Category Archives: Controversy

An Incredible Photo that Made Us Stop | How to Protect Your Images

A couple weeks ago N had to deal with a snafu that the local paper here made. They ran a photo that belonged to him and subsequently had to take it down and pay him a nominal fee for usage. (It really was the right thing for them to do, after all). It really angered the both of us because it was blatantly taken and we feel they waited to see if they would be found out. This issue is not going to go away and will only proliferate in the internet age. Our working friends have had their images and design ripped off and there are many degrees of it.

Last week we came across a photo from the Herman Miller Facebook page and we were immediately drawn to the flawless execution.

Screen shot 2012-12-14 at 11.41.23 PM

A time lapse of airplanes taking off from Hannover Airport in Langenhagen, Germany was captured in layered precision. In clicking through to find out more about the photograph by Korean artist, Ho-Yeol Ryu, we saw that it originated from a link at the Tropenmuseum.

The entire image via Tropenmuseum

The entire image via Tropenmuseum

What caused us concern however, was how big the file is. It literally covered the screen of my 21″ screen and then some. I could scroll back and forth, up and down. Now, you may wonder, what is our problem with seeing something so up close and personal? Turns out that Ryu has shown through a few contemporary galleries which means that he may have a great retail and/or auction record. But any time your image is shared at such a large file size, there’s potential for your image to be taken, printed and enjoyed without your reaping the benefits of your hard work. Take our blog, for instance. We share plenty of images but our resolution is low to medium quality, generally nothing larger than 5 x 7 inches.

A detail shot of just approximately a third of the photo.

A detail shot of just approximately a third of the photo.

More image to scroll over.

More image to scroll over.

And even more still.

And even more still.

If Ryu were just up and coming and not represented and sold to collectors, I would contact him to alert him of this potentially dangerous occurrence. But with his reputation, I’ll assume that those that represent and exhibit his work are aware that of their actions and would not do anything to dilute the value of his works. What should you do to protect your images if you’re worried about them being stolen? You can control the avenues in which they’re presented and limit or deny internet exposure. Or, you can watermark them. If that inhibits the viewing experience, you can just make them small enough, as we do, so there’s no concern over them being shared.

Yes, as visual artists, we want people to see our work. We just don’t want it to hang in your living room in a massive frame unless you support us. Thanks.

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10 Questions About Art, Design and Photography That You Always Wanted to Ask but Never Thought You’d Get the Straight Answers To

1. Why does it cost so much?

The answer depends on where you’re looking at the piece you’re considering. Are you in a gallery? Consider the industry practice of 50% that goes to the dealer, the cost of framing, installation that’s sometimes taken out of the artist’s cut, sometimes the dealer covers, marketing and advertising, overhead (electric, rent, phone bill, etc). Are you at an art fair? Consider the insurance premiums, travel, hotel cost, shipping materials, gas/airfare for the artist and the blood, sweat and tears. You’re going to pay a premium but in this case, you may feel a personal connection to the artist and you have an opportunity to meet and learn about his or her work ethic, inspiration and vision. And that’s priceless.

If you’re buying a piece by a “known artist”, which I personally define as someone that has an auction record, studied in academic realms and is being shown in museums, or represented by a reputable gallery, you’re going to pay a premium because they’re sought after no matter what the subject matter, even if they’re considered a conceptual artist. Art prices driven into seven figures has to do with precedent set at auction and high end private transactions. Since auctions account for about a quarter of the art market, you can imagine how much it influences numbers.

If you’re vacationing and in a tourist gallery, you’re going to pay a premium whether the artist is known or unknown. Do not buy things based on what you’re hearing or what returns the dealer tells you are possible in the future. If you go to Hawaii and buy a $5,000 painting of a dolphin jumping out of the water, you better love the hell outta that dolphin. For a long time.

