This free photography e-book includes 23 interviews with natural light photographers! This free e-book illustrates differing approaches to photography as a medium and, I hope, will help inspire the creation of new art and ideas. Free free to read at your own pace, share with friends, family, and other aspiring photographers. Thank you for reading!
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Interview with Vancouver Photographer Lizzy Gadd
Lizzy started taking pictures because she had a huge obsession with her pets. “I used to take conceptual pet photos which were sort of cheesy but cute. I’d set up Sparky and put him in cool poses.” After that she was hooked. Home schooled, growing up Lizzy didn’t have very many friends, so her dogs were kind of her best friends. She still takes her dogs everywhere and they come on all her photo adventures.
Home schooling effected Lizzy’s photography by giving her a lot of freedom. If she got her school work done quickly, she could have the whole day free to do what she wanted, which was great for her creativity. “I got into photography very easily. I feel like if I had gone to public school I might never have been a photographer at all.” Lizzy believes it was really that freedom and experimentation that allowed her to pursue what she loved to do. Being home schooled also meant that Lizzy was frequently by herself, which she enjoys. I asked if her fondness for being alone was something that perhaps other people don’t understand or appreciate. “I have a lot of friends who don’t understand how much I love to be alone. I’m definitly an introvert and most of my friends tend to be the opposite. My sister would always want to come hike with me, but she never understood why I would say no. In truth, it was my alone time with my dogs, me, and my camera. I could be out there for hours and just let my imagination take me everywhere. But don’t get me wrong, I still love hanging out with friends, I just couldn’t do it all the time.” When she’s not out with friends, you’ll find her editing her photos and eating a bar of chocolate, which vies for the top spot with her obsession with photography.
We discussed how photography contributes to her everyday life. While she doesn’t take photos every day, she does look at photos every day, and loves seeing what other people come up with. “I love looking at photos and trying to imagine I’m in the photographer’s head to try to understand what they were thinking and how they must have felt when they took the photos.” Lizzy’s style is a collaboration of landscapes and portraits all together in one photo. She loves having beautiful landscapes and people in that landscape, showing the interactions that people can have with nature.
Lizzy’s proudest moments have been showing people around her favorite locations because so many people aren’t as fortunate to have the kinds of locations she has. “It makes me proud that I have these beautiful places so close to me in British Columbia,” Lizzy says. Her favorite location is probably Alouette Lake. “I just love how the mountains come straight down. It’s a huge lake that you can see straight across and has huge snowy and green mountains in the distance. In the morning you can see the reflections of the mountains in the lake. I could spend all my time sitting around and staring at that lake.”
Besides her beloved British Columbia, travelling has played a huge part in her work “because the world has so much to offer and so many beautiful landscapes.” Some of her favorite places are Yellowstone National Park and Scotland. But her dream location is Iceland. One of Lizzy’s dreams is to go live there for a year and explore the glaciers and ice chunks and volcanoes. The absence of trees makes it very different from where she lives, and what photographer wouldn’t want to see the northern lights?
Talking about amazing sights led me to ask her about the craziest photo shoot she can remember. Here’s her story. “One morning my friend and I woke up at 5am to ride our bikes to a small mountain with the intention of doing a photo shoot at sunrise. It was still dark out when we started riding. Suddenly, the trail was blocked off by caution tape and warning signs telling us of high bear activity in the area. My friend and I asked ourselves what was the worst that could happen since we had never had a problem with this before. However, sure enough, five minutes later a shadow jumped in front of us less than ten feet away, causing my friend and me to crash our bikes into one another. Thankfully for us the bear was more scared than we were, and proceeded to jump back into the woods. I remember hoping that there was only the one bear, but we ended up encountering three more.
“We were quite shaken up by that point and really didn’t want to see any more bears so we started singing loudly in the hopes that they would know that we were coming. Our singing must have been horrible enough, since no other bears came out along the remainder of our journey. We definitely learned a lesson that day; that we should probably be warier of caution signs!”
After that, we switched topics to the highlights of the BC Flickr Meetup she hosted last summer and whether the meetup made her view photography any differently. Lizzy had twelve people at her house for a week. She got to show them giant waterfalls and old abandoned train tunnels. The best thing about the experience was that Lizzy was able to see these locations through new eyes. “It was almost like seeing these locations again for the first time,” she said.
Lizzy told me that she is very happy. “I’m currently in a good place in my life and I feel as if I’m confident in the direction I’m going. I have a great range of photographer friends from Flickr and I’ve had opportunities to travel. I believe my life is headed in a very good direction. My family is very supportive and I couldn’t be happier or more blessed with the family that I have.”
We talked digital vs. film. Lizzy admits to not having used film that much because with digital it’s so easy to take tons of photos and chose the best ones from a shoot. She does see how film can be enjoyable though and thinks it would be fun to shoot more film. “I think it’s great how people can capture things with one photo as opposed to a few hundred digital ones.”
Lizzy’s advice to aspiring photographers is to go out and not come home until you take a photo that you like. “It’s taken me about six years to get to where I am now. That’s from constantly forcing myself to take the photos. Don’t ever give up, keep pushing yourself. ” When asked who she looks up to, Lizzy said “As cheesy as it sounds it would be God. I love capturing God’s creation, taking photos out in nature, knowing that God is always with me.” In reference to photographers that have influenced her work, Lizzy cited Randy P. Martin on Flickr as a great inspiration.
Lizzy’s plan for the future is to save up and travel as much as she can. “I don’t really know what the future will bring me so I’m sort of just taking it one small step at a time.” Lizzy fears what might happen if her passions don’t take her where she wants to go since she would love to pursue photography full time.
Interview with New York Photographer Gina Vasquez
Where do you see yourself in the future?
Ideally I would be working as a photographer. I plan to make that happen, whether through fashion photography or by making a living off fine art photography. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
What makes your photography really yours?
I was actually struggling to see that for quite a while. I took a two month break from looking at other people’s work to try to see where I wanted my own work to be. Not looking at other people’s photos really helped me develop my own style. It had to come from me and from no one else. I would say it’s distinctly mine because my photographs stem from my emotions. Even if you don’t see it, all my photographs are personal to me and I think that’s what makes them unique.
Who are some other artists whose work you value?
Brooke Shaden would be my number one. Nirrimi is also incredible. I’ve actually looked at her work for hours. As far as non-photographers go, Ludovico Einaudi’s music has inspired a lot of my photos.
Online you seem to have this cheerful, kindhearted attitude toward life. Do you have this disposition all the time, and if so, how do you keep it up?
Yeah I would say so, starting on Flickr I was free to be myself so it’s pretty much the real me.
What’s something you want people to know about you that perhaps they don’t already?
One random thing about me that most people don’t know is that I’ve being playing piano since a very young age and that I went to Julliard. Piano is my biggest obsession besides photography.
What has your proudest moment been?
I have three! I’ll just say them in chronological order. The first was when I got asked to do an interview about my photography with a Spanish newspaper here in New York. The second was when the author Chiara Gamberale asked me to do a book cover for her. That was really incredible. The final one is when I went to Einaudi’s concert and I got to give him a picture I had taken that was inspired by his music. I thought that was pretty awesome.
How has living in New York affected your work?
I like shooting in fields which we don’t really have here. During my 365, I shot pretty much 80% of my photos in the same park by my house. This definitely forced me to make the same environment look completely different about 300 times and to think outside the box with the same location. Shooting in New York I also had to learn to get rid of my fear of embarrassment. Wherever you go there are going to be crowds of people. At first I wouldn’t do a shot I wanted
because I was embarrassed, but eventually my need would overcome my embarrassment. I think that really helped me grow as a person.
What’s the most magnificent place you’ve been to so far?
I don’t travel a lot, but definitely one of the coolest places I’ve been is this beach on Long Island in the winter. The beach looked like a field and the sunset was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. The sand was completely frozen. I got to wander around and take photos and it was absolutely beautiful.
Did the final image relate to one of your first images, or was it just something you wanted to do?
I wanted it to be that specific image which incorporated the fire and the trains. For me it was a journey. I wanted the image to be something that was really bold. I wanted it to stand out from the rest of my 365 project. I spent a while trying to make a photo that would represent a journey coming to an end. That’s where I came up with the trains and the fire idea, just something to make the picture more dramatic. I also shot it at the same location as the end of my 52 week project to bring things full circle.
Can you tell me about a photo shoot from your project that was particularly exciting or memorable?
There’s one photo called By Your Side which depicts me and a skeleton. That was really early on in my project. I still wasn’t completely used to doing all these weird things in front of people. I used my 365 to break out of my comfort zone and do things out of the ordinary. I had the idea for three months when one day my dad said the science department at his school was throwing a skeleton away and we could have it. So we took it to the beach in the middle of summer in this heavy-duty gigantic black garbage bag. The skeleton was the same size as me. By the time we lugged it to the water and pulled it out we had accumulated a really big crowd. Everyone was staring at me while I was shooting and I got asked a lot of questions. That was probably the most memorable experience I can recall.
What do you consider to be your defining quality?
Determination, because if I set my mind to do something then I’m going to make it happen.
Growing up did you always know you were going to be a photographer?
No, not at all. At first I was going to be an Olympic gymnast and that changed to about 500 other different things, from a jockey to a marine biologist. I found photography by accident. I was doing science homework and I clicked on the wrong page and ended up seeing a fine art photograph, I don’t even remember whose. I said to myself, wow, it’s amazing that you can do that with a photograph and really convey emotions, so I got really interested. I read hundreds of articles online about shutter speed and aperture. I got my camera two and a half years ago, and since then it has completely taken over my life and I’m very happy about it.
Would you like to thank anyone personally for helping you with your photography?
I’d like to say thank you to anyone who has ever followed my work and sent me kind messages because it really means a lot to me.
What’s your favorite picture you’ve taken and what does it mean to you?
That is a difficult question, just because I’ve taken so many and they all mean something to me in one way or another. All my photos are so personal. One that sticks out in my mind is Free Fall because the photo was inspired by Rococo paintings from my art history classes.
Do you have any tips for upcoming photographers?
Don’t be afraid to create exactly what you have in your mind. At first you might not know how to achieve what you want, but if you keep trying and don’t give up you’ll eventually get there.
Do you fear anything?
I got over my fear of flying this summer!
“I got my first DSLR around 2010 or 2011. It was the Canon Rebel Ti which we used as the family camera. Starting out I would take awkward nature shots for a while. Flickr was really the big thing for me. When I realized that you could actually make a story behind an image, to me that was amazing. It was always really hard for me to open up to people since I’m so stuck in my own thoughts most of the time. Photography allowed me to open up artistically, and I started practicing more, and putting myself out there, until here I am today. It was just one of those things. I’ve always had an interest in photography, one day it just turned into something more than I expected.
I try to go for a very fairy tale atmosphere within my pictures. I think my style is defined by the softness and the colors of my work and the lighting. Other people have also said my hair and the flowery dresses I use let them recognize my work. I love the battle between light and dark that I see in my images.
I think the tension between light and dark is a big part of me and a big part of life. I went through a long period of being stuck in my head; a period of darkness. I grew up socially awkward, introverted and quiet and I think that affected me in a negative way. For me, photography is that light in the darkness. Before photography I used to listen to the shadows of life. Photography allowed me to really open up and blossom personally through my work.
A lot of my work is Christian inspired. I tend to find inspiration from nature through God. I’m also very sky oriented and so I like to incorporate a lot of Christian themes that relate to the sky; the moon, the presence of god, etc. Of course living in Georgia has definitely affected my work. Most of the locations I have are forests which I find are unique to Georgia. It’s really the natural look that Georgia has that I like to incorporate in my work. My portfolio would be very different if I lived anywhere else, though I would love to travel to Scotland, Ireland and England. Maybe that’s the Irish blood in me trying to take me home.
One frustration I have with my work is that I’ll go on sprees where colors between my images will be very similar. It’s not as though I am doing it on purpose, it just seems to happen and I’m not happy about it. I want my work to have variety while still being recognizable as my own. That’s why I think it’s important to go outside your comfort zone every now and then to make something different.
Right now I’m obsessed with the moon, so I’m doing an image of the moon’s phases. Every night I try to take a picture of the moon and eventually I’m going to put it into one large compilation. I also do weddings and portraits occasionally, which are fun, but at the end of the day it’s just a job for me. My dream job would be to create fine art photos and tell stories through my photographs. That’s what really ignites me and fuels my life.
Post processing is a pretty large factor in my work. Editing is where I bring my images to life and my favorite part about taking a photo is definitely the editing. That’s when I feel I can truly create an image. On average I’d say I spend between two and five hours editing a single image. One of the biggest functions that I use in Photoshop is curves, especially with darker photos. I also tend to mess with color balance and color overlays.
I prefer taking self-portraits over shooting other people. They’re better for me because I feel like I can translate my ideas more easily. I also know I’m willing to go all out for a shoot, to get into character and put everything into a photo. Of course they also have their downside. There are certain poses or elements in an image that require someone else to model so I can hold the camera in a way that a tripod couldn’t for a self-portrait. Also, there may be subjects that have a certain look which will help to portray a theme better than I can.
