Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Whole Kitsch And Kaboodle

Stealing is wrong. Steal from me and you've opened a can of worms.

In my previous post regarding "bloominidiot" and his decision to infringe my copyright, someone said, "woah dude, the person totally gave you credit..."

I would like to say that giving me "credit" is cool as long as you've had permission in the first place. What if I stole your car and drove around and told everyone, "Dude, look at my car. I took it from Eugene. He has others, too." You would be telling everyone that Eugene is your bitch and that you might go get another. Unless Eugene said, "You look like you need a car. Here, take mine." You would say, "Eugene was really cool and gave me his car." Unfortunately, Eugene woke up in the morning and didn't have a choice on which car he was going to drive.

I've been in touch with "bloominidiot." He said, "It would have been nice if you had contacted me first prior to threatening me with litigation..." I see that the shoe is on the other foot. He wanted to be contacted first — what about me? Shouldn't I have been contacted before the image was stolen? I've afforded "bloominidiot" the same courtesy that he afforded me.

Why did I head straight to the attorney? Ha! Imagine waking up one morning and your car is gone. You go searching and you find it a couple streets over in your neighbor's driveway. The doors are open and he's putting luggage in the trunk. Clearly, he has taken your car and he's not giving it back. What do you do? You could fight him (and maybe lose). You could shoot him (and go to prison). Or you could call the police and show that you are the owner of the car and let them recover it.

I sought legal council so that I didn't have to argue with some guy on the Internet.

Here is what my attorney had to say: " will be eligible for statutory damages since you timely registered your copyrights... it sounds as though you also have a claim for breach of contract. You may want to pursue this on your own in small claims court.... It technically is a willful infringement... Note that you have three years from the date of infringement to sue for copyright infringement." Hmm.

This site spells out the remedies for infringement. It's the US Copyright Office, so the info is straight from the horse's mouth. I suggest reading to the part about $150,000 for statutory damages.

Sometimes people can be so right that they are wrong. I don't want to be wrong.

If Mr. "...idiot' could find it in his heart to come to this blog, leave a comment (on this post) and admit his mistake, apologize and promise to never download anything without permission, I will call off the dogs. I believe in grace and forgiveness when a mistake has been made. I hope Corby is willing to wave The White Flag.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Sort of Birthday

Today is a special day for Tony Blei Photography (or should I say TONY BLEI PHOTOGRAPHY). Today is a day of rebirth. A sort of Birthday.

I don't think we should ever be happy with where we are. I think it's important to continually strive for excellence — and once excellence is achieved — find ways to improve. Resting is not an option.

I use to work at a couple of places where certain people didn't embrace the concept of e-mail. Oddly, one of the guys was in charge of the technology section of the newspaper (and we wonder why newspapers are in decline).

Not only is it important to be an early adopter, it's important to look for ways be be better. If you aren't continually moving and climbing, someone will step on you on their way to the top — and "The Top" is a mythical place. Our lives and careers are on an incline — or a decline — you choose.

Today, the caterpillar has shed its cocoon and a butterfly has emerged. Gone is the previous design that, for four years, was "SmartAz Photography" and in its place stands TONY BLEI PHOTOGRAPHY . This has been a long time coming and has involved a team of consultants, designers, printers and Internet gurus. TONY BLEI PHOTOGRAPHY is reborn and rebranded.

The graph for business for many photographer has gone from resembling a treacherous jeep trail to a cliff. Some have gone over, never to return. We didn't. Me an' Mrs. TONY BLEI PHOTOGRAPHY had a board meeting and decided that all of our resources would go into not only surviving in this market, but in positioning ourselves, so that in better times we would quickly recover, be stronger and in a better market position.

We aren't out of the woods yet, but clearly we're not a Babe in those Woods. If you haven't done so yet, go to our Web site and look at our new portfolio. We have a new addition that I call "Fresh Squeeze." It's new work. And that new work will be changed from time-to-time. I want it to stay fresh.

Adversity brings about change. I can't say this is a new beginning. It's a birthday. It's not a first birthday, but one of many. And like a birthday, it marks time and looks ahead to a future. A future of more change — and success.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Kaboodle of Kitsch

A few weeks ago, I had no idea who Taylor Kitsch was. Now I know.

