Adam Marelli Photo Now Boarding Leica Air . . . Mon, 15 Sep 2014 19:32:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Do what you Love: Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte Tue, 02 Sep 2014 20:23:27 +0000 adam [more...]]]> Do what you Love: Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte 

President of Montre Journe (FP Journe)

by Adam Marelli


Do what you Love: Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte © Adam Marelli

Do what you Love: Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte © Adam Marelli


In the world of artisanal products, from custom shoes to high end watches or boats, it is rare to find a successful mixture of business and true artistry. In my work I see a lot of “pseudo-heritage, vintage, handmade brands,” trying to capitalize on the market popularity of bespoke production.  But when it comes to actually making things, especially watches, there is no faking it.  As a Journe collector friend of mine said, “We tend not to own just one…I’ve been buying about one a year for the last decade…sometimes two a year if there is something I really like.”  This type of collector dedication is not easy to come by.  In many cases, one brain is simply not enough to design, build, market, and sell a recognizable name in any industry.  When it happens, it is usually the result of a collaboration of minds with the founder at the helm.

In the world of watches, FP Journe tackled these challenges and rose to compete with the legacy brands of watchmaking, all within his lifetime.  I had a chance to sit down with his business partner, Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte, at their New York City boutique and explore how he was able to transition from being a salesman to representing one of the most respected living watchmakers today.

There is no simple way to describe the road to success.  It has as many shapes as there are waves in the ocean.  But there is one thing that bonds those who do what they love.  They nurture their passions and reinforce them through constant learning. They understand that “value” can be measured in more than simply dollar signs.

How did you originally become involved with FP Journe and the world of high end watchmaking?

Back in 1987, 12 years before we produced a watch under the company name FP Journe, I met watchmaker Francois Paul Journe (FP) by accident.  I had gone to the Basel Fair.  After a half day of going around, I could not get in to Rolex or Patek Philippe because I did not have the money to buy, so I went on the radius. I remember this gathering of “weird guys.” And I say “weird” in an affectionate way. I remember seeing a watch, and I went to see one of these guys, his name was Vincent Calabrese, who became my mentor.  I said, “I don’t understand, why are you copying the Corum watch?”  And after a lot of explaining and explicative sound bites, he said I did not understand anything, and that HE made the Corum watch. I said, “Not true, I asked Corum and  they said they made it.”

And then Vincent really showed me behind the curtain. This is where I found my calling. Because I was talking to the guy that created the golden bridge (which is what Vincent created) this is the thing that HE created.  I befriended all these guys, and they all had an amazing passion and talent.

The FP Journe boutique in New York City.  © Adam Marelli

The FP Journe boutique in New York City. © Adam Marelli

How did this introduction to a group of independent watchmakers develop your interest in watches?

Calabrese introduced me to all these other guys, and they asked me, ‘So why don’t you come to our annual dinner?’  I said ok, and discovered I was the only non-watchmaker invited.  And who did I sit next to but Francois Paul Journe. Philippe Dufour was across from me, Franck Muller was there, I mean, all these unbelievable watchmakers at one table.

I started to work with them on the business side, but things were very informal.  I became the spokesperson for them in the US, but it was complicated.  Since they were not making a large production, pictures of the watches came on polaroids, prices were handwritten on a piece of paper and I had no idea what it meant, if it was an export price, retail price, or what they wanted for it.  They were not structured.

Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte © Adam Marelli

Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte © Adam Marelli

Out of all of the watchmakers you were dealing with, how did Journe emerge as the one you wanted to work with?

I started seeing Journe at each fair and at his workshop in Paris, which was right next to where my parents were living.  And the guy had so many things to talk about, especially for someone like me, who was new to the game, very passionate, but very naive.  I realized this guy really had something to say about watchmaking. It was coming from his guts. It was like his whole body was expressing something.  He had such a clear idea of what he wanted to do that well before he made the first watches under the name of the company “FP Journe,” he had already created all of the designs.  All of the napkin sketches of the watches are still on view in the Geneva offices.

How did you make the jump from friends to partners? 

So in ’99 FP asked me, “Are you ready for the US? Because I am.”  Each year I kept saying I’m getting ready, but I’m not there yet.

He said, “You can open five stores.”

I said, “Why five?”

“Because I have 5 watches.” he said.

But like the other makers, we were not set up as a proper business.  There were no SKU inventories, the watches came in 38mm because that’s what he made, and the dials were yellow gold.

It was one reference.  And that’s how we started.  I started independently, always checking with him.  I was his agent, not a distributor.

FP Journe Boutique New York City © Adam Marelli

FP Journe Boutique New York City © Adam Marelli

Why does it matter if you were an agent versus a distributor?

We never had the margin for a distributor, and also FP would have never relinquished control of what was happening.  The problem with a distributor is I can’t control what the distributor is doing.

That is what happens when you have independent distributors.  I was an independent distributor for other brands.  We were under pressure to perform, regardless of what the market could bear.  And then it would be a 3-5 year contract, so at the end of the contract, what do you do?  You could end up sitting on dead stock.

With FP, from the beginning it was like I was an agent. So I was really helping, giving my two cents of advice, and discussing it with him. What do you want me to do on this one or that one, where do we go next, and how do we present it?

FP Journe's Chronomètre Optimum.  © Adam Marelli

FP Journe’s Chronomètre Optimum. © Adam Marelli

Was this relationship formalized in a contract with a business plan and investors?

No.  Only in 2009, when we opened this boutique here in NYC, we decided to put it on paper.  Before, it was really just a handshake.  And in opening the boutique, I was in a position where I owed him a sizeable amount of money.  He was not very concerned, but I was concerned for him, because if something happened, what would I do? I’m responsible, what would I do?

We decided that I would relinquish my job as an independent agent and create a company called Montre Journe America, which covers from Canada to Argentina and the Caribbean, so basically the American Continent, and also create one boutique.  Now we have three, but that was the first one.

So we became partners.  He owns 50.1 percent, I own 49.9, but the decisions have to be unanimous, so it’s a good partnership.

How do you and FP work together, I mean from a personality standpoint? What are the daily challenges you face?

The thing is, FP is extremely stubborn and very outspoken about what he wants.  But I am too.  We’ve clashed many times, but we are always smart enough…I’m not saying we are smart, but smart enough so that…if I don’t agree with him or he disagrees with me, it’s both our jobs to convince the other, in an intelligent way, to understand what is happening or what we should do.

Many artists don’t like to explain why they do things, but from early on I told him, if I’m supposed to be a spokesperson for FP Journe and I don’t understand what you want to do or what you mean by this, then I’m not capable of doing that job.  Most of the time when we disagreed, it was because I did not have enough information about the future.

By being sometimes harsh in the discussion, not on the person but on the ideas, like a real argument should be, I was able to convert what he wanted to express, or wanted to achieve, into a language that potential collectors could understand.

But because I’m passionate and because he’s passionate, it works.  If he was just about  business it would not work.  If I were all about business it would not work either, because I would look at just the results and not look at the future.

With FP we always say, and we just talked about this a month ago, said “Where do we want to be in 20 years?”

What role does profit or value play in your decisions around the company?

When you and I were at Watch Week , I felt badly for my colleagues.  They have so many constraints, of what they can say or not, based on shareholders and executive orders.  My contract with FP is unlimited in time and the minimum is zero.  We would have other problems if we sell zero, but I am not obliged to perform for an amount of money.  I have an obligation to perform to insure that we bring the message out; it’s a whole different situation.

And talking about the idea of this interview; we are not driven by the bottom line of the balance sheet.  It’s important for us, but important as a means and not as a goal.

When we talk about the purpose of the company, the purpose in a strong sense is to achieve what FP has as a vision.  He wants to make a dent in the history of watchmaking.  Hopefully a big dent, and money is an extremely important part of this; it is a gear, a means to an end, but not an end in itself.

How does FP demonstrate the idea that money is secondary to the company in a way that his employees can see it? 

FP, to this day, does not own an apartment, does not own a car…I don’t think he has anything besides what he has in the company.  And we do not distribute dividends, everything stays in the company.  Maybe it’s to buy a new machine, maybe it’s to hire another person, maybe it’s to buy a clock that is important in the history of clockmaking which FP really reveres.  But that’s FP.  And that changes the whole paradigm of what you want to do in life.

FP Journe © Adam Marelli

FP Journe © Adam Marelli

When you talk about living the life you want, can you explain how you transitioned from working as an agent for watch brands to taking the leap to work for FP Journe (who at the time was still a relatively unknown quantity in the high end watchwork, especially compared to older houses like Patek Philippe or Vachereon Constantin)?

FP Journe started as a sort of side business. And for me it was more of a service for FP. We were making money but…it was not an income I could survive on.  Even when I went to Technomarine, which is the other side of the spectrum from FP Journe, and I was the VP worldwide for them in the heydays of Techno, which was 2005, I said I can come to work for this company, no problem, but I keep FP Journe.  That was my only condition.

It was easier for me to get into without really sacrificing an income.

So it was not an immediate jump, it was a long building relationship, one faded in and the other one faded out?

Right, the passion was there from the beginning, but I would not advocate leaving everything today…to live your dream.  You still need to plan a little.  Especially when you have kids or a wife, you’ve got to be responsible.  But I remember when FP had first seen me, he said, “But Pierre, in the end, forget about the money right now, in the end, what do you want to do?”  That question was always in the back of my mind.

Less than a month ago when I was in Geneva…I asked FP, “Remember when you asked me what I want to do?”  I am doing what I want to do.  And I know I am within my limits.  I am not a watchmaker.  I’m not capable of making a watch at all.  Definitely not at the level of Journe. In terms of creation, which is very glorifying, I can’t do this.  But it does not prevent me from doing something I am passionate about.

Some might say, I’m just another gear in the machine.  That’s true, but it’s an important gear, because we are in the number one market, because FP wants to adhere to his goals.  For me he’s like a general, but he needs a lieutenant, somebody that can help him achieve this.  So I’m ok with this.  You have to come to terms with it, that you are not going to be the leader or the big boss.  It does not really matter when you have a strong vision of what you would like to achieve, and my goal is to make sure that he achieves what he wants down the road.  It takes work and it takes bumps in the road and setbacks and problems and discussions and arguments, but that’s life.

Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte © Adam Marelli

Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte © Adam Marelli

How does this fit in with your childhood ambitions?  

I always knew that I had a talent to sell.  From a very young age I liked sales, not so much the money situation, but the fact that when you are participating in a discussion, you can bring your point to the other party in a way that the other person would understand or adhere to it.

I think I would have been good in politics; I could have sold a few things.  But politics is too corrupt, you can’t make a career out of this.  What we see in France is the same as we see in America.

So if you could have sold anything, why watches?  Why not houses or boats or stocks?

The watch passion came in two steps. The first came because of my Dad. My Dad was a collector of watches.  In a very eclectic way.  He would have the latest AP but he would have the first Swatch. I said, “Dad this makes so much noise, it’s so ugly, that will never sell, it will never work”, and I was wrong by a few billion dollars.  But he also had the first Seiko with a calculator, and my fingers were not so thick when I was younger so I could push the buttons.  He gave me the idea of watches and started giving them to me when I was 12 or 13, so I was wearing Swatch and Seiko.  But it was not AP.

The second came when I got into the retail world.  The company that romanced the watch was Breitling. I was one of the first retailers of Breitling in the US. I’m not talking that long ago, late 80s, but Breitling was interesting because I knew Ernest Schnieder, the owner, and his son Teddy. They are very nice people and I remember the salespeople in Basel would take me as the first appointment because I would have a point of view they would listen to or have questions other people would not ask. At that time, it was complicated because the watch was super big. It was 40mm, which was big at that time, it was thick.  And you had these pushers; nobody knew what they were for.  Well, that’s a chronograph, it’s a stopwatch, but why is a stopwatch so big?  Now 40mm is on the small side.

It was a good relationship between the sales rep, Mary Bohnman and I, and I was able to romance it because what do you use a stopwatch for? The ego, time your own time, and the importance of Breitling during the first World War with the advent of chronographs on wrists.  Breitling started to produce everything.  Then I realized I have a talent for this, I evolved very quickly, trying to understand the syntax or the grammar of time.

FP Journe Boutique New York City © Adam Marelli

FP Journe Boutique New York City © Adam Marelli

What do you mean by the grammar of time?  

All of the conventions of time have a history…from the 12 hour day to the Gregorian calendar, everything exists for a historical reason.  I find it amazing. You can go anywhere in the world, where you don’t speak the language, but everybody understands what time is. If I show you the watch, you and I know and understand the common denominator, which is time.

It is completely imbedded in our cultures.  So much so that when France tried to change the clock during the French Revolution to one hundred minutes in an hour and one hundred seconds in a minute, it did not stick.  Then you have someone like Pol Pot who tried to eradicate time and have zero time…for obvious reasons this failed too.  But I enjoy the history of time immensely.

How is the history of watchmaking captured in a Journe watch?

In a very humble way, because he is the first one to admit that we are dinosaurs, because of the advent of the smart phones and the quartz revolution.  Any quartz watch would be 40x more precise than any Journe or Patek or Rolex.

Why make a mechanical watch?  Well, because when you have this, it’s almost the last luxury that is almost art. The idea that an artisan can make something functional, that looks effortless, and is wearable; you really have two visions, the technical vision and the aesthetic vision.

When you get involved in a field like watchmaking, what role does history play in your development? 

History for us is critical.  If FP’s goal is to make a dent in the history of watchmaking, he’s got to know what the history was, otherwise he won’t even know where he is going.

But remember, that was his first trade. Where he started learning about his trade was working for his uncle, restoring clocks from the 18th century, which is the golden era of clockmaking. And I’m not saying repairing; repair is kind of easy.  I’m saying restoring, which means you have to bring it back to the original shape it was in, whether or not today we have a better system or better materials that did not exist at that time.  So when you are restoring you have to go into the history, go in and see other clocks made by Lepin, Breguet, and anything from the great watchmakers, to see how they did this one, because oh, you are missing a part. What did he intend?  You have to reconstruct, thinking the way the other guy was thinking.  And a lot of people say who cares?  Well, once you can bring back to life a clock that is 200 years old, that has been partly burned or broken, and you can bring it to life, you have really put yourself in the mind of the watchmaker that created this.

Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte © Adam Marelli

Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte © Adam Marelli

These lessons of history all sound like they come through experience and specialized study, but we have not heard any mention of formal schooling, like university studies…how do you view the importance of formal education?

There is no button which you can push and have all the knowledge in this field.  It’s easier now with the Internet, but at that time, there was no Internet when I started doing this.  So you really have to go to libraries, go to people that might know, or talk about passions with people and they ask, did you read that book?  Oh no, then I would write it down and go get it.  This is not what you learn at school, I agree with you.

At the same time, school should be able to give you the base and leads…oh I did not know anything about this, that is interesting, and be able to give you a certain base so you could explore further.

What type of collectors are attracted to FP Journe?  

We attract a lot of doctors and engineers, and they are usually our best customers because they have the same problems or issues at work.  They have problems and solutions.  And a doctor or engineer are basically the same.  When you go to a doctor and say, “I don’t feel well here”, he has to imagine your gears, what could be causing this pain or this discomfort, and how am I going to fix it?  It’s the same thing as an engineer.  I want to create this, this is my problem, how to I circumvent this problem, how do I achieve this?

Did you ever have the impulse to become an artist?

Yes of course, but I am not good.  When you have a guy like FP, knowing where he comes from, no money, expelled from school at the beginning because he could not work they way they wanted him to, he was already an iconoclast.  I imagine that when he goes on the street and sees an FP Journe on someone’s wrist, the amount of time and effort that it took to achieve that, he must have a sense of being proud.  I know I would be extremely proud of myself if I could create something and someone from China, says “I really like that”, and for them to buy it.

It’s like you, if someone buys your photographs, it’s important…you photograph for yourself, but at the same time it’s always good to know someone else likes it.  Otherwise it’s a lonely, lonely life.

Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte © Adam Marelli

Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte © Adam Marelli

Have you made any mistakes along the way that you regret?

I don’t know…I made a lot of mistakes. I really predicted that the Swatch watch would never sell.  But that’s what makes you, the mistakes make you.  I am happy with how things turned out, mistakes and all.

What does a typical work week look like for you? 

I don’t have a set schedule. I could have an afternoon that I meet a client for golf or tennis.  Sometimes my mind is fried and I need to take an afternoon off.  But I don’t have a problem working on Saturday or Sunday.

I have two kinds of work…I have a team to watch over, then the rest is meeting people and talking, which is for me not work. I share my passion and our message.

The worst thing for a company like ours, is to have a blurry message.  

Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte © Adam Marelli

Pierre Halimi Lacharlotte © Adam Marelli

If you would like to learn more about FP Journe have a look at their website:

Best-Adam Marelli

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Natural Light Portraits Tue, 26 Aug 2014 17:10:48 +0000 adam [more...]]]> Natural Light Portraits

Anytime, anywhere

New York City, USA


Natural Light 1 © Adam Marelli

Natural Light 1 © Adam Marelli


Every morning, from the Scottish Highlands to the Cape of Good Hope, we are gifted with natural light from the sun.  From pole to pole, sunlight has a million faces.  It changes temperature and intensity like a moody king.  It is, without question, the cornerstone of photography and something that is best appreciated in tiny sips, rather than big gulps.

"The Light Inside" 1999.  Houston, Texas. ©  James Turrell

“The Light Inside” 1999. Houston, Texas. © James Turrell

Types of Light

American artist James Turrell is one of the few artist in history who works almost exclusively in light.  For almost forty years he has experimented, modeled, and shaped light for his installations.  While Turrell is not a photographer per se, he does have a tremendous command of the medium of light and offers photographers sound advice.

In a recent interview with the curator of his retrospective at the Guggenheim, Turrell says something that most people never consider.  There is no such thing as artificial light.  All light is the result of  something burning and giving off a temperature, an intensity and a level of measurable lumens.  From an LED diode to the sun…it’s all light.

"The Fighting Temeraire" by JMW Turner

“The Fighting Temeraire” by JMW Turner

This unifying view of light will help photographers uncover some of the mysteries that lie in the subject called “Natural Light.”  When we talk about natural light, it usually means that the light is not the product of something we plug in or can carry around.  It is the omnipresent glow that we refer to as daylight.  So why is a light that is available everyday, all over the world, so difficult to figure out?

"Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains" by Albert Bierstadt

“Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains” by Albert Bierstadt

Shadow Play

Last week, I was hosting a private One on One workshop for three days in New York City.  On our last day, I arranged for a model shoot.  While most people think model shoots are strictly for fashion photographers, keep in mind that almost every artist in the last 2,000 years tried their hand at portraiture.  It is a useful practice, even for the abstract artist.  Portraiture requires us to be sensitive to two things at the same time…the first is light and the second is our subject.  The better we get at juggling the two, the easier it becomes to spot good light on the street anywhere in the world.

Natural Light 2 © Adam Marelli

Natural Light 2 © Adam Marelli


  1. If you are not sure about your lighting, look at the shadows.  If the shadows are harsh, with strong lines and look more like black cardboard cutouts, the light is probably not good.
  2. If you want to see what great light looks like, like the kind that fascinated Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner, and Bierstadt…get up early in the morning, grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and pick an object in front of you.  Watch the sun come up and wrap itself around that object.  You will be seeing light, in the delicate way it crawls across the surface of the earth.
  3. For shooting in the middle of the day, find an overhang…the light that comes in just under a roof ledge is perfect for portraits.
Natural Light 3 © Adam Marelli

Natural Light 3 © Adam Marelli


Photography is a fun member of the art family.  It is the only one where the tools get so much attention.  And while I like my camera as much as the next photographer, it’s worth remembering that without light, a camera is nothing more than a paperweight with a bunch of buttons.  So when the sun creeps up tomorrow morning, remember to look first and shoot second because without that big ol’lantern in the sky we would all be out of business.

Best-Adam Marelli 

Natural Light © Adam Marelli

Natural Light © Adam Marelli


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Adam Marelli Workshops 2015 Schedule Fri, 08 Aug 2014 22:34:52 +0000 adam [more...]]]> Adam Marelli Photography Workshops: Matera, Italy.  © Adam Marelli

Adam Marelli Photography Workshops: Matera, Italy. © Adam Marelli

On the Horizon

As I am getting ready for the travel season to start again, with back to back, sold out workshops in Venice and Kyoto…I must admit that I am really looking forward to the 2015 workshops.  The dates have just been announced and I know a bunch of you waited patiently on wait lists, so give it a look and sign up early.

