A fellow local photographer recently started a blog project to get out and interview some of his peers in the area. He asked some good questions and I was happy to take some time and answer them. I wanted to post the questions and answers in full here, as some of the answers will have been omitted when his blog post is published. Here then, are the original 10 questions that he asked.
- Why are you using that make and model of camera?
I have a few different cameras that I use at different times. My workhorse camera up until a few months ago was an original Canon 5D. I love that camera. It's a tank. I've never had any issues with it. I purchased it when it first came out, so I've been rocking that camera for the last six or seven years. The best thing about using a camera that long is that it becomes a tool that is an extension of your arm. I could operate that thing blindfolded I know it so well. I loved the resolution. I loved the film-like grain of the noise. It's a beautiful piece of machinery.
I use that particular camera because I have a collection of lenses that I've had when I shot 35mm film. I went full frame because I wanted those lenses to act exactly the same way they did when I shot film.
A few months back I "upgraded" to a Canon 5D Mark II. I didn't really need the upgrade rather than for piece of mind. I wanted the few extra megapixels it has for client work. I wanted to mess about with the HD video. There are a few changes to the MkII layout wise, but it still "feels" like the original 5D. As nice as the MkII is, I still find myself grabbing the original 5D sometimes as a primary. Owning the 5D and the 5DMkII is a great marriage. The files from the original 5D are still spectacular. I have had no issues with file size or image quality with clients when using my 5D. Unless a meteor crashes into my studio and dissolves my cameras, the MkII should be the last DSLR I'll need for an exceptionally long time.
I also use a Hasselblad 500CM. I was raised on film. Developer and Fixer are in my blood. As nice as digital is, there is something about film that digital can't replicate. It's just an inherent characteristic that film has. I don't shoot a lot of film anymore, but I try to bust out a roll of 120 through the Hasselblad towards the end of each job. I love that "KER-SLAP" it makes. I love the lines of the Hasselblad. I think the 500CM is probably the most beautiful camera ever made. It's the perfect combination of form and function. At some point, someday, I'd like to find a digital back for it so that I can really start incorporating it more into my photography.
I also love to just randomly take Polaroids with my old Land cameras and my SX-70. But, again, I do it seldom because of the price of Polaroid film and that it's also getting very scarce. Which is horrible, because back before digital I was cutting Polaroids every time I was working on an important film project.
I also own a few 4x5 cameras, but my shooting with those have all but stopped. I have boxes of exposed negatives that still have yet to be developed because of lack of time. Someday I hope to develop all of them and be pleasantly surprised by what is on the film. Large format photography is a totally different beast - it's hard to get clients who expect instant results with digital to want have anything to do with large format photography where they have to wait what seems like hours so the photographer can fiddle with this giant box. To me, the 4x5 has become strictly a "personal" camera - the only images I'll take on it are things for my own personal work and personal projects, when applicable.
Overall though, since I'm geared heavily towards commercial work these days, I depend on my 5D and 5DMkII. I do this because clients will not wait for film development, contact sheets, etc. any longer. Half the time they want a file before they leave the studio. Digital is absolutely necessary for commercial work.
- What type of software do you use to process your digital files?
I'm kinda an old dog when it comes to software. Right now I'm still using Adobe Photoshop CS3. I have many many people who sing the praises of Lightroom to me, but I'm an old dog. Plus, with my type of work, I'm never working with large batches of files. I'm usually only presenting the client with somewhere around 20 edited proof files at most of which they are picking a few shots. I'm only selecting the best images before I start processing. I've seen Lightroom, I've seen it do amazing things, but I've just never made the jump. Actual processing wise, I'm not doing a whole lot to my images. I shoot as if I was still shooting film - so I'm getting as much in-camera as possible when it comes to lighting, exposure, composition, etc. I'll do a light curves and levels adjustment and a few other little tweaks, but I try to keep things simple and clean. I spent four years in a Fine Arts college, so I'm always trying to find small ways to bring very light elements of my Fine Art background into the image.
- Do you have any experience with film photography like Kodak or Fuji?
I was raised on film. I used to shot a lot of Kodak Portra for it's slightly warmish tones. I'm also a big Provia fan. I love shooting Illford B&W films. I LOVE grain - I used to shoot lots of 3200 speed film. I love grain. Like giant pieces of rock salt on my film. The bigger, the crunchier, the better. I still shoot lots of Fuji 3000-B Polaroid film. I have packs of it in my fridge at my studio. If you picked up any of the three Land cameras I have strewn about my studio you'll see that there is a pack of film it it always. I love pulling Polaroids.