Taylor Kitsch is a super-groovy actor that people just adore and because of their undying love they do stupid things like break the law. In my book, Taylor is a cool guy. His fans on the other hand...well...I've discovered one "bloominidiot."

I photographed Taylor Kitsch a few weeks ago at the Wolverine: X-Men: Origins premiere (that movie title has a serious colon issue). Taylor is a dude the kids were going ga-ga over. I didn't think anything of it — until last night.

In case you haven't noticed, I have a newly designed Web site. I was hangin' out admiring the place's new paint job and thought I'd take a peek at how much traffic I was getting. I thought it was interesting to see that I was getting a lot of traffic from LiveJournal (not to be confused with LiveBooks, the Web-site developer). I clicked on a link and was taken to a page that, lo and behold, had one of my pictures on it! The guy who stole my image goes by the name "bloominidiot." He really is.

Let's Review
Copyright is established at the moment I push the button on my camera. I like to think of each assignment as an opportunity to create children — and I love them all. Ok, maybe not children but how 'bout Real Estate? No? Ok, property. I push the button and create property. My property. I create the property and license it to those who are interested. Easy — unless you are a "bloominidiot."

What it is!
It is what it is — and that is Intellectual Property (told you I was smart). Intellectual Property, or IP, is a photograph, music, software and even the written word (there are more examples but I'm stoppin' here 'cause you know what I'm talkin' 'bout). This blog? Yep. It's IP and copyright protected. Tru dat!

So. I take a picture of Taylor Kitsch and it's copyright protected. What does that mean? It means that I get to determine where my pictures go and what they are used for. It also means that if some "...idiot" steals my picture of Kitsch, things will go badly for my mouse-clickity-clickin' little buddy.

"bloominidiot" may end up with his computer confiscated. He may have to pay for what he has stolen AND because I've registered the image with the Library of Congress (specifically the US Copyright Office) he will have to pay damages, including court costs. Tru dat, too!

Dude, it's only
a friggin' picture, Chillax!

So you think it's only a picture, eh? Can I have your car? After all, there are millions of 'em. I should be able to take your Escalanche, right? Well ma'am, photography just happens to be what I do for a livin', an' I don't take 'em so that you can take 'em (know what I'm sayin'). If you built a house, could I live in it for free?

Imagine a world without art. No photos, no paintings, no movies, to TV, no stories to read. All we do is work and sleep. I can hear you disagreeing because you say you would go on picnics our out to dinner. Ha! Who would decorate your restaurant or weave the basket for you picnic. Art makes our lives better; more enjoyable. Artists need to be compensated and their property protected.

What you don't know is that I only become an asshole AFTER being pissed off. Normally, I'm pretty cool (at least in my mind). If Mr. "...idiot" had written a simple e-mail and asked permission, I might have agreed. My goal, after all is to have as many people as possible see my work. More than that, though, I want people to love my work so much that they become fans who promote my photography. True fans after all, help you succeed — not steal from you.

Ironically, the movie that Taylor Kitsch was recently in has been illegally downloaded from the Internet by its "fans."

I have a couple of friends who frequent this blog. They've come to me and said they really like some of my pictures and mentioned they would like to use them for their desktops. Cool (as long as it's for personal use).

"bloominidiot" could have come to me and asked. He didn't and now I'm pissed. I'm not going get emotional though. I will leave that for the attorneys.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hip Replacement — Expletives Included

My latest and greatest Web-site design was suppose to be up and running yesterday. If you've been to my site, you'll notice it's the same design as last week. Grrr!

I hired a designer to make me look stylish and hip. After all, last year's "hip" is this year's hip replacement. What the designer came up with is stunning. It's clean, simple and really sets off my photography.

In April the redesign was delivered to my Web host and for some reason it's taken a month to get it posted. Yesterday I received an e-mail saying the project was ready to go live. All I had to do was sign off on it.

An expletive is a word or phrase that is used to fill out a sentence or a line of verse without adding to the sense. By definition, you would think that expletives do nothing more than add fat to a sentence. This is far from the truth — especially when I saw that a switch had been made. Frankly, a lot of expletives were used. None of which were "fatty" words simply used in order to fill out my sentences. Nope. My expletives were specifically used to punctuate and communicate the fact that I was angry and not going to sign off on a foreign design.