Sign up at: 

Have a great weekend!



Adam Marelli Photography Workshops, Global Schedule 2015.  © Adam Marelli

Adam Marelli Photography Workshops, Global Schedule 2015. © Adam Marelli

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The Photographer’s Pouch Mon, 04 Aug 2014 17:09:18 +0000 adam [more...]]]> The Photographer’s Pouch

Designed by Will Kortum


The Photographers Pouch.  A simple solution to keeping all the little things in place. © Will Kortum

The Photographer’s Pouch. A simple solution to keeping all the little things in place. © Will Kortum


As most of you know, I’m not too into gear.  In my mind, good design should be almost invisible.  One area where there is still plenty of room for improvement is the camera bag.  Will Kortum, a young photographer who took a workshop with me two summers ago and has been doing my One on One program since then, came up with a good “add on solution” to one’s photo bag needs.

The Photographers Pouch works well inside of your existing bag and for Leica shooters it can be configured to keep your cameras from sloshing around in a larger bag. © Will Kortum

The Photographer’s Pouch works well inside of your existing bag and for Leica shooters it can be configured to keep your cameras from sloshing around in a larger bag. © Will Kortum

Photographers Pouch for everything from spare batters, business cards, or whatever else your heart desires.  © Will Kortum

The Photographer’s Pouch is for everything from spare batteries to business cards, or whatever else your heart desires. © Will Kortum

Who is Will Kortum?

Will is putting together a portfolio for his college application right now.  We got together the other week to review his portfolio, and over a coffee he said,” Oh Adam, I want to show you this thing I made.”  He pulled out a small felt pouch that can velcro to the inside of a camera bag’s padding.  As a 17 year old, with his mind focused on college, I would not expect him to have the time to redesign his entire Billingham bag, but I applaud his efforts in finding an economical solution to the problem of an internal, multi-use pocket for his bag.  Will tells us more about the history here:

“I first thought up the idea that later became the Photographer’s Pouch after losing one of my favorite pens. I use a Billingham camera bag, and while it is fantastic in nearly every way, the main section is pretty much open. This means that it is hard to keep a tidy bag, and loose items like my pen could easily slip out. The Photographer’s Pouch is my idea of a remedy to this flaw. It’s not too small, but not too big either- meaning that you can keep multiples in one bag for different things. It is perfect for the loose batteries, filters, viewfinders, and cords that often occupy the dark depths of a camera bag. Because it has a velcro back, it can be stuck anywhere on the inside of a bag for easy access. I’ve spent months designing, prototyping, and redesigning the pouch for the perfect iteration. I hope you find it as useful as I do!”

Photographer’s Pouches are available for individual purchase ($11.95) or a pack of 3 ($29.95) Here is the website: 

Photographers Pouch © Will Kortum

Photographer’s Pouch © Will Kortum


A few weeks ago when I was speaking at the SXSW V2V Entrepreneurs conference in Las Vegas, there was an idea which was echoed in almost all of the talks.  Good ideas are an excellent place to start…but they are not worth anything without execution.  To this, I’d like to say that Will not only got a product prototyped, logo’d and produced…he also put together a simple, clean, and effective website.  I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Yeah that reminds me, I have to get on my site.”  Hopefully you take Will and his Photographer’s Pouch as an encouraging example that an idea, with a plan and a little hard work, can produce results; and results that other people can get behind.  Until someone designs the perfect bag, it’s nice to know there are a few add-ons to keep all of our batteries and pens together.  In the meantime, let’s all wish Will well on his college application.

Best-Adam Marelli 





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Do what you Love: Stephen Pulvirent Fri, 01 Aug 2014 10:27:36 +0000 adam [more...]]]> Do what you Love 

Stephen Pulvirent, Writer

by Adam Marelli


Do what you Love: Stephen Pulvirent, Writer.  By Adam Marelli

Do what you Love: Stephen Pulvirent, Writer. By Adam Marelli

Series Introduction

Before I dive into the backstory of writer Stephen Pulvirent, I’d like to briefly introduce my new series called, “Do what you Love,” and explain where it came from, why I’m making this series, and what you can expect.

If we rewind a few decades, you would have found me in the less than exciting land known as New Jersey.  Insert jokes here about the Sopranos, industrial highways and all the architectural wonders, like strip malls…New Jersey offers a framework for why this series is more than thirty years in the making.  I grew up in suburbia, plain and simple.  We never locked our doors, we played outside until dark, and the only sirens we ever heard were the six o’clock air horns that meant it was time to go home.  It was a perfectly uneventful corner of the world and one that I was happy to enjoy for my childhood.  It shaped my interests and perspectives in the most unexpected ways.

In the second grade we were told to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up.  As the little gears in my brain started whirling, a picture of my future emerged in the medium of crayon on kraft paper.  Once our drawings were complete, we had to stand up and explain how we saw our futures.  Foregoing the popular trends of super hero, astronaut, or unicorn (I kind of love kids who want to grow up to be mythic animals)…my picture was of a surfer on the top of a wave, with a camera, landing on a beach with dinosaur bones.  I declared, with all earnestness, that I was to be a surfer, who travelled the world to make pictures and moonlighted as archeologist!

As it turns out I had archeology and paleontology crossed in my head, but these were unimportant details.  And this cross-bred international profession seemed perfectly reasonable, because why wouldn’t I be anything but the sum of my interests?  The answer to this question has occupied me for most of my life.  As I got older, one thing became apparent…I knew lots of people who had jobs.  Some of those jobs made a lot of money, others were more humble, but I had never met anyone who did what they loved.

This series is designed to explore the path followed by some of the amazing people I have come across who have converted impractical interests into professions.  I’m fortunate enough to call some of them my friends, others are colleagues, and a few here and there will be people I’ve looked up to.  Whether you are 5 or 65…you probably have an impractical interest that consumes you.  This series is for you, to set aside all the reasons you “Can’t” follow your passion and instead, explore all the reasons you “Can” Do what you LOVE.

Galapagos Islands © Stephen Pulvirent.

Galapagos Islands © Stephen Pulvirent.


I met Stephen Pulvirent at the Soho Grand for a late morning coffee.  As always, he was impeccably dressed, seated on a plush sofa facing a rainy New York City morning.  He was recently back from a trip to the Galápagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, where he was invited by watch manufacturer IWC and the Darwin Foundation.  He spent just shy of a week exploring the uninhabited islands both above and below the water, with a few specially designed dive watches to test and review.  At this point, you might be asking yourself, how is it possible to find a job where you are flown to exotic islands, to tour preposterous wildlife preserves, and be outfitted with watches that most people might save a lifetime to purchase?  Let’s find out…

Photography First

I’ve always said that I never trusted an architect who did not know how to dress.  How could you trust someone in the business of aesthetics who could not match a pair of pants with a shirt?  For those of you who have have not had the chance to meet Stephen, he feels like he could be a co-star of Audrey Hepburn.  Everything from his glasses to his shoes speaks of someone who has a subtle, but intense interest in design and how things look.  He explained to me that as far back as he could remember, his interest in aesthetics was rooted in photography.  It was the color pages of National Geographic that caught his eye.  Like so many readers of that little yellow-trimmed book, Stephen wanted to know how to make good images.  He never concerned himself with how it would become a profession, he just knew that he enjoyed filling his mind with a visual catalog of pictures, stories, and details.

Galapagos Islands © Stephen Pulvirent

Galapagos Islands © Stephen Pulvirent

University in London

Many of you reading this article who have children will empathize with the next statement.  Most parents secretly hope their children choose a lucrative, linear profession like being a doctor or lawyer.  And why not?!  Since the 1990’s, every university commencement speech has said the same thing… “The current economy is the worst one we have seen since the 1930’s.”  These are not exactly words of inspiration.  So it’s perfectly sensible to desire a stable, well-paying future for your children.

But what if your major is focused on “Material Culture Studies,”?  Most people will be quick to ask, “What do you do with that professionally?”  Stephen took his concentration of “Material Cultural Studies” abroad to London.  The British have a particular affinity for fine objects…sometimes they bought them, other times they borrowed them, and on a few occasions (like with the frieze of the Parthenon) they just commandeered them.  Regardless of an objects provenance, London was a formative place for Stephen to consider why objects and images meant so much to him.

Since Americans are technically not supposed to work while studying in London, Stephen took an internship at the Saville Row tailor, Huntsman.  Started in 1849, they have made bespoke clothing for everyone from Edward VIII to Gregory Peck.  And while Stephen wasn’t about to learn the art of bespoke tailoring in a semester, he was given a very unique task.  The basement at Huntsman was a disaster.  There were abandoned suits, half finished pieces, and prototypes that never made it to the Saville Row floor.  This veritable archive of clothing was a wonderland for Stephen.  He was allowed, in fact encouraged, to handle, inspect, and catalog the vast array of pieces Huntsman had produced over that last 150 years.  Well beyond the theoretical realm, this offered pivotal lesson to Stephen.  He started to understand, with his eyes and hands, the delicate variety of men’s fashion that Saville Row shaped, and that holding an object created a different feeling for him than simply reading about it.

Galapagos Islands © Stephen Pulvirent

Galapagos Islands © Stephen Pulvirent

The F. Scott Fitzgerald Thesis

On the backend of the experience with Huntsman in London, Stephen designed his thesis project, which was to trace any of the objects named properly or commercially in the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing.  Everything from “The Manhattan Cocktail” to the “Ritz Carlton Hotel” was explored for its cultural meaning.  He wanted to uncover why the specificity of an object was an integral part of telling a story.  He found that in addition to writing, which was going to form the next major step in his career, by using objects that have their own stories, Fitzgerald was able to add another dimension to his work that would not exist if people went to “bars for drinks” and “laid up at nice hotels.”  He had uncovered a connection between design, history, and materials that had all the makings for an interesting, possibly a good paper, but how was it all going to translate to dollars and cents outside of academia?

Galapagos Islands © Stephen Pulvirent

Galapagos Islands © Stephen Pulvirent

What do you do?

