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Interview with photographer | Carlo Van de Roer

Why do you take photos?

I’m a terrible writer.

Describe your start in photography.

My parents had this beautiful old mini TRL camera and when I was a kid I would walk around looking at the house and our family through the lens, everything was mirrored and somehow looked so much better, and really graphic, it was addictive. Then when I was a bit older we got hold of some film for it (something weird like 127mm) and I was hooked. I built a darkroom in the basement under the stairs to process the film, it seemed like magic.

Who are some of your favorite photographers and why do you admire their work?

Hmmm, favorite is tricky, but I’m really interested in the work of Thomas Ruff, Ronni Horn, Gavin Hipkins, Penelope Umbrico, Lieko Shiga, Roe Etheridge, Yoshiyuki, Pierre Bismuth…

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

The satisfaction of seeing something you’ve been carrying around in your head worked out or articulated feels good. It’s also a job that’s introduced me to a lot of amazing people and places.

What equipment do you prefer to use and why?

It’s been great to work with polaroid again. The project I am starting now is large format and uses more hands on techniques which I’m really enjoying. I think it depends on the project; I’ve used both digital and film over the last few years.

Describe your editing process (i.e. How do you go about selecting, retouching and printing your photographs?)

I always need a bit of time between shooting and editing so if I have time I’ll put the shoot away even if it’s just for a day or two then come back and edit, then repeat. With portraits there is often one shot that jumps out so it’s less about narrowing down a selection.

This last portrait series has been really tricky to print so I’ve been working closely with my printer, they’re great and allow me to oversee everything and make necessary tweaks along the way. I’d love to still have a darkroom under the stairs, but space is so limited here.

What are your plans and aspirations for the future regarding photography?

I’m obsessively working on a new project that’s quite personal, I’m also working on extending some of the threads that came out of the portrait machine project with other technology.

Interview with photographer | Rona Chang

Why do you take photos?

Photographing is a way that helps me interpret my surroundings and to understand them.

Describe your start in photography.

As a kid, I really enjoyed arts and crafts. I tried out for Laguradia H.S. here in the city and got in for the art program. It was great having a foundation program and the chance to explore different mediums. Because I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands, it was easy to fall in love with doing work in the darkroom. Pretty soon I was spending my lunch hour in there because I couldn’t get enough during class.

Who are some of your favorite photographers and why do you admire their work?

I’m a big admirer of Joel Sternfeld’s work. I’ve been a long time fan of his sense of humor paired with his palette. Lately, I’ve been falling deeper and deeper in love with my friend Alison Rossiter’s work. She works in the darkroom making abstractions with her collections of expired papers. The richness of the black in her prints and her experiments in the darkroom are a world away from what I do. It’s refreshing to look at her work and to hear about her process.

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

I think it’s yet to come. I have big dreams.
What equipment do you prefer to use and why?

I shoot with a Mamiya  7. It’s light weight and it travels well.


Describe your editing process (i.e. How do you go about selecting, retouching and printing your photographs?)

I look at my contacts for a while. Sometimes I live with them for half a year before I can decide which images make the cut and fit into a series. I scan on an Imacon and do light retouching in PS. I output to digital c-prints from the good folks at Print Space.

What are your plans and aspirations for the future regarding photography?

My photographic ambitions mainly involve working on a project I believe in, carrying the thought through, and presenting it. On the other hand, my travel wish list is constantly growing.

Interview with photographer | Marton Perlaki

When did you first become involved in photography and why?

I chose photography by necessity. At high school I wanted to major in drawing but the school direction had been taken over by the Church and the drawing class was cancelled. So I ended up majoring in religion. Having thus given up drawing, encouraged by a girl friend of mine I went into photography.

Who are some of your favorite photographers and why do you admire their work?

I have been fascinated by the quiet, austere visual world of the works of Harry Callahan and Richard Avedon. I usually prefer photographers who – instead of using eye- catching technical innovations – create fresh and lasting value merely with their refined way of looking at things and with their very attitude towards photography.

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

It is the creation itself and its process.

What equipment do you prefer to use and why?

