My favorite thing about photography is that I’m always discovering new stuff and my taste is just never fully developed. I can imagine that being a photography critic is quite a drag because you’ve seen everything before and there are very few surprises for you in photography. I found Jan Von Hollenben over on Photo Rank and every time I show someone these photos I get the same reaction… Oh. My. God. Photography is just awesome like that sometimes.
Jeff Riedel is intense.
Shooting with a 4×5 on location with lights and multiple set-ups per day can be pressure enough but he has this way of shooting that requires adjusting the lights (up, up more, ok like twice that, even more, now see my hand, faced over here like my hand) and the camera position (ok move everything back I was too close) and the subject (move over 1 step left, your other left, now 1 step back) and louping the focus under the black cloth (ok hold it like that for one second) then shooting endless polaroids (polaroid, polaroid, polaroid, how many polaroids do we have left) while trouble shooting the lighting (more power, it’s at max power, it’s at max power?) until everything is perfect and then *BAM* slamming sheet after sheet into the holders until you see the right expression (close your mouth, chin up) and adjusting the body position slightly (can you put your hand on your hip, let the other one hang loose, move your leg back an inch) and making sure the goddam pocket wizards don’t fail like they sometimes do in the middle of the shot (did that fire?, no it didn’t, are you sure?, yes positive, what channel is it on?, is it turned on?, do you have a sync cord?) and then after endless calls to the assistant (film, film, film, ok polaroid) and then you wait for the polaroids to cook, no one can move, and then he compares the two polaroids to make sure nothing changed in between the first and last and then the shot is over.
I worked with Jeff on location once and he was doing another job the next day that I wanted to help him out with for fun, so the next day we went tromping through the woods with talent and crew doing various setups going through the usual intense shooting procedure for each location. At the end of the day over dinner Jeff has the polaroids which, because of his rigorous method of shooting, represent the final shot for each setup and he was brooding over them. The light here or the color there or the body position in this one was not where he wanted it to be and to be honest, I couldn’t see it. Not because it wasn’t there but because I don’t have the ability to see the degrees of imperfection in two nearly similar images. Jeff wasn’t satisfied so he rescheduled his commitments and went out in the woods the next day and shot the whole thing over again. Intense. Goddam Right.
I used to think the tension in James Nachtwey’s photos came from the subject matter. Everything he shoots is so intense and scary how could there not be tension? I mean holy effing christ, you’re getting shot at or someone is telling you the horrors they experienced or you’re looking at the results of horrors they experienced and there’s got to be serious drama in any image made, right?
I sent Jim out on assignment once where I knew there was only the smallest percentage of a chance that something dramatic would happen. This is a very bad situation to send a photographer into, because the writer will draw on past events to manufacture drama when it doesn’t occur live which forces us into a situation where the editor wants to pull stock to create drama in the photography (I’m always on the lookout for these “traps” that are created when a writer oversells a story). When I heard nothing dramatic happened on the assignment I was prepared to be disappointed with the images not living up to the eventual rewrite of the story. But, hey wasn’t I surprised to see a couple images leading up to the drama that never happened, filled with tension and impending doom. Jim nailed it.
You see, the subject matter he shoots may be intense but Jim knows what he’s feeling or seeing doesn’t always translate directly to film so he uses the framing, timing and relationships between subjects and objects to create the tension.
Can you feel it?
I really love these pictures taken by Colin Pantall who I found over in photo rank (here) and he was also featured on Conscientious (here) back in May. I really don’t have a specific need for this type of photographer because the scope of his work is so limited I’m not sure what I would hire him to shoot but I’ll never forget these images. I’m sure something will come up someday and I’ll have no problem remembering him.
That fact is worth noting.
Alright people, it’s almost Thanksgiving and I want to make sure you’re prepared to meet your aunt’s sister in law’s son who is also a photographer because you know how it is these days saying you’re a photographer is like saying you breathe air.
But, here’s the deal, you need a shit load of talent to become a “working photographer.” A shiiiiiiiiiit load. There is such a massive gulf between amateur and professional photography it’s really quite improbable how people can make the jump. I guess that’s the good news for pros. The bad? Enduring your new amateur photographer friend’s endless string of questions about camera type and file treatment and technique then the viewing of vacation photos on the ipod or blog or photo sharing site and then in my case the inevitable “if you ever need photos from the
Vesna Festival in Saskatoon Saskatchewan Canada, I was there last year and have a thousand shots.”
I’ve got nothing against amateur photographers and I’m more than happy to engage them in conversation about the business but this website is for working photographers, people who aspire to become working photographers, photo editors and art directors. I don’t give a crap if you hang out on flickr or myspace or zooomr because there’s plenty of good stuff happening there as well. But, if you come here to hang with us it’s to engage in conversation about working as a photographer at the highest level.
See you after the break.
You know what I love about working with Brigitte Lacombe (here) besides dropping her impressive (lovely sounding too) name in meetings.
That’s right. No one is allowed in the room with Brigitte and the subject. No client hovering, no hair person attending to errant hairs, no makup person blotting the brow, no stylist fussing the collar, no caterer tapping emails on the blackberry, no producer yapping on the cell phone, no agent cleaning fingernails… no goddam distractions.
Can you tell?
