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Sunday, May 29, 2005

GEL 2005 - Rick Smolen

Rick Smolen, photographer and multiple book publisher spoke on how he got started. A photographer for National Geographic, he talked of the community of photographers and the normal conflict with the editorial assignments. How no matter where they were assigned, it was always the same set of shots that the editors were looking for. How he thought it would be good for the photographers to be able to just go somewhere and capture the place with their own vision, their own ideas. How he tried to sell this idea around and was unable to get any backers for it. He did get some advice that proved worthwhile. He sought out the film makers (Kodak, et al) to see if they would sponsor this and be featured as the exclusive film used. He sought out airlines to see if they would fly 100 photographers into Australia (his first project) and receive acknowledgement as the exclusive airline for the project. And so on... The concept gained traction this way and needless to say was a success.

Other projects followed. America 24/7 arose from the aftermath of 9/11 and the idea that America was not really the big bad monster that the current political administration was conveying to the rest of the world. They made a special feature available for this book. If you sent them a picture, they would print it as the cover of the book and send it back to you. This was a great selling feature. It personalized the book for each coffee table.

From this project, they realized that many of the photos being sent it as cover shots were of the family dog or cat. It was logical to extend the concept and then Dogs 24/7 and Cats 24/7 were created.

Attendees at the conference came away with one of these two books in the "gift bag". There was quite a swap period amongst the attendees to figure out who had what so that if they ended up with Cats and wanted Dogs, or vice versa, the swap was made and both left happy.

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