DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY – A PUBLISHER’S PARADISE OR AN OPPORTUNITY FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS?

It is useless denying it – digital technology has turned totally into a publisher’s paradise, or has it? Technology has made photography accessible to a much wider swathe of the general public. Most of this new, snap happy horde are part timers – they already have full time jobs and for them photography is a hobby, a pastime, nothing really too serious. So this vast proliferation of photographers has made available to publishers an ever evolving stock of free images and, consequentially made the sale of images by professional photographers so much more difficult.

An image which can easily fit into editorial. © Kevin Casha

An image which can easily fit into editorial.
© Kevin Casha

The publishing industry is aware that there are loads of good photographers who are ready to freely give their images for publication – just for the sake of seeing their photographs in print. This is a fact of life and cannot be reversed back. Pros just need to accept it, but then digital media and the internet revolution have also made it easier for one to proliferate images and make one’s work known. The first thing a photographer earning his livelihood from the business needs to determine is whether it is to one’s advantage to pass on images for free and thus join the bandwagon. Today, one does not need to fork out money for physical print portfolios or lose time and effort going to meetings. Internet has made it possible to market one’s work from the comfort of one’s laptop. It is up to each photographer to decide whether to start making his work known around the world or whether to remain a non-entity, stay out of business completely and satisfy oneself with the ‘likes’ on Facebook! Yes, the decision is a harsh one to accept for photographers who have been used to getting paid for their work – but today it is a fact of life and the sooner one accepts it, the better.

So how does one try to turn the situation to one’s advantage and tap the valid possibilities that are out there? Like in everything else, it boils down to hard work – nothing comes easy yet some photographers have turned the situation in their favour. One must not forget that although photographers have increased in a big way, the world wide web has also enabled us to enormously proliferate our client base. Images put online and published are now being seen all over the world. Who would before have seen one’s images in Africa, in Alaska or in China? If one trawls around the internet, one is bound to find up and coming young photographers who have managed to capture attention and, subsequently, paid work.

Sounds difficult? Yes, for sure with so many good photographers around. It is not easy to get noticed in such a competitive field. But is it really as inacessible as it seems or are we not making enough effort to tap this market? There are hundreds of online and conventionally printed publications needing images from all genres of photography. Publishers are all the time looking for fresh and engaging work which will enhance their content. One needs to get them to see one’s work.
Naturally, the main beneficial thing when one’s work is published or seen online is that your credited work is seen by a wide audience. There are so many opportunities out there to have one’s work published. It’s just a question of being organized and being industrious.

There are some things which need to be noted: Most publishers will require releases if you have recognizable persons in the images. This, as we all now adds another complication. Yet when one is aware it should not be such a great problem to obtain releases particularly for personal work in which one has control over the subjects. Just prepare releases for all types of photographs, even carrying them with you whilst shooting. Also one can use blur or movement to obscure recognition. Being aware of the copyright and data protection laws of your country is also vital. Furthermore, try and study the publications which would mostly welcome your style or genre of photography and concentrate your efforts on them. Fit your images to the publication.

A generic image typical of magazine potential. © Kevin Casha

A generic image typical of magazine potential. © Kevin Casha

There lies also the possibility of ‘barter.’ Make efforts to exchange your work for free advertorial space or any other product or service that is of use to you. This will be more doable in one’s own country as one would, most probably, know the publishers on a personal basis. It is not a disgrace to barter work – the world was, and still is, based on barter – be it with goods, services or money. One needs to be aware of retaining copyright of one’s images after they have been published. Most publishers recognize this and have no objection, but be aware of a few companies and individuals who are out to take advantage. Use your ready stock photography avoiding to go into expense to shoot purposely for publications. Make sure to read the submission guidelines in detail – remember that most editors will have hundreds of submissions to view and things such as sizing your images or naming them wrongly will most certainly get your work discarded right away. One other factor to remember is not to put up the images you intend to send to publications on Facebook -use other photographs for this purpose – as publishers do not like to use images which are already out there.

One last recommendation: do not be disheartened when publishers do not respond or give you feedback. The process is not quick and easy and most of the times it takes long to strike gold. The important thing is to be patient and persistent. If your work is good, it is bound to be eventually noticed and rewarded. So get off your backside and bring your work to the notice of the world!

© Kevin Casha 2015

KITTY CHOU – The Purist photographer

Kitty Chou was born and raised in Hong Kong in 1961. She is the fifth of six sisters.

Although outwardly shy and reserved, when talking about photography, Kitty immediately lights up. The passion shines through her eyes and a transformation comes over her when she meets people who are seriously interested in discussing her photography. Like most persons taking up photography, Kitty initially tried her hand at a number of diverse photographic genres, but she has always been fascinated and drawn to people and society. Like most photojournalists, Kitty has a natural knack of communicating and she loves engaging with people. Despite the human element features in a lot of her everyday photographs, there is, ironically, a conspicuous absence of persons in most of her Fine Art exhibition work. Her work is imbued with classicism although most of her fine art imagery borders on abstract and semi abstract subjects.