I thought it might be interesting if I created a place where people could submit a story or their website or a photograph and let their peers vote and add a comment. I’m calling it photo rank and it’s in the sidebar and (here).
I was looking for a program that would allow people to submit portfolios to me on this blog and came across this free software called pligg. I can’t believe how many features it has and I have no idea if it will prove useful or just more of a time suck. I loaded all the photographers I’ve written about to get things started. See what you think.
I’ve never met anyone as loyal as Martin Schoeller (here). To the subject, his team of people, the client, his agent, his style, his goals, the print… everything. It’s more than just being a nice guy and delivering consistently good work there’s honesty and integrity, and a devotion to the craft, and an incredible work ethic that adds up to, well, loyalty.
There was a point in his career where he was thinking oh shit, this big head style is not going to define me but over the last couple years he’s decided the market forces are too great and produced a book and several gallery exhibits of big heads.
Luckily he doesn’t have one.
The highlight is his love of imperfection in photography and how, as someone who wants to achieve perfection, he needs to use techniques that force imperfection. He shoots handheld with leicas and likes to print full frame so you see everything that is not right with the image and that’s the perfect way to make a picture. Awesome.
Here’s an old interview that says the same thing (here)
Soth: You’ve also done a fair amount of editorial work. How do you mix that work into your overall practice?
DuBois: Editorial work keeps you on your toes and in shape – the unique stress and pressure of an assignment can offer up some real surprises. The hardest part is to maintain a sense of your own work and take appropriate risks in making a good photograph. You have very little time to work and no time to reflect or go at it again. Some of the best editorial work I’ve seen offer significant contributions to the photographers’ work. Larry Sultan, Mitch Epstein, Katy Grannan, etc., pull this off time and again. The frustrations come from the time limitations and other circumstances that you have to work around– and, of course, a bad edit or layout can defeat even the best efforts.
I can’t seem to get a photographer I like hired to shoot fashion, because every time I send a link to the fashion director she clicks and the opening image pops up and it’s this horrendous, pretentious, model-y shot that’s dripping with cheese.
The rest of the site is littered with solid gold shots but she can’t get past the fact that this photographer thinks the greatest shot they’ve ever taken, the shot that goes on the opener, blows.
The amazing thing about working with Peggy Sirota is the amount of effort and the level of detail that goes into the preparation for a shoot. As soon as she signs on, the phone springs to life with calls about styling, grooming, props, locations and then Peggy calls to discuss ideas, then she calls the subject to discuss ideas, then she calls you back to talk it over again, then you talk to the agent, then the producer calls, then the office manager calls… it’s awesome.
I don’t think many people realize how much effort goes into consistently creating images that look like you just walked by and quickly snapped one (she calls them “elegant snapshots”).
A reader sent me a link to a NY Times Magazine piece where photographer Simon Norfolk talks about several of the shoots he’s done (here). There’s good insight to his approach on each story but I love to read between the lines as he tells us about shooting this Sunday’s Perfect Drought story. He describes the photos as “Illustrative of the facts,” for a conventional story where “the pictures sit closely to the text.”
Sure, it’s a job, but handing someone a story and telling them to go shoot all the plot points seems so two dimensional to me. That story should have gone in the newspaper not the magazine.
What’s it like to work with Anton? Crushing.
Remember the photographer who sends one amazing print after a shoot is done? Anton sends 6 or 12. And, each and every one is the greatest photograph you have ever witnessed.
I’m not even talking about the printing technique. I’m talking about what’s in the pictures. I was shocked to discover, after my first shoot with Anton, that his skills lied not in his powerful style but in his ability to create instant timeless, iconic images.
The crushing part? No matter what 4 or 5 you pick to publish there are 4 or 5 more that are better, sitting in the box.
Can you spot a Dan Winters photograph a mile away? Yes, on a dead sprint past a newsstand out of the corner of my eye.
Is there more Dan than subject in those photographs? I don’t care.
When the editor professes a love for Dan Winters photography it only means he loves a photograph he once saw. Not, that he will love the photographs he’s about to get.
Could a Photo Directors job get any easier then giving Dan an assignment? Right up to the point where you’re told to give him art direction.
(Clarification: Dan is a Genius. I just think it’s stupid to art direct him and I’m not implying he doesn’t collaborate. He does.)
It appears that Jake’s long time assistant Spencer has flown the coop and is crushing it for Esquire among others. Maybe he’s picking up Jake’s overbooking but the work is strong so I wouldn’t doubt he’s landing it himself.
Either way I’ve never forgotten his name because of the difficulty the airlines have with it when booking travel for he and Jake.
An associate tells me what it’s like to shoot with the provocative Mr. Richardson.
Art Direction for Terry was a question of what he wanted to do…and we pretty much let him go.
I was really nervous to meet him, you know he’s too cool for school and I felt a bit like “the man”, but he’s a total sweet-heart while at the same time guarded. He’s a celeb unto himself!
He talked about the Lohan shoot and I asked how he had gotten her to crawl across the mirror, an obvious reference to cocaine. He smiled and said it was all about throwing so many things at the subject that they didn’t have time to say no. Which I think is his genius, no matter who he’s shooting he can convince them to be a little wilder and that’s why I love him.
Nice. Thanks for the insight.