Author Archives: Harold Davis

Pastels

This is the box of pastels that Katie Rose loves to use to make her art. You can see she uses the pastels hard, but treats them with great care, rearranging the ones that are in pieces tenderly in the box. Like beloved toys, art supplies live to be used hard!

© Harold Davis

Pastels © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Upcoming Flower Photography Workshops with Harold Davis

I’m very pleased and excited to be leading a sold-out session of Photographing Flowers for Transparency next weekend here in Berkeley, CA. If this topic interests you, we are running a session of Photographing Flowers for Transparency in March, 2017 (also in Berkeley). I expect this to be the only session of my acclaimed Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop that I will lead in 2017.

Spring Wreath © Harold Davis

Spring Wreath © Harold Davis

I will be leading a 4-day Flower Photography Intensive Masterclass in June, 2017 hosted in the Bay area. The Flower Masterclass will include field sessions, studio work, and post-production techniques. This workshop is filling up quickly. It is open to folks who have taken Photographing Flowers for Transparency, or by portfolio review.

Once your portfolio has been reviewed, and you are approved for the Flower Masterclass (or if you have attended a previous Photographing Flowers for Transparency), you can register on Meetup, or directly with us, with tuition payment by check or credit card. Note that a payment plan is available, and that a $50 discount applies until the end of 2016. We are holding some spaces for folks who have expressed interest, and as these fill expect to be starting a waiting list soon.

Kiss from a Rose © Harold Davis

Kiss from a Rose © Harold Davis

On a personal note, I have a great deal to be thankful for—and some of that is you! Thanks for being part of my photographic community! It is great to be around people who enjoy photographing flowers as much as I do. Bringing beauty into the world is one way we can combat the evils of our times, and is a small contribution towards making life worth living.

Repeating Flower Pattern © Harold Davis

Repeating Flower Pattern © Harold Davis


Photographing FlowersHarold Davis’s Photographing Flowers (published by Focal Press) has been called “the most comprehensive guidebook to flower photography ever written” by Rangefinder Magazine, rated the Best Guide to Flower Photography by Digital Photography Magazine, and was the subject of rave reviews in the Photographic Society of America Journal, the San Francisco Review of Books, and elsewhere.

“In this book Davis offers his knowledge and experience in the art of floral photography, presenting not only the results of his beautiful creations, but explanations of how each photograph was captured: the set up, the equipment and even the camera settings used for each brilliant image. The author takes you beyond the point of capture and discusses processing, both in a lab environment and digital post processing, as well as offers side-trips through history to learn a bit from the masters of art and photography, such as Van Gogh and O’Keeffe. Davis even goes so far as to share affordable and easy use studio setups which he has designed over the years. Using his techniques wonderfully artistic images can be created! For any photographer interested in floral photography – whether amateur or pro – this book will not only tutor them, but will inspire them.”–San Francisco Book Review

Click here for Photographing Flowers on Amazon!

Painting with Flowers Inverted © Harold Davis

Painting with Flowers Inverted © Harold Davis


2016

  • Photographing Flowers for Transparency, Weekend Workshop in Berkeley, CA, December 3-4, 2016; click here for details and registration (workshop full).
  • Photographing Waves on Point Reyes, Saturday December 10, full-day workshop under the auspices of Point Reyes Field Seminars. Click here for registration and information.
  • Tuesday, December 13, 2016—Free webinar with Harold Davis, sponsored by Topaz Labs, more information and registration link to come.

2017

Clematis on Black © Harold Davis

Clematis on Black © Harold Davis


Harold’s workshops are often sold-out, and fill up quickly. To avoid disappointment, please register early. Feel free to contact Harold Davis if you have any questions about our workshops! Please also consider Harold’s online webinar recordings and his Photographing Flowers course with Craftsy. This course is rated 5.0 stars, with 25 out of 26 5-star reviews, and literally thousands of satisfied students. (Save  50% off the full retail price of my course using this link. Cannot be combined with other coupons or discounts. Link and offer expires January 15, 2017.)

Winged Clematis on White © Harold Davis

Winged Clematis on White © Harold Davis

We arrange many of our workshops and events using the Photography with Harold Davis Meetup group. Click here for Group and Workshop reviews on Meetup. Please subscribe to our list and/or blog feed for early notification about new workshop offerings.

