Transitioning from Street to Documentary Photography | Luc Kordas | Skillshare

Transitioning from Street to Documentary Photography

Luc Kordas, shoot what it feels like

Transitioning from Street to Documentary Photography

Luc Kordas, shoot what it feels like

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10 Lessons (1h 56m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Street vs. Documentary

    • 3. Photojournalism

    • 4. How to Transition

    • 5. How to be a good Doc Photographer

    • 6. First Assignment - Gleason's Gym

    • 7. Long term project - Nocturnes

    • 8. Publishing

    • 9. Project

    • 10. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

This class is designed for street photographers who would like to transition to documentary photography. I am both a street and a documentary photographer living and working in New York. During this course I walk you through the journey I took when I transitioned from being a strictly street photographer to a documentary photographer working in photo essays rather than single images. I talk about the differences between the two genres, how to transition, about my first documentary assignment and - equally important - I explain what's the easiest way to get in touch with photo editors and get published. 

This course will help all of those photographers who feel they have stories to tell that require well built photo essays because single street photos just aren't enough any more.  

Meet Your Teacher

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Luc Kordas

shoot what it feels like


Hi! I am a portrait, street and documentary photographer based in New York. My series of black and white street photography - New York Chronicles - comprises photographs I have been shooting in all boroughs of New York City since 2008. 

I am predominantly a candid shooter drawn to quiet moments in the streets. I like to single out subjects from the crowd rather than construct complicated images with multiple subjects in the frame. My fine art background favors the use of wide aperture, but often not wide angle. 


New York Chronicles have been published on The Guardian, Lens Culture, Huff Post, Al Jazeera and, for a year, every week in the New York's legendary newspaper The Village Voice before it went paperless in late 2017.