My proudest moment as a photographer was probably when I got my first book cover. It wasn’t through a publishing stock company, it was a personal contact. I knew who it was and we negotiated the contract.
Recently, I got contacted to do covers for six upcoming books all by the same author, but that hasn’t been finalized yet. It’s great when I get contacted for a book cover, it’s so exciting. I can’t even imagine what I would be doing without photography. I started photography two years ago as I was going into college. I would always ask myself what I wanted to do and I really didn’t know. I guess I still don’t know. But I’m glad photography came along when it did.
When people ask me about what advice I have for other aspiring photographers, I usually give a cliché answer of “don’t give up.” But it’s really true. They’ll be times when you’ll want to drop your camera and be done, and that’s when you have to pull through and don’t let the voices in your head stop you. You have to be confident in your work. So many people think you have to have a nice camera to take good pictures, but you shouldn’t let things like that stop you from going beyond. Don’t let obstacles slow you down.
That said, I wish I could be better at wanting to take photos. As bad as that sounds, it’s true. There have been times where I could have ventured out to create a photo but I didn’t. Being an extremely busy person, at first I dismissed this as simply not wanting to go out and take photos on top of everything else, or I blamed it on being tired or wanting to relax. However, I’m beginning to think it has more to do with my worry about bringing images to life. I usually have a wonderful visual in my head on what an image should be, but I’ve almost become scared to ruin that picture by turning it into reality. It may have to do with me being a perfectionist, and I still hope to conquer that fear soon.”
Interview with Ablin Thealander
When I asked Albin how he became interested in photography, he told me that he’s always been artistic and creative in one way or another, and has been drawing his entire life. Then “in the summer of 2012 I was in Croatia and found out about Instagram and I started doing photography with my IPhone. At the time my mother worked at a newspaper so I asked her if I could borrow her camera. That’s when I officially started shooting.”
Albin usually sketches his ideas before he shoots them. “I sit in school and draw in my spare time.” While sometimes he takes photos on the spur of the moment, Albin finds it extremely helpful to sketch the shoot out beforehand so he can see what he’d like to add in regard to composition and props. Another benefit is that he lives approximately twenty meters from the forest, so he’s able to go out to shoot everyday if he wants to.
“I would describe my photography as dark, meaningful and surreal”, Ablin told me. “I really want to tell a story with every photo. To have a backstory and include characters that help convey meaning to the viewer. My everyday life, my surroundings and people inspire me.” Albin continued, “I find I come up with some really weird ideas from seemingly nothing. I have a huge urge to create and I love turning my thoughts into art. I want to express myself and make others feel what I feel, and I think photography is a great way to do that.”
I followed up on that thought by asking him if he thinks his ideas actually form from nothing. He clarified that it feels like they come from nothing, but it’s really the summary of experiences that you have. I asked if he sees his photography bending more toward realism or surrealism since he has a bit of both in his portfolio. “I tell myself I want my work to be surrealistic, but natural. I like to keep it a bit mixed and it really depends on the image. As long I can take a photograph that is expressing emotion, I’m usually happy with it.”
When asked about his favorite photo, as it is for most photographers, Albin admitted it was a hard question. “For a long time it was Sons of Water that I shot in the summer of 2013. It was my first really creepy surrealistic piece. I hadn’t created anything with that surrealistic standard before.”
That led me to ask if he only publishes work that can rival the standard of the work that previously followed it. “That’s partly true. Though it’s not always about an artistic view. It can also be conceptually stronger. It’s also the feeling I get while creating. If it feels better today than it did yesterday, that’s an improvement.”
We moved on to specific photos and I asked him about the untitled 2013 of him with a diamond. “It’s actually one of my favorites, but accidently. Conceptually it’s one of my strongest pieces. I came up with that idea because I think that money destroys the world. We shouldn’t seek money, we should seek happiness. For example, instead of having a really boring job with a lot of pay, we should enjoy life when we can.” Albin went on to say how he “took this diamond from Austria, not a real diamond, just pure glass. I wanted to show that money destroys us through the heart.”
We discussed one of Albin’s photos of a boat on a bed. It’s unique for fine art photography because the subject in the image isn’t a person. “I actually had quite a deep concept behind this image. In my mind the image represents a sailor that has the choice between the calm harbor close to shore and the stormy turbulent sea. On one hand he’s content with the calm waters that currently represent his life. On the other, he dreams of the adventures associated with the rugged and wild sea.”
Albin views post processing as what makes him an artist. “The actual photography itself isn’t the biggest part of my work; rather it serves as the core that makes the rest of an image possible. Post processing is really where all the magic happens.”
We talked about photo shoots and the mishaps that can occur, that can often make for good stories. Albin’s take on that is a little different. “One of the best things about this country (Sweden) is that you can go anywhere and basically sleep and camp as long as it’s not directly on someone else’s garden. So I’m allowed to go pretty much anywhere and don’t have to worry about trespassing. That might contribute to my lack of dangerous or exciting experiences (and hence good stories) while out taking photos. Something that does occur quite often is that a lot of old people will ask me about birds because they associate tripods with bird watching. I’ve also encountered elks, but in Sweden that isn’t very unusual.”
As far as what photography does for Albin as a person, “It really makes me able to express myself. It’s a kind of therapy for me. Every problem seems to disappear and I’m able to create whatever is in my crazy head. It’s an amazing feeling and something that really makes me happy. It’s a big relief.” Albin’s biggest inspirations are Alex Stoddard, Marwane Pallas and Brooke Shaden. “If it wasn’t for Alex I wouldn’t have started fine art, and Brooke Shaden keeps me burning for my passion. I’m also grateful for the people that make my everyday life special.”
Albin is very positive about his Flickr experience. “Flickr is where I got introduced to fine art. I started out just taking simple self-portraits with no meaning and gradually evolved into taking fine art photographs. Flickr has also allowed me to meet the most amazing people. It’s such an amazing community and I’ve become friends with all my biggest inspirations. Signing up with Flickr was one of the best decisions of my life.”
Albin tells novice photographers to trust all of your ideas, that even if they sound weird or impossible, something will come from them in one way or another. “Create whatever feels good and you’ll be happy about it.” His plans for the coming year are to keep doing what he’s doing, but do it better. He wants to feel proud of himself and his work. As for the future, “I don’t see myself shooting fine art for a living, but I guess I’m too young to tell. Who knows, maybe that’s exactly where I’ll end up.”
Interview with Berlin Photographer Laura Zalenga
“My dad was taking photos when he was my age, in his twenties. He did portraits which he developed and printed himself (this was before digital technology). In my house there was always a box of his photographs that I would look through from time to time. When I was younger they impressed me, and I always wondered how I could take similar portraits that looked as amazing as my father’s work. Later on in my life, I always felt like they were so many beautiful things in the world which I could only see for a second and then they were gone. I think this is a typical feeling that photographers have; they want to stop these moments from vanishing. After realizing this, I asked my parents for a camera for my next holiday present. It was a small digital camera, and I was probably taking photos with that camera for a year, really just simple photos. After that, my dad gave me a DSLR which I used until I was able to purchase the camera I have today.
My current goal is to produce modern fairy tale-like photos and I always want to bring a strong sense of emotion into my work. If it’s a fairy tale shoot or a portrait shoot, I think bringing emotion into an image is one of the most important things for me as an artist.
Also, my environment has always influenced my work positively. Growing up in a small town, I was lucky both for the nature around me and the house I lived in, which is pretty spectacular since my mom is an
architect (most of the photographers that see my house are pretty amazed by it). It has all these great locations, and I had this grey wall in my room that I would use a lot for photos. Now that I live in Munich, which is such a big city, it’s gotten a lot harder, since I live in a small room and there’s not as much greenery in to be found.
I started my “Grimm Fairy Tale” project because I’ve loved fairy tales since I was a child and I’ve always had a big book of the Brothers Grimm. One day there was a competition and the theme for one round was to create a fairy tale image. I knew that so many photographers had already done fairy tale themes and I wanted to do something a bit different. I asked myself what was the most important moment of all the fairy tales, and how I could get that moment captured in one photograph. I think that was the goal initially. While it’s not always been easy, it certainly is fun.
However, the twisted body series of photographs is my favorite, even if I’m doing other things that people like more. It’s a dark wall and a human body. Sometimes I have this urge to create something that wouldn’t be possible. and this series is a result of that impulse. This series allows me to become completely free in post-production. Everything in my head becomes possible.
I also have a 1001 Strangers project. I read somewhere on the internet that this project was one that a lot of photographers decide to try, similar to a 52 week project, or 365. I’m rather shy with people I don’t know, and I thought this could be a really good challenge; learning to approach and talk to strangers in a fun way, and being able to take a portrait of them in a very limited time while still getting a good shot. I wanted to learn how to do that. Then, it stopped being about the learning and just became a project that was fun for me because it was so interesting to talk to random people on the street and exchange a small story with them. At the beginning it was so weird, but most of the people I end up approaching were really nice.
Recently I visited Lapland for Nokia. I working for this German online photography magazine called Kefet Ein. Nokia asked the magazine to go to Lapland to test one of their new mobile phone cameras. My time there was really amazing although it only lasted two days. I saw huskies and reindeers and so many cool things in such a short time. When I got back home it took me a while to realize all the adventures and sights I had seen. Lapland was so beautiful, though I’m sad we didn’t see the northern lights.
That said, my dream location is going to these old factories in Eastern Europe. They’re mostly in Poland; we don’t really have them in Germany. I think it would be a perfect location for the fragile moods I want to create in my images.
My work has been shown in many places and publications, however I’m proudest of having my work in a German newspaper that is pretty recognized in the south of Germany. That was big for me, as I was featured on a whole page. Another great moment was having my work featured on Phlearn, which was a pretty big compliment and it was pretty cool too.
My list of favorite photographers is getting bigger and bigger every day. I really look up to David Uz, because I still can’t believe how a person who is 15 years old can produce pictures like that. His images are so on point for me, and they’re really the type of photographs I would like to do. On the other hand, there are people like Teal Gozlin who is someone who only takes film photos from his road trips, and he’s amazing in his creation of mood. Also, Alex Stoddard was a big role model for me for years, and I still go back to his photos constantly and find inspiration from his work.
“In terms of equipment, most of the time I’m shooting my images with a 50 millimeter lens. Since about a year ago I’ve been using the Nikon D600. Sometimes I use my 85mm lens, but not too often. Photoshop plays a big role in my work. I love doing simple portraits with slight adjustments in contrast or color. But, there are also a lot of photos I know I can only realize with Photoshop. There are things that are not possible to photograph without a lot of time or money in order to realize the reality in which I see my images. That’s where Photoshop takes a bigger part within my photographs.
When my studies are finished I want to pursue photography full time. It’s my biggest dream and goal. I’m giving myself one or two years to try to pursue it, and if looks like it isn’t working out then I will probably find a regular job and do photography on the side. In the short term, I don’t have any new projects planned; I really want to keep going with the ones I have. I definitely want to shoot more film because it’s such a different world. Right now I’m doing my 52 week project and sometimes I’m not satisfied with the pictures I take, but I feel obligated to upload something. So in the future I’d like to only upload things I’m one hundred percent happy with.
Regarding advice for other photographers, I can only tell you what helped me. Take as many photographs as possible. Have your camera with you everywhere you go and take every chance you have to shoot and just never stop. You should constantly push yourself. It’s also easier if you’re working toward something, a theme, a number, a goal. I also think it’s good to search for inspiration, but you really have to find a line between being inspired and copying, which is difficult to learn.”
Interview with Los Angeles Photographer Robby Cauvaungh
How did you become interested in photography?
In high school I needed a part time job, so I applied at a place called Picture People, which is similar to a J.C Penny or Sears in terms of portrait photography. I wasn’t necessarily interested in photography, but I needed a job. I worked there for two years, and it was really just taking pictures of families and babies, fairly boring stuff. But there was something really nice about taking photos and making people happy with what you made for them, even though there was no skill involved since everything was set up for you. After that experience, I wanted to make some more money with photography, so I bought a DSLR with all the money I had at the time.
When did you start out doing conceptual work?
In my sophomore year of college as part of my graphic design major, I had a CD cover project and I wanted to utilize photography. I didn’t know anything about fine art, all I wanted to do was something different. I had my girlfriend at the time model for me, and I just brought a plain white blanket for our shoot and had her twirl it around. It wasn’t anything special, but it something different. I edited it differently as well and it was pretty monochromatic. This was one of the first photos where I went in and really edited, dodged and burned, changed the ground, etc. It made me feel different and I wanted to pursue that even further.
Do you enjoy shooting self-portraits? I know a lot of people have a “self-portrait therapy” that they partake in.