35mm film is dead to me. There is no point any longer. Digital has buried that completely. But not medium format. Not large format. Give me a roll of 120 film for my Hasselblad and let me loose.
Even though film and fixer and developer are in my blood, I don't miss the headaches I'd get from being in the darkroom for too long.
- Why are you interested in photography?
There is something about a still image that draws me in that I can't fully explain. I have a picture of me as a kid and I'm holding some Polaroids and it was the first time I had ever seen a Polaroid. My uncle took my photo and then handed it to me and, like magic, there I was, fading into existence on this sheet of paper! It was magic! I was instantly hooked. I took that camera and I would play outside with my action figures - I'd set them up into battles and then I would take pictures of them. I was creating a story with a single image. I loved that. I still love it.
I love photography because it's my way of saying "This is something I love. I love it so much, I want to document it so that I can show it to you". It's amazing. Freezing time in a split second. I love to try to create emotional moments in my work. I'm a big fan of movies and films, but it's the individual frame that I find pulls me in so much. The creation of a moment that will live on forever. The marriage of the fundamentals of art and the fundamentals of photography; line, tone, light, texture, shape, composition, etc. It's trying to encompass all of that into one frame.
- Why do you take pictures?
I take pictures because it's all I know how to do. I take pictures because I love the challenge of creating something and creating a mood for someone. I love it when a musician comes to me and has no idea what they want. But they've seen my work and they want me to do *that* to them. I'm a pretty big goof-off in real life; I joke constantly and I'm a pop-culture junkie and I'm into toys and comics and video games and Star Wars. I'm basically a 40 year old kid. But when I'm photographing I want something serious - I want an emotion, or a feeling. I can't quite explain it. Its like I'm taking my serious side, the side that says "take me seriously" and I'm using photography to help show that. To explain. I pose people in very "epic" stances. Very strong stances. I'll have them look off-frame. There is a strong sense of drama in most of my portrait work. This is a direct reaction to the goofy kid I am in real life.
- What do you hope to achieve with your photography?
I hope I can create work that people react too. Deep down every photograph I take; either personal work or client work, is really a photograph I'm taking for myself as well as the client. I hope that someday I can photograph the ideas I have in my head. There are things and ideas I have that I just can't get to at this level or point in time. I'm constantly trying to play catch up. I need to realize that everything takes time. Don't rush. I'll get there eventually. Enjoy what I'm doing now because I won't get the chance to experience today ever again. I hope that I can reach a level where I can support myself based off of my work. I want to be able to make a living being a photographer.
- Why is photography important to you
See answer #5
- If I took your photo right now what would you like the world to see?
Just me. For better or worse. Kinda fat. Kinda goofy. Kinda bearded. Just a random guy who loves to create photographs of people.
- If you were unable to take pictures for the next 360 days how would you feel?
I'd feel lost. I think in photographs. There isn't a day when I'm not thinking about how something looks photographed. How people look photographed. How lighting looks on somebody. How somebody that I see on the street photographs. I'm sure I'd be able to fill my time, but there would be a vast hole in me that making a photograph could only fill. There might be a week or two that goes by where I haven't photographed something and even then I get very antsy. Very irritable. It's like someone put a gag over my mouth. It's like I have no voice. It's very uncomfortable.
- What type of photography or photographer speaks to you the most?
I'm all over the place when it comes to photographers I admire. I love photographer Gregory Heisler. Not so much for his portraits, although some of his work is stellar, but moreso for him himself. He has such a relaxed, friendly way of communicating with his clients. I'd love to be around him as he seems like such a genuine good human being. I love the work of Mark Seliger (who photographs musicians for magazines like Rolling Stone). I love the work of artist Dave McKean who creates amazing collages out of paint and photography.
I love the works of classic photographers like Richard Avedon, Vivian Maier, Robert Maplethorpe, Mary Ellen Mark, Joe McNally, Alfred Steiglitz. I love current "unknown" photographers that exist on places like Flickr or the Internet like Edward James, Sarah Ann Loreth, Hanne Piasecki, and Courtney Brooke Hall. There are far too many to mention. I love it because each photographer has their own unique vision and way of making a photograph. It's like their fingerprints. Every person sees something in a different way. It's refreshing and exciting and unique and I'm so happy to be part of this vast, epic, grand thing that is photography.
I always welcome questions and discussion on this blog. Please, if you have anything you would like to ask, leave a comment. I love, Love, LOVE to talk shop.