“What do you do?” is a dinner party question that defines New York City.  Unlike old guard cities like London, Paris, and Milan where family names and rank still reign supreme, in New York City professions are a used as a barometer of rank.  Not that I endorse this in any way.  It actually gets kind of annoying when the third question out of someone’s mouth is “So what do you do?”  In social code this means: 1) How much money do you make? 2) Could you be of use to me? 3) Is it worth carrying on this conversation based on your connections?  This is an inevitable aspect of New York City, one that F. Scott Fitzgerald knew all too well.

When Stephen left school with the declared aim to write about culture and the objects which made up its many moving parts, he was not sure how to do it professionally.  Fueled by a historical understanding of men’s fashion, he landed freelance gigs at everywhere from GQ to Man of the World.  Print and online media seemed like a logical step.

Then about two years ago he met Ben Clymer, founder of Hodinkee, the leading watch website worldwide.  Stephen admitted that although his studies had touched on watches, he did not consider himself a watch expert.  But the offer to work at Hodinkee in its early phases was appealing to him.  It would allow him to combine a few interests all under one umbrella.  He would also add to his repertoire of knowledge with the niche of watches, and more specifically, high-end and vintage watches.

On his wrist that morning was a Rolex GMT (famed red and blue Pepsi bezel) which he says is the direction his interests are leaning.  Vintage Rolex’s in particular are fascinating to him, along with Fitzgerald and Hemingway, who famously said in Across the River and into the Trees, “That it works as perfectly as a Rolex Oyster Perpetual.”

Galapagos Islands © Stephen Pulvirent

Galapagos Islands © Stephen Pulvirent

Writer and Photographer

With his new position at Hodinkee, Stephen was able to combine his love of material history, interest in fine objects, writing, and his photography all in one place.  Outside of the constraints of traditional media, he was allowed to wear a number of hats.  Typically, magazines have photographers and writers in separate roles.  There are certainly cases where they overlap or are combined into one person, but that trend is waining.  The watch world, however, offered Stephen the perfect opportunity to explore new ground, see amazing pieces which might otherwise be difficult or impossible to get his hands on, and most importantly get paid for all of it.

He went on to explain the range of pieces he covers in a given month.  He said, “In many cases, a watch represents a specific event or time for someone.  It could be a career milestone or the birth of a child, but whatever it is, the vast majority of people buy one good watch in a lifetime.  On a regular basis, we are handed watches that are in excess of $100,000.  I don’t say that to impress anyone, rather to emphasize the rarity of these pieces and how infrequently one might encounter them on a daily basis.  To have them as regular fixtures at our office is a real treat.  In a watch that lands in the five and six figures, there is a level of detail that does not exist in many things in the world, period.  And to be able to dive into the details, the material selection, the evolution of certain horological functions, is everything I’ve always wanted to do and more.” 

Galapagos Islands © Stephen Pulvirent

Galapagos Islands © Stephen Pulvirent

Galápagos Islands and IWC

I’m not sure we could collectively agree on the criterion for the best job, but one item that would certainly make the list is a job that allows you to explore your interests and accumulate meaningful experiences at the same time.  The start of my conversation with Stephen lands in this territory.

Once a year, the Swiss watch manufacturer IWC (International Watch Company Schaffhausen) invites a few people from the watch industry to their initiative with the Darwin Foundation in the Galápagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.  This year Stephen was joined by his colleague Will Holloway for a guided tour of the islands.  “The Galápagos Islands are a complicated situation,” Stephen explained.  They are in protected waters and the human footprint on the islands is enormously restricted.  During visits, boats with registered guests rotate in shifts, on and off the islands.  There are no busy overlaps and the time on the island feels like, “Stepping back in time.”  He told me that things are untouched, or at least it seemed this way from a non-scientist’s point of view.

The difficulties lie in the logistics of enforcing the protection of species that migrate.  By law they are protected on the islands and surrounding parts, but they migrate through zones which are open to commercial fishing.  The ocean in all of its parts has preservation and governance issues.  The other major complication is that a nature preserve costs a lot to maintain and conversely does not generate much money.  This is where companies like IWC step in and make generous contributions in money, resources, and media coverage to the Darwin Foundation.

Read Stephen’s coverage here: 


While Stephen was in the Galápagos, he experienced a unique overlap of the watch, scientific, and expedition worlds.  Professional disciplines don’t often overlap, as the world has gravitated towards specialization, almost to a fault.  But one of the things that I enjoy about Stephen is his willingness to allow subjects to co-exist.  They only serve to enrich the experience.  When I asked him how he would define success for himself fifty years down the road he said, “If I can connect people to history, its meanings and its significance through the objects they surround themselves with, I will feel satisfied.”

It was a great pleasure to sit with Stephen.  Sure we have our chats at watch events, but it’s different when we can sit down and dig deeper into the driving forces of our lives.  It’s not always that the students of liberal arts studies navigate their way to such rewarding professions.  But in the case of Stephen, it’s nice to see that he has been able to thread a line from interest, to ambition, and then to profession.


Best-Adam Marelli


]]> 6
A Room for Improvement Release Tue, 29 Jul 2014 00:35:27 +0000 adam [more...]]]> A Room for Improvement by Adam Marelli

Artistic Vision for Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime

Udemy Platform


Out of the Darkness...A Room for Improvement Introduction.  © Adam Marelli

Out of the Darkness…A Room for Improvement Introduction. © Adam Marelli


At the beginning of the year, I got a call from Udemy, the online education platform.  They asked if I had ever thought of doing an online video program for photography.  While I would have loved to take a greater interest, I was flying to Thailand the next day and my mind was out of free space.  But a week later, collecting my thoughts on a near perfect balcony in Chiang Mai, I revisited Udemy’s idea.

Born over a cup of coffee in Chiang Mai Thailand. © Adam Marelli

Born over a cup of coffee in Chiang Mai, Thailand. © Adam Marelli

The Origins

After my second morning coffee, I started to envision a video program with a very specific aim because as far as I have seen, there are no online resources that explain “How to see like an artist,” with specific examples, exercises, and most importantly, designed specifically for photographers.  And not to bad mouth the other programs, but essentially photography programs are taught from one of two angles…they either teach you about cameras, or post production.  They do not start with the real fundamentals, which are exercises in seeing.

Screen grab from "A Room for Improvement."  © Adam Marelli

Screen grab from “A Room for Improvement.” © Adam Marelli

Art for Everyone

Many of you have seen my videos at B&H, “Bridging the Gap” and “How to talk to Strangers.”  I learned two very important lessons when I recorded these talks with B&H Photo.

1.  Art is a photographer’s best friend.  B&H warned me that a talk/slide presentation with mostly paintings would never work for photographers.  Fortunately for me, they were dead wrong and to B&H’s credit, they were happy to be wrong.  “How to talk to strangers” was the highest user-rated talk in the entirety of B&H’s history.

2.  I wanted to create a learning experience for anyone, anywhere in the world with access to the Internet.  By running workshops, there is no way for me to offer these teachings to more people, all over the world, at an affordable rate.  It’s just not possible.  I want people who WANT TO LEARN to have easy, inexpensive access to the foundations that have formed art for the last 50,000 years.  Online videos are the single best format for people around the globe to learn, practice, and discover new ways of seeing.

The goal of A Room for Improvement.  © Adam Marelli

The goal of A Room for Improvement. © Adam Marelli

Lead by Example

Udemy’s platform, which is free to join, offers class sessions with downloads that easily surpasses the potential of any book on photography.  I say it’s better than a book because it mimics the way I learned art.  I learned art and photography from people, not books.  Whether it was a professor, mentor, or fellow artist…ideas were explained, then we looked through pictures, and the explanation continued until I got it.  It’s the easiest, fastest, and most direct way to learn anything.  It’s why cooking shows are more popular than cook books and why people come to workshops…because they want to learn as quickly as possible so they can get to the fun part…which is the shooting.

The structure for the course is four years in the making.  © Adam Marelli

The structure for the course is four years in the making. © Adam Marelli

The Structure

A Room for Improvement” was conceived as a entire foundations course, broken up into ten episodes.  You can purchase each episode, one at a time, as they are published monthly.  Personally I never liked package deals because I’d always end up with a few things I wanted and a bunch of others I did not want.  This is exactly why I selected the episode format.  Each episode will have its own video introduction like this first one…where you can see if the topics covered will be right for you.

Now, if I can let you in on a little secret, the series was made in a specific order because the foundations of seeing build on one another.  The fastest route to success is following each one in order and completing the assignments before moving to the next level.  This way, the lessons from the previous episode are nearly automatic as you incorporate the next episode into your photography.  But…if you want to skip around that is ok too.  I want everyone to approach the topic in a way that keeps them excited about photography, art, and everything that we can do with our eyes.

The title page from the first episode titled, "The Art of Seeing."  © Adam Marelli

The title page from the first episode titled, “The Art of Seeing.” © Adam Marelli

The Art of Seeing No. 1

The first episode, called “The Art of Seeing No. 1” is available here and it lays out the program in greater detail.  Subscribe to me on Youtube (Adam Marelli Workshops click this link)


For years people have been asking me to write a book on composition.  It sounds like a great idea…right?!  But the truth is, I have never used a book on photography composition…NEVER.  That’s not to say I have not read one, I’ve read a dozen of them and looked through another four dozen.  And just as a user’s manual doesn’t teach you how to use a camera, a book will not be able to teach you about photography the way I can teach you through video.

Education is moving online, from MIT and Harvard to the Khan Academy…the Internet is the shared platform of human knowledge and it’s just getting easier to access information that might have taken years to acquire.  If you would like to learn, on your schedule, anywhere in the world, have a look at the course…I look forward to seeing you there!

Watch “A Room for Improvement” here: 


Best-Adam Marelli 

]]> 9
Social Media for Photographers: Tumblr Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:35:16 +0000 adam [more...]]]> Social Media for Photographers

Social Media for the Anti-Social

Part 3: Tumblr


Social Media for Photographers: Tumblr.  La Chiesa della Palumbo, Matera Italy.  © Adam Marelli

Social Media for Photographers: Tumblr. La Chiesa della Palumbo, Matera Italy. © Adam Marelli


When we think of social media, the names that come to mind are Facebook and Twitter.  They are the most widely used platforms that no one saw coming, and no one can figure out if they will last.  So while financial analysts debate over their values and the news media pretends to make peace with them, though they really wish they never existed, a few other contenders have quietly slipped in under the radar.  There are hoards of sites, from Pinterest to Flickr, but I’d like to focus on one that I personally enjoy, use daily but never post on, and that is Tumblr.

