “.org” website as opposed to a “.com.” If you are unsure about a site, do your due diligence before sending information or money.
Another excellent resource for searching grants is The Foundation Center, nonprofit which advances awareness of philanthropies around the globe. From their homepage, you can search any topic you can think of to source pre-vetted grant foundations without worrying about their legitimacy. Another such resource, Praxis Center for Aesthetic Studies of which I am a founder, offers an extensive resource page where you can find open calls, residencies, and of course, grants. The page is curated regularly and I highlight a few opportunities each week.
Of course, it’s no secret that you will not get every grant you apply for, so while quality is key when submitting a grant, quantity also plays a significant role. The actual writing of a grant is an acquired skill, and over time you will become more comfortable with the process. That said, if there is one thing that can make or break your application before you are even out of the gate, it is failing to read through your grant and follow the instructions to the letter. If your grant asks for a 500-word statement explaining how your work relates to the mission statement of the foundation, do not under any circumstances fail to deliver exactly this. Be sure you know the grant inside and out and do not fail to submit exactly what you are being asked for in a timely manner. The fastest way to be out of the running is to fail to follow instructions, and every grant is different.
That being said, not every grant will be right for you. Perhaps your work simply doesn’t relate to the mission statement of the foundation offering a grant you may have found. That is okay, and it is better for you to move on than to try fitting a square peg into a round hole.
As a working artist, finding and writing grants must be part of your regular practice. You must give it some level of priority, because this is a true part of any artist’s bread and butter. Once you get started, and once you begin to feel more comfortable with the process, you will be finding and writing grants on your own, and won’t even remember why that ever seemed so overwhelming in the first place.
Brainard Carey is an artist, educator, and author. He has written three books for artists on developing their professional careers. He hosts a radio series on Yale University radio where he interviews artists, curators, and writers. He also founded Praxis Center for Aesthetic Studies, which offers classes for artists to develop their careers, from finding a gallery to writing a grant.
Focus On Marketing
The days of meeting clients face to face are dwindling, now that social media has taken over as the number one marketing platform for growing a successful photography business. So, if social media is so hugely important, why do so many photographers continually get it wrong?
All too often, photographers don’t fully understand the concept of social media. But when you begin to explore the concept, it’s not that hard to get your head around. The clue for a start is in the name—social media.
Advertising has changed dramatically; we must no longer be set on trying to sell to our prospects, and this is where social media differs from printed press advertising. To sell on social media, you must first earn the trust of your followers. Engage with them using informative and useful content that they will like and interact with. That, quite simply, is the “social” part of social media. First build a following by earning viewers’ trust, and in return they will develop an admiration for your brand and become your loyal community of prospective customers. Once you have a loyal following, they will buy from you, review you, recommend you, and share your content with their own following of social media friends.
Now that you understand the first rule (don’t oversell) you are ready for the second: be sure to post content that is relevant to your social media audience every single day. I find it a lot easier to do this by scheduling my posts on Facebook every Monday for the full week ahead. To some photographers, that may sound like a lot of posting, but don’t worry; it doesn’t have to be strictly your original content. In fact, far from it. Try sharing other content from the Internet, but always add a few lines of your own comments above the shared article. For instance, if you are a wedding photographer, you could share someone else’s post of the latest trends in wedding table decorations or amazing ideas for themed wedding cakes, adding a few of your own suggestions.
Another great way to enhance engagement is to start a good debate on your page by asking a question. I once uploaded an image of two wedding cakes and beneath it wrote, “I’m a traditionalist myself; you can’t beat a good fruitcake at a wedding. What do you prefer, fruit or sponge?” It was surprising how much interaction this comment caused. The brides on my page were certainly passionate about their preferred style of wedding cake!
Don’t give in to the temptation to upload too many images in each post. For maximum engagement, try uploading two or three images from, say, the bridal preparation on the wedding morning, and tell a story about those images. People love stories on social media, and by tagging the bride and her bridesmaids in the photos, you’ve created an immediate audience. Tag the venue in the post along with a compliment, and again you’re creating a second generation of audience. The following day, you can upload a few more images from the same wedding, perhaps this time from the ceremony, telling another story about that part of the day. As before, tag the guests in the photos. Feed your audience with small, bite-sized chunks, and at the end of each post, you can say, “more to come tomorrow, so be sure to keep following.”
To really boost your page and website with search engines, try adding a few keywords to the bottom of your post along with your website address. For example, “fine art wedding photography New York, www.yourwebsite.com.” This way, every time your post is shared, Google recognises that as a piece of authority for your website. The more authority you receive, the higher the search engines will rank your website and social media pages.
Earlier we discussed posting relevant content on your page. Never forget who your audience is, and write for them and them alone. The second biggest mistake photographers make on social media is not posting their entire content to just one audience. Use the “Insights” tab at the top of your Facebook fan page to gain an insight as to the demographic of your current audience. To do this, select “Insights” and then navigate to the “People” tab on the left-hand side bar. Here you can find useful information about the age, gender, and locality of your audience. For example, on my own wedding photography page, I know that my audience is 92% female aged between 22-34 with the majority living in the Northeast of England.