Painting by Jeff Wilkie

2. Do you shoot Canon or Nikon or something else? And does it matter?

People almost always ask this. Since its origin photography continues to be made more accessible to consumers. Does this mean there are more photographers out there? No, just more people that can take pictures. Photography literally breaks down to “light writing” meaning the ability to control or work with light to capture a scene or moment. Those that feel what you shoot with makes a difference are the same that thought Dippin Dots revolutionized ice cream. Cameras cost different prices so that camera companies can establish multiple markets. Sure, some cameras generate much larger files and/or capture repeatedly much faster than others, and if you have that need then that’s your answer, but realistically the entry level dSLR can achieve the same results, given the knowledge of controlling light.

3. Should I buy that painting?

If you love it/want to support the artist/know that you’re buying it to enjoy yourself and not impress anyone, then yes.

4. Where should I hang it?

Measure the height of the piece and make a note of the midpoint. That mark should hang 60 inches up from the floor. This is general rule of thumb and widely practiced by professionals in the field. If it’s larger than say, 20 inches in any direction, don’t hang it in a hallway where you can’t stand far away to get the full effect. Most people hang art too high and generally on a wall that’s not proportional to the piece. An 8 x 10 inch frame will look awfully lonely on a large wall by itself. A piece that size is better housed on an accent wall, nook or with other pieces around it.

Also consider humidity, how much direct sun and the amount of air conditioning that is directed at the piece. Oil paintings are extremely delicate to extreme changes in temperature and photographs should never be hung in direct sun. If you have the opportunity to, work with a professional framer so they can advise you on what kind of glass each piece should be housed under.

5. Why does the one on top cost more than the one on the bottom?

Eames Molded Plywood Chair at Design Within Reach, $840-$1,398

Plywood Lounge Chair at Totally Furniture for $122.55

In an era when upholstery was king in the household, husband and wife team Charles and Ray Eames’s collaboration in answering a previous design flaw (from a competition that Charles had entered with architect and designer Eero Saarinen) resulted in the ubiquitous Eames Lounge Chair Wood or what is known in the industry as LCW. With two separate pieces and particular construction of separate molded wood and rubber mounts, the technology used to create this multi-layer chair was cutting edge at the time.

It was eventually noticed by George Nelson at Herman Miller at continues to be manufactured to their specific material and design plans today. The reason the chair on the top costs so much is because it’s a piece of art even though it’s been replicated many times. It can be resold, although some versions of LCW may resell for more than others depending on demand, quantity of that particular model and condition of each piece. On top of the quality and materials, you’re also paying a premium for the licensing namesake.

The chair on the bottom is a knock-off of the Eames LCW, looks about the same (although the variation in the plywood on the bottom is not nearly as marbled or visually interesting as the Eames), but the construction and design will not be of the same caliber. It will also not resell or appreciate over time.

6. How long should I linger at a piece when I’m at the museum?

Image via History Lines

There’s no simple answer to this but generally, I believe that most people don’t look long enough. Find the ones that speak to you and try to figure out why. What elements draw you to the piece. How do the colors make you feel? Will this stick with you after you leave? Are you intrigued to do some research about this artist after you leave? I hope these few questions may spark your viewing experience the next time you visit a museum.

7. When will it be worth more?

If you’re buying a work by a “known artist” (see #1), generally a decade will yield some sort of return higher or at least slightly higher than what you bought it for. That is, unless you overpaid for it in the first place (again, refer to #1 for a definition of where you might over pay for something). If you’ve been given a certificate of authenticity or promised it’s limited edition, I can sell you the chair I’m sitting in and give you certificate of authenticity for that too…

8. Why can’t I shoot/design/make it myself?

You can! All the credit to you if you do and do it just as well as the professionals!

9. Can I try to negotiate a lower price?

Sometimes you can. But I ask that if you’re at an art fair where you’re dealing with the artist directly, please don’t offend them. They work very hard to travel, create work, pay the booth fee, lug all their work there, sit/stand all day.  Maybe ask them to throw in a studio visit or deliver the piece if they’re local. If the piece is less than $500, I urge you not to negotiate at all. A dealer, go for it. But keep in mind they may take the loss out on the artist’s cut.