The lesson I learned and want to tell you about is that we should always be nice to one another. Hire professionals to do that which professionals do. Pay their price (it's so worth it), but above all, be nice!

If you are a mean person, like the guy who called (before coffee) to tell me how much I "suck," you will be the equivalent of a metal trash can placed over someone's head that is being struck repeatedly with a club. You will only be annoying and provoke a negative reaction. And when your project goes bad, nobody will care.

By being nice, people think good thoughts and they might do a few extra "favors" simply because they like you (well, me anyway). Another thing about being nice is that when things go awry, you are much more credible and people will go out of their way to return you to your previous, happy state.

The new and improved Web site should be delivered tomorrow. It's going to be very nice. After redoing the files and shipping them to my site host in San Francisco, my designer called me from Seattle to make sure I was happy. She's also called my printer to make sure that work is on track and then she called a New York agency that I do business with — she wanted to ensure they were getting what they needed.

Always be nice until it's time to not be nice. Choose your words carefully and make sure your spicy expletives season your language, not make it fatty.

I would like to take this time, on this date, May the seventh, in the year of our Lord, two-thousand-and-nine, to thank you very much for coming to, and reading my Web log, also known as a blog. It is my hope that you have been most excellently uplifted by my less-than concise use of the English language.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


This isn't what I was announcing yesterday, but this is REALLY cool.

I want you to all think about this and do it!

Take an "S" and then an "M" and add it to the word, "Art."

This is one of the smARTest things around.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Coming SOON!

Read what it says above and check back Wednesday afternoon!

Now run and go play!

What are you still doing here?  GO!

Fine.  Clean up after yourself and turn the lights off when you leave.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wolverine | X-Men Origins Premiere

You know the state of the economy and that Swine Flu is the next thing to fear. But There is some good news to be had. The newest installment of the X-Men series premiered in Tempe, Arizona today. And of course I went.

Here's the cool part: I had a client, but no credential. Quicker than you can say Huge Ackman, I was credentialed and in!

I just buzzed the Arizona Republic's site. I can hardly believe they sent five photographers to compete against me! Ha! They had a couple of images that I didn't get — but you had better be getting those pictures when you send five credentialed shooters.

Click here to check out what I did!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Take Me Out To The Ball Game!

I had a great time yesterday. I had coffee, painted a wall (a pipe burst inside my wall a few weeks ago and it has been an adventure that will finally be over in about two weeks), and took the train into Phoenix to watch a Diamondbacks game. We lost but it was nice to be in a different part of the world.

I have a hard time just going to a game and just sitting there. I often find my mind straying from the game's action and from there, my eye begins to wander. At a baseball park with a pool, there is often a lot to see. So I thought I would play my game that I call, "Find The Picture." If you've been following me for any length of time, you know the drill. I go out with a camera a lens and that's it. It's just a personal project/challenge to find out what I can do under extreme circumstances. Did I mention that I don't take a tripod?

I'm continually working on new things. (Seriously, whether you are a photographer, a writer or a nuclear physicist, you need to always be moving your art forward (not that nuclear physics is an art, but you know what I mean). Don't just be satisfied with where you are.) Right now I'm inspired by High Dynamic Range photography. I'm taking multiple images at different exposures and blending them so that I can get the highest range of colors and tones. HDR is sometimes kind of squirrelly, and isn't right for all applications, but it really is beautiful.

In the scheme of HDR, a tripod is a key element. But unfortunately a tripod can hinder spontaneity. So, on this journey into town I left it at home. All of my HDR images were hand held. It was a lot of fun shooting them. I pland to go out soon and shoot more — and I might even try it with a tripod.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Big Project is Nearly Complete!

About a year ago I began interviewing photo consultants. It was a big task. There are many wonderful people who know a lot about the photographic industry. I wanted to ensure that I was seen for who I was as a photographer and that the consultant would give me sound advice. It was important to be able to reach an audience that I was previously missing.

