Problem Solving and Shifting Strategies

Forest in a Stadium, The Pillar by Stephen Gill, the activist photographer and narrative marketing

As I’ve been watching the US Open the last two weeks, my ears have perked up every time the commentators start to talk about the problem solving skills of certain players. Each match and opponent present different challenges during the match, requiring the players to adjust and figure out the next tactic that will give them an advantage. It’s fascinating to watch (if you’re into tennis of course!) and with enough viewing you can see the patterns emerge, and start to predict the adjustments they’ll make.

So problem solving was on my mind this week during my walks, especially since I’ve been trying to solve a few creative challenges around the new podcast and project I’ve been working on. You can’t solve a problem unless you realize there is a problem, but how do you know there’s a problem in the first place?

For me, it starts with that intuitive feeling that something is off. We all know the feeling and following that hunch can be difficult, but it’s important not to ignore that inner voice. From there, I think most of us look to our past and similar situations to see what we can learn and apply to the current challenges. What I think I’ve found to be the most helpful is knowing I might not have the answers, then soliciting feedback and having healthy conversations goes a long way in uncovering solutions.

With the current show, I’ve been pulling lessons from producing the pilot for the B&H Photo podcast. In that case, we spent months testing formats, styles and kept refining until the team arrived at a consensus. It was an important lesson in the value of testing, refining, and getting multiple opinions before moving forward.

So, we’ve decided to take our time with the new show, knowing that it’s more important to refine the process than to put out something prematurely.

Another lesson? Search for insights in other areas of your life. As cliche as it might be, everything in our lives is connected, so there are insights everywhere. And as always, when you’re stuck, go for a walk!

Working on any interesting projects? Feel free to drop me a line or ping me on Twitter and Instagram


Shifting Marketing Strategies for Photographers

Ignoring social media “is not sustainable,” he says. Via email, Almas tells PDN, “I realized people thought I was either slow or stopped taking pictures because I stopped social media. That’s not a great perception in the market so I just had to get back to it.”

PDN picked up a blog post by commercial photographer Erik Almas where he discussed whether or not an agent is necessary for his business. On his original blog post he goes further and discusses how he plans on shifting his marketing strategy.

“It has been fascinating to watch the rise of social media, its influencers and the currency that a large online following carries. Photographers now get hired, not just because of their craft, but also because of their own reach as a media channel to help sell the very product they get hired to photograph. 

If one believe this trend will continue, which I do, Photographers, like myself, who are marketing through the traditional channels, will have to shift most of marketing our focus into creating a solid online presence.

Having been a part of the advertising community for almost 2 decades, I clearly see the shift in how companies market themselves from “here’s our product” to a narrative of what the company is about, what they believe in and “why they do what they do” 

Us photographers very much need to do the same.…”

A problem that many photographers confront is how much time and effort should be put into social media. Posting photos is easy, we all do it, but building a deeper narrative about your work can be challenging.

I think that regular newsletters are one solution photographers can pursue, and for those that are more ambitious, podcasting and video series could be an option. I think collaboration is key. I’ve been consulting a couple photographers as they pursue new branding strategies and it’s been interesting to understand their challenges and goals.

The Unending Attraction of Nature by Klaus Littmann

“With this art intervention I would like to challenge our perception of nature and sharpen our awareness of the future relationship between nature and humankind,” the curator says. “This project is also a warning,” he adds: “Nature, which we now take for granted, might someday only be found in specially assigned spaces, as is already the case with zoo animals.” [Artnet]

In many ways, we’re already doing this with national and city parks. When I visited the Grand Canyon last year the tourist spectacle struck me as something from our future. It was very much like attending a sporting event with nature as the main event, and everyone clamoring to document the experiences as if there was a deep awareness that perhaps the beauty of the place might vanish astonishingly fast.

The Grand Canyon will probably outlast the human race but there are certainly other ecosystems and natural wonders that will surely disappear because of climate change. This project also reminded me of Time Landscape in New York City by Alan Sonfist which I discovered this summer and have been fascinated with ever since.

The Pillar by Stephen Gill

“At its core, The Pillar represents two impulses usually construed as contradictory: the first is conceptual and structural rigor, the second is idiosyncratic and expressionistic lyricism. The genius of the book is that it utilizes both of these pictorial and symbolic strategies in a single coherent statement.”

Photographer and writer Vince Leo has a nice review of The Pillar by Stephen Gill, a project where he set up a camera with a motion sensor in an open field to photograph birds.

Can there be a photographer who is not an activist?

“But at its most atomic level, any photograph that is shared with someone else and that was made with elements of compassion, if not love, is already a form of activism, a push back against the aforementioned onslaught of outrage, anger, ugliness, and violence.”

That’s Jorg Colberg talking about ‘Photography in the Era of Trump’ which picks up on some ideas from Colin Pantall’s article, ‘Is there such a thing as an activist photographer?’ on Witness. As I spend time engaged with photography and art, I think I can safely say that the projects that resonate with me are all deeply invested in some ongoing social or environmental challenge. It all depends on your perspective, but I tend to agree with Colberg, if it’s done out of compassion and love, then it contributes positively.

Further Reading