Color Me Gobsmacked

I was down at my usual hangout, the Mare Island Preserve this afternoon. Myrna stopped to ask me if my dad’s name was Milton, and did I know a photographer named Bob Seidemann?

Tiny bells chimed, far off in the distance, and other conversations beckoned… but not much later, Bob’s partner, Belinda Bryant, introduced herself. “Bob worked for your dad, for about a week. Says he was an ass.” “My dad sure could be,” I said. “No, Bob says it was him.”

We chatted a bit about her career as a makeup instructor and artist, including ten years of Star Trek credits. I said I’d love to hire her, but doubted I could afford her, or that she’d be interested in creating flawless skin: “I’d rather get it right in the camera,” I said. “Bob’s like that, too.”

Not long after that, up strolls a guy with short, striking white hair and white glasses. We introduce ourselves, and we go over the “ass of the week” discussion. And then he hands me two business cards. One shows a series of airplanes – ordinarily enough to grab all my interest, and they would have if it hadn’t been for the second card.

Blind Faith

That image shocked, scandalized, titillated, and overawed me when the album came out. (It’s one of a very few pieces of vinyl I still own, as much for the music as the image. Almost! I rarely listen to music these days, but I look at that album every time I flip the stack.) I wish I’d taken it, or something half as good back then, but never had that kind of courage, and only recently the skill, if I have it at all. And certainly not the self control — I think I was 17 at the time the album came out, and it would be another year or two before I put down the guitar and took up the camera, thinking I might be able to follow in someone like Bob Siedemann’s gelatin-prints.

Those gelatin-prints were much larger than Blind Faithsuggested to me at first sight of the card. When I got home, I hit the Google.

Dayum! Everybody knew those images. Rolling Stone was a free paper, the posters were everywhere and Bob’s work was very, very visible.

I jammed with the Dead, carried pianos with Janis’s roadies, hung out with parts of Quicksilver, irritated the luthier with Jefferson Starship and even got a couple of good shots of a couple of guys who later became Journey. (To be rigorously honest, I got a lot of good shots of them, but I didn’t know how to push process Tri-X. Given Hal’s association with Ansel and his contributions to the Zone System, you’d think I’d know this stuff. Theoretically doesn’t count.)

If our timing had been a bit different, that “following in Bob’s gelatin-prints” could have been literal, maybe? Probably not — I’m just a hack, and I was even more of a hack back then, standing On The Shutters Of Giants.

It looks like he has some prints of Blind Faith for sale. I might maybe ought to buy one if I can, and see if I can find the right model to hire Belinda for.


Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick Two

Did you ever see an ad like this?

I need a talented individual to shoot a few professional photos of each of our 25 different food products. The subjects of the shoot are unpackaged stuffed sandwiches as well as individually retail wrapped product.This person needs to be able to bring studio equipment to our facility for the photo shoot. I have have a budget of 250-300 dollars and need this done ASAP.

That’s just so wrong! This was my reply:

You’re kidding, right?

   You want professional results and you’re only willing to pay truckstop sandwich rates per image?
    Three images each of 25 sandwiches, and a budget of $300. That’s $4 per image — I bet you’re thinking that a “pro” can shoot those 25 sandwiches in three hours, and you’re right. Once the setup is done, the lights are placed, exposures set, and the sandwiches styled, they get 2 1/2 minutes per look to get it right. And that means YOU have exactly 2 1/2 minutes to make the sandwich for each view PERFECT.
You may find someone willing to do that for you. What you’re unlikely to get for that rate is images that say “eat me!” Or, if you do, it will be because the team spent a lot more time on it than 2 1/2 minutes per shot.
   You’ll be very lucky if you get something like this:
   You might get all your images done in one day, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Remember, you only have 2 1/2 minutes to prep the food, clean the surface, find the right angle, get it lit, take the shot, make sure the shot is right, reshoot if needed, and then reset for the next one.
   When what you could be investing in is something like this, which is better but not all that good:
   You can expect ten of those in a day, if nothing goes wrong. If you have a really good day you might get twenty five. And the job isn’t done yet — there’s still a lot of work for the photographer to do; select the final candidates, do the post processing and retouching and converting the resulting files to formats you can use. Even automated as much as possible and assuming the images are perfect from the camera, that’s at least another few hours.
   And you want it in a hurry, from someone who knows what they’re doing, and has the equipment needed to do it right the first time. If I was doing this, I’ll show up with just about $10,000 worth of equipment, and I have another $3000 in computer and software in my studio to do the processing. I’ve been shooting seriously for more than 20 years out of the last 60, I’ve studied with the greats and I learned at the feet of the Master of Food Photography.
   I bet you’re thinking that you’ll own all the rights to use the images any way you want, anywhere you want, for as long as you want. Industry standard for this kind of “work for hire” starts at around $1000 per image. If you asked me for a quote, I’d start at $300 per shot, or $22,500 total, delivered. If I really like you, I might work that down to $100 each, if I’m feeling generous. That wouldn’t get you this, but they would still be good enough for any national magazine you like.
hamburger on butcher block with props.

This is food photography at its height by the man who not only set the stage for modern food photography, but did the set design, invented lights to reveal it, found the props and all the rest

I sincerely hope you get what you need at a price you want to pay. 
Erik Halberstadt
Vallejo CA