10. Who should I talk to if I want to buy art?

You should talk to us! We’ve dealt and handled everything from William Merritt Chase to Alexander Calder to Jen Stark. We’ll do the research to make sure that you’re buying what you can’t live without from a reputable source.

Photo of brokered work by Jen Stark, courtesy Carol Jazzar Gallery

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Olympics Photo Controversy: Is there such thing as “Good” and “Bad”? **With Update**

The 2012 London Olympics are just a few weeks away with trials going on now and lots of coverage on athletes and their stories. In the last couple days we couldn’t help but notice the scathing articles about photos of athletes taken by Joe Klamar. Normally a photojournalist and documentary photographer, his images are being called, “shoddy” and “amateur.” Reading through the comments, the public’s consensus is a mixed bag. Some think that there’s nothing wrong with the photos because they find the lack of Photoshop refreshing. (By the way, we don’t think the athletes need more than a blemish fixed up here and there). But others still think that he shouldn’t be called a photographer. We’ll share our thoughts in a moment. What do you think?

Here’s a typically, traditional Olympic portrait.

Photo: Dakota Earnest for Reuters

Here are Joe Klamar’s photos.

Notice how uneven the lighting is, how shadows fall starkly across faces and torsos. You can read the lines and imperfections in the back drop material. These photos were taken for the AFP and Getty, to be used for all promotional purposes in endorsing the U.S. team for the upcoming events that will be seen by millions around the world. There’s a time and place for all types of styles but the kind of harsh shadows that fall across the face and lack of even lighting not only detract from the athletes form but paint them in a negative light. Which now begs the question, did Klamar do this one purpose? Was he working on a personal agenda to document the athletes for his own purpose? And if so, why didn’t he approach the athletes separately? Or, is this sought-after photojournalist who’s on-location shots are respected, a bit lacking in knowledge of studio photography? Don’t be surprised.

There are numerous photographers, even big-name ones that don’t know how to light a subject – person or object. The assistants do all that. So it’s not that far fetched that a shooter hired by the Getty may not have on-set experience. Since Klamar hasn’t released a statement and can’t defend himself, we can only highlight the differences in how the first photo taken by Earnest reads and how his differ. We’re just a bit disappointed that the U.S. now has this story highlighting their athletes in such a negative way. The Olympics are all about strength, top sportsmanship and putting our best hand forward. This is hardly what we would see for our U.S. athletes. So now ask yourself, are these photos “good” or “bad”? Would you expect such work from a professional?

N has photographed many subjects in extreme set ups with purposeful shadows. That said, he wouldn’t have taken this opportunity to exploit his own style for such a major platform. We hope that this doesn’t mar our athlete’s perceptions of themselves on the world stage.

**Update: Last night, July 5th, ABC World News touched on this subject. There was a statement released from the agency (in this case AFP and/or Getty) saying that the proper equipment was not present and had they known that the athletes were expected to be shot, they would have prepared for it. N has traveled the world on photo shoots and there’s never been a time that there weren’t loads of equipment prepped and on hand for the situation. Even if equipment was lost in transit you have an assistant call and find all the necessary equipment – quickly.

That said, there was still use of one strobe and a backdrop, which to N, has all the makings of a pretty decent photo. Through N’s deductive and professional estimates, Klamar didn’t take advantage of the equipment available. Plain and simple. Here are two shots N took with the exact equipment available to Klamar, one strobe and a backdrop. The first exemplifies even color and light temperature. The second exudes a more stylized mood than what would be typically expected of an Olympic athlete portrait, but you can see the possibilities and how romantic a portrait can be when considerations are taken.**

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Event: Art Lecture at Ann Arbor District Library

I had the pleasure of speaking at the Ann Arbor District Library last night about the ins and outs of starting a collection and what to look for when purchasing paintings, prints and drawings.

Collecting should be an art unto itself, pieces thoughtfully chosen for their content rather than for their complementary qualities to the furniture in the room. My main points included looking at genre (style) of art, mediums, value and how to make collecting relevant for you. Attendees had great questions and seemed to have a firm grasp of the direction of the art scene. We also got to speak with a few collectors about the things they were wondering about in their home.

