Searching for the Miao Goddess

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It’s a funny thing, how these little things in life lead us to places. When I left china at the end of 2013, I forgot to exchange some of my Yuan bills (Chinese local currency). When I was traveling in China, we used to call them “Mao bills”… 20 mao, 50 mao, 100 mao due to the big Mao Zedong portrait on them. As I was struggling to find entertainment during the 12 hour flight, I started looking at the bills and that was the first time I noticed it, something I didn’t see before: every bill has a beautiful painting on it. each showing a different place in China. In a way, with these bills in your pocket, you carry a “piece of China” with you wherever you go.

Originally, these paintings were the inspiration for my 2014 photo project entitled “The Yin-Bou fishermen of China”. In January 2015 I decided to follow the bills once more. This time it was one of the smaller bills that got my attention and directed me to my next photo project – “The Miao Tribes”

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The Futility of Ranking Top Wedding Photographers

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Have you ever found yourself in the following situation? You are researching wedding photographers, either as a prospective client or as a photographer scoping out the competition, and encounter the following:

  • A photographer proudly claiming to be selected as one of the top photographers in their region
  • A wedding magazine declaring the best wedding photographers in the country
  • A photography website listing the top 100 wedding photographers in the world

On a superficial level, these designations are quite impressive. But when the fascination has subsided and the analytical part of your mind awakens and you have a good think about it, you wonder: who ranks them, and based on what, exactly? I did this and decided that most attempts to rank the top wedding photographers are an utterly meaningless endeavour.

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How Breaking the Ice Can Lead to Incredible Photos

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Asher Svidensky travelled to south China to photograph the Yin-Bou fishermen. Famous for using cormorants birds to fish, and located in a gorgeous setting, the fishermen are quite the attraction for any photographger.

After capturing the “right” and “pretty” images in the same location as every other photographer who goes there, Asher asked to move to another location to get better lighting.

The fisherman immediately refused stating that’s not how they do it, so how did Asher get them to change their mind and end up getting astonishing one-of-a-kind photos? Believe it or not, but with the then-viral ice bucket challenge.

You don’t need to drench yourself in water, however, and you’re not limited to trying it in China, so check out Asher’s story in the video below to see how it can help you become a better photographer.

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Is photography meeting your needs? — A reflection on what’s important

Is photography meeting your needs?There’s a segment of readers (yes, those of you who have life and your career all figured out) who will dismiss this as drivel. This is for the more humble among you…

In a recent blog post, marketing guru Seth Godin asked a series of simple, yet poignant, questions:

Is it meeting your needs…

Or merely creating new wants?

Is it honoring your time or squandering your time?

Is it connecting you with those you care about, or separating you from them?

Is it exposing you or giving you a place to hide?

Is it important, or only urgent?

Is it right, or simply convenient?

Is it making things better, or merely more pressing?

Is it leveraging your work or wasting it?

What is it for?

…and, immediately, I began to reflect on my own career as a creative professional.

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Touching Ad Brilliantly Explains Why Real Photographers Are Needed

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It’s no secret that the photography market is no longer the exclusive realm of professionals. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re the client, but with so many “professional” photographers out there these days it’s not hard finding a dud.

Be it your next door neighbor who just bought a DSLR, his grandchild who believes his 16 megapixel smartphone camera is just as good as the D4s or your sister-in-law’s cousin who has been photographing weddings as a side gig when he isn’t working at the corner deli, anyone of them has a reasonable chance of getting hired for a low-budget project where the client is mainly concerned about price.

Some moments, however, are too precious to risk with an amateur and that’s exactly the message the video below brings home.

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[NSFW] Illusions of the Body Shows How Lighting And Pose Impacts Beauty

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If you feel that magazines show beauty standard that is hard to match up to, you are probably right, aside the massive photoshopping that sometimes goes into the image creation process, the models are being aided by flattering lighting and calculated poses. Both of which have tremendous impact on the look of the human body.

Photographer Gracie Hagen chose to challenge that practice with Illusions of the Body. She does so by exposing us to two different exposures of the same person. In one exposure, the person is beautifully lit, and its pose is crafted to perfection. The other exposure is juxtaposed: horrible lighting and bad pose. The result help the viewers to understand that even the prettiest of persons are getting ‘some help’ in their magazine photos.

We asked Gracie a few questions, which you can find after the jump.

[The series is full frontal nude, so only hit the jump is you are not offended by frontal nude.]

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Robert De Niro Tells Photography and Other Creative Graduates: “You’re F*cked”

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In his commencement speech for NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, the Oscar winning actor shared some brutal truths with the graduating photographers, actors, filmmakers and other creatives.

“Tisch graduates, you made it… and you’re f*cked,” said De Niro, comparing their unclear future to those who decided to study nursing, dentistry, business or law.

“On this day of triumphantly graduating, a new door is opening for you: a door to a lifetime of rejection”, De Niro added, letting the class of 2015 know what the future holds for them.

No matter where you studied, or which field you chose, if you’re a professional creative you’ll relate to this speech.

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Avoidable Photographic Errors

Gratuitous header image.

Gratuitous header image.

Rule number one: there are no rules. A ‘mistake’ may not necessarily be a mistake if it helps convey the message or story or feeling intended by the photographer. I can easily think of multiple examples that go against every scenario described below. That said, for the most part, I’ve found these ‘mistakes’ to hold true. And if you want to achieve something very specific, then you either won’t be reading this article in the first place, or you’ll know when to bend the rules. The general viewing public probably has some preformed opinions of what is right/good, but these are born out of as much ignorance as conditioning by companies trying to sell more software or lenses or something else. There are rational reasons why these opinions may not necessarily be right in the context of fulfilling creative intention.

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