On paper, Tumblr was conceived as a microblog.  Within its design you could post an image, add some text and publish under a single username.  If you have something to say with a picture to go along, then this might be a better version of Instagram for you.  But in reality, I find Tumblr to be a scrolling site of images.  I look at it mostly on my phone or iPad for the sole purpose of browsing nonsensical pictures, skipping all the text.  I have a feeling I am not alone in this approach.

Sphinx.  La Paz's tumblr feed

Sphinx. La Paz’s Tumblr feed

What’s it do?

Unlike Facebook and Instagram, which I use for my images, Tumblr is a platform of consumption.  I look and look and look and never do anything else.  There are a few reasons I don’t share pictures on this platform, none of which should prevent you from doing so…it’s just how I manage my Internet time.  In the back of my head I have to remember that I am not a news station, I am not an online magazine, and the Internet is a part of my studio but not the entire thing.  So pumping out miles of daily content has a point of diminishing returns…running a Tumblr feed is just not in the cards at the moment.  But a little browsing here and there won’t kill anyone.

I just love this shot...the perfect sunken ship.  La Paz tumblr.

I just love this shot…the perfect sunken ship. La Paz Tumblr.

Why use it?

For simplicity, let’s divide Tumblr in two ways: we’ve got Providers and Users.

  1. Providers:  People who want to showcase large quantities of easily digested images in a streaming format with little to no regard for the picture’s origins.
  2. Users:  People who want to look at a filtered set of pictures and don’t really care where the picture came from, who took it, or if they can ever find it again.
Fisherman providing in a different way.  La Paz tumblr.

Fishermen providing in a different way. La Paz Tumblr.


Why might you want to use Tumblr?…here are two scenarios…

Swell.  La Paz tumblr

Swell. La Paz Tumblr

La Paz Portugal…This Porto-based clothing company traces their designs from fisherman styles that you could find along the Mediterranean at the turn of the century.  Think of the film “La Terra Trema.”  They draw from a huge resource of naval and pescatore-based history.  A good way for them to share their inspirations, which span four oceans and two centuries, is a Tumblr feed.  It allows them to open up their creative process to their audience.  Why is this important?…because not everyone is going to understand that an oddly cut, soft collar jacket is not the eccentric wishes of Jose Miguel de Abreu, rather it comes from a real history, one which some might enjoy.  The other reason is that as a clothing company, they attract clients by having good taste.  If you can source anything that people are not familiar with and curate it in a way that reflects your style, people might be more likely to take your advice on stylish matters.  I have always said that, “I never trusted an architect who could not dress well.”  Those in the business of aesthetics should reflect their good taste.  Tumblr is a great way to do it.

La Paz’s Tumblr Feed

FP Journe Chronometre Optimum Hodinkee tumblr

FP Journe Chronometre Optimum. Hodinkee Tumblr

Hodinkee…I’ve mentioned the guys at Hodinkee before, one of the world’s leading watch culture websites, because I like what they do.  They managed to take the high brow world of watches and make it fun, accessible, and interesting, without all the pretence of the Robb Report.  As a visual outlet, their Tumblr feed is pretty straight forward.  They take pictures of watches…watches at the cafe, watches at the office, watches on the road…you get the drift; they take pictures of watches everywhere they go.  It does not matter if a watch is 32mm or 48mm, watches all fit well into a grid of images.  Click on their feed below to see how Walter Gropius would have loved Hodinkee too.  Even if you don’t like watches, there is something nice about the simple repetition of an idiom that has fascinated mankind since they first noticed that the sun and moon swapped places on a daily basis.

Patek Philippe 3670A & Laurent Ferrier Hodinkee

Patek Philippe 3670A & Laurent Ferrier. Hodinkee Tumblr

As a format, Tumblr works really well for Hodinkee because they can add a small amount of text or a link to an article they wrote, and the “archive feature” brings up all the thumbnails at once.  So if you want to browse the virtual watch case of Hodinkee, it is so easy that the Sunday morning coffee might go cold as you are entranced by the varieties of man jewelry that the watch world has to offer.

Hodinkee’s Tumblr Feed

Jaeger LeCoultre Polaris 68 Hodinkee out for a little coffee downtown.

Jaeger LeCoultre Polaris 68. Hodinkee out for a little coffee downtown. Hodinkee Tumblr

What type of photographer might use Tumblr?

If you have a specialty, like photographing farm equipment or custom motorcycles or watches, Tumblr could work well for you.  It does the best for photographers who have an overarching continuity to their work.  If I see someone that has a few pics here and there, but overall the work is scattered, I won’t follow their feed.  It’s more about specialization.  I want it edited by the time I get there.  So if all the photographs are Riva motorboats or the city of Cairo…I’m in.

Surf Jump La Paz tumblr

Surf Jump. La Paz Tumblr

TIP:  If you use Tumblr as a photographer, make it easy for people to find you by including your website as a link below the picture.  No watermarks; I can’t stand watermarks.  If there is any hope of someone liking and finding you, the process should be as easy as possible.

Shark Jaw Seat La Paz tumblr

Shark Jaw Seat. La Paz Tumblr

Users…here is some advice to keep Tumblr from becoming like your Internet Meth addiction.

  1. Be selective…I only follow 32 feeds on Tumblr; it’s enough that whenever I open it there is something new to look at, but not so many that I can never catch up to where I left off yesterday.  At one point I followed a few people who must have put up 100 pictures every day and it started to feel like getting through my daily updates was a thumb race on my iPhone.  I took the thumb callus to be a sign that I was using it a little too much.
  2. Dream big…since I can’t imagine that anyone who runs a Tumblr page actually has a 300 ft yacht and a private island, it’s safe to say that looking at a Tumblr page is like looking at other people’s dreams.  Whatever you are into, someone has a Tumblr page on it.  Some of my favorites…sailboats, tree houses, beach homes, private islands, sharks, anything scuba or surfing, and of course, James Turrell.
  3. Travel Agent…let’s say you are going to Bora Bora for the first time.  It’s going to be a heck of a trip and you’d like to know what to expect.  I find that Tumblr, by virtue of the fact that people select the images they post, will give you a better collection of what a place looks like than Google.  Also, since it’s so easy to re-share and re-post with no regard for copyright or credit, good images make their way around Tumblr quickly.
After Rain La Paz Tumblr

After Rain. La Paz Tumblr

What not to do

Unlike Facebook and Instagram which are all tethered to your real existence as a person, Tumblr feels more anonymous.  As a result, there are no personal interactions.  You look, you like, you move on.  You can save pictures to your phone like an inspiration board or you can just browse to your heart’s content.  So it’s actually the easiest to use and there is almost no way to cause an Internet s*&t storm.

Bauhaus La Paz tumblr

Bauhaus. La Paz Tumblr

A word of warning

I’d like to offer a word of warning for photographers with Tumblr.  It is easy to use, great for sharing, and filled with great images, BUT it is the copyright wild west.  Pictures are passed around like a bong at a frat house.  If someone wants a picture, they just grab it.  The upside is that the images are not huge, so they will not be stealing your entire livelihood.  But I would not be surprised to find that your picture has travelled halfway around the world and back…only now it has the wrong location and three other photographers taking credit for the picture.  Chances are they are only using it on Tumblr, so don’t panic too much, but it’s not a place for keeping your pictures on lockdown.

Fisherman La Paz tumblr

Fisherman. La Paz Tumblr

Find your interests and whether they are visual

For as long as I can remember, I loved looking at light.  Part of it must be genetic, because I get a disproportionate pleasure out of looking.  On the one hand, it has lent itself very well to being an artist, but on the other hand, has made me acutely aware that it’s not really normal.  The mental patient stare, my girlfriend points out to me when I look at something, could have had me institutionalized in the 1800s, probably sent for a lobotomy in the 1900’s, and certainly made me a candidate for psychotropic drugs in the 2000’s.  But alas, I have dodged all of the quack doctors who don’t understand that a visual pleasure, for some, is a full body experience that takes you somewhere else…I think it’s one of the few moments where you live in a continuous present.  It’s kind of hard to put into words, but if it’s happened to you, you understand what I mean.

Incoming Swell La Paz tumblr

Incoming Swell. La Paz Tumblr

But, if you are getting into photography and don’t consider yourself a visual person, the best thing you can do for your eyes and mind is feed it images.  Start by taking an object that you are into and search for it on Tumblr…it could be anything from flowers to the color blue.  Just type it in, scroll away and see what strikes you.  Eventually the right chord is bound to strike.


Every social media platform has a dozen reasons why you should use it.  The only hope they have for a multi-billion dollar buyout comes from collecting billions of users.  But if you are like me, and social media is not your life, then you need to be selective.  Otherwise the vortex of the Internet only gets stronger.  I’ve found that Facebook is good for interaction, Instagram is a like a small social club, and Tumblr is an inspiration board.  Use them however you see fit because in the end, they exist for you.

If you have any good Tumblr feeds you would like to share with the other readers, post them below with a quick description as to why you like them.

Best-Adam Marelli 




]]> 2
Social Media for Photographers: Facebook Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:03:42 +0000 adam [more...]]]> Social Media for Photographers

Social Media for the Anti-Social

Part 2: Facebook


A photographers guide to how and why Facebook can be your friend. © Adam Marelli

A photographers guide to how and why Facebook can be your friend. © Adam Marelli


A while back, on Facebook, I heard a quote…

“If you could tell someone from 100 years ago anything about the future what would it be?

“I have a small black box I carry in my pocket that has all the answers in the universe, but I use it to look at pictures of kittens and argue with strangers.”

Oh god, is this true!  The potential that the Internet has afforded us versus the embarrassing ways we use it, is summed up perfectly in this quote.  The Internet, by which I mean the Google portal to the Internet and its mutant cousin named Facebook, could do great things.  But the wild west of technology has opened up more options that we might have thought existed.  There are trillions of bits of information that stream around the globe every second.