Over the years, I’ve grown to know my audience; for instance, because of my pricing bracket I find a lot of my followers will react to posts about fine dining, country getaway breaks, or romantic holiday destinations. They are also interested in fashion and designer brands, and I can always guarantee likes and shares if I post content about pets or newborn portraiture. In contrast, commercial photography would likely be of no interest to my audience whatsoever, so why would I post it?
Should you wish to showcase your commercial or fine art photography, LinkedIn is the ideal forum to do so. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, now is the time to create one. The more niche you can make your profile and the more targeted your audience, the greater the results you’ll achieve.
I personally work with hundreds of different clients from many industries around the world, helping them turn their marketing around and grow a large and profitable following of clients via social media. However, on LinkedIn I market my marketing and mentoring services to photographers alone. In fact, because I choose to ignore everyone else and niche my profile and content solely to marketing photography, the results have been nothing short of amazing. Each month I receive hundreds of messages from photographers who are keen to turn their business around and want to learn about my services.
To really work your magic on LinkedIn, you must be totally niche as mentioned previously. This could be great if, say, you are a wedding photographer, but you also offer commercial photography service. Keep your wedding photography on your Facebook page and build your LinkedIn profile around your commercial photography only. But you can go even deeper than that.
LinkedIn works much better when you can target a market directly. For example, if you’ve a passion for cars or a good portfolio of work based around motor dealerships, then consider photography for the motor trade and base your entire profile around this niche, and become the “go-to person” for this kind of photography. Post only content and images based around the motor industry; classic cars, motorsports, enthusiast rallies and such, and connect with as many people as you can in this market. This could be dealerships, manufacturers, race teams and sponsors. Just make sure you connect with the decision-makers, such as the MDs, managers, and business owners. You can also target enthusiasts, private collectors, and owner clubs and groups on LinkedIn as well.
To be a real success with social media, your first step is to consistently post interesting and informative content that your audience will love, always go niche and write for your audience alone and no one else. Once you’ve built up a following, analyse your audience to allow you to further refine the content you choose to share. Be sure to post daily, and only ever post one sales post for every seven to ten info posts. Build trust before trying to sell to your audience, and encourage your followers to leave five-star reviews every time they use your services.
Jeff Brown is a professional photographer and marketing consultant living in the UK. For more than 15 years, he has helped others by combining his knowledge and experience into an information-packed Skype Success Mentoring and Marketing Masterclass for photographers who are serious about turning their hobby into a success story. For more information and to learn how Jeff can help you develop a winning marketing strategy, email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more ideas, check his LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/jeffbrownphotographymarketing.
Social Media Isn’t So Social
If you haven’t been enlightened or understood the unfathomable possibility, it is time for an awakening into the most wrongfully termed two-words ever coined — Social Media. This world of communication is not social until the magical depth of engagement occurs. Until then, this act of sharing photography, films, ideas, is publishing.
Social Media is the most powerful, elastic, ever expanding, truly astonishing means of communication ever created. We are not only witnessing this change. Each of us are playing a role in the certainty of print, film and digital, all coming together into a development of its own model we have yet to comprehend. These publishing platforms — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or YouTube — are conduits of limitless possibilities. We can reach a massive readership, an audience that if you have a meaningful subscriber-ship makes the New York Times tremble.
In recent years, entire businesses that did not adapt — this includes photographers — have either vanished or became less relevant. In even greater measure, countless new photographers who never had been published through ink on paper or had their films in theaters have stepped into the space. These photographers, artists, small inventors, doers, and makers fill a potent space of communication and art, altering the economy of nearly every business on the planet, utilizing publishing conduits that have profoundly transformed how we publish.
The beautiful plate tectonic movements began in 2017 and at their inception, for those who got it, understood beyond what seemed like frivolity of Kim Kardashian’s selfies (think what you will, Kim is a publishing/marketing genius to her subscribers) or images of pets looking cute, they realized there was an economy turning in expanded directions. An eyeball engine of engagement that turned subscribers into buyers.
You may wonder why I don’t use the word, Follower. These fellow human beings are not following you. They are subscribing to what you create. They believe in you. They want to feel and be moved, enlightened by the content and messages you create. Be it images of your most powerful, poetic work, to the making of the art or products you create. Even throughout the flow of your daily life. They may seem to be following you, but they are not following anything. They want to learn, grow. Be enlightened. By you, the content creator.
In this depth of engagement, they subscribe. It’s no different than the coveted subscriber’s legacy publications have been scrambling to retain as we moved away from traditional media outlets, into the narrative journeys of content created by individuals like you.
Where It All Began
To be honest, I have no idea what was in the minds of Instagram cofounders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger when they imagined a simple means to share and publish images. Or Mark Zuckerberg, when at Harvard he created Facebook, nor the spinning minds of the four who created Twitter. They were utterly clueless what may have been seen in the periphery of the former Stanford University students who designed Snapchat in 2011.