Garden Party © Harold Davis

Garden Party © Harold Davis


What folks have said about Harold Davis workshops and events:

  •  “A great artist and speaker!”—W. Anglin
  •  “Harold is genuine, generous, and gracious – He has a world of knowledge and expertise that he loves to share – his wonderful books show his monumental talents and skill set- his workshops shows the depth of his connecting with others in a very real and personal way.”—P. Borrelli
  • “Awesome! He patiently addressed questions from the audience which contained photographers of all levels , molding his answers to the level of understanding for each of us. His presentations covered a wonderful range of technical knowledge as well as emphasizing the need for images to have an emotional quality. The images he shares are breathtaking and he is generous in sharing many facets of how he captures such beauty.”—J. Phillips
  • “Not all photographers are good verbal communicators. Harold is someone who can DO and TEACH. A rare combination of talents.”—B. Sawyer
  • “Inspiring!”
  • “He was very giving of his talents and time. The course was very organized and thorough. Loved it! Learned so much! … I also wanted to let you know that I have more than paid the cost of the workshops I’ve done with you by selling some photos! I have sold three prints already.”—L. Beck
  • “Very creative and a marvelous instructor.”—Kay S.
Tulip Blast © Harold Davis

Tulip Blast © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Workshops

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

First a kingdom, then a republic, and finally an empire—for a thousand years the pax Romana held. Today the glory that was Rome amounts to a curiosity, ruins of an ancient civilization presented for the amusement of the tour bus set, the coliseum and Roman forum embedded in the surrounding modern city. Sic transit gloria mundi [“Thus passes the glory of the world”]. Any parallels to modern times are, of course, entirely coincidental.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (Color) © Harold Davis

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (Color) © Harold Davis

To make this photo, on a rainy day in Rome my companion and I took the elevator to the top of the Victor Emanuel II Memorial. The building commemorates the father of modern Italy, and houses a museum of the Risorgimento, but is essentially bombastic in architectural design, having been variously described as a giant “typewriter” and (most appropriately) a huge wedding cake.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (Black & White) © Harold Davis

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (Black & White) © Harold Davis

With my camera on my tripod, I captured several sequences of the rain-soaked city and the clearing storm. Then the attendant rushed up to me, and very vehemently told me I couldn’t use my tripod. Fortunately, this image sequence (six exposures 1/4 of a second to 1/640 of a second at f/8 and ISO 64) was already “in the can.”

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (simulated Albumen print) © Harold Davis

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (simulated Albumen print) © Harold Davis

Posted in Italy

Safety Pin

Safety Pin © Harold Davis

Safety Pin © Harold Davis

Posted in Monochrome, Photography

Workshop in a Suitcase

I am used to leading two kinds of photography workshops: one is close enough to my home base in Berkeley so it is easy to set up the workshop room in advance, the other is under the auspices of an institution where I am not responsible for setup. Last weekend’s Black and White in San Francisco workshop was a hybrid, in other words a kind of cross between the two.

Golden Gate Splash © Harold Davis

Golden Gate Splash © Harold Davis

We rented a really very nice space in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown as the home base for the event. This turned out to be a great idea, but there was really no way we could setup in advance. In thinking how I could get everything I needed over to the workshop from the parking garage, I hit on the idea of encapsulating it in the suitcase I use traveling. This led to the workshop in a suitcase, possibly a relative of the great monologist Spalding Gray’s Monster in a Box.

Farther Shore © Harold Davis

Farther Shore © Harold Davis

Thanks to the participants in this workshop for being a great and game group despite the rain in Saturday. We had fun in a variety of locations. I photographed the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point (top) and Baker and China Beaches from Fort Point (above) in foul weather on Saturday, and used the images in classroom black and white conversion demos.

Rome from St Peter's Dome © Harold Davis

Rome from St Peter’s Dome © Harold Davis

The sepia image of the eternal city (Rome) shown above was a classroom demonstration, with the file drawn from my recent trip to Italy. The box of prints shown below was contained as part of my monster, er, workshop in a suitcase. This was a great workshop and location. We will probably but it on rotation for a repeat sometime in the next 12-18 months, and you might not want to miss it both in terms of the photography and the hands-on demos of monochromatic conversion techniques. You can keep tabs on my workshop schedule by visiting my Workshops & Events page.