They are the types of numbers that sound like astronomy figures in a third grade science class.  When the teacher asked, “How far away is the next closest galaxy?”  Little Jimmy raises his hand and says, “It’s millions and billions and quadrillions away,” Whether little Jimmy has a future at NASA remains to be seen, but for the rest of us it’s safe to assume that the amount of information transmitted through the Internet  is large enough to be considered, “Too f-ing big to care about…it’s just a lot.”

So with little governance and almost no mandate on decency, Facebook was born.

A professional page is a good way to keep your crazy friends and relatives from offending potential clients.  © Adam Marelli

A professional page is a good way to keep your crazy friends and relatives from offending potential clients. © Adam Marelli

What’s it do?

Last week I was speaking at the SXSW V2V Conference on Entrepreneurship.  In a networking setting designed to connect like-minded people, most of us came with an encyclopedia sized stack of business cards.  And while I collected half as many cards as I handed out, two things became apparent:  1) People run out of cards 2) Using a card requires an email…when a friend request is much easier.

  • Facebook is…one of the easier and most deranged methods of interaction available.  It could be argued that Facebook is the gateway drug to being a sociopath.  You are somehow connected and disconnected all at the same time.
  • Facebook is…your own personal newspaper, they call it a news feed, of everything you click on and a few things you only thought about…how does Facebook keep reading my mind?  More on that later.  But now that it does not take two weeks to steam across the Atlantic and your only “foreign friend” is not just someone you met as a pen pal in the fourth grade, Facebook is a delightful way to see what your photography friends are doing, while they are doing it.  I will fully admit that when someone tells me about a really great trip they are headed on, I am tuned in to Facebook to see what they are up to because I like adventure stories and good pictures.
  • Facebook is…the best and cheapest PR firm that any photographer could hire.  If you want to get your work out there, Facebook is not a bad start.  It is a semi-harmless way to keep your images in someone’s mind without emailing them all the time.  A curator friend of mine said that the thing she likes about Facebook is that she can look, without interacting.  Because when you are an editor, a curator, a publisher or a writer, photographers are constantly clamoring for your attention.  Facebook is a simple way to say, very casually, here is what I’m up to without bugging someone to death.
  • Facebook is…an emotional breakdown waiting to happen.  If you are not prepared for the deafening silence that exists in the early phases of your account, then proceed with caution and make sure to friend your mother and someone else who will always like your pictures.  The whole concept of “Likes” is a complete distortion of reality.  After a few years of watching trends and how Facebook’s favors certain posts (like profile pictures, weddings, new borns, and birthdays) it’s become clear that “Likes” do not, in any way, nor will they ever, reflect the merit of an image.
A cute picture goes a long way.  Kanyakumari, India.  © Adam Marelli

A cute picture goes a long way. Kanyakumari, India. © Adam Marelli

A pretty face will also garner a lot of attention. Prague, Czech Republic. © Adam Marelli

A pretty face will also garner a lot of attention. Prague, Czech Republic. © Adam Marelli

This shot from La Fenice in Italy is more than a pretty cityscape, but it is not quite a body of work yet.  But well done night shots that glow will get you some attention.  Venice, Italy.  © Adam Marelli

This shot from La Fenice in Italy is more than a pretty cityscape, but it is not quite a body of work yet. But well done night shots that glow will get you some attention. Venice, Italy. © Adam Marelli

This is part of a growing body in Matera.  Far from finished, its nice to see that its early stages are both satisfying to me, as the artist, and to an audience.  The Heritage of Stone, Matera, Italy © Adam Marelli Likes

This is part of a growing body in Matera. Far from finished, it’s nice to see that its early stages are both satisfying to me, as the artist, and to an audience. The Heritage of Stone, Matera, Italy © Adam Marelli

The most liked images on Facebook last week were pictures of Barak Obama, a puppy, a kitten, a few sports stars and a television clip.  What can we learn from this?  That “likes” reflect a distorted view of things that are kind of popular, kind of safe, and sort of entertaining.  There is a way to use Facebook as a measure of an image, but it’s not as straight forward as “many Likes” equals “good picture.”

Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty.  Chiang Mai, Thailand. © Adam Marelli

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Chiang Mai, Thailand. © Adam Marelli

Why Use Facebook?

Let’s look at the reason most people give for NOT using Facebook, to decide if it’s a good format for you.

“I don’t use Facebook because of my privacy.”  This seems like a reasonable line of thought.  Facebook asks for personal information, they sell it off to marketers and would be happy to give it to anyone willing to pay.  But in reality there is little more protection on the Internet from your browser.  Anything that people might find on Facebook they could get if you are plugged into the Internet.  Those who are hacks, government techs, and cyber masterminds will tell you this.  So if privacy is just an illusion, why not interact with a few friends and ignore the banner ads that seem to mysteriously match something you googled this morning.

“I don’t want anyone to know where I am.”  Ok, the truth behind this one is sad, but if you have a cell phone and it’s on, someone can find you, track you, and trace everything you do.  It all depends on who is looking.  And if Facebook is blowing your cover, I recommend returning to espionage school.

“I can’t use it because of my job.”  Imbedded in this statement is one truth and one confession.  Some of you have jobs where Facebook is not an option, and if you are growing a photography hobby on the side it’s a shame.  Because there is not a photographer in the world who is not known by name and by face.  One of the social agreements with artistic success is the world wants to know who you are, literally.  If your professional anonymity prevents it, no problem, but you may need to work a little harder in other arenas to get your work out there.

As for the confession, let me offer this story.  When my friends and I graduated from university, all those going into corporate and banking needed to take drug tests.  Almost everyone complained, except one friend.  He said, “A drug screening is not a test to see if you do drugs.  In finance it’s quietly assumed that you have at least tried drugs, and if you can perform they will even tolerate you doing drugs.  A drug test is to see if you can stop long enough to pass the test.”

Facebook is more like a drug test of decision making.  Surely we are bound to do some boneheaded things in our lives, Facebook is just a test to see if we are boneheaded enough to post them.

If we really examine the reasons we do not use social media, we might discover that work is an excuse, not a reason.  © Adam Marelli

If we really examine the reasons we do not use social media, we might discover that work is an excuse, not a reason. © Adam Marelli

“I think Facebook is annoying.”  Facebook is annoying, absolutely.  But so are televisions, movie lines, traffic jams, and cell phones.  A Renaissance Aristocrat would look at us with utter contempt at the things we put up with on a daily basis.  But to my high-browed, velvet-clad friend I would say that I have hot water on demand, I’ve traveled around the world (not off its edge) and we have sewer systems so we do not need to fester in our own feces.  The only problem is we have not figured out how to stuff politicians into toilets, but we will figure it out.

Modern life is filled with a combination of annoyances and conveniences.  I don’t use Facebook because I love it, but it works for what I need it to do better than anything else.  Here is an example.  A number of years back, when I was not on Facebook, there was a writer from the NY Times I wanted to contact.  When I looked him up, I saw he went to Columbia University.  Easy enough, I had friends there and thought there must be an alumni database they could access.  The friend of mine, who was encouraging me to get on Facebook at the time, pointed out that the writer was on Facebook.  To which he advised, “Would you just join Facebook and write to him?”  So I did and my construction column in the NY Times came to be.

We are all in this together, play nicely.  Chiang Mai, Thailand.  © Adam Marelli

We are in this together, play nicely. Chiang Mai, Thailand. © Adam Marelli

How does it work?

A users manual to Facebook would be worthless to write because it is constantly evolving.  This advice is strictly for photographers looking to share images for the purpose of light feedback and to expand their exposure without the borders of maps and markets.  Facebook does bridge a very wide range of people.

  1. Open an account.  Add a profile picture and three images.  Add pictures twice a week and send friend requests to people you already know.  Facebook helps you with this.
  2. Think of Facebook as a stylized version of yourself.  It’s not exactly you, but it’s definitely not someone else.  The audience wants some information but not too much.  Pictures from your recent trip to Madagascar would be great, pictures from your recent high fiber cleanse would be awful.  The advantage to joining Facebook late is that you can learn from everyone’s mistakes.
  3. Start a professional account.  This is a page separate from the account where your relatives can reveal embarrassing aspects of your family.  One can always count on extended family to say something that is a little racist, kind of bigoted, and mildly ignorant.  It’s just in the nature of family, but Facebook is making it public.  So your professional page lets you escape all of that.
  4. Post what you like.  If I posted based off of audience feedback, I would be shooting cityscapes and models.  What can I say, cool shots of traveling and sexy Czech girls are popular, but it does not affect my overall photographic strategy.
Keep up to date with your travels an exploits.  This is a little swatch of Berlin, Florence, Matera, and NYC  © Adam Marelli

Keep up to date with your travels and exploits. This is a little swatch of Berlin, Florence, Matera, and NYC © Adam Marelli

What to do

  1. Nice people are better when liked.  There is no shortage of D-bags on Facebook; think of them like a bees nest not worth kicking.  It would be nice if the United States could crank out jobs with the same efficiency they produce Facebook a**holes.  So land on the high side.
  2. Post frequently.  Do it for yourself.  Having to post regularly will keep you focused on images, especially if you work in another field most of the time.
  3. Be a content provider, not a user.  If you post images, it should take you about 3 minutes…anything after that and you have switched to being a Facebook user.  Careful, the time can evaporate.
  4. Use it to connect with people.  I have gotten a surprising amount of work from Facebook conversations.  For some reason, those little messages are less “business feeling” than email.  The world is becoming less and less formal, so you might as well use it to your advantage.
  5. Share your work.  This was an ongoing debate about Facebook’s agreement and claimed image ownership.  While some photographers were afraid people would “steal” their work, others made a king’s ransom because there was less competition.  I look at it this way, if a 500px 72dpi image is threatening, you need to make a better image.  The only people this does not apply to are photojournalists, who run off of small images.  To you guys, guard that s*&* with your life.  But if you are taking equestrian pictures, for example, your finished image should be almost non-reproducible in a Facebook format.  I don’t think Andreas Gursky is afraid of Facebook.
The SXSW V2V was designed for entrepreneurs, but it offered a lot of useful lessons for photographers too.  Here is a shot from our panel.

The SXSW V2V was designed for entrepreneurs, but it offered a lot of useful lessons for photographers too. Here is a shot from our panel.