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1. Intro: Hello, guys. Welcome to my third online course on street photography today. I'd like to talk about transitioning from street photography to documentary photography. What are the differences? What are the similarities? How do those two genres compared to photo journalism? What is folder journalism? What is documentary photography and why, indeed, so many street photographers do transition to documentary photography. Later in the course, I'm going to show you the very first documentary assignment I've ever gotten. I was sent to photograph Gleason's Gym, the very famous Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn, New York I'm going to show you a couple of more projects that I've done. We're going to talk about how they differ. Then we're going to move on to talk about different formats off documentary photography. And that's because documentary photography is as large as life itself. It spends many genres. It can take very different forms, and different people will have different approaches to it. Once we're down talking about that, we will move on to another important thing, which is how to publish your work. Ultimately, all of us photographers, we want to publish our work, if not in print, than at least online. We're going to talk about different avenues that we might take to do that. I hope you'll enjoy it and let's get started. 2. Street vs. Documentary: Okay, So let's get into a comparing street photography and documentary photography and talk about how we can transition from the first to the other. What is street photography? I think we all know this already. So I'm not gonna, you know, explain what it is if you were not sure, or if you're just starting with street photography, you can watch my two other online courses on that topic. But here I would like to avoid going into details and just move right away to talking about the transition itself. Before we get to that, though, we to point out the differences between street and documentary. Street, as we all know, is mostly about single images. We as street photographers, we roam the streets, and many times we have no agenda. We just go around and take pictures off whatever interests us or whatever we find attractive and those air single images. But there comes a time in the life of a street photographer when you realize that a couple of images would do a better job at saying what you want to say with those images, and then maybe you add another couple of images and you're getting to four or five or six. In other words, there comes a time when you realize that while a single photo can tell a story and often does a couple of photos, several photos can do it much better When that time comes that you finally realize that you want to say something Mawr and one image is just not enough. You are already venturing into the world off. Documentary photography Documentary photography is basically telling stories, not using one image as we do in street photography but using several images 5 10 15 maybe even 20. It depends on the project, so that is obviously the most apparent and the most obvious difference between street photography and documentary photography. Now, when you are a documentary photographer, you're speaking in a different format, although not necessarily a different language. But you're speaking in a different format. If you think about a perfect, iconic, exceptional street photograph, you realize that the reason why they're so good and so memorable is because everything is perfect from composition to the situation, the event, the light, the frame, the crop. Everything is great because that's what makes a great photograph. That's why we remember That's why their iconic a documentary photographer has much more leeway in the photo project that consists of 10 images. Not all of them have to be amazing. Not all of them have to be super strong. 10 out of 10 images not all of them would be good if they stood on their own. If you took a photo number seven from a certain 10 photo long essay and just showed it to people, maybe that photo doesn't really speak much about anything on its own, but within that serious, it works as a complementary side story or background information, whatever it is. So now you're you're speaking in a different language. You're you're telling a story using different types of images, maybe shot using different gear or lenses with different perspectives, focusing on different things. And so you have more freedom. You can approach it from many angles. You don't have that pressure to take that perfect single photograph. Um, because that's not what telling a story is. And one of the biggest mistakes that a lot of people make, especially at the beginning of their career, is that they think that a good photo essay is a selection of your best shots on a certain topic, it is not. It's not the best off album. Neither is your portfolio. By the way, if you're putting together a portfolio, it doesn't necessarily have to be. You know, my best shots portfolio is also, in a way, kind of a story. So as a side note, if you're putting together your portfolio, don't think of, you know, here on my best shots. Think if they work together. And that is precisely what documentary photography is. One of the most challenging things in documentary photography that you don't have to deal with in street photography, for the most part, is selecting the images and putting them into a cohere and story that is interesting, compelling and works together visually. In street photography, the documentary value is kind of added unintentionally off course. If I photographed in New York today, in 2020 20 years from now, those photos will have documentary value for people looking at them in 2040 thinking. Oh, so this is how New York looked like 20 years ago? Yes, but that's not my main objective. As a street photographer, I don't go out and photograph Brooklyn so that people in the future can see how it looks like. I'm not documenting it. Yes, I am documenting it, but kind of, by the way, I as a street photographer and looking for interesting striking images, something funny, something weird, whatever interests me, really, whatever attracts me. So street photography is reacting to what street gives you. It is kind of like one shot game. You know, you walk the streets, you might be walking the streets for several hours and you have a couple of those single situations that, for the most part, aren't really connected. And you react to them in documentary photography. You don't react as much as you plan yourself. What you want to shoot, you go out with not with an agenda, but with a plan with an idea how you want to approach the topic? Um, possibly what do you want to start with what you want to end with? You don't have to have all of those ideas right at the beginning, and then a lot of times they change and we're gonna talk about that, too. About the role of an editor in the whole process is very important. but generally as a documentary photographer. You go out with a certain plan. I want to shoot this. This is how I want approach this. This might be the best time to do this. I have three weeks, I don't know. Maybe shoot it on the weekend. The light is better at 4 p.m. And so on and so on. There are many things that you have to think about that's part of the game, and that's why it's so cool to do this. Um, street photography is more of a lonely wolf profession, and it doesn't really require a lot off preparation. In fact, it doesn't require any preparation. You just need to have your camera. And if whether it rains or its sunshine, you can go out and take pictures. Documentary photography, uh, isn't as straightforward. Isn't that simple and definitely takes much more were in street photography, you often choose the location is a part of your composition, and it is an important factor in your photo. The location sometimes plays the major factor major importance because you want to photograph the Brooklyn Bridge and people in broken bricks. So here you are, the Brooklyn Bridge in the background and people walking on it on That's your thing in documentary photography, it's the event that you document that dictates the location, so you don't really choose your location as much. At least for the most part. You go wherever life takes you wherever your heroes, the heroes off your story. Protagonist of your story. Thank you. Here's a good example off how Street photographer and a documentary photographer would approach the same kind of event. So a few years back back in 2017 I think I was sent by village voice and newspaper I worked for to document the women's march, the famous women's march in New York, 400,000 people came out to protest mostly the election of Donald Trump. Now, if I hadn't been on assignment from my newspaper, and if I had gone there just as a street photographer, my approach would have been just to go with the flow and look for interesting moments. Interesting people, maybe some portrait. It's and just see how it goes and see what I can find her as a documentary photographer. That changes because now I have responsibility off presenting the story to you. Of course. I have a lot of freedom how I want to do it and how I can approach it. But because I'm telling you a story, you might not have any background information. You might not have any context, and it is precisely my job to show it to you the best way I can. So I do have to keep in mind how I want toe open the story potentially how I want to end it . What I want included. I know that I need a wide angle shots of the crowds. I know that I need close up portrait. It's somewhere in the middle of a story. Anything controversial, maybe or interesting happening in between maybe some banners and what they read and maybe rounded up with some kind of white angle shot as well. This is all open for discussion, but it is good to have an outline of a plan and some kind of idea of what you wanna shoot, because again, your story your photo essay is not going to be 10 best shots of the day. That's not how documentary photography works. Okay, so we talked about the major differences between street and documentary photography. Off course. The number one is that street photographer talks in single images for the most part documentary photographer talks and photo essays or serious off images. Another difference is that a street photographer, it doesn't really need any preparation. A documentary photographer needs a lot of preparation. A good documentary photographer will need to do a lot of research before she or he ventures out into the field. The better your research is, the better your documentary project will be. That's a fact he to know in order to get the best out of your topic. So whereas street photographers can just grab the camera and go out in the streets and shoot, disregarding the weather, they don't have to coordinate with anyone. They don't have to do really anything, and they don't even have to have a plan. What they want to shoot, they could, but they don't have to A documentary photographer. Yes, they do have to have ah plan at least the sketch of a plan, what they want to do, how they want to approach it, and if they want a photograph, certain events, certain places they need to coordinate all of that even the travel to the spot itself sometimes if it's in the remote place, takes a lot of coordination. You need to take a lot of things under consideration. Travel restrictions, visas and all of that. It could be a a really time consuming process. You need to play the long game as a documentary photographer, at least as a professional documentary photographer. It doesn't have to be that complicated right away and right off the bat. But if we're talking about professional documentary photography, it takes a lot off preparation and a lot of thought. 