Archive for September, 2011

While I usually get mild to severe anxiety attacks when the name Getty is mentioned these days, it is important to point out that there is a whole other Getty that also has nice images but isn’t trying to sell them for a buck fifty. I’m talking about the Getty Museum in the fair city of Los Angeles.

The Getty Center was made possible by the incredible riches accumulated by this guy:

J. Paul Getty (painted by Gerald L. Brockhurst).

J. Paul figured out a way to sell a gallon of gas for roughly three times the price of a well produced stock image and found himself almost immediately in a fancy villa in Malibu, from which he collected an amazing amount of sweet, sweet artwork. (That’s the short version of the Getty success story).

In any case, the Misses and I went on a little CA road trip recently and one of the stops was LA. I wanted to see the Getty for quite a while now and we made a bee line for it the first chance we got. It sits on a great hilltop overlooking the metropolis that has more smog than a German bar in 1985. The buildings are marvelous designs by Richard Meyer and, together with the campus, the gardens, the sculptures and the view, form a near perfect setting to view art.

There were so many great paintings that I’ve decided to focus on the portraits for this here blog post and so now, without any further ado, some personal favorites from the other Getty:

Isabella of Portugal, Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden Flemish, Flanders, about 1450, later additions about 1500

Portrait Study, Théodore Géricault, French, about 1818 - 1819

St. Bartholomew, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn Dutch, 1661

Portrait of a Bearded Man, Jacopo Bassano, Italian, about 1550

Portrait of Barbara Kressin, Unknown, Netherlandish, 1544

An Old Man in Military Costume, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch, about 1630 - 1631

Pope Clement VII, Sebastiano del Piombo, Italian, about 1531

Portrait of Alfonso d'Avalos, Marquis of Vasto, in Armor with a Page, Titian, Italian, Bologna, probably January-February 1533

Head of a Woman, Michael Sweerts, Flemish, about 1654

Portrait of the Marquesa de Santiago, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, Spanish, 1804

Portrait of Anthony Valabrègue, Paul Cézanne, French, about 1869 - 1871

Euclid, Jusepe de Ribera, Spanish, Naples, Italy, about 1630 - 1635

Four Studies of a Male Head, Workshop of Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish, about 1617 - 1620

Self-Portrait, Yawning, Joseph Ducreux, French, before 1783

J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90049-1687

Phone: +1 (310) 440-7330
Fax: +1 (310) 440-7751
E-mail: (for general Museum inquiries) gettymuseum@getty.edu


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Like most photographers I’m one of the reasons for Apple’s ability to buy the entire US and still have enough money left over for a sandwich and three other countries. So it’s only natural to have a thought or two about the man who brought us all the shiny appliances some of them seemingly more central to my job now than my camera.

As probably everybody outside of Underrock City knows by now, Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple recently. There were a lot of articles written afterwards (most of them having a bit of an obituary feel) describing him usually as an innovator, risk taker, taste maker, tyrant, paranoid, micro manager, and most of all genius. I’m sure that’s all more or less true.

The one thing about Jobs though that was never really mentioned (at least to my knowledge) was the sheer fact, that he (and Apple) actually kept trying to make great products. That is that even though Apple became a massive, publicly traded company, Steve Jobs kept Apple a product-centric organization.

Most companies obviously start out product-centric. Somebody starts a business because they have something they care about, they want to built it, impress with it, and sell it. They try to create the best product they can, and find a market for it, but as a company reaches a certain size this approach becomes more and more unusual. Just about all huge companies and many medium and small sized ones are strictly finance-centric. A Detroit car company for instance is not about making cars, it about making money and cars just happen to be their products. The development of a new car means usually creating a sales item with a minimum of effort and risk that will achieve an acceptable financial return. In other words they try to figure out with how shitty they can get away with. Sometime despite a company’s best efforts a good product might come out of that approach, but for the most part you will feel the half-assedness of the product quite clearly. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, enjoy your next car rental.

Apple went through a phase like that, too. When Steve Jobs was in corporate Siberia and a finance-centric CEO was in charge (and when I bought my first Mac desktop) their company motto was: “Just as beige, but more expensive”.

What Steve Jobs did when he returned, was change the fundamental way of doing business at Apple: Don’t service the market with the least amount of effort, but try to make great products and then find the market for them. Part of making a good product is seeing the importance of good design. I still remember the many times I stared at the ugly beige boxes in my living room in non-technical frustration. I mean really, if you have to look at something all day long shouldn’t it look good?
Another thing I really appreciate about Apple these days is their customer service. Again it’s not cheap, but on the (rare) occasion that there is something wrong with a product, I can talk to knowledgable people on the phone or the genius bar (bad name, very bad name) instead of entering the idiot’s zoo that is the standard customer service at most companies. Again, they tried to make it good, which for some reason is unusual.

The different corporate approaches are also starting to become apparent at Pixar . Pixar was a Steve Jobs company that made movies and was bought by Disney a company that makes money. Pixar had a good long run of churning out creative masterpieces, because they actually wanted to make great movies. But it seems under Disney this will slowly change. There will be more sequels (less effort, less risk) and judging from the last Cars movie (a sequel), the creative decisions are made to build business synergy (that’s a fancy word for saying “Does it look good with a Happy Meal?!”).

Obviously I’m not trying to say here that Jobs didn’t care about business, because that wouldn’t be true. And also I’m not trying to glorify him and Apple because there is still plenty left that stinks with them, but the simple fact that they actually struck it insanely rich with good, well designed products, in which you can see the work of designers and engineers much more than the work of accountants, just gives me (some) hope, that more companies will become about their products again. We all know that you can mess up a company if you’re not good at doing business, but you can also mess it up if all you care about is money.

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So the good news is that that image above from my Dead Indian Pass series received an honorable mention at the International Photo Awards (the Lucies), but the bad news is that nobody mentioned it to me. I had to find that out all by my poor pitiful self. The same thing happened already last year. My Giddy Up series placed second and I was definitely told about that. I even received an official certificate that I could frame or fold up and keep in my wallet in case I’d ever run into an art director. So last year I was checking out the winners’ gallery and, still basking in my own glory (even though my old coach said placing second only makes you the first loser), moved on to the honorable mentions gallery just to stumble upon The Sultans there.

I didn’t make much of it. I figured it was an honest mistake or maybe they didn’t think I could handle two successes at the same contest without my head swelling up to a grotesque size and exploding and soiling that nicely framed certificate on my wall.

But this year they did it again, not mentioning my honorable mention that is, and now I think they might be doing it on purpose.

I know, it’s not exactly earth shattering news (to be the 7th loser in the 32nd category) and they would have to send out a lot of emails (my picture is about # 1487 from the top) but still, every little bit counts and that’s why we enter contests:  To brag about winning (or being mentioned, honorably at that), to go to an editor or art buyer and proudly proclaim: I’m not just something the cat dragged in, no sir, I’m an award winner, you can trust me with your multi-dollar shoot.

For every photo contest already out there, there are 3 new ones springing up, blunting the effect of all of them.  Generally they charge quite a bit of money and it’s becoming very questionable if entering (and winning in some fashion) any of these is actually worth it, but what’s not questionable to me is this:  If you decide to have honorable mentions in your contest than you should put in the effort to let the mentionees know.  You’re welcome, don’t mention it.

You can check out the winners and honorable mentions here.



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