Multimedia Laboratory

Interview with photographer | Charles Shotwell

When did you first become involved in photography?

I was accepted to Southern Illinois University on probation. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I arbitrarily picked business administration as my major and was not very happy. That was about to change. One night I was hanging out with a new friend that was in the photo department. He had to process some film and make a print at the school’s lab before we could go to a bar. I was so amazed those couple of hours that it changed my life forever. I changed majors and spent the summer shooting, processing and printing. When I took my first class I felt for the first time a certain confidence that has stuck with me ever since. I ate, drank and slept photography… and still do. I think it defines the most of who I am.

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

There are so many photographers that have influenced me, the list would be too long. With that said, the early influence of Eugene Atget and Gary Winogrand, although separated in time from each other, influenced me the most. They were the beginning in my understanding of what is intrinsic to the camera that is not found in other mediums.

What is the experience like for you as a photographer?

I love working for a living as a photographer. The people, the camaraderie, the problem solving, and especially the vehicle it provides for my ego. My wife is the studio producer and never lets anything slip through the cracks and thus is much appreciated by art buyers and clients. I’m very lucky. I guess it’s like a family business and the people that work for us are like an extended family. I think we all love each other. It’s a lot of fun.

What equipment do you prefer to use and why? / Describe your editing process.

I’m totally digital in and out of the studio and prefer it greatly over the old days of film. I use Capture One and Phocus software and most always shoot to the monitor. We do a fair amount of retouching in house. Shooting and file selection is collaborative with various ideas, variations and extra plates just in case. I discuss props with a stylist but do all the styling myself on set. We do a lot of prep even on easy jobs. Ideas are usually well on their way well before the shoot. Bidding the jobs are done in collaboration with Simone Friend, my representative, Lynn Shotwell, and myself. The studio is a 3 story coach house with a beautifull planted court yard in back of where we live. It’s great to have the studio under foot with a 20 step commute especially when raising kids. I love visitors even when we are busy so please anyone out there stop on by. I will make you a great cup of coffee and we can chew some photo fat.

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

I hope I can keep re-defining myself photographically in ways that keep me motivated. If I stop I’ll probably get depressed.

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