Prints in a Box © Harold Davis

Prints in a Box © Harold Davis

Posted in Monochrome, San Francisco Area, Workshops

Apple

Ever since the era of Adam and Eve, there has been something enticing about an apple!

Apple © Harold Davis

Apple © Harold Davis

Posted in Bemusements

Digital Doodle

Not a Rose Garden © Harold Davis

Not a Rose Garden © Harold Davis

The Digital Doodle shown above comes from the black and white Embarcadero Center (shown below) via I never wanted a cubicle (monochrome) (bottom). To get from Embarcadero Center to I Never Wanted a Cubicle (Mono), I mirrored it and pasted it over itself several times. To get from I never wanted a cubicle (monochrome)  to Not a Rose Garden (my Digital Doodle) I flipped it horizontally, and primarily used Photoshop blending modes to add the colors and patterns. Are we having fun yet???

 

Embarcadero Center © Harold Davis

Embarcadero Center © Harold Davis

 

I never wanted a cubicle (monochrome) © Harold Davis

I never wanted a cubicle (monochrome) © Harold Davis

Posted in Abstractions

Two new botanicals in black and white

Succulent and Rain Drops © Harold Davis

Succulent and Rain Drops © Harold Davis

 

Jagged Leaves © Harold Davis

Jagged Leaves © Harold Davis

Posted in Monochrome, Photography

At sixes and sevens this weekend? Photograph Black & White in San Francisco!

Free this weekend? Interested in a last minute extraordinary opportunity to photograph San Francisco with a master of digital black & white photograhy?

We are photographing San Francisco in black and white this weekend (Nov 19-20, 2016). This workshop will be one part photography, and one part classroom. As an overall matter, I plan to follow the arc of my upcoming book, The Photographer’s Black & White Handbook. That means (both in field photography and classroom sessions, in the context of participant exercises and my own work) examining the questions of what makes a good black & white image, how you find black & white subjects, and essentially pre-visualization in black & white.

9781580934787

I do find that people learn from each other in the context of this kind of small-group workshop. I will plan to tailor classroom sessions to specific interests and requests. That said, my own list post-production topics that I plan to address besides seeing in black & white and pre-visualization include:

  • Best-practices digital workflow for black & white
  • Working in color to create black & white
  • Conversion techniques including PS Adjustments, Nik Silver Efex, and time and interest permitting Topaz B&W and OnOne Perfect B/W.
  • Tinting, toning, and working with antique looks
  • Some special effects. I’m most interested in split toning via color selection, simulated IR, simulated solarization, and LAB B/W inversions, but there may be more.

I’m excited that classroom sessions will be held in a beautiful loft in San Francisco’s Chinatown. There’s plenty to photograph right around the location. Besides photographing Chinatown, we’ll also visit the Cable Car Museum, Fort Point, and the Golden Gate Bridge. If this appeals to you, click here to register (by RSVPing YES on Meetup)

Cable Car Wheels © Harold Davis

Cable Car Flywheels © Harold Davis

Please visit our Workshops & Events page to view other upcoming opportunities!

Lonely Islet by Harold Davis

Lonely Islet © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops

Starry Night by Harold Davis in exhibition at Weston Gallery

I am very pleased and honored that a print of my Starry Night (shown below) is on exhibit at the Weston Gallery in Carmel, CA as part of Night Vision: Photographing in the Dark. Night Vision will be shown November 12, 2016 – January 8, 2017.

Starry Night © Harold Davis

Starry Night © Harold Davis

Here’s the list of photographers contributing to the Night Vision exhibition: Bob Kolbrener, Michael Kenna, Paul Kozal, Rolfe Horn, Robb Johnson, Dale Johnson, Ernst Haas, Harold Davis, Berenice Abbott, Brett Weston, André Kertész, Jerry Uelsmann, Mark Citret, Sally Mann, Chip Hooper. I am excited to be included along with a number of my top photographic heroes of all time such as Haas, Kertész, Uelsmann, and Weston.