3. Photojournalism: This is a good place to talk about photojournalism, what it is and how it differs in very short terms. Photojournalism is like journalism on Lee with a camera, meaning you cover current events. So as opposed to documentary projects that could take months and years. Photojournalism focuses on breaking news, something that is happening right now. If you're a photojournalist, you may get a phone call in the middle of the night. Something happened in your city or wherever you need to get up and go and cover it. That being said, photojournalism and documentary photography often overlap like I showed you. When I was talking about women's march, I was hired to shoot the event, so I was basically hired to be a photojournalist by the Village Voice. But at the same time, I was documenting something that will forever be in the history books off New York City for sure. When 400,000 people come out in streets, that is something that we will all remember. So I was both a photojournalist who's documenting a current event breaking news. But I was at the same time and documentary photographer who could be working on a broader topic. And this one particular march could be just one piece off the puzzle that I will put together in a few years and presented in a much broader perspective as far as the type of photos he might be shooting while being on a photo journalistic assignment versus a documentary assignment. They're not that different. A lot of times that we exactly the same, they will totally overlap. But what I will say what kinds to my mind is that photojournalism oftentimes focuses on something that will grab the readers or viewers attention. So the photo has to be bold. Something has to be happening has to be evocative. Documentary photography often times is much more quiet, if you know what I mean. Um, you don't need to grab your viewers attention as much because you have a range of 20 photos to present the subject, and it could be a very quiet story. It could be a quietly flowing story. You don't need any wow images, but for photojournalism, especially now when there's so many outlets and online magazines and online news, they all competing, so they're competing for clicks. Basically, it's just what it is. This today's landscape. So a lot of those images, a lot of editors will go for images, that kind of screen, you know, something that grabs attention, especially if you're seeing those photos on your phone. They will automatically be smaller than on your computers, or you're looking at a very small photo, and this photo literally needs to jump out of Instagram and grab your attention. And this photo needs to say, Look at me. And so photojournalism. Unfortunately, a lot of time is that, but good photojournalism is good photography nonetheless. So this is, of course, your task to kind of find a compromise between doing bad between being competitive and also doing good work and not looking for sensation. 4. How to Transition: transitioning. Okay, so now the day has come when you realize that a single image is just not gonna cut it for you. You want to tell a deeper, wider and more new ones story. How do you transition two things to happen? One you need to shift your thinking can to You need to shift the way you work. We'll talk about the ins and outs of a documentary Photographers job later in the chapter called How to Be a Good Documentary Photographer. But if you ask me, what's the one single difference between a street photographer and the documentary photographer and how to transition? I would tell you this you need to change your mindset. You no longer shoot single images. Now you're shooting photo essays and that involves planning and research. And then put the thought into practice and change the way you work. The days where you wander the streets freely and take whatever comes your way are over. Now it's time for more serious and more time consuming work off course. The amount of research will depend on your subject and how familiar you are with it. If you're documenting your family, maybe you don't need to do a lot of research at all. But if you're documenting something that's completely strange and new to you, then yes, you will have to put a lot of work before you get in the car or you get out in the streets or you board that plane. Theo. Good news is that you might already be transitioning from a street photographer to documentary photographer, maybe even without knowing it, even though as a street photographer you work in single images and you usually don't go out in search of anything specific. As years go by, you might look back at your own work and realize that certain themes come food. In my case, I have a lot of those. Actually, I like to shoot the subway, and I have a number of images taken in subway. Each of those images was taking kind of all on its own. I wasn't thinking about a body of work, but now, after 10 years of shooting in the streets of New York, I realized that I have enough images from subway to make it a whole different story, A whole different photo, I say that is akin to documentary photography because at the end of the day, I have been documenting New York subway for the past decade. Another theme is, for example, in my case, Coney Island. I moved to Coney Island three years ago, and I've lived there for almost three years, and I shop this one specific, very iconic place for New York. And that in itself could be a documentary project. Just Canyon. And that's it. Or you might be into architecture on you might be into documenting how your neighborhood changes over the years with, say, gentrification, and you might not even realize this. You're just shooting new buildings popping up in your neighborhood. But now, in 2020 you look back at the last five years off your street work and you realize that you have actually been subconsciously documenting how your neighborhood changes. Now, if that happens, if you look at your archives and you find something interesting there two ways to go about it now you can just continue to shoot single images without thinking much about it, or you can say OK, so now I have this body of work. It's not a complete documentary project, but sit down and think what's missing in this picture. What other images would I need to make it a fuller body of work? That would be a riel documentary project. So if up until today you've been randomly shooting some way and you have let just say 100 images that you like think about if there any other images that would introduce variety or that would make the body of work mawr interesting, maybe now that you all of a sudden realize that this is happening now, you condone, continue consciously and adjust accordingly. Maybe shoot a couple of images with a different lens with zoom lines. Or maybe realized that you don't have any images in winter, for example. So maybe those images are missing now. You can consciously continue what you started subconsciously, you know, who knows? Maybe you already are documenting something without even knowing to me. Another example of that was when I went to a portfolio review in Miami, and the photographer who was looking in my work said, You know, it seems like you either like shooting lonely people or you do it subconsciously, but you should have a lot of lonely looking people. Maybe it would be good to make a story out of it, something bigger. I looked at my own work and I thought, Wow, she's right. I do have a lot of lonely looking people. I already had maybe 20 images that I liked, and from there I consciously continued this project and it went on to be published on lens culture and other magazines. So you never know you might already be halfway there or you might already have an almost complete documentary project that you weren't aware off. And that, by the way, is the easiest way to transition. When you just look back at your archives and you find something interesting, you realize, Wow, I didn't really think about it, But I've been shooting this one corner of the street that I see from my window for years. I have pictures of it in snow. I have pictures of it in summer. I have pictures over that 6 a.m. and at 2 a.m. And at 2 p.m. When there's plenty of people . I have all different kinds of images, but there is a very strong theme your documented that one particular corner off your street or neighborhood speaking of a street corner. That's actually a very good point to start. I am myself now in the middle of the project, documenting one of the busiest street corners in New York City of 34th and Seventh Avenue, and I go there every once in a while. I've been shooting it for almost a year, and I'm trying to get as many different pictures. It's possible, but always standing on the same corner. And right now, as I mentioned, we're living in the times off the covered 19 the Corona virus. I was just there yesterday on that corner, and it was completely empty. I have never seen it like that before. This is one of the busiest corners in midtown New York, and I wonder yesterday at 2 p.m. With my camera and it was completely deserted. It was very eerie, very strange, and I know for sure that that image will definitely form a part of that documentary project that will be simply called 34th and Seventh. So transitioning from street to documentary doesn't have to be painful, and it doesn't have to be hard. Sometimes it happens subconsciously, and sometimes things like Instagram come with a helping hand. Do you remember when Instagram had only the option of uploading one single image? That was a very street like approach, But then they introduced sets and now you can upload up to 10 images. Aziz, one post on instagram. On top of that, you also have instagram stories that were directly copied from Snapchat. I remember the times a few years back when my friends were telling me about this new app Snapchat and I couldn't quite understand what it was because I didn't have it. I didn't wanna have it. I didn't want to have another social media account and they were telling me, Yeah, you record stories. But then they disappear after 24 hours and I I was still with confused. I just didn't like Okay, that's strange. And then Instagram copied it. And now you have instagram stories And what? Our instagram stories, if not a potential way of presenting your documenting work, you go out and you could, of course, take a random stories me drinking a tequila or me on the beach or me at university, whatever. But you could start thinking about instagram stories as actual stories. Let's not go as fire and say documentary project. But the format of instagram stories and the Instagram sets where you can upload 10 images in one post is what sometimes makes you think in multiple images and not single images. So thank you, Instagram. I think Instagram helped a lot of US street photographers to transition and certainly helped a lot of documentary photographers to present their work the way they want it to be presented. Speaking of Instagram, here are a couple of accounts to watch. Many of them are my favorite accounts. They will help you understand what a documentary photography really is, and they will expose you to the best documentary photographers in the world. 5. How to be a good Doc Photographer: Let's now talk about how to be a good documentary photographer. Rule number one. He's be returned. So as opposed to street photography. When you can go out in the streets and do your own thing, you need to be prepared and you need to be prepared. Well, for your job, do your research location scouting research about the culture and, of course, depends how much you already know it. If you're shooting something that is very familiar to you, then you don't need to do as much research if you're shooting your family. If that's your documentary project, let's just say you're shooting your aging father because you want to document the process of aging and how you feel about it. It's more off a emotional documentary project. When you do come with a certain angle, then maybe you don't need to do a lot of research. But if you're sent off or you send yourself off to a remote corner of the world and do a project on tribes in Australia and you don't really know a lot about it, you better prepare well because you need to understand not only the culture in the context but also dip into the language and so many things. In short, do your research prepare well. Number two connection. If you think about street photography, a lot of street photographers have absolutely no connection with their subjects whatsoever . You walk, take pictures, move on. A lot of street photographers feel uncomfortable talking to the people. If you've seen my previous online courses, you see that that's not my case. I actually like talking to people in the streets. I don't necessarily start the conversation myself, but if people come up and talk to me, I'm more than happy just to talk to them, to get to know their stories and then take a couple of pictures. But most of street photographers don't do that. They don't want anything to do with people, because a lot of times contact means trouble. As a documentary photographer. Connection with people with your theme is absolutely essential again because you need to realize that you're telling a story as a human being. You're not the camera. The camera is