My background is in photojournalism which is far from easy, but a photojournalist who is on staff at a metropolitan daily newspaper doesn't have to deal with issues such as marketing or what their portfolio looks like. Hell, the only time a portfolio is even necessary is if the photographer plans to change jobs. In the old days, a portfolio consisted of a series of slides that were tucked into slide pages and shipped off (to some distant photo editor) with a cover letter and résumé, never to be seen again.

After leaving the news biz, I needed to define who my clients were and how to reach them. I bumped around for a few years and finally came to the conclusion that whatever I was doing was wrong. So I hired a consultant. I also hired a designer.

After a long phone interview I sifted through more than 40,000 images to find 650 or so that I could send off to be edited. It took about two weeks for my portfolios to come back. Two weeks after the edit, Vanity Fair called in my book. (Panic!)

My designer is in Seattle and she had just gotten the edited images. At first we thought we were going to have to work around the clock to meet the VF deadline but soon learned that the book didn't need to be there until January. Whew!

This has been a long and painful process. I now not only know what a portfolio should look like, but I have one. As a matter of fact, I have two. The other is a collection of glamour images that just aren't right for my commercial Web site or portfolio.

The cool thing is that all of the elements of my new identity have been designed and are at the printer. The new design has been delivered to my Web-site host and that should be in place next week. I've just designed a promo piece that will be sent to announce the new look.

I think the worst part of all of this is that while I have had this project going I've also been out shooting. The economy has been slow, which means that work (for most photographers) has been slow, yet this has provided me with opportunities to get out and shoot images that I wouldn't have otherwise had time for. This means that soon, I will start this whole editing/portfolio process all over.

It's been a big and rough cycle, but isn't it great!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Smart and Getting Smarter

A long time ago, in a career far, far away.  I came up with a name for a business that I hadn't yet started.  I figured that since I was an intelligent person who lived in Arizona, SmartAz was a great name.  Further punctuating my way of thinking is that I just happen to be blessed with a quick wit.  It all seemed so logical.  Heck I even thought that if SmartAz Photography was successful, I might be able to be like the Dread Pirate Roberts (from "The Princess Bride") and sell off the franchise.  I was mistaken.

About six months ago I stopped using the SmartAz name.  I came to realize, with the help of my consultant, that the name, while creative, doesn't instill confidence.  I've stopped using the name, yet it has continued to haunt my Web site. 

Making changes aren't always easy.  Making changes sometime require fistfuls of money to be thrown at those things in need of change.  I've finally been able to finance that change.  Crews in San Francisco are working 'round the clock to have changes in place sometime next week.

SmartAz was a great name and a great lesson.  It taught me how to register a trade name.  And it taught me to carefully think things through.

It's free to create a business with whatever name you give it.  To change it however, is going to cost as much as a used car.  The lesson is:  Be sure you can live with the business decisions you make today because you may be dealing with those desicions for years.

SmartAz Photography was good.  Tony Blei Photography is even smarter.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dodging a Cruise Missile Attack

The View From the Bottom is GREAT!
So this guy calls me up around 8:30 this morning and informs me that I suck. I think he had lost sleep over the images on my Web site that he didn't like. This guy was very emphatic as he ripped and railed and launched his Cruise Missiles my way. He went on to tell me that the images on my blog were far superior and that if I was a commercial photographer, why in the hell do I have pictures of girls in bubbles on my site!!!!

Wow! It must have been a slow day in his small world (some people should consider switching to decaf).

It was early in the day and I was caught off guard. I tried to justify a few things but my advisor's gums were flapping so fast and hard that I don't think he heard a word I said.

I don't think I need to justify anything to another competing photographer. The truth is that few of us have all of the answers. A bigger truth is that my photography is about me and my vision. I'm the one (with the help of my beautiful wife) who has crafted and honed my skills over the past two decades. As a photojournalist I've seen things that would make some people weep and have nightmares. I've also taken award-winning pictures that have made a difference in my community. I've photographed seven US Presidents. Furthermore, because of my knowledge and experience, I've been able to secure a teaching job at the number one high school in Arizona. I think I've earned the right to put anything I want on my Web site. After all, it is my Web site.