© Kitty Chou

Portrait without a Face no.2

Through her own admission, Kitty is an extremely curious person and one realizes that this characteristic filters through her work. Most of her Fine Art work invites the viewer to first of all, engage aesthetically, then to delve deeper into what the images can evoke. Kitty’s work is at times mysterious and leaves a substantial part to the interpretation of each viewer: she is not one who spoon feeds the viewer.
After attending primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong, she went to the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, United States, graduating in Business Administration in 1982. Kitty was always keen to take what would be termed snaps or documentary images. She was interested in preserving the memory of a fast disappearing lifestyle with the development of the society, especially the one in Hong Kong. She was further inspired when she saw an exhibition of Henri Cartier Bresson at MOMA in New York while she was in university. Bresson’s work not only impressed her but set her reflecting on photography.

© Kitty Chou

An interesting view of a mundane subject

Her first camera was a Minolta analog model. Like a lot of photography enthusiasts, she also developed her own films. After University, she seemingly drifted away from photography only to take it up in earnest again in 2002, buying a compact, point and shoot, two megapixel Casio digital camera. Kitty is mainly self taught and does not put much store in what cameras and equipment she employs – for her, the camera is just a means to an end and the importance of her photography is encompassed through perception, subject framing and aesthetic composition. She recalls her early days when many people she encountered would be asking her what type of camera she uses – as if the camera makes you a better or worse photographer! Many tended to be biased and look down at her photography due to her not sporting the latest “professional” camera model! This reminds me of a dear departed friend and great photographer, David Facey who, when once asked as to what type of camera he uses, he replied: “One of those little black ones!”

© Kitty Chou

The exhibition venue – the Natural History Museum, Mdina, Malta

Kitty’s first exhibition, in 2011, at the New York School of Interior Design, was urged by her professor, who seeing her work, encouraged her to exhibit at the school gallery. She entitled her exhibition “The Accidental Photographer: Line, Colour and Perspective.” The response to her work was so positive and encouraging that Kitty felt that exhibiting and showing her work was the way to go. This is one of the factors which continue to encourage her to exhibit as she particularly enjoys the feedback of her audience.

 

A year later, Kitty conducted a talk with slide show, as well actual prints at the Asia Society in Hong Kong. Ben Brown, a gallery owner, was invited to attend the talk by the forum moderator. The gallerist was intrigued by Kitty’s work and expressed interests in working together. Less than six months after that initial contact, Kitty had a solo show in their Hong Kong gallery.

She followed this exhibition by taking part in a Hong Kong collective exhibition during 2013. This was held at Duddell’s , a very up market restaurant and gallery in Hong Kong. This exhibition merits particular mention due to the fact that iconic Chinese artist, Ai Wei Wei, who was under house arrest then, was the curator. In 2014, another milestone followed for Kitty when car manufacturers Rolls Royce, converting their showroom into a pop-up art gallery, hosted Kitty’s work as their first Art Series in Asia.

© Kitty Chou

Kitty’s keen sense of light and texture

Ironically, there was a time when Kitty refused to go and see other photographic exhibitions as she felt that her work would be influenced and lose its distinct, personal character. Yet, today she has reversed that, mainly because she is confident enough about her work. These last years, she feels unshackled and free to do her ‘own thing’ and not be unduly influenced by what people say.
Kitty does not use any supplementary lighting in her images, preferring to keep her work as simple and true as possible. Her main ally is natural light. In fact, her style and work resemble more the photojournalistic or ‘street’ photographer. She does not manipulate, arrange or set up her images – her process is one of keen seeing and intelligent selection, cropping only in the camera and not in post process,maintaining that, if this is done, her images would lose or stray away from their initial purpose and concept. For this same purpose, even her digital editing is kept to a minimum – just some minor colour correction and brightness and contrast levels. Apart from Cartier Bresson, who remains forever one of Kitty’s inspirations, other photographers she admires are Horst P. Horst and Herb Ritts. She is particularly attracted to the more vintage photographers due to their studied composition and intelligent perception. This is actually interesting as in fact, although a large part of her work ends up being abstract and semi abstract, Kitty’s work is always imbued with classical inference.
She has now been working totally with the digital medium, due to its convenience and wide creative possibilities, printing her Fine Art exhibition work on high end special art paper. Kitty is increasingly looking to explore subjects which have a meaning to her and is interested in producing more work that possibly can have a social concept. Kitty is also looking at future challenges, and a project that is slowly taking birth is the production of a book on her photography.
Finally, I asked her how she would describe herself, a fine art photographer, or perhaps a photojournalist. She promptly replied that she really does not feel boxed to any particular type of photography but that photography has gradually just become an integral part of her lifestyle and is one of the main purposes and driving forces of her life.

Kitty today is married and has one son. She commutes regularly between New York, Paris, and her own Hong Kong.

© Kevin Casha, 2015
www.kevincasha.com

Note: Kitty Chou will be exhibiting her latest work in Malta at the Natural History Museum in Mdina between the 20th of May till the 7th of June, 2015. The exhibition is called “Cotidie The Magic of the Everyday.”

http://www.nysid.edu/news-events/events/kitty-chou-exhibition

http://duddells.co/venue/en/