Photography August 31, 2014
We are finally at the end of August, and thus also the end of Photography Month here on the ADC blog. We have featured a different photographer every day of the month. Some are seasoned professionals, some are young up and comers, and some are just amateur shutterbugs taking snapshots on the side. One thing they have in common: they are all ADC Members, part of our globe-spanning creative community. We hope that you enjoy their work as much as they love creating it!
How old were you when you took an interest in photography, and when did it become more than an interest?
I remember getting my first Kodak 110 camera was I was eight years old. For some reason, we ended up with an extra one aside from the one my mom had and it became mine. I became pretty quickly obsessed with taking photos, even when there wasn’t any film in the camera. I was only eight, and we had to watch money very tightly, so my parents weren’t about to buy me film all the time. But I loved framing things and imagining the photos.
I took a more serious interest in photography in high school, when I served as one of the yearbook editors, and I learned how to develop film in the darkroom. That was a great experience, one shepherded by a really great teacher named Joe Fleming, who taught me the basics of film and development, but who was also always my champion as a student and instilled a certain confidence in me.
In college, at Yale, I continued my photography education with David Hilliard and Todd Papageorge while getting my undergrad in Political Science. It became clear to me in those years that I was good photography. My crits were tough but encouraging and I remember after finishing Todd’s class, he pulled me aside and told me I should continue to explore my voice. After graduation, I actually moved to New York and worked as a professional ballet dancer for nearly 6 years. So it wasn’t until I started planning my move away from dancing professionally that I started to think of photography as a possible career. To stay afloat in New York, I’d done every conceivable “money job” imaginable while dancing–from working as a bartender’s assistant (for one night) to consulting to working as a personal assistant–so I’d figured out a lot of things I definitely didn’t want to do. In that transition period, photography came into pretty clear relief as my next endeavour.
What do you love most about photography as an artform?
One the things I love about photography is the craft of lighting: figuring out the right type for mood, for effect; stretching myself beyond what I might have done in the past; figuring out new and creative ways to tell a story with lighting; figuring out how to harness natural or pre-existing sources of light in different ways. It’s amazing to me how differently things can look depending on the lighting source, which I suppose is why we talk about seeing things “in a new light.” Every different possibility brings with it its own perspectives.
“It’s amazing to me how differently things can look depending on the lighting source, which I suppose is why we talk about seeing things “in a new light.” Every different possibility brings with it its own perspectives.”
The other thing I love about photography are its limitations: it’s not been, until recently, freeform like painting or illustration. Until the advent of digital, it was about what you could bring to life before you actually released the shutter. Then, that was more or less your result. Don’t get me wrong: I love the digital possibilities too, and manipulate in Photoshop when the work demands it. But I also love the opportunity to problem-solve all you can before you go into post. This, really, is what inspired my series “Dance Prints,” which explores dance through mixed-exposure photography and pushes the limits of what the medium can do, at least in my hands, without the digital manipulation.
What is your favorite thing to shoot?
Broadly speaking, people are definitely my favorite thing to shoot. I’m great with human subjects, putting them at ease and getting something out of them that communicates who they are. More narrowly speaking, I love shooting people who love to move. Performers and athletes are a somewhat natural fit for me, as a performer and athlete myself–though I’m not interested in performance photography. In terms of lights, direction, etc., I want to run the show. Plus I love how hardworking performers and athletes are; they are always thoroughly professional and willing to do whatever it takes to get the shot.
I also love working with children, though, which tends to be a lot more spontaneous. The energy they bring to a shoot keeps your on your toes, and I look forward to facing down the challenge of getting them to have fun in a directed way in front of the camera. I always walk away from a shoot that involved children having learned at least five new things about myself as a photographer and/or photography as a craft.
“I always walk away from a shoot that involved children having learned at least five new things about myself as a photographer and/or photography as a craft.”
What is your favorite piece of equipment?
This is a tough one but probably a telephoto lens. Not necessarily the first thing you might think of when shooting people but aside from the obvious benefit of bringing the subject closer on something like a soccer pitch, I like that it compresses the edges of photo a bit, making it feel like something you might see through a window. There’s almost a voyeuristic quality to the photos taken with a telephoto lens.
Which person most inspires your photographic passion? Which professional photographers do you look up to?
All the photographers I admire the most are out to tell a story with their photography, be it something that’s an explicit study, like Muybridge, someone that hints at many possibilities even while it might be for the purpose of selling something, like Avedon, or people who are out to tell the stories of the lives people are actually living, like Robert Frank or Garry Winogrand. You’re probably noticing a pattern here too, which is that I admire a lot of black and white work. Among my favorite contemporary photographers are Cindy Sherman, Mikael Jansson, and Garrett Grove. As you can also see, I’m totally all over the place. But I like different photogs for different reasons–Sherman her self-portraits reflect back on society, Jansson because he makes a story with every element, from lighting to how he treats skin, and Grove because of his use of scale when conveying information–but it’s always about the storytellers.