I used to do self-portraits a lot more when I first started off, because I didn’t feel comfortable photographing other people. Conceptual photography is kind of awkward for another person if someone doesn’t get what you’re trying to do. But after I started getting better, people started asking to be in my photos, and I started photographing women more often. Recently, I’ve been photographing more guys because my self-timer broke. And it’s interesting because when I photograph other guys, it’s like I’m photographing a reflection of myself in the photos, as if they would be acting like me in a self-portrait.
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
I would say that there may be a lot of people that do photography and it’s a competitive field, but you have to know that there is only one you. Each person is different and each person should have their own stories and their own experiences that separate them from other photographers.
You don’t seem to compromise when it comes to using actual props or objects instead of using Photoshop. Did you make that decision early on?
It was very early on. Before I really even started photography I would get really annoyed when I would see images from people that were clearly heavily manipulated. It just felt lazy to me and really bothered me. So I try to get everything in scene as much as I can. If I don’t have the resources to do that, then I will use Photoshop to accomplish what I want to create.
How does living where you are effect your photography?
It’s nice that I don’t have to drive far for shoots. Before, I would drive to the beach or the mountains and it would take an hour. Where I live now everything is in pretty close proximity, and scouting and shooting are certainly easier.
What’s your dream location? I notice you use the ocean in a lot of your shoots, is that just because it’s the most available resource?
The most available, and I think it has so much impact, it’s so vast. The ocean is so massive and kind of otherworldly. It’s so turbulent and moody. Actually, every time I think of taking a photo I think of the ocean, and I’m trying to move away from that. I really don’t know what my dream location would be. Maybe, really tall fine grass, but grass that was massive and thick so that when you push it down there would be a sort of crop circle in the middle. I would probably freak out. I love vastness in scenery. I love sand dunes, generally things that are open.
Where do you get the inspiration for your shoots? And do you usually sketch your ideas?
If you see your life as a time line, there are moments in that time line that stick out more than others. So I take those memories and try to conceptualize those into photos. I sketch my ideas all the time. I use a giant whiteboard
As a follow up, your shoots seem pretty crazy, what are some stories or shoots that stand out?
The photo I have of the model in the cage is a pretty good story. The first time I attempted this shot, I had her standing on a desk in the ocean. Unfortunately, a wave came, immediately destroying the desk. The whole shoot was just horrible. It was embarrassing, and the shoot ended as fast as it started. But I reshot the image again in a jetty instead of the ocean and it worked. But it was a “getting back on the horse” example of a photo I knew would work out really well if I just kept going, and thankfully it did.
Who do you look up to?
I look up to anyone who pursues what they’re passionate about. It could be cooking or photography. People who are really goal-oriented in what they accomplish.
What are your future plans?
I’m planning on doing some gallery representation, workshops, and a coffee table book.
Your fine art style has this very distinctive sharp quality to it, yet it’s still surrealistic. Are you happy with your style? Do you wish to see it improve in any way?
It’s hard because when I edit my images I edit how I see them in my head, and I don’t know how I could improve that. I get the comment often that all my photos look the same, and if I changed this or that how they would be so cool and different. But I almost can’t see photos looking any other way than I see them now. I feel as if the only way I could improve is with location or concept. I process all my photos pretty similarly.
I noticed you started a 365. Did you ever finish that or did life get in the way?
I didn’t finish because I couldn’t just take a photo every day. Every photo had to be perfect and a portfolio piece for me. The point of doing a 365 is just to shoot something every day, to get you used to taking photos. Each day had to be a very strong conceptual piece, and it would literally take the whole day for me. However, some of my strongest pieces were created during that time, and sometimes I think about trying to create something new every day just for ten days, but I can’t even do that.
What’s your favorite fine art picture that you’ve taken and why?
The most important one to me, the one that I’m most emotionally attached to, is the one with a girl standing in front of the door on a beach. I struggle with a lot of anxiety and that photo is a representation of that struggle, because where ever I am in life, when I’m out in public, I have to have an escape. That photo shows the door on the ocean signifying that no matter where I was, I always had to have a door or place I could escape to. So that piece is a representation of my anxiety.
What’s your proudest moment as a photographer?
Getting published in Vogue because that was on a list of things I wanted to accomplish, and ever since that moment I’ve had the confidence to keep doing photography. Because when you first start off you’re really insecure, so Vogue was a very large confidence booster for me. That’s how a lot of people know me as well.
What do you enjoy doing the most out of the diverse amount of work that you do and why? Fine art, weddings, portraits?
I enjoy doing the fine art work; it’s what I’m passionate about. But I still enjoy photographing weddings, mainly because I think photographing weddings is an honor. It’s really flattering to photograph a couple’s wedding. But the fine art work is what I would prefer to do.
Interview with Washington Photographer Korinne Alper
“My brother and my dad were photographers, so as I grew up I was always going out on photo adventures with them. I would borrow their cameras and I fell in love with photography. I’d never been able to fully express myself with words. When I found photography, I felt like I was able to tell a story with an image, and express myself in the best way possible. No other art or form of expression really did that for me. I use photography if I want to tell the story of a road trip or a place that I went, and the feeling of what it was like to go there.
I’ve grown up in Washington with a lot of beautiful nature surrounding me, and I’m always getting to explore the State. Because of that, one of my common themes is connection to nature. I think the most important part of a photo is having a connection to the photo, having a connection to the story and the character. I think everything coming together to make the image is very important.
I feel that a person’s style is a representation of themselves and their personality, so it’s hard to describe my style as anything other than who I am - Korinne. I’m also very inspired; my favorite photographers are old film photographers, Linda McCartney, Vivian Mayor. I really like that old era of photography, I love the look of old black and white film. Their photos really tell a story and capture that era well. You could make a digital photo look like a film photo, but the whole shooting experience would be different. I really like film because there’s more of a connection with what you’re taking a picture of because it’s not as instant. Film allows me to think more about the image before I take it. With digital I don’t always think about the image before I shoot and I don’t have time to process what I’m thinking. But I also like digital and learning on digital because it offers a lot more room for mistakes, and trying over and over again until you can get the image perfect.
When I went to public school I didn’t like being cooped up in a classroom all day, I knew I wanted to go out and live a life outside of school. Now being home schooled, I’m able to go on road trips without worrying about a school schedule. I can go catch the sunrise somewhere and still go to school. I have a lot more freedom doing home schooling. I don’t think there’s any bad implications for being home schooled. I think it’s just my personality. I don’t like to be indoors all day, I feel more creative and more like myself when I’m out in nature.
I’ve had some interesting adventures. There was one time I was walking around town wearing a Rapunzel wig and dress taking photos. A lot of people gave me strange looks, especially the younger kids. I also lived in the country so I’ve had lots of wild animal encounters during photo shoots. One time I was taking photos, and the next thing I knew I was in the middle of a herd of Elk which was a bit scary. Being on Creative Live was also an amazing experience.
Creative Live is a website which has great live tutorials on everything art related. I went to the studio to attend a Miss Aniela Workshop, and for three days we got to go behind the scenes and saw how to go about getting into the industry. Going on two shoots of hers and watching her edit was very inspiring. To see how she went from something like taking self-portraits in her house, to now taking portraits of models in huge dresses in fabulous houses, and seeing how that all takes time, showed me that it can happen, that I can get to that point someday.
I was the youngest person that they’ve ever had on Creative Live. I was interviewed specifically I think to show people that you can be young and still take photos. That it’s possible to create art even if you have a small budget, or not as much access to the same things that an older photographer might have.
I’m very glad that I started at a young age because it’s giving me a lot of experience. I don’t know what I’d be doing without photography, and I’m definitely a lot happier than before I found it.
I don’t think I’ll ever burn out, I can see myself doing this for a long time. I know that they’ll be ups and downs, and I’ll go through creative ruts, but I’ve always gotten out of them. There’s such a big variety of culture and scenery in the world and I don’t want to be limited to just what’s in my home town. I’ve already been planning to road trip around the United States with my best friends. I’m always dreaming and talking about taking off to Europe and exploring places like Belgium and Norway.
I really like the current social climate in photography, how it’s really easy to share your work and see each other’s work, and I think that’s what got me into doing more fine art photography. Seeing that other people can do such amazing things with an image inspired me to say ‘oh I can do the same thing.’ Of course it’s harder now to be successful with so many people who are photographers, but if you have passion and let that passion show through your work and be unique enough to stand out among all the other photographers, you’ll find success.
I know its cliché, but never give up. At the start you might not have all the resources that you want, but if you keep trying and working at it, then you’ll eventually get to places that you want to be. But, you’re never going to get to that place unless you keep trying and keep going.”
Interview with Photographer Amelia Fletcher
“Anything can inspire me; a dream, a story, a book, I find inspiration in all kinds of places. I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains and it’s a slower way of life out there. The community really shaped who I am as a person, and who I am as a person shapes my photography.
When I was little I loved drawing and painting, and in high school that developed into photography, but it wasn’t until I was graduating and had to pick a college that I got serious about it. Photography has always been therapeutic, never something I had to force myself to do. In college I had professors that pushed me, and without college I wouldn’t be where I am today. However, college isn’t for everyone; it’s expensive and not every photographer has to, or can, do it. It depends on the person, but it was the right path for me.
After college I was offered an intern job with Phlearn in Chicago. While it was a great opportunity for me to grow, it was hard being away from my family. That’s when I did my first 52 week project. I wanted to improve shooting digitally and in Photoshop. Working on the project was great since there wasn’t outside pressure, and setting a deadline for myself made me stay on top of it.
Interning at Phlearn was a lot of fun and a lot of chaos. One time we were photographing a friend of Aaron Nace’s, and we found an octopus in an Asian market which Aaron put on her head. He then poured karo syrup on the octopus to keep it shiny! While she was great trooper and she got through it, the whole thing was a mess. Phlearn was an amazing learning experience. I think the best things I took away from it were a sense of work ethic, and working towards your dreams.
I enjoy all types of photography, but portraits are my favorite. I think they can be the most challenging and the most rewarding. The most important part of a photograph is that there’s something in it I feel connected to and that other people will feel connected to as well. That’s the goal, to make someone else feel something. Usually I have that something in my head beforehand; I’m going for a certain look and feel. Also when I’m shooting a portrait, I want to take a photo that best captures their personality. When I’m shooting myself, it’s more of the mood and feeling.
My most difficult shot is also my most favorite. It’s the one of me jumping in the air with powder. I got really dizzy and there was a lot to think about while shooting; the powder, the way my arms were moving, the way my body was moving, my hair, keeping my eyes closed, all while jumping and spinning. It was so worth it!
Interestingly, film was the way I learned photography in college. It really helped me to slow down and think about what I was doing. I think that film is important and a useful tool and I applaud those that still use it. The ascetic qualities are different and there’s a nostalgic aspect associated with film. For the sake of convenience and expense I shoot digitally, but I hope to shoot film again, if only for a hobby. The 52 week project relied on post processing much more than my work does now. Currently it’s mostly color correction and dodging and burning.
Flickr has been really important to me. I wouldn’t have found out about Aaron’s work if I wasn’t on Flickr, which in turn led to my internship job, moving to Chicago, and my 52 week project. It’s completely changed my life. It’s hard to imagine where I’d be today if I hadn’t joined that website. I attended the Atlanta Flickr meet up and before I went to Atlanta I had followed a lot of the photographers online. So it was really strange to meet people that I knew about, but they didn’t know about me. It was a little fan girly for a while. It was a little surreal and very inspiring to see so many young talented people doing what they love and doing it well. It also encouraged me that I could make this happen for myself.
Right now I’m on a cross country road trip and woofing. (Woofing is volunteering to work on family farms.) My trip highlights small town America because I grew up in a small town, and I think that small towns are a huge part of who we are as a country. And since I’m woofing I won’t be in the big cities. I think that small towns and farms are disappearing, and it’s important to document these places.
he most interesting location I’ve been to so far on this trip is Taos, New Mexico, and the most interesting person on this trip, John, lives in a place outside of Taos called The Mesa. It’s completely off grid. He’s been there for 40 years in a camper with no running water, no food, nothing within an hour’s drive. I was woofing in New Mexico and heard about The Mesa and I wanted to go up there and photograph someone, but it was thundering and raining, so my only option was to knock on a door. When I knocked on John’s camper door he answered it completely naked! I was photographing him for a few minutes when he pulled out a giant knife. I’m really happy with the shots I got. New Mexico was also so beautiful; they call it the land of enchantment. It’s a beautiful place full of deep history.
Before I started this trip is I was a little disappointed in our country, and with a lot of the issues I was going through. But after seeing the kindness of complete strangers, and the freedom this place has, as well as the beautiful places, I feel very blessed to live here. After the trip is over I see myself staying closer to home. Now that I’ve gotten the chance to spread my wings and explore, I think I need something that allows me to be closer to my friends and family. My immediate plans are to exhibit the work in galleries and publish a book of my travels. I’d also like to work in a gallery, work with charities as a travelling photographer, and/or stick around North Carolina shooting weddings and small business.”
