Up until now, STRAYLIGHT Press has always just published the work we like (and think is important). Sure, we try to presell as many copies as possible, get the good-old cash-flow flowing. The hope (and it's worked out so far) is that what we like (and think is important) will find an audience that will support us with their wallets. But a few weeks ago we began a Kickstarter campaign in order to publish OFFICIAL OTTAWA, by Tony Fouhse.
Some of our titles, so far
Now, we like the idea of crowd-funding, but only up to a certain point. On the plus side, it allows independent voices a means to get their work out by circumventing the standard model for publishing.
One of the problems we have with crowd-funding, though, is its closed-loop aspect: You do a Kickstarter, meet your goal, publish your book and deliver it to the folks who contributed. Great. What then? How do you further engage the people who have supported you? Seems to us that the "community" you've created is really just a one-off.
Memorial (from: Official Ottawa)
So STRAYLIGHT decided to design this Kickstarter to work against (or at least circumvent) that aspect of crowd-funding that kind of bothers us. Giving away the end result seems like the opposite of a closed-loop.
Because there's no money to be made at our end, and because we're broke as fuck, we're totally dependent upon folks like you to support this and make it happen.
Make it happen here.
Yes, we've started a Kickstarter campaign to print OFFICIAL OTTAWA, by Tony Fouhse.
Up to now STRAYLIGHT has self-financed all our publications; we have faith that the content of our books will strike a chord and find enough audience for us to make our money back. The reason we're running this Kickstarter is to raise money so we can reach a much broader Canadian audience, if our funding goal is met we'll be giving OFFICIAL OTTAWA away. To do that, we need your support.
In this is an election year in Canada, the quiet politics and alternate viewpoint of OFFICIAL OTTAWA seeks to work as an antidote the large doses of: A/ the taxpayer-funded, Conservative Party propaganda we are being exposed to, and B/ the upcoming, partisan, election campaign media blitzes all parties will soon unleash on the public.
The Kickstarter has been running for 3 days and we're already 38% funded. (A big thank you to those who have already supported this endeavour.) But that was the easy part; folks who know and support what we do checked in and voted with their wallets. Now we need to reach a broader stream of people who share the idea that alternate viewpoints are important and must be supported.
If you have already contributed, thank you. Please talk this project up, let your friends know, maybe twist an arm or two. If you haven't contributed yet, well, what are you waiting for?
You can get all the details, and donate here. You will be rewarded.
Shooting West Block, Parliament Hill; West Block
I wrote this (for drool) last year. It was about this image, which won "Photo Of The Year". . .
©John Stanmeyer. WPP picture of the year 2013
The World Press Photo thing is a big deal. They pick a bunch of winners in a bunch of categories. Press fotografy (and reportage and the document) are their raison d'etre, so it goes without saying that that focuses the scope of what they consider.
This year, as always, many fantastic images have been chosen. The World Press
Photo website is always a place to go to see what's what, what certain factions
of the powers-that-be believe is important. Congratulations to all those picked.
This year they chose, as Photo Of The Year, a shot by John Stanmeyer of some African migrants trying to get cellphone reception. Beautiful and evocative, no doubt about it.
The following comments are about the selection of this particular image . . .
The thing that rankles me about this Photo of the Year is the melodrama and
idealization of how the subject is rendered. It kind of reminds me of fotos that
get a lot of likes on Facebook and Flickr . You know: it's so easy to be seduced
and/or distracted by its surface. And this melodrama seems to tilt the idea of
how we are supposed to see the world.
I'm not saying that dramatic situations should be shunned. Not at all. What I'm
saying is that dramatic situations don't need to be idealized to pack a punch.
I understand that press fotografers, and other media types, need to reach out
and grab an audience. But one of the things that bugs me about how the media
represents things in general is that they, the media, usually go out of their way
to show us idealized versions of what the world, both the good and the bad, is
about. And any idealization is, by definition, a kind of fiction.
Here's this year's "Photo Of The Year". . .
Change my comments from "African migrants trying to get cellphone reception" to "a gay couple, during an intimate moment in St Petersburg, Russia" and everything else I said a year ago still stands.
© Mads Nissen WPP picture of the year 2013
I followed Christina Riley's trip as it was happening; her trip to that land you go to when you don't take your meds. I saw the pictures.
The photos blew me away, they seemed so authentic, they seemed to come from her nervous system. I knew they should be a book.
We talked about it, Christina and I, and after a time she said, "Yes, it's right to do it now". So we set about the edit, the look and the feel.
You have to understand we had no idea who might buy the thing, Christina being much more known as a musician than as a photographer (though the strength of these images will dispel any doubt about her talent as an image-maker). So we printed 100 copies and wondered who might be interested.
Well, the book struck a nerve and touched people who know what it feels like to feel like Christina did. Or know someone who knows what it feels like to feel what Christina did. (In the book there's a photo of a bridge, the bridge where Christina was going to jump to end it all. Christina received an email from a woman who's brother did end it all, and he ended it all by jumping off the bridge that is pictured in Back to me. In her email the woman thanks Christina, tells her she now has a better idea of how her brother must have felt and why he jumped.)
Long story short, after selling some copies to the usual suspects (friends, family, those who buy every title STRAYLIGHT produces), Back to me received a number of reviews, all pointing out the merits of the work, pointing out how unique it was and, yes, how important. (You can read them if you follow the link below.) And, thus, the book sold out.
And we decided to print a second edition. You can buy it here: XXXX.
PORTRAITURE august 8, 2010
I’m (mostly) a portrait photographer. The images from USER are portraits. That’s what I’m shooting down on the corner. Portraits. But I know that they also fall into some weird space between portraiture and sociology, anthropology and document. Maybe a bit of art.
The photos are so quiet, so contained. What you don’t see in them is the chaos, all the drama that goes down on the corner. I’ll be setting up a shot and my subject is doing a hit while s/he’s waiting. A fight will break out, punches thrown. The other day Star threw her bicycle at someone.
Of course, it’s not always like that. There are also long stretches of the calm and boredom that are typical of both photographing and addiction. How can I show all that in portraits? What do portraits do? How do they work?
When I’m down there shooting, blocking shots, working with the subjects, I try to think a little bit about what’s going into my head. I try to be open to the juju, the vibe, the feeling of the people and the place and how that’s affecting me. I also try to trust my instincts and to not think too, too much. I shoot first and ask questions later.
It’s later, when I’m editing, choosing frames, that the hard choices are made. That’s when my biases move forward. I’ll only choose an image if it suits that bias, if it fits with how I feel about that place, those people. It’s not objective.
For me, that’s what portraiture is all about. That’s how portraits can begin to describe how I feel.
Excerpt from ATTACK AND CONFUSION. Buy it here.