A year ago my photography business was doing well. I was on track to break the previous year's receipts. I had enough cash to shop around for a consultant. Someone who would take me to the next level.

I was a photojournalist for twenty years. A year ago I didn't really know my market. My consultant has helped me to define it. She has grouped my images and chosen pictures that I wouldn't have necessarily picked myself — which is why I hired her. My portfolio not only portrays vision and technical abilities, it delivers a feeling as you look at it. My portfolio was not designed to entertain other frustrated photographers.

Two weeks after the portfolio edit, my book was called in by Vanity Fair, REMEDY Chicago and Maxim Magazine. Three weeks ago I met with someone in a giant corporate fortress who called in another art director to look at my work. They loved what they saw — and oddly enough LOVED the bubble pictures that I shot at the rave! There might just be a method to my madness after all.

I tell my students that I love taking pictures. They ask, "How much do you love taking pictures, Mr. Blei?" I tell them, "More than food." They tell me that's absurd to which I reply that I can get food by taking pictures. They laugh.

Art isn't art until someone sees it. If you are going to wait for the phone to ring before you create art, then, as an artist, you have no soul and you may not be creating art. You may only be documenting something.

If I can't show images, then what's the point in shooting them? And if I know there is going to be a visual opportunity, but I don't take it, I am a failure. I shoot crazy images of teenagers dancing in foam at a rave because it's an honest slice of life and that's what makes me happy. Oh! And I almost forgot! A consultant — one that I didn't hire — said I should consider doing a book with those images (if I didn't post them, I wonder how they could have been seen...hmmm).

A Cruise Missile attack was launched at me this morning but in all honesty, it was a dud that was way off target. Some people should learn to mind their own business and find what makes them happy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Their Eyes Have It

Some time ago I wrote about taking a part-time teaching job at a charter school in North Scottsdale. I blogged a couple of times about this great opportunity — and then went silent. Let me explain why.

At first I was very excited and proud to guide young minds in a way they had never been guided. I enjoy kids and I firmly believe that each of us must plant a tree we will never sit under.

By the third week I was beginning to wonder what I had gotten myself into. One third of the class had rallied against me and was working to take over the class. I don't want to get into the negative aspects of this experience but let me just say that the class size has decreased by 30% and the students who remain are smart, eager and talented. (Click here to see their work.)

Over these several months we've had great and very passionate discussions on copyright, legal issues (if a police officer orders you to stop photographing, do you have to?) and ethical matters regarding privacy. You see it's easy to take pretty pictures, but in some cases, you need to know when, where and if you can take those pretty pictures. Photography is a powerful means of expression and therefore a constitutional right. My students are responsible and well informed.

Their work excites me. I am going to miss them. Sadly, I have one week left in this teaching gig. I've found it to be incredibly rewarding as I've seen some wonderful kids become amazing, young photographers. They tell me that they look at pictures differently now. Not only can they take good pictures, but they can discuss the merits of a photograph and tell you why the image is good or bad.

I've enjoyed teaching. It has taught me what I really know about photography. The best part is that I've been able to influence a group of teens who have the beginnings of wonderful vision.

If you didn't click it up above, here is a link so that you can view what they've done. Take a peek and leave some comments to let them know how you feel about their work. To me, they are photographic rockstars.

High Dynamic Range

This is a great time in history to be alive and working. Sure, we have our problems, but man, the technology that we are using is amazing.

Digital Cameras are getting more and more sophisticated and so is the software. Adobe PhotoShop is a great program that no photographer can live without. Add to it Adobe LightRoom and you essentially have a digital darkroom. There are all sorts of filters and plug-ins that can be added to customize your images. Some are pretty expensive, and by the time you collect five or six, your, now customized, version of PhotoShop could cost as much as a used car.

A year ago I bought some software that included a PhotoShop plug-in that allowed greater control over the tonal range of any High Dynamic Range (HDR) photograph that I might produce. An HDR photo is a photograph whose tonal range is so high that only dogs can see it (just kidding). Seriously, the range is so high that printers and monitors can't reproduce the range. But with tone-mapping software, we can reel in the tones to the point that we get a photo that can take your breath away. The saturation of the colors and tones looks like a blend of film and imagination.