Posted in Digital Night

Advanced LAB Color (Nov 12) and Photographing San Francisco in B&W (Nov 19-20)

We still have a few remaining spaces in Advanced LAB Color (Nov 12) and Photographing San Francisco in Black & White Weekend Workshop (Nov 19-20). Note, the San Francisco in Black & White Workshop has been moved to San Francisco (for its own protection? No—to be nearer the subject matter!)

Please take a moment to consider these opportunities. We will probably not be offering either of these workshops again before 2018.

LAB Floral Inversion © Harold Davis

LAB Floral Inversion © Harold Davis

Advanced LAB Color is a unique offering and window into the arcane wonders of the most powerful color space.

Do you like black and white photography?

Do you like San Francisco?

Well…B&W + SF = Harold Davis Black & White Photography Weekend Workshop!

Learn and refine your digital black and white from master photographer and best-selling author Harold Davis.

Noir City Dreams © Harold Davis

Noir City Dreams © Harold Davis

Click here for our Workshops & Events Calendar.

My new book is available for pre-order on Amazon and the publisher’s website. Thanks to everyone who has made The Photographer’s Black & White Handbook: Making and Processing Stunning Digital Black and White Photos the #1 New Release in Black & White Photography on Amazon and Amazon’s #1 “Hot New Release” in this category!

9781580934787

Posted in Workshops

Abbazia di Sant’Antimo

Nestled in a valley in the Tuscan Hills, the Abbazia di Sant’Antimo—Abbey of Saint Anthony—dates originally from the eighth century. If you arrive at the right time, you can hear the monks chanting—but mostly this is a peaceful and silent place. Back in the day, the Abbazia di Sant’Antimo was a secular powerhouse as well as a religious community, and owned farms and churches from here to Siena. But all things must pass, the material world is vanity, and today other than when there is chanting, the Abbazia di Sant’Antimo is notable for the quietness of its pristine location.

Abbazia di Sant'Antimo © Harold Davis

Abbazia di Sant’Antimo © Harold Davis

Posted in Italy, Landscape

Forever Young

I’ve been listening to a Nobel prize play-list of Bob Dylan—both his own voice and cover versions of his songs—while photographing and processing my White Phalaenopsis Orchid and Variegated Phalaenopsis Orchid images. In the versions here, the two plants of come together for photography on my light box. The orchids are shown first placed in Photoshop on a scanned paper background, next inverted via LAB color on a black background, and at the bottom on white they way they were photographed. There’s something wonderful and at the same time a little disorienting about Dylan receiving the Nobel prize in literature. Listening to the vast oeuvre of his work in this way, one thing that becomes a little clearer to me is the incredible variety in his poetics, and his long-term integrity as an artist—an integrity that is rare and probably was hard to maintain in face of the success he had so early.

Orchids in Love on Cream © Harold Davis

Orchids in Love on Cream © Harold Davis

Orchids in Love Inversion © Harold Davis

Orchids in Love Inversion © Harold Davis

Want to learn how to invert an image like this (and more!)? My Advanced LAB Seminar is coming up next weekend (Saturday, November 12, 2016). Note that the location has been moved (to the DoubleTree Berkeley Marina Hotel), and that we have a few places left. Click here for details.

Orchids in Love on White © Harold Davis

Orchids in Love on White © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Workshops

Vida and Shopvida: Annals of Deceptive Business Models

Being a Professional Artist Means Business

As a successful professional artist and photographer—and, not entirely coincidentally, a business person—I am aware that sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Sensible investment is after all the cornerstone of business life, and this is no different for a business as an artist than for any other kind of business. Although, as one art dealer I’ve worked with said, “Artists work twice as hard as anyone else, because they have the work of being an artist, and the entirely separate work of making a living as an artist.”

Et chorus sinit ire cum flores (white) © Harold Davis

Et chorus sinit ire cum flores (white) © Harold Davis

In the light of spending money to make money, I am not entirely opposed to upfront pay-for-play business models in the arts, such as paying fees to enter contests, paying to join an exhibit, or paying to be included in a directory of artists or photographers. There’s a slippery slope here, and I do advise casting a skeptical eye on these kinds of opportunities, particularly if they are regarded strictly as business opportunities. Which they are often not, of course: as an artist, one’s work is tightly bound up with one’s sense of self-worth, and any chance to have one’s work displayed or reproduced is an appeal to vanity, often over the common sense of the pocket book. (Pocket book discipline might be more rigorously applied in the context of a non-arts-based business, although a high percentage of new businesses of all sorts do fail, perhaps in part for lack of thrift.)

