“There are very few professional photographers who, right now, are not hurting,” said Holly Stuart Hughes, editor of the magazine Photo District News.
That has left professional photographers with a bit of an identity crisis. Nine years ago, when Livia Corona was fresh out of art school, she got assignments from magazines like Travel and Leisure and Time. Then, she said, “three forces coincided.”
They were the advertising downturn, the popularity and accessibility of digital photography, and changes in the stock-photo market.
Magazines’ editorial pages tend to rise or fall depending on how many ad pages they have. In 2000, the magazines measured by Publishers Information Bureau, a trade group, had 286,932 ad pages. In 2009, there were 169,218 — a decline of 41 percent. That means less physical space in which to print photographs.
“Pages are at a premium, and there’s more competition to get anything into a magazine now, and the bar is just higher for excellent work,” said Bill Shapiro, the editor of Life.com, who ran the print revival of Life before Time Inc. shut it in 2007. And that is for the publications that survived — 428 magazines closed in 2009 alone, according to the publication database MediaFinder.com, including ones that regularly assigned original photography, like Gourmet, Portfolio and National Geographic Adventure.
And while magazines once sniffed at stock photographs, which are existing images, not original assignments, shrinking editorial budgets made them reconsider.
I’m writing a story this week for a national magazine — and the editor told me they will be using stock to illustrate it, because it’s cheaper than hiring someone. As amateurs pick up light, easy-to-use digital cameras, competition is increasing. In the old days, you had to have a good understanding, both journalistically and technically, of what makes a compelling image because, shooting film, especially far away on assignment, you had to be sure you had something usable — now, just look at your image and re-shoot, if you can.
The unresolved question, and it’s showing up even in work submitted by professionals, is the boundaries of what’s acceptable when it comes to manipulating digital images, easy to do in Photoshop and other programs — and therefore unusable, if so, by many news photo editors.
Twenty more shopping days ’til Christmas. I’ve already mailed my mom’s presents and still have no clue what to get my Dad.
Here’s my alphabet of non-mall, somewhat unstandard ideas:
A: Antiques. Not everyone is as crazy about them as I, but this time of year there are antique shows all over the country, from small, affordable local shows to the glossiest, vetted international events. If someone you love is a collector — of magnifying glasses, or walking sticks or majolica or Depression glass, an antique show is a fun, efficient place to find all sorts of good things and high-quality surprises. Auctions: again, many smaller, regional auction houses have extremely affordable possibilities, much of it viewable on-line and biddable by phone or email, from crystal decanters to prints. One of my favorites, William Smith, recently offered lovely 200+ year-old Japanese woodblocks, some estimated as low as $150 apiece. Alpaca: is light, warm, lovely change from cashmere. One of my favorite sources with sweaters and shawls of alpaca is the 33-year-old company Peruvian Connection.
Baked Goods. If you can afford a loaf pan, some flour, eggs, sugar and fruit, you can make banana, lemon or cranberry loaves. They’re quick, easy and delicious. Delicate cookies are impressive indeed, but anything home-made with love (and some skill!) is a treat.
Charity: For the person who already has everything, make a donation in their name. Camera: My sweetie, a professional photographer, gave me the Canon G7 Power Shot, a tiny digital camera that fits in the palm of my hand and takes fantastic images. I started my career shooting with Nikons. This is just as good — I’ve sold my images shot with it to The New York Times and Toronto Star, so far.
Duvet: It’s a European thing, but the best! Not cheap, but a great lifetime luxury. Light, warm, comfortable year-round. Cuddledown has good choices.
Elephants: I love elephants. I even rode one in Thailand, best travel experience ever. Here’s a great list of terrific non-fiction books about these creatures. If you don’t know and love the 78-year-old children’s storybook classic Babar, about an elephant family, check it out.
Fountain pen. I know, some people think they’re pretentious. Nuts. Using my Lamy makes even writing out my quarterly tax payments a little less painful. Filofax. Equally old school, equally elegant and sensual way to stay organized. Mine is a decade old, fuchsia leather. I love all its accessories — yeah, pre-Iphone apps — like a ruler in metric and Imperial, map of the world with time zones, NYC subway map and notepaper for jotting down random ideas.
Glasses. Champagne flutes, martini glasses, fun juice glasses. Crystal or glass, antique or new. I like these, with bees embossed in them.
Hermes scarf. Oh, go on. $300. Gorgeous. Their silk twill has a lovely crispness and feels like no other. The patterns can be spectacular and come in wonderful color combinations. Their site has perfume (Caleche is a crisp classic), men’s and even baby gifts.The orange box is heaven and so is the chocolate brown twill ribbon printed with their name; I wear an antique locket on mine.
Isamo Noguchi lamp. I love his simple, quirky white paper lamps, like this one, at $105.
Kitchen timer. Boring? Not if you have a crummy old stove or oven and/or you do a lot of cooking. Helpful to have several to coordinate the chaos at dinner party time. Affordable, cute, stocking stuffer: chickens or cow, $7.99 each.
Massage. Give one, get one. Or give a gift certificate for one.
Notecards. I’m crazy for beautiful stationery and recently discovered this great national chain, Paper Source.How about a set of personalized cards?A nice touch for all those thank-yous you have to send out while job-hunting.
Soap. Few affordable presents beat a hard-milled, long-lasting (like a month) fragrant bar of soap. Here’s all-natural, woman-owned Sarva soaps. Sephora carries Fresh soaps, $14 each, and anything by Roger & Gallet, three to a box, is a do-able luxury at about $16.
Toile de Jouy. (Twal de Jwee, for the non-Francophiles!) This is one of my favorite things in the whole world, a fabric design that dates back centuries. Pottery Barn has lovely cosmetic bags, two for $36, as well as bed linens and shower curtains, in this pattern.
A Long Island housewife and mother of two, days before her 15th. wedding anniversary, Mary Jo Buttafuoco — as many Americans know and just as many might be happy to forget — answered the door to her home on May 19, 1992. Standing on the doorstep was 17-year-old Amy Fisher, who shot her in the head. Amy was her husband’s girlfriend, and their weird and sordid story dominated headlines for years and became the basis for three television movies.
Buttafuoco has now published a book, ghostwritten by Julie McCarron, about “why I stayed, what I learned and what millions of people involved with sociopaths need to know.” The cover photo shows a good-looking blond in a lacy tank-top, thick hair cascading over her shoulders, her long nails French manicured, sitting on a white shabby-chic sofa. She looks determined, sadder but wiser. The back cover image is truly horrifying — her shaved skull and the tiny entry wound of the .25 cartridge now permanently lodged in her skull.
If you’re in or near Manhattan July 29, she’s speaking at Barnes & Noble, 2289 Broadway at 82d Street and will chat with a therapist about how to recognize the warning signs of a sociopath.