I like handheld photography – that’s why I usually choose cameras that allow me free action during shootings. The fewer stands, lamps and other accessories I need to use the better I feel.

Describe your editing process (i.e. the way you go about selecting, retouching and printing your photographs).

Most of the time, I already have an idea during the shooting, which picture I am going to take at the selection. (If I am not the only one who decides – which occurs – the situation is more complicated.) At the end of the session I flip through the pictures and I order them into pairs. (If working with digital camera I make a couple of test adjustments on the computer already during the shooting.) I put aside the pictures I like “to rest” for a while. On the ones I still like even after two or three days I start the post production works (high res scanning, retouch etc.)

What are your plans and aspirations for the future regarding photography?

In May I am leaving for the USA for a while. Also for the future – pathetic as it may sound – my inmost desire is to make good pictures. As for the rest – time will show.

Interview with photographer | Ewan Burns

When did you become first involved in photography and why?

Good question.  I was 26 and had recently left a reconnaissance unit in the British infantry.  I loved being a soldier, but felt that I needed to do other things outside the military.

I had two plans:  one was to move to London and live on the streets with my camera.  My other equally well-researched and organized plan involved hitchhiking into Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time.  The city was surrounded by Serbian forces and was being shelled every day, and hundreds of civilians were being killed while a home-grown militia force defended the city.  Am I a genius or what?  I discussed these two plans with my older brother, who counseled me to hitchhike into one of the most dangerous places in the civilized world.  Good, I thought, that’s settled then.

I mentioned my brilliant plan to a few friends and slowly began to gather information, which proved invaluable for gaining access to a limited war zone.

I caught a train from London to Zagreb (capital of Croatia), borrowed a button-down shirt from an English chap called Richard, then off I went to the airport to speak to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees).  Long story short:  I somehow got through security and onto an airplane after agreeing to deliver body armor to Larry Hollinsworth, the UNHRC head man in Sarajevo.  I had no idea at the time that it was this easy to get into a lot of trouble.  So I began photography as a man who did not know what the little numbers on the lens meant, but did learn that having a camera legitimized my tendency to do zany things and gave me the courage to gain access to places and people that otherwise would have been untouchable.

Who are some of your favorite photographers and why do you admire their work?

Paul Wakefield.  Paul is an amazing landscape photographer and, in fact, I had no interest in landscapes until I worked with him.   Gradually the art revealed itself to me between loading film and taking very detailed and specific notes.  Due to his influence, I feel that in many ways I always start with the background.  If the background is beautiful and then you put interesting things in front of it, you have given yourself a good head start.

Richard Misrach.  He makes beautiful landscape compositions that remind me of Salvador Dali. There was a lot of work in the nineties that suggested Richard had taught a weekend seminar to some of the best advertising photographers in England.

Anton Corbijn.  He was one of the first photographers whose work I wish could call my own.  I want to have his job and his subject matter.

Tina Barney.  I had no idea who she was until I assisted her for a month in London.  I realized that she made true art photography and that it was so much more fun than advertising and editorial.  We would go to someone’s house and out would come the 4×5.  I have never seen someone work a 4×5 so fast.

Jerry Oke.  He was a London still life and advertising photographer I assisted in the late nineties in London.  I consider him to be my photographic father.  We would sit and have pints of beer after work and I would try to will his skill and abilities to be passed on to me through some sort of social osmosis.

Garry Simpson.  We went to art college together, had many things in common, and became fast friends.  One of our tutors said he thought that Garry would become a heavyweight London advertising photographer, and he did.  One week he was carrying someone else’s black bags (assisting) and the next week he was taking jobs from the likes of Nadav Kandar.  He’s an inspiration to me all the time.