By the end of the evening, I was happy to share my personal collecting mantra:

Thank you, Ann Arbor District Library and Cecile for your partnership and efforts!

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Bye American

“I was born in ______ in the United States of America. My skin is ______ and I’m a ______, and believe in  ______. I work ______ and pay ______ and don’t believe in ______. I exercise my right to ______ and appreciate the ______ of those before me. I eat ______ and am not scared of all of the ______. I feel that ______ should be free and that ______ is our choice. I’m not for ______ intervention, but feel that ______ is necessary. I know that ______ don’t get paid enough, while ______ live lavish lifestyles. Each night I watch the ______ only to see ______ over and over again. To me, it’s obvious this country has forgotten how to ______.”

-______

Nick Azzaro ©

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Animating Life

It’s not too often anymore that we stop and really engage in a commercial. So we were pleasantly surprised when we saw Chipotle’s latest. Not only did it have Willie Nelson singing a great cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist”, the stylized and whimsical presentation of our manufactured and pumped-up meat industry had us scrambling to watch it again. Irish graphic designer turned animator Johnny Kelly was the brain behind this great piece.

A couple years ago we watched the documentary Food Inc. which gave us a quick snapshot of just how monopolized and manipulated our food is. Thanks to Chipotle for reminding us that what we put into our bodies is worth thinking about everyday.

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Getting out of Town: Powers of Ten

Thanks to our friend Chris at Johnsonese Brokerage, we were reminded recently that we hadn’t watched the 1968 documentary Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames. A simple yet exquisitely done film, written and directed by the couple, it explores the immediate expanse and how quickly our world as we know it can become very small.

For it’s time, the film was highly exploratory and brave. What do you think of the production? How well do you think they achieved the visual experience?

-Y-

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Icy hot.

My father has always enjoyed photographing wooded winter landscapes, while I like more urban and abstract scenes. The sun broke through the clouds yesterday just before sunset, allowing me to capture the winter woods as I see them (and then some).

-N-

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Out + About: Murals, Tagging, Graffiti, Mosaics

When we lived in Chicago, one of my biggest gripes was the lack of public art. Much of it is relegated to Millenium and Grant Parks and Michigan Avenue, conservatively doled out to mainstream consumers and tourist explorers. The city’s buttoned-up demeanor goes hand in hand with the obliteration of spray paint within city limits by the Daley administration years ago. In 1992, Chicago City Council passed to ban the selling of the graffiti artists’ medium, waging a hefty war from artists and Federal Court Judge Marvin E. Aspen, who deemed it unconstitutional. They subsequently lost when it was fully enforced starting in 1995 under allowance by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. To this day, you still can’t buy spray paint within city limits but a few promising murals have popped up over the last couple years.

A mural endorsing Wicker Park, one block from where we used to live

Approved tagging at Milwaukee and Evergreen Aves.

Don’t get me wrong. There is art in Chicago, it’s just not as spontaneous as one might think for a city its size. I like to visit Philadelphia for many reasons but one of my favorite past times is walking along South Street and seeing what new pieces have popped up. It’s a vibrant art scene which started in the 1960s by a group of artists that moved into the area, but most notably Isaiah Zagar who started the movement of creating mosaics on every surface.

Philadelphia, South Street Corridor

Philly just has a flavor that’s all its own. Every year close to a hundred murals are created as part of the Mural Arts Program. Very impressive for a city its size, or any size, for that matter.

Riotsound Graffiti

Fine Art America

Murals are ubiquitous in Philly. AnmlHse

Artists: Jason Slowik and Keir Johnston, 2005 Urban Horsemen

VisitPhilly.com

For us, it’s nice to just see organic and creative things happening whether it’s graffiti, tagging, wall murals, window painting or an impromptu performance. The other night we met Summer Medel, an artist and muralist,  painting a new spring themed scene for a storefront. We were really happy to see creation happening, especially since it was a pretty damn cold out. That’s heart.

Cool, huh? What’s your favorite piece of public art – painting, sculpture, graffiti or otherwise?

-Y-

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