find_photog find_assist join_asmp
 

Best of 2010 - Viviane Moos


During a month’s stock shoot in Malaysia, Viviane Moos arranged privileged access to photograph women and children at prayer for her series, Islam in Kuala Lumpur. On return to New York, she was devastated to find many images had been wiped from her computer by electrical storms. At the suggestion of an ASMP Fine Art Braintrust colleague, Viviane called her insurance agent and gathered records and receipts documenting the loss. Her ASMP Prosurance coverage reimbursed her return airfare and other expenses, allowing her to return to Malaysia and reshoot.

Viviane Moos, New York, NY

Web site: www.vivimoosphotography.com

Project: Equipment insurance coverage that allowed Viviane to return to Malaysia and reshoot her series on Islam in Kuala Lumpur after images from initial trip were wiped off her computer and external HD by electrical storms.

© Viviane Moos
All images in this article © Viviane Moos.

ASMP: How long have you been in business?
VM:
Since 1991.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?
VM:
since 1988.

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?
VM:
Documentary style feature stories on all kinds of subjects. My personal work is often about the survival and struggles of women, children, animals and even nature.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: Please describe the processes and techniques central to the making of this work.
VM:
I shoot digitally with a Canon EOS 5D. I travel with my laptop, downloading nightly and backing up onto an external HD. I use Photo Mechanic for viewing and editing, with a default setting, directly into Photoshop. I check the daily shoot to see if I got what I was after or if I should return and reshoot, if possible. I set up my shooting program according to certain themes and locations, always trying to catch the best light. I spend a lot of time trying to get access and permissions for the subjects I want to cover.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable piece of equipment?
VM:
My old 50mm and 35mm fixed lenses that have been with me since Canon first came out with autofocus. They are small, light and fast. I also consider my people skills and my fluency in six languages as part of my equipment arsenal.

ASMP: What is unique about your style and approach or what sets you and your work apart from other photographers?
VM:
This question would be better answered by other people; however, I know what has served me well is my chutzpah and my deep conviction that nothing is impossible. This has enabled me to get stories against all odds. Street gangs, billionaires and celebrities have trusted me because I didn’t prejudge them and they sensed this.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: Please describe the concept for your “Women in Islam” series. How did you come to be interested in this topic?
VM:
If I can combine opportunity with something in which I am very interested, that is good fortune indeed. My stay in Kuala Lumpur allowed me to photograph Malaysian Muslims for my Corbis files. Women praying and the images of children was the last part of this project and happened to be the footage that was lost.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: How much time have you spent on this project to date and how many images have you made?
VM:
I spent the month of December 2008 in Kuala Lumpur shooting this project and three months in 2009 attempting to retrieve the lost images, going through the insurance claim, reshooting in Kuala Lumpur, editing, Photoshopping the files, captioning the material and uploading the files to Corbis. On the entire theme of all four religions, I produced maybe 300 to 400 images total, on the theme of the women at prayers about 150 images, plus 50 images of the children studying.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: This was a self-assigned project for your photography agency Corbis. Please describe your relationship with Corbis, and how that agency might market images from your Women in Islam project.
VM:
My agent, Corbis, licenses the usage rights to my images, which are Rights Managed. I am always looking for material that is timely, of interest and that will increase my monthly sales. My editor, Peggy Porquet, is based in Paris; she prefers receiving images that can be presented as stories, are accompanied by a short text and ready to be offered to magazines. However, she is open to posting single images. For the theme of religion in Kuala Lumpur, I included a text that accentuated the role of the ethnic-born Malaysians and the problems associated with their privilege system.