Interview with Los Angeles Photographer Nick Scarpinato and New York Photographer Maxwell Runko
How would you describe your photographic style? How would you like people to perceive your work?
Nick: I would say reflective, melancholy.
Max: I don’t ever want to have control over people’s perception of my work; I want their interpretation and their mind set and their thoughts. I don’t want people to feel one way or another about my work; they should make up their own minds on how they feel. Otherwise, I feel the artist is setting themselves up for failure. The one thing I will say is a lot of my work is seeing oneself in the piece - something you’ve experienced or felt this way before. I’ve also been playing more with also incorporating 2D and 3D into my work.
Do you think having an expensive camera is important?
Nick: No, not at all. I don’t think it’s necessary because I’ve actually shot some of my photographs with my IPhone. I think it’s how the photographer uses the device they have that’s the important thing. Because an IPhone is limited compared to a Mark II or high performance DSLR, you have to be strategic in how you use it and creative with lighting, which is key. If you understand light I think any camera can look great.
Max: No, I don’t think it matters, it could be an IPhone or DSLR. It’s much more your mentality going into it.
How has living in Richmond been beneficial to your work, and has it affected your work in any negative way?
Nick: The biggest thing that has affected my work is being surrounded by so many creative individuals; always having ten or twenty sets of eyes looking at your work. Being surrounded by people who are not afraid of giving an honest opinion and not afraid to tell you the truth about what you’re doing. This challenges your intellectual limits when you think about your artwork. Not just about ascetics or technique, but more what’s behind the image and what you are trying to say. Not always making something pretty, but commenting on larger social issues. Since I’m going to art school, I’m surrounded by young very talented artists who are incredibly driven and want to push themselves and the people around them, and have new perspectives that I haven’t seen before. Also having a significant other who is very passionate about artwork, and driven and competitive and wants to challenge what you do and work with you, is a huge eye opener.
As for the negative side, it has hurt my work to some degree being in art school because there’s so many opinions and so many viewpoints. It kind of leaves you in the liminal space where you feel like you don’t know what to do, you feel lost in a way. You have one person tell you what you’re doing is right, while someone else will tell you something completely different. You need to pick and choose who you listen to, and be self-assured and confident in yourself to produce the work you want to make.
Max: Growing up in the country, having that tradition, has played a big role. In contrast, Richmond is such an interesting place. It’s not New York, but it’s not the country, you can get a taste of everything here. I don’t think it’s affected my work in a negative way. Being here has made me more self-assured and aware.
What inspires the ideas behind your work?
Nick: What inspires me right now would be fear of illness, fear of cancer and HIV and horrible diseases like that, relationships with people, social stigmas, and stereotypes, and gay culture. I want to use magical realism to highlight those issues in a lighter, more accessible way.
Max: Right now queer and gay culture is inspiring me, family expectations and expectations of others, relationships, trying to define who I am, identity, also Instagram and the internet.
Nick, tell me a little about your character with the bowler hat. What does that symbolize to you and what message are you trying to share?
Nick: At first I started wearing the jacket and the hat that the characters in my photos wear about five years ago. It was more of a way to find an identity and make a character within my work. I wasn’t sure what that character meant, but I knew he wanted to be old. But as it went on I discovered what the characters traits were, and when I started wearing the hat I thought about what that meant. It may be strange but it’s a social canopy of protection in a way. When you wear a hat you can only get so close to someone. I was feeling vulnerable and scared when I was shooting those photos. So I felt protected by shooting the photos with the hat, and it became my alter ego, to hide behind a façade, something that wasn’t real. Once I became completely confident in myself and happy, I think that character ended. I closed that body of work and series and now I am thinking about new subjects.
Max, do you have any recurring motifs or symbolism in your work?
Max: I guess family. My mom and brother have both made pieces with me. I think the mom motif is important for me, because it’s representing that moment when you bring home art and your parents are just as hyped about it as you are. By having her actually make and interact with the creation of the photograph, she understood why I was doing things. I’m basically reconnecting with my parents through art.
What are your thoughts on happiness and art, and being creative in relation to happiness?
Nick: The best artwork comes when you’re sad and alone. A lot of my best artwork has been the result of being alone and unsure of myself. But every time it’s a different kind of sadness. Before, I simply wasn’t sure of myself. Now, I’d be sad because I wasn’t with someone I loved. Every situation is a whole new experience, and a whole different kind of sadness and conflicted emotions, and different work sprouts up from that. I’ve really enjoyed those pieces that I’ve made relating to difficulty in relationships. When I was extremely happy, most of my work would be in collaboration with a partner or a friend. I also believe that can be equally as powerful and visceral and beautiful.
Max: Honestly 98% of the time I’m pretty happy. I’m so happy to go to the studio and see my work, and as cheesy as it is, it makes me happy, that I can make something with my hands. If what we were doing wasn’t real, I would try to do something else. I think a lot of my work stems from happiness. Although recently, because of some stuff that happened, it was the first time I felt depressed, and it was also when I think I made some of my best work.
Nick I see you use a lot of post processing for your conceptual digital pieces. What are some tips you have for manipulation?
Nick: I think it’s important for any conceptual photographer who manipulates to have an understanding of shape, color, and light. However, the most important parts are when you’re shooting. You have to think about shooting with a foreground, a plate and a subject. You want to match the same colors and shadows, even though each aspect is separate.
Max, what tips do you have for capturing emotion in photography?
Max: Having that connection with the person you’re photographing, making it less a serious kind of thing. Putting a backdrop outside really helps. Composition: I just blur my eyes and if it looks pleasing blurred, then I know I’m doing something right. Use your intuition.
Do you have any good stories from photo shoots?
Nick: I went on a photo shoot with the photographer Kyle Thompson. We trespassed onto this property where the entire landscape was made of woodchips and went as far as we could see. It was like we were in an alien landscape. I’ve never seen anything like that. Since I was working with a photographer I really wanted to work with, we made something in a very natural and free way that I think came out really great.
Max: When Kyle came we were running around in the forest naked with smoke bombs taking pictures.
Tell me a little more about when Kyle Thompson visited you. You guys collaborated, and you and your friends are featured heavily in his book which received a lot of attention.
Nick: I think when Kyle came he wasn’t used to being surrounded by artists all the time. I think we really showed him what it was like to be around a lot of creative people and constantly challenging views. We also showed him a really good time and we included him in everything. I think that resonated with him.
Have you always had an interest in photography? What started you off?
Nick: I wasn’t always interested in photography. I was interested in painting and drawing until my senior year of high school. Then I met two photographers who showed me Flickr. I didn’t even know photography existed like that, and I haven’t stopped shooting since.
Max: My mom used to do a ton of crafts and Michael’s inspired everything. She and I were always making things. Art was always present. I took my first art class in 10th grade. Then I learned how to paint and that’s kind of how I went over the deep end.
Nick, I see you’re going to school for film, while Max you’re doing sculpture. Can you explain why?
Nick: Before film I had two years of experience with photography. I had always imaged the pictures moving from the start, but I wasn’t comfortable doing that at first. Then I wanted a greater challenge for myself. So moving images was the next step.
Max: Sculpture and extended media. It just gives me the freedom to be able to explore.
What do you think of the current social climate in emerging contemporary photography?
Nick: If you do something very elaborate and crazy and very involved, you start to fall into a rhythm and you hit a peak with that art, and then something changes where your audience wants something new. I think photographers have gotten simpler lately because that’s what people want right now. I think people were over-stimulated. This relates back to the norm-cor, dressing very basic and boring movement, which is very much a direct response to the hipster movement. It’s going back to the basics and not being too flashy. I think younger artists are still okay with doing fancy stuff since they haven’t had a chance to get all their crazy ideas out of their head. For instance, Gregory Crewdeson, after his famous twilight series wanted to go simple. He was tired of being this relentless photographer and wanted to capture the quiet moments in life. He shot very small film negatives of abandoned lots in Italy. He made them very simple black and white images. I think an excess of anything is not a good thing. Either constantly doing creative elaborate setups, or if you shoot a lot of simple more generic work.
Max: A lot of what I see lately is very redundant. I think there’s a lot of overlap with artists, especially with photography, it’s hard to show who made what sometimes. It’s important to have your own identity and voice. Where do I think it’s going? I think it’s headed back instead of forward, and people are more interested in a less in perfect form of a picture. Put some dirt on it and make it grimy. Today, there’s only a select few photographers who I wonder, “how did they think of that?”
Do you think the rise of social media and the saturation of art in our society is positive, negative, or both and why?
Nick: Positive and negative for sure. Positive because of the amount of education and accessibility to so many artists. You get a very good sense of things that you wouldn’t have been able to in the past. However, being exposed to so many things around the world can hurt you as well. You could stroll past an image on Tumblr and three months later your brain remembers things even when you’re not aware of it, and that what you think is your original idea for a photo is that picture that you scrolled past three months ago. Being original is harder than ever before.
Max: God bless Instagram. I think it’s a positive and negative. You have this attraction to something, but then you can easily wear it out and wear it thin, and then it just becomes redundant.
What would you like to improve on in your photography, if anything?
Nick: Using studio lights and constructing sets because usually I use found spaces and natural light. I want to master the other side of photography.
Max: Technique. Being able to do whatever I want and being able to make it how I see in my head. For me, a lot of my work is less from having a concrete concept and more letting my hands do what they need to do.
Who do you recommend people follow in the art world?
Max: Michael Bailey Gates and Clair Christianson, Jordan Diverio, India Munes.
Nicholas: Tim Walker, Robert and Shana Parkerison, Brian Oldman.
What are your plans for the future?
Nick: I want to be a cinematographer on feature films. I also want to pursue fashion photography, and when I’m older I want to teach at a university in photo and film.
Max: I really want to further the gallery space that my friend John and I did in my apartment and show up-and- coming artists. We call it Space 88 and we basically turned our apartment into a gallery. Then moving to a bigger city and trying to make a name for myself. I definitely want to work more for galleries and museums, and be a curator at some point if I can.
Interview with Los Angeles Photographer Fred Rothenberg
How did you become interested in photography?
My brother was a photographer and I worked at his studio where he mostly did portraits and weddings. So I was exposed at a fairly young age and I sort of continued with it from then on. During my high school years I worked in the dark room, this was way before digital, and I would develop film and print photos. They were mostly black and white.
Today, what do you think separates amateur photography from professional photography?
The simple answer is, if you’re making a living at it, rather than doing it for enjoyment. There are a lot of professional photographers whose work isn’t top tier, and there’s a lot of amateur photographers whose work is top tier, but who don’t make any money. Another thing that separates them is that professional photographers devote more time to their photography, and have greater resources to do things that are probably not available to the amateur. The professional photographer might have greater access to their subjects, like personalities in the news, than an amateur photographer would have.
What did you use when you initially started out? Can you tell me about your darkroom, developing film etc.? A lot of people don’t have exposure to that now.
I built my first dark room in Highland Park Illinois in 1963. It was very quiet, there was nobody around to talk to, which a good part of the time was a good thing. I would listen to the radio and I would get my fingernails brown. They would turn brown from the developer and from moving the prints around. I would have to go home and bleach my fingernails.
How did you make the transition to digital?
I had a very early digital Olympus camera and I think it had a two megabyte card in it. Although they were very small images, it seemed like a good way to go.
Did you prefer digital immediately over film?
When I got digital I stopped using film. I don’t even think there was a period of transition where I went back and forth. I took my first Photoshop class at Cal State Northridge on a Mac shortly thereafter.
Are there any positive aspects to film today over digital photography?
I don’t understand why anybody still uses film. It reminds me of the same people who listen to old records because they think that you can’t get the same quality from digital. They may be right but, I can’t see it. Although I do sort of miss the peace and quiet of the dark room. There’s a big difference between processing digital and standing in a dark space where you can reach out and touch all the walls without moving.
What’s the most striking change in the photography world that you’ve noticed over time, both behind the camera and in terms of the way photography is viewed?
Mostly just the sheer number of photos that are now viewable by anyone in the world, as opposed to having to go to a bookstore or a studio. There’s a ton of stuff that is so readily available to anyone. That’s interesting too, because a person your age probably can’t remember when something like that wasn’t readily available. There’s also has a negative side because people can post stuff that really shouldn’t be posted, simply because it’s not of the quality that deserves that worldwide publicity.
How has the internet expanded or changed your view of photography?
The internet’s impact is the ability to share images and information, and the ease with which you can select new products like applications, and use them either on the web or download them to your own computer.
What would you like to improve on?
I would like to have more energy and greater incentive to take photos, because right now that desire is at a fairly low level. That’s why I always talk about project photography, because you have a particular project that extends over a period of time as a motivator, rather than running around and looking for whatever happens to be available today.
What’s your favorite type of photography to shoot and why?