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

I was in one of the Unis Towers in Sarajevo, once the largest and most modern building on the city’s skyline.  It had been hit countless times with artillery and mortar rounds, so what once was a steel and glass construction was now a shell of its former self, with shattered windows and broken glass everywhere.  Small arms fire was hitting the building close to where I was, and I could not tell if I was being targeted or just in the general kill zone.  I moved behind a pillar and watched the tracer rounds from a Serb sniper targeting a window in the building next to me; in the background, a tank was firing phosphorous rounds into an apartment building.  The light was failing and I remembered someone telling me that you could push film, so I rated it at 800 ASA and began to shoot, trying to capture the tracer rounds and the burning building.  And there I was composing a foreground of tracer rounds from Serbian snipers’ fire, a middle ground of an apartment building burning from a Serb tank attack, and a background of the mountains containing untold Serbian and Chetnik forces who probably could have taken the city at any time.

What equipment to you prefer to use and why?

Well, things have changed and I have been forced to change with the times.

I would have said a Mamiya RZ with a 65mm lens and a 220 back, Sekonic 189 light meter and off we go… and I would have had to include my trusty Toyo field and 90mm lens.

Now I roll with the deliciously forgiving and talented Canon 5D MKII and a bevy of “L“ series lenses.  It works really well in studio, although I’m not so keen on the luminance range of back light outside, etc.  But it’s a great system.

Describe your editing process.

Editing, editing, editing…

I go through the shoot and look for anything that wholly or partially fulfills the criteria of the shot. For example, if the face of one subject is good but not the other, I select it.  I try to find anything of value and keep it as a part of the recipe.  Having said that, I rarely and barely retouch anything, and usually there is a shot that does fulfill all of the criteria.  It might not be perfect, but I always seem to value sincerity over perfection.

Selects go into a folder, and then I apply the same process again and make another folder.  It’s a process of elimination.

In terms of compositing, generally I like things the way they appear in my lens.  It’s personally satisfying for me to compose in the camera rather than relying on doing it in post-production.  I think I am overly optimistic sometimes and like the idea that a moment can be caught.  Perhaps I should, as there are a bunch of great photographers who work that way, but I prefer the chaos of possibility and chance and the excitement of the moment, the challenge of capturing that moment.

As for retouching and printing, there is always a little clean up and then I tend to print emotionally in terms of color but generally stay with what was real.  I remember 10 years ago when I began to print:  everything was less sophisticated in terms of calibration and re-creatable color profiles, I think I learnt a lot because what I looked at on the monitor was not what came out of the printer, so I would have to print test strips just like with film.  The result was that I was far more exploratory with color and used to be complimented on my printed palette.

What sets your work apart from others?

I think I have above average energy on set.  I like to surround myself with a lot of music and energy, with everybody on the crew working hard and thoughtfully and enjoying their day. Many of my subjects have told me how much fun they had; that, I think, is high praise because I shoot a lot of “real” people who often dread the idea of a big production shoot.  I’m conscious of that, and would hate for the tables to be turned and have the camera on me.  My goal is to give my subjects and my crew a good experience.

Last year I shot a big campaign for BBDO Worldwide and GE capital bank. I was shooting interactions between CEOs of very successful businesses, like Jet Blue and Polaris, and their banking partners.  These interactions, often conceived in highly contrived circumstances, were supposed to look “natural”, and sometimes we had only the time between takes of a concurrent commercial to pull off the shot.  This is when my particular skill set sets me apart.  I like the pressure of it being barely possible.  The more stacked it is against me, the more interested I am in the problem.  But I also know that it wouldn’t be possible without having people around me that have my back.  I believe in great producers and assistants and paying them well.

What are your plans for the future regarding photography?

Something in me wants to go to Afghanistan and shoot the coalition forces doing their jobs.  Up close, personal, intimate soc doc reportage with an Ewan Burns twist.  It’s been done but not by me.  Also, I want to take some beautiful images of people falling out of airplanes (skydiving).

Interview with photographer | Scott Darling

Describe your start in photography.

I first became interested in photography at a young age as my father was always documenting our family life with his Nikon F. I was always curious about the lenses and of the sound of the cloth shutter opening and closing.

Who are some of your favorite photographers and why do you admire their work?

I have always admired the work of Irving Penn, he was a master at composition, a craftsman of light, and an amazing printer. In a more modern context I have appreciated the work of Thomas Demand. Demand is a brilliant thinker and it shows in his creations that he photographs.