ASMP: How did you cover the cost of your trip to Malaysia and this shoot? Did Corbis contribute to your budget in the form of an advance?
VM:
I personally finance the cost of all my trips. Corbis contribute? Thus far, no, but we live in hope.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: As a woman and as a photographer, what religious, political or social roadblocks did you encounter while attempting to make photographs in the Islamic mosques of Kuala Lumpur? Were there other locations you visited where you faced challenges due to your female status?
VM:
Being a woman and of Jewish heritage, getting into mosques to photograph does present a certain unique challenge. It is always easier to say no to me than to give permission. Photography and Islam do not go together very smoothly. Getting permission to photograph in Christian churches and Hindu temples was no problem. At Buddhist shrines I never found anyone around to ask.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: How did you obtain permission to photograph inside the mosques? Was this worked out in advance or once you were on site? Which officials or clerics did you deal with, and what conditions did you agree to in order to shoot?
VM:
On one occasion Mr. Azlan, a Muslim friend, took me to the mosque where he prayed. There, the Imam reluctantly agreed, but warned me that I must not wander from the back of the mosque where the women were allowed. At another mosque, the Masjid India, the oldest in Kuala Lumpur, while Azlan went searching for the imam to ask his permission, I wandered upstairs and started shooting the women at prayers. When I finished I came downstairs and found Azlan, who burst out laughing because he had failed to get permission. No conditions were ever imposed.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: Please tell us something about the women who appear in your photographs. How did you meet them and how did you gain their trust? Did your subjects sign model releases?
VM:
I met the women without introduction, when I entered their praying areas. I quietly made it clear that I wanted to photograph them. At no time did any of the women object, instead they were curious, friendly and willing to explain things to me. I didn’t ask them for releases because I did not feel it was appropriate. I did however get model releases for Azlan’s children because they were minors, as well as from their religious teacher during the evening Quran classes. I carry a very short and simple model release form that I change into a property release form when necessary.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: Did you take notes, keep a journal, or gather audio or video while you were photographing these women? Please talk about any procedures you have for gathering supplemental content during your trips and its role in your overall coverage.
VM:
I always carry a memo pad for notes, contacts and ideas along with a datebook for appointments. Shooting digitally gives me the record of when an image was taken so I can cross reference my notes and my schedule easily. I have long wanted to add sound and movement, and I am looking forward to buying a 5D Mark II.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: You shot this project in color, whereas much of your past work is in black and white. Please talk about this decision and what the use of color added to these image?
VM:
My past black-and-white work was shot using negative film and the decision to choose it was deliberately made depending on each subject. Since I now use a digital camera, I take advantage of the bigger file capacity of shooting color and RAW. I can convert the images into black and white later, as I did with my Trees of Angkor series, which I shot using an infrared filter in front of the lens. For stock photography sales, color is more desirable and the client can convert to black and white later.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: What was your most fruitful encounter while photographing in Malaysia?
VM:
The people I met who opened doors for me. The Chairman of Malaysian Airlines, the Chief Operating Officer of the Stock Exchange, Mr. Azlan, my Islamic mentor, the General Manager of Nissan and David Loke my assistant. All these people played a key role in making things possible.

ASMP: Aside from the electrical storm, what was the most challenging situation you faced?
VM:
Not giving up on getting access to subjects like the palm oil industry, the car industry and the shipping ports. It seemed impossible but I finally succeeded in gaining entry to shoot all three.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: Please describe this storm and the damage done to your laptop, your external hard drive and your digital images. What precautions or procedures might have prevented the corruption of your images?
VM:
Electrical storms in Kuala Lumpur are nearly a daily event, so it is still a mystery when and how these particular files were erased. The data retrieval experts admitted that they were puzzled and could only suggest electrical surges as the cause. There was no damage done to either my computer or my external hard drive. I only noticed the missing images when I was organizing the material in New York. If I had kept to the ASMP’s mantra of backing up three times in two formats, my material would have been safe.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: After returning to New York, you spoke with an ASMP “Braintrust” colleague who advised calling your insurance broker. Please explain what the Braintrust program is about and how you became associated with it.
VM:
As an ASMP member I am also part of a wonderful sub-group called the Braintrust, Fineart. We are a small group of members who have fine art photography and art in general in common. We help each other work towards career goals by sharing information and advice. Occasionally we party.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: What insurance coverage do you maintain through your ASMP membership, and how did your insurance representative respond to the loss of your images?
VM:
I carry Taylor and Taylor ASMP Prosurance coverage. My agent, Olga Medina, is great. Lorie Davis, Senior Adjuster of the Property Unit Entertainment Division of Fireman’s Insurance, handled my claim and was supportive and positive throughout.

ASMP: Please detail what your insurance reimbursement covered. How were amounts for the retrieval of your images, and a reshoot, decided upon?
VM:
Lorie Davis, with Fireman’s Insurance, not only assured me that my policy covered all data-retrieval costs but also explained that my policy would allow me to return to Kuala Lumpur to reshoot. What a wonderful surprise! The amounts covered were equal to what I had previously spent.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: You mention that your insurance adjuster blazed a new trail for the insurance company, allowing you to become the first editorial/photo-journalist to use the policy for a location re-shoot. Is there any particular information supplied or procedures followed that helped to achieve this?
VM:
Lorie told me that I was the first photojournalist that they had ever sent back for a reshoot. I guess it’s because I was able to arrange a reshoot and I was also able to prove the cost to them. I had all my receipts together with notes that proved what I needed. I could show Lorie the exact dates and contents of those shoots that were missing from my files.

ASMP: Will the fact that you submitted a claim and were covered for the loss affect your insurance coverage or premiums going forward?
VM:
No, it has no affect on my premiums.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: Please tell us about your return to the mosques in Malaysia and how you were able to extend and improve your original photographic coverage. Did you have to go through the same channels to gain access a second time or were the terms of your initial access still intact?
VM:
I wrote to Mr. Azlan, telling him that I was returning and asked him if he would be willing to accompany me again. He said yes, that he would do whatever he could. The results were even better than the images I had lost. Incidentally, while I was there I photographed food shots for Mr. Azlan’s restaurant as thanks for his friendship and help.

© Viviane Moos

ASMP: What lessons did you learn from this near disaster? For your next project, what procedures will you change and what will you keep the same?
VM:
Avoid electrical storms and keep my insurance payments up to date. And for my next adventure, who knows? I will adapt to the circumstances and make sure my backups are safe.