Kiss from a Rose © Harold Davis

Kiss from a Rose © Harold Davis

However, what I have little patience with is pay-for-play business models masquerading as something completely different, where the real intent is to take advantage of artists. This brings me to the subject of Vida, also called Shopvida, on the web at www.shopvida.com.

Vida

If you have almost any kind of presence as an artist or photographer on the Internet, you’ve likely received an initial email from Vida. The first email I received, from Erica who is a self-described “manager of artist relationships” at VIDA, went as follows:
I am writing today regarding your artwork, with the hope that you will consider collaborating with us. I am writing from VIDA, a Google Ventures backed company that brings artists and makers together from around the world to create original, inspiring apparel in a socially conscious way. We are looking for artists with amazing technical skill and truly original work.  We came across your artwork, and we’d love to work with you to translate your art into fashion.

By way of introduction, my name is Erica, and I manage Artist Relations here at VIDA. We specialize in converting 2D art into beautiful, quality apparel and accessories. Also, each of our artists receives a portion of net revenues shared back for each of their designs sold.

As part of our artists recruitment team, I would be thrilled if you would join us as a VIDA artist by submitting your artwork to …. In the meantime, if you have any questions at all, please reply to this email directly. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

We would be deeply honored to have the opportunity to work with you.

Much the same tale is told on the ShopVida website:

VIDA’S STORY IS THAT OF THE RICH, INTERCONNECTED WORLD WE LIVE IN — THE STORY OF CONTEMPORARY LIFE AND MINDFUL, GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP.

WE ARE A GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP OF CO-CREATORS, FROM A DESIGNER IN PARIS, TO A PRODUCER IN KARACHI, AND A CONSUMER IN SAN FRANCISCO.

We handle production and business, so [our artists] can pursue their passion and make a living.

ONE MAKER AT A TIME

LITERACY FOR LIFE

We provide literacy programs to our makers. They learn to read, write, and do basic math and build a better life for generations to come. [capitalization in the original]

So not only was Vida honored to have me, by joining I could make some money, support mindful global citizenship, and also literacy programs. Who was I to say no to this appeal to my artistic vanity and my desire to do good—with the potential to benefit my pocketbook. Surely, a potent brew of benefits. I hemmed and I hawed, and I decided to give this a shot. After all, no payment was requested upfront.

Putting up a shop on Vida is relatively easy and also quite a bit of fun. You use low resolution Jpeg imagery to design items in a number of clothing categories (also bags and pillows).

harold-davis-vida-store

Harold Davis store on Vida (see text)

You can see the Vida collection that I designed at http://shopvida.com/collections/harold-davis, partly shown above. [Author’s note: I’ve requested Vida take down my store and purge my images, but as of publication date this link is still live.] Once the low resolution store front is in place, you need to upload high resolution versions of the image files, but this isn’t anything that anyone reasonably capable with Photoshop can’t handle.

Promoting One’s Vida Store—Part 1

It was clear as soon as my storefront was up on Vida that the next step would be self-promotion. As I was informed at the top of my new online store as soon as it was live, with ten sales I get “Slate” status—which means that ” Harold’s art will be promoted by VIDA.” Presumably, without the ten sales there would be no promotion of Harold’s art by Vida, sigh!

Just to be clear, I have nothing against involving family, friends, and collectors in social media campaigns that benefit me. In fact, Kickstarter is kind of built around this concept, and I have run two successful Kickstarter campaigns (see https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/472058814/botanique-a-hand-made-book-of-art-prints-by-harold and https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/472058814/monochromatic-visions). It is reasonable to expect family, friends, and social media involvement in the projects that are important to an artist. It becomes a problem if these channels are the sole support of a project, and largely are making money for a third-party who is not the artist.

The Vida Product

Kiss from a Rose Wrap

Kiss from a Rose Wrap

Before deploying my reputational capital on behalf of my Vida collection, I thought it would be a good idea to order an actual product from my shop as a matter of simple quality control. Under Phyllis’s name I bought a “Kiss from a Rose” cashmere silk scarf for $85.00 (it came to over $100 with tax and shipping). As a side note, this sale to myself was the only sale I made via my Vida store.