just a tool. You bring your own self to the story and through your own filter. You tell the story while still trying to be as objective as possible, so you need to connect with people. Don't rush it a lot of times. It will take a long time for you to get through the wall of insecurities or distrust. Take as much time as you need to really, really connect with people. It's not about posing people. Oh, yeah, you stand over there and you come closer. It's not about getting to a spot. Had a perfect time with sunset, so you get that spot. That's travel photography. That, in some cases is street photography. You're working on a single image to pack as many features into its composition. Light. Something interesting happening, striking colors. Boom. There it is, right? Documentary photography is not that documentary photography is, more than anything else connecting to the story, which a lot of times means connecting to people. And from there we have on obvious conclusion, which is another important point on the list of how to be a good documentary photographer. Do not ever manipulate the story or the images in postproduction. Yes, of course, we're not talking about adjusting image, so the contrast and the light is good or converting them into black and white. If that's your thing. But don't pose people where they don't want to be posed. Yes, documentaries sometimes involves posing people, but don't force people to do something they're not comfortable doing. Don't try to build the store yourself with pre imagined frames. Don't come to the story with an agenda. This is how it's gonna go. Yeah, I know this is bad. These people are bad. They don't know anything or like these air terrorists or decent. This is an abusive mother. I'm gonna do that. Come with an open heart and open soul and first of all, observed connect with people. You will find out that a lot of times appearances are just that. Appearances, When you connect with people, everyone has their own story. You get to know them better and you realize, Oh, wow. I didn't realize this at all. This person went through a lot of things, and that's why he's behaving like that. In that respect to being a documentary photographer requires to be a psychologist. To some extent, you need to read people well. You need to know if they're getting angry. You need to know if they're telling you the truth or if they're acting. Ah, lot of times when camera comes into the picture, you take out your camera and people get tense. So you need to know how toe get around. That, too. As a street photographer, a lot of times you just walk down the streets. Boom, you take a shot. It lasted one second. Your subject didn't even realize or he when he realized it was too late because the photo was already taken and you got that authentic moment of someone being angry or being surprised or being lost in their thoughts. That's it. But as a documentary photographer, you can rely on speed that much documentary photography is playing the long game. You can also rely on luck as much as you do in street photography and street. A lot of times it is pure, like a lot of street photographers will deny this like No, no, no. Luck is when there's there's there's this phrase that a lot of street photographers use. Luck is when preparation meets good timing or something like that. Okay, it's luck. Okay. You got lucky. You got lucky. You took five images and that one image. This person was doing something that's literally that fraction of a second. And that is what makes this image interesting in documentary photography. It can happen it can happen to It, can help you. But don't rely on that. Don't count on luck. Count on your preparedness and on research. Speaking of manipulation, I guess way have to talk about Steve McCurry and scandal or controversy that came out a few years back. There was an exhibition off his work, and in Italy, I believe, and one of the images appear to be Photoshopped and no one noticed except for this one Italian guy. If I remember well and he wrote a block post about this, he took a photo, and it was clearly Photoshopped something when wrong. So whoever Photoshopped retouched that image just made a mistake, basically, and it's very clear that this isn't the original image, and so a whole hell broke lose and people were appalled. Uh, Steve McCurry is an amazing photographer. I love his photography. I know that a lot of people don't because they say that he portrays India as this fairy tale land of beautiful collars, and it's not really what it is. I myself, I've been to India, and I know that it isn't really what it is, but still, at the same time, when you look at its photographs, they're beautiful, they're striking, and a lot of them already have the documentary value that we talked about earlier because they were taking decades ago. So now we were presented. All the community was presented with a problem. What do we do with this? This Here we have an iconic photographer, a giant photography, a Magnum photographer who appears to be photo shopping, his images. And so the way it was resolved. And I think it was literally the only way Steve McCurry could have escaped this whole controversy is that he admitted to it. And then he said that he doesn't consider himself a documentary photographer anymore. Instead, he said he was a visual storyteller and such he reserves the right to do whatever he wants with his images. But, of course, at the same time, to please the public, he said that moving forward, he will abstain from retouching his photos, and by the way, it was a mistake down by one of his assistants that he wasn't aware of whether we believe in that or not. It's a different story because later it turned out that this wasn't the only image they Photoshopped, which was obvious. And there are. There are a number of images were quite substantial retouching work went into them. There's an image where he removed the whole person. There is actually a few of those images. Even the very famous photograph off the Afghan Girl by Steve McCarry is a controversy as well. There was a photojournalist quite recently who decided to investigate the real story behind this photograph. And yet again, what he found was quite disturbing. It turns out that McCarry post the girl kind of against her will. She didn't really want to do it, but he talked to the teacher who kind of forced her to do it and the whole situation. It just doesn't sound good. It doesn't look good. So Steve Makarios carrier is full of those controversies. I'm not sure that you can explain it all with just saying that you are a visual storyteller and not a photojournalist. But be that as it may, I still say that his photography is outstanding, and yet his ethics of work are somewhat dubious. The reason why I'm telling you about this is precisely because the only possible explanation for this waas what Steve McCurry did. So he said. I'm not a documentary photographer. I'm a visual storyteller. I present the stories the way I want using certain freedoms. And if I want a Photoshopped picture, that's good. And it is good as long as you don't call yourself documentary photographers So steep. McCarry, by shedding this label of documented photography, kind of saved his career because there was a point where everyone was thinking like, Oh, wow, so should we using the current terminology, should we cancel Steve Carry? Because he's been photo shopping, his images for four decades and the photographer himself? I have found a way off diffusing this and said, Well, I'm not a documentary photographer. I'm a visual storyteller. So the bottom line is, if you are for a documentary photographer, if you want to be considered such, don't manipulate your images. Do not do that on the spot. And also don't do this in post production. It's an absolute no no, and it ruined careers of a lot of photographers that literally, uh, from one day to another had to quit photography or at least documentary photography because they lost all of their credibility. So that's one side of a story that, you know, you might literally bury your whole career just by doing that, but a much more important point. So what I'm saying right now is that you shouldn't do this not because you're gonna waste your career, but because it's not fair to your audience. It's just not good. You need to be honest as a photographer. If you didn't get that shot that you really want. Well, it is what it is. You'll come back and hopefully you'll get it some other time. You know how with street photography they say that 99% it's a failure. It's true. But with documentary photography, that isn't the truth, because you don't rely on luck so much, you rely on being prepared. Another thing that characterizes a good documentary photographer is person viewings. You can think about your project as ah, a quick deal. You come in and get out in one day. That's it. That's done. This could be the case with a photojournalist and is the case in many situations when you're just photographing and event. That's it. An event takes two hours. Get in, Get out. You have your material. That's it. As a documentary photographer, for the most part, you need to be persistent and perseverance because you're not going to always nail that thing that you want to do. A two first attempt. There might be all kinds of different complications. Someone might be laid. Someone might not arrive at all. Someone might be sick. The people you want to talk to are not in a good mood. Just put it that way or they're not even there. It's, you know, I don't even want to go into a whole different kinds of complications. But just be prepared for this to be a long and ever a time consuming thing where you invest , not Onley your own time doing research at home, but also time in the field. You need to come back to the spot multiple times, photograph it from different angles, photograph different people with different settings. It just takes time, so be prepared for it and be persistent and patient. And another thing is that once you have all of your material ready and you decide this is it? I had one month to shoot. It did it. Now I have my photographs. I have 1000 photographs to choose from. You need an editor to help you do it off. Course not. All of us have the luxury off having someone trusted that we just can use us help. But if you can If you do have someone like that, if you do have an opportunity to use a hand, someone that you trust visually, so to say, definitely use their help. And if you have people who work for newspapers or for whom this is their day to day job meaning photo editors or other journalists, by all means ask their advice. It doesn't mean that you have to stick to what they tell you if you, uh, come down from 1000 images to 50 images and then from 50 images, you come down to the final 15 images that going to make the story and someone tells you all this is number one. This is number 2345 It doesn't necessarily mean you have to follow their advice, but it is good to have that kind of advice and please think about it because when you're on your own as a documentary photographer, it really is difficult to detach yourself from the story, especially if it happens quickly. If you only have two weeks to shoot, you shot your material. Now you are at home looking at all the photos on your computer, but you're still kind of their emotionally, Um, and you know, the well known problem off every artist that you see your own work differently. That might be a problem. So for me, as a documentary photographer, I want help. I want outside help. I have a few editors or people that I trust my girlfriend is a photographer to. I asked her many times, What do you think and doesn't mean? I always agree. It doesn't mean that I always do what she told me to do, but at least it gives me different perspective, and many times I actually follow her advice and thing. Okay, that makes sense. And sometimes I'm completely lost. I don't even know where to start. I didn't even know what image should comes first, and then I just need help, and a lot of times you're just gonna make your life easier by using help. Who is a good editor? It is not your mother, unfortunately, because your mother most likely will say that all the 1000 images you shot are so beautiful . Oh, my God. She has never seen anyone so talented. And it's great. We love our mothers. But your mother is not going to be your favorite. Uh, editor, You need someone who knows photography. Ideally, knows a little bit about the story you're shooting, the more they know the better. And someone who can simply tell you this image doesn't