In the continuing series of interviews with photographer friends of ours, we would like to introduce Victor Koos, who calls Detroit, MI home. We met Vic through the online photo site Flickr several years ago and have become good friends. We visited Vic and many other great photographers in August 2011 and are heading back up there in November 2011 to hang out, shoot another friend’s wedding and explore some of the interesting sights that Detroit has to offer.
Meltphace 6 by Victor Koos
Vic, we’d like to hear some of your thoughts on things, especially photography, Detroit, music and your ongoing projects!
- When and how did you get started with photography, and how did you get so good at post processing techniques?
VK: As far as I can remember, I’ve always had a camera in my hand. I got that from my Father at a young age. College is when I decided to take it more seriously and figured I should probably take some classes so I could develop my own prints. In terms of post processing, I think it is a life long ongoing learning process. I don’t think you ever get to a point where you say, “Ok, I can’t go any further.” That said, that makes it somewhat of a struggle. I look at techniques I came up with a few months ago that I was really happy with, and now see flaws. I guess I always feel I need to improve and that’s what makes me successful with the processing.
Rachel: Noise IV by Victor Koos
- What’s your favorite subject matter to photograph? What do you attempt to capture when you set out to shoot?
VK: That is probably the most difficult question for me to answer. I can say I don’t like shooting flowers or cats. As what I like to shoot? Really it’s what is in front of me. Of course I love photographing people. However, they aren’t always at your disposal. I spend so much time in Detroit, so I shoot what is there. I try to be honest. I shoot the abandoned buildings because I think they are beautiful in their own right. Of course they are part of Detroit whether I like it or not. At the same time I try to catch the hidden gems that people, even 15 minutes outside of Detroit, don’t even know about. To make it simpler, I guess you could say I like shooting my environment. Of course, its up to me not to get stuck in one place.
History by Victor Koos
Own the Sky by Victor Koos
- We know you have some projects in the works, can you tell us a little bit about it?
VK: A while back I decided to start a photography book showcasing some of my work. Gradually the subject matter turned to a mix of design and photography. Visually, I want people to see sound in the imagery. Hence the title of the book is Visual Resonance, which was influenced by a project I was assigned to do back in school that asked us to show sound through images. Some of the imagery is going to be rather simple, maybe showing actual film noise, others will have more graphic elements added. The vast majority of the photos will consist of people who have volunteered to take part, all of which I am very grateful, since the book will be printed by blurb with all extra profits going to Autism Speaks.
Shannon: Noise by Victor Koos
- You live in Detroit, what are your feelings on the so called “urban decay” and what inspires you about the area?
VK: I have mixed feelings to be honest. It’s a double-edged sword. I love shooting the urban decay because let’s face it, Its almost like a fantasy world. One of which I wasn’t used to growing up. Then again, I question whether I contribute to all the outside negativity that is placed on Detroit by doing so. I post a photo of Hitsville USA next to a photo of the MCS (Michigan Central Station) and everyone wants to talk about the decay of the latter. What inspires me is with all the negativity; there is still plenty of hope. I love the art scene and the core group of photographers in the Detroit area. Its like no other. There is a lot going on in that aspect that I wish more people knew about. That’s why I loved the Palladium Boots documentary on Detroit with Johnny Knoxville. Say what you will about Knoxville, it was one of the more honest unbiased documentaries I’ve ever seen. Sure it shows the decay and ruin, but at the same time it shows the vibrant art scene and the young entrepreneurs Detroit has to offer.
- Where do you see yourself going with your work over the next couple of years?
VK: Wow. Another tough question. My thought process for my work is generally present day. I’m always in the now. With my work schedule, I lack sufficient sleep so its hard to focus forward. Hell, the outcome of a photo usually differs greatly from the original idea. Even if I said “Over the next to years I want to explore this” chances are I would explore “that”. Hopefully I don’t have a nervous breakdown and end up shooting flowers and cats.
Mia by Victor Koos
- Tell us a secret, we promise to publish it!
VK: I prefer Miracle Whip
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and images with us Vic!
Vic also happens to have a fantastic sense of humor and is an all around cool guy. We are really happy to call him and his wife Rachel friends, and can’t wait to see them again.
You can see and follow more of Vic’s awesome work here.