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

The greatest experience as a photographer is having a creative career, collaborating with very talented people who all love photography in one way or another.

What equipment do you prefer to use and why?

I still love to shoot my Hassleblad 503 with traditional lenses fitted with a Leaf back in the studio; the camera fits nicely into my hands and the lenses are sharp as ever. I do miss shooting 4 x 5 with film; there was always something peaceful about going under the dark cloth, having a moment to yourself, composing the shot. I have been really enjoying the Canon 5D Mark II for shooting outside [and its] super sensitivity in low light with super sharp and fast lenses.

Describe your editing process (i.e. How do you go about selecting, retouching and printing your photographs?)

All studio work is shot on the Leaf back tethered with Capture One to a Mac tower. Selects are made and processed as DNGs then opened in Photoshop. I collaborate with retouchers for both commercial and fine art output. My computer systems are calibrated the same as the retouchers so there is a consistent work flow from the lab to the studio. Printing is done here in the studio up to 16 x 20 and larger sizes are printed at the lab. The work that is the most defining tends to be illustrative and conceptual with strong use of color and whimsical accents. It is nice to have fun with photography.

What are your plans and aspirations for the future regarding photography?

As we forge ahead into this digital world I plan on continuing to be a visual thinker and to produce images, both still and moving.

Interview with photographer | Elizabeth Fleming

Why do you take photos?

Because while I’m shooting I feel completely present and absorbed in the task at hand, which is rare for me. Beyond the act of taking the photographs themselves is the fact that my brain is wired to approach things creatively, and in order to stay sane I have to translate my thoughts, emotions and preoccupations into visual form.

Describe your start in photography.

My parents bought me my first camera when I was about ten, back in the old days of film. I shot black-and-white, which made me feel like I was a true “artiste”– no kidding, I took a portrait of myself wearing a beret. I was also into double-exposures and cheesy, dramatic setups. I continued shooting throughout high school, becoming mildly less cheesy as the years went by (or so I’d like to hope).

Who are some of your favorite photographers and why do you admire their work?

I’m drawn to anyone whose photographs hit me on a gut level. Work that is intimate and moving is my kind of thing, though I can be pretty fickle and my favorites are always changing. Currently at the top of my list are Alessandra Sanguinetti, Jo Ann Walters, Doug DuBois and Emmet Gowin.

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

The ability to process and explore various emotions– many difficult– through being creative. It’s also always very meaningful to me when I hear that my images have had an effect on someone.

What equipment do you prefer to use and why?

I use a Canon 5D and that’s basically it.

Describe your editing process (i.e. How do you go about selecting, retouching and printing your photographs?)

It’s very instinctive. When I look through what I’ve shot, certain images just click (no pun intended). I’ll narrow it down to two or three of my favorites, compare them and (again through a process of what feels “right”) will make my final choices. Next I tweak, re-tweak and obsess over color balance, contrast, etc. in Photoshop, and the final step is printing them out on an Epson.

What are your plans and aspirations for the future regarding photography?

Right now I’m focusing my energy on starting a new series, so I’m in a production rather than promotion phase.

Interview with photographer | Naomi Harris

Why do you take photos?

Some photos I take to earn a living, some I take to make art. The reason I got into photography in the first place was to be able to interact with people whose worlds would otherwise be closed to me. That’s why my work, although often portraiture in nature, also has a documentary element to it. I want to learn from others and expose the viewer to what goes on around us. I like the idea that photography can be a visual record while also being an object of beauty.

I suppose at this point of time it’s my job and if I stopped photographing I’d be unemployed but seeing as I’m freelance and can’t collect unemployment I’ll just continue shooting.

Describe your start in photography.

I really didn’t plan to become a photographer, it sort of just happened. I was a printmaking major in university and since my prints were mainly photo based and I was appropriating other people’s images I thought it might be wise to learn how to take my own photos so I took a basic photo class in my third year. That summer I went to Europe and brought my camera along. When I developed my film and I saw my contact sheets that fall I decided that was it, this is what I wanted to do with my life. I couldn’t really see myself making a career out of being a printmaker but I could see a future as a photographer. That spring I applied to the International Center of Photography for their Documentary program, surprisingly I was accepted and the rest is history.