work here or who? Someone who can tell you this is a very good image. But it doesn't work with the rest of the story. As street photographers, we don't usually have that problem. If I go out and shoot 300 photos, that's a long day, by the way, I don't do that anymore. Usually right now I come back with maybe 60 photos from a day, and then I choose the five that are okay. And then out of those five photos, one will be very good so out of. And that's a good percentage. By the way, if you have one very good image out of 60. Good job. You've done well. So as a street photographer, I don't really have to deal with that. I can have a sequence of images of street images. I do that and I talk about it in my other class. You know, you see something interesting, and then I might just shoot five images to make sure I get that interesting moment. And then within that little serious, I can have some doubts or the 2nd 1 or 4th 1 But that's the dilemma. I might have a street photographer as a documentary photographer. It is a whole different level off doubts and indecisiveness. Really. Should I open with this one? And sometimes you know right away this is it. This is the first image off my story. I'm going to use this. This is a beautiful opening Image gives perspective, gives contacts on, invites people to see what's next. But unfortunately, that's not always the case. Sometimes you don't know you don't know what's going to come at the end. What's gonna come in the middle and that's when you need an editor and editor is someone like I said, who is not your family and Leicester in the photo business. But someone who knows about photography might be photographers themselves. No, a little bit about editing. And no about sequencing the images on if you don't have access to those kind of people than at least someone you trust. In other words, someone that you think have a good taste. If you're on your own, you can still do it. And I've put together a lot of my projects. It was just me because I didn't have any help on. You know, it's fine. You condole without an editor, it's not impossible. But what I'm saying is, if you do have a chance, my own means used, they're gonna make your project better. Another good practice off, a good documentary photographer or photojournalists in this case that yet again overlap here is to take notes, have a notebook with you and take simple notes. You might be doing different forms of documentary photography, so you might actually want to interview people, which then, of course, you will have a voice recorder or an old school notebook. But no book can be also useful just for taking short notes about certain ideas that you might have things like come back tomorrow and dusk because the light will be better or this person's phone number. Call him after eight or talk to this person about this or I don't know any number of ideas that might come and that you will easily forget. That's why you need a notebook or better still, I think these days just record voice messages. But if you're, um, or visual person that you might even draw some pictures. What I'm saying is a notebook will be your friend because it will tell you to come back later to the same spot. It will store all your ideas that you might revise at the end of the day. It will just make your whole project stronger. So do take notes, whether it's voice messages or sketches, even if you're into that or just simply put down phone numbers, interview people. Like I said, this is a long game. This will take time. You're not supposed to rush. Make sure you cover all the angles. That's what good documentary photography is. And by the way, speaking of the current situation, the Corona virus spreading all over the world, this is actually a great way to show you that documentary photographer could be one of those famous big shots that shoots for National Geographic or The New York Times or CNN on so many other outlets. This could be your professional documentary or photographer or a journalist, but to be a documentary photographer, you don't necessarily have to cover big stories on the front lines. You don't necessarily to be hired by a newspaper. In this case, when you're dealing with a crisis like Corona virus, let's just call it an event that we will remember for a long time. Uh, you could just document your neighborhood. That's it. You don't need any newspaper or media outlet to hire you. You could make your own story within your means and within your circumstances. We are all under quarantine, and that's one of the reasons I'm recording this class because I have time to do this. And I've been meaning to do this for a long time but grow busy here in New York. But now is the time we're on the quarante time. We're not supposed to leave home, and we definitely shouldn't. So me right now is a documentary photographer. What I can do is I can document the life off the neighborhood just around me, or even even limit myself to literally staying at home and old times and documenting what I see outside of my window. I live right next to a pretty big avenue in Brooklyn, and I've already seen things that made for good photographs. In fact, I took some photographs from my window just the other day. There was an ambulance transporting someone from the hospital back home. This person was on a stretcher and was all wrapped up in white sheets, just like a mummy I'm guessing to prevent the spreading of the infections, and that in itself just a view. From my window was one shot that I could include in my story on Corona Virus in this particular neighborhood in Brooklyn. But I could also take a lonely walk without interacting with anyone, just as we are expected to do, and pretty much told to do not to spread the disease and fold up just around what people do signs off the Corona virus in the neighborhood, I see a lot of disposed facemasks just on sidewalks. I see big lines in front of my grocery store I see people social distancing in the line so they don't stand one next to each other, but they keep the distance. You can take your camera and document all of that. You don't need to be shooting for The Guardian or The Washington Post. You could be doing your own project that later on might be published but one of those media outlets, by the way, um, but you don't need to think about being on the front lines and being at the press conference in the White House. That's part of it. And that's one of the stories. This is what you see on TV. This is what you see on YouTube. But who knows? Maybe the more interesting thing for people to see is how your community deals with this crisis. What the people think. You can include interviews, maybe not the best time. But if you keep the distance, or you can do it via Skype or so many other ways to do this online, not actually having to interact face to face you could do all of those things. So what I'm trying to tell you is that there are many ways of approaching a Seymour a topic . Let's just think Corona virus and maybe the first thing you think. OK, go to the White House. Photograph the president giving press conference photograph the hospital's on so on and so on. Yeah, cool. Four. Photograph your neighborhood or photograph your family how it effects them psychologically as well on so on and so on. So there are a lot of happiness to explore. Within one topic, a good documentary photographer or a good human being gives back to the community he or she photographs. It could be a simple as giving on image that you shot to the people that you worked with on that you were documenting. Or maybe if you want to go farther and take it to another level, organize a fundraiser. If you're photographing a certain poor area that needs help, financial or any other kind of help, you know you do a project, and it could be just that you could publish it in the newspaper done deal. Okay, but you could make something bigger out of this by giving back, trying to actually help them not just take pictures, publisher them, forget about them, but at least send them images or come back and talk to them, or let them know that it's being published. And they can get that newspaper and see themselves in the newspaper. Whatever it is. Just think about the people as if they were your relatives and family, and I can guarantee that after spending a certain amount of time with them, you will think about them like that anyway, so give back. 6. First Assignment - Gleason's Gym: I'd like to tell you about the first documentary project that I was hired to shoot. Apart from many themes that I had as a street photographer and many things that I was documenting subconsciously like Subway, Coney Island, loneliness and many others, I wasn't actually shooting documentary projects until 2015 when I got an email from an editor off a sports magazine who reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to shoot a story for them. Year 2015 in the sports world was important because there was one big boxing fight that was about to happen. Floyd Mayweather vs Many pack out those two giants of boxing at the time we're finally about to meet, and that sports magazine, now defunct called Champion, reached out to me and said, Listen, we know where you are in New York. We love your work. We would like you to shoot a story on the oldest boxing gym in the United States, which happens to be in Brooklyn. Gleason's gym is indeed the oldest boxing gym in the United States, one of the most famous ones in the world. In fact, Mike Tyson, Mohammed Ali Joe Frazier and many other boxing stars trained there at some point. The interesting story about this particular spot is that it is still functioning, and it isn't on Lee. For professional athletes. You can go buy a membership and train along those champions. That's pretty cool. And that magazine wanted me to shoot a story that would basically revolved around the theme one day in Gleason's Gym. That was pretty straightforward. Off course. I said Yes, I was very happy to do that. And here's how I went about it. First of all, research. I did my research, uh, learned about the gym itself, about the history a little with the next thing I did is I think I send an email to the manager saying that I am a documentary photographer who wanted to shoot a story. It turned out that he wasn't surprised at all because many photographers and videographers and filmmakers come to the gym to either shoot documentary projects or commercial projects . So all he said was, of course, you're welcome to do that. It will cost $250 I said. OK, that's fine. I obviously put that $150 on top of my invoice. And so the magazine paid it, which is, by the way, something that you should always do. You shouldn't pay out of your own pocket if possible. Of course, that depends on the budget off your client. But if you can, don't pay anything out of your pocket. I consulted the magazine, the editor said, Yeah, okay, that's no problem. Let's do it. So the first thing I did is I had a rough plan off the shots I wanted to do, and I went to the gym with my camera, and the first day I didn't really shoot much. I was just observing, looking for the light situations, looking for angles, getting familiar with the people there because that's also very important. And, yes, I shot a couple of images. But the first day was basically like a warm up. The magazine gave me about two weeks to shoot it. It was supposed to be published just before the fight. The magazine was a monthly, so, you know, this was not breaking news. This was not a photo journalistic work. It was a typical documentary work on. It was nice because I knew I didn't really have to rush that much. So I planned my shoot. I knew that I wanted to have a couple of shots. I knew that. I wanted to have Portrait's off boxers and people who trained there. I wanted to have Portrait's off the legends, the coaches and, of course, some wide angle shots of the space. But I also knew that I wanted to be there right in the opening, at least for one day, and Gleason's Gym opens at 5 a.m. I got this assignment in March, so I remember I lived in Harlem and Jim is in Brooklyn, which is basically an hour away on subway. So I got up at 4 a.m. where maybe even earlier on the snowy day in March and got on the subway, got there at 5 a.m. Just when they were opening. The reason I wanted that shot is a because I wanted to have a shot of an empty gym and be I thought it would be important to have ah, the shot off the owner of the gym, opening the gym, turning on the lights and so on and so on. I thought it would be a cool thing to do apart from the obvious shots like portrait or the