Photographing people in black and white. There’s something about people that’s always mysterious; they always seem to have a story that’s going to emerge. It adds to the mystique of the picture. There’s a little more mystery in black and white, and it tends to evoke greater emotion than looking at a photo in color. You can shoot the same person over and over again and it’s always different. If you do a landscape, it’s usually the same. In some cases I make a decision beforehand that it’s going to be in black and white. However, if it’s going to look best in color, I’ll keep it in color.
Can you give us one or two tips when doing these particular kinds of photographs?
Spend time getting to know your subject, and if it’s a stranger, always ask if you can take their picture.
How much does your work rely on post-processing in Photoshop or other programs?
I think it depends on the image. I don’t think I do as much post processing as maybe other people would do. I use noise correction software, especially when shooting at high ISO’s, and I’ve tried using other software applications, but they tend to not really do much. I sometimes use something to enlarge images if I have a print with a lot of detail in it. So I use Photomatics where I have images with a lot of highlights and a lot of shadow to merge photos together. Perfect ReSize is another one I use. I also use QImage for printing.
Do you have any technical advice on gear or lens?
I think the equipment side of things should have much less importance than people assign to it. That particularly comes home when you see photos taken with point & shoot cameras, yet the photos themselves are magnificent. If you’re in some kind of niche, and you have to do polar bears or high speed race cars, then you may need advanced equipment. If you’re doing fine art, I think the equipment becomes less important.
Do you think honest feedback is hard to come by?
Yes. How many times do you see feedback on photos that is actually critical or are negative comments? Or the negative comments are so few in number that they’re skewed by the polite positive responses? Then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, because it’s coming from a certain perspective.
Did you ever go to school or take classes in photography?
Besides the Photoshop course at Cal State Northridge, I took an extension program at UCLA which was devoted to how to take photographs and how to improve the photographic eye. I’ve done some web-based educational programs as well.
What’s your favorite series or photo you’ve taken and why?
I like the ones we took when we were in France and Israel because it was different, and it’s not available every day. The reason I like them is I did a lot of people, and it was a way of getting to know people in another country as well as taking their photos.
What’s the most interesting shoot you’ve done?
The most interesting thing we did was “The Faces of Help of Ojai”, where we interviewed seniors who volunteered their time to help other senior citizens and we made a book. We photographed them and found out why they volunteered.
You recently did a series on the Libby Bowl in Ojai which was quite extensive. Can you talk a little about the process that went into that?
We took a series of photographs at the Bowl as it was being constructed. I had to take multiple exposures of the same shot. At about a dozen different stages we printed on aluminum and hung the progress photos at the local department store. And we also did 360 panoramas of the construction site and we posted those on the web, so people could navigate the construction site to see what was going on. And we used Microsoft ICE to do those panorama shots. It was about a 15 month project. We were there pretty much there every ten days to two weeks.
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
Stick to it and be very active at it on a regular basis, and look for honest feedback on your work.
Interview with Los Angeles Fashion Photographer Ethan Coverstone
Ethan started by telling me that his Fellowship (thanks to the Architectural Guild and the Gesundheit family) allows one graduate student to travel to gain knowledge as it relates to architectural education. His project is called “Architecture, Photography, and Story: A Study of People and Place,” and he will be traveling around Western Europe for about a month to document and explore public spaces and the people that are influenced by them on a daily basis. “I’ve been given the opportunity to explore a more direct connection between architecture and photography, and I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am.”
Ethan’s portrait work is really unique. I asked him to describe his style. “My shoots lately have been highly focused on the idea of memory and recollection; it’s something that I struggle with as a person, so I find myself drawn to it. Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you how awful my memory is. I keep birthday cards, movie tickets, wristbands from concerts, photos, letters, and notes just to remind myself how I was feeling and what I was thinking at the time.” Ethan believes that a lot of his photo work has to do with the same level of introspection and sentimentality. “I began taking photos originally as a reaction to the things going on around me, and now I can flip back through my portfolio and see the importance of those moments in my life.” Ethan has experimented with 3-D modeling software, external manipulation, layering text and photos together, digital manipulation, and “glass shard shooting”, moving toward the ideas of transparency and layers to convey the full story of what he’s trying to present.
I asked Ethan what he would like to change about his work. His first reaction was “to produce more work. I would also like to see more emphasis placed on the story behind each image or image set. I think I have a pretty good idea of what I want to shoot, but sometimes the story gets lost in the sea of digital images; I definitely need to get better at editing down to a final few photos after a shoot instead of showcasing them all.”
I then asked Ethan to tell me what his favorite picture (or shoot) was and why. He laughingly told me that “I like that you didn’t ask me for my favorite shoot of mine, so I’m going to tell you what my favorite shoot is that someone else did.”
He went on to say that he’s been “totally obsessed” by a few sets of photos; “Tim Walker’s “Far, Far From Land” series absolutely blew my mind, and I don’t care how cliché it is to say that. I love the mood and serenity of the whole set. “The Bubble Series” by Melvin Sokolsky has always been another one of my favorites because of its connection with beauty, space, and the implications of architectural integration with photography and fashion. Francesca Woodman’s entire portfolio has always blown my mind due to its raw and emotionally jarring imagery.”
While we were on the topic, I asked Ethan who inspires him. “I’m inspired by so many people that it would be impossible to list them all, but recently I have been looking closely at the photographic work of Ezra Stoller, Weegee, and Vivian Maier. I also have been looking at architectural drawings and renderings a lot more in relation to my photography work, especially from architects like Diller/Scofidio and Lebbeus Woods.”
Other photographers play a big role in Ethan’s life. When I asked him his biggest accomplishment as a photographer, he replied “the group of friends I’ve made across the globe. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world when I think about how many people all around the world I can talk about to my friends and family.” Flickr played an instrumental role in this and changed Ethan’s life. “The biggest way that Flickr has affected me is the network of artists that I am now in contact with around the world. These relationships have given me the chance to travel across the country, and the opportunity to see more of Europe as well. On a personal level, Flickr has allowed me to become more confident in self-expression and the creation of my own art. The community of Flickr helped me foster a more confident version of myself, and it helped me understand that I do have a unique perspective and voice in our Flickr family.”
Ethan’s advice for aspiring photographers; “Some of my biggest moments of growth in photography have been when I was collaborating with other artists. Photography can be insanely competitive, but there is so much room for growth when you work together. It was enormously helpful for me to meet other photographers and trade critiques, especially when I was new to photography.”
Interview with Portrait Photographer Jennifer Ilene in Michigan
What inspired you to take up photography? At what age did you start taking pictures?
I honestly can’t remember, but I’ve always appreciated almost all forms of art. I used to draw, sketch and paint before I became interested in photography. I started taking pictures at age 24. I enjoy capturing moments and creating beautiful images. I was inspired by this MySpace artist/photographer to buy a DSLR camera and to start my own business.
How is it being a full time photographer? What are some of the positives and negatives?
Being a full time photographer is the best decision I’ve made in my life so far. I get to be my own boss. Also having a flexible schedule is pretty great. The only negative thing is that I have to do my own taxes, and not knowing how much money I will make, because the money I earn from photography varies each year.
What is your proudest moment as a photographer?
Creating special memories for my clients! It always makes my day whenever a client emails or texts me just to say that they love their pictures
How has living in Michigan affected your work?
Living in Michigan can be a bit hard because my business is usually always slower in the winter and no one wants to shoot outside in the lovely snow, ha ha.
Is there a voice inside your head when you shoot?
Usually no, because I just think with images.
How would you like your artwork to be viewed? Do you want it to instill a message in people or do you just want to create beautiful images?
Mostly I just like to create beautiful images. I’d like my artwork to be viewed as photographs of ethereal and innocent subjects connecting with the beautiful world of nature or animals.
Do you have any symbolism or themes running through your work? I notice a lot of fantasy elements and animals and large fabric, etc.
I’ve always loved fairy tales and I used to want to be a designer so I could make some unique dresses. Also, I’ve been a huge animal lover my whole life. Animals have been a very important part of my life. When working with animals, the most important thing is to have patience and respect for them. Never try to force them if they don’t cooperate.
What’s one of your favorite images you’ve taken and why?
I’d have to say the little girl/fog photo because I’ve wanted to shoot in the fog for a long time, and it’s really rare when the fog is that super thick. It was such an awesome and random day and the little girl, Penelope, is also very dear to me!
Where do you find such amazing models! A lot of people have trouble finding good talent. Is it experience, networking?
Mostly through networking. I found some from Model Mayhem, some through friends of friends, and some find me through my work on Facebook.
Do you have any interesting adventures from your time in photography?
Visiting the hotel Sal Delto in Colombia was definitely one of my highlights. The place was so beautiful and surreal! My other highlight was working with birds of prey. It was such a rewarding experience.
What’s been a couple of your favorite places to shoot? Your portfolio is extremely diverse in terms of scenery.
Some of them include the Hamilton Pool in Texas, Moab, Hocking Hills, and Detroit. Hamilton Pool has this amazing natural light and it just makes it a whole lot easier to create images with that magical light! I’ve only shot at Moab once, but the colors and rock structures were so amazingly beautiful. Detroit is amazing for creating images with an abandoned/decaying feel. It’s a beautiful city.
What do you think is the most important aspect in a photo shoot?
Utilizing Light! Also location, location, location.
Are you happy with the direction of your photography? What would you like to improve on and why?
Yes, I’d like to say so. The more I learn, the better I improve! I’d like to improve on weddings, because sometimes they can be difficult, like shooting in a really low lit church or reception. And I hate using flash. It looks too artificial.
Interview with New York Photographer Brittany Juravich
How did you become interested in photography?
I became really interested in photography when I took a class in high school. After that class I found Flickr, started searching through the “explore” section, found a bunch of artists, and started following them. That was in 2007, and I didn’t start uploading for another year or so. I
continued to follow people and look at their work and their favorite photographs. That sparked my interest to create more work, and I really started taking pictures from there.
How has going to school for photography affected your work?
I’d say it’s made it better. I’m able to think about things more thoroughly, and it’s nice getting critiques on my photographs in a good setting. All the feedback and support I get from my classmates and teachers has been great. They’ve helped me get extra shows and opportunities that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
I see you do some photographic assignments for your school and you recently shot a runway show. What was that experience like?
Doing a runway show was a good experience, but it was really stressful and crazy. I learned about how things should, and shouldn’t, be run in such a fast-paced
environment, and I think that’s definitely going to help me in the future.
How has living in upstate New York affected your photography?
I’d say a lot of my work is about the location, so living in New York has influenced the backstory of my photos. It’s where I grew up and where I feel most comfortable. I live in upstate New York, five hours away from the city, though I still get to visit the city pretty often. It’s pretty rural where I live, and I have this great lake practically in my backyard. I think the lake’s ideal location has helped me with my creative process.
Tell me about your summer photography internship.
I’m interning with the center for photography in Woodstock New York where I’m an arts administration intern. I get to help install shows and interact with the artists that we have staying with us. I also get to watch over the gallery and do press work for shows. I chose the internship because I thought it’d be good to learn how to install my own work for future shows. I also wanted to learn about arts organizations and how they run. It also helps that I love the area because it’s so wooded, and it’s just in such a great location.
What’s your favorite picture you’ve taken and why?
My favorite picture would probably have to be the one of me in the ocean, even though it’s such an old image. I’ll always remember what it felt like taking that picture. It’s also special to me since it was really just a happy accident in Photoshop putting it together.
How much post-processing goes into your work?
I do a lot of post-processing. I normally take pictues and then I have my idea of what I want to do aftrward in Photoshop in order to make my ideas come alive. It unusually takes a lot of manipulating and post processing. My favorite tool to use in Photoshop is the clone stamp tool, because it can take anything out of the picture that you don’t want there!
Tell me about why you’ve decided to keep doing them and what keeps you motivated?
I’ve recently finished one 52 week project, and I wanted to do another 52 week, because without it I’m not as motivated to take pictures. It’s harder to keep up with my own personal work, especially with school and so many other things going on. I enjoyed completing the last one, though it was hard sometimes because I did it during the school year. I’m surprised I kept up with it, but I’m proud I did, and I’m looking forward to growing even more with the one I’m currently doing.
Tell me about your lithography series.
I took a print making class last semester and I fell in love with lithography. It was completely new and really hands on, which was great, and it was great to get a break from “all digital all the time.” Lithography is like a photo transfer. So I printed out photos from a Meetup I went to in the Northeast, inked them, pressed them on a sheet of paper, and then rolled them so the ink would transfer. The result makes the photograph come out with this really cool old-timey photo effect.
Do you prefer using film or digital? Are their benefits and downsides to both?
I prefer to use digital because there’s more control and it’s easier to manipulate photos which I think is essential to my work. I like film, but it’s really expensive and takes a long time. I wish I could do it more, but for now I will stick with digital. As for benefits to film, there’s certainly more detail in film, and you really have to take your time getting the right shot. You also really have to know all the technical aspects of photography.
What’s the best experience you’ve had because of photography?
The best experience would have to be meeting so many people through photography. It’s almost like having my own little second family. Then being able to see everyone through Meetups and visits is a really wonderful feeling. You get to talk to them and see how they take pictures and interact with everyone. It’s cool because you finally get to speak to them in person.