What not to do

  1. Do not fight with people…I like philosophy, I like discussing religion, I like people who enjoy an intelligent debate, but I don’t do it on Facebook.  If you’ve gotten on Facebook for photography, there is no debate to be had.  Post your picture and then post another.  I’ve seen the most absurd World War III outbursts on Facebook over nothing.  Argue in person because it’s easier to punch them if they are in front of you.  (just kidding, I do not condone that behavior either, most of the time )
  2. Do not worry about likes or friends.  They will happen the more you interact.  The comparison of “ohh they have 2,300 and I only have 300,” is not worth doing.  Grow at your own pace and when it gets large enough, don’t forget to use it as an asset.  I see people asking now for Youtube views and Facebook fans more than they care about where I went to school.  Good news if you did not go to school.
  3. Do not post more than 3 pictures at a time.  Each post shows up separately.  Lumping a set together, after you have published them individually is ok, but assume that most people will only look at the first image.  This applies too if you write articles.  I can’t tell you how many people comment who have clearly not read the article.  They read the title, form an opinion, and blurt out an comment.  How to handle this…skip.

What can Facebook do for you? 

  • Almost every gallery I have ever had dealings with is on Facebook and we use it in conjunction with email.
  • I have gotten some jobs from Facebook, but I’ve more often gotten soft introductions via Facebook.  I prefer them anyway, so it’s perfect.  They all led to work and follow up work because the clients continued to see other things I was up to which they found interesting.
  • Whether I like it or not, a professional page with a lot of likes impresses some people; heck it even used to impress me.  So building it was a good idea.
  • There are some great subgroups I’ve gotten involved with which I will write about tomorrow on Facebook.  Super nice photographic communities of like-minded people who enjoy sharing their images in a semi-curated fashion.
  • People outside of the US use Facebook more than email.  On the road, Facebook is one of the many messaging systems that keeps me in touch with friends abroad.
What lies on the other side of the social media doorway?  Chiang Mai, Thailand.  © Adam Marelli

What lies on the other side of the social media doorway? Chiang Mai, Thailand. © Adam Marelli


As a photographer, do you need Facebook?  No you don’t.  In fact, you don’t need a web page.  When I left art school, none of the successful artists I knew had a website.  So I thought, why would I need one?  The reason is that while good art remains generation after generation, the way it reaches its audience continues to evolve.  At one point, artists did not use books or portfolios.  They were considered tacky promotional tools for inept artists.  Now an artist’s monograph is almost as good as a museum show.  At the forefront of any technology exists the very best and the very worst of its offerings.  This will continue as the forms of communication change.   While you do not need to try all of the social media platforms, Facebook offers a scale and ease of operation that has its advantages.  Just be sure to find a way that works for you.

This is my personal page with all the good, bad, and embarrassing that come along with being human. © Adam Marelli

This is my personal page with all the good, bad, and embarrassing that come along with being human. © Adam Marelli

And because I would not ask you to do anything I would not do myself:

Adam Marelli Personal

Adam Marelli Photography


Best-Adam Marelli 

]]> 7
Social Media for Photographers: Instagram Mon, 21 Jul 2014 18:30:26 +0000 adam [more...]]]> Social Media for Photographers

Social Media for the Anti-Social

Part 1: Instagram

Social Media for Photographers by Adam Marelli

Social Media for Photographers by Adam Marelli


Social media is like the “rap music” of the last decade.  Do you remember when rap music came out?  When rap first became main stream it felt like the Right Wing of everything grew an extra three feet.  Deemed “Not music” by most haters, the conversation quickly changed as social commentary, academics, and the even further right (who did not notice when it first came out) wanted rap music banned.  They said its lyrics were violent, its message was dangerous, and it would ruin the youth of tomorrow.  Well nearly four decades later…rap in all forms has not only grown, it’s flourished internationally and now rivals other vocations for the aspirations of children, as the phrase “I want to be president” fell out of favor for “I want to be a rapper.”  And why not? Jay-Z seems like he has a more lucrative and less stressful life than Obama.

But much in the way that rap music became a cultural force, so too has social media.  Platforms from Facebook to Snapchat are putting traditional media out of business and slowly positioning themselves well beyond websites for teenagers (remember MySpace?).  Social media is at the forefront of every major global event, good, bad and useless.  So what’s that got to do with photography?  Social media is an audience, in fact, it’s probably your audience.  So unless you are secretly archiving your work in the hopes of being the next “Vivian Maier”, it might not hurt to test the social waters of the internet.  And I, as an initial social media chicken, am here to ease your entry.

Do you feel like the odd one out when people talk about social media?  San Miniato al Monte, Florence, Italy. © Adam Marelli

Do you feel like the odd one out when people talk about social media? San Miniato al Monte, Florence, Italy. © Adam Marelli

What’s it do?

I ask everyone who comes to my workshops or takes my One on One programs if they:

  • Have a website? No big deal if you don’t.  It takes time to make and might be further down the line, but it’s definitely worth considering.
  • Are on Facebook?  Unless you work for the NSA, swore allegiance to a terrorist organization, or just hate people…then I’d really consider using some form of social media microblog to get your pictures out there.
  • Use any form of social media?  I agree Facebook is kind of annoying, its founder is less than inspiring, and if one more person invites me to play Candy Crush Saga I might lose it…but there are other options too. Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, Linkedin, & Twitter just to name a few.


Social media platforms offer photographers a chance to interact with an audience broader than other forms of communication could possibly provide.  In fact, it is so large that it can even create the false impression that photographers who possess zero skill and negligible accomplishments are important, just because they show up frequently on the Internet.  Like all movements, social media contains some of the very best and some of the very worst the photography world has to offer.

Is the thought of using social media as confusing as trying to figure out another city's subway system?  © Adam Marelli

Is the thought of using social media as confusing as trying to figure out why Florence puts the cheesiest vendors in front of their greatest treasures? © Adam Marelli

Why use it?

Who do you take pictures for?  Is it just a personal hobby or do you nurture a secret desire to be recognized for your vision?  Not everyone wants international recognition, but it’s not uncommon to want to take part in the artistic conversation.  Remember that the French Post-Impressionist painter Cezanne did not sell a painting for the first forty years of his artistic life.  And while he was an infernal pain in the ass and so temperamental that every artist from Renoir to Degas noted Cezanne’s dinner party outbursts, he was part of an artistic conversation.  Commercial success and being part of art are not mutually exclusive.

Many of the impressionists and post-impressionists might have preferred Cezanne on Facebook instead of at their dinner tables.  They could have then at least watched his painting career without enduring his tantrums.  Social Media has some milder forms of interaction and Instagram is one of the best.

The cover shot from my instagram feed.  © Adam Marelli

The cover shot from my instagram feed. Yes, that is a roll of toilet paper in a German airport. © Adam Marelli


What do I love about Instagram?  It is a continuous feed of pictures, plain and simple.  I’m a visual person, I don’t like reading the news (it’s alarmist and depressing), and I enjoy seeing what my friends are up to.  Instagram is probably the most selectively curated group of people I follow.  Almost everyone I follow on Instagram I know personally.  And for that reason, I pay attention to the pictures.  Sure, there are a few wild cards in there, but when I want a smattering of anonymous pictures I head to Tumblr.  But more on that in article No 3.

Instagram’s format lets me mix business and pleasure.  I post everything from great wines shot on my iPhone to project pictures taken with my Leica’s.  It’s a casual stream where I don’t have to worry about link backs, traffic, or any of the other things that you really need to consider with some other forms of Internet publication.

Jeff Johnson's instagram feed.  © Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson’s instagram feed. © Jeff Johnson

How does it work

To sign up you go to Instagram’s site and join…it’s free, pick a name that makes sense.  Calling yourself something like, “iamdiddy” works if you are Sean “Puffy” Combs.  But if not, pick something that people might find, like your first and last name all in lowercase.  I use “adammarelli” which is easy enough to remember.

Then to use it, you can do one of two things…

  1. To upload images you can use your camera phone.  If you do not have one of those, chances are you are not reading blogs either, so I’m not too concerned.
  2. Or if you are loading images from Lightroom, they have an export option.  I actually export images as Jpegs and then dump them in a folder in iPhoto.
  3. To post, just follow the app instructions…they walk you through it.
What's a # hashtag.  Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy. © Adam Marelli

What’s a #? Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy. © Adam Marelli

What’s a hashtag? (it’s this thing (#))

  • User Friendly: If you open an account, think about it from another users end.  Why would they come to your feed?  Do you lead an interesting life, do you see amazing things, or are you a masterful curator of a subculture.  If so, help your feed along by using hashtags.
  • The Hashtag (#).  A German friend of mine said, “Why use hashtags, I don’t get it?”  I told her that hashtags are just like keywords.
  • If you post a picture of an elephant, you add at the bottom #elephant.  That way, someone who searches #elephant might come across your picture.  There are volumes written on keyword searches and hashtags, but you don’t need to be an expert to use them.
  • A Test…you take a picture of a gondola in Venice, Italy.  Post the picture without any hashtags.  Then post the same picture with these hashtags: #italy, #venice, #gondola, #ladolcevita, #boat, #dreamboat, #italia, #venezia  See what happens…my guess is the one with the hashtags will connect with more people, because people search those terms.
  • Finding Followers: Don’t panic about getting followers…Instagram is one of the least business oriented platforms out there.  I don’t buy things off of Instagram and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a stitch of business from it.  It’s both a plus and a minus, but more of a plus.
  • Make it neat.  Post pictures that are clean and straight forward.  Since everyone scrolls through their feeds quickly…Instagram can be a good exercise in simplicity.  If your pictures are too complicated, too abstract, or confusing, they will not read as well.  It’s a useful exercise.
  • Adding filters: I add filters mostly to my iPhone shots and not my Leica shots.  Why? My Leica images are already adjusted, iPhone images sometimes need a little boost.
  • How often to post:  Try to post regularly.  Don’t lose sleep over this, but throw a picture up every two or three days.  It will keep you producing and thinking about images, even when you are supposed to be doing the “other work” you do and remember that people want to see your pictures.
An Israeli architect friend of mine introduced me to "thefatjewish" instagram feed.  Whether to "attract or offend"?  This is one strategy for getting followers.  © thefatjewish

An Israeli architect friend of mine introduced me to “thefatjewish” instagram feed. Whether to “attract or offend”? This is one strategy for getting followers. © thefatjewish

