« Images and Words: More Explorations of Commercial vs Personal Photography | Main | Postmodern Japanese Photography: Two Fresh Takes From Women »

May 19, 2004

Commercial vs Fine Art Continued: Three Slick Websites and an Alternative Process

As luck and serendipity would have it, after rambling about commercial and fine art photography yesterday, the latest issue of PDN just came in, and it's their fat Photo Annual for 2004 -- 200 glossy pages of short features on trends and publishers and photographers to watch in the worlds of commercial and fine art photography. Headlining their notable photographer web sites are three of the slickest Flash sites you will see, from Brian Pearson (who's backpacked around the world for five years and has lots of moody environmental photography on display), Heimo (an Iceland based photographer who takes nice landscapes and quite thoughtful commercial portraits), and Michelle Zassenhaus.

Pearson and Zassenhaus's sites both feature photos that fade in smoothly (or not so smoothly, depending on your internet connection) like a lens coming into focus...pretty cool the first few times you see it, but I can see this as a trend that would get annoying quickly, especially with less distinctive photography. (It reminds me of a craze that developed in the '80s, where numerous music artists would place introductions to their songs starting with radio static and then mimicing a radio station coming into tune, leading into the song...this was another "trend" that got cheesy and dated in a hurry). For what it's worth, I think this these "focusing" transitions work more effectively with Pearson's dreamy and contemplative photography than they do with Zassenhaus' stripped down urban landscapes.


Brian Pearson image, from We Buy Gold portfolio


Heimo portrait

These are ultimately sites with more commercial aspirations in mind, though there's good stuff to be seen (for me, the "We Buy Gold" portfolio in Pearson's site, and Heimo's portraits). I have yet to wade through a lot of the PDN annual, but one photographer with a small mention that caught my eye is Jody Ake, who doesn't appear to have a slick website, but does have some nice images using the wet-plate collodion process -- apparently one of the very few photographers to use collodion for commercial work. The images featured in PDN are part of a fashion story with Harlem as a subject, and are lovely...unfortunately, the only images I've been able to track down online are mostly still lifes and some portraits, though they're still cool and moody-looking.


Jody Ake, "Marianna" collodion image

In doing some basic research on Ake, I did come across this interesting article on the Photo Co-op in New York City, which talks about the positive dynamics of establishing a photo district in lower Manhattan. I liked reading this excerpt about how financially viable building darkrooms still seems to be even in 2004:

"As more photographers go digital, Mozes's decision to provide office space has proven prescient. "I could convert additional darkrooms to digital if that seems the way to go," he says. But just as painting didn't disappear when photography emerged, he doubts that film photography is ever going to go away. 'Right now, if I had twice as many darkrooms I would fill them.' "

12:58 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Commercial vs Fine Art Continued: Three Slick Websites and an Alternative Process:


Excellent picks from PDN. I'll have to grab a copy and then send in that subscription form that's been sitting on my desk for a month.

As for the Photo Co-Op, am I missing something? I can't see why a digital photog would pony up for this rather than work out of his/her home. Even with Manhattan rents, it'd be cheaper and more convenient.

Posted by: Todd W. at May 19, 2004 1:25:49 PM

Excellent..! I really enjoyed looking at their work. This stuff was right up my alley...

Heimo's work is really striking, but has that commercial 'look' to me (certainly not a bad thing though).

I'm not sure what I think about showing photography via Flash. Do you think it's the photographer's decision - or some web designer's ambitions?

Posted by: John at May 20, 2004 12:37:20 PM

I think most photographers are completely overdoing it with their Flash sites. Apart from the usually goofy music (please!!!) in almost all cases where a site tells me I have to use a different browser or have to update some software I don't bother.

Posted by: Joerg at May 20, 2004 2:09:35 PM

Todd, not sure why people rent the digital spaces in NY...I assume clients are either paying, or the office spaces come with state of the art equipment that make it worth renting.

Regarding Flash, the ratio of bad to good sites for photography is at least 2:1 if not 3:1. But since many of them are used to market work, there must be a fair number of agencies that want to see images this way. I liked a fair amount of Heimo's work but it was very annoying not to have it work in Netscape.

Posted by: Robert at May 20, 2004 5:57:25 PM

what i love about photography is that Photographers produce and preserve images that paint a picture, tell a story, or record an event... and this is behind every picture. I work in a photography office space photographs everywhere i could look at one for days.

Great post, these pics are amazing!

Posted by: upgraded office space at Aug 2, 2008 11:12:45 PM