My goal for this week has been to work on a few HDR images and really polish the process. It's still fairly new and hopefully you will be seeing amazing HDR images in advertising and other commercial applications in the future.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Killer Rabbits

Some days it just doesn't pay
to get out of bed...

Hopefully this Easter, you won't need
to use
The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch

Friday, April 3, 2009


I had a great time last night. Mark Mayfield of KSLX is spending three days on location while seeking donations for the St. Mary's Food Bank.

I'm short on time so I'll just post a link to a slideshow.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Something To Rave About

Like a musician looking for a place to play, I'm always looking for challenging places to photograph. I have a personal exercise that I go through that I call: Find the Picture. I go to places that I'm unfamiliar with and — find the picture. Pretty easy eh? Not so fast. It's easy to find and compose images in broad daylight. I often go out at night and will only take one camera and one lens. Most nights, I don't take a flash — or a tripod. Find the picture. Deal with exposure issues. Keep moving and find the next picture.

A couple of weeks ago I had a job that was two-days long. While en route on the first day I received a phone call telling me about a rave that night. It was in an abandoned warehouse by the airport. I would be allowed to take my camera and photograph. I was curious.

I shot all day, took my assistant home, ate dinner and geared up for "Bubble Bobble," a foam party.

At first I was a little shocked. Teenage girls wearing items that I couldn't tell whether it was a bathing suit or underwear. And then the foam started pouring from the ceiling!

The body heat of twenty-five hundred dancing teens made me realize why it was a foam party and why the girls were dressed in a manner that would upset their fathers.

I learned a lot from this excursion. I can shoot and master any situation (I already knew that from years of working in the news industry). I love the diversity of life. I love and miss my teen years. I think that every teen should be forced to go to a rave at least once a week.

I seriously think the all-night dancing is great exercise. There were no tables or chairs. Your choice was to dance or go home.

I know, someone might complain that there are drugs at a rave. I never saw any. This doesn't mean there weren't any. But seriously, it's my understanding that kids can get drugs at school — and besides, I hate to say this but many, many people have twisted up a fatty in their time (this isn't the scope of this blog, I'm just commenting) (and in case you've forgotten, the purpose of this blog is fun, creative photography).

I love teenage angst (especially when it's directed in the right direction). The rave was a perfect place for kids of all ages to burn up some energy and fully express themselves.

Another great thing I noticed was that while the HOT teenage girls were showing a LOT of skin, they were keeping all of their lady parts covered. And the boys seemed respectful. I only saw one grope all night and I think they were a couple.

As I photographed, I noticed that most of the kids had really nice teeth. Clearly they came from homes with great parents who cared for their kids. I felt the rave was a way for the kids to step out of their perfect lives and experience a side of life they couldn't get at home. I felt the rave experience would eventually help the kids figure out who they were and what they wanted out of life.

With you or without you, life is going to happen. On this night, I was just an observer.

If you like what you've seen here, leave me a comment. If you didn't like what I posted, let me know. I'm always interested in other viewpoints (just be polite).

Do me a favor. If you havn't already, go look at my portfolio. I'd like to come to your office and show you the print version (it's beautiful). Also, it would be really cool if you could tell someone else about this blog and my work. Help spread the word.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Preparing For The Upturn

In the distance I can see sunshine peeking through the clouds.

It's still cloudy and in places the rain is pouring down. Hard. It's going to be OK, though.

I stopped off at the auto parts store and bought a new set of wipers and an air filter. I recently had my oil changed and my tires are at the right pressure. With what I've planned for and done, I will weather this storm. I still want to get the new Kid Rock and U2 cds for the journey, but the road will still be treacherous for many more miles. I still need to concentrate.

The sunshine after all is still in the distance.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Photography's Big Picture

It's almost lunch time on the East Coast and today the Dow Jones Industrial is up almost 4%. Hooray.

This blog is supposed to be about my photography, creativity and things related to the industry. It's not really for photographers (you can get your shutters clicked in a million other places). But I'm glad you're here.

