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Archive for June, 2012

Elliott Erwitt: Personal Best (Book Review)

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Personal Best by Elliott Erwitt

It would be too easy to spin off the vast list of accomplishments and social connections of Elliott Erwitt (born in Paris, 1928 and raised in Los Angeles in the United States of America). At 84 years of age he is a master photographer with extensive credit and a professional pedigree as a photojournalist and advertising photographer that could sink the floating metaphor of a conceptual battleship. Magnum photographer since the 1960s, one-time magnum editor; still working today.

Elliott Erwitt took that famous photograph of Nixon poking Khrushchev in the chest in 1959. The smiling African American boy putting a toy pistol to his temple. The young boy looking out a car’s side window that appears to have a bullet hole in it. And dogs… Elliott Erwitt loved to take the most fascinating pictures of dogs and was known to bark at them on occasion to get their reaction. He also took a horn along on photojournalism assignments so he could get people to look at the camera.

In my world, Elliott Erwitt is one of the most impressive and influential photographers both of his generation and of photographers alive in 2012. He had a fantastic eye coupled with insight and a schoolboy’s sense of humour. When he appeared on the iconic photography television interview series Visions and Images with Barbaralee Diamonstein he showed the calibre of his mind as an artist. Thoughtful. Concise. Deliberate. There is also a great episode of the Contact Sheets series where Elliott Erwitt discusses the process and editorial selection of some of those important images.

I purchased my copy of Personal Best by Elliot Erwitt about a month ago. It is a heavy book with cardboard thick pages and black and white images you could figuratively die for bled through to the edges.

Purpose of Email Addresses in a Web Design

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

I’ve been involved with web development for nearly a decade so take this short article as a heads-up about something blatantly obvious – email addresses on small to medium enterprise (SME) websites are often thrown at customers without consideration. Worse. Customer enquiries are too often ignored by the business or chewed up in spam filters.

The problem is that hardly anybody designing web solutions is a business strategist.

Yes, everybody likes to imagine they know everything about everything but just like you don’t know your arse from your toenail without being a trained doctor there is a lot to be said for accepting professions like accounting, law, management and plumbing (don’t split hairs over this loose analogy) are in possession of specialised trained knowledge. The manager may not know HTML from a simple widget. Just as you may not know a professional marketing strategy from a television advertisement.

So, somewhere within the bounds of the web development process a client is casually informed the business website contact page will provide their business name, business number, email address and contact phone numbers. Perhaps even a Google Map so they can be located.

And the reason for including (or excluding) the email address isn’t thought out any further.

Let me ask you this question: How does it serve the business that doesn’t intend or has no capacity to effectively communicate with the customer via email? Not answering email or doing so rudely will incur far more damage to their brand and marketing objectives than not providing an email address.

If the business has no capacity or is, in all honesty, unwilling to provide that service to customers then the email – in all seriousness – does not belong.

OK, let’s look at it this way. If you have a website it should exist for a reason and it should have SMART Goals that can be used to assess it’s Return on Investment. If you’re in business you’re in business and you don’t just pay thousands of dollars towards the witchery of an Internet Beach Towel.

And that website should be a part of an integrated marketing strategy (ie. brochures point to website URL which supports the television advertisement). It’s integrated and all channels underpin and support the others. And in that marketing strategy there is a place where a manager would write EMAIL. Under that heading it would include something like:

  • All customer emails will be responded to within twenty four hours
  • All responses will be via email or telephone as elected by the customer
  • All responders (by email or telephone) will be trained in customer service
  • All responders will flag issues as resolved only when the customer is satisfied
  • The spam filter will be reviewed by support staff every X hours to catch lost emails

Because email is a critical touch point between the business and its customers.

BAM… that is when you include an email on an SME website. When it will be answered professionally as an underpinning element of an integrated marketing strategy with goals and objectives that make sense and are measurable. It’s not a personal email address to check every other day – this is a business enterprise out to make money and customers are the most important element of that paradigm.

I like Tommy Wong’s analogy – think of the customer as someone who has your money in their pocket… and your job is to convince them to give it back to you!

As a web designer your job is to develop a web solution that facilitates the client’s business. So the inclusion (or exclusion) of the email address becomes your business, too. If you want to do it well. If you’re interested in selling more than Internet Beach Towels to unwitting SME saps.

Yes, of course you can just flick the SME’s email address onto a contact page and call yourself a web designer but I’m not convinced there is any design involved if the underlying functionality and reason for that element being included is totally ignored.

Every element of a web design, including the email address, needs a clear reason why it has been placed and what it is intended to achieve.

Shooting the Bronica ETRS without a Battery

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Don’t ask how long I’ve been shooting the Bronica ETRS medium format film camera without a battery. Because it’s been a long time. And, looking back, taking its limitations into account it was probably a good thing. I purchased the Bronica ETRS a year ago, so there are really no excuses beyond being a novice with the camera.

Bronica ETRS with 75mm lens

If you don’t know what I’m talking about I should explain. A Zenza Bronica ETRS is an old piece of equipment where the battery performs two functions. First, it provides a red light inside the viewfinder to show the battery has charge. Second, it enables the camera to perform on non-mechanical shutter speeds. The Bronica ETRS has only one mechanical shutter speed – 1/500 (its maximum shutter speed).

The Bronica ETRS, with a live battery, provides single stop shutter speeds down to 8 seconds and a bulb setting. So, when you think about the constraints of having a dead battery versus a live battery the results can be profound.

In my humble defence, the battery is something that can slip an amateur photographers’ mind as they walk around with that expensive light meter trying to work out why shots aren’t quite going to plan. Yet, with the 1/500 fixed shutter speed the Bronica ETRS revealed a valuable predictability.

So it struck me a few days ago that somewhere there was supposed to be a red light. I pressed the button to no avail and replaced the battery (no major issue there). Then I meticulously pored over rolls of film negatives and scans until it dawned on me that the new battery could metamorphose the camera into another level of creation. Think of the battery-less photographs that I’ve been shooting as a super fancy-lensed plastic camera with a glass lens. The shutter speed was ALWAYS mechanical at 1/500.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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