Geoff Green Interview

Geoff Green (photo by Jamie Smith)

Geoff Green is a winner of ADC Young Guns 4 and is photographing this year’s Awards jury. Geoff’s work has a documentary style with a focus on people and how they relate to their surroundings. His ability to capture a singular moment and communicate the essence of a scene is one of his greatest strengths. We sat down with Geoff to talk about his work and experience in photography.

You won Young Guns 4 with that brilliant “Space Divided” set – what was it like earning that kind of recognition?

It was an honor, and is always nice to be recognized by your peers. It has also created an ongoing relationship with the ADC that has really lasted over the years. Oh, and I can’t forget friendships, with hosted events geared towards community building within the creative field I have made personal and business relationships by being associated with the Young Guns.

It’s also nice to have the affirmation that you’re not crazy, the work can and does connect with the viewer. As well as giving me the motivation to keep working.

How do you set up mass portraits, as you’re doing with this year’s jury? What are some of the ways you tackle the challenges?

This was a difficult assignment, to create an interesting set of portraits of close to 90 individuals within a very limited timeframe per person, keeping things consistent for a uniform look, yet trying to do something unique. These are also people generally used to being on the other side of the set, and might not be so happy or comfortable being the subject.

Some things I thought about going into this project was taking people outside – a bit of fresh air and change of scenery from judging might liven people up. Also, by taking each person outside one by one there would be less of an influence of what their prior colleague did on set. Sidewalk passerby banter is also unpredictable and not a bad thing, occasionally we even had an audience and strangers joining in for a photo. The weather worked in our favor, but also created another variable.

What was it like just starting out and getting to work under Jay Maisel, one of our Hall of Famers?

Jay is an amazing person and I was extremely lucky to be able to work for and learn from him for nearly five years. He and his wife L.A. liked to say it was my graduate degree in the art and business of photography. Which is absolutely true, I had no concept of the commercial side of photography. Not to be too self deprecating, but I had no idea who Jay was and I didn’t know a strobe pack from a lightstand.

I did know I wanted to work in photography. At the time the studio was looking for a first assistant and they did so by placing an ad in the NY Times classifieds. It was a very democratic way of looking for and hiring an assistant. I think not being aware of Jay and his stature in the business was an asset during the initial interview. After that it was a total immersion in photography, traveling, bidding, negotiating, fulfilling stock requests, editing, and sweeping. Fortunately, Jay keeps everyone on staff very informed and part of the process.

What would you say to graduating student photographers this spring?

Work hard, connect with whoever your audience is, however you can, keep reaching out to new people, be social. These are the difficult things I struggle with. The creative and creating aspect of the job should be the fun part, though not necessarily easy.

Do you have any new exciting projects coming up we should look out for?

Small town profiles, incorporating motion capture; a new project I plan to start working on this spring. I am continuing work on the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Project, a multi-year series of portraits over time of individuals hiking on the AT, this year I’m introducing new locations and ideas.

What’s the most important skill you’ve learned in the last five years?

Patience… although I am still honing this skill. From building client relationships to creating, executing, and completing a body of work, these things take time. Sometimes I wish it all happened a bit more rapidly.

Complete the sentence: In the future, photography will…

…be just as difficult, if not more challenging than it has always been.

New technologies may make the act of recording the image easier, but coming up with a unique viewpoint, interesting subject matter, and a compelling way to bring the work to an audience is still the challenge. Thankfully.