wide angle shots off the space. I also knew that I wanted to show the movement in the shots introduced a little bit of blur on purpose, which is something I usually do when I shoot sports, whether it's boxing, ballet or football or anything else. S. O. I also did that. And the biggest challenge, of course, was to connect with those people working there. Connect with the coaches, which was quite easy because a lot of them spoke Spanish and I speak Spanish. Those are those little details that make your life easier as a documentary photographer. If you go to a foreign country and you speak the language, it is a huge difference. It opens many, many doors, so learn languages. That's a side note. It was a little bit harder to connect with the boxers there because, well, I guess on one hand they were used to photographers and filmmakers being there. But that didn't necessarily mean that they were totally cool with it because they were there to do their own job. And here is a guy who's taking pictures and they know that to deal with the gym, they know that I paid for it, so they can really, you know, brush me off. But they weren't very open at the beginning. There was this one boxer that clearly avoided my camera and of course I didn't push it. I didn't go right up to him and start shooting against his will. So I thought, OK, I'll give him his space. And then on day four or five, I managed to the great porches of him because by that time he was so familiar with me that he was totally fine with me taking pictures, and he even went as far as to kind of I wouldn't say pose. But, you know, he turned to me and box to the camera, which I thought was nice and cool, and I captured that one image that was really happy with right. So now I had the project basically completed. The shooting days are over, but the assignment isn't over yet because we still have to do the editing. Some Some say it's the most challenging part off entire project. Um, I would say it is maybe not the most challenging one but to student extend the least interesting one for me because you've already shut your project. You've already had your fun shooting in the field. Now you're in front of your computer. It's also fun, but it's also a lot off trouble, especially for people who are very close to the project. As I said, I shot it a week before, and or two weeks before it took me two weeks to shoot, and now I'm sitting in front of my computer in front of all of those pictures that I just shut their very fresh. And like I said, photography needs time. So if I had the luxury off just coming back to it after a month or two off not looking at it at all, and then you come back after two months and you look at it with fresh for vice, then your decisions would be quicker. You would be definitely more confident which pictures work and which don't. But if you do it right away, then like I said, it's really good to have an editor. And if you can well, then you're on your own. So in this particular case, unfortunately I was kind of on my own because I didn't have any friends or anyone who would be willing to help me on such short notice. So I have to do the editing myself. I had to sift through the photos. Think about what the magazine wants, think about what I want to show and basically boiling down from around 100 images to maybe 15. But here's a little trick I used. Instead of giving them the final eight or 10 images, I decided to use them as my editors. Of course, every magazine has photo editors, and so I didn't have to be a strict with my selection. So I selected 30 pictures, send it to them and said, This is my first selection and now it's up to you Pick eight. Or however many want for your final selection. So that way I kind of delegated some of the responsibility of an editor onto the magazine. Did I have any problem with that? No. I want that help. Like I said before, I look for that help. I'm not the kind of photographer who wants total control 100% because I am aware that as a photographer, I am attached to those images. And I am also a word that what I see in those images isn't necessarily what others see. And that means that if two other photo editors and that magazine have a look at this set and make their own decisions, I'm pretty sure that it's going to be a better set. I trust them, but at the same time, I'm not gonna lie. I also want to relieve some of the responsibility and give it to them, especially that its them who pay for it. So it's also nice to give them the choice. And in fact, the standard procedure is whenever you send your materials to magazines that they do require you to send them a wider selection, depending on the project. But you know, 30 or 50 images. If you're making a book on the book is supposed to have 60 images. You don't send the book publisher 60 images. You send him 120. In fact, more likely what's gonna happen is you're going to get together with the book publisher and with an editor, have those 120 images that could end up in the book and decide which are in and which are out candidate half and have to 60 final images for a book. That's what I did with Gleason's gym. And if you don't have anyone, you can ask for help and you have an assignment that someone hired you for. Remember that this is a good way to get them involved and delegate part of the responsibility on to your client. So my anything process is. I usually first have a look at the entire set of photos. Like we said it was 150 photos roughly. I used photo mechanic software to browse through my images and tag, meaning Select the images that I like and I will calm through the images to three ways. I like to start from the end off the day, for example, because I usually shoot a few images at the time. And the reason why I shoot the second and third and fourth image in the same situation is because I'm looking for different angles or for different situations. So a lot of times the last shot will be the best shot, the shot that I was looking at and once I'm satisfied, okay, that's it. Then I move on, which means that the last shot is more likely to be the shot that I was looking for. So I go from the end towards the beginning off the day. Let's just say that during my first selection, I went down from 152 100. Do it again this time. Go from the beginning until the end and eliminate another 30 images, and now I have 70 images. Do it again, cut it and have. It's difficult. If you have the luxury of having extra days, that's better. Just leave it at that. Sleep on and go back the next morning. It'll be easier. It'll be easier to Katyn and have cut it in half to 30 35. That's it. I send it to the editor now. Here are a few extra tips for you. Even though the magazine on Lee requested photography for me, I wrote them and said, Listen, I should video as well. And how about we do a little clip from the gym so that your audience not only can see the stills but can also see the actual Jim in the movie format? You know, see how it is. See how people move and because the photography that I was about to do was in black and white. That was the thing that was kind of known right away, because I should predominantly in black and white. And that's why they hired me. They left that style. They wanted that kind of old school grainy look. So I said, How about I make a video? The video would be in color so that your audience conceit e how the gym actually looks in kind of real time. Theo and the editor wasn't sold on it at first. He wasn't very enthusiastic. Uh, partially because of the budget, I'm sure. So what I did is, I told him, Listen, no pressure. I'm going to shoot the video anyway. I'm going to send it to you. You'll see it. If you like it, you can license it. If you don't like it nowhere, it's We'll just stick with photography and you know what they did by the video, after all. And that's because a lot of times your clients they don't really necessarily know what they want. They haven't idea, but they don't know specifically what they want. This is your job as a creative as a photographer, as a filmmaker to make something interesting out of that topic. So they only knew that they want a story on the oldest boxing gym in the United States, done by Luke Korda's. And they like my work. That's all they knew. They didn't know if I was gonna do close a portrait or what I was going to do, and they hadn't even thought about a video. But I gave him the option, and even though at first they weren't very enthusiastic, once they saw it, they realized, Oh, yeah, this is a good idea. This will complement the story and they bought it. So a lesson for you here is that you want to give your clients more options. The fact that they didn't ask for a video doesn't mean that they wouldn't like to have a video on. Another thing I wanted to talk about is that when that story came out, it turned out that they used one of my images for the cover. So now one of my images from that story was the cover for the magazine for the month of March or April, and when that happens, don't forget to ask for extra money because cover images obviously are more expensive than the images that are inside the magazine. So don't be shy. You deserve it. If they end up using your image as a camera image, politely asked them to give you a certain bonus because that's how this industry works. You deserved it. It's OK to ask. So as you see for me, the first documentary project that I was hired to shoot was a total success. First of all, I was hired to do something that I was doing anyway, meaning they hired me because they liked my style. So the only direction that I got was basically just do your typical work. We're going to give you access to this gym and everyone was happy not only I shot something that I was actually interested in, because I am a little bit into boxing, but I also made a video and made it available to them, and they liked it. And on top of that, in the end, I also got a cover photo out of this story. So great success. I love that they loved it, and we continue to work on future projects until unfortunately, a so so many other paper magazines right now, they went out of business. And as if all of this wasn't enough, when the project was done and the story was published in Champion magazine, which happens to be a Polish magazine, I decided to submit it to my first documentary photography award. Polish Press for Awards and Gleason's Gym won the first place in sports category, So there was a really nice cherry on top for me to round off the entire project. That was really happy with that, my first documentary project ever and at the same time, my first documentary award ever. This is a really nice they do so to say, Remember that the fact has said, as it is, that a lot of paper magazines go out of business because everything is moving to online platforms doesn't luckily mean that there are fewer jobs for documentary photographers or documentary filmmakers. It's just that now fewer and fewer paper magazines sell, and it is a shame. I remember the way I got into photography was through reading National Geographic. My father had a subscription. Every month a new issue would come, and I remember I looked at those images and I thought, Wow, first of all, they are amazing images, amazing stories, And how cool would it be to be a National Geographic photographer? Of course, at the time, I had very little understanding how that works and what it takes to become one and off course had does times. It was also a different kind of job at the time. Magazines like National Geographic actually had staff photographers when they worked with the same photographers, and it was kind of like their full time photographers. Right now, it's all on freelance bases, which was a big game changer to but remember, even though that is happening and it is said, I don't think that there are fewer jobs in documentary world, the world moves on, but the stories are still there. We have more options, more possibilities. The gear is getting better and better. You can shoot at night without lights right now and so on and so on. And in fact, some of the online magazines are now doing something that you couldn't have done in paper magazines, for example, multimedia stories. So in one story you will not only have photographs, but you will have also videos. You will have sound bites off Theo environment or interviews, Justus Sound files. And on top of that, you might have an interactive map or an interactive graph. So you know, it is interesting to see how the world moves on and different forms emerge. But it doesn't necessarily mean that they're worse is just different. And