When the scarf eventually arrived, the reviews were mixed. Delivery took about five weeks, which seemed like a strangely long time. While the scarf seemed expensive to us for what it was, in fairness it was sized quite large. However, in our opinion the fabric didn’t seem as luxurious as the “silk-cashmere” description would seem to imply.

There was no lining. Hemming (on the short side) was adequate, but not particularly elegant or complicated. The long edges of the scarf were not sewn at all, but were simply the selvages of the fabric.

The process by which this was created clearly involved printing on fabric via an inkjet printer. There were some places where the dye didn’t reach the fabric, leaving white spots.

To be clear, I have nothing against printing on fabric with an inkjet printer, particularly when it is done well. But this isn’t exactly an artisanal process, and it is unlikely to be lifting third-world crafts people out of poverty. I’ve used an inkjet printer to print some of my images on canvas, but that doesn’t make these images “genuine oil paintings” any more than Vida’s inkjet products are legitimate third-world textile art.

Spring Wreath © Harold Davis

Spring Wreath © Harold Davis

Promoting One’s Vida Store—Part 2

As my welcome to Vida email noted, the “important tips that have helped Vida designers achieve success” were:

  1. Email your friends, fans, and customers
  2. Spread the word on social media
  3. Blog about your collection
  4. Purchase for yourself or loved ones
  5. (MOST POPULAR) Purchase Artist Wholesale

While I waited to evaluate the product sample, the upselling email fun began…often at the rate of several emails a day.

Repeating Flower Pattern © Harold Davis

Repeating Flower Pattern © Harold Davis

Emails from Vida

Cameron at Vida wrote me (many times) to say that if I spent $1,000 I could become “a featured designer with a curated collection. We are only offering curated collections to a small group of hand-picked artists. This is a private email.” Having a curated collection would result in having “[a]t least 1 product from your collection featured on the VIDA Shop All Page. Being Featured on the Shop All page will give you significantly more exposure.”

Jennifer wrote me (on several different days) to “personally reach out to send you a final reminder that today is THE VERY LAST DAY to claim your curated collection page on VIDA.”

Lesley suggested I might enjoy the Festival of Art event where “where art lovers and artists can join together in their admiration for the arts,” and where I would receive a 40% discount on purchases of $900 or more.

Alice sent me another invitation to become a featured designer with a curated collection: “We are only offering curated collections to a small group of hand-picked artists for 1 week only. We think your art is beautiful and we would love the opportunity to feature your work. This is a private, invitation-only email.

This inundation of upselling emails from Vida continued for quite a while without letup. As one my of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, might have said, “So it goes.”

Summing Up My Sense of Vida

Let me try to sum my sense of Vida up. The claim [from an initial email from Erica at Vida] that

Vida is backed by Google Ventures, and artists who get discovered on VIDA are featured everywhere from national television to major press mentions like TechCrunch and the Wall Street Journal….We’d love to work with you to build your artwork into a fashion brand

seems exaggerated—but certainly something that gets my attention as an artist, with its mention of Google and my artwork as a fashion brand, and no more exagerated than the spiel from many another tech startup. This is, however, also a well-crafted appeal to the vanity and optimism of any artist.

The actual business model seems to be more like a blunderbuss than a discovery mechanism for quality art that would work for textile designs. The goal seems to be to see how much product can be moved by the artists to friends and family of the artist. The only mechanism for discovery of great designs is to qualify by selling Vida product to friends and family, and it is far from clear that the promotion that might follow from said sales at Vida would result in any long-term gains in terms of the branding of an artist.

Dragonfly 4 © Harold Davis

Dragonfly 4 © Harold Davis

At best, this is a pay-for-play business model on Vida’s part. As I’ve noted, I have no problem with the notion of investing in the business of being an artist, provided this investment is made thoughtfully. I also have no issue with using friends and family as part of one’s social media constellation to jumpstart a career. I do have an issue with the lack of upfront clarity on Vida’s part about this being what a store on Vida will entail.

Pay-for-play can be okay, but then you should say right away, “For exposure you must pay!” Essentially, Vida is analagous to a multi-level marketing scheme, where participants only make money by selling the company product to others.