I've mentioned in the past that because of the economy I had to take a part-time job. I wasn't going to take just any job, though. It had to be a job related to photography. So I took a part-time teaching gig at a charter school in Scottsdale. One of the things that I tell my students is that photography isn't only about taking pictures. Photography is about life. Not only do you capture beautiful pictures in interesting places, but photography forces me to have relationship with people and my environment. Photography is so much deeper than the obvious picture.

A year ago I was incredibly busy. I heard that a recession was coming. For some reason, I didn't realize the full impact of what was being predicted. In July I shot a huge project for a wonderful client. We had a lot of fun and made great images. Also in July the Dow Jones Industrial began to fall. By August, I could see that I was getting fewer hits on my Web site and the phone wasn't ringing as much. My brother David, said, "It's not you, it's the economy."

I wish we never had a recession. It's terrible. Yet behind every dark cloud is a silver lining.

I think this recession has helped bring this nation a little closer together. We're not perfect but we elected a President who would have been, during fatter times, been criticized for drug use, his age and other things that may not matter. This recession has also exposed the greed of those who are already so wealthy that during their lifetime cannot possibly spend their bonuses, let alone their salary. I'm appalled at the thought of someone getting a bonus that's akin to everyone else hitting The Lottery (while many across the nation are losing their homes). It seems they should be the ones bailing out America.

During the good times, I bought an HDTV so big that they can see it in Space. Yesterday I unplugged the satellite connection. As I pulled the plug on the receiver, I remembered buying high-performance cables that cost about $100 per cord. The satellite is lost in space. I still have my cords. The time has come for us to conserve and see what was already here all along.

Over the weekend, my wife, Susan, and I were talking about how good things really are (despite all of the tribulation). We've discovered a place where we can get coffee that is $7 for three pounds and it tastes almost as good as Starbucks. We now buy perfectly good things that previously were never considered. (Yet we also have conversations that we start by saying, "When we're rich... ")

At dinner we had wine. I'll admit that the $5 wine isn't as good as the $20 version. But we're having wine tonight too.

Right now it's a little after 9 a.m., the Dow is up almost 4½% (7599 points). We aren't where we were in July, but the phone is beginning to ring again. I'm shooting on Friday. The week after, I will be delivering 17 giant sized bags of beans to the St. Mary' Food Bank.

What I do for a living merely involves photography but it's really all about life and relationship with people. If you are a photographer and have read this far, you need to find a way to help others. Donate. Give. Volunteer. Sometimes we need to plant a tree that we'll never sit under.

Photography can save the world.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

As You Like It

Shakespear wrote:  All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players...

If all the world's a stage, why are we still sitting here?
Find your spotlight and perform!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit

Some really good things have started happening since I started the "Working Hard To Save Others" campaign. People as far away as Maryland, Chicago, and Texas have written to encourage me. Leslie Burns-Dell'Acqua featured me on her blog.

Right now I'm prepping for a shoot that I have from an agency in Canada. My client says she's "freaked out by the slowdown" and is glad to be helping. You probably don't realize that for 1 in 7 Americans, hunger is a reality. This means that millions of hard-working adults, children and Seniors are struggling with hunger. In a land of plenty, this is unacceptable.
312,966 Arizona children under age 18 live in poverty,
representing 1 in 5 of Arizona’s children.
Bev Damore at the St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance says they need: peanut butter, tuna, canned soups and stews, cereals and juices, rice, beans. I'm thinking that because of our neighbor to the north, we can buy a lot of soup, rice and beans.

In case you are wondering why I'm doing this, you need to know that for two decades I was a photojournalist and I realized that my photography had the power to change people's lives. The days of the newspaper are behind me, but my power has never waned. Even if you aren't in a position to hire me, you can go shopping and make your own donation.

You and my photography can make the World a better place. Now let's get busy!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Working Hard to Save Others

Integrity: The quality of being honest
and having strong moral principles;
moral uprightness.

To me, integrity is doing what's right — even when nobody else is looking. For some, rough times are often seen as a time of having license to do things they wouldn't ordinarily do. I've heard of people breaking into vacant homes and businesses and making them their personal shelter. I suspect that shoplifting is on the rise because people need to eat and feed their families.

President Obama recently outlined his rescue plan that will help many — but unfortunately not all. I really don't think we can wait for lawmakers to save us. We need to do something to help each other. I have an idea.