when I read an interactive story on New York Times or National Geographic, I'm actually grateful that this is happening. But I don't have to confine myself to just seeing images. But I can at the same time on the same page, see a video, listen to the sound of the jungle or two interviews done by the journalists over there and have interactive graphs and so on and so on. So you know, it is what it is. But don't worry, it doesn't mean that he won't have work 7. Long term project - Nocturnes: we talked about my first documentary project, Gleason's Gym. There was a very particular assignment where I only had two weeks to shoot, so it was by no means a long term project. Now, I would like to tell you about another project that I did. No one hired me to do this. It was my own idea, and I shot it for myself on this Waas, a long term project I've always had that dream off photographing ballet. It's not very original. I am also a fine art photographer, so this is almost like a standard think to do for fine art photographers or Portrait Photographer's photograph by late. So I moved to New York in 2014 and I had already had that idea that hopefully one day I'll get to photograph Riel Ballet Troupe, the professional group of dancers. And shortly after I moved here to New York, I met a friend of a friend who is a dancer, and she waas a part of a modern dance slash ballet troupe here in New York City. I talked to her about my idea. I said, Listen, I had this idea of photographing ballet I've always wanted to do this. The way we would go about it is I would just come to your rehearsals and photograph you In the beginning, I said a couple of months, but in my mind, I was planning for a year or two, but I didn't want to scare her. And Teller is Yeah, I want to come and photographing for the next two years. You know, this might sound a little bit overwhelming on. I didn't know if it was gonna work out if we would have chemistry and also to be on the safe side. I said a couple of months, she was very interested. She saw my photos and she left them. She said, Listen, I like your work a lot. I'll talk to my manager and she did the manager and the artistic director at the same time . Waas interested? Because, of course, I offered to give them the photos for them to use for promo stuff, and so then they would get photos for free out of it. I would get my dream project. It looked like a win win situation, so I talked to her and I said, Listen, I would come to your rehearsals and photograph. You may be also during the show, Slater on And just like with Gleason's gym. At the beginning, I went to a couple of rehearsals and didn't really shoot a lot. At first, I needed to get to know the people needed them to feel comfortable with me around. I didn't know anyone there except for that one friend, Luzia. But with time we all got comfortable with each other and I started shooting. I would say I come maybe twice a month. Lucy. I would always let me know when they had rehearsals, and then eventually one day she said, We're having a show in this New York theater in Manhattan. Would you like to come and photograph course? I said yes, and I did that. I was dressed all in black, so I was practically invisible. And when I should, I always try to be very self and non invasive. I did not want to interrupt the work. I did not want them to notice me. In fact, if they don't notice me, that's the best. So during that show I was just sneaking behind the curtain or going up the balcony was a lot of fun to shoot, and I shot the troupe called F J K Dance for over two years. And, of course, when you're having a long term project like that, the editing process doesn't necessarily have to happen right at the end, because it might be a little bit overwhelming to have 3000 images from two years and then have to sift through them. When you're working on a long term project, you might want to add it as you go. Not to mention that you're also probably excited to see those photos. You retouch them right away or shortly after, and so you can help yourself and make the whole editing process easier if you take one step at a time and added every month or every other month. My documentary project was finished after approximately two years. I called it not to because the group would rehearse to show Pound to the music off the great Polish composer. I think they were using this particular album, this particular work of Hiss called knock tune translate, knock to Azaz, nightly compositions on Knocked in Latin Means Night. So this is the kind of I p I wanted to give to the entire project. I wanted it to be dark. I wanted it to be a lot of cattle school, all the playoff light and shadow. I wanted a lot of mystery in it. This'll particular Project Waas, a documentary project. But it also was a fine art project in many ways. So those two geniuses of photography emerged in this essay because I am also a fine art photographer. I thought, yes, I would document the life off the group, but at the same time, I was looking for fine art images, those beautiful kind of images that you can hang on your wall. They don't necessarily have to talk about anything in particular that could serve as a metaphor. I found it very interesting to kind of go in and out from documenting the day to day life to shooting something mawr poetic something mawr beyond time and circumstances, something that would serve as a metaphor. Working on a long term project like this has a different VIPs. First of all, over the course, off the years or months, you get to know the people much better. If you do vibe with each other, you might even become very good friends or like family. And that, of course, helps to photograph them as well. Because the moment you become part of the group, you also become sort of invisible you and your camera. So you are freer to photograph them in more intimate situations when they're not even paying attention, or they might not even notice that you're there. Working on a long term project also, of course, allows you to take more time to do it. Take it easy. People change over the course off years, and that in itself is also, of course, interesting. I feel like a long term project that might eventually end up. Being a book is something that stays with you forever. You really connect to those people into the environment, and it becomes not only a photo project but simply part of your life. 8. Publishing: Let's not talk about publishing your work, of course, all of us for the other fairies. We wanna publisher work. We want our work to be seen and there are a number of ways to do it right now in the 21st century. It's actually much easier to get your work scene right now than it was in the past. A few decades ago, you had to compact editors, and pretty much the only outlet for your work were the magazines. So you needed to contact the editor. There were a limited number of stories that they could publish every week or every month, and it was really hard. Of course, they weren't as many photographers, which is another story. The competition is much bigger right now, but the easiest way to start is, of course, to publish your photos online. Of course, one of the most popular ways of showing your work to the world is to simply have your website. You can build it on your own using services like Squarespace or so many others, or you can have someone build it for you. But website is absolutely essential into base world. Most of the content that we see is online website is your portfolio. It is very important that the website is clean and simple and that it's fast. That's one thing that a lot of people forget about. But if you put yourself in the position of a photo editor that looks through hundreds and hundreds of photos today, his normally very busy. If your website lacks, if it takes three seconds to load each picture, I can guarantee you they will be out of your website within 10 seconds. That's just how it works. So yes, the website needs to be beautiful. It needs to be appealing, but the bottom line is keep it simple and keep it fast. You need to have a very clean layout so that they don't get lost. I would discourage you from putting any background music. No one has time for that unless you were fine art photographer and the music really adds to the atmosphere. For documentary photographers, there's no need for in music. Music suggests the mood as well. No one wants that and of course the very, very important thing is to have Onley best images on your website. One of the biggest mistakes that we all do at the beginning of our careers is that we're not able to add it. Our work and we will post 50 photos in an album, and 30 of those are not released. It good and I've been there I've done that years ago to the trick is to really boil down your work to the very best top 10. Each image in the sad needs to be strong now I know, I said when talking about documentary photography. That documentary photographer, as opposed to Street photographer, has this little advantage that not all of the images have to be 10 out of 10 and I stand by it. It's true, but they do have to be seven out of 10. You know what I mean? So while they don't have to be extremely strong when they stand on their own, within that said they will be 10 out of 10 or 99 out of 10 day will be needed in that set. So all of your images have to be strong and only the strongest can live on your website. Your website is your ultimate portfolio. It's like your card that you give to a photo Editori and you say, Hey, this is this is what I can do If a photo editor sees some weaker images, that really plays to your disadvantage. So it's better to not show enough and leave people wondering or wanting more, then show too much. Many times I've seen work of photographers, and I'm looking at the 1st 4 images. The really good I was like, Wow, this guy's good And then the fifth and the sixth image all of a sudden are on a completely different level at lower level and the feeling you get when that happens, like Oh, that's a shame. I wish she or he hadn't included that photo in that set because it really puts the whole body of work down. So again, if you can have an editor, if you can give it time and select on Lee the strongest images A lot of professional photographers started their careers on platforms like Flicker Back in the day. Flicker is still on, but e guess not as popular these days, and then after Flicker Instagram took over and a lot of photographers kick started their careers just simply by publishing their stuff on Instagram Instagram is a great tool. It's not only a place where photographers upload their work, but it's also a place where a lot of editors live. So right now, it's very easy to just contact and editor without even sending an email just by sending him a message on Instagram or tagging him in the photo and just have your work seen. You don't even have to send them a message that would say, Hey, I'm the photographer working on this project. Would you be interested in publishing it? That's of course, one way of going about it. But the easiest way that's also very noninvasive way is to tag and editor that you think might be interested in your work. Just tagged him in your work and see if he likes it. And maybe here he or she will reach out. You never know. Publishing your photographs online is, of course, not only easy to do, but has the big advantage of the possibility of getting feedback. Of course, the Internet is full of people who have their own opinions, and you shouldn't take all of them seriously. But if you are a part of a community like flicker or Instagram. You could use it not only to show your work, but also to see what people think about it. Now, let me be 100% clear. I'm not saying that whatever people say you should take as Phineas and take it seriously. A lot of times, people just want to please other people. So you apple the picture and people Oh, my God. So beautiful, Amazing. Or they will put a martyr. Cons and margins and all that. You know, I have a number of social media accounts. I have a separate one for my street work. I have a separate one for my portrait and travel, and a lot of those comments will be just that will be just, like all great work, Great capture. I appreciate them, but I don't take him too seriously. But every once in a while there will be a comment that will be valuable for me as a photographer. Someone who I know is into photography or who is photographer themselves, says something about my work, uh, that I find value and I read it and I think about it. That's interesting. I wouldn't never think about it that