The Vida Product—Part 2

One other aspect of Vida’s workflow is troubling, and that is the production of the actual products. In point of fact, I have a natural outlet for products based on my work via my workshops and other events. Had we believed the merchandise was of a quality that worked with the quality of my work, and that we wouldn’t be ashamed to present to my audience, we could easily have taken advantage of one of the many offers I was pitched. For example, we could have bought $1,000 worth of products based my designs at a 40% discount, and sold these at retail at my workshops.

The problem here had to do with the quality of the printing, which we didn’t think was high enough to compare with my other work. In addition, a zebra doesn’t change its stripes to a leopard’s spots. The deceptive marketing to artists is one of a piece with the deceptive sense that Vida gives that its products, created using inkjet printing, are related to textile craft and somehow artisanal. There is quite a bit of markup in my $85 scarf, and I don’t think this money is going to a dye printing machine operator in India.

Low Geostationary and Decaying Orbits around the Clematis Inversion © Harold Davis

Low Geostationary and Decaying Orbits around the Clematis Inversion © Harold Davis

Is Vida a Scam?

Is Vida an out-and-out scam? This depends upon your definition of “scam,” but probably not, in the sense that they do actually make and ship the products they advertise (even if these aren’t of great quality). Nothing illegal is going on as far as I can tell. Like Amway and Herbalife, there are probably folks who have done okay with Vida—but it wouldn’t be for me. 

While not an out-and-out scam, as a customer I would be disappointed in the quality of the work, particularly considering the price, and I would likely be disinclined to order more products from this company. (Would I have expressed my disappointment about the product quality to my sister-in-law-the-artist had I bought a Vida item of hers? Probably not.)

Is this a business model that treats artists ethically and morally? In my opinion, I don’t think so. As always, do research, draw your own conclusions, and caveat emptor.

I submitted a draft of this article to Umaimah Mendhro, the founder and CEO of Vida, and to the press email at Shopvida for comment, but as of publication time have received no response. 

Have you had an experience good or bad with Vida? I will happily approve for publication relevant comments related to this article.

More about the Business of Art and Photography

Other articles by Harold Davis pertaining to contemporary issues in the business of art and photography: Putting Paid to Purloining Picture Snatchers: Working with PixsyWhat do Harold Davis and Georgia O’Keeffe have in common on Pinterest, and how is Pinterest going to make money, anyway?; and Presentation Matters: Why Book Publishers Should Care About Quality.

About Harold Davis: HAROLD DAVIS is a professional photographer and digital artist whose work is widely collected. He is the author of many bestselling photography books, including Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer, Creating HDR Photos, Photographing Flowers, The Photoshop Darkroom, and The Way of the Digital Photographer.

Quince by Moon © Harold Davis

Quince by Moon © Harold Davis

Posted in Business of Art, Photography, Writing

Romantic Landscapes

There’s nothing I like better than to capture romantic landscapes. Of course, any landscape can be romantic in the right light, and almost any landscape can be grim in harsh light. Still, when I am in the heart of the mountains, my thoughts turn towards romantic imagery—and the same when there is a sweetly pictaresque tower or two, or maybe an ancient castle rampart.

Towers of San Gimignano © Harold Davis

Towers of San Gimignano © Harold Davis

Fundamentally, this is an anti-post-modern aesthetic on my part. Maybe this is catchier as “post-post-modern” imagery (abbreviated as “post-squared modern”). In other words, I like the lushness of imagery that shows us a world that is partially fantasy. A world that takes a certain kind of eye to see, and the very real skills of a post-squared modern digital artist to capture without overdoing it. I am aware of the possibilities of irony, but prefer the policies of optimism.

Dolomite View © Harold Davis

Dolomite View © Harold Davis

About the images: (Top) With sunset coming on in a light rain, I hurried to find a high vantage point in the fabulous towered confection of San Gimignano, Italy. From the little tower on the Rocca I had a great view across to the towers, and to the rain passing in the sunset. (Above) View east from the mountains above Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. (Below) This sunset view of Castelo Marvao in Portugal reminds me of the feeling in the San Gimignano image at the beginning of this story.

Castelo Marvao © Harold Davis

Castelo Marvao © Harold Davis

Posted in Italy, Landscape, Photography, Portugal