Working Hard to Save Others is a program I've created that will feed those in need. What I am going to do is, for the rest of 2009, donate 25% of my photographic licensing fees to the St. Mary's Food Bank (or food bank of your choice — maybe the one in your city).

Critics might argue, that I'm just trying to drum up business. I am. And I'm donating a portion of my income to those with no income. Together, we can make a difference.

Magazines, ad agencies and other corporations have budgets. There will be no misappropriation of funds, you will simply be hiring me to take beautiful pictures and I will go grocery shopping or make a cash donation.

Here is the promo I'm sending out. Look it over, leave a comment, but more importantly, tell someone else about what I am doing (especially if they are an art director, photo editor or art buyer):

Working Hard to Save Others
I think we can work hard to save others.

In a repressed economy, people don’t have the resources to give. People with the least resources suffer the most. Together here is what we can do:

From each project with your company, I will donate 25% of my licensing fees to the St. Mary’s Food Bank (or food bank of your choice).

Why the food bank? It boils down to trust. I don’t want us to invest in any more golden parachutes. And by donating to a food bank, we can be assured that the right people are being helped.

I plan to continue “Working Hard to Save Others” throughout 2009. You may not have a project right now but you can RSVP for sometime this year by replying to this e-mail or calling me at 480.329.8178.

With a little imagination, you and Tony Blei Photography can make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

In the World's richest nation, nobody should be hungry.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Failure Is The Only Option

What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail? You probably wouldn't do anything. There's no reason to. Not failing is safe. It's warm. All of your friends are there.

When failure isn't an option, there's no risk. Without risk, there's no character development. Without character, there is only mediocrity.

Failure hurts and is costly. But there we stand. It's dark. We're wearing tight white spandex and holding a pole. Your left foot slides onto a rope stretched over a big drop. The people on the ground look small. Don't look down.

Your mouth is dry and you can hear your heart beating.

Plant your right foot as your palms sweat. You wonder what in the hell you are doing here and you adjust your grip.

Take another step.

We could stretch our tightropes at twelve inches, twelve feet or 120 feet. At twelve inches, there is no risk. At 120 feet, the tightrope walker needs to be sharp and in tune. At 120 feet everything is being risked. At 120 feet, the tightrope walker is truly balanced.

Sometimes it's dark, cold and lonely. Sometimes I don't know where to plant my foot. Sometimes I wish I were on the ground where it's safe. Yet daily I slide my foot along the rope. I have to. It's the only way.

What would I do if I knew I couldn't fail? I would quit my day job and embrace a career where failure is an option with significant consequences.

I'm mixing my metaphors here, but anyone can get that which hangs low. For the sweetest fruit, you need to go out on a limb.

Just don't give up.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Barack Obama In My Backyard

President Barack Obama unveils his rescue plan
at Dobson High School in Mesa, Arizona.

I previously posted that President Obama arrived on Air Force One and that I photographed him at the airport. I also photographed him as he unveiled his rescue plan.

Members of the media, and other, set up their gear
and for the next four hours, wait.
Barack Obama made a visit to Dobson High School, which is within walking distance from me. To photograph him, I needed a credential, which I was able to get (calling the White House was kind of cool experience), and I also needed to wake up at 4 a.m., so that I could arrive, find a spot and then leave so that the bomb-sniffing dogs could do their part. This means, be set up by 5:30 a.m., leave and not come back until 8:30. The President was scheduled to speak at 10:15.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer shows off
a newspaper headline regarding the President's trip.

Just before President Obama spoke, the Presidential Seal is placed on his podium.

During a long wait, a member of the audience
takes a picture before the President arrives.

President Barack Obama is greeted by his supporters
as he arrives at Dobson High School in Mesa, Ariz.

I've now photographed seven US Presidents. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were my favorites because they broke protocol which allowed me to get pictures of them doing something interesting. Sadly, I can't tell you what they spoke of because most of the Presidents were usually campaigning. I think that with this President, I'll remember that he wasn't talking about doing anything for himself, he came here to outline a plan that will help Americans keep their homes. Yesterday I photographed President Obama in my back yard as he gave us hope.

The conclusion.