way. So getting feedback on social media is not as much about propping up your ego and building your confidence. It is also about that to certain extent. But don't go that path. There will be a lot of people who will say your work is outstanding and it turns out that they just like you or they want something else or they just want you to follow back or like their pictures back. You have to be savvy. You have to know how this works. But like I say, every once in a while, there will be a comment from someone who really knows what they're talking about that might help you direct your work or see it from a different perspective. If it's a constructive criticism, it just might be helpful. So Social Media is a great, easy way to show your work, but also at the same time to receive feedback. So let's just say you have a body of work that you want to publish. I would say the most standard way to go about it is first of all to research the magazines or the media outlets that would be interested in your story. So if you have a story on the natural habitat in your country. I don't know if it's a good idea to contact an architectural magazine. It's a bad idea. If you have a story about the New York subway, then maybe Travel magazine isn't the best place it could. It could be that they would also be interested in that kind of story, but it isn't the most obvious destination for your work. So first of all, you need to do research. I have a body of work on New York subway. To me, for example, the most obvious magazine to contact would be the New York Times or any other magazine that would be interested in our been life. That doesn't mean that when you have a story on New York subway that you only have to contact, uh, magazines in New York. No, of course not. In fact, my subway story was published on The Guardian, which is the British, a newspaper that we all know. Eso. It's not like that, but just use common sense and think about where your story could land, and the easiest way to do it is to just grab the particular magazine or go online and see what kind of stories they publish or go to their instagram or Facebook and see what kind of photographs what kind of stories they're interested in. So if all you do is black and white photography, your chances of being published in National Geographic are rather slim. Not impossible. But it wouldn't be the first magazine to think off. You don't see a lot of black and white stories in National Geographic. So once you found your magazine or a few magazines that you think might be interested in it , there are a number of ways off contacting either the magazine or particular editors that work for the magazine. The easiest and most non invasive way is Instagram, but if you want to make it more formal, just send an email. Introduce yourself. My name's Luke Orgasm, a documented photographer living in Brooklyn, New York I have the story on loneliness. I just wanted to see if you'd be interested. Please let me know, and here's the link to my work. That's it. As easy as that. But if you were in the merging documented photographer, you'll find out that it isn't that easy to get your work published all of those editors. They have a number of contacts hundreds of other photographers that do exactly the same thing. They email them, they tag him on instagram, they contact them and not all of the stories can be published. In fact, a very limited number of stories get through. So another way for you to publish your work is to self publish. And one of the best ways to do this right now is to publish Zeze. What are zines? Zines are small magazines. So has scene. Could be anywhere between 15 to 60 pages, but it is not as big as a magazine, but it's a great way to show your work to the audience and two editors as well. Like I said, one of the best ways to show your work today is self publishing. And right now I wanted to talk about a set of disease that I have been publishing for over a year now. This is not a documentary work. This is my street work from New York. I have been looking for a printer that would be affordable for quite some time, and with these there are basically two ways you can go about it. You can either put it together, printed on your own at home on your printer and then put it together. But honestly, I personally have not very good at that. I don't have enough patients to do that. I know there are people who absolutely love it, and I have seen pretty good zines by people who just put them together on their own. But I was actually looking to delegate that task and find someone who would print it for me on someone who would be affordable so that when I sell those ease, I'm not losing money. Of course, I wasn't looking to make money out of those little magazines because that's not the point. But I didn't really want to put in a lot of my own money into printing and printing is expensive, but I found this one company in the UK that has a branch here in the United States, and they print pretty good zines They print them on. Uncoated paper is just one of the options. They have three options, I think. But one of the options is uncoated paper, and what it means is that it gives my street photos that Matt look, so they're not shiny. That's not what I'm looking for. They're kind of low contrast and Matt and I like it. I like it like that. I like my street photography to be just that. So I print those every two or three months. The 1st 1 WAAS New York in Snow, New York and Snow, published in February 2019. It only had 24 pages total. It's one of the smallest ones. I was selling it for 9 $99 on the cost of it For me to print. One zine, including shipping, was about three or four dollars. So I was making $6 per zine, and I don't really sell a lot of them. But like I said, this is not the point. It wasn't looking to make money out of it, but it is really cool. Those can also serve you as a promo material, so you can basically send those to photo editors or to potential clients on just say, Hey, look at my work, Whatever it is, you know, I think it is a great idea because people like getting physical objects, something that they can touch, they can smell the paper. It's rare these days because most of the things that we sent to editors are just online links and majority of photos that you consume and content that you consumers off course online. So when you do get something rial, something tangible, it stands out. And like I said, this is very cheap. This costs me $4 to produce one scene. So if I print out 20 of those, that's $80. I can afford that, and I can send it to 20 editors and as opposed to sending an editor and email that would get lost in 50 other emails that they get that they they get a small magazine that they might put on their shelf. And who knows they might look at it was like, Oh, yeah, I remember this guy. What is he doing off course? Remember to include your contact info. I have my INSTAGRAM handle right here, but I also have my website, my online store and again, my instagram handle here at the last page so they know who you are and that they can contact you. I think it's a great idea for a cheap promotion. And, of course, if you're working on a long term project that takes years a d. End of the day, all of us photographers think about a book, especially in documentary photography. This is like the Holy Grail. Once you've done with your work and you feel like that's it, you don't need any more images. You've been shooting this subject for three years. You've done your editing. This is a tight crop. The best way to show your work, if you can, is to make a book, publish a book that is not easy, and we're not gonna talk about the details. But it is the ultimate goal, especially for the long term documentary projects. A book is a really rewarding thing to have, and it's like a that second achievement that will never go away. This is it. You've worked on it for years, and now you have a book. It's a tangible thing. Uh, it's a beautiful feeling. Of course, the major obstacle when publishing a book, just like with publishing um, any materials and magazines is to find the publisher. Now. I'm not going to go into details about the business of publishing the book But I am going to say that in today's landscape, a lot of publishers are very happy to publish your book as long as you cover the costs, which could mean anywhere from 15,000 to $30,000 depending on how many books you want to print and what paper you want to use. And so on and so on and so on. There are a lot of details that go into this, but that is the major problem. Of course, I think for most of us on this is way too much. So the major obstacle is to find the publisher that would be willing to cover at least half of the cost off a book. And maybe you can cover the other half. Or maybe you can fund raise it. A lot of people go and start campaigns on Kickstarter or go fund me. I'm sure you know what it is. You can raise money from your friends and friends of friends and also strangers. You usually have to record a short video explaining who you are, what you do and why you want toe publish that book, why it's important and then you have a number of pledges again. I'm not going to go into details, but that is a good way off raising money If you're comfortable with asking people for help . And if you're not comfortable, well, then either you have to have your own money to invest in it. Or in the best possible scenario, you find a publisher who is willing to cover all of the costs and risk it because you have to understand that from a publisher's point of view, it's risking money. They need to know that those books are going to sell. 9. Project: It's not time for our project. We're going to start small. I'm not gonna tell you to go and photograph and endangered species in the Amazon. That would be a very cool assignment. And if you have money for that, by all means go and do that. But for the rest of us, we're just going to start small. And I would like you to document your neighborhood. Four. If you don't live in a city, document your surrounding. I think I mentioned before that in certain cities, in certain neighborhoods, there are certain spots that are kind of like the magnets off the community here in New York. A lot of times this will be a corner store called Bodega. Here in New York, people gather around the store and they talk. They chat. If it's a smaller community, usually people know each other. You could go and document that if you don't live in a city, you Congar and document your surroundings Anything interesting. If I were you, I would try to pick a more specific theme. So don't just go for a general theme off documenting my city. But maybe instead you could go a little bit more specific, more specific usually means better. Uh, better work, more quality because you focus on that one thing. So maybe you could focus on one particular corner off your neighborhood or one particular store or playgrounds, for example, anything. If you're looking for an easy way in, I would think about photographing a group of people that were already familiar with. So maybe you go to dance classes, or maybe you go to football practice after school. Or maybe you are on some kind of online chad groups or communities. If you go and bring your camera, let's say to a dance practice where everyone knows you, you will, of course, have an easier task because everyone trusts you. They know who you are. And okay, cool. You brought your camera. You can ask them. They will ask you anyways, what are you doing with this camera? But it's an easy way in to a certain community, as opposed to just go and photographs. Strangers standing in front of a a grocery store, right? But if you were ambitious and if you like challenge going, do that. Bottom line for this project is for graph your neighborhood or your surroundings s so that I can feel how it is to live there. Looking forward to seeing your work. I will definitely give you feedback comment. And I'm really excited to see your work. I want to see a lot of sets here. Okay. Thank you. 10. Final Thoughts: This is it, guys. I hope you enjoy the class. And I hoped it was insightful. I hope that I managed to show you that you don't necessarily have to go to school to become a documentary photographer. I hope I showed that the transition doesn't have to be hard and in fact, that you might already be subconsciously a documentary photographer in the making. And one more thing. Please go out and shoot your own documentary projects and upload them here. I want to see them. I really do. I'll give you feedback and that's it. Thanks for watching.