Six years ago, is but a strand of hair on the colossus trunk of the mammoth we call social media. Some millennia of time has passed since the internet became real. The reason why none of us know where self-publishing is even going is because even these risk takers who created these publishing entities didn’t know either. No true clue of the possibilities they were unleashing.
This is due to the reality of what social media is…a vehicle of unprecedented unknowns, driven almost solely by the implausible possibilities of those who create. In fact, it is us, the user and those we engage with, the subscriber, that drives the direction of what we call social media. Why? Because this act of social media only becomes social when we engage with each other. This socializing, the act of touching, interacting with others, is when it becomes social.
Think about the functionality of this social interactivity through the the tangible…a newspaper or magazine. What we call a Like is no different than when you picked up a copy of the Washington Post, National Geographic, Vogue or Time and stopped for a moment. That pause is engagement. Where mind and spirit interact through feeling by what is seen, read and felt. The act of pausing is no different than “liking” a photograph.
But who knew that you paused? The interaction occurred in a personal space. A vacuum of time that only transpired in solitude. In the semi-distant past, publishing only became social when you were moved by a story, a film or a photograph, that you took pen to paper and wrote a letter to the publication. We never saw those countless comments mailed and delivered through the post office. Interns or the editor read these letters, choosing a select few to publish in that section aptly called, Letters to The Editor. A comment is just that…a letter to YOU, the creative, the editor and publisher. Every comment is therefore a Letter to the Editor — you.
Let me take this even further. When someone leaves a comment, it allows for an extended, much deeper interaction than ever known. You, the publisher, has the awesome power to continue an interaction with that subscriber. This dialogue leads not only to further engagement, it can and will lead to unique forms of revenue never imagined. This moment of interaction begins the greatest manifestation. Your subscribers have entered your studio. Your store. They are engaged, getting to know you more personally, if you have a commodity to offer — as a photographer, you — this interaction turns into a revenue stream of power.
A dear friend of mind recently created a limited edition handmade book; an art piece that is not inexpensive. Using available publishing platforms, she sold more than 10 copies in addition to numerous other pre-orders for books yet to be printed, generating a few thousand dollars in the first week alone. In the last four years I have sold numerous prints to buyers through my Instagram publishing feed. When having time to host photo workshops around the globe, two or three posts on Facebook and Instagram sells out educational events within days. When doing lectures and book signings, publishing to my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds brings countless people to an event they would otherwise never knew existed. This expands even further…in the past two years, major companies I believe in or who’s products I use have commissioned me to publish stories and images on my publishing feeds, garnishing rates we normally receive only for major corporate assignments.
Here is the additional gift — all this publishing, marketing, these gentle kind ads for events, workshops and print sales cost $0 to advertise. The only cost was time. When beginning this wondrous, equally involving level of engagement to build your subscriber-ship, you might begin to ask yourself…” when will I see an actual return on my investment?” of the most precious commodity any human being has — that of time.
Nothing comes from nothing. You must give to receive. In the world of social media, this receiving through giving does not happen overnight. It takes time. Months. Maybe even a year or more. With love, passion, relentless doing, an organic growth turns into a domino effect of exceptional engagement with others. Buyers.
On all your publishing platforms — you need to be on all of them, create each day — curation is acutely important. Always try to avoid publishing the same content on all accounts. What works on Instagram may not work well on Twitter. If it does, reword the text, adding other pieces of enchantment to expand laterally to your subscribers. Often your subscribers connect to all your social media accounts. If you repeat or do reposts, subscribers become bored, overwhelmed by monotony.
No question, Instagram is all about the visual. Twitter is a fabulous way to republish stories you’ve read, sharing with your subscribers the topics and issues you are deeply engaged in. Facebook is a vista of wide possibilities, be it for your photography, films you may be creating, stories or just thought. Instagram Stories, a spinning universe to the most beautiful ephemeral creation and content. On each you can and should intermix. A limitless means of communicating, all weaving a tapestry of who you are, what you create, and you truly believe in. A rounding that humanizes and expands all you are.
Keep this in mind when building and sustaining your publishing…we, our global community, want and need consistency. Brilliant work. Not the mundane. Take us places we never been or felt before. Our role as artists is being communicators. The most important giving aspect of being human.
If anyone tells you, they know what the future is in our business they will be lying. Yes, some are deeply in-tune to what is taking place, but no one has a crystal ball. Our profession today is incomprehensible to what it was twenty years ago. Turned on its head from just five years ago it, evolved in since 2016, and stretched once more since I began this article a few days ago. The real unimaginable? Within six months our business will have adapted and changed yet again. The adaptation is what we need to embrace. This embrace is the gift that has been given to all of us. What you do with it, for it, will be what determines your future. This unknown destination, the ever-changing journey, is the beauty of the unlimited.
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