Who are some of your favorite photographers and why do you admire their work?

I tend to respond more to documentary photographers like Bruce Davidson, Martin Parr, Wiliam Eggleston or Jean Pigozzi, but I also love portrait photographers like August Sander, Disfarmer, or Seydou Keïta. Basically I love work that makes me question who the people are in the photograph and how the photographer got there in the first place. While I’m not a huge fashion fan of course I love the heroes of [fashion] photography- Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin with their sexy images and bold use of colour. I also love to see work with a strong sense of humour.

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

Too many to name just one! Shooting Joan Rivers was a dream come true or getting Tony Little to take his top off and let me photograph him on a bearskin rug has been great. I’m young-ish and I think my greatest experience hasn’t happened yet… it’s happening daily- me being able to squeak a living out doing what I love.

What equipment do you prefer to use and why?

Currently I use a Contax 645 with a Phase One digital back. I started shooting medium format back in 2002 but with film and shortly thereafter gave up my 35-mm camera entirely. I began leasing a digital back in January 2008 (just made my last payment in December, hooray!) for my Contax when I realized I didn’t want to buy a 35-mm system just because people demanded digital. I am primarily a portrait photographer though I shoot documentary style off-the-cuff work with my 645 as well so it was a better decision to get a digital back for the camera system I already loved.

As far as my lighting kit goes I have a combination of lights: Profoto Acute 2400 with 3 heads, a ring flash that operates on the Profoto 600 portable pack and a few Quantum Q-Flashes. I often have to travel to my shoots and with baggage overages being so outrageous having a more compact and lighter system is best. When all these lights are used together they pack a punch. Depending on location and feel I may use an octabank or a beauty dish…I have no formula, my lighting changes from each shoot and person.

Describe your editing process (i.e. How do you go about selecting, retouching and printing your photographs?)

When I switched from film to digital it took me a while to get my workflow habit after being so comfortable editing from contact sheets. Now I guess I eliminate the horrible shots first: the ones that are out of focus, where the person blinked or isn’t flattering and the ones that just don’t work. Then using the program Capture One I make my adjustments and process the remaining images and work off of these to whittle down to a tighter edit that I’ll send to editors to choose from. I was using a combination of an older form of Capture One and Bridge but now that I’ve finally updated to a newer form of Capture One I do it all in that program.

But really it’s a gut feeling. After looking at all the images I shoot there are generally a handful that stand out from the rest. I’m lucky because I’m a good editor of my work, I don’t let personal feelings get in the way like, “we had so much fun when I shot that.” At the end of the day I want the person to look their best and pick the most complimentary and compelling images.

I don’t do a lot of retouching in my work, mainly a few stray hairs or a blemish here or there. If a client wants more done for say a celebrity shoot I tend to turn it over to someone else who specializes in retouching. Same goes for my printing, I don’t actually enjoy working in the darkroom, never have, so I’d rather leave the printing in good hands with a professional printer.

What are your plans and aspirations for the future regarding photography?

Currently I’m prepping for a cross-Canada road trip (thanks to a grant form the Canada Council for the Arts) that will commence in Victoria, British Columbia on Victoria Day (May 23rd) and will end in St. Johns, Newfoundland on Labour Day (September 5th). I’ll be traveling solo along the Trans-Canada Highway, the worlds longest, documenting the country and her people. I’ve barely seen much of my own country as I’ve been living in the US for the last 13 years and have seen more of America, and Europe for that matter, than my own country. I’m also excited to explore a niche of documentary photography, the “road-trip,” that has long been dominated by male photographers ie. Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Alec Soth and Simon Roberts just to name a few. The only woman who comes to mind is Dorthea Lange and that was a commissioned piece by the Farm Securities Administration.

I also plan to shoot video and create a multi-media website that will be real-time and will include social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. The future of simply making books and exhibitions as an end result is becoming archaic and I welcome this new way of reaching a broader audience.

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