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
Keep practicing and try everything, even if you think it’s dumb. No matter what you do you’ll learn something and you’ll get better in the long run. Also get involved with other creative people because they can help you out in numerous ways.
Fashion Photographer May Xiong
How would you describe the unique blend of photography and “painterly art” that goes into many of your well-known pieces?
I don't know how to describe the blend of the two, but I can definitely say it stems from my interest in paintings from the 1800 and1900s, the bold use of light, and direction of the subject matter. For me, being able to create photographs that appear painterly-like is a way of showing what I find visually beautiful; to create something that embodies depth and dimension in a portrait and having the audience see that in my work.
What are some of the challenges you face when trying to create something in a specific style?
One of the main challenges is making sure your set of photographs have a consistent feel in order to pull the style you're going for. It can stretch from the subject matter to the environment, lighting and color palette. All of things are important in helping a specific style stand out on its own. Last but not least, doing your best to keep your ideas completely raw and original, which is something I feel most artists struggle with from time to time.
Do you think you were “born” into your art?
In some ways, yes. Growing up in in a big family of artists, having an artistic background and an appreciation for beauty, really does play a big role in my photography. When I first started, that inspired me to look at portraiture in a completely different way; more subtle, quiet and narrative.
Can you explain any motifs or themes running through your work “The Streak”?
This series foundation is based on aesthetics. I wanted to create portraits that were pieced together with things that worked together visually, maybe things that didn’t make sense, but flowed together with movement skewed by the abstraction of a paint stroke. As simple as, “Nothing more than just portraits with a touch of something bold, strange, and paint.”
Can you explain a little about your Portfolio Series? It’s really stunning.
I’ve always had an interest in how the brain/mind works and why people do the things they do. Combining that with something I never really worked with before (all male models), I thought I’d challenge myself and photograph something different and bring forth a vision I had in mind. Evolving around the concept that how we think and the choices we make are structured completely different from one another, the geometric shapes within each portrait is a way to help visually map the structure to each person. Having them appear unclothed is also a way of stripping one from their barrier/walls and keep things minimal as possible. The paint was an addition to helping me portray the dark and light side of who we are.
Tell me a little about your series “Night”? You’re able to capture a mood through these photographs that work well together.
I started this series back in 2012 when I was first inspired by Gregory Crewdson and Todd Hido’s work. I’m a person who prefers to shoot during the day and the golden hour, so shooting at night was definitely a challenge, but a good one. With this series, I wanted to find places that were interestingly lit at night and utilize the environment by shooting narrative portraits, to capture something odd and eerie that adds a bit of mystery to the photographs.
I love your latest double exposure image. Can you tell me a little about the process and what draws you to do double exposures?
It was simply me playing around with newer and older images using the app “Afterlight” on my iPhone 5. I’ve always done some sort of artsy self- portrait every few months and I thought since I hadn’t done a recent one I figured I’d try something out. There isn’t really any process to it other than combining the portrait with another photo, a floral photograph I took from a botanical garden, and overlapping them on top of one another. I later adjusted the colors using selective coloring through Photoshop CS6. What draws me to double exposures is the beauty of how two completely separate images coming together can create something absolutely beautiful and abstract. Things may not line up perfectly and that’s the best part of it. The organic mixture of the two images is what makes it so unique.
What tips do you have for portraiture and capturing emotion? What advice would you give other artists on these topics?
The best way to capture emotion is to talk about your idea/concept/story/narrative with your subject and make them understand the character you want them to be, almost as if it’s an acting role. Having your subject envelop themselves into the story/concept will not only make the process faster and easier, but make the emotions behind the story that much stronger and more real.
What’s your personal favorite photography and why?
I enjoy portrait photography alongside fine art photography. When combining both, it becomes more than just a portrait and there is just something about that that keeps me hooked. Being able to capture a person’s personality and character in a photograph, and seeing the fine details and features is what draws me into portraiture.
Who do you prefer to photograph? Yourself? Others? Why?
I prefer photographing others because I feel that they help portray narratives/stories that I envision more so than I can myself. I feel that it is important to work with other people to help you grow and step outside of the box and see things in different perspective. Having that flexibility also makes your work a lot stronger in a sense (at least for me).
Who are some of your influences in photography?
Brooke Shaden (when I first started college) alongside Alex Stoddard, Brendon Burton, and last but not least, my biggest influence, Gregory Crewdson. I remember coming across his work my first year of college and I was absolutely blown away. Everything that he does in creating his photographs is beyond words. With the combination of my love for films and photography, he is the sole reason to why I have shifted my way of taking portraiture into a more cinematic approach.
How was studying at the Academy of Art in San Francisco beneficial to your career as an artist?
It was beneficial in helping me come across wonderful artists when I first started taking photography more seriously. Being able to engage with other artists, whether they were photographers, illustrators, painters, musicians - it was a way of thinking more outside the box. I’ve met some incredibly talented and gifted people during my study at the Academy of Art and I’m truly grateful for all of the wonderful opportunities that I have been a part of.
What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had through producing your artwork?
The most rewarding experience has to be when I got four emails all in one day asking to feature my work in their online blog/magazines. But the one that stood out to me the most was the email sent from the creative director The Oxford Student from Oxford University. I was in complete awe after reading the email that I cried tears of joy. It was just so wonderful to know that not only has my work reached across the seas, but all of the hard work, dedication and time I’ve put into what I’m passionate about is appreciated and supported by so many people.
You seem to be big on features in magazines and having your work distributed in that way. Do these publications find you, do you seek them out? Any advice on that for aspiring artists?
Every single feature that I’ve been a part of has been publications finding me and emailing me. Over the past two years it’s been so wonderful to have gotten the amount of publicity that I’ve gotten with my work. Being featured through Fubiz,
Ignant and The Oxford Student really helped push my work towards bigger audiences across the world. My advice for aspiring artists: Always keep your eye out for publications that need submissions. Even if you think your art may not fit, you never know where your submission will take you. Being able to market yourself through social networks and having your own website is another plus to help publications find you more easily. And last but not least, never stop creating, stay inspired and stay true to your work.
Do you have any plans for the future?
I plan to create more series and work with bigger teams. Focusing on cinematography-inspired portraiture, I’d like to be able to showcase my portfolio to help me get closer to my dream job as a cinematographer in the film industry. I’d also like to expand my work and have gallery exhibitions across the nation and worldwide.
Fashion Photographer David Uzchukuwu
I asked David how he became interested in photography at such a young age. He said he started because “I got a camera in my hands during holiday, and I started documenting everything around me. Then I got into Flickr and found a few portrait and conceptual photographers, and got into portraiture from there.” His home in Luxemburg has a lot of nature, so he always had secluded green locations which really influenced him. Additionally, David feels inspired by pretty much everything, “lights, colors, moods, emotions, memories, people. Also, at least in the past, I’ve used the themes of general sadness or melancholy in my pictures, even if I haven’t consciously tried to put that in. I think a turning point for me in terms of my style was a self-portrait that I took a little more than a year ago where I’m lying in blue sheets. That showed me I was able to take pictures that I personally liked.”
We discussed what it’s been like meeting up with other photographers from the internet after seeing their work, and also given the fact David is one of the younger or youngest among the company. “It’s been crazy amazing and so inspirational. Many of the photographers that I’ve looked up to, I’ve been able to meet them, talk with them, and see who the people behind the pictures are. I learned something from everyone that I was able to talk with.”
Referring to his show in March, which was a surprise to David, he said that “I’ve never really been very confident when it comes to my work; it’s always something very personal and intimate. I’m usually really uncomfortable showing it to other people. I have really high expectations when it comes to my own pictures and since I really never do fulfill those, it seems really unbelievable that anyone else would like them.” Though David has seen improvement in his work over the years, “it’s not enough improvement. I have never actually been satisfied with the level of work that I’m producing.” When I asked what specific thing he’d like to improve on, he said “Generally, better story telling with more involved concepts, and a more accurate execution with more original concepts. I guess being more original in general. I think one should always strive to find unusual things. I don’t think it’s always possible, but I do think it’s possible to be more original than one is at the moment. You can always improve and combine things differently and learn new techniques, and there’s actually no limit to what you can do.”
David has unique and specific views on social media’s impact upon photography. “It’s certainly made it easier for photographers to communicate between each other. But the thing with social media is that when you view other photographers work, you can’t help but pick up things from their portfolio. While many people have picked up a camera because of social media, I feel like it keeps them trapped in a really small circle of ideas and concepts which bounce and re-bounce between different people. We started the blog “Kaledography” where we collect everything photography related. We wanted to share it with others because we thought there wasn’t enough inspiration though social media, and the same things were being shared and posted. We wanted to share new talent and ideas with people.”
We went back to the subject of sadness/melancholy. I asked David if he thought being sad or on edge in your personal life is necessary to make great art. Did he think being happy means you are less motivated to dig into your feelings? David’s take was that there is something that drives people who are generally not happy because they just need a way out or a way to handle their emotions. “I think great art always contains some kind of suffering and that suffering is what makes it worthwhile. But I don’t think people should try to be sad to create. There are always ups and downs in life, and no one says you always have to be constantly creating.”
David finds it’s easier to take self-portraits, “It’s really practical and I know exactly what I’m going for, but I find satisfaction in both. With self-portraits I don’t have to feel guilty because I’m making someone else suffer, but it’s really nice to photograph other humans and be able to weave them into the stories I tell through my photographs.”
I noticed David did some pretty great fashion shots. I asked him about that process. “I had wanted to try fashion photography, so when that designer “Rebel Youths” contacted me I was really happy for the opportunity and wanted to shoot something that matched his clothes. He creates African clothing that has a certain European twist, and he plays with colors and shapes. Since he has that African European style, I wanted to go for something that matched that.”
We ended by my asking where he saw the contemporary fine art photography community going in the future. “I really feel like the community will probably use and reuse the same concepts, until some people quit. I personally feel like moving on and trying new things and experimenting with things that aren’t popular at the moment and ditching the whole editing part. Maybe stop looking at other photographers’ work, and see where that leads me. I’d like to find that inspiration in myself and not in other photographers work, and find pieces that are unique to me and mean something to me, that I can defend passionately with all my energy and be passionate about.”
Landscape Photographer Tasha Palmer
For motifs in your work?
Most of my work comes out of my emotions. I’m always inspired by my environment and the desire to create another world. I’m trying to create an image that almost looks impossible and has the feeling of surrealism. I think because I have such access to really amazing landscapes in Alberta and Vancouver, with both the mountains and the ocean, it just gives me a desire to capture it.
Do you have a favorite shoot that’s a turning point in your work or a particular image?
A couple years ago when I started conceptual photography I had a school project. I had to write down all my ideas and execute them and I had to take a conceptual photo. It’s called “Spyglass”. I had to wait a couple of months to take the photo, but I drew it out. I’m standing on these rocks and my body is leaning over the water. I was really proud of myself at the time because it turned out that I was able to take the photo that was in my head.
How important do you think it is to make the photo naturalistic?
I want to make it look realistic. It can be crazy, but I don’t want the person second guessing whether it’s Photoshop or it’s actually there. I don’t want to overdo it. I want everything to look as natural as possible, or else it’s not that believable at all.
You do a lot of post-processing in your work. Do you have any advice for photographers when utilizing Photoshop?
I would say definitely watch some tutorials at first. If Photoshop is confusing, learn how to use the basics and slowly one by one start using tools. It took me about two years to get Photoshop down pat. I think it’s a huge learning step to experiment and play around with Photoshop. I paint in highlights and shadows with brushes. I create a layer, fill it with natural gray, get a soft light brush layer, and with that I paint on the lights and the darks. It’s pretty subtle, but it makes a huge effect and I think it’s less damaging than dodge and burn. I also know everyone loves curves and so do I. I really like selective color. It helps you get your pictures perfect and I also love the layer mask as well.
What’s your proudest moment as a photographer?
This first one was when I wanted to have smoke in my photo. So I started shooting smoke from incense burning. I took pictures of smoke and then a picture of myself. I had the craziest idea and wanted to see if I could do it. After editing it for 8 hours I got the photo in my head. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever edited and it came out perfectly, exactly how I had envisioned. My other proudest moment was having my photo published in a book. It’s coming out in a year so I’m really excited for that.
Interview with Sydney Photographer Emma McEvoy
“I’ve always been creative and I experimented with all kinds of art forms from a really young age, but I first became interested in photography in high school. I spent all my time in the dark room, learning the process of film photography! I left high school knowing I wanted to pursue photography at University, but for some reason decided to do a Visual Merchandising course instead. I wanted the variety, to make sure photography was what I wanted to do. We had a whole range of subjects: prop making, window dressing, styling, photography, graphic design, illustration, etc. However, after the two years was up, I realized photography was 100% my passion and I started studying at an amazing photography school!