I enjoy exploring new technologies and websites to showcase our work. A relatively new photo site, 500px, has been attaching a lot attention most recently. While the site is visually appealling, the functionality is somewhat limited and there are real security concerns among some users, myself included. I have raised several questions and one of the founders, Ian Sobolev responded to my blog post. I have attached the text of the Open Letter I drafted. I am still awaiting a response from Mr. Sobolev.
I appreciate your willingness to promote debate amongst the users of 500px regarding my questions about copyright protection and disabling easy downloading of images from your site. While I am open to debate, I believe your simplistic answers in the form of your opinion, does little to comfort me in using your site as a platform for displaying my photographic work. For clarity, I have copied your post with my responses here:
1. “Hi Gregory, 900px wide print will make only 3 inch photo — and most commercial entities like publishing houses will never bother with that (some already request 600dpi prints). ”
I tested this theory and was able to make an acceptable 8×10″ print from a downloaded image. Granted it is not museum quality, but certainly acceptable for the common person.
2. “We had a right click protection on photos, and we understand the concern, but really, it’s just bad user experience. Any even moderately savvy user can download the photo — if you see it, you can copy it. Even if it is embedded in flash, it can be copied in exactly the same quality. Some users, who are afraid of copying the photos, choose to upload photos less than 900px wide (e.g. 500px), but really — if the photographer is afraid of someone downloading his/her photos — the internet is now the place for them.”
Aside from being condescending, this is a bold statement from the founder of a website that encourages artists to display their work. Many photographers put their heart and soul into their work, not to mention time, money and effort. How does this statement do anything to assuage concerns that their work will be treated with respect?
3. “We’ve seen many companies, e.g. Flickr and other implementing right-click protection and ‘invisible pixels’ — that’s just ruins experience for everyone, and doesn’t protect photographer at all (except from moms-and-paps that just would like to have this photo on their desktop).”
I fail to see how disabling right-click capability ruins the experience for anyone. I personally use Flickr and the functionality has not affected my ability to view and enjoy images from other artists. What it does, is prevent the casual user from simply downloading the image with a few mouse clicks. I understand that there are work arounds and other technologies to defeat almost any safeguards. I also believe that the persons that engage in this activity are relatively small in number.
4. “And even more, if you upload something to Facebook — yes, they have protection, but they also (wrongfully) claim copyright on all your photos. We don’t. And we help photographers pursue cases of stealing (you may want to ask around, we are serious).”
While I appreciate your stated committment to pursuing cases of image theft, this reactive approach also fails to give me comfort. I believe a proactive approach would better thwart potential pilferage of images. Thus, I would feel more comfortable with a copyright warning and optional right-click disabling to be institiuted on 500px.
This functionality is intended to prevent the casual web surfer from taking images. For example, if I go to my favorite search engine and look for certain images, I should be notified if a particular image is copyrighted and furthermore, perhaps disabled from downloading. The average marketing person sitting in an office should not be able to simply insert an artist’s image in their monthly newletter, without compensation, unless of course the artist has made the image creative commons or similar. Another example, a random web surfer sees an image and makes a greeting card to place on the market, typically on a micro-sales site, such as Etsy. Now this person is potentially generating revenue from the original image, quite possibly without knowledge that the image was copyrighted.
Many, many other sites have implimented some form of image protection, and for good reason. I, as an artist invest a lot of time, money, effort and creativity into my work. It is reasonable to expect that I would enjoy the same protections that a retailer would to prevent theft. In my last Blog post, I likened this to a poster shop. I can go to a poster shop and view the works of many artists. I cannot however expect to walk out with free posters. It is shortsighted to suggest that posters of images, perhaps one of my own images, is somehow more valuable simply because it has been printed on paper.
Now I come to the golden opportunity. If I was marketing for 500px, I would embrace the fact that there are some photographers that have concerns. Some photographers, who invest in their passion for the art, would like to have some reassurances that their work will be protected, even if it is at a minimal level. Take these suggestions and listen to the voice of the user. Institiute some types of protection, where the user can opt-in if they choose. Then make this a “premium” level feature available to subscribed users. It is a win-win situation, since I personally would not pay $50 (current rate) per year to use the service without having some type of protection scheme in place.
The link to the post is here: http://500px.com/gsalicki/blog/3994