What not to do

  1. Do not expect miracles.  Just because you joined an online world connected to a billion people, let’s not have a nervous breakdown if they don’t all flock to your feed.
  2. Avoid writing diatribes about anything.  Yes, the world is going to s*&%. We know.  And we go to Instagram because we are tired of seeing it on Facebook.  Leave Instagram for all the cool things that are going right in the world.  If you can fit in a few funny lines go for it, but Instagram works best for pictures that speak for themselves.  If they need lots of text, I’d go for Tumblr instead.
  3. Do not use Instagram when your partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife is trying to talk to you.  It can be fatal (trust me!).
  4. Try not to over process the pictures. Instagram has built some fun effects into their app, but use them judiciously.  Sure, you can make a picture of a “white napkin at a diner” look like it just came out of Chernobyl, but why?  Think of added filters like the temperature control in the shower; too much to the left and it feels like Siberia, too much to the right and it feels like the emergency room…balance is key.
Their really long name translates to "My favorite hotel in Matera Italy.  Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita's instagram feed

Their really long name translates to “My favorite hotel in Matera Italy. Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita’s instagram feed

My Favorite Instagram Feeds

  • adammarelli: Here is a mix of my work, play, indulgences, and dream pieces.
  • standardedition:  My buddy Jamie is one of the most stylin’ guys I know.  Follow his worldy adventures and cocktail sessions.  You might catch the odd shot of me in the mix.
  • lapaz_pt:  Jose runs the Portugal based clothing company “La Paz”, inspired by fisherman and the ocean…two of my favorite things. It would be hard to mess this one up.
  • contemporarystandard:  Enrico is like Jamie’s counterpart, except that he hails from Verona Italy, has a longer beard, and smiles less (I love you guys.)
  • claudiomajorana:  Claudio is a Sicilian-based photographer doing great work inside of skateboarding communities (which is how I passed my time from age 10-20.  Skateboarding surpassed even women for me, until college happened.)
  • frickcollection:  Probably my favorite museum in New York City, and if they can get on Instagram, so can you.
  • the_explorers_club:  Still wondering what The Explorer’s Club is?  Only one way to find out. Plus they announce their public events here, so definitely worth following if you would like to crack the doors.
  • jimmy_chin:  National Geographic photographer, North Face athlete, has summited Everest and skied down it too, because walking down was just too easy.  Jimmy’s a great guy and shoots a wild collection of “on the edge” mountaineering and adventure work.
  • sextantiolegrottedellacivita:  Yes, it’s a long name, but it’s one of my favorite “cave” hotels in Italy.  Their spot in Matera hosts my workshop and I love checking up on Matera when I’m back home.
  • hodinkee:  The media gurus of the watch world…for those of you who wonder what blogs I read…it’s Hodinkee.  Ben, Stephen, Will, and co. keep my watch fascination bubbling over with daily content.
  • jeffjohnson_beyondandback:  When your last name is “smith” or “johnson”, you are bound to need a longer handle, but while his last name is common, the work is not.  Jeff is a Patagonia photographer, Leica shooter, surfer, and climber.  He has made an art out of the meandering lifestyle.  If your parents are on your case because you have no direction, just say you are “testing the early jeff johnson method.”  Great things will follow.
  • kishalady:  This Aussie transplant to NYC is sweet as a button and cool as a cucumber.
  • merzbschwanen:  Without Peter and Gitta, I’d be running around the world shirtless.
  • pilgrimsurfsupply:  Surfing, on the east coast?!  You bet ya!  My ocean life blood.
  • scottwitt:  While he keeps trying to convince me he’s not a guru over at Apple, Scott is also a pro photographer in hiding and a Leica shooter.
  • thewatchclub:  When you can buy vintage watches and shop with the boys in the Royal Arcade, give yourself a pat on the back because you are doing A-Okay.  From Patek to Mille to Roger Smith…they have things in their vault that Patek does not even remember they made.



Instagram might not make you famous but…it’s a fun way to keep your mind on images.  Focus and regularity are two wildly undervalued traits for any developing photographer.  Whether you are a photographer away from a day job or it is a life long passion you a following, give yourself an extra PR boost and try a little social media.  Like any adult beverage, a little bit can be fun, a lot-a-bit can be disastrous.  But we are all adults here right?  So have at it and see you on Instagram.

Best-Adam Marelli

]]> 6
From Genres to Projects Tue, 15 Jul 2014 19:28:19 +0000 adam [more...]]]> From Genres to Projects

A step most photographers never take

Project Development Seminar

New York City, USA

From Genre to Project.  A photography project seminar by Adam Marelli

From Genre to Project. A photography project seminar by Adam Marelli


From the first time we pick up a camera, we are all waiting for that first great picture.  It’s the moment when what you see, feel, and shoot, all line up into a picture that just knocks people off their feet.  It’s a moment that we all want and deserve.  Why?  Because artistic vision is built into all of us; if it wasn’t we would not have been born with eyes and the largest part of our brains would not be devoted to our sense of sight.

How do I make my own project © Adam Marelli

How do I make my own project? © Adam Marelli

From Genres to Projects

Do you have a website?  A Facebook page?  A way for people to enjoy your pictures?  If so, how is it split up?  Many photographers start out by dividing work one of two ways.


Landscape, Portrait, Street, Travel and the list goes on.  You have seen all of this, I’m sure.


  1. Splitting up your work by genre shows that you are thinking about the different types of images you are making; unfortunately the divisions are not specific to you.  They are dictated by long standing categories which don’t highlight your specific strengths.
  2.  There is really only one advantage, so this list ends.


  1. Type “Street Photography” into Google…you will see two things: Google is quality blind because most of the photographers that come up provide only Internet content and are far from the best that street photography has to offer, and…
  2. Your name is probably nowhere on the list. That is not a reflection of quality, but rather a function of the website.
  3. This list goes on and on and on and on and on…think about it and you will start to see what I mean.
Trace of a Lost Ceremony.  Locations are important, but I could have not made "Traces of a Lost Ceremony" without project development.  © Adam Marelli

Traces of a Lost Ceremony. Locations are important, but I could have not made “Traces of a Lost Ceremony” without project development. © Adam Marelli


Italy, Cuba, Tanzania, Spain, Japan, Thailand…It’s great that you are traveling with your photography and locations do help divide work up into specific regions, but…you might have images that are better linked by theme or better yet by Project, rather than location.


  1. Unlike genres, locations give viewers a better sense of what you shoot.  Landscape could mean anything from Death Valley to Siberia, but “Grand Canyon” says something location specific about your pictures.
  2. Location grouping usually means that you are not traveling mindlessly.  Rather it means that you are thoughtfully picking locations that you want to explore in greater depth.
  3. You are probably dreaming of bigger projects through your locations and that is a great thing too!


  1. Location grouping is the pitfall of stock travel photography.  While travel magazines are dying a slow death, there is no reason to jump onto a sinking ship.  If you went to Cuba to spend time with artisanal Rum makers, lumping the project under “Cuba” does not do your project any justice.
  2. Going to a place like “Tuscany” and calling it a location would be like spending a week with Ernest Hemingway and calling him “writer.”  The subject is infinitely more rich than a simple location can cover.  Dive into the meaning behind the trip.
  3. Exotic locations do not equal good pictures.  Too often people let the location do the heavy lifting…for example, if the local dress is weird enough and locals have bones through their noses, then the pictures must be interesting…right? WRONG.  At this point, National Geographic has made the exotic a lot less interesting.  The viewing world has become more discerning, and as a photographer you will need to work harder to make your images stand out.
Far off lands are a good start, but traveling to an exotic place will only guarantee you more  frequent flier miles, not a successful project. © Adam Marelli

Far off lands are a good start, but traveling to an exotic place will only guarantee you more
frequent flier miles, not a successful project. © Adam Marelli


Do you want your pictures to tell a story?  If so, you have to have a story to tell.  In photography, building projects is really where the fun begins.  I had a martial arts instructor who once said, “Being a black belt is not the goal, it’s where the fun actually begins.  Getting to the black belt just means you learned all the basics.”


  1. At the forefront of any project are your ideas, your view of the world, and your way of putting it all together into a seamless body of work.
  2. Projects attract more attention than any single image…because it is that comprehensive look at a topic that editors, curators, publishers, and gallerists all look for.
  3. Developing a project from start to finish is like taking the excitement of the single best image you have ever made and compounding it tenfold.  There is nothing more gratifying than exploring something from start to finish.  In the end, you learn more about the story, the world and yourself than is ever possible with a single image.


  1. It requires some planning and thought.  Projects don’t pop out of nowhere, they develop over time.
  2. The more you put in, the more you get out.  This can be a con, but also a pro depending on how you approach it.
  3. Your friends will wonder why your work is taking off and theirs is not.  Don’t worry, you can share your lessons with them too.
Patience + Planning = Success

Patience + Planning = Success © Adam Marelli

How to Work on your Project

Building a project is like building a brand.  People want to know who you are, what you do, why it’s special and why they should buy into it.  This is something that everyone from Cartier-Bresson to Nike struggled with over the years.  But all the successful photographers I’ve ever met know why their work stands out.

This is why I created the Project Development Seminars. I want to have a small group discussion where we can do three things:

  1. Explore case studies of artists and photographers to discover how they found their voice and success through their projects.  From Caravaggio to Eugene Smith…everyone had a clear vision of what set them apart.
  2. In workshops we spend a lot of time shooting, but in these seminars we can put the cameras down, leave all of the gear-envy outside, and look at how/why we make pictures.
  3. I also wanted to put myself under the microscope to share my process with a small group of photographers in a personal setting.


Why have a photography seminar with no cameras?

While it might seem crazy to have a photography seminar without a camera, there is a reason for this…the biggest obstacles most photographers face have nothing to do with operating a camera.  They have to do with how they think about their work.  And in order to solve these problems and create successful projects, it’s best to use a mentor and a community.  A friend of mine, Jimmy Chin (National Geographic photographer and North Face Athlete who has summited and skied down Mt. Everest) said “One hour with a mentor can save you thirty hours of research on your own.”

Upcoming Project Development Dates and Locations

Sign Up Here

If you would like to sign up, escape genres and start shooting projects, email me at

See you there!

Best-Adam Marelli


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