I would best describe my style this way: Surreal. Painterly. Timeless. Feminine. Emotional. Light in the dark. I’m interested in creating images that act as bridges between our inner world and our outer world; a way between hurt and healing. My work explores the human condition, feminine consciousness and emotional/psychological struggle. Despite delving to the core of some dark emotions, there is an element of beauty and hope. I hope that my images speak to the light and dark within us all.
I know there are plenty of artists that don’t necessarily make work based on their own experiences or emotions, but I find it impossible to work any other way! While my work is not exclusively biographical in nature, I definitely take loads of inspiration from my own experiences and emotions. I tend to make most of my work in moments of sadness and vulnerability, or in remembering moments of sadness. I have never really mentioned this anywhere when talking about my photography, but I have experienced both depression and had an eating disorder. So a lot of my work is inspired by those experiences and by overcoming them, so I also like to include elements of hope and light in my work. I guess again it’s that balance of light and dark, acknowledging the dark, but also giving room for the light to shine through!
If I had to pick one, my favorite photograph would probably be “Voice of the Feminine Spirit,” which is one of my recent mermaid images. Purely because the experience of shooting that was so beautiful and magical! Like a childhood dream come true! I shot it in Iceland which I loved. I had my model sitting there topless on a rock in a mermaid tail, surrounded by boiling hot mud pots that absolutely stunk.
My model was freaking out that someone was going to come while she had her top off and someone did come, the President of Iceland! It was actually hilarious trying to explain to him what we were doing but he loved it! My favorites aren’t necessarily “the best” technically or even visually, my favorites are usually based on the memory of the shooting process. The experience is what makes it my favorite.
I think the most important part of a photo shoot is, hands down, pre-production. I think the planning is extremely important. Organizing all aspects of the shoot before heading out on location and being prepared is what will
help you get the best shot possible. I plan everything from the concept, to the location, to costumes and props, to the model, and the way they will be posing, etc. Sometimes I draw little (bad) pictures, other times I just write it out. This limits confusion and lack of direction when you get out on location. You know exactly what you want and you can get your shots smoothly and confidently. Of course things can always go wrong unexpectedly and things can change, but if you go in prepared you will be better equipped to deal with that, and make sure you still come home with something you’re happy with.
Of course living in Melbourne has definitely affected my work. Melbourne is one of the coolest cities in the world! It is so full of art and culture (not to mention amazing coffee!) There is always something happening! The contemporary art scene here is really vibrant and inspiring, and artists are embraced and celebrated! It’s not at all weird to say “I’m an artist” when asked what I do. It seems as if everyone I meet is some kind of artist, musician or actor. Sometimes I feel like we are so far away from Europe and the US, that there aren’t as many opportunities here in Australia in terms of the arts, but I think that’s what also makes us so cool and unique. Everyone does their own thing and makes their own opportunities and success. I love the independent artist vibe we have going on here in Melbourne. Everyone is really supportive and encouraging of each other.
My proudest accomplishment as a photographer so far was holding my first solo exhibition to raise funds for The Butterfly Foundation (Australia’s leading organization supporting those with eating disorders). Raising funds for an organization very close to my heart and hearing such incredible feedback was so heartwarming! I think those are the proudest moments, hearing from people that my work has touched them or had a positive impact on them in some way.
I’ve actually given myself a huge pep talk about it all and wrote a huge list of all the things I believe make a photographer successful. The things at the top were points like “sharing your story and having someone else relate to it”, “receiving feedback that your work has helped somebody else in some way”, “being happy and content with being a photographer”, “feeling passionate and loving what you do”, “feeling proud of your work”. I think if you love what you do, if you are passionate about photography, if you produce work that you are happy with first and foremost, that is success!
I think my biggest fear is not reaching my potential. Not making a meaningful difference in the world. Some artists I look up to are Jane Burton, Alexia Sinclair, Francesca Woodman, Jan Saudek, Gregory Crewdson, and Tim Walker. I hope to soon get some gallery representation and to continue exhibiting and selling work. I love exhibiting so much. I would love to do some collaborations and maybe run some workshops with some local photography buddies. I would love to create a book of my own one day. I also love photographing musicians in a more conceptual way at the moment, so I hope to do more of that!
I would also like to do more travel, and more study probably (I love study). I am hoping to do some art/photography teaching soon too at high school and/or tertiary level. I have also started studying art therapy, so might open my own private practice doing photo therapy work with people. I think that either of this paths will be a fun way to earn a more regular income while still doing something I love and am extremely passionate about!
“My advice for aspiring photographers is to go out there and make work that sings to you! Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, don’t listen to the people claiming that “everything has been done” because it has never been done by you. You are unique; you have a unique voice, a unique story to tell, so you can make unique images. Someone else may have similar concepts, similar locations or props or whatever, but you can put your own spin on it! Also, I know it can be hard but try not to compare yourself to what others around you are doing. Make time to take a break from looking at other photographers’ work. Focus on yourself and your work. Comparison really is the thief of joy!”
Los Angeles Photographer Alex Currie
lex told me he began filming at age 11, “It let me document something and create an emotion, I got hooked.” At first, Alex’s used his family’s large camcorder that recorded to tape. Then he bought a point and shoot to do a video series. “The videos were pretty awful, but that’s where I started my photography and video documentation. I made the transition to photography in high school when I wanted to create something every day. Photography became a quick way to capture an emotion. I couldn’t create a film every day, but I could take a picture every day.”
I asked Alex about the directors or films that inspired him. “Where the Wild Things Are” is my favorite movie of all time. You either love it or hate it. It’s kind of a disturbing take on a childhood theme, but one that everyone recognizes. Everyone has yelled at their mom and made blanket forts, but here it’s taken to a whole new level where the kid is king of it all. I view it as a literal interpretation of that age where you’re ‘king’ of all the wild things.” The inspiration paid off when Alex did a film called “Worn”, which won a national short film competition. “It’s about four teenagers who face daily struggles in their life that eventually come together. In the end they find hope in each other.”
We then changed topics to Alex’s 365 project where he takes a photo a day for a year. I asked why he took this on. “Originally I wanted to do this project mostly for technical improvement, and the project helped me learn Photoshop quite well. Since then, it’s brought more of an impact emotionally and physically seeing how my style has changed over time.”
Alex also noted that “if it wasn’t for Flickr, I probably wouldn’t be doing a 365 or shooting photography at all.”
Alex’s tones and light are really stunning compared to most photographers his age. Alex attributes this to his improvement through the 365. “I didn’t even look at light in the beginning. I had the sun at all these weird angels, with no regard to shadow or light, but I’ve learned to shoot better at noon and I now know where shadows and light are during different parts of the day. I currently use a DSLR for both photography and film. My equipment is pretty basic, a Canon 5D Mark II, a 50mm 1.4 lens and natural light.”
We talked about Alex’s favorite 365 photo. “I really like the one I took last week at Niagara Falls. It really captures what it’s like to be there and stand behind the waterfall. It’s barely edited. Niagara was crazy looking and overwhelming. I got the boat in the picture from a thrift store. I’d actually never shot at the falls before which is weird, because I live 10 minutes away.” I asked him how living in Buffalo has affected his photography. “It’s very much a contrast between seasons. During the winter time its 5 degrees and pitch dark, and I have to shoot everything inside and do more photo manipulation.
During the summer time I can shoot outside as much as I want, its better, I’m happier and I enjoy taking pictures more.”
While Alex enjoys the shoots, “Everyone that’s not me in one of my pictures has always suffered somehow. They’re either freezing cold or there’s something terrible happening to them, and I’ll usually do something crazy if I want a specific shot. In my photo “Beacon,” there was a film crew behind me and I almost fell off the huge rock that I was on. That was a turning point in my 365 when I started to do crazier shoots. That photo had greater feeling and emotion than some of my previous work.”
Alex’s advice for aspiring photographers “Practice, shoot and practice as much as you can. That’s the only way you’re going to learn.”
Tim Walker and Alex Stoddard have both inspired Alex. “They have this surreal but real feeling to their work.
Especially Tim Walker because all of his photographs are film and are not edited. It just captures you and draws you in and tells a story so well.”
I asked Alex what he would like to improve in his work. “I think being able to get a better image straight out of camera, so I don’t have to go through so much photo manipulation. I think I’d be happier if I could improve on that. While post-processing varies by photo, on some “I’ll spend hours on Photoshop tweaking and adjusting.”
British Fashion Photographer Stephen Maycock
I am one of a few Fine Art Photographers in the North-West (UK), which has definitely affected my work. Since it’s unique to my area, many people here recognise what I do as something new, something they’ve never seen before. This style is so up-and-coming in places like America and London, when people in North are seeing it, it becomes a new trend which is something really exciting. I think there is definitely a space in the art market for this modern way of working.
I shoot a lot of the time with a lower exposure than needed, I’m always going for a darker moods in my images and this just sets the tone straight out of camera. Light is something that I like playing with in post, and experimenting with in camera. Light creates atmosphere and mood which can add to a story, for me it gives my images a painterly timeless feeling, which matches my aesthetic. It sort of became a signature of my work recently, to have these unearthly light balls coming into the frame. I’m happy that I’ve sort of discovered my style, but it’s ever-changing and that’s the fun part!
A lot of people ask me the difference between color and tone. Color is the literal hue of the subject; the actual color of the t- shirt, or of the person’s skin. The tone is the mood or the atmosphere created by that blend of colors. In order to create tone you have to be specific with the color palette. I prefer a much cooler tone and will always work with colors on a much cooler end of the scale. The most important tool for me in Photoshop to do this is Selective Color. It really changed my work flow because it helped me think about colors individually and color my images much more like a painting.
In the near future I see conceptual fine art photography being used for things like creative marketing, advertising campaigns, album covers and music promotion; for something a bit more artistic that reflects a value for the company, singer or brand.
That will be the biggest peak in demand for my kind of Photography. But I would hope that it’s going to start seeping into galleries and be celebrated in a prestigious way.
Cameras are getting cheaper and nearly everyone has one, so it’s going to be much more challenging for artists to create something unique and skillful.
I enjoy both fine art photography and shooting events like weddings, because shooting something like a wedding allows me to use my fine art background to capture something creatively. It’s good to challenge myself and think of compositions on the spot. It’s live shooting, so nothing is prepared, capturing raw emotion rather than staged pieces. With portraits, like family sessions, you have full creative control over the style of the shoot, but it means so much to the client, and you get that instant feedback and satisfaction.
A lot of my work has a natural setting like woods and grassy areas, this helps with the timeless aesthetic that I try to create. Nothing in the work says it was shot in a specific time period and I like that. I grew up next to a big park that people don’t really go to, so I could do my work without people watching me and without feeling self-conscious. Using that area, and feeling confident with what I’d taught myself, made me want to explore and find bigger and better places to shoot.
When I came to America, I wanted to find something that had a timeless quality that I wouldn’t have at home. This is my second visit to the States and has been spent traveling around rather than staying in one place, so it’s helped me see a lot more variation in locations. Shooting with different surroundings from my own from week to week has helped me build an extensive amount of work that’s really varied.
One of the most important things I learned on my trip to America is the value of friendship. My whole trip wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity and the friendship of others. The trip started with a Facebook status about coming to America and who would be willing to host me. Without those friend’s hospitality and trust, I wouldn’t be here having so much fun.
My favorite picture is one from my first trip to America in 2013. I was staying with a whole bunch of Photographers and we found an abandoned house full of cool things to shoot with. We didn’t have a massive amount of time because the light was fading, so it was great practise for me to setup and shoot quickly. I had a bunch of people help me with the smoke bombs, which filled the room pretty quickly! The plan was to have the smoke rising from the glass jars, but since the first try made the glass explode, I changed my idea. I got one of my best images in my portfolio from that day, and it’s one of my most viewed images online as well. It means a lot to me.
While I’m satisfied with my work, what I’d like to improve on is being able to have a more cinematic look. I’d like to work much more with teams and sets and models, and use budgets to create a set and a fully thought out image series. So I think that’s where my work is probably going to fall in the next five or six years. When I move to London, I’ll be less surrounded by nature which will be a nice challenge to try to change up my style and the way I shoot. Living in the city will incorporate more of a modern element into my work, more contemporary, not so whimsical and timeless.
While photography is my passion, during my teen years I worked at a McDonalds near my home, and that taught me a lot. It was a really student-friendly job with great hours and a really sociable staff. I think people overlook the amount of hard work people put in.
It was a great job and it helped me see things without judgment, because so many people judged me just for working there. Customers would judge my intelligence for working there. Almost everyone there was working for a degree.
It helped me be a lot more independent and a lot more mature with finances, and prepared me for the bigger world. And it helped me learn to work hard. Work really hard.
“Without Photography life would be less creative, less adventurous, less well traveled, less crazy, less inspiring, and I don’t really know what I would have done if I hadn’t found photography. I didn’t really have a plan before I found photography and I don’t really have a plan now. I just want to finish school and keep creating and who knows what the future will hold? Hopefully a lot more traveling and a lot more opportunities!”
New York Fashion Photographers and Filmmakers James and Isabelle
I asked Bella, who was born in Taiwan and moved to Malaysia when she was four, how she became interested in photography. She said that she always liked taking photos as a kid. “I took my dad’s digital camera and I would take photos of flowers and anything I could find.” But it wasn’t until high school that she became interested in graphic design and art, and got her first DSLR and took photos of her friends. She told me that there was one girl in particular that she photographed, “I played around editing the photos and this girl called me and said she had never felt that beautiful because she was suffering from an eating disorder. I didn’t realize I could affect people that way with photography. And I decided that I wanted to continue to do it for the rest of my life.”
James’ start was a little different. His parents bought him a Nikon d40 for Christmas one year, and he started taking photo classes in high school outside of San Francisco, “and it just became what I love to do.”
Bella became interested in conceptual photography after practicing photography for about a year, using Sarah Ann Loreth’s photos as inspiration. “I thought her work was beautiful, it wasn’t just fashion; it was telling a story and connecting emotionally. Though Sarah, I found Brooke Shaden and other conceptual photographers.” After stalking them for a couple months, she decided she wanted to have that kind of effect, which was more powerful than just a beautiful photograph.
We talked about how moving to New York City affected their work. Bella told me that Malaysia is still very conservative and most people there are not as open to the idea of conceptual photography. “There’s a very fixed ideal of beauty, especially in Southeast Asia, usually it’s just an Asian girl wearing revealing clothing.”
It was very difficult for her to explore conceptual photography fully in Malaysia and her parents aren’t supportive of her career choices. “My parents aren’t happy. I was very limited back at home. That’s why most of my past work is just fashion portraiture; my parents didn’t see that as quite as weird.”
Coming to New York City has definitely been liberating because Bella could do whatever she wanted wherever she wanted and no one would be judgmental. “I’m in community of open-minded people and artists. Conceptual photography is not strange in America. Back home you would be sent to a psychiatrist because people would think there was something wrong with you.”
James told us he feels like living in New York has been able to give him connections that he wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. Bella’s advice for aspiring photographers is “from the bottom of my heart, do not give up. If it’s something you’re truly passionate about, don’t stop pursuing it. I’m with Brooke Shaden when I say that passion pushes us forward and is the key to success. I went through a lot of pain getting here.”
James added that you should seek out advice and suggestions from people who you look up to, but don’t compare your work to theirs. “Sometimes I compare my work to Bella’s and she’s been doing this a lot longer than I have, and the people I look up to have been taking photos for so long. I feel like I’m just starting out, and comparing my work to others just stops you from seeing the progress that you’re making on your own.”
Bella’s proudest moment as a photographer was her solo exhibition in Malaysia. “Before I left for New York City, I confided to my then boyfriend that one of my dreams was always to have a solo exhibition, but I that I still had a long way to go. He said I should do it here before I leave Malaysia.” Two weeks later she had a solo exhibition in one of the biggest galleries in the city. “A lot of people came and a lot of the press covered it. People told me their eyes were opened and how there’s so much more to photography than the commercial fashion stuff. Not that it’s bad, but there’s so much more that people can express with photos than just beauty alone.”
James told me about a moving experience he had. “I met someone who has cancer and is going through a lot. A friend of mine suggested that I take photos of her. She got so excited about it that she posted them on Facebook and everyone was overjoyed to see them. It was something that made her really happy. I’ve gotten messages from people saying that the photos of her are awesome and they really appreciate the effort and time I took. It made me realize that my photography is affecting people’s lives.”
Bella told me that if she had to pick the top three things she could improve on in her work, it would probably be colors and tones, manipulation of objects in Photoshop, and also the way she markets herself. James talked about the dangers of falling into habits once you figure out how things work. “I forget to think outside the box and I think I need to improve on having different ways of doing things. I need to treat each photo as an individual photo.”
I asked Bella why she picked a film degree instead of a photography degree. She said that “mostly because in my personal opinion you don’t need a photography degree to be a photographer. For those who do have photography degrees, that’s great, but in my opinion it’s good to expand and have other skills. You just have something else in case photography doesn’t work out. I think a degree in film will probably get me further.” James, who will be majoring in photography at NYU, has the opposite take. “I think it’s worth the risk. When I was applying for colleges my parents didn’t want me to do photography as a major. But they now think photography is what I’m great at, and eventually they let me go into it as a major. It’s become such a huge part of my life in a very good way.”
Bella described one of her adventures in photography; the time she stayed with Sarah Loreth in the fall of 2013 for a few days in New Hampshire to go on photography excursions. They decided to go to an abandoned house. “I’d never been to an abandoned house. It was only the three of us. It was creepy and the house looked like the set of a horror movie. When we went toward the house, the front door was locked. Sarah was like ‘oh well I guess we’ll just have to go through the basement.’ So she took us around the back and used her phone as a flashlight and we followed her into the basement. It was cold and empty and pitch black and I thought we were going to find dead bodies. It wasn’t until we got to the first floor and I saw graffiti of a penis that I felt better. I was starting to freak out before that.”
We discussed her plans for the future. Right now she’s starting an art magazine with a bunch of friends that they hope to take further in the future. In the next 6 months she hopes to improve in photography and travel more around America, “discover more places, because I feel like I’m very contained in the New York and Boston area.” And James? “I think finishing my 365 challenge, getting my degree in photography, making connections. I want to go into either advertising or fashion photography, but I still want to incorporate that surreal or conceptual feel to it.”
Fine Art Photographer Joel Robison
“I’ve always been a creative person, when I was younger I wanted to be an animator at Disney. I drew and painted a lot. Being creative was always a way of expressing myself. As I grew up I realized I wasn’t the best at drawing and painting, so I stopped being creative and didn’t think of turning anything creative into a career. Instead I went into education, and about five years ago I was doing some research for a paper and I came across Flickr. I fell in love with the work being posted. I felt a connection to the pictures and that I wanted to be a part of that. Shortly after that I bought a DSLR on EBay and taught myself how to use it and how to express my ideas through photography. I never thought I’d be a photographer - it took me a while to realize that’s who I am. When I started taking pictures it opened a door that I didn’t know existed, and it felt right, and feels right, to me.
I’ve done multiple 365 projects. I feel like the best way to learn something is to do it every day. When I came across Flickr I found people doing 365 projects, and it seemed like a good challenge to both teach myself photography, and to allow myself to be engaged with it as much as possible. I failed the first one I did; I only made it about halfway through and then I ended up traveling and I had to stop. When I started up again I started from day one. By the time I finished it taught me so much and I grew so much in one year, I knew right away that I wasn’t finished doing it yet. That connection I had with myself and with other people, it became such a big part of my everyday life to go out and take pictures. It was a huge driving factor with me being an artist. There were definite sacrifices, especially when you do a project that big. Right towards the end I would be spending 3 or 4 hours a day on it. My friendships and relationships took the back burner. But I felt like meeting new amazing friends, getting the experience and traveling the world was so much more rewarding for me at the time. It’s definitely been a huge reason why I’m here today.
An image that sticks out was one I took in either my second or third 365 of my bike being lifted up by balloons. It was the first time I created an image that came out exactly as I had pictured it in my mind, and it was the first time that I realized that I could create anything that was real in my head. It was the first time I created something that made me feel like I could do anything. That was a huge turning point for me.
As a kid I was always drawn to the fantasy world. I’ve learned that as you get older, it doesn’t mean you have to let that part of your life go. I love incorporating what I loved as a child into my work now. I love creating the idea of reality and surrealism at the same time. I like to make things bigger or smaller because I think it gives us a chance to see the world in a new way. When someone is smaller, every object becomes different. For me that was a chance to open up a new way of thinking and challenge the idea of reality for people viewing my work.
In terms of the photo shoot itself, I find the most important part of that process is having a concise idea. For me as a conceptual photographer, it’s not just about a pretty picture, but it’s about telling a story through my art in an image. It doesn’t matter the location or the model. I want an image that speaks and tells a story.
Meetups have also been very important to me as a photographer. The Indiana meetup in July 2012, and you can ask anyone who went there, was a definitive moment in our lives. A few months prior to the meetup I was considering giving up photography completely because I had just kind of fallen out of love for it. I had some negative experiences in social media. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend the money going to Indiana and not have it be rewarding, but going to Indiana and meeting the friends I have from there changed my entire life. I gained a lot of self-confidence and confidence in my photography. It showed me that I wasn’t alone in my conceptual world, that I wasn’t the only strange person waking up in the early morning doing strange things. That my friends were real and they weren’t just voices I was talking to through a computer. It set my life in a whole new path. After I came home I realized that it was something I wanted to do for a very long time.
With regard to my partnership with Coca Cola, that’s kind of an ongoing story. When I was doing my first 365 I had a different theme every day, and one day the theme was Coca Cola. I was always a fan of the brand and it reminded me of my childhood. Growing up in a family with not a lot of extra money, Christmas and birthdays were times when my family celebrated. Coca Cola was always a fixture in those celebrations as a treat, so whenever I think of Coke, I think of a treat and happy times with my family. I took a picture of Coke bottles in the snow with me drinking out of one of them. It was a quick picture and I never really thought twice about it. About a year later someone at Coke found it and asked if they could tweet it. I was very excited and it was kind of a crowning moment in my photography journey at the time. After that, they phoned and asked if I would be interested in working with them on a project and moderating their Flickr Community. I helped produce pictures for them based around themes that they provided, and encouraged other users to do the same. After that I told them that I really wanted to keep working on projects for them. Little did I know that they already had me in mind for an amazing opportunity, and last year I got hired as the lead photographer and the head of social media for the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour. They were taking the FIFA World Cup Trophy on a tour of 90 countries and meeting a million soccer fans around the world, and I was the only photographer to go. It changed my life and was an eye opening experience.
I get asked about my favorite places on that tour a lot, and I definitely have a list. The first one is Haiti. Obviously it’s a country that’s experienced a lot of trouble and a lot of heartbreak. It’s a country I wanted to visit and go help and volunteer. I had never been to a third world country and it was an eye-opening experience. I had never seen struggle and poverty and true destruction like that. It opened my eyes to how lucky I was, and all the things that I have and how small a lot of my worries and concerns can be. I met a young boy one day when we invited some orphans to our hotel. He spent the day following me around and holding my hand and wanting to talk to me. One moment in the afternoon he told me that he lost his mother and father and had no family. I could see in his eyes how sad that was, and I was sad for him. He was almost looking for me to give him an answer of what he could do, and I didn’t know what to say and it broke my heart. I have a picture of him that I carry of him everywhere and it reminds me of how much I have. I don’t think he knows how much he changed my life, and I hope that the short time we spent together had an impact on him.
Another amazing place would be Japan. I’d always wanted to go there. We visited a town that had been destroyed by a tsunami. They held a celebration for us and the mood changed throughout the day from sadness to exhilaration which was incredible. You could feel the happiness. We brought a pop star and some of the most famous Japanese soccer players and you could feel the happiness and see it in the people’s faces. It made me feel like I was part of something that was bigger than just a tour around the world, it was changing people’s lives and it was giving them a high point that maybe they hadn’t seen for a long time.
This experience gave me a lot of confidence in myself. When one of the biggest companies in the world to trusts me with their voice and their brand, to wake up in the morning and know that that was my job, it was a huge confidence boost. It made me appreciate the people in my life and my time and my priorities. It changed my relationships a lot, I lost some friends and my relationship ended because of the tour, both because of distance and because I changed so much and wasn’t spending enough time at home. I see now that it was for the best. It opened a new door and took me down a path that I wouldn’t necessary have gone down, but it opened my eyes and gave me a lot of opportunities that are still happening in my life.
As a traveling photographer I think you’re always going to have a place that’s comfortable and homelike. It’s not just staying in one place for a couple days, it’s having comfort and complete ease. I learned that home is really where you feel the best. It might not be the walls within the building; maybe it’s a town or with certain people. When I went home during breaks I realized that where I had grown up felt more like I was visiting. Home is where you feel the most amount of love and support and that can change. I think for me the most important thing is the times and places that I feel the most level of love and compassion.
I’m inspired by people who do what they do, not for recognition or for personal gain, but because they feel a passion for it. I think if you do what you do because you love it, and you think you’re going to help the world, that’s what inspires me. I want my legacy not to be the work that I’ve created, but the change that I’ve created if that’s through photography.
I think I’m afraid of failure. I’ve always been afraid of being bad at something. Some people might call it being a perfectionist, but I don’t like to do a bad job at something. Whether that’s running or taking photographs or even just being a friend, I want to do the best I can.
I think my proudest moment is taking the leap to become my own boss. I kind of did the opposite that most people do in their late twenties. I quit my job, I ended my relationship and I moved out of my house to become a homeless, jobless, full-time photographer. I was nervous. I had a great job and a great home I gave up. It was tough, but it was my proudest moment. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it wasn’t for all those people believing in me and supporting me and encouraging me and also paying me to do what I do.”