Innovation, Inspiration & Ideas

by | Mar 30, 2014 | Bulletin Magazine

ASMP New York Hosts Photo Business New York and Idea Share

The words innovative and ambitious best describe ASMP’s recent Photo Business New York (PBNY) and IDEA SHARE, two complementary events that offered a wealth of education, inspiration and community to both participants and attendees. The three days of programming developed from a 2011 brainstorming retreat among ASMP New York chapter board members, where discussions about the need for better business programs in the local area sparked an enterprising plan.

PBNY, the brainchild of ASMP NY chapter president Frank Rocco, focused on improving business skills and acumen, while IDEA SHARE, spearheaded by chapter board member Kevin Michael Reed, offered inspirational talks by world-renowned photographers, filmmakers and other creative-minded individuals. The success of both programs hinged on the outstanding teamwork of an extensive network of chapter board members and volunteers.

Held over two full days, PBNY opened with Alex Geana’s presentation “Social Media’s Impact on the Business and Future of Photography.” He stressed that your social media communication should be personal, letting people know who you are in the best possible light, and always featuring good and consistent content. “Looking for immediate results won’t necessarily happen, but social media is a great tool in a photographer’s marketing message,” Geana advised. After the talk, an attendee commented that he learned the importance of “how art directors and creatives can get to know you and your work through social media.”

Beth Taubner of Mercurylab started the afternoon session with her talk, “Branding 101: The Psychology of Brand Building,” during which she offered in-depth examples for how photographers can “uncover, discover and manage their brands.” Taubner explained that, in order to create an authentic brand, an artist must define all aspects of his or her practice and services. She also described how to be relevant, distinctive and credible and how to communicate all these things to potential clients. The bottom line, she says “is that branding is a complex, yet an altogether necessary process.”

Other highlights from PBNY programs include, David Carol’s views on doing your own work while making a living in photography, Frank Meo’s advice for creative estimating, Frank Rocco’s guidance on ethics and etiquette, Robert Heiss’s insights from the Sandler Sales Training method, Louisa J. Curtis’s suggestions for individualizing your creative marketing and Chuck Fadely’s recommendations for building a video team.

In addition, two compelling keynotes — “The Future Is Now: Photography Isn’t Dead,” by ASMP’s Thomas Werner, and “The State of Editorial Photography,” by Time magazine associate photo editor Mia Tramz — offered insights on the current state of photography, the challenging climate facing photographers daily and how best to capitalize on your strengths through personal projects.

Werner’s talk began with a humorous yet abbreviated conversation between legendary photographers discussing an imaginary history of photography. He went on to emphasize that, “while there have been technological and generational changes, the artist photographer has always strived for ways to diversify, distribute, and monetize his or her projects.” From citing Steichen, Stieglitz, and Man Ray to Damien Hirst and Ryan McGinley to two teenage Australians who went from posting small projects on YouTube to creating a worldwide brand with Swift Fox Labs, all of these artists have aggregated their successes to continue building on them. Werner added that, “with frontiers all around us, you have to do the work to be successful,” encouraging the audience to think positively and act on change as an opportunity instead of a threat.

Tranz’s keynote focused on the state of editorial photography from a photojournalistic perspective. She discussed the continuing power of the still image, the importance of technical expertise and the need for a photographer to choose a subject and create a vision that fully articulates a given situation and tells a compelling story. Tranz emphasized that in a digital space with a proliferation of devices, you have to determine where your strengths lie — in stills, video or a combination of the two — and how to best get the story told, whether it be with a single image, a portfolio, an essay or in video format. “Self assignments are a moment to challenge oneself to create something completely innovative in our industry,” she commented. She also noted how photographers have leveraged Instagram and other social media channels to drive traffic to their work, attract clients and land subsequent business opportunities. Tranz encouraged photographers to be more versatile, and “go all in. Now’s the time to be a passionate trailblazer; to create and be the change you want to see in the industry,” she noted, “because the state of editorial photography is currently demanding innovation.”

Following up on the energy established with PBNY, Saturday evening’s IDEA SHARE program brought together an impressive group of creative thinkers with images and ideas to reflect on, concepts to act on and projects to actualize.

Inspired by the format of a TEDtalk, IDEA SHARE speakers were each given 16 minutes to present on a range of inspiring topics. After a soulful musical introduction by cellist Jeanette Stenson, the evening featured Jon Levy’s innovative recipe for gathering diverse people of influence over a meal,Indrani Pal-Chuadhuri’s brand of iconic imagery and video storytelling with purpose, journalist Jessica Abo’s mission to be a change maker, Seth Porges’s creative image making within a historical context, Jean Miele’s epiphany that explores the interconnectedness of intuition and intention,Mark Malkoff’s saga of persistence in turning outlandish ideas into news headlines, Douglas Dubler’s pursuit of the perfect print, Pierce Turner’s rich tapestry of life tales in music and song, Frederick S. Lane’s assessment of how digital media has affected privacy and Gail Mooney-Kelly’s commitment to acting on an idea to make an award-winning documentary film.

A number of the IDEASHARE presenters inspired attendees by describing uplifting personal projects, explaining how compelling stories can be transformational, both personally and professionally, while also making a difference in our world today.

Indrani Pal-Chuadhuri stressed the authenticity she seeks in all her works, from her past collaborations with Markus Klinko shooting still photographs of fashion and celebrities to her most recent independent directing work in film, commercials and video projects. Pal-Chuadhuri screened her first short film “The Legend of Lady White Snake: A Tribute to the Spirit of Alexander McQueen,” which is a mesmerizing visual production based on an ancient Chinese legend and starring the fashion icon Daphne Guinness. As a strong counterpoint message, Pal-Chuadhuri also spoke passionately about her lifelong charitable commitments to women’s empowerment and children’s health and education issues. From her first charitable foundation in India to her recent short documentaries — “Keep a Child Alive” on the subject of AIDS in Africa, and “Girl Epidemic,” shot to raise awareness of the extreme conditions and plight of girls in the slums of India — these efforts strike a spiritual balance with the world of celebrity.

According to journalist and social change agent, Jessico Abo, “affluence is not a requirement for influence. You could be a hero by helping people on a micro level.” Abo offered the example of her pay-it-forward project on bone marrow donation, during which she produced a celebrity music video with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Larry King, Wendy Williams, Nick Cannon, Ivanka Trump among other athletes, movie stars and fashion designers, then organized a black-tie gala, attracting more than 600 guests and raising more than $250,000 to support the International Bone Marrow registry. While the numerous contacts Abo has made in her career as an on-air personality for NY1 helps to promote her various charitable causes, Abo suggested there are many possibilities for photographers to make a contribution to charities or causes you feel strongly about. You could volunteer to make event photographs and videography, donate photo sessions, lessons, auction prints or shoot promotional images for calendars, mailings or an organization’s website. Whatever your contribution to a philanthropic cause — whether on a micro level or a major project — could positively affect many people, and as Abo added, “In addition to your feel good takeaway, you would also be getting your work out to a larger audience.”

Gail Mooney related her experiences in bringing her award-winning first feature film, “Opening Our Eyes” to a worldwide audience. This filmmaking odyssey took Mooney and her daughter to six continents, “to document 11 ordinary people who are following their own dreams, passions and ambitions and doing extraordinary things.” The film’s subjects have helped individuals and communities to improve their quality of life, deliver health care to remote areas, extend outreach to homeless youth, and support and defend society’s most vulnerable members. Mooney encouraged attendees to seek out opportunities and “be in the three percent of people who act on their ideas, and to elevate your power of one to make a positive change.” Her continuing goals are to inspire people to take action and make this planet a better place for all.

Two other notable IDEA SHARE talks came from very different perspectives. The first featured the humorously clever personal projects dreamed up by Mark Malkoff, and the second was a very serious look by Frederick S. Lane at the potential for detrimental impact that technology can have on our privacy.

You’ve probably seen Malkoff on TV, in videos or heard about his exploits, which have garnered worldwide media attention for this comedian and filmmaker. Among other stunts, he spent an entire week living in an IKEA store, crammed in visits to all 171 Manhattan Starbucks’ locations in a 24-hour period, arranged sleepovers with celebrities in Los Angeles and spent 30 days living on an airplane as a cure for his fear of flying (for which he received a Guinness World Record). While Malkoff had the audience laughing at his adventures, his message for creative success comes from combining persistence in the power of asking with dreaming big and making those unique ideas a reality.

Like it or not, we all live in a surveillance society. Once made public, all digital information — from a cellphone (or anything electronic with sensors) to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms — gets out there and remains forever. In talking about “The Death of Privacy”, Frederick S. Lane spoke about how the ‘modesty, anonymity and control’ of privacy has been historically altered through current technologies of respective eras, and how subsequent societal and social implications impact and challenge us today.

IDEA SHARE ended with an intimate hour-long presentation by Albert Watson, highlighting his iconic images and the motivations behind his work. Watson spoke eloquently about his passion for photography and how his graphic-design background has influenced his visual conceptions. From iconic portraits to fashion spreads and advertising campaigns to personal projects, Watson’s distinctive artistic style has made him one of the most successful photographers of the past four decades. Watson showed some of his most memorable black-and-white work, reminiscent of the Italian cinema of Fellini and “La Dolce Vita,” while commenting that “he seeks and shoots a little bit mysteriously.”

After the slideshow, Watson generously answered audience questions during an extended Q&A session. He explained that his inspirations often come from viewing art, noting, ‘I’m always looking for someone better than me — smart and clever — because it elevates me to new ideas and projects.”

The takeaway message from these events was clear: Success isn’t just about being clever or smart; the best results come from thoughtful preparation and hard work. Surround yourself with encouraging and energizing individuals that nurture your talent, challenge yourself to extend your range and reach, and whenever you can, be part of something larger than yourself, sharing your talents for compassionate humanitarian causes that matter.

As chapter board member Jan Klier summed up, “In this time when so much of the proverbial air waves is taken up by an audience that sees photography more as entertainment and a reason to be social, it was very satisfying to see an event that focuses on the business and the artistic essence of the medium.”

Given the success of this first program, ASMP NY is already planning the next iteration. Says chapter board member (and now ASMP national board member elect) Michael Weschler, “We have more than seven hours of audio and video of presentations and behind-the-scenes footage and interviews that will be rolled out to create buzz for our next one. We’ll be releasing this soon through different channels, so please keep up with our hashtag: #ideasharenyc.”

Here are links to behind-the-scenes interviews with IDEA SHARE speakers Albert Watson, Indrani Pal-Chuadhuri and Jean Miele, produced and edited by ASMP NY board members Alex Geana and Jan Klier:
Albert Watson:
Indrani Pal-Chuadhuri